What is a Pup Tent?

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

A pup tent is a structure used for shelter that is made with some sort of durable material, such as canvas, and two poles. There are many types of tents, but the pup tent is distinguished by its small size and lack of roof. A typical pup tent was originally only about 6 ft (1.8 m) long, 4 ft (1.2 m) wide, and about 3.5 ft (1.1 m) high, though they may now be found in slightly larger sizes. One pole holds up the front, and one pole is placed in the back, giving the tent an A-frame appearance. They get the name of pup tent due to the small, kid-like size.

Young boy eating an apple
Young boy eating an apple

Pup tents are used by hikers because their small size allows for easy transport in a backpack, and they are also the traditional tent of the military. These tents are only big enough for one or two adults, so they aren't the best choice for family camping, but they're ideal for individuals who need a lightweight shelter that can be constructed with ease and efficiency. In addition to the two poles, pup tents are held in place with tent stakes and tent ropes.

Military pup tents are a bit larger than a traditional pup tent, as they are intended to be a two-soldier tent. They are made from two military shelter half pieces that fasten together with buttons or snaps at the roof line, creating a pitched roof. Each soldier carries a shelter piece in a backpack, then they work together to construct the pup tent. Early military pup tents didn't have a front flap, so soldiers were exposed to the weather, but could easily view activities outside the tent.

Cotton duck material was the fabric used to make early military pup tents, and the tent poles were made of wood. Today, military pup tents are made with a cotton sateen fabric that is better for protecting soldiers from rain, and they have aluminum poles that are lighter for transporting in a backpack. Commercial pup tents are now commonly made with nylon which is resistant to rain, and most come with groundcloths and insect-proof mesh for the doorways.

Pup tents make efficient use of floor space, but they are so small that a camper can't even sit up in many of them. They also leave little room for storing items, so backpacks and supplies may have to be left outside while sleeping. They are, however, the best choice for hikers who must travel long distances by foot to reach a campsite, because they are the lightest weight and take up the least amount of room in a backpack.

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Joining the wiseGEEK team has helped to satisfy Hillary’s insatiable curiosity for knowledge. She also manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. Hillary has a passion for satirical writing and enjoys traveling, especially to places of historical importance.

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Discussion Comments


@dinoleash: My brother has a Wenzel tent and said that it has leaked ever since he got it. He took it back to the store that he bought it and they honored the warranty and replaced it.

We are avid campers and usually take about 6-8 camping trips every year. We have Coleman tents. My kids have a Coleman pup tent and it has never given us any problems.


@dinoleash: Wenzel tents are associated with American Recreation Products. They are fairly low-cost tents in comparison with others. We bought one because of the price and the fact that they had a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty.

What we didn’t notice was the “between the lines” information about the warranty. The warranty page said that it was good for defects in materials and workmanship. In the small print, it stated that the warranty would not cover wear and tear, weather damage, improper damage, etc. Basically, anything that goes wrong, it doesn’t cover.

However, since we have had the tent, we have not had any problems. It has held up fine so far.


I know that there are different brands of pup tents but I'm not sure which one is best. We are planning a camping trip with our kids and they want their own little tent. My husband said someone recommended a wenzel tent. Does anyone have any info on that?

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