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.

Strengths

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

  • 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 / Model# PolesPeopleWeight
Zpacks Plex Solo (DCF)1113.9 oz / 395g
Zpacks Plexamid (DCF)1115.3 oz / 433g
Zpacks Altaplex (DCF)1115.4 oz / 437g
Big Agnes Scout 2 Platinum2217 oz / 482g
Tarptent Aeon Li (DCF)1117 oz / 482g
Tarptent Protrail Li (DCF)2117.7 oz / 502g
Gossamer Gear The One2117.7 oz / 649g
Zpacks Duplex (DCF)2218.5 oz / 525g
REI Flash Air 1 Tent2120 oz / 567g
Tarptent Notch Li (DCF)2121.5 oz / 610g
Zpacks Triplex (DCF)3221.6 oz / 612g
Gossamer Gear The Two2223.5 oz / 666g
Tarptent Protrail2124.3 oz / 689g
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo1126 oz / 740g
Lightheart Gear Solo2127 oz /765g
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 12127.5 oz / 780g
Seek Outside Silex UL w/ nest (DCF)2128 oz / 790g
Sierra Designs High Route2128 oz / 790g
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker2128 oz / 790g
Durston X-Mid 1P2128 oz / 795g
Tarptent Notch2128.4 oz / 805g
Lightheart Gear FireFly2129 oz / 822g
Tarptent Stratospire Li (DCF)2229.1 oz / 825g
REI Flash Air 2 Tent2231 oz / 879g
Seek Outside Silex w/ nest2133 oz / 936g
Tarptent Motrail2234.3 oz / 972g
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P2234.4 oz / 975g
Durston X-Mid 2P2235.4 oz / 1005g
Tarptent Stratospire 12136.5 oz / 1035g
Tarptent Stratospire 22243.8 oz / 1242g
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo2245 oz / 1270g
Hilleberg Anaris2249 oz / 1400g
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28 comments

  1. Nice Article. Too bad you did not include the LANSHAN 2 PRO which has plenty headroom and an excellent price – quality ratio. Keep up the good work!

  2. 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!

      • Also, the Durston X-mid Pro 2 came out in 2022: https://durstongear.com/product/x-mid-pro-2p

        It uses both DCF and silpoly fabrics in a hybrid design significantly lighter than Durston’s true double wall silpoly X-mid models that you already list above.

        The Pro 2 is a nice tent: more spacious internally, more easily entered, more simply and tautly pitched with fewer stakes, and with better vestibules compared to my 2018 Duplex.

        (A smaller, lighter Pro 1 model is pending.)

        • The only problem with the Durston Gear tents is they’re never available for purchase. I’m in regular contact with Dan and I use an X-mid myself, but I’ve gotten weary of recommending tents that are never available or are still “vaporware”. It’s really not beneficial to anybody. I left some other tents off this list as well because it’s not clear if they’ll ever be made (again).

        • 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.

  3. Understandable. The inventory situation for Durston has indeed been frustrating, with both startup business and covid supply chain issues, but has recently improved nicely.
    Specifically, the Xmid 2 Pro is in stock as I just checked.

    • It is available to order but you won’t get it for a few months.

    • We are very close to having the supply situation solved. We have vastly improved production of the X-Mid 1 & 2 arriving in just 10 days. Orders are open for those models now, so you can order an X-Mid today for delivery in two weeks.

      The situation with the Pro series tents is further behind but we also have vastly better production arriving in February so again we have orders open now and we expect be able to keep them in stock throughout 2023.

  4. I use a Durston X-Mid 1P (and 2P) ìts a drag waking up to find that your trekking pole handles and or straps have been shredded during the night by hungry critters(salt lick?). The X-Mid is designed for tips up pole use although you can flip them it’s less secure.

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

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Great Read i had just used the Lanshan 2pro for the first time i was hiking with no path to follow lost my hiking pole down a cliff! So i had par-cord has an emergency to a tree it work! ok but lots of condensation.Just brought the Luxe Hexpeak Trekking Pole Tent one pole i do like it holds better in the wind next to try in the early winter/spring.

  10. 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.

  11. I have both the Tarptent Moment DW (uses a sectioned aluminum tent pole) and a Tarptent Notch Li (Dyneema) that uses my hiking poles WITH the optional pole handle tie-in pocket to keep the handles up and out of the dirt. Very clever Henry Shires, very clever.

    Both tents have a similar design with the Notch being almost a pound lighter than the Moment DW and a bit narrower. With the Notsh Li’s proper guy lines out and extra fly hem stakes (that I added) in the ground it will withstand winds of, so far, 40 mph.

  12. BTW, a 4″ top section of an aluminum ski pole cut lengthwise into two pieces and some duct tape makes a great splint for a broken hiking pole – unless it’s carbon fiber, which will “broom” at the break.

  13. 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

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