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The Waki Way - Living full-time in a motor home

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We always seem to get asked the same questions about living somewhat off grid in a motor home, to which the answers seem to spark a dozen more questions! So (to give our voices a rest!) here's the answers to our most frequently asked questions...

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Our guide to common Tent Styles

How can you possibly make a decision on which tent to buy when there are so many to choose from? By now you may even know exactly what style you're looking for but just don't know what it's called to narrow down your search! To help, we've compiled a list of the most common tent styles out there and their main features. The models shown below as an example of each style are some of the highest rated by Amazon customers and available to buy online, just follow the links for prices and availability:

A-Frame (ridge) tent – the original bad-boy! Efficient and simple to construct with a good strong shape. Great design for shedding rain away to the sides but limited for usable space near the edges. Generally they have no porch area for storing shoes etc outside of the sleeping space. Especially beware of those with an upright pole in the centre of the entryway ready to be knocked over when entering or exiting!

Dome tent – two crossed poles to form a square or rectangular footprint. Simple to construct with strong structure in strong winds on the smaller models and good usable space close to the ground at the sides. Often have an additional pole to create a porch area for shoes etc. Downside: can shed water down into the doorway whilst trying to enter/exit and larger versions tend to flex a lot.

Geodesic tent – multiple poles criss-crossing, much like the dome style but to create a longer and much stronger structure. A very strong design of tent able to withstand extreme winds and weather even with larger models, though they can be a little more complicated to erect than other styles. Trekking in the Himalayas? This is what you need!

Tunnel tent – two or more poles arranged in a line to form a tunnel shaped sleeping area, these tents come in a massive range of sizes. Another good design for high winds in the smaller models making it a favourite style for us personally. Relies on good pegging to stay upright so not great on stony or wet mossy ground!

Bivvy bags – raw, survival style. Essentially nothing more than a waterproof sleeping bag cover making for an extremely lightweight and compact shelter to carry on a hiking/camping trip. Useful for sleeping only, they're not going to provide a covered area for getting changed comfortably or for cooking etc in bad weather! Ideally combined with some kind of bivvy tent or tarp shelter to keep the rain out of your face, though some do come as an enclosed design with a small pole to support the fabric above you like the one pictured above. Perhaps not for the claustrophobic!

Inflatable tents – a new and exciting style of tent with no requirement of awkward poles! Simply lay out and either pump up or release a valve to inflate the support sections – how cool is that? Inflatable tents are still fairly expensive to buy and I'd want a puncture repair kit handy for peace of mind! Check the weight in comparison to poled varieties though, the thicker fabric required to strengthen the inflating support sections can make the tent heavier overall than it's poled equivalent.

Instant & pop up tents – with the frame permanently attached to the tent fabric itself, simply twist and allow it to spring open into it's final shape! Again, a very cool concept that's great for festivals and for kids but not likely to last many years of use without warping or breaking. Notoriously difficult to pack away again, so perhaps not for those that struggle to refold a map!

Tepee or conical tents – perhaps this is the true original? The traditional teepee is supported by long poles arranged in a wide circle and leaning together in the middle. The cloth, or skin is tied to the poles with the centre clear for smoke from the central fire pit to escape. These days many conical tents have a centre pole for support instead and certainly do not recommend lighting a fire inside, but more traditional versions are still available! Teepee style tents are generally quite expensive and can make for a particularly bulky tent design to cart around - but let's face it you can't find a cooler style of tent can you?

Trailer tents – brilliant for those with small cars and less space to pack the kit inside. With a trailer tent there are also no worries about sleeping on sodden ground as the sleeping platforms are raised and you generally have a good sized living area to work in if the weather is bad. A trailer tent brings you into a different league of camping altogether, it's a step towards caravan camping without the issue of towing anything quite as large and cumbersome. The trailer can also be packed away into a garage or shed when not in use unlike a caravan. There's also something very satisfying about watching them unfold and pack away again! 

The tarpaulin - Multi use in the greatest sense of the word! With a little imagination the humble tarpaulin gives you the freedom to make whatever tent your chosen camping spot dictates. These days camping tarpaulins are made from a water resistant, lightweight fabric just like regular tents and, with no poles or odd shapes to worry about, pack down into a convenient tiny bundle.

Turn your tarpaulin into a simple ridge tent using cord tied off to trees or hiking poles in which a side can be opened and propped up into a sheltered day time work/cooking area. Alternatively wrap it around long poles to create a teepee, or prop up a corner for another style altogether...

A tarp shelter can get a bit draughty around the edges and the privacy level is certainly low! Don't forget your paracord!> 

Combination stylesSome tents use a variety of styles in one design so cannot be so easily labelled, you may find a large domed living area with tunnel style sleeping pod(s) attached. Needless to say they can combine the very best features (or the worst!) of each incorporated style.

Vis a vis - Technically speaking the 'vis a vis' style isn't a style of tent by itself but we figured it would be useful to mention. The term simply means that the bedrooms are positioned 'face to face' across a communal living space or porch area so is often found in the tunnel style. They're generally good at for making the most of the headroom in the centre for communal tasks.

Some further considerations:

Bigger is not always better! Some camp sites do not cater for the huge pod-type family tents because of the sheer size of them so check before you go or buy, also bear in mind that a larger surface area means more for the wind to get a hold of!

Keep it simple! Do you want to go camping to relax and enjoy yourself or to add to your stress levels attempting to build the most complicated design in the showroom? It may look fancy when it's finished but you may be better off with a couple of smaller tents for the family instead of one enormous and complex creation to argue about. Kids love to have their own space anyway and it can be very rewarding for everyone to build their own 'home' for the week!

One skin or two? Single skin tents are the norm for cheap and lightweight festival tents, and they do OK in light rain, but do tend to leak in heavier downpours. They also develop condensation on the walls which can drip on you or your belongings! Except for extreme lightweight necessity, we recommend opting for the double layered tents for comfort and better insulation. 

What about us?

When we travelled by car, the tent we loved for many years was a 'vis a vis' 4 person tunnel tent, one room was for us and the other was for the bags! I really liked the porch area it had in between the bedrooms which could be propped open with additional poles to expand the shade and it allowed us to cook outside of the tent door on the grass but under cover from the rain.

These days when touring on the bike we need something extremely compact and light so we currently have a High Gear Venture 2 tunnel tent. It uses only two poles, has a tiny but useful porch area (enough space for our muddy shoes and bike panniers anyway) and inside we have enough elbow room for our bags and to not touch the sides whilst sleeping and let water in! I'll bet many would expect us to have the tiniest tent on the market for motorcycle touring, and packing-wise we'd love to - the trouble was that when we tried out a tiny single skin 2 person ridge style tent we soon realised that we could barely move when laying down next to each other, and in fact we very nearly wrecked the thing just trying to crawl inside! Petite people may get on fine with those tiny things but we're both on the larger side, plus have you ever tried to wriggle into a set of leathers in a coffin? ;)

Our tarp shelter set up on Dartmoor.Our tarp shelter set up on Dartmoor.We also make use of the trusty tarpaulin from time to time when the need for ultra-lightweight and adaptability trumps all else! Ours, with the aid of a poncho strung up at either end, kept us warm and dry during a rather rough night of wind and rain in the wilds of Dartmoor some years ago and you can't beat the tarp and hammock combination for a great nights sleep off of the ground in the woods.

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Do you have any experiences of your own to share with other campers to help with choosing a tent? Leave a comment below, be sure to follow our Community Rules!

For more great content every day & a spot of outdoors related humour, don't forget to like and follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, and now Twitter (@thewakiway) and Instagram (sarah_thewakiway)!

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About us:

My name is Sarah and in 2011 my husband Ryan and I decided to buy and re-fit an old motor home - we named it Waki and now live in it full time in the UK!

We live neither on or off-grid, rather somewhere in between, and are not the first and I dare say not the last to choose this way of life... read more>> 

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