Last updated: August 9, 2021

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Dome tents are real all-rounders among tents. This type of tent is not only particularly easy to pitch, but is also suitable for all types of camping, whether on holiday, hiking or at a festival. Thanks to the various models, which differ in size, capacity, material, colour and other extras, there is a dome tent to suit everyone's individual preferences and purpose. Dome tents for 2-4 people are particularly popular.

With our large dome tent test (09/21) we want to help you find the best dome tent for your individual needs and camping trips. We have compared different types of dome tents and listed their advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision as easy as possible.




Summary

  • Dome tents are a special type of tent characterised by their special construction. Two or more tent poles cross over each other to form a dome and thus not only provide a lot of stability, but also sufficient space inside the tent.
  • There is a wide range of dome tents, which differ in size, weight, equipment, material and capacity. In addition, a basic distinction is made between 3- and 4-season tents.
  • Dome tents are real all-rounders and are basically suitable for camping in a wide variety of environments, whether camping, in the garden, on the beach or in the mountains. Compared to other types of tents, many dome tents are also very easy to pitch.

The Best Dome Tent: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for dome tents

In the following we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many different dome tents. The criteria you can use to compare dome tents with each other include:

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in each of the criteria.

Capacity (number of people)

The capacity criterion for tents refers to the number of people and the total space available. Compared to other types of tents, dome tents belong to those with a relatively large amount of space. The capacity should be selected according to the number of people with whom the tent is to be used. In the area of dome tents, capacities of mostly 2 to 6 people are common. However, there are of course also models that are suitable for larger groups.

As a rule of thumb, it is helpful to plan for a width of about 70-75 cm for one sleeping place per person. Then there is usually enough space to be able to sleep there reasonably.

While smaller people naturally have a bit more space, it can be quite cramped in some tents, especially for people taller than 1.90m. In addition to the space for the individual sleeping areas, space is also needed to store luggage and food. This should also be taken into account when choosing the capacity. To ensure that there is always enough space in the tent, even if more luggage is brought along for camping, it is advisable to always choose a slightly larger tent. It therefore makes sense for a couple to go straight for a 3-person tent instead of a two-person tent.

Material

In addition to the size of the tent, there are also some differences in the material. Both the material of the outer and inner tent can vary. Most dome tents have an outer tent made of nylon or polyester, for example, i.e. synthetic fabrics. These two materials are used particularly often in tents because they not only dry quickly after rain, but are also light, relatively thin and robust.

Cotton is also used in some tents. Although outer tents with cotton content are heavier and dry more slowly, they are extremely tear-resistant and ensure a particularly pleasant climate inside the tent. Polyester is by far the cheapest material, but at the same time it heats up particularly quickly when exposed to UV radiation. Particular attention should be paid to this when camping in summer and, if possible, a tent site in the shade should be chosen. A garden shower can be used in the garden for additional cooling.

Water column

The water column data for tents is an orientation value for assessing water resistance. Since a tent usually fulfils a protective function and things stored inside the tent should not get wet if possible, the waterproofness plays a decisive role in the selection of a dome tent. The water column is increasingly used in the outdoor sector, for example for rainwear, backpacks or shoes, and indicates how waterproof an item is. Nevertheless, tent lovers should not base their choice of a waterproof tent solely on the water column, as the value only serves as a guide. The water column value indicates how much water pressure the tent can withstand before it lets liquid through.

The higher the water index, the more waterproof and weatherproof the tent.

With a water column of 2000 mm or more, a tent generally counts as waterproof. Most dome tents even offer a water column of 3000 mm or more. Even if you don't plan to camp in bad weather, it's better to choose a dome tent with a water column of 3000 mm or more, just in case.

Since the water resistance of a tent depends on the coating, tent care is also an important factor if a dome tent is to remain waterproof for a long time. Especially after use, the tent should be cleaned of sand and other dirt and should definitely be dried properly. It is also advisable, especially when camping in warm and sunny regions, to choose a pitch in the shade so that the tent is protected from UV radiation, which damages the material.

Awning

The awning is a kind of extra room and offers above all additional storage space. The awning is usually separate from the inner tent and only sometimes has a floor. This area of the tent is not suitable as a sleeping area, but depending on its size, an awning is not only suitable for stowing and storing food or equipment, but also for preparing food, for example. While some consider an awning to be an unnecessary addition, for others it is an important part of a tent.

Whether you need an awning and what size it should be depends entirely on how much luggage and equipment you have with you when camping and also in which weather regions you are camping. Many dome tents only have a small awning. However, as many dome tents for 2-4 people, for example, are generally very compact and offer little storage space, a small awning can be the ideal place to store your equipment, leaving enough room in the sleeping cabin of the inner tent to sleep comfortably.

Weight

The importance of weight when choosing a dome tent depends mainly on how the tent will be transported, i.e. whether it will be carried in a rucksack over longer distances, for example when hiking etc., or whether it will be transported exclusively by car or bicycle. If the dome tent is to be used primarily for longer camping holidays at a campsite and the journey to the campsite is by car, bus or train, i.e. the tent does not have to be carried over long distances, the weight is of secondary importance.

However, the weight criterion is much more important if the dome tent is to be used especially for hiking or climbing tours and is to be carried in a rucksack for several hours. In this case, it is not only important to choose a particularly light model, but also to pay attention to the packing dimensions of the dome tent.

Particularly lightweight one-man dome tents weigh only about 1 kilo and, with a packing size of only 30x13 cm in some cases, can be stowed very easily in luggage. Dome tents for two people weigh around 3-3.5 kilos and tents for 4 people weigh around 3.5-6 kg. Depending on the intended use, the weight should be taken into account when choosing a tent. For multi-day outdoor trips with 4 or more people, it may be more practical to choose 2-person dome tents to make them easier to transport.

Entrances & ventilation

The number of entrances and the ventilation of the tent also play an important role for more comfort, peace and quiet and restful sleep. Of course, one entrance is sufficient for a 1-2 person tent. However, if you have a larger tent for 4 or more people, it can make sense to choose a tent with two entrances or separate sleeping cabins to ensure more peace and quiet, especially at night. A dome tent with two entrances usually has a "main entrance" and another, much smaller entrance on one side of the tent. This additional second entrance can be practical not only in rain or storms, but also if you just want to leave the tent quickly.

Multiple entrances can also be an advantage for air circulation in the tent, especially when camping in summer, when dome tents tend to heat up and the air becomes stuffy. In the course of ventilation, it is important to pay attention to the material and extras of the dome tent. For camping over a longer period of time, it is essential to ensure that the dome tent has breathable features. A reasonable and sufficient ventilation in the tent is important for the general well-being and also for a restful sleep at night.

Not only can the entrances be used to ventilate a dome tent, but many models are equipped with mosquito nets and breathable fabric. In addition, the outer tents of many dome tents can be opened or individual tent sections rolled up for ventilation to prevent the formation of condensation. The higher the outside temperature, the more important good and sufficient ventilation of the dome tent becomes.

Decision: What types of dome tents are there and which is the right one for you?

If you want to buy a dome tent, there are different types of products you can choose from:

Type Type recommendation
3-season dome tents Real all-rounders, primarily for the months of March to October. Some models are particularly light and compact, making them ideal for outdoor tours lasting several days.
4-season dome tents The go-to for all adventurers who are not intimidated by extremely harsh weather conditions and are looking for reliable protection on their tours in snow and winter.

If you would like to know more about the individual types of dome tents, you can read more about each in the following paragraphs.

3-season dome tents

The 3-season dome tents are real all-rounders. They are best suited for camping between spring and autumn. Whether in May, late summer or balmy autumn nights, 3-season dome tents are basically suitable for all seasons except winter. They are weatherproof and robust, but not for cold or even sub-zero temperatures in winter with snowfall. In most 3-season dome tents, the inner and outer tents are separated from each other, and both parts can be erected easily and quickly.

Dome tents are self-standing tents, so no pegs are needed to tension the canvas. In addition, these tents are often equipped with breathable fabric and tent parts that can be rolled up, so that good ventilation and sufficient air circulation can be ensured. There are also many different models and sizes among the 3-season dome tents, some of which are particularly light and are therefore especially suitable for outdoor tours lasting several days. Basically, 3-season dome tents are lighter than 4-season tents, as they are made of thinner material and lighter poles.

Advantages
  • Real all-rounders
  • Self-standing
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable and good air circulation
Disadvantages
  • Often not particularly robust
  • Low water column in places
  • Not suitable for rough weather

The disadvantages of 3-season dome tents include their partly limited robustness and low water column.

For good weather, 3-season dome tents are usually sufficient.

In spring or autumn, however, there may be a storm or two in some regions, so a 3-season tent should also have a correspondingly high water column and more robust material. However, a 4-season dome tent is recommended for particularly rough weather conditions.

4-season dome tents

The 4-season dome tents or four-season tents offer protection and comfort even in extreme and very harsh and cold weather conditions. Be it heavy rain or wind, snowfall or particularly low temperatures, thanks to a construction that differs from the 3-season tents, they reliably protect even in the aforementioned circumstances. These types of dome tents are made of extra resilient and robust materials and can thus withstand snow and heavy rain.

The geometry and tent poles alone are specially designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and not collapse. However, this special rigid construction affects the weight of the 4-season dome tents. They are heavier in comparison, which means more backpacking load for multi-day tours. In terms of price, this type of tent is also one of the more expensive models.

Advantages
  • Self-standing
  • Robustness
  • Suitable for all seasons (also winter)
  • Wind-resistant
  • Material-related thermal insulation
Disadvantages
  • Price (more expensive than 3-season tents)
  • Weight
  • Relatively heavy poles

Of course, the main focus of a 4-season dome tent is on weather resistance from the outside. Nevertheless, with these tents it is of course also important to keep the warmth inside the tent as much as possible and to lose as little heat as possible to the outside. To this end, high-quality 4-season tents have a particularly small amount of mesh or additional zips with which these areas can be closed separately.

Models specifically for camping in the snow are even equipped with snow flaps that protect the inside of the tent from snow and cold wind. However, despite cold or uncomfortable weather conditions, care should also be taken to ventilate the tent sufficiently.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about dome tents answered in detail

In the following guide, we want to answer the most important questions about dome tents. We have selected the questions for you and will answer them shortly. After you have read through the guide, you will know all the essential background information and facts about dome tents.

What is a dome tent?

A dome tent is a special type of tent. Dome tents can be used as normal camping tents, but also, depending on the model, as group or trekking tents. The name of the dome tent is derived from the shape of the tent, because a dome tent usually consists of two or more pole arches that cross at the highest point of the construction to form a dome. The dome tent shape is characterised by the fact that these tents are seventh-standing, which means that they only need a few pegs and no tent tarpaulin needs to be stretched. Dome tents are best suited for camping on hard surfaces or a small footprint.

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Small and compact dome tents are particularly popular for trekking tours in the forest. They only need a very small footprint, are easy to set up and at the same time light to carry in a backpack. (Image source: Peter Vanosdall / unsplash)

In principle, dome tents are suitable for all areas of use and are also very popular with camping beginners because they are relatively easy to set up. In addition, the tents are also suitable for outdoor tours in alpine terrain or for hiking tours lasting several days, where the weight of the tents plays a particularly decisive role. There are dome tents in different sizes and colours, made of different materials and with different features. Depending on the model, the number of sleeping places, the number of entrances, as well as ventilation options and other extras such as a front time or mosquito nets vary.

What is special about a dome tent?

A dome tent is usually characterised by its special construction, which, as the name suggests, looks like a dome. With this tent shape, a dome is created by two or more tent poles crossing at the highest point of the tent. This makes dome tents particularly space-saving and suitable for pitches with only a small footprint. On the other hand, due to their height, dome tents have a relatively large amount of space inside that cannot really be used.

In addition, many dome tents are characterised by their particularly light weight. This makes them the perfect companions for trekking tours or alpine tours lasting several days.

Thanks to their construction, dome tents are self-standing and require very few pegs. As a rule, the inner tent is pitched first and then the outer tent is pitched and attached to it. Guide loops for the poles are usually located on the outside of the inner tent.

What should you look for in dome tents?

When choosing a dome tent, you should already be aware of the following things:

  • What kind of camping do you primarily want to use the tent for?
  • Do you also want to camp in winter or in very rough weather?
  • What size dome tent do you want?
  • How much sleeping space do you need?
  • Do you need more than one entrance?
  • Is weight a decisive factor for you?
  • What material should your dome tent be made of?

Buying a dome tent is primarily about choosing a model that suits your personal preferences and requirements for the type of camping you prefer.

How much does a dome tent cost?

There is quite a wide price range between the different dome tents. Depending on the material, size and type of dome tent, the cost will vary. Light output, running time, quality and functionality vary the cost. The range can go from about 40 euros to over 700 euros. Before buying, you should therefore think carefully about the season in which you want to use the dome tent and how high quality or robust it needs to be. Simple dome tents can be bought very cheaply for around 40-100 euros, although 4-season dome tents are usually more expensive than 3-season tents. In addition, larger tents usually have a higher price.

Type Price
Simple dome tents approx. 40-90€
3-season dome tents approx. 100-400 € (but also more expensive models)
4-season dome tents approx. 150-1000 €

What alternatives are there to a dome tent?

There are many different forms of tents, which vary according to various criteria, such as size, pitching dimensions, shape, capacity and material. Each type of tent has its advantages and disadvantages and is suitable for different types of camping and users. As an alternative to a dome tent, tunnel tents or roll-up tents are the most popular. Throw tents are particularly convincing because they are very simple to pitch. When "thrown into the air", these models open virtually by themselves, so that no further effort is required to erect them. Throw tents also score points when it comes to weight, as they are usually very light. In terms of wind stability, however, dome tents are superior and usually offer more space. Pitching tents are particularly suitable for short-term camping, festivals or camping on the beach.

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Dome tents are available in many different sizes. Especially for multi-day tours in larger groups, it makes more sense to use several small tents than one or two large ones, because the small tents are lighter and can be transported better. A combination with other types of tents is also possible, e.g. with a tunnel tent. (Image source: FabricioMacedoPhotos / pixabay)

Unlike dome tents, the tent poles of a tunnel tent do not cross in the middle, but run parallel to each other so that they form a tunnel with the help of the tent canvas. Tunnel tents are characterised by the ideal use of space and can be used in many ways. For this reason, this type of tent is also very popular with groups or families. In addition, tunnel tents also impress with their uncomplicated erection.

What sizes are dome tents available in?

Dome tents are available in many different sizes, most models are suitable for 1-4 people. Depending on the duration of the camping trip and the required equipment or luggage, it can be advantageous to choose a dome tent for 3 people, even with 2 people, in order to have enough space and storage space. With regard to the size, it is always important to bear in mind that the weight of the tent usually increases with the size. If the dome tent is only being transported by car or bus, this aspect is of course only secondary. However, if the tent is to be carried longer distances in a rucksack, this aspect should definitely be taken into account when choosing the tent size.

Are dome tents suitable for all seasons?

With dome tents, a basic distinction can be made between 3- and 4-season tents. While 3-season tents are particularly suitable for the warmer months, such as April to October, 4-season tents are specially designed and equipped so that they can also be used for camping in winter and camping in very rough weather conditions and offer sufficient protection and warmth.

As a rule, 4-season dome tents are not only slightly heavier due to the more robust materials, but also more expensive. With the large selection of 3-season dome tents, the quality can vary greatly, as there are certainly models that are also suitable for somewhat colder weather or light snowfall. However, if you want to go on specific alpine tours or are generally camping in colder regions, you should always opt for a 4-season dome tent that offers robust and reliable protection, whether in heavy rain, wind or snow.

Cover photo: Stas / 123rf

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