The Time-Saver Guide to Choosing a Tent

Posted by Mark Richardson on Sep 28, 2023

Single skin or Two skin?

  • Most people choose a two skin tent because single skin tents suffer more from condensation
  • Two skin tents tend to be warmer because of the air between the inner and outer
  • Single skin tents tend to be lighter and more spacious

3 Season versus 4 Season?

  • 4 Season tents handle wind and rain better and some are capable of handling snow
  • 4 Season tents will have a fabric inner which will be warmer but less breathable than a mesh inner common on 3 Season tents
  • 4 Season tents tend to have the flysheet pitched close to the ground, great for wind and rain protection but rubbish for ventilation.
  • 4 Season tents can easily be twice the weight of 3 season tents so if you don’t need the extra performance you will be carrying that extra weight for no good reason.

Solo tents, 2 person or 3 person?

  • Ultralight weight tents tend to be small, but some are bigger than others, decide whether you want comfort and are prepared to carry 1-200grams more for the privilege, or whether you don’t mind being a bit cramped and just want the lightest.
  • The weight difference between 1 and 2 person tents can be minor so some people buy 2 person tents for solo use, or 3 person tents for couples.

Free Standing or Pitched?

  • Free standing means the tent pole structure will support the tent fully even without any pegs being put in the ground.
  • Free standing tents are better because they are stronger against the wind, you can move them around easily until you find the best piece of ground and they tend to have the greatest internal volume.
  • Non free standing tents tend to be more difficult to pitch, use more pegs and guys and need more adjustment to get right.
  • People may choose a non-free standing tent because they tend to be lighter, have more floor area and some of the designs get close to free standing performance.

Trekking Pole tents

  • Trekking pole tents use your trekking poles as tent poles to save weight
  • Obviously its only worth it if you use trekking poles anyway
  • The lightest trekking poles are fixed length, ideally if using trekking poles for a tent they need some adjustment in length so that you can get the most out of a poor pitch.
  • Trekking poles tents tend to be single skin – see above about single skin tents

For a more in depth discussion go to our full page on this subject… The Ultimate Guide to Ultralight Tents

For our particular recommendations use our filters to see Top Picks... View All Tent Top Picks

Our ‘Time Saver Guides’ aim to give you the benefit of our knowledge and experience in a concise format, some of what we include is our opinion because presenting all sides of an argument takes time!

Mark Richardson

Mark was the founder of Ultralight Outdoor Gear back in 2006 and has completed long distance backpacking routes in some of the remotest parts of the world. His favourite hikes have been Torres del Paine (full circuit), the John Muir trail and the Markha Valley trail (Ladakh, India). Although semi-retired Mark has not lost any enthusiasm for minimalist backpacking and is tackling Scotland’s Munros choosing multi-day backpacking routes over the more usual guide book excursions.

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