Have you even wanted to move your tent because the ground underneath was uncomfortable or you needed to make space for someone else at your tent site? Have you ever had to pitch your tent on a wooden platform, a sandy beach, or a rocky overlook where you couldn’t use tent stakes? I think everyone has had an experience like this at one time or another.
Freestanding tents are prefect for times like these because they stand up by themselves, without needing tent stakes. They set up quickly and are usually quite spacious because they have a dome-shaped interior that maximizes interior space. It’s surprising that they’re not more available, because they make perfect backpacking and thru-hiking tents.
What is a freestanding tent?
Freestanding tents are tents that you can pick up off the ground and move from one place to another without having to tear them down and set them back up. That’s probably the simplest definition.
Freestanding tents have specially designed tent poles that hold up the tent and don’t have to be staked to the ground using tent stakes. You’ll still want to use a stake or two to prevent them from blowing away in the wind, but they’re not necessary to set up the tent or keep it from collapsing around you.
Most freestanding tents hang from tent poles that use an exoskeleton pole architecture. An inner tent hangs from the poles using plastic hooks, while a rain fly is draped over the poles to waterproof the interior. The ends of the poles fit into plastic or metal connectors at the corners of the tent to stretch out the interior and eliminate the need for tent stakes. The rain fly is attached to the corners connectors, forming a self-contained unit that you pick up and move around wherever you want.
Some freestanding single-wall tents like the Black Diamond FirstLight and the Mountain Hardware Direkt2 have tent poles that cross-over each other and are set up inside the living space. The is a useful feature in winter when you want to get out of the cold and wind as quickly as possible. I’ve owned a FirstLight for close to 10 years and it’s an amazingly convenient tent to use in winter since it doesn’t have to be staked out to set up.
Lightweight Freestanding Tents
One or two person freestanding backpacking tents are relatively rare and there aren’t many of them available. If you can find one that weighs 3 pounds or less, grab it. Seriously. I can tell you from experience that you’ll probably hang on to your first freestanding tent for a long time, because it’s so convenient to use, not just for backpacking, but for car camping as well.
Here’s a list of the 1 and 2 person lightweight freestanding tents available today that weight 3 pounds or less.
|Tent||Sleep Capacity||Weight||Construction||Seasons||Pole Type|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1||1 Person||2 lbs, 4 oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2||2 Person||2 lbs, 14 oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2||2 Person||3 lbs||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|Big Sky International Soul||1 Person||2 lbs, 9 oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|Black Diamond Firstlight||2 Person||2lbs, 11oz||Single-walled||4 Season||Internal Crossover|
|Marmot EOS 1P||1 Person||2lbs, 13oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|Marmot Force 1P||1 Person||2lbs, 14oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|MSR Hubba NX Tent||1 Person||2lbs, 14oz||Double-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton|
|MountainHardware Direkt 2||2 Person||2lbs, 11oz||Single-walled||4 Season||Internal Crossover|
|Tarptent Rainbow||1 Person||2lbs, 2 oz||Single-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton/Trekking Poles|
|Tarptent Double Rainbow||2 Person||2lbs, 9 oz||Single-walled||3 Season||Exoskeleton/Trekking Poles|
When shopping for backpacking tents, you’re likely to come across companies that describe their tents as semi-freestanding. These are not freestanding tents, they can’t be picked up and moved around, they need to be staked out making them difficult to use on wooden platforms, sand, rock, or snow.
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