The canvas "hot tent" has been around for a long time—and there are plenty of different designs used by cultures around the world.
However, winter campers make general use out of three basic designs: rectangular wall tent, pyramid walled tent and the modified wedge/A-frame. Let's take a look:
Rectangular Wall Tent
My first hot tent was of this design. I lived in it for a month while working in the north. It was spacious, had lots of headroom and made great use of the interior space. I had weekly baths by using a blow-up kids' pool and water heated on the woodstove. I didn’t travel anywhere with the tent, though. It stayed at my basecamp the entire time. Setting it up was too labour-intensive. I had to cut timber for at least seven poles: one centre pole, two scissor poles on each end to hold up the ridge pole and two side poles. It also had so many guy-ropes used to keep its form that the lashings looked like some massive spider web. Due to its open, rectangular shape, heavy winds would shake the tent something fierce as well. But it was a cozy home—even at -40 degrees Celsius.
Pyramid Walled Tent
Pyramid tents come with one huge advantage: they set up with just one centre pole. The pole can be cut on-site or an aluminum pole can be packed along. The sides are held out with guy lines. This means quick setup and take-down and one incredibly light hot tent. I’ve tripped with an Atuk tent and an Esker Arctic Fox, both weighed just over six kilograms. They’re also amazing at holding up against high winds, which is why they're the top choices of polar explorers.
However, this design does come with some flaws when compared to the other designs. You have less headroom and floor space. The woodstove is set in the middle, with the stove pipe going straight up through the top. Other designs have the woodstove to the side, by the front door, and the pipe exiting to the side. The stove pipe for the pyramid tent must be high enough so sparks don’t land on the tent and create burn holes. A spark arrestor helps with this. Personally, I feel more at ease with the stove pipe poking out the side. (I’m a super paranoid person, however.) Of course, having the stove centrally located provides a comfortable sitting area for a group of campers wishing to gather around the stove for a nightcap.
(Take note, however, that Esker just came out with a new design this year with the stove located to the side, adding more room. I tripped in one just last week and loved it. See below.)
This is a self-supporting style tent. Lightweight shock-corded aluminium poles are packed along to form the frame and the canvas is pulled over. It has fewer guy-lines than the other two designs. It does have less headroom than the rectangular tent, but not by much.
I own three of this design, all made by Snowtrekker: Expedition Shortwall Three Person (2.7 metres by 3.5 metres), Expedition Basecamp Two Person (2.5 metres by 3 metres), and a Minimalist (2 metres by 2.5 metres). Yep, that’s a lot of tents. Snowtrekker makes one of the lightest and best designs out there. For group trips (two or three people) I use the Three-Person Expedition Shortwall. It weighs 10 kilograms and gives you a lot of space. For lighter two-person trips or for me and the dog, I pack the Two-Person Expedition Basecamp, which I find gives you more headspace—and when just on my own I pack the Minimalist (weighing just under 10 lbs).