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 first 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 first tent we bought (12 X 14) has 168 sq ft, so using 20 – 30 sq ft per person, 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
  13×13    169         5         8
  12×16    192         6         9
  13×16    208         6        10
  14×16    224         7        11
  13×20    260         8        13
  16×20    320       10        16

Note – Our newest wall tent is from Elk Mountain Tents, so Tables 1 and 2 have been updated to include the 13 foot wide tents available from Elk Mountain tents. Additional floor plan diagrams have also been added to show additional 13 foot wide tents.

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. Bunk cots are also available. This may not be the most comfortable situation, but everyone would be inside out of the wet and cold.

Cots add Comfort, but Require 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 cots range from 72 – 75 inches long and are about 25 inches wide which is 12.5 -13 sq feet and XL (and larger) sized cots are about 80 – 85 inches long and 31 to 40 inches wide wish is 17.2 – 23.6 sq feet. So a 12 X 14 foot tent could hold up to 8 regular sized cots or 6 large 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 8 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 the 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 out into the tent space, the mid-sized stove takes up 36 square feet and that larger stoves take up about 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 first 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 had 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   42.0
12×14    36     6     4   33.0
13×13    36     6     4   33.3
12×16    38     6     5   30.8
13×16    38     6     5   34.0
14×16    38     7     5   37.2
13×20    38     8     6   37.0
16×20    38    10     8   35.3
16×20    76    10     7   34.9

Wall Tent Floor Plans and Headroom Diagrams

All Diagrams (Figures 1-15) 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 red areas represent the safety buffer around the wood stove, which is black.

The gray areas represent large cots or tables and the black areas on top of the gray cots represent average sized cots for comparison.

I will start with floor plan diagrams for the wall tent sizes that we have (12 X 14 & 13 X 13), then start over with the smallest tent size of 8 X 10 feet and work up to 16 X 20 feet.

12 x 14 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

12x14 ft wall tent floor plan

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

With only two of us using a 12 x 14 foot tent, we have plenty of room, including the table and the stove.

There is room for a third cot and fourth 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 a 12 foot wide, 8 foot tall tent.

scale drawing of 12x8 wall tent

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

13 x 13 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

walltent floor plan 13x13

Figure 3. Floor plan for 13×13 ft Wall Tent.

A 13 X 13 foot tent is actual one square foot larger than a 12 X 14 foot tent, but I think has more options for floor planning.

As example, small cots can fit end to end in the 13 foot space, but can not fit in 12 feet.

We also have a folding table that fits end to end with a cot in the 13 foot space, but will not fit in the 12 foot space.

alternate walltent floor plan 13x13

Figure 4. Alternate Floor plan for 13×13 ft Wall Tent.

Like the 12 X 14 tent in Figure 1, there is room for a 3rd and 4th cot, but there are more options about how to make them fit (Figures 3 & 4).

Without the wood stove, 6 cots will fit into the 13 X 13 foot tent, but four cots will fit very comfortably, with lots of room for gear.

8 x 10 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

wall tent floor plan 8x10

Figure 5. Floor plan for 8×10 ft Wall Tent.

An 8 x 10 wall tent is very small (Figures 5 & 6).

If using a wood stove, I don’t see any way of putting more than 2 cots in the tent and only on one cot can be large to keep out of the three foot buffer that is recommended around the wood stove.

When not using the stove, there will be room for another cot, but there will not be enough room for two people to walk past each other (Figure 6).

scale drawing 8x8 wall tent

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

10 x 12 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

wall tent floor plan 10x12

Figure 7. Floor plan for 10×12 ft Wall Tent.

The 10 x 12 Wall Tent (Figures 7 & 8) is also small, but is able to hold two large cots without invading the safety buffer around the stove.

If necessary, as many as 6 small cots could be fit into the tent if not using the wood stove.

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 8).

scale drawing 10x8 wall tent

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

12 x 16 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

wall tent floor plan 12x16

Figure 9. Floor Plan for 12×16 foot Wall Tent.

A 12 x 16 Wall Tent may be able to hold five large cots when using a wood stove (Figure 9), but some of the large cots encroach on the buffer area around the stove.

The tent would be more comfortable for everyone if the number of cots was limited to four.

Without the wood stove, as many as six cots could be fit into the tent.

The headroom of the 12 x 16 tent is the same as the 12 x 14 tent as shown in Figure 2.

13 x 16 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

walltent floor plan 13x16

Figure 10. Floor Plan for 13×16 foot Wall Tent.

One foot more width might not sound like much, but a 13 X 16 Wall Tent will hold five large cots when using a wood stove (Figure 10), without any of the large cots encroaching on the buffer area around the stove as compared to the 12 X 16 ft tent in Figure 9.

The tent would be have lots of room if the number of cots was limited to four or if some of the cots were average sized.

14 x 16 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

A 14 x 16 Wall Tent easily holds the five large cots even with the wood stove (Figure 11). If necessary, seven cots can be fit into the tent with the stove and without the wood stove, as many as eight cots (not all large cots) can be fit into the tent.

But the extra 16 square feet gained over the 13 X 16 tent does not create much more usable space, especially if all the cots don’t need to be large anyway.

walltent floor plan 14x16

Figure 11. Floor Plan for 14×16 foot Wall Tent.

Figure 12 shows the 14 x 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.

scale drawing 14x8 walltent

Figure 12. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 14 feet wide and 8 feet high.

16 x 20 Wall Tent Scale Diagram

A 16×20 Wall Tent will easily hold eight cots when using a wood stove (Figure 13). The tent could hold as many as nine or ten cots if necessary, but it will be much more comfortable 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.

walltent floor plan 16x20

Figure 13. Floor Plan for 16×20 foot Wall Tent.

Figure 14 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.

scale drawing 16x8 walltent

Figure 14. Scale Drawing of Headroom in Wall Tent 16 feet wide and 8 feet high.

16 x 20 Wall Tent Scale Diagram 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 15.

walltent floor plan 16x20 2

Figure 15. 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 first 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 newest tent from Elk Mountain Tents is the 13 X 13 tent. Now, we can invite friends and family and not give up our privacy at the same time.

Our advice on tent size is this: If in doubt, choose the larger of the sizes 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.

  2. Backcountry Chronicles thanks so much for the information. I am still a little lost and would love some help. I would like to purchase a wall tent to use at our camp that would be permanently erected from May-Oct in Northern Ontario. I want to use it as a spare bedroom and put a double bed in it with a fire place. My husband says I’m crazy that it will be an expensive out put for little comfort. Keeping bugs out near impossible. Your thoughts? What size and extras would you consider. Thanks Linda

    • Linda
      Bugs can be a big problem when camping, but a wall tent with a screen door will keep out as many bugs as a house with a screen door. A few will get in.
      Keep lights away from the door when going in and out, but you will figure it out.

      If this is a permanent type set up, you will probably want a platform. Make sure to secure the tent to the platform all around at the bottom.

      Size & Extras?
      For size, you will always fill any allotted space. Since weight will not be an issue for you, get larger if you can afford it. If the wall tent will just be used for sleeping, it doesn’t have to be big. Just big enough for the bed, stove and dresser or clothes rack and room to walk between everything. If you may be stuck inside during a week of rain, you might want space for a table and chairs.

      For a permanent set up, you will want an internal frame. If by fireplace, you mean wood stove, you will need a hole in the roof or wall and enough space in a corner to keep the stove area clear. For a permanent set up, there is no reason you couldn’t use a fancier stove with a glass front so you can see the fire and use the light.

      If you are concerned about bugs, you will obviously want screened door and windows. Some wall tents have sewn-in floors, but they are usually too heavy for packing. You won’t have that problem, but you could have any type floor you want if you build a platform.

      Sounds like a fun camp to me.

  3. I live in California but I will retire in Armenia and live in a tent year round on my property. I can have the frame made over there about 12 meters wide and 24 meters long, but they do not have good quality material to cover the frame, so I need to ship it from USA. First, what material should I look for, and 2nd, where do I buy that material? I will use this as my home, with kitchen and everything.
    Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    • Thanks for the Comment Nazaret:
      Living in a wall tent year round will be a big commitment.

      I think I already answered your question about the type of canvas in this post: Canvas Wall Tent Fabric

      Your plans for a 12 X 24 meter (39.4 X 78.7 feet) is very large and will require a substantial roof to support, especially in areas with snow (See post for ideas about rafter spacing).

      Since the size is so large, I assume you plan on making your own wall tent from fabric instead of buying one that is ready made. The largest rolls of canvas duck I have found online are 120 inches wide (10 feet) and 20 yards (30 feet long) for #10 (15 oz.) duck canvas (bigduckcanvas.com).

      Canwil Textiles (canwiltextiles.com) claims to make custom widths of various weights of duck canvas, including Sunforger, which is UV and mildew resistant, water repellent and flame retardant. I included some of this info in another post: Wall Tent Buying Guide

      You might consider military surplus tents or new MGPT System tents which are expandable (camelmfg.com). They come in widths up to 18 feet and theoretically can be as long as needed.

      I would love to see a picture of your tent when completed. I like the idea of living in a tent after I retire, but will need to move to a place with milder winters.

  4. Tanyaradzwa Nhende says:

    Hi, my name is Tanyaradzwa Nhende. I come from Zimbabwe.
    I also do tents so I was wondering if you can help by sharing ideas.
    I need some new ideas for designing tents.
    Thank you for your help in advance, looking forward for your reply.

    • Hi Tanyaradzwa.
      Not sure what kind of new tent designs you are looking for, but perhaps others can add ideas.
      Some new designs I have seen use new man-made materials, are inflatable, are built to attach to boats, truck beds or flatbed trailers or tents that are suspended from or attached to trees.
      An internet search on “New tent designs” should give you lots of ideas.
      Good luck.

  5. How many people can sleep in 20 square feet?

    • Daras: I refer you back to the original questions I asked at the beginning of the post and it also depends on the shape of your area.
      Remember that I mentioned a single averaged sized cot takes up about 16.9 square feet, so 20 square feet is very small, with room for one cot and just enough room to stand up if the area were shaped just right.

      Is your area 4 feet by 5 feet? We can cram lots of kids in an area like that, but except in an extreme emergency, you wouldn’t get any averaged size adults in there.
      If the area were 3.33 feet by 6 feet, you could cram 3 adults in there if there were walls so they couldn’t roll out.

      I once had to sleep 3 guys in a bed while traveling in Africa. I was against the wall, so I couldn’t get pushed out. The guy in the middle was O.K., but the guy on the outside kept falling out of the the bed. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.

  6. Charlie Smith says:

    I had a small 8 X 10 wall tent for a while, but we now use those portable garages when on hunting trips here in Northern Ontario, they are much cheaper than wall tents and easy to put up (I like the Shelterlogic 10 X 20).
    I see many other gangs do the same thing. Or take a camper trailer and pitch a “garage” beside it.
    We set two of them up in an L shape with the big wood stove at the junction. Works well, but I agree about crowding, in my opinion two of them with a stove, 400 sq ft is about right for 4 men in the fall with all their gear and food etc.

    • Yes, I thought the same thing when my neighbor got an auto shelter for his Jeep. That is definitely an option if you can drive to your campsite. They are probably cheaper because they can be mass produced.
      I assume you are using the fully side sheltered versions for sleeping and could also use the canopy versions or the screened canopy versions for the kitchen.

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