Anyone who has ever wondered why certain types of tents are called “pup tents,” there is a fascinating history behind its name and why it came to be.
Why are small tents called pup tents?
The name “pup tent” came along during the American Civil War because troops had begun referring to their military gear as “dog” items, and because these tents were so small, they reminded them of housing that was better for dogs than humans.
My interest in camping and military facts had me excited to do more research on this interesting nickname that these important essentials have long played for the United States military.
And though tents have come a long way (for civilians and for the military) the name “pup tent” has continued to stick around and is one that every avid camper (and military buff!) has come to know.
Why is it Named a Pup Tent?
Though tents have been around since humans realized the need for shelter, they have definitely changed and improved over time.
Luckily, they’ve changed for our military personnel as well.
In the beginning, military pup tents were very basic, with no bells or whistles. Usually made of olive green canvas, these first tents were for nothing more than a bit of shelter from the elements and as a form of camouflage for when troops were taking respite.
These tents needed to be durable, relatively lightweight, and easy to assemble and disassemble in a short amount of time.
Military pup tents were made to sleep two soldiers and were light enough that each individual could carry half of the tent and not increase their pack weight by too much. They also need to be durable, relatively lightweight, and easy to assemble and disassemble in a short amount of time.
Since a typical military pup tent weighed in around ten pounds, this meant it only added five pounds to each soldier’s pack.
It wasn’t until Desert Storm that the military began taking a hard look at their tent structure and design and began asking for different types of material and more comfort to be added in.
Today, military tents are still pretty basic, but they are at least more enjoyable to sleep in. Made from materials that breathe better than the old canvas ones, these tents still serve the purpose of being lightweight, durable, safe, and difficult to spot by others when they are erected.
But the question still remains…why and when did soldiers begin calling their shelters “pup tents?
1. The Start of the “Dog” Referral
It was the American Civil War that really started the onslaught of the word “pup tent” when referring to the military sleeping tents.
One reason for this was because it was around this time that it had become increasingly popular for soldiers to refer to their military-issued gear with the name “dog” in front of it.
For example, the label “dog tags” really took off during this time for the metal identification plates that each soldier wore around his or her neck to ensure they could be appropriately identified if necessary.
So, it was an easy reach for soldiers to look at their somewhat flimsy and small shelters and want to give them a name that coincided with something that had to do with canines.
Thus, the name “pup” tent came to fruition.
2. Shelters that Were Better for Dogs than Humans
Another reason for the “pup tent” phrase being started was less to do with the “dog” phenomenon and more about the tent itself.
These military tents were not designed for comfort, nor were they designed for warmth or safety from the elements.
Military tents during the time of the Civil War were extremely easy to carry, because they were lightweight and they were also easy to set up and tear down when time was of the essence.
This was necessary, since oftentimes these troops had to hike for hours to get from one destination to another.
That said, these military tents were also very basic, offering the most rudimentary of shelter to the troops. In fact, because they were so flimsy, many of them fell apart long before the war was over.
Because of the lack of quality, rough design, and discomfort that they provided, many soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy began saying these tents were barely fit for a dog, let alone a human.
And, because they were already referring to their gear as “dog” items, it seemed normal for these tiny tents to take on the nickname “pup tents.”
3. Pup Tents are Still Used Today, But Have Been Greatly Improved
Today, pup tents are still used by military personnel all over the world, but their design has been greatly improved, allowing military men and women a much more comfortable night’s sleep. ‘
Even though the basic triangular style of a pup tent has pretty much remained the same, most pup tents are now made with canvas materials that breathe better and are created with doors and windows for ventilation.
Military pup tents are also now waterproof, which has made them much more enjoyable to sleep in. One thing that hasn’t changed is how lightweight the tents are and easy they are to transport.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the name of the tent. No matter what changes they may go through, pup tents are widely used in the military and for recreational usage. The pump tent is here to stay.
- Military tents were the most popular use of tents until Americans began using them for recreation in the 1960s.
- Military tents need to be durable, relatively lightweight, and easy to assemble and disassemble in a short amount of time.
- The name “pup tent” came along during the American Civil War because troops had begun referring to their military gear as “dog” items, and because these tents were so small, that they reminded them of housing that was better for dogs than humans.