Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A crucial part of a backpacker’s repertoire, a good backpacking tent is a worthy investment for a memorable trip out in the elements, especially if the forecast is not ideal or just for that great camping experience in a chosen setting. 

Tents come in many varieties, shapes, sizes and weight to suit a hiker’s need. They can be freestanding, nonfreestanding, double wall, single wall, and made of different fabrics like ripstop nylon or silnylon and also cuben fiber.

Tents galore set up in Thru Hiking Season - here at Locust Cove Gap, NC

Ripstop nylon is a nylon fabric woven in a specific way to give it durability and strength, and can be a variety of thicknesses. Most of the high quality tents made of this material are already factory taped and sealed, meaning they do not need additional seam sealing. Cheaper tents that are not factory sealed should be sealed with a traditional tent sealer.

Silnylon is an ultralight, waterproof fabric made of a combination of silicone impregnated nylon. It’s durable, and waterproof, but best of all, extremely lightweight. Tents made of this fabric need to be seam sealed with silicone-based sealer (like Silnet) along the seams. Some manufacturers of silnylon tents will seam seal it for you, and I believe the price is well worth it. 
Having tried to seam seal my own tent with mixed results, having it done professionally and without the hassle is worth the extra price.

Cuben Fiber Tent - from Lightheart Gear
Some manufacturers are also moving toward cuben fiber tents, make of a fabric that is tough and waterproof polyethylene, but ultralight and rather expensive.

A freestanding tent means the tent will stand alone with just its poles. These tents can be staked into the ground if the weather warrants it. Freestanding makes these tents good to use in foul weather for their ease in set up, in stony or hard packed terrain, and on tent platforms. Freestanding tents can be single or double wall, but usually they are double wall, meaning they have a tent body and then a rainfly that goes over the top. This assists in keeping condensation to a minimum.

Examples of freestanding tents – MSR Hubba, Big Agnes Flycreek, cheaper tents by Eureka 
My older model Hubba. Style is the same but it is now in green.
Non freestanding means the tent must be staked out –usually first, and the poles inserted before it will stand alone. Many of the silnylon ultralight tents are non-freestanding and have a way that you can also use your hiking poles as the main tent poles to further reduce pack weight. They are good for weight in that you can buy a two person tent for the cost and weight of a one person freestanding tent and have extra room to spread out. They can be a challenge to erect in harsh weather and on rough terrain. If using them with areas that utilize tent platforms, be sure to carry extra guidelines and even a few eyelet rings so that you can anchor the tent corners to the platform (stones can also work as anchor points). Silnylon tents are usually single wall tents – meaning just a tent but with sufficient no-see-um netting to allow moisture to escape, but there can be condensation issues with this type in heavy humidity.

Examples of non-freestanding tents – Lightheart Gear Solo, Henry Shire’s Tarptent, Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
LightHeart Gear Solong

To protect the tent floor, it is not necessary to sink money into an extra tent footprint. A piece of Tyvek or similar type cloth, cut into the dimensions of your tent, works just as well and is much lighter to carry and dry out.

1 comment:

Sowpath das said...

nice post