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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. This is particularly useful in poor weather when you need to get out of the weather and can’t search for a protected tentsite or dig one out in the snow.

Make / ModelTypeSizeDoorsMin WeightPrice
Black Diamond First Light 2Wedge2 Person 13 lbs 1 oz$369
Big Sky Soul 1PDome1 Person12 lb. 4 oz.$250
Hilleberg UnnaDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$715
Black Diamond El DoradoWedge2 Person14 lb. 8 oz.$730
MSR Advance ProWedge2 Person12 lb. 14 oz.$549
Hilleberg SouloDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$735
Exped Orion IIDome2 Person26 lb. 2 oz.$749
Rab Latok Mountain 2Wedge2 Person14 lb. 1 oz.$675
Tarptent Moment DWDome1 Person22 lb. 10.4 oz.$353
Big Sky Chinook 2Dome2 Person24 lbs 3 oz$549

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.

1. Black Diamond First Light 2P Tent

Back Diamond Firstlight 2P tent

The Black Diamond First Light is an ultralight 2 person single-wall tent. Weighing just 3 lbs (seam-sealed), it’s made with NanoShield single-wall fabric and has a 70-denier polyester floor. It has a front door and small rear window, with zippered mesh panels at rear and door to provide ventilation and insect protection. Crossed internal poles make setup fast and easy and provide a strong structure capable of withstanding high winds and snow loads. Read our First Light Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

2. Big Sky Soul 1P Tent

Big Sky Soul 1p Tent

The Big Sky Soul 1P is a double-wall silnylon tent that has been factory seam-sealed and weighs just under 2 lbs 4 oz. It has a large front door for easy entrance and exit, lots of headroom, with a long 85″ inner tent floor for tall occupants. It’s pitched inner-first using two crossed trekking poles and has a roof vent to release moisture and extra guy out points for inclement weather. A bikepacking version is also available with shorter 12″ pole segments.

Check for the latest price at:
Big Sky

3. Hilleberg Unna Tent

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:
Moosejaw | OutdoorPlay.com

4. Black Diamond El Dorado 2-person Tent

Black Diamond Eldorado
Black Diamond makes several other freestanding tents that look like the El Dorado, including the BlackDiamond First Light listed above, 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 that 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:
REI | Black Diamond

5. MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent

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. Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

6. Hilleberg Soulo 1P Tent

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 be 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:
Moosejaw | OutdoorPlay.com

7. Exped Orion II Tent

Exped Orion II
The Exped 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:
Moosejaw | Summit Hut

8. Rab Latok Mountain 2 Tent

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:
Amazon | Moosejaw

9. Big Sky Chinook 2P Tent

Big Sky Chinook 2P

The Big Sky Chinook 2P is a freestanding dome-style two-person tent with two doors. The three-pole construction is very strong and storm-worthy, but the tent can be set up with two poles to save weight. The inner tent is available in all mesh or with solid breathable sides to make the tent less drafty in cold and windy weather. Interior vents help prevent internal condensation. Weighing 4 lbs, the Chinook 2P can be set up fly first in rainy weather to keep the inner tent dry. Read our Chinook Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Big Sky 

10. Tarptent Moment DW

Tarptent Moment DW
The Tarptent Moment DW is a one-person, double-wall tent is a four-season tent which is available with a mesh or solid inner tent for wind ad spindrift protection. It is unique in that it can be pitched as a freestanding tent (42.4 oz) that you can pick up and move around or as semi-freestanding tent (36 oz) that requires four tent stakes to set up. The Moment has a spacious interior with two vestibules, two doors and numerous venting options for enhanced airflow.

Check for the latest price at:
Tarptent

Freestanding Tent Selection 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.

Tent Ventilation

Tents windows, doors, and vents are 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.

Tent Pole Architecture

Most freestanding tents have two or three crossed poles, anchored inside or outside the tent walls. Exterior poles that are anchored in sleeves are much stronger than 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 Tent 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 difference in livability.

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16 comments

  1. I’m surprised to see the BA Copper Spur did not make the cut.

  2. I am SOOO happy I still have a Brand New (looks wise) 2010 Tarptent Moment Single Wall at 28 Oz and only 2 stakes. I have literally set this tent up in 60 seconds it seems more spacious inside as a SW than the DW. I have a Lunar Solo that is new, the SilPoly green and a Duplex and of course the Lanshan 2, but I will always keep the Moment. Another great article Amigo and have a good Holiday.

  3. The Big Sky Soul comes in a 2 person model also, in case that’s of any interest to someone…

  4. Phil, Thanks very much for including the TT Moment DW. As I read the topic title even before opening the article I was thinking,”I’ll mention the TT Moment DW because nobody thinks of it as freestanding as few know about the “Crossing Pole” option.

    But SURPRISE! There it was in the list. Just goes to show you are the “gear guru”.

    BTW, to give the fly more support in high winds and heavy snow loads I ran the X-ing pole under the fly by shortening it 8 inches. It goes thru the existing interior loops in the current fly. These keep it in place in very high side winds.

  5. Hello Philip, what are your thoughts on the freestanding ZPacks Duplex with the exterior crossed poles? Many thanks for your excellent article. Cheers from Oz, Cat

    • My definition of freestanding is quite strict. You shouldn’t have to stake out any part of the tent to erect it. Judging by Zpacks photos, you still need to stake out the vestibule. Other than that, I have no experience with the zpacks freestanding kit and have never seen it in use, so I’m going to reserve judgment on its utility.

  6. Ahoy Phil, xlnt timing as i’m in the market now for a new 4-season. I’d be interested in knowing if you’ve taken a close look yet at the revised (mid-2019) BD HiLight 2P–the new blue version? Comes factory seam-sealed, side door, allegedly more rain-resistant than the First Light while not that much heavier…

    • The min weight is 3 lbs 8 oz. I think the original specs published by BD were wrong, but they’ve since been updated on the BD website. Looks like a decent option for one person. I think I prefer the front entrance on the first light though since it means you can fit the tent into very narrow spaces that would only fit a bivy. Harder to do with a tent with a side door. Not having to seam seal it is nice. Wish they did that for the firstlight.

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