Single Wall Tents|
So you are deciding whether to purchase a single wall tent. Consider first if you are
- Obsessively counting the grams and ounces you are bringing on your trips (out of necessity, because you need to be fast and lightweight, not just to be cool)
- Going to be in a dry, cold climate, with the potential for some rain or snow
- Willing to spend up to double the cost for a single-wall vs. double wall tent
Basically, you should figure out if you truly, absolutely need a lighter tent. If you answered yes to all of those questions, then read on.
Single Wall vs. Double Wall Tents – It’s an issue of weight and simplicity
No one got creative when they named these two types of tents. They are, in fact, exactly as they are described – one and two walls. A wall in a tent is a piece of material. A single wall tent is one piece of material that is both waterproof and breathable. A double wall tent is two pieces of material, one that is breathable and one that is waterproof. Double wall tents (they kind you are most likely used to seeing and using) are more effective at keeping out moisture and keeping in heat. They are also tend to be less expensive. You might be wondering why anyone would choose a single wall tent if a double wall tent is cheaper and more effective. The answer is that hard-core mountaineers shave every gram of weight possible. And a tent can weigh several pounds. Not a big deal when you are hiking 10 miles a day and summiting maybe once. But it is a big deal when you are climbing big walls, peak bagging, and on a time mission. There are mountaineers who cut off their toothbrush handles and know the weight of every piece of equipment they own.
A single wall tent works because the material is waterproof and breathable, so if you get caught in a big storm, the water will stay out and you can sleep dry. They are pretty easy to set up since there is only once piece of material. It’s important to remember though, that there is only one piece of material between your dry sleeping bag and the rain outside. One small seam malfunction or tear and you are sleeping under open skies (not quite, but it might feel like that if it’s stormy enough).
Unfortunately, when a product tries to “do it all,” something is often compromised. In the case of single wall tents, the breathability can get sacrificed. Many materials are truly breathable, but no waterproof material is going to breathe as well as nylon. Their lack of breathability makes them hotter in the summer. And their lack of a second wall makes them colder in the winter. If you do decide to go with a single wall tent, it’s highly recommended that you reinforce all the seams with waterproof tape.
Because there are fewer of them, and because the materials cost more, single-walled tents can cost an arm and a leg. Sure, they have gotten less expensive over the years, but they are still significantly more expensive than a double-walled expedition tent. You can buy most three-season tents for less money and comparable weight.
Single Wall Tent Guide
Here are a few companies that make single wall tents. The weight is for everything (poles, stakes, tent).
- North Face Phoenix 2 person: 4 lbs, $299.
- Eureka Lite N Up 2 person: 3 lbs 4 oz, $180.
- Mountain Hardwear EV-2 person: 5lbs, 3 oz, $600.
- Integral Designs MK3 person: 5lbs 8oz, $600.
- Sierra Designs Convert 3 person: 6lbs 10oz, $520.
And then there are tarp tents. But that’s an entirely new topic.