Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Tent Walls

What are the pros & cons of a single-wall tent to a double-wall?

Question:

What are the pros & cons of a single-wall tent to a double-wall?

Submitted by - Joe - Bowling Green, KY

Answer:

For most of us on the majority of our backpacking trips, double walls are the way to go: They’re versatile (use them without the fly on warm, dry nights or with the fly in the rain and cold), have minimal condensation issues, have vestibules for gear storage and cooking, and they’re way less expensive. But mountaineers often opt for single walls, which are lighter weight (because they use less material), often have a smaller footprint (so they can fit in tight spots).

Most single walls can also be pitched from the inside. It’s a technique that takes some practice, but it allows you to yank out your tent, crawl inside and pitch it without being exposed to the elements. Single walls do best in cold, dry environments because the waterproof breathable fabric is more waterproof than breathable. Lots of single walls have vents, but they can’t compare to double walls, which allow you to open the doors wide while still remaining protected from the elements thanks to vestibule, and have ample airflow between the tent and fly.

So, the bottom line is this. If you’re on a budget, typically camp in warmer temps and lower elevations, or encounter lots of rain, go with a double wall. If you want to go seriously light, often camp in tight spots or in high, snowy environs, and if money is no object, check out single walls.

1 Comment

  1. Tom in Idaho

    I agree with many of Kristin’s comments as well as others in this comment section, but the distinction between single-wall and double-wall is becoming blurred. I recently switched from a traditional double-wall tent to a Big Agnes Scout UL2. It is so carefully vented that I had no condensation problems camping in the North Cascades in the early spring (where it is always cool/cold and damp). The tent only weighs 2 pounds. This is 1/3 the weight of the double-wall tent it replaced, and less than 1/5 the weight of the single-wall tent I used in the eighties.

Leave a Reply