There are two types of tents: single-wall tents and double-wall tents. Both have their pros and cons in terms of weight, weather-resistance, and comfort.
What is a Single-Wall Tent?
Single-wall tents are popular with backpackers and climbers who want to carry lightweight backpacking gear that won’t slow them down on long-distance hikes and summit attempts. While many can be pitched with trekking poles, single-wall tents have one layer of fabric that acts both as a rainfly and sleeping area to reduce their weight. Single-wall tents usually incorporate some insect netting into their doors, windows, or walls for added ventilation.
Single-Wall Tent Advantages
- Single-wall tents are usually much lighter weight than double-wall tents because they require less fabric to make.
- Their interior doesn’t get wet when it’s raining because they’re set up all at once.
- Many can be set up with trekking poles, which saves a few ounces if you use trekking poles to hike.
Single-Wall Tent Disadvantages
- More prone to internal condensation transfer from the walls to your sleeping bag and gear since there’s no barrier between them and the outer tent wall.
- They can be an be colder and draftier if the tent walls incorporate mesh panels
Comparison of Single-Wall Tents
Tent poles are usually used on single-wall mountaineering and climbing tents because they can withstand high winter snow loads and wind. Single-wall tents with trekking poles are usually much lighter weight than single-wall tents that require tent poles to set up.
|Make / Model||Type||Poles||Weight|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 10 oz|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||2 lbs 11 oz|
|Tarptent Protrail||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 10 oz|
|REI Flash Air 1||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 4 oz|
|Zpacks Hexamid Solo||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||10.4 oz|
|Zpacks Duplex||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 3 oz|
|Gossamer Gear The Two||Single-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 7.5 oz|
|Black Diamond HiLight 2P||Single-Wall||Tent Poles||3 lbs 8 oz|
What is a Double-Wall Tent?
Double-wall tents have a rainfly made with solid waterproof fabric and a separate inner tent made with insect netting, solid fabric panels, or some combination of the two. When set up, there’s a gap between the rainfly and the inner tent which air can flow through.
Most double-wall tents come with tent poles although there are some models that can be set up using trekking poles. Most double-wall tents made by US manufacturers, including Big Agnes, MSR, NEMO, and REI require that you set up the inner tent first and then drape the rain fly over it.
Most of the double-wall tents made in Europe and the UK by companies like Hilleberg, Terra Nova, and Exped can be set up with the rainfly and the inner tent pre-attached, or with the rainfly first, and the inner tent second. This is useful because Europe and the UK have a wetter climate, where you want to avoid making the inner tent wet if you have to set it up in heavy rain. It does result in a heavier tent, however.
Double-Wall Tent Advantages
- Most are freestanding or nearly freestanding since they include tent poles, so you can pitch them quickly without having to worry so much about staking and surface conditions
- There is almost zero internal condensation transfer from tent walls to your gear since the moisture passes through the mesh of the inner tent and gathers on the inside of the rainfly, away from any contact with your gear.
- Less drafty because they don’t have to be wind tunnels to combat internal condensation – meaning you can use many double-wall tents in autumn or winter when you’d freeze in a single wall tent.
- Double-wall tents which set up fly first, stay dry even inside, even in the pouring rain.
Double-Wall Tent Disadvantages
- Often heavier than single-wall tents, although their weight has dropped significantly in recent years
- Take longer to dry when they get wet because they have more fabric.
Comparison of Double-Wall Tents
|Make / Model||Type||Poles||Weight|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||2 lbs 11 oz|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||2 lbs 3 oz|
|MSR Hubba Hubba 2||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||2 lbs 14 oz|
|NEMO Hornet OSMO UL 2||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||1 lbs 15 oz|
|NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 2||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||2 lbs 10 oz|
|Hilleberg Enan||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||2 lbs 10 oz|
|DurstonGear X-Mid 1||Double-Wall||Tent Poles||1 lbs 12 oz|
|Tarptent Notch||Double-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 12 oz|
|Lanshan 2||Double-Wall||Trekking Poles||2 lbs 8 oz|
|Sierra Designs High Route FL||Double-Wall||Trekking Poles||1 lbs 12 oz|
More Tent Frequently Asked Questions
- Do You Need a Tent Footprint for Backpacking?
- What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Trekking Pole Tents?
- How to Prevent Tent Condensation
- How to Pitch a Tent on a Wooden Platform
- How to Dry a Wet Backpacking Tent
My most recent tent that I have been using and very much enjoying is the REI Quarter Dome SL1 , easy set up, small footprint, light. Very stable in wind.Very comfortable for a solo tent. Why is it that REI discontinued this model ? Cheers !
I’m not sure why you think that. It’s still for sale. I’m also publishing a review of it next Monday. I love it too! It’s a great tent.
I used a hybrid single wall tent for the first time on my Pemi Loop last week and absolutely loved it. I have the Tarptent Double Rainbow Lithium. I used the condensation liner but didn’t need to. It weighed 25 on on my scale and was awesome because it can be staked out with the poles but also set up freestanding mode with hiking poles. I used my hiking poles at the Liberty Springs tent platforms and was set up in mo time and the tent looks awesome. I would have likely never given a Tarptent a 2nd look it wasn’t for your articles..