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Trekking Pole Tents: Pros and Cons

Trekking Poles Tents Pros and Cons

Trekking pole tents use hiking poles for setup instead of tent poles as a weight-saving measure for backpackers. They’re also a good example of how to use the same backpacking gear in multiple ways, one of the core principles of gear weight reduction for ultralight backpacking.

Trekking Pole Tent Strengths

If you already carry trekking poles, switching to a trekking pole tent from a tent that requires shock-corded tent poles to set up can save you 8 or more ounces of gear weight. In addition to weight savings, you’ll require less backpack volume, which may let you switch to a smaller and lighter-weight backpack.

Moreover, switching doesn’t require that you sacrifice much of the comfort or storm-worthiness of your existing tent. There are plenty of really good single-wall and double-wall tents trekking pole tents available today that are spacious, wind-resistant, and waterproof. They’re also available in a wide range of price points for all budgets.

Many trekking poles can also be pitched fly first, so your inner tent doesn’t get wet if it has to be set up in a rainstorm. Once staked out, trekking poles make for a sturdy structure that’s also able to support a significant snow load if necessary. While you can do this with some conventional tents, especially those made by Hilleberg, you can set up almost ALL trekking pole tents, both single and double-wall tents without getting the inner tent wet.


  • Lower weight
  • Less backpack volume required
  • Fly-first setup when it’s raining

  • Never freestanding
  • Limited headroom/livability
  • Can’t use your poles for hiking

Trekking Pole Tent Weaknesses

But there are certain properties of trekking pole tents that fall short of tents that use shock-corded or hubbed trekking poles.

Never Freestanding

Trekking pole tents aren’t freestanding and have to be securely anchored to the ground. If you want to camp on the sand, rocky ledges, snow, or frozen ground, you’d probably be better off getting a freestanding tent that requires regular tent poles to set up. Freestanding tents, with freestanding inner tents or freestanding rain flies, can be set up virtually anywhere, which makes them very desirable for camping and backpacking.

Limited headroom

Most trekking pole tents are pyramid-shaped, which limits their headroom and usable interior space. Most of the available headroom is under the trekking pole(s) tips with less under angled ceiling panels as you approach the sides, reducing the livability of the tent if you need to share it with another person or spend more time inside while waiting for bad weather to pass. The dome or tunnel-shaped tents that you can create using shock-corded or hubbed pole sets have much more headroom along their sidewalls.

Can’t Use Your Poles

Once your trekking pole tent is set up, you can’t use your trekking poles to hike unless you collapse the tent on top of any contents you have stored inside. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a consideration if you like to set up a basecamp site and then go hiking afterward.

Popular Trekking Pole Tents

Definition: When purchased, tents always include an inner tent and rain fly, either integrated or as separate components.

Make / ModelPeopleWeight
Zpacks Plex Solo (DCF)113.9 oz / 395g
Zpacks Altaplex (DCF)115.4 oz / 437g
Durston X-Mid Pro 1 (DCF)116.4 oz / 465g
Tarptent Aeon Li (DCF)117 oz / 482g
Tarptent Protrail Li (DCF)117.7 oz / 502g
Gossamer Gear The One117.7 oz / 649g
Zpacks Duplex (DCF)218.5 oz / 525g
Durston X-Mid Pro 2 (DCF)219.6 oz / 555g
Tarptent Notch Li (DCF)121.5 oz / 610g
Zpacks Triplex (DCF)221.6 oz / 612g
Tarptent Dipole Li 1 (DCF)122.3 oz / 632g
Gossamer Gear The Two223.5 oz / 666g
Hyperlite Mtn Gear Unbound 2 (DCF)1-224 oz / 680g
Tarptent Protrail124.3 oz / 689g
Lanshan 1 Pro124.3 / 689 g
Outdoor Vitals Fortius 1125.4 oz / 720g
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo126 oz / 740g
Tarptent Dipole Li 2 (DCF)226.15 oz / 741
Lightheart Gear Solo127 oz /765g
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 1127.5 oz / 780g
Sierra Designs High Route128 oz / 790g
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker128 oz / 790g
Durston X-Mid 1P128 oz / 795g
Tarptent Notch128.4 oz / 805g
Lightheart Gear FireFly129 oz / 822g
Tarptent Stratospire Li (DCF)229.1 oz / 825g
Lanshan 2 Pro232.5 oz / 920g
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P234.4 oz / 975g
Outdoor Vitals Fortius 2234.5 oz / 978g
Durston X-Mid 2P235.4 oz / 1005g
Tarptent Stratospire 1136.5 oz / 1035g
Tarptent Stratospire 2243.8 oz / 1242g
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo245 oz / 1270g
Hilleberg Anaris249 oz / 1400g
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  1. I like SectionHiker’s approach of pointing out pros and cons to various approaches, rather than recommending best solutions. Another potential weakness of a trekking pole tent is that if you break a pole using it for hiking in rough terrain, then you have to improvise a field expedient to support your shelter. I mitigate that risk by using relatively robust trekking poles and by carrying plenty of duct tape, but that reduces the weight saving.

    • There is simply no best. You always have to compromise somewhere!

      • Headroom all depends on the tent. My xmid is like a palace compared to my single hooped tents. Lighter as well. The most significant plus for me is that the poled tents with headroom are usually inner first. I need a fly first tent due to the weather in Scotland and Ireland.
        It must be said that most other tents have the advantage of being available. It took 4 attempts to get an X mid.

        • Headroom and weight are big considerations for myself as well. I’ve read a number of reports of a fully deployed X-Mid 1 collapsing due to high wind in Ireland and other northern Europe locations. Classic single pole pyramids, tunnel and geodesic dome tents are popular there for a reason.

          Has me questioning using a X-Mid above tree line for any length of time. Always tradeoffs! This is a great list. Might need to add the TT Dipole.

  2. I recently purchased the Hyperlight Mountain Gear ultimid and I’m very happy with it.

  3. I made some shock corded lightweight poles in place of using hiking poles. Not a big fan of hiking poles

  4. CAPT Gary Andres USN ret

    Phillip….you missed your calling, as I have yet to read some advice from you, where you did not “hit it, out of the park”! I am a failed thru hiker, I think I’ve told you this before, but an “AT Thru-hike” was a pipe dream of mine, after dual careers in the military and federal wildlife Law Enforcement. I just found that the AT was a “2200 mile long Petri dish – Frat Party”. Not for me, I guess. But your advice, your website, convinced me that Section Hiking is just as good. (No admonition on successful Thru Hikers!).

    • Thanks Gary. I just think hiking is good, regardless of where you do it. But section hiking a long trail gives you a lot more flexibility in many ways, schedule-wise, socially, and financially.

      • Agree on the merits of section hiking as a means of gaining flexibility, especially as a way of avoiding the AT Petri dish/party scene. I’m tending not to enjoy most of the standard hostels as I’ve gotten older.

        • Also agree. I have a LOT to say on this but didn’t want to hijack. I’m mostly a circuit hiker, more in common with a section hiker but I often just use the AT as a connector between areas and “side trails”.

    • Although I’ve wanted to thru-hike the AT since I was a child, my life would never allow that kind of time off, so I’ve been section hiking the AT with some friends. For me, section hiking is the way to go because I get to experiment with various gear combinations for a few days at a time and I’m not ‘locked in’ to something for a long time that doesn’t work well for me. I’ve learned a bunch through my own experience, from my hiking partners, and from other hikers on the trail. I’m much better prepared for a thru-hike now than I was when I started section hiking but I’ll keep on with the section hikes.

  5. I have use SMD Skyscape, TT Notch, and DD Xmid1P. One other advantage I would suggest for trekking pole tents is that in the event of a pole failure, it is pretty easy to fabricate a substitute (aka a stick) assuming your are hiking in an area with trees.

    • Less weight, less volume, isn’t the pursuit or holy grail for efficient hiking. I have been able to set my trekking pole(s) shelters just about anywhere as well as many places where free standing tents didn’t stand a chance. Thanks for another great article.
      I enjoy your newsletters and always I consult your site when looking for references on gears

    • My brother and I did a four day, three night hike in January and I left my poles back in our RV. After much grumbling, I found a couple century plant stalks which became my hiking poles. I even strung wrist straps for them with cord I had in my supply kit. I still have those poles… but really prefer my PacerPoles.

    • Which of those would you prefer to have above tree line for several days with heavy winds likely?

      I have the Trekker (original). Stood up to some big gusts but has no additional guy outs. Looking at TT Notch, Dipole, Stratospire, DD X-mid 1 and non-trekking pole Slingfin Portal 1.

  6. I do not own a trekking pole tent (yet!), so maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me that the makers of 2 person trekking pole tents could increase the livability aspects of their products by increasing the number of trekking poles required for setup. After all, in a 2 person hiking party there are 4 potential poles.

    • Generally this can be done to some extent because many trekking pole tents have pull out point in their end panels to create extra head room. It is much more effective to pull these out over the top of a trekking pole (or other found support) than it is to pull these out directly to the ground because you effectively pull out rather than down. The same trick can be used on guy lines when securing a poled tent in heavy weather. Poles guyed this way are much less likely to collapse.

  7. What trekking pole tents are good options for cold weather use? Is condensation better in a single wall or single wall or double? Thinking about getting one for a winter alternative to my hammock set up but I’ve never used one.

    • Unless you go for a pyramid or shaped tarp with an inner tent, there really aren’t any trekking pole tents for winter. Condensation is always worse in a single wall tent. Since you don’t really need an inner tent to keep the bugs out, you can really just use a tarp, dig a trench under it, and put down a sheet of plastic to keep your stuff dry

  8. I like my Zpacks Duplex, as I can bring everything inside with me (well, except hung food of course), but I wish there was a 1 1/2 person size. I’d rather it was a bit narrower for tight spaces, or tent platforms. But I like the 2 pole ‘ridgeline, which gives more headroom that single wall tents. But, as Philip said “You always have to compromise somewhere!”

  9. I have the TT Notch Li and like it a lot for 3 season camping. The only problem with trekking poles to support your tent is you have none to use for a day hike!
    Well, that and my Notch Li really requires you to put out the guy lines if you want the best, most sag proof pitch.

  10. I have the ZPacks Duplex. I also carry the “Free Standing Flex Kit”
    If you’re not familiar with this, you can turn the Duplex into a “free standing” tent.
    I’ve carried the Flex Kit with me on the CDT and the AT.
    It’s totally worth the added weight.
    If it’s a calm clear night I will just use the Flex Kit. I don’t even stake it down.
    If it might rain pull out the alcoves.
    If it’s super windy, I place the Flex Kit AND my trekking poles and stake is down with 8 stakes. Then the Duplex is almost BULLET PROOF in the wind.
    OPTIONS, options. I can pitch the Duplex in a parking lot if I need to.

  11. In the past I’ve used inexpensive Eureka tents. As I’m 66 years old and not getting any younger I purchased but not yet received a Gossamer Gear two UL tent. Many great reviews. Bought the 2 over the one for the extra space. Your review says the one is spacious. Now I’m wondering if the 1 would be the better choice. Your thoughts?

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