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Advantages of Lightweight Double-Walled Tents

The NEMO Hornet 2P double-walled tent weighs less than two pounds.
The NEMO Hornet 2P double-walled tent weighs less than two pounds.

Double-walled tents are making a comeback amongst backpackers because they’ve become much lighter with gear weights that rival their single-walled competitors. This is especially true in the two-person tent category where several 2 person, double-walled tents including the NEMO Hornet 2P, the NEMO Blaze 2P, and the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 all weigh 2 pounds or less, making them lighter weight than most other two person single walled tents. (Of course, if you want to spend $600 and up on a 21 ounce single-walled, cuben fiber tent, be my guest  – that’s too rich for my blood.)

Double-walled tents have many advantages over single-walled tents:

  • Nearly freestanding since they include tent poles, so you can pitch them quickly without having to worry so much about staking and surface conditions (making setup virtually idiot-proof)
  • Almost zero internal condensation transfer from tent walls to your gear since the moisture is captured by the rain fly
  • Less drafty because they don’t have to be wind tunnels to combat internal condensation – meaning you can use many double walled tents in autumn or winter, when you’d freeze in a single walled tent.
  • Double-walled tents tend to have better privacy because they have less open mesh showing.
  • Deep bathtub style floors protect against accidental flooding on compacted tentsites.
  • Factory seam taped, so you don’t have to seam seal the tent with silicone and paint thinner in your basement.
  • No need to carry trekking poles to pitch the tent if you don’t use them.

For example, compare the following two person single-walled and double-walled tents. There are quite a few two-person double-walled tents available today that weigh less than their single-walled counterparts.

TentSingle or Double WalledWeight (Ounces)Price
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2Double31389
NEMO Blaze 2PDouble32450
NEMO Hornet 2PDouble32370
Mountain Hardware Ghost UL 2Double34449
Yama Mountain Gear SwiftlineSingle35395
Tarptent MoTrailSingle36259
MSR Freelite 2Double39440
Six Moon Designs Lunar DuoSingle41310
Tarptent Double RainbowSingle43289
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2Double44449
Stratospire 2Double46349
REI Quarter Dome 2Double47299
Tarptent Double MomentDouble52359

I’ve owned and used many single-walled shelters in my backpacking career, but my motivation to use them has diminished as double-walled shelters have come down in weight. There’s a lot to be said for a more comfortable double-walled tent when gear weight ceases to be a differentiating factor.

And while single-walled tents still tend to be lower cost, the pricing difference is not as great or universal in the two-person size. Many double-walled tents are also discounted by retailers, while those produced by cottage companies are almost never on sale.

  • What’s your preference: a single-walled or a double walled tent?
  • Would that change if there was less of a price or weight difference between the two types of tents?

Written 2016. Updated 2017.

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9 comments

  1. Don "lostagain" Proctor

    Personally, I’m an “ecosystem” kinda guy. For me, cost, though important, isn’t as important as a totality of factors. Those include, weight in relation to the rest of my gear; comfort level of use; overall functionality; and packability. I like to look at my gear as an integrated whole. That’s why I say weight in relation to the rest is an important factor. I don’t want to carry a 5 pound tent if the lightest sleeping pad I can carry is 1 pound and the lightest quilt or sleeping bag is 2 pounds. That puts all that weight at 8 pounds! Factor in the rest of the gear and I’m now carrying anywhere from 16 to 20 pounds base weight. Now, contrast that to a tent/shelter system that weighs 2 pounds, a pad that’s sub-1 pound, quilt/bag that’s 1.5 pounds and that’s manageable.

    Conversely, If I can get a lightweight tent to match my somewhat heavier other gear I’m OK with that too. Especially if that shelter will allow me to put ALL my gear inside in the event of really inclement weather, or I’m in an environment where I don’t want creepy crawlies in my pack or shoes, or to protect from critter investigation at night. Or one that allows me to spread out my gear without worrying about will I have to repack my pack/stuff sacks before turning in so I don’t wind up sleeping on all of it. Is there enough room to comfortably change clothes? How easy is it to get in and out? How well does it pack down? Will I have to strap it onto the outside of my pack or will it fit down inside? How long are any associated poles? Will I have to be creative in my staking should I find myself in a less than optimal setup area? How much actual ground space will I need? Will I need some form of footprint? If I get caught in a thunderstorm, will I have to worry about not only condensation, but rain splash getting inside? Finally, how will it’s weight fit in with my overall base weight? All those questions are what I ask before deciding on which tent to buy.

    I’m currently in the market for a decent shelter because I plan to thru-attempt the PCT in the next year or so, and I mostly hammock. So, I’ve semi-settled on the SMD Lunar Solo because I’ve seen folks review it online who are roughly my height and size. However, I’m also still considering my alternatives, and a freestanding or even semi-freestanding tent is definitely in the picture.

  2. For someone tall 6’3 who wants a solo shelter with liveable space and peak height, freestanding or nearly freestanding, under 3lbs packed weight, what are some of the best options out there? BA Copper Spur HV UL1, REI Q1 HV, Tarptent Bowfin, Nemo Hornet 2, any I am missing?

  3. What I love about the tarptent models is being able to set them up from the inside. No wet tent while putting on the fly from the outside.

    • Preferably double wall, but using a Lunar Solo for the weight, dry pitch, and the sale price. Haven’t had bad condensation issues. I’d like to be able to dry pitch a double wall if price and weight were closer to single wall.

  4. This year I abandoned my two Tarptents…….not because they are bad tents (they are AWESOME!)…..but because of three things. 1) condensation, 2) comfort, and 3) free-standing.

    It is bad enough trying to get a tent dry prior to packing with just external condensation. At times, in my Tarptent, I could wring-out multiple bandanas worth and still couldn’t get dry.

    I am a backpacker/camper. If I was a thru-hiker, maybe I would feel differently. My Tarptents I couldn’t sit up in and be comfy if I had to spend an afternoon inside during a rain shower……sitting up to read or play cards. With my Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2Platinum, I can easily do that!

    Free-standing makes it ultra-easy to set up…..even when it starts to rain! I also feel that my new tent is much more wind resistant and also don’t have to worry about re-tensioning the tent pitch as it gets wet.

    Bottom line is I am willing to carry the extra pound or so in order to realize the benefits I value from my new (favorite) tent features.

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