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 / Model||Type||Size||Doors||Min Weight||Price|
|The North Face Assault 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||3 lb. 4 oz.||$589|
|Hilleberg Unna||Dome||1 Person||1||4 lb. 7 oz.||$680|
|Black Diamond El Dorado||Wedge||2 Person||1||4 lb. 8 oz.||$699|
|MSR Advance Pro||Wedge||2 Person||1||2 lb. 14 oz.||$549|
|Hilleberg Soulo||Dome||1 Person||1||4 lb. 7 oz.||$694|
|Exped Orion II||Dome||2 Person||2||6 lb. 2 oz.||$680|
|Rab Latok Mountain 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||4 lb. 1 oz.||$650|
|Big Agnes Shield 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||3 lb. 12 oz.||$650|
|Hilleberg Allak||Dome||2 Person||2||6 lb. 2 oz.||$990|
|Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2||Dome||2 Person||2||6 lb. 15 oz.||$850|
1. The North Face Assault 2
2. Hilleberg Unna
3. Black Diamond El Dorado
4. MSR Advance Pro 2
5. Hilleberg Soulo
6. Exped Orion II
7. Rab Latok Mountain 2
8. Big Agnes Shield 2
9. Hilleberg Allak
10. Fjallraven Abisko Dome 2
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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