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10 Best Freestanding Tents

10 Best Freestanding Tents

Freestanding tents are the holy grail of backpacking and mountaineering tents because they can be set up quickly just about anywhere, on wooden tent platforms, rock, sand, snow, and even climber’s portaledges, without having to be staked to the ground first.

Because they’re so desirable, many tent manufacturers claim that their tents are freestanding when in fact they’re not. This practice is common among double-wall tent manufacturers that make inner tents which are freestanding, but require that the outer rain fly be staked to the ground. These tents do not have the advantages of a truly freestanding tent and are not included below.

Most freestanding tents are wedge or dome-shaped, making them highly weather and wind resistant. However, truly freestanding tents tend to be slightly heavier than non-freestanding ones because they have to be self-supporting, with long tent poles that add additional weight. Some two-person models can be cramped, particularly ones designed for mountaineering where comfort is often sacrificed in the name of reduced gear weight. Still, the experience of setting up a freestanding tent is liberating because you can pitch one anywhere there’s flat ground. That kind of flexibility is highly valuable when you need to get out of the weather and into a secure and stable shelter.

Make / ModelTypeSizeDoorsMin WeightPrice
The North Face Assault 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 4 oz.$589
Hilleberg UnnaDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$680
Black Diamond El DoradoWedge2 Person14 lb. 8 oz.$699
MSR Advance ProWedge2 Person12 lb. 14 oz.$549
Hilleberg SouloDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$694
Exped Orion IIDome2 Person26 lb. 2 oz.$680
Rab Latok Mountain 2Wedge2 Person14 lb. 1 oz.$650
Big Agnes Shield 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 12 oz.$650
Hilleberg AllakDome2 Person26 lb. 2 oz.$990
Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2Dome2 Person26 lb. 15 oz.$850

1. The North Face Assault 2

The North Face Assault 2
The North Face Assault 2 is a rugged, single-wall expedition tent with a pole-supported ventilation system for increased stability. Sized for two, the 3 lb 4 oz Assault 2 is made with a breathable laminate to vent moisture, with a font door and rear escape hatch. Crossed poles make setup fast and easy. Dual top vents increase breathability, while ample ceiling tabs allow for hanging a stove, gear loft, or drying lines.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

2. Hilleberg Unna

Hilleberg Unna
The Hilleberg Unna is a 1-person dome-style freestanding tent that weighs 4 lbs 7 oz. It is ideal for trips in any season where low weight is a high priority, but where the terrain makes for tricky pitching conditions. Rather than a vestibule, the Unna has a spacious interior that easily accommodates the occupant and gear. The corner of the inner tent can be detached to create a large protected area to cook, pack, or store gear.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

3. Black Diamond El Dorado

Black Diamond Eldorado
Black Diamond makes several other freestanding tents that look like the El Dorado, but it is the roomiest, longest and strongest, designed for taller individuals and more gear. Weighing 4 lbs 8 oz, the El Dorado has two crossed aluminum poles which are secured in the tent’s interior. The walls are made with a breathable waterproof fabric to help vent condensation while front and rear top vents promote greater airflow. A separate front vestibule is also available, but it is not freestanding.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Black Diamond

4. MSR Advance Pro 2

The MSR Advance Pro is lightweight, freestanding tent that weighs just 2 lbs 14 oz. Designed for high altitude mountaineering, its steep sides maximize interior room while shedding winds. Dual carbon fiber tent poles are anchored in sleeves and crossed overhead, providing the ability to handle heavy snow loads. In addition to the door, front and rear vents help remove moisture and reduce internal condensation, even in the harshest conditions.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

5. Hilleberg Soulo

The Hilleberg Soulo is a one person double-wall freestanding tent designed for 4 season use. It has a large front vestibule that provides access and ventilation and can be used for cooking or gear storage in poor weather. Weighing 4 lbs 7 oz, it is tremendously strong and can be pitched just about anywhere. The inner tent can hung inside the outer rain fly after it has been set up, a desirable feature to keep the inner tent dry if it is raining during setup. Most Hilleberg tents have this capability.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

6. Exped Orion II

Exped Orion II
The Orion II is a sturdy three-pole dome tent with two doors.  The full length ridge pole reaches the ground for enhanced wind stability and creates a high canopy with comfortable living space. Two large vestibules hold loads of gear and the wide doors make entry and exit quick and simple. Weighing 6 lbs 2 oz, the Orion is designed to withstand high wind speeds, with crossed poles, pole sleeves, and durable fabrics for maximum strength.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

7. Rab Latok Mountain 2

Rab Latok Mountain Summit 2
The Rab Latok Mountain 2 is a single wall tent made with breathable 3 layer eVent fabric. It has two internal crossed poles for strength and is easy to set up in poor weather. A rear vent provides additional airflow and internal humidity reduction. Weighing 4 lb. 1 oz, the tent can be guyed out for use with skis and mountaineering tools, while a 70 denier nylon floor is provided for enhanced durability and waterproofing. A separate front vestibule is sold separately.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

8. Big Agnes Shield 2

Big Agnes Shield 2
Weighing in at 3 lbs 12 oz, the Big Agnes Shield 2 is a single wall, four season tent made with a breathable fabric to vent moisture. It has a front door with a transparent front window so you can observe weather conditions before exiting. Crossed DAC poles, held in place by fabric sleeves, provide a strong shelter while over-sized guy loops let you anchor the tent with backcountry skiing or mountaineering gear instead of stakes.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver

9. Hilleberg Allak

Hilleberg Allak
The Allak is a comfortable and rugged two-person freestanding dome tent with two large vestibule doors and large ceiling vents that provide excellent ventilation and livability. Deep pole sleeves ensure excellent wind resistance and are large enough to accept double poles for maximum strength. Weighing 6 lbs 2 oz, the Allak’s comfortable ceiling height and long length will also appeal to taller users. If you’ve never owned a Hilleberg Tent, you’ll be blown away by the quality of the materials and construction.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

10. Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2

Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2
The Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2 is a double wall tent with 2 vestibules for maximum comfort and wide open views. The large vestibule provide ample gear storage and room for cooking and other activities in poor weather. The structure is set up with three poles which slide through sleeves for added strength and durability. The fly can be set up before the inner tent, allowing it to stay dry even if it’s raining. Ventilation openings at different heights provide superb airflow, enabling use in warmer climates as well as winter.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Amazon

Freestanding Tent Evaluation Criteria

When evaluating freestanding tents, it helps to research the climate conditions you expect to use the tent in, as this will inform the degree of tent pole strength and breathability required.

Ventilation: Important to minimize and reduce internal condensation. This is achieved by keeping the door(s) open when feasible, through peak and side vents, and in some cases through the use of breathable wall fabrics. You can never have too much ventilation in a tent, although the addition of doors and zippers can result in increased weight.

Pole Architecture: Most freestanding tents have a two or three crossed poles, anchored inside or outside the tent walls. Exterior poles that are anchored in sleeves are much stronger that poles that connect to an inner tent using clips or velcro tabs. They’re much more wind resistant and capable of withstanding heavier snow loads.

Interior Space: Freestanding tents designed for high alpine mountaineering use are often smaller and more cramped than those designed for four season use because weight savings are so critical when you have to climb many thousands of feet to reach your destination. When selecting a tent be realistic about your length and width requirements, particularly when choosing a two-person wedge style tent.

Number of Doors: Tents designed to hold two occupants are more comfortable and convenient to use if they have two doors and vestibules because you can come and go without waking your tent partner. Dome style tents often provide greater covered vestibule storage, which can make a significant different in livability.

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22 comments

  1. I’m not sure, but I think there may be a mistake under type. Several tents are marked as tunnels, which I think it’s inherently not a free standing design. I think those tents are commonly referred to as wedges. Both tunnels and wedges have two poles. They cross for a wedge and result in a free standing tent. They don’t cross for a tunnel and result in a non free standing tent, such a Hilleberg Nallo, etc.

    Big Sky as has some free standing tents, such as the Soul and the Chinook.

    • Yeah – thanks for catching that. My dyslexia acting up again. The Big Sky Soul rain fly needs to be staked out, as least based on the BSI web site photo. As for Big Sky in general, it’s hard to tell if the company is still in business. They haven’t respond to my emails and I know the owner Bob.

      • Pity about Big Sky. I have a Soul and like it a lot. My design is a few years older and it’s free standing, although of course, you want to anchor it.

      • Like I said. I don’t know.
        Past buyers like their tents. I find their website to be massively confusing.

      • Big Sky is still in business. I just ordered a tent from them and got it within a week. They have a new web site as Big Sky International: https://bigskyinternational.com/collections/all

      • I purchased a big sky int. Chinook (free standing) this spring. Delivered in Europe whithin two weeks.

        At first my questions weren’t anwered as well. But when i adressed them to another e-mail adress, BSI replied within one day. Very pleased both with tent and service.

  2. Curious where a tent like the Tarptent Moment DW would show up. My understanding is if you use the optional longitudinal crossing pole it can be set up freestanding. Because the main arch pole goes across the tent it forms the vestibule without requiring stakes. I don’t have one, so this isn’t a “where’s my tent?” comment. But it is a fraction of the cost, lighter than most, and maybe better suited to 3-season use.

    • While that configuration/option is technically freestanding, it’s not very wind worthy. The problem with hooks connected to a pole is that they flap and bounce way too much in the wind. You really want sleeves instead of hooks. While I generally adore tarptent’s products, I’d much rather be in a freestanding tent from Hilleberg when I need one.

      • I don’t disagree if snow and 4-season capability your parameter. I didn’t get that from the title or the main body of the article. Seems like your main beef is “freestanding” tents that aren’t. (A worthwhile beef to have! :)) The main arch pole on the Moment is in a sleeve, and some of the tents you list are at least partially sleeveless. It’s a very unique example of a genuinely freestanding tent option that would work on a tent platform or rocky location in typical backpacking conditions at a much more affordable price. After all, even without the crossing pole it is sturdy enough for backpacking, the crossing pole just adds to it.

        I just thought it worth bringing up as sort of the opposite end of the continuum from the mountaineering tents.

      • Backpacking, where? For example, I have an acquaintance (friend of a friend) who’s used the Moment in Scotland. Watch his video and tell me if you’d want to use the Moment in the open. This is in mild winds….
        https://youtu.be/JG4YeHwcXCY
        Watch the video to the end and you’ll see the problems with the longitudinal pole.

  3. No mention of the Big Sky Chinook 1P? Freestanding, 2 x vestibules, fly can be pitched separate from inner tent, or both at once, 3 pounds and change?

    http://bigskyproducts.com/big-sky-chinook-1p-tent-custom.aspx

  4. The inside, felt like, ToddTex material on the Black Diamond tent is awesome. I used the original I-tent for many climbs up Colorado 14ers. On cold, windy, dry nights, it was the coziest bomber tent I have ever used. A bit heavy though.

    • I too have an I-tent which I believe to be the best. I have never had condensation in it although here in Colorado we have a dry climate. The top vents work perfectly to carry moisture away.

  5. Any of SlingFins tents worth considering?. Maybe they do not meet the full criteria. Thanks

  6. My Tarptent Moment DW with the optional Crossing Pole IS a freestanding tent.

    I ran my shortened X-ing Pole under the fly for more support and better wind resistance. Two double-sided Velcro cable wraps sen under the fly at the reinforced locations of the exterior X-ing Pole straps hold the pole in place in high winds. Using that X-ing Pole, 4 fly hem stake loops W/stakes and two side guys my Moment DW has easily withstood steady 35 – 40 mph winds and gusts to 65 mph. according to our local weather service records.

  7. Would you place the El Dorado as big brother to the Firstlight. I have the Firstlight and have success in NEngland. Cannot claim experience with it in extremely exposed areas. I think you one mentioned having the Firstlight. Your comparison?

    • I have a Firstlight and think it’s just great, but mine seems to be the only waterproof version ever made. People are scared of it for non-winter use, as a result, which is why I didn’t list it. I’ve never had any problems with it leaking in the rain, but I also seam sealed it when I first got it, some 10 years ago.

  8. Strange to still see some calling their tents low weight when they are not.. the Hilleberg Unna “where low weight is a priority” is still heavy by backpacking standards. I don’t see any of the Dyneema tents such as the Zpacks Duoplex shown and it has a freestanding option and weighs in at about 800grams (sorry I still have trouble with the old US weights) . Almost all of the tents shown are fairly heavy but fit perhaps some people’s needs.
    Safe trails and thanks for the updates always.

    • Exterior poles attached with hooks and bungie cords. You couldn’t pay me to test that in the wind with all of the flapping sounds it would make at night. I’ll stick with a Hilleberg where I can get a decent nights sleep. It might be fine for well protected forested sites, but then you wouldn’t need a freestanding tent.

  9. Great list of freestanding tents Philip and I completely agree with you about the weakness of tents with external pole structures instead of sleeves. I think your American readers place too much emphasis on gear weight because they’ve had so little experience with true wild camping out in the open or at elsvation where there are no trees. Wind worthiness trumps gear weight in such settings if you want to sleep at night!

  10. I own a fjallraven abisko dome 3. Anything but lightweight, but used as a basecamp shelter, or without the inner as a familly backbacking tent it’s great.
    Last summer I camped directly at sea in very windy conditions. So much that the pole that took most of the pressure, bent inwards more than i trusted. Had to tie it to a tree to allow myself some worry free sleep.

    Good to mention: pole sleeves and sockets are designed to fit a double set of poles. So in serious wind you can bring one or two extra poles to stiffen the structure.There’s a weight panalty of course but the option is there.

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