Reader Poll: Does it Matter What Color Your Tent or Tarp Shelter Is?

Colored Tents

Do you care what color your tent or tarp shelter is for backpacking or camping? That might sound like a strange question, but some people believe that it’s better to have shelters that are colored in earth tones because they are less intrusive and nocticeable by other people.

Questions

  1. Do you care what color your tent or shelter is – enough to not purchase it if it is the wrong colors?
  2. What shelter colors do you prefer and why?
  3. Do the colors of other people’s shelters bother you? Explain.

Please leave your answers below.

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52 Responses to Reader Poll: Does it Matter What Color Your Tent or Tarp Shelter Is?

  1. Dave Walker August 12, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    To me colour is not a buying decision, although if I have a choice of colours I’d go for calmer/more natural colours such as green or brown.

    • Benjamin August 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      I agree with Dave about that. The color reflects little on my choice, but if the same item were green, grey, brown i’d likely choose that option.

  2. John B. Abela August 12, 2013 at 2:54 am #

    1. Yes. Those horrifically bright MSR flys come to mind… bright red/orange and bright green… just not going to happen. Awhile back I was going to buy a MLD Duomid but all they had was yellow material, and I never bought it because of that. And the blue cuben fiber that zpacks offers is also on my list of ‘never buy’.

    2. dark green, black, dark gray, you get the idea. There was a time when I really enjoyed the white cuben fiber, back when CF was still not popular out on the trail. More and more though I try to stay away from white cuben fiber. Only white cf shelter (or anything) that I still own is my 0.34 cf tarp that has a few thousand miles on it. I will say though, that this new “light orange” 0.34 cuben fiber is something that is appealing to me. It really takes away the brightness of the white cf. I suppose it just comes down to the fact that when I do have to setup a shelter/tarp over the top of me, chances are it is because it is raining, and if it is raining there are no stars to look at, so I might as well have something as dark as I can to dampen any lightening. Regarding privacy… I do not know of many (any?) long distance hikers who care about privacy anymore – after going to the bathroom in the wilderness so many times, how can anybody. Shelter privacy is for weekenders and yuppies. (ok, and a few long distance hikers that are women still value their privacy, I just did not want to go there)

    3) Yep. When I look out over a valley and there is some bright orange or bright green MSR dome shelter out there messing up the beauty of the scenery, that is just really annoying. A yellow DuoMid is the exception of course ;)

    (…do not take any of this serious folks…its hiking… stop being crybabies, whiners, or haters…)

    • keegan August 12, 2013 at 3:32 am #

      I always wondered if the color of the tent had anything to do with how hot your tent got in the sun or do different colors dry faster than others.

      I think if there is a distinct advantage for a certain color then all tents need to be that color to take advantage of the properties of that color.

      • philipwerner (@philipwerner) August 12, 2013 at 8:50 am #

        I have a white cuben fiber duomid. Thing gets so hot in sunlight that it feels like a microwave inside.

        • John B. Abela August 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

          Hey Philip, yeah, I had my “orange” 0.34 cf pocket hit 122 inside of it a few weeks back… outside the tent it was around 80(f) in the sun. Ouch!

      • Peter McClure October 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

        Obviously, black gear soaks up more heat than white gear. You can use that in winter to help stay warm, or do like the Arabs and wear white gear to reflect heat in summer.

        • Grandpa October 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

          One of the nice things about the Tyvek Tarptent Sublite is the white fabric keeps the tent relatively cool inside. Since I live and do most of my backpacking in the South, that is a plus for me.

  3. Jim C August 12, 2013 at 5:01 am #

    >Do you care what color your tent or shelter is – enough to not purchase it if it is the wrong colors?
    YES, but mainly for functional reasons … not for the sake of the color itself. Example, I’m wanting a storm worthy winter tent. Much of my camping is at latitudes where winter day length is 8 hours or less and I want a tent color that allows a bright interior. Am looking at yellow. If trying to “stealth camp” near a highly used area I’d like a leaf green shelter. If camping in a truly remote place I’d like a tent that stands out from a distance for the possibility an emergency where I’d need to be easily found.

    >What shelter colors do you prefer and why?
    whatever fills the functional need as described above

    >Do the colors of other people’s shelters bother you? Explain.
    Nope.

    • Ed August 12, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Can I just say ditto? Bright color for light and natural color for camping in areas where camping isn’t specifically allowed. I don’t think that there is any magical color that is both.

  4. Harold King August 12, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    I wouldn’t buy a yellow one based on the fact that my red and yellow striped sun umbrella was recently covered in insects but only on the yellow sections.

  5. Marco August 12, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Really, the bears don’t care which color their lunch is wrapped up in.

    I prefer dark purple, blue or forest green. My “disco” tarp is silver and white and made with reflective material to help a bit on cold nights. But they are all different sizes from a massive 16′x20′ hunters tarp (3#0), 10′x14′ disco tarp(1#8), 9′x10′ flat tarp(1#2) , and a 7′x9′ shaped tarp(0#15.) Each has it’s use.

    Nope, I don’t really care what others do.

    Note that the Disco Tarp helps on cold spring and fall nights. But, because it is heavier material (around 1.7oz/yd) I don’t carry it except for when there are two or three people.

    • Clayton M August 16, 2013 at 2:24 am #

      Actually, there is good evidence suggesting that bears are drawn to brighter colors. Few are habituated enough for that to matter, but they seem to like the more visible tents.

      • tom jones November 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

        um… bears, like bulls, (bullfighter’s ‘red’ cape) are COLOR BLIND!!!!
        maybe they like the ‘smell’ of the color??? red=cherry, yellow= lemon, purple=grape, Neutral=human

  6. Matt August 12, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    I wouldn’t want a shelter with a color that jumps out at me. I’ve preferred shelters in unobtrusive tones: grays, greens, light blue or yellow. I want it to be fairly easy to find my shelter so I don’t want a color that completely blends in with the surroundings. I’ve found I prefer lighter colors because they seem brighter inside.

    It doesn’t bother me what color someone’s tent is.

  7. Hillel B. August 12, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Yes, -don’t like bright colors. I don’t get it…why so many good tents only available in bright colors instead of softer more natural colors…

  8. Blitzo August 12, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I definitely prefer the earth tones. I like to blend into the terrain when I am camping. Green, brown, gray the preferred colors. The gray tents so seem brighter to be in and don’t stand out in the woods even though they don;t fully blend in either. Color would not prevent me from a purchase as long as it was not a close race between two models – then I might steer away from a clashing color. I don’t get bothered by other people’s brightly colored tents. I don’t care too much if they are hidden or not, just that I am :)

  9. Mark August 12, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    I do care about the color. I prefer earth tones or at least colors that will blend in in a wooded environment. Gray, green, brown. I will not buy a tent that is a bright color. Marmot and Mountain Hardwear have some designs I like, but no thanks, I can’t deal with orange.

    I don’t care what other people do and it doesn’t bother me what color they have. In fact, being able to see where they are from miles away may help me determine where not to go.

  10. Kevin O August 12, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    I buy most of my expensive gear second hand from craigslist or REI garage sales. For that reason I get to be far less picky about color. When a tent I’m looking for comes up in good condition, I grab it.

    That said, when I’m going Mountaineering, I prefer bright colors. Just in case something goes horribly wrong, I want people to be able to see my tent. If I’m just backpacking, I my prefrence is to not stand out, so green, black, brown…..

  11. jason August 12, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Green,brown or camo…I like to remain on the downlow!

  12. nhripps August 12, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    1. Insofar as I wouldn’t by a tent that was neon pink or neon green, I suppose yes :-)
    2. I think that outside of the limits I mentioned above, I don’t really have a color preference; I’m definitely much more concerned about form, durability, etc.
    3. Bright tent colors (which seem to be under scrutiny here) don’t really bother me. From my perspective as a SAR tech, brightly colored tents can make my job easier because of their high visibility. If I had an earthtone tent, I’d make it a point to carry some bright gear to “call out” my camping area anyway. I suppose I’d rather be visually annoying but easy to find over polite and dead :-)

  13. Bruce Willis 4316 August 12, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    I’d buy zebra or leopard print tent if a manufacturer had the gumption to make it!!

  14. John G. August 12, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    High altitude mountaineering tents such as my Mountain Hardwear EV2 come in bright colors for a reason…….so after a long day of climbing it’s easier to find my camp site in low light or near white out stormy conditions.

  15. RevLee August 12, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I prefer muted, lighter colors. The two tarps and the tent I currently use are all light gray, but then I don’t remember having a color option at the time I bought them. Having a neutral color like gray keeps things looking more natural underneath it during the day. I’ve used red tents where on bright sunny days everything looks tomato colored on the inside.

    To answer your questions:
    1. I would not purchase brightly tents or tarps now. Mountaineering would be an exception.
    2. Muted light colors.
    3. The color of other people’s tents rarely bother me, because I don’t see them much. I rarely camp with others, and if I see their tents, it is usually just in passing. Also, here in the Mid-Atlantic with all the trees, you can’t see from far way so they don’t spoil the views.

  16. Outdoors August 12, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I don’t think it falls under Leave No Trace, but colors should. I don’t enjoy crossing a pass to see a camp of 4 people in 4 little fluorescent tents at the bottom of a valley. If you have to be colorful take one tent. I can put my Tipi (Kifaru Brown) 100 yards off any trail and no one sees it. Great for stealthiness as well. Many times I have had a cop car shine the woods, and never have been found on my cross country adventures

    I would not purchase a colorful tent
    I like Browns and Tans during Summer and Fall, and white for Winter
    Yes they bother me

    • Philip Werner August 12, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Shelter color is taught as part of the Leave No Trace curriculum, but those as just guidelines, not rules. Everyone is free to make their own judgements. I think there are a lot of good opinions here about the pros and cons of different alternatives. I’m leaning towards getting a brown tarp too – so it’s interesting to hear you have a brown tipi too.

  17. JERMM August 12, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    1-color is very important to me, I’m claustrophobic and find I need lighter colors so I don’t feel as closed in

    2- light grey, light green and yellows

    3- I don’t care what color of shelters other people have/use.

  18. Richard@Home (@richardathome) August 12, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I do a fair bit of wild camping and stealth camping. A low profile, natural coloured tent is a must. I often just take a tarp & bivi bag.

  19. Grandpa August 12, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    It doesn’t make a great deal of difference to me although I prefer muted light colors. I have a white Tyvek Tarptent Sublite and it is pretty cool in the sun. My Tarptent Double Rainbow heats up much quicker. I’m not offended by other tents standing out because of their colors. I’m just happy to be away from the city and in the wild when I see them.

  20. Steve M August 12, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    My orange / rust colored BA Copper Spur UL1 stands out in summer in New England forests, but blends right in during the fall when the leaves are turning. Love the tent, love fall camping.

    1. I buy the tent based on performance, fit and price. Only if the color were insane ( hot pink) would I steer clear.

    2. That said, I prefer muted colors, but do not object to color per se. This might be a bigger issue if I did most of my camping somewhere else.

    3. Other people’s tent colors have pluses and minuses. Sometimes I prefer solitude throughout a trip, and knowing where others have chosen to set up for the night lets me decide on my own campsite preference. I had one experience when I thought I was in complete solitude, only to have a guy in full camo ( gear, clothes, etc.) pop out of the woods at night to “socialize”. He turned out to be an ok guy, but I had no idea I had set up almost on top of him.

  21. H.D.Lynn August 12, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    1. Yes, definitely. I just don’t like my gear being red/pink/orange. That said, I just bought a pink stuff sac because it was on sale and the only one in the size I wanted.
    2. Green/blue/grey are preferred. Neon green/blue doesn’t bother me, but I don’t go out of my way to buy them.
    3. I don’t care what other people buy — it’s your hike, your gear, so it’s your choice.

  22. Cincinnatus August 12, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    1. Don’t really care but pink is out and I don’t want a black or dark colors because of heat build up.

    2. All of the other colors are fine.

    3. To each their own – if you want a neon pink tent – your money – not mine.

  23. Martin Rye August 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    Q: Do you care what color your tent or shelter is – enough to not purchase it if it is the wrong colors?

    A: colour (hey i’m a Brit) for me is no big issue. Red or Green look great. Really fancy a red winter tent.

    Q: What shelter colors do you prefer and why?

    A: See above

    Q: Do the colors of other people’s shelters bother you? Explain.

    A: No.

  24. McCamer August 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    For me its function over beauty (to a point). On one tent a made a booba when sealing the seams with a spray bottle of silicon. The paint sort of desolved or ran. So I had a maroon (mostly) outer shell with white fairly straight seal lines. The kind ones pointed out the nice seal job and “everyone” knew me when I made camp. Still got er packed away for future use, but now use a greenish hubbahubba. Now I am anomalous.
    I think that ones shelter should stand out against the surroundings. Easier to find. Even with camo, heat sensors will find you. Don’t think the critters really care.

  25. spelt August 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    The standard gray silnylon is wretched. So depressing, ugh. Green, brown, yellow I like, followed by blue and orange, and then red. Beyond that it’s not worth listing since only a few companies offer a neon-ish green and I think only Warmlite offers anything truly outrageous like neon pink.

    I don’t care what other people use. They’re the ones that have to be inside/under it.

  26. Don Milligan August 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    This summer I picked up at 52″x106″ Cuben fiber tarp in Blue purely for the weight, 88 grams,
    and didn’t give it a second thought, shortly after that I read this article:

    http://www.backpacker.com/october_2000_threats_wildlife_bears/nature/1647

    which states that bears are attracted to Blue and Yellow. I don’t buy it! Bears are highly intelligent and curious creatures they are attracted to food not tents, well maybe tents with food odor on them!

    I embrace the LNT spirit with every fiber of my being and I believe that simply being outdoors we are leaving a trace, by walking, biking, etc… we are leaving a scar on the landscape.
    Well for that matter so do heard animals like Bison, Elk, Deer etc… but they aren’t leaving non bio-degradable traces.

    When I see a photograph of a Yellow MLD Trailstar or Scarlet Pyramid shaped Tarp/Tent on a bright autumn morning against the Reds and Yellows of a fall forest it is truly a thing of beauty and a Black, Green shelter not so much.

    the Color people choose doesn’t matter, I’m more concerned with the bits that are left behind.

  27. Steve Barber August 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    1. Definitely! I would not buy a yellow, orange, red, purple tent!

    2. Preferred colors are greens and brown/tan.

    3. In a campground, no. On the trail in the back country, yes.

    • Jell Ellis August 13, 2013 at 3:22 am #

      Steve – you summed up my 3 paragraph post in 3 lines!
      Jell

  28. SandyofPA August 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    As a lady who hikes solo most of the time, I love olive drab and forest green. I do not want to be seen while stealth tenting.

  29. Milton August 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    3 season – green
    Winter – red

  30. Jean August 13, 2013 at 2:22 am #

    I don’t care about tent color at all, although I admit the orange tents above really caught my eye! No, it doesn’t blend in, but that’s not something that ever really crosses my mind. I actually prefer when I can see others’ tents, just so I know they’re there.

    • Jean August 13, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      (seems I’m totally alone on this)

  31. Jell Ellis August 13, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Do you care what color your tent or shelter is – enough to not purchase it if it is the wrong colors? – Yes. Especially for a tarp or small tent that I am going to use out in the wild. I want to blend in out there and feel I am imposing as little as possible, Bear in mind that I am in the UK< where heat is rarely a problem! If I am buying a tent for a base camp I am less fussed, but still prefer warm natural colours like dark reds and greens.

    What shelter colors do you prefer and why? – Dark green, black, dark grey.

    Do the colors of other people’s shelters bother you? Explain. – Sometimes. I have been in a wild Scottish glen, with no sign of human intrusion, except for a bright orange tent on the loch-side. A muted dark tone would have fitted in and said there was someone there who cared about the environment and how they looked and affected it.

  32. Joan August 13, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    1- Yes.

    2- I like a tarp that allows me to blend in since I stealth camp so often when I am solo. Greens, browns, or camo.

    3- It depends. In a campground or popular area, I don’t care what other people do. But out on a remote bald, I’ve noticed I feel less crowded when I see unobtrusive, earth-toned shelters compared to when there are brightly colored shelters that stand out against the scenery. On the other hand, camping out in a rainstorm with friends, I do enjoy huddling under a light-colored tarp that lets in more light- much more cheerful way to spend the time.

  33. Mike August 13, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Being on a budget, if an item was on sale & only came in a bright color, I’d purchase it. Otherwise, I’d try & get muted earth tones.

    Having a hammock makes stealth camping even easier, so I use a light brown tarp & a dark green hammock, which seems to blend in well while still letting light in.

    I don’t complain about the color of other people’s cars, so I can’t complain about their tent. They can spend their money as they see fit. If they’re near my site, it just makes it that much easier to find in the dark.. “find the neon beacon and go right”

  34. Grannyhiker August 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    It’s amazing how crowded an alpine valley can look with a few bright colored tents in it, while grays, subdued greens, browns don’t show up much. That’s why the LNT guidelines say to avoid bright colors (ditto clothing).

    I personally like “silnylon gray” because it’s inconspicuous. I prefer to camp where I won’t be seen. That being said, I do use reflective guylines (sold by Triptease, Gossamer Gear, Lawson Equipment) so I can find my tent at night. You can see those all the way across a wide meadow when your headlamp shines on them.

    Assuming you take reasonable safety precautions, I can’t see “visually polluting” the landscape with gaudy colors on the 1 or 2% chance that you might need SAR assistance. I think a PLB, SPOT or other emergency device would be far preferable (yes, I do carry one).

    Admittedly, I have a bright red down jacket, but that has more to do with what was available at the time I needed it. “50% off” is the magic phrase that leads many of us to buy colors we would otherwise avoid like the plague–for example, my baselayers (pink top, purple bottoms)!

    Which reminds me that if you like bright colors, you can always invest in bright colored undies and socks that don’t show!

    Of course in hunting season you really want that blaze orange vest!

  35. StephenM August 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    Granny hiker hit the nail on the head, I much prefer green shelters but during hunting season I pack a yellow one.

  36. Shawn A August 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    I guess I haven’t really considered color a top consideration when making a purchase decision. As long as it isn’t horrible color I hate or too ugly. I have a bright orange BA tent that I use for car camping but it looks fine. I also have a tan colored tent. So I guess I am sort of a mixed bag.

  37. romney August 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I didn’t think I cared about the colour, but come to think of it all my tents are dark green. My favourite is the Hilleberg Nallo with green outside and yellow inside. Camoflague and a bright cheery interior!

    I don’t care what colour other people have as long as they don’t have the tent I saw this week that said “your girlfriend slept here last night” on it in BIG letters. Ewwww.

  38. PilgrimChris August 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Do you care what color your tent or shelter is – enough to not purchase it if it is the wrong colors?

    Nope.

    What shelter colors do you prefer and why?

    Absolutely no preference because of the answer above.

    Do the colors of other people’s shelters bother you? Explain.

    Not at all. I have one thing in common with all you hikers – the fact that I love to hike. However, my choice of shelter is as individual as I am and I love individuality so I welcome your individuality too :)

  39. Walter Underwood August 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    Outside of snow camping, white is best, because it is lighter inside and a flashlight can light up the whole tent. Even with snow camping, a white inner tent is a good idea.

    Sierra Designs makes a nice, bright white.

  40. Ken November 13, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I always prefer to blend in and choose natural colors, and yes, it does factor into choice when purchasing. As far as being bothered by wild colors of other folks gear, definitely not….chacun à son goût!

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