Ask Kristin

Tent Walls

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


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

Submitted by – Joe – Bowling Green, KY


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.