A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over or attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs. First used as portable homes by nomadic peoples, tents are now more often used for recreational camping and temporary shelters.
Tents range in size from "bivouac" structures just big enough for one person to sleep in up to huge (circus) tents capable of seating thousands of people. The bulk of this article is concerned with tents used for recreational camping which have sleeping space for one to ten people. Larger tents are discussed in a separate section below.
Tents for recreational camping fall into two categories. Tents intended to be carried by backpackers are the smallest and lightest type. Smaller tents may be sufficiently light that they can be carried for long distances on a touring bicycle, a boat, or even a person's back. Some very specialised tents have spring-loaded poles and can be 'pitched' in seconds, but take somewhat longer to strike.
The second type are larger, heavier tents which are usually carried in a car or other vehicle. Depending on tent size and the experience of the person or people involved, such tents can usually be assembled (pitched) in between 5 and 25 minutes; disassembly (striking) takes a similar length of time. The military organisations of most nations use such tents to temporarily house troops living and working under field conditions.
Tents are used as habitation by nomads, recreational campers, and disaster victims. Tents are typically used as overhead shelter for festivals, weddings, backyard parties, and major corporate events. They are also used for excavation (construction) covers, industrial shelters.
Armies all over the world have long used tents as part of their working life. Tents are preferred by the military for their relatively quick setup and take down times, compared to more traditional shelters. One of the world's largest users of tents is the US Department of Defense. The US Department of Defense has strict rules on tent quality and tent specifications. The most common tent uses for the military are temporary barracks (sleeping quarters), DFAC buildings (dining facilities), Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), After Action Review (AAR), Tactical Operations Center (TOC), Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facilities, and security checkpoints. Furthermore, most of these tents are set up and operated through the support of Natick Soldier Systems Center. One of the most popular military designs currently fielded by the US DoD is the TEMPER Tent. TEMPER is an acronym for Tent Expandable Modular PERsonnel. The U.S. military is beginning to use a more modern tent called the deployable rapid assembly shelter or DRASH. Similar quick erect shelters are offered by Utilis USA. It is a collapsible tent with provisions for air conditioning and heating.
Camping is a popular form of recreation which often involves the use of tents. A tent is economical and practical because of its portability and low environmental impact. These qualities are necessary when used in the wilderness or backcountry.
Tents are often used in humanitarian emergencies, such as war, earthquakes and fire. The primary choice of tents in humanitarian emergencies are canvas tents, because a cotton canvas tent allows functional breathability while serving the purpose of temporary shelter.
At times, however, these temporary shelters become a permanent or semi-permanent home, especially for displaced people living in refugee camps or shanty towns who can't return to their former home and for whom no replacement homes are made available.
Most global NGO's maintain an emergency stockpile of tents strategically placed all over the world to service their requirements.
Tent fabric may be made of many materials including cotton (canvas), nylon, felt and polyester. Cotton absorbs water, so it can become very heavy when wet, but the associated swelling tends to block any minute holes so that wet cotton is more waterproof than dry cotton. Cotton tents were often treated with paraffin to enhance water resistance. Nylon and polyester are much lighter than cotton and do not absorb much water; with suitable coatings they can be very waterproof, but they tend to deteriorate over time due to a slow chemical breakdown caused by ultraviolet light. The most common treatments to make fabric waterproof are silicone impregnation or polyurethane coating. Since stitching makes tiny holes in a fabric, it is important that any seams are sealed or taped to block these holes and maintain waterproofness.
Rain resistance is measured as a hydrostatic head in millimetres (mm). This indicates the pressure of water needed to penetrate a fabric. Heavy or wind-driven rain has a higher pressure than light rain. Standing on a groundsheet increases the pressure on any water underneath. Fabric with a hydrostatic head rating of 1000 mm or less is best regarded as shower resistant, with 1500 mm being usually suitable for summer camping. Tents for year-round use generally have at least 2000 mm; expedition tents intended for extreme conditions are often rated at 3000 mm. Where quoted, groundsheets may be rated for 5000 mm or more.
Many tent manufacturers indicate capacity by such phrases as "3 berth" or "2 person". These numbers indicate how many people the manufacturer thinks can be fit snugly into a tent with just sleeping bags. These numbers do not allow for any personal belongings, such as luggage, inflatable mattresses, camp beds, cots, etc., nor do they allow for people who are of above average height. Checking the quoted sizes of sleeping areas reveals that several manufacturers consider that a width of 150 cm (5 feet) is enough for three people — snug is the operative word. Experience indicates that camping may be more comfortable if the actual number of occupants is one or even two less than the manufacturer's suggestion.
Tents can be improvised using waterproof fabric, string, and sticks. This allows them to be easily built and moved.
There are three basic configurations of tents, each of which may appear with many variations:
Single skin (USA: single wall): Only one waterproof layer of fabric is used, comprising at least roof and walls. To minimize condensation on the inside of the tent, some expedition tents use waterproof/breathable fabrics.
Single skin with flysheet: A waterproof flysheet or rain fly is suspended over and clear of the roof of the tent; it often overlaps the tent roof slightly, but does not extend down the sides or ends of the tent.
Double skin (USA: double wall): The outer tent is a waterproof layer which extends down to the ground all round. One or more 'inner tents' provide sleeping areas. The outer tent may be just a little larger than the inner tent, or it may be a lot larger and provide a covered living area separate from the sleeping area(s). An inner tent need not be waterproof. The double layer may provide some insulation.
Many factors affect tent design, including:
Shelters are not normally used for sleeping. Instead they may act as a store or provide shelter from sun, rain, or dew.
With modern materials, tent manufacturers have great freedom to vary types and styles and shapes of tents.
Many tents which use rigid steel poles are free-standing and do not require guy ropes, though they may require pegs around the bottom edge of the fabric. These tents are usually so heavy (25 to 80 kg) that it takes a rather strong wind to blow them away.
Flexible poles used for tents in this section are typically between 3 and 6 metres long (10 and 20 feet). Cheap poles are made of tubes of fibreglass with an external diameter less than 1 cm (1/3 inch), whereas more expensive aluminium alloys are the material of choice for added strength and durability. For ease of transportation, these poles are made in sections some 30 cm to 60 cm long (1 to 2 ft), with one end of each section having a socket into which the next section can fit. For ease of assembly, the sections for each pole are often connected by an internal elastic cord running the entire length of the pole.
Inflatable pole supports, also known as airbeams, serve as rigid structural supports when inflated but are soft and pliable when deflated. Tents using such technology are neither commonly used nor widely accepted and are available from a very limited number of suppliers.
Much like a bicycle tube and tire, airbeams are often composed of a highly dimensionally stable (i.e. no stretch) fabric sleeve and an air-holding inner bladder. However, other airbeam constructions consist of coated fabrics that are cut and manufactured to its intended shape by a method such as thermal welding. Depending on the desired tent size, airbeams can be anywhere from 2-40 inches in diameter, inflated to different pressures. High pressure airbeams (40-80 psi) that are filled by compressors are most often used in larger shelters, whereas low pressure beams (5-7 psi) are preferred for recreational use. The relatively low pressure enables the use of a manual pump to inflate the airbeam to the desired level. Airbeams have the unique quality of bending, rather than breaking, when overloaded. Tents that use inflatable airbeams are structured almost identically to those that use flexible poles.
Most of these tent styles are no longer generally available. Most of these are single-skin designs, with optional fly sheets for the ridge tents.
All the tents listed here had a canvas fabric and used a substantial number of guy ropes (8 to 18). The guys had to be positioned and tensioned fairly precisely in order to pitch the tent correctly, so some training and experience were needed. This made these styles relatively unsuitable for casual or occasional campers. Pup tents might use wooden or metal poles, but all the other styles mentioned here used wooden poles.
These larger tents are seldom used for sleeping.
Tent design has influenced many large modern buildings, these buildings have in turn influenced tent design. Tent-style tensile structures are used to cover large public areas such as entertainment venues, arenas and retail areas (example: The O2) or sports stadiums (example: Munich Olympic Stadium) and airports (example: Denver International Airport).
TENT. A tent is a portable habitation or place of shelter, consisting in its simplest form of a covering of some textile substance stretched over a framework of cords and poles, or of wooden rods, and fastened tightly to the ground by pegs. Throughout the greater part of the interior of Asia the pastoral tribes have of necessity ever been dwellers in tents - the scantiness of water, the consequent frequent failure of herbage, and the violent extremes of seasons compelling a wandering life. Tents have also been used in all ages by armies in campaign. In ancient Assyrian sculptures discovered by Layard at Nineveh the forms of tent and tent-furnishings are similar to those which still prevail in the East, and it appears that then as now it was a custom to pitch tents within the walls of a city. The ordinary family tent of the Arab nomads of modern times is a comparatively spacious ridged structure, averaging from 20 to 25 ft. in length, but sometimes reaching as much as 40 ft. Its covering consists of a thick felt of black goat hair (cp. Cant. i. 5 - "black as the tents of Kedar"), or sometimes of alternate stripes of black and white disposed horizontally. The ridge or roof is supported by nine poles disposed in sets of three, the central set being loftier than those at each end, whereby a slope outward is formed which helps to carry off rain. The average height inside at the centre is 7 ft. and at the sides 5 ft., and the cloths at the side are so attached that they can easily be removed, the sheltered end being always kept open. Internally the tent is separated by a partition into two sections, that reserved for the women containing the cooking utensils and food. The jourt or tent of the Kirghiz of Central Asia is a very capacious and substantial structure, consisting of a wooden frame for sides, radiating ribs for roof, and a wooden door. The sides are made up of sections of laths, which expand and contract in lozenges, on the principle of lazy tongs, and to their upper extremities ribs are lashed at regular intervals. Over this framework a heavy covering of felt is thrown, which is either weighted down with stones or, when necessary, stitched together.
In Western countries tents are used chiefly in military encampments, by travellers and explorers, and for temporary ceremonial occasions and public gatherings. The material of which they are composed is commonly a light linen canvas or navy duck; but for tents of small size stout cotton canvas is employed, being light, strong, elastic, and sufficiently waterproof. These tents vary in size from a low-pitched covering, under which a couple of men can with difficulty creep, up to spacious marquees, in which horticultural and agricultural shows are held, and which can accommodate thousands of persons.
The marquee is distinguished from the tent by being a ridged structure, devoted to show and social uses; but the humblest tent made - the tente d'abri or shelter tent of the French army - is also ridged in form. The tente d'abri affords sleeping accommodation for six men, and consists of a rope stretched over three low poles and fixed into the ground. Four separate squares of canvas buttoned together are thrown over the rope and pegged to the ground on each side so as to form a low ridge. Two other squares are used for covering the ends, being thrown over the slanting rope ends by which the poles are pegged to the ground. Each of the six men using the tent carries one of the squares of canvas besides his quota of the poles, rope and pegs. In the British service tentes d'abri are often improvised by fastening together blankets or waterproof sheets over a stick. The gipsies and travelling tinkers of England have an equally unpretentious tent, which consists of a framework, of hazel rods bent so as to form a series of low ridges, the ends being stuck into the ground, and over this frame blankets or other coverings are thrown and pegged down. The simplest, but at the same time the least convenient, of ordinary tents is the conical, consisting of a central pole with ropes and canvas radiating from it in an unbroken slope to the ground. The common army bell tent is of this type, but the conical roof terminates at about i ft. 9 in. from the ground, and from it there hangs verticall y a curtain which is loosely pegged to the ground or looped up to allow of the free circulation of air when the tent is unoccupied or the weather is favourable. This form, however, covers much ground in proportion to the accommodation it affords, as the space round the circumference is of little value. A tent, therefore, which has sides or a fall is a much more convenient structure. The counterpart of the conical is the pyramidal tent, the four equal sides sloping to the ground; and this form with a fall or sides makes the square tent, which is both convenient in shape and firm in structure. Small tents are also made, modified from the Arab form, with a central pole and two lower lateral poles. In the umbrella tent the roof is supported by a set of ribs which radiate from the pole, precisely as the ribs of an umbrella spread out from the stick.
The tents and marquees in use in the British army are the following: The bell tents (single or double thickness) 16 ft. in circumference, accommodating in active service 3 officers, 7 sergeants or 15 men each; the Indian general service tents, of various sizes, square with pyramidal roofs, the Indian "E.P." and "Staffsergeants'" tents, which are much roomier than the tents used in India on active service, "hospital marquees" and "operating tents." In former wars, when small professional armies were employed and it was customary to pay extraordinary attention to the soldier's comforts, the train of an army included a full tent equipment, which helped to diminish the already small degree of mobility of which it was capable. Under the Revolution and Napoleon, and generally in the 19th century, the system of housing armies in the field under canvas was practically abolished (except as regards more or less rough tentes d'abri) and replaced by that of billets and bivouacs. The strain entailed upon the transport by complete tentage may be judged from the fact that a single battalion on the minimum scale would require four waggons, each with one ton load of poles and canvas, that is, the regimental transport would be doubled.
A tent equipment (of the tente d'abri type) was introduced into the German army about 1888, and the troops of Austria and Switzerland also possess tents. In the Russian army cavalry and engineer troops are excepted from the otherwise universal issue of canvas shelter.
Jubal was "the father of such as dwell in tents" (Gen 4:20). The patriarchs were "dwellers in tents" (Gen 9:21, 27; 12:8; 13:12; 26:17); and during their wilderness wanderings all Israel dwelt in tents (Ex 16:16; Deut 33:18; Josh 7:24). Tents have always occupied a prominent place in Eastern life (1Sam 17:54; 2Kg 7:7; Ps 1205; Song 1:5). Paul the apostle's occupation was that of a tent-maker (Acts 18:3); i.e., perhaps a maker of tent cloth.
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The tent is a movable, lightweight shelter which uses thin fabric to protect people from wind and rain. The fabric walls of a tent are supported by wood or metal poles and thin ropes (called "guy lines"), and the tent or the ropes are usually attached to the ground with plastic or metal pointed stakes.
Tents are usually used as shelter during camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreational activities. Large tents are also used to provide temporary shelter for events such as outdoor weddings or circuses. Tents are also used to provide temporary sleeping quarters for military personnel or homeless people, or for people who have been displaced by a disaster (such as refugees).