Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Tent nights: 205
Strongest wind: 45 mph in Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Highest elevation: 13,500 feet on Mt. Sherman, CO
Solo Tents & Bivy
Minimize condensation. On double-wall tents, keep the rainfly well tensioned (use the guyout loops) to increase space between the tent canopy and fly and encourage air circulation.
Tent pole TLC. Don’t snap your tent poles together; it creates nicks in the aluminum that can lead to splitting. Instead, carefully seat each section and check that they fit tightly together.
Campsite selection. Avoid low spots where water can pool. Look for breezy sites in buggy conditions, and in hot, sunny places, opt for shady spots to keep your tent cool and minimize UV damage.
Tent Shopping Smarts
Check the headroom. Climb inside with the intended number of occupants. Imagine being holed up in a two-day storm. Enough space?
Check door size. Can you enter and exit the tent without doing unplanned yoga?
Storage wars. Make sure the mix of vestibule and in-tent storage options matches your preferences.
Color matters. Light-colored tents have better ambiance; bright ones are easier to spot in emergencies.
Pole attachments. Sleeves offer better stability in rough weather; clips are lighter and easier to erect.
Coming Soon: Self-Powered Shelters
Tents are getting into the energy business. Already, Big Agnes has introduced tents with electric lights and battery packs capable of charging your phone. But that’s just the beginning, says Big Agnes cofounder Bill Gamber, who envisions tents that can heat occupants and power camp stoves.
Gamber gets ideas about innovative power sources from long-distance sailboats, remote villages, and his own off-the-grid residence. “The technology is already there in other industries,” he says. Such people demand better battery technology, which could trickle down to tents to improve communication and reduce overall gear weight (by shrinking the amount of stove fuel you have to pack, for instance). So far, most tent/power collaborations involve solar energy: Eddie Bauer First Ascent and Goal Zero joined forces to make a solar panel equipped tent, and, although no product was released, First Ascent continues to experiment with solar-channeling tents. And textile manufacturers are promising to debut tent fabrics that can capture solar energy. Other power sources may also merge with camping technology.
“You need water when you’re camping, so a lot of times you camp next to a fast-moving stream,” Gamber says. “Could that charge your stuff?”
Trending: Wispy Fabrics
A few years ago, most tents used 75-denier fabrics (ultralight models got away with 40-denier materials). But denier—an indicator of thread thickness—is decreasing. Forty denier is the new average, and lighter tents now use 10- and 15-denier fabrics. Are today’s tents less durable?
Not exactly, says NEMO’s Tom Bath. “Denier was never a foolproof measure of a fabric’s durability,” he says, “but it’s even less significant now.”
Newer, stronger nylons and weaves let manufacturers use thinner fibers while maintaining the fabric’s resistance to rips and punctures. The trade-off is long-term waterproofness: Lower-denier fabrics can’t tolerate thick waterproof coatings as well as higher denier materials.
“Tear strength goes down as coating thickness goes up,” says Bath. Whereas 40-denier fabrics remain tear-resistant under a 3,000mm coating, 15-denier fabrics become prone to rips unless they’re coated with a thinner, 1,000mm coating. “That’s plenty initially,” says Bath. “But over time, abrasion wears away the coating.”
Bottom line: You still have to coddle low-denier fabrics a bit to prolong their water resistance. And once you start to see fabric wetting out, treat it with a product like Nikwax Tent & Gear Proof.