A tarp tent is a single walled tent that has walls, bug netting, a floor, and often a vestibule like a double-walled camping tent, but which is significantly lighter weight because it combines the rain fly and inner tent into a single wall instead of two different layers. As an example, the one person Tarptent Rainbow, shown here, only weighs 2 pounds 2 ounces and has a large bathtub floor, a mesh inner tent, a large vestibule area than can be rolled open to help eliminate internal condensation, or closed to provide additional rain protection and privacy.
Beside its lighter weight, one of the chief advantages of a single walled tent is that it sets up very quickly in the rain because the entire tent pitches as a complete unit, and you don’t have to stand there trying to clip on the ran fly while the inner tent is drenched in a downpour.
In addition, some tarp tents, like the Gossamer Gear’s The One (weighing 1 pound) can be pitched using hiking poles instead of having to carry additional tent poles. Saving weight by using items you already carry for multiple purposes like this is one of the hall marks of lightweight backpacking.
Tarp tents comes in many different shapes and sizes ranging from domes like the Rainbow to Half Pyramids like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (weighing 23 ounces.) It also has a bathtub floor like the other tents, shown here, which is waterproof and has raised side walls that protect you from wet ground or rivulets of water. It’s fully integrated with the sides of the tent and not a separate unit, so it slides into place automatically when you pitch the tent.
In addition to single person tarp tents, two person tarp tents are also available like the popular Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo (39 ounces), the Tarptent Double Rainbow (41 ounces) or the Tarptent Squall 2 (34 ounces).
If you own a heavier double walled tent today and you’re looking to reduce the weight of your gear list, I usually recommend that people make the transition to a tarp tent first, instead of a tarp, because there’s less of a learning curve involved and there’s little functional difference between a single walled and a double walled shelter. Personally, switching to a Squall 2 tarp tent was an easy transition for me to make and one I benefited from immediately. If you’re used to sleeping in a tent, getting used to sleeping under a tarp without any walls, floor or bug netting is a much more difficult transition and takes a lot longer to become comfortable with.
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