A blue tent with labels showing tent anatomy

Tent Anatomy

This tent anatomy guide will help the novice camper to know exactly what’s what. By getting yourself familiar with the parts of a typical tent, you’ll start to sound like a pro in no time.


A flysheet is an additional waterproof layer of fabric on the outside of your tent.  Not all tents have a flysheet, some tents are single layer, usually with a skull cap over the very top portion only, but any tent labelled as being double skin or full-fly will have a flysheet and will need it to be waterproof. 

Note: the inner tent on a tent with a flysheet must not touch the flysheet or it will leak.

Inner Tent 

The inner is the main living and sleeping area of the tent.  This may have mesh panels to allow for ventilation without letting bugs in or may be solid.


A groundsheet is essentially a waterproof barrier between the inside of your tent and the cold, wet ground. Unless you have a traditional A-frame tent, chances are the groundsheet will be built in to the walls so there is no gap to let in drafts or ‘unwanted guests’ like snakes, scorpions or other creepy crawlies. It is a good idea to lay a separate groundsheet under your tent to protect the bottom from dirt and tears. These can be purchased individually. A separate groundsheet is also useful to lie in the living area of larger tents or in front of your tent to act as a living and kitchen space.

Note: you’ll need to sleep on a mattress, stretcher, airbed or sleeping mat still if you want to keep warm


Many tents will have a porch attached to the entrance. These can be very short, making a useful area for storing equipment you don’t want in the tent but want to keep dry, or quite large, allowing for a social area. It’s also possible to buy separate porches (normally for larger tents) as well as canopies.

Note: if you require additional covered space outside your tent, it is worth considering a gazebo which may also have additional side walls or a dining shelter.


Your tent will most commonly have two door layers- a solid door and a mesh door.  This allows you to open the solid door for extra ventilation without allowing bugs into your tent.  If your tent has a full flysheet, there will often be another door flap in this in front of your main tent door.

Note: please keep the mesh door of your tent zipped up at all times unless you are actually entering or exiting the tent.  This will stop any nasties from getting into your tent and no one wants to find a spider, scorpion or snake in their sleeping bag.


Double zips are useful and allow you to open the door from the top or the bottom.

 Air Vents

Breathing, wet clothing and general humidity can all cause condensation to form inside your tent (try not to touch the tent fabric as this can also let water on the outside come through). Air vents are designed to help reduce condensation by allowing air to circulate and moisture to escape. Doors and windows also offer ventilation, so it is best to keep these open when possible but keep mesh doors shut at all times.


Not all tents will have windows, but they are a handy feature for allowing in more light and ventilation.  Windows will usually have a permanently fixed mesh layer to keep out bugs and a solid layer that can be zipped and unzipped or rolled up or down.

Note: in wet weather all solid window flaps should be closed to keep water out.

Guy Ropes

Guy ropes are cords attached to the poles, outer tent or flysheet which are pulled away from the tent and pegged in the ground to stabilise the tent. The guy lines should be in line with the seams of the tent on the corners or straight out from the point of attachment elsewhere and not overlap. There will be a slider on the cords so you can tighten and loosen the lines.  In very strong winds or as the guy ropes get wet or dry they may shrink or slacken so you should check them regularly.   

Tent Pegs

Tent pegs can be made from plastic, aluminium or steel. Most tents will come with aluminium or steel hooked pegs which are fine for firm ground and fair weather. It is a good idea to upgrade to L-shaped anchor pegs for your guy ropes. 

Tent Poles

The poles provide the structural support and are essentially the skeleton of the tent. In basic terms there are two types of poles, flexible and rigid. Flexible poles are generally made from fibreglass, aluminium or spring steel and are linked with cord.  Rigid poles are more often used in traditional frame tents, gazebos and trailer tents.

So, there you go – study this tent anatomy guide and you’ll feel confident with the jargon on any tent specification or instruction guide.


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