What Size Wall Tent Should I Get? Size Comparisons & Layout Diagrams

The size of a wall tent you need depends on several basic factors.

  1. How many people need to sleep in the tent?
  2. Are you sleeping on the floor or sleeping on cots?
  3. Are most of the people adults or children?
  4. Will the tent be for sleeping only or do you need space to congregate or to cook?
  5. Is the tent going to be for your family, a group of scouts or a group of unrelated adults?

Before we bought our wall tent, we read that we should consider 20 square feet (sq ft) per person for sleeping and 30 sq ft per person if more space was needed for cooking or other activities. The tent we bought (12 X 14) has 168 sq ft, so using those numbers, the tent should sleep 5-8 people. Table 1 shows the number of people that various sized tents can sleep using the 30 and 20 sq ft calculations.

Table 1. Tent Size, Square Footage and Number of People each Tent can sleep.

Tent Total Number Number
Size Square Tent Sleeps Tent Sleeps
(Feet) (Feet) @30 sq ft @20 sq ft
   8×10     80         2         4
  10×12    120         4         6
  12×14    168         5         8
  12×16    192         6         9
  14×16    224         7        11
  16×20    320       10        16

If people were sleeping on the ground, especially if some of them are children, the larger numbers based on 20 sq ft per person is reasonable. You might get away with packing teenagers in like chord wood, but paying customers will not be very impressed. Even very good friends wouldn’t be able to sleep very well and might not stay good friends for long.

If the tent is going to be used for kids at camp or even as an emergency shelter, bunk beds could be built two or three beds high, to accommodate more people. This may not be the most comfortable situation, but everyone would be inside out of the wet and cold.

Cots add Comfort, but Take More Space

Cots may be more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, even on good pads, but cots take up more space. The average sized cot is about 32 X 76 (inches) which is 16.9 sq feet and XL sized cots are about 40 X 84 (inches) which is 23.3 sq feet. So a 12 X 14 foot tent should hold 9 regular sized cots or 7 XL cots. But unless we plan to use wall tents for temporary shelter following a disaster, we are not trying to jam as many people in them as possible.

It might be mathematically possible based on square footage, to fit a certain number of cots into the area of different sized tents, but it may not be realistic. Mathematically, we should be able to fit 9 cots into our tent (12×14), but I can not visualize but six cots fitting into the tent. Even then, some cots would have to touch each other and there would be very little space between cots. It would be possible to sleep close together, then pile cots on top of each other after everyone rolled out of the sack in the morning, to create more room to move around.

Wood Stove Requires 36 – 40 square feet

Most people buy wall tents with the intention of camping during the Winter. Part of the appeal of the wall is the ability to heat it with a wood or pellet stove. Obviously, if there is a hot stove in the tent, there will be less room for cots. Wood stoves come in several sizes. Small stoves are sufficient to heat small tents and larger stove are needed to keep larger tents warm.  It is recommended that some of the largest (16×20) tents may need two stoves. Our stove is a mid sized stove, 14 inches wide and 24 inches long. Based on where the smoke stack is placed in the front corner of the tent, and buffering the stove by 3 feet into the tent space, I assume the small and mid-sized stove take up 36 square feet.  I assume that larger stoves take up 38 square feet. You can obviously move around and stand closer to the stove when necessary, but you should never leave cots, tables or anything else that may catch fire within three feet of a hot stove.

Before we bought our tent, I drew floor plans to see how many cots and tables would reasonably fit into different sized tents. We also plan to use a wood stove during cold weather, so the stove and a safety buffer around the stove has to be considered. These floor plans helped us decide the size tent we needed. Generally, for tents, bigger is better, but size adds weight, costs more and it takes a larger stove and more wood to heat a larger tent. In the end, I think we got the best sized tent for the two of us.

Table 2 below was created from the scale diagrams. The table includes various tent sizes, the space required for the stove and the safety area around a hot stove, the Maximum number of cots I could fit into the area and the area, the number of cots I recommend be used in that space and the actual square footage that the recommended number of cots use.

Table 2. Tent Size, Space for Stove, Maximum Number of Cots, Recommended Number of Cots and the Space per Recommended Number of Cots.

Tent Space Max. Rec. Space
Size (sq ft) Number Number (sq ft).
(feet) for Stove of Cots of Cots per Cot
  8×10    36     2     2   22.0
 10×12    36     2     2   21.0
 12×14    36     6     4   33.0
 12×16    38     6     5   30.8
 14×16    38     7     5   37.2
 16×20    38    10     8   35.3
 16×20    76    10     7   34.9

Wall Tent Floor Plans and Headroom Diagrams

All Diagrams (Figures 1-10) are all scaled the same, with one foot equal 3 squares (4 inches per square). The human silhouettes are all 6 feet tall. All cots and tables are 32 inches wide and 76 inches long. Cots are 20 inches high and tables are 28 inches high. The black areas of the floor plans represent the wood stove. The red areas represent the safety buffer around the wood stoves and the gray areas represent cots or tables. Where there was room, notice all cots and tables are four inches away from all tent walls.

12×14 Wall Tent

With only two of us using a 12×14 foot tent, we have plenty of room, including the table and the stove. There is room for a third cot, but the floor space is drastically reduced (Figure 1). Figure 2 shows the scale drawing from a side view to see the headroom of our 12 foot wide, 8 foot tall tent.

12x14 ft wall tent floor plan

Figure 1. Floor plan for 12×14 ft Wall Tent.

scale drawing of 12x8 wall tent

Figure 2. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 12 feet wide and 8 feet high.

8×10 Wall Tent

An 8×10 wall tent is small (Figures 3 & 4). If using a wood stove, I don’t see any way of putting more than 2 cots in the tent. In fact, one cot is within the three foot buffer that is recommended around the wood stove. When not using the stove, there will be room for a cot on each side of the thent, but there will not be room for two people to walk past each other (Figure 4).

wall tent floor plan 8x10

Figure 3. Floor plan for 8×10 ft Wall Tent.

scale drawing 8x8 wall tent

Figure 4. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 8 feet wide and 8 feet high.

10×12 Wall Tent

The 10×12 Wall Tent (Figures 5 & 6) is also small, but is able to hold two cots without envading the safety buffer around the stove. If  necessary, as many as 6 cots could be fit  into the tent if not using the woodstove. At least the 10 foot wide tent is large enough for two people to pass with cot or tables on each side when not using a stove (Figure 6).

wall tent floor plan 10x12

Figure 5. Floor plan for 10×12 ft Wall Tent.

scale drawing 10x8 wall tent

Figure 6. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 10 feet wide and 8 feet high.

12×16 Wall Tent

A 12×16 Wall Tent may be able to hold five or six cots when using a wood stove (Figure 7), but the tent would be more comfortable for everyone if the tent were limited to four cots . Without the wood stove, as many as seven cots could be fit into the tent. The headroom of the 12×16 tent is the same as the 12×14 tent shown in Figure 2.

wall tent floor plan 12x16

Figure 7. Floor Plan for 12×16 foot Wall Tent.

14×16 Wall Tent

A 14×16 Wall Tent easily holds five cots even with the wood stove (Figure 8). If necessary, seven cots can be fit into the tent with the stove. Without the wood stove, as many as eight cots can be fit into the tent. Figure 9 shows the 14×16 tent is wide enough to fit three rows of cots or tables if necessary. The roof of the wider tents are starting to get lower, but a 6-foot person’s head will not touch the roof unless they are standing at the edge of the tent.

walltent floor plan 14x16

Figure 8. Floor Plan for 14×16 foot Wall Tent.

scale drawing 14x8 walltent

Figure 9. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 14 feet wide and 8 feet high.

16×20 Wall Tent

A 16×20 Wall Tent will easily hold eight cots when using a wood stove. The tent could hold as many as nine or ten cots if necessary, but it will be much more comforable if cots are limited to eight or less. As many as twelve cots can be fit into a 16×20 tent when not using the wood stove. Figure 10  shows the 16 foot wide tent is wide enough to easily fit three rows of cots or tables. The roof of this wide tent is low enough that people 6-foot tall or taller will touch the roof along the sides of the tent.

walltent floor plan 16x20

Figure 10. Floor Plan for 16×20 foot Wall Tent.

scale drawing 16x8 walltent

Figure 11. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 16 feet wide and 8 feet high.

16×20 Wall Tent with Two Stove

A 16×20 Wall Tent with two stoves loses some cot space to gain the extra heat, but the tent is large enough to easily hold seven cots. It may be able to hold as many as 10 cots if necessary. The headroom and width of the 16 foot wide tent is shown in Figure 11.

walltent floor plan 16x20 2

Figure 12. Floor Plan for 16×20 foot Wall Tent with Two Wood Stoves.

If you are considering buying a wall tent, we hope these diagrams help you make the decision about what size tent you need. When we bought our wall tent, our decision was between a 10 X 12 or 12 X 14 foot tent. We decided on the larger tent and have never regretted it. Our advice on tent size is if in doubt, choose the larger size you are considering.

Check out our Wall Tent Buying Guide for more information about choosing options and getting extras like windows, zippers vs velcro, a covered porch, mesh fly, canvas weight etc. for your wall tent.


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Comments

  1. Good points and graphic descriptions. I agree and cannot stress enough that if you are a novice camper trying to get a handle on tent sizes that you can’t go wrong with getting the biggest tent you can afford, considering also the campsite space available, pack size, weight, and ease of assembly. I’ve never found myself saying ‘I wish I had less room’.

    Square footage is important, but the dimensions are too. As a 6′ tall person I’ve found that a 7′ dimension is still just a bit too small, I prefer a minimum of 8′ in the direction of my height. Most tents, especially dome tents, have an effective floor space less than the stated dimensions because these figures are usually to the very outside edge of the floor, not taking into account how fabric on uneven surfaces will pinch down. Also the sides angle inward, and you shouldn’t have anything pressed against the sides. This is because water tends to wick inside where something presses against the tent walls.

    Consider also that family camping can be a messy affair. You’ll need room just for all the clothing and gear that gets pulled out and spread around. And in defiance to those ridiculous looking pictures showing occupants stacked like cigars in a box I would never pack a tent with the maximum occupants stated. Think about it; would you want someone snoring right in your face? Their restless leg kicking you in your shin? And just try to get up in the night to go relieve yourself. How would you maneuver around all those bodies? Ridiculous.

    The simplest way to size a tent is to just divide in half the maximum number stated, and don’t be shy about subtracting one more. I have a 10′x14′ tent that is rated for 7-8 people, and 3 feels just good enough when using cots, maybe 4 in a pinch. Also, cots do allow you to tuck packs and gear underneath, thus reducing clutter.

    • Backcountry Chronicles says:

      Yes Carl. Thanks for the good comments that should help someone looking for a wall tent.
      Obviously my sardine packed diagrams show what is possible, not what is desired. The “maxed out” diagrams would primarily be for emergency shelter or youth camp/ scouting type situations, not for most adults and definitely not for paying customers.

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