Ultralight Backpacking Double-Wall Tent Guide

Ultralight Backpacking Double Wall Tent Guide

The number of ultralight double-wall backpacking tents available today has grown significantly, driven by consumer demand and advances in material technologies. If you prefer a double-wall tent over a single-wall tent because it’s more spacious, warmer, less drafty, and has a separate inner tent and rainfly to prevent internal condensation transfer, you can have it with just a slight weight penalty compared to a single-wall tent. While ultralight single-wall tents will always have their advocates, the vast majority of backpackers prefer freestanding and semi-freestanding tents that don’t require much practice or more advanced site selection skills to set up. Ease of use often trumps a few ounces of added gear weight when it comes right down to it. See for yourself, below in this sortable table.

Make / ModelMaterialTrail Weight (oz)Price
Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 PlatinumSil/PU Nylon37$600
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3 CarbonDCF29$1,200
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 CarbonDCF22$1,000
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3 PlatinumSil/PU Nylon38$600
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 PlatinumSil/PU Nylon31$550
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 2 CarbonDCF18$850
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 PlatinumSil/PU Nylon25$500
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 CarbonDCF16$800
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 2 PlatinumSil/PU Nylon26$550
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 mtnGLOSil/PU Nylon38$450
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 mtnGLOSil/PU Nylon45$500
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL1Sil/PU Nylon30$360
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2Sil/PU Nylon37$450
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1Sil/PU Nylon27$350
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2Sil/PU Nylon31$370
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1Sil/PU Nylon34$380
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2Sil/PU Nylon43$450
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 mtnGLOSil/PU Nylon35$430
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 mtnGLOSil/PU Nylon45$500
Big Sky Evolution 1Sil/Sil Nylon32$330
Big Sky Revolution 1Sil/Sil Nylon37.4$375
Big Sky Revolution 1.5Sil/Sil Nylon43$380
Big Sky Soul 1 ULSil/Sil Nylon35.7$290
Big Sky Soul 2 ULSil/Sil Nylon40.8$340
Dan Durston X-Mid 1Sil/PeU Polyester27.9$220
Dan Durston X-Mid 2 Sil/PeU Polyester36$300
Hilleberg Enan 1Silnylon34$680
3F UL Lanshan 2Sil/PU Nylon39$148
3F UL Lanshan 1Sil/PU Nylon29.8$129
Mamot SuperAlloySil/PU Nylon43$399
Marmot Tungsten UL 1Sil/PU Nylon34$319
MSR Carbon Reflex 3Durashield Nylon Ripstop32$650
MSR Carbon Reflex 2Durashield Nylon Ripstop29$550
MSR Carbon Reflex 1Durashield Nylon Ripstop23$450
MSR Hubba NX 1Durashield Nylon Ripstop39$380
NEMO Dragonfly 1Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop33$360
NEMO Dragonfly 2Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop42$400
NEMO Hornet 1Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop26$330
NEMO Hornet 2Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop31$370
NEMO Hornet Elite 1Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop24$450
NEMO Hornet Elite 2Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop27$500
REI Quarter Dome SL 1PU Nylon Ripstop31$299
Sierra Designs High Side 1Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop31$280
Sierra Designs High Route 1Sil/PeU Nylon Ripstop28$300
Six Moon Designs Haven BundleSilnylon34$335
Slingfin 2LiteSil/PU Nylon Ripstop42$338
Tarptent NotchSilnylon28$314
Tarptent Notch LiDCF21.5$599
Tarptent Stratospire 1Silnylon38$325
Tarptent Stratospire LiDCF29.1$689
Tarptent Stratospire 2Silnylon45$359
Tarptent Moment DW 1Silnylon37.7$325
Tarptent Bowfin 1sSilnylon35.5$324
REI Quarter Dome SL - There a lot to be said for the comfort of a lightweight double wall tent
REI Quarter Dome SL – There is a lot to be said for the comfort and ease of use of a lightweight double-wall tent.

Tent Fabrics and Materials

The lightest weight ultralight double-wall tents are made with DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabrics) which is more of a synthetic laminate than a fabric. In addition to being very lightweight, it’s much more waterproof than conventional tent fabrics and doesn’t sag when it gets wet. The downsides are that it’s very expensive and nearly transparent, so it gets very hot inside when placed in direct sunlight.

Most ultralight double-wall tents are still made with more conventional fabrics including ripstop nylon. These are usually coated with PU (polyurethane) or its variants including PeU (polyether urethane), which is becoming increasingly popular. Silicone is also used in conjunction with these coatings. For a detailed discussion of the benefits and technical differences, I’m going to refer you to an article published by SlingFin on the topic by Tim Hunt, titled Waterproof Fabric Coatings 101: PU vs. PE vs. Silicone, which goes into much more detail than I have space for here. One important thing about these waterproof coatings is that they permit tents to be factory seam-taped so you don’t have to seam seal them yourself, something that a number of single-wall tent manufacturers, including Six Moon Designs, Lightheart Gear, and Tarptent require to this day on their silnylon and silpoly tents.

Some of the tents listed above, including those from Big Agnes and MSR, also include carbon fiber tent poles to save weight. These became available about 2 years ago and have proven reliable for consumers use, so more and more tent manufacturers are adopting them.

Summary

To summarize, there are more ultralight and lightweight double-wall tents available today than ever before. If you’re in the market to reduce the weight of your backpacking tent, but hesitant to get a single-wall tent instead of a double-wall one because you’re concerned about tent condensation or ease of use, rest easy. The weight difference between ultralight double-wall and single-wall backpacking tent has narrowed considerably and you can stick with a double-wall tent with only a slight weight penalty.

Double-wall Tent Advantages

  • Easy to set up
  • Inner tent prevents internal condensation from making your gear wet
  • Can be used in all three-season weather conditions and mild winter weather
  • Vestibules provide covered more gear storage in poor weather
  • Deep bathtub floors prevent flooding if water pools underneath
  • Less drafty because less airflow is required to mitigate condensation
  • Easier to set up on rock ledges, sandy soil, or wooden tent platforms

Double-wall Tent Disadvantages

  • Tent poles can be bulky and awkward to pack
  • Warmer in hot weather
  • Take longer to dry because they have more surface area
  • The inner tent may become wet when pitched in rain (shelter specific)

See also:

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34 comments

  1. I’ve noticed that the “weight gap” has also narrowed. We thought Tarptent was crazy when they started making double wall tents, but they were just listening to their customers. Great post.

  2. How involved is the Dan Durston X Mid 2P to set up really? I use trekking poles now and that tent was on the top of my list for many reasons..

    • It’s one of the easiest double-wall trekking pole tents to set up. The problem people have with it, besides the size of its footprint, is that the inner tent is fairly narrow and cramped. That doesn’t bother me, but it’s nothing like the other double-wall tents listed here.

      • I wanted to clarify Philip, I’m fairly certain you’re referencing to the XMid 1p, which does indeed have relatively narrow interior. The 2p (which Kevin initially asked about), has a more spacious interior even compared to other two person tents. I personally find it luxuriously spacious for backpacking, but I’ll admit I don’t have a huge amount of experience testing out tents so I will be biased.

        To add my comment to Kevin’s question, I agree with Phillip, I have both the 1p and 2p, and find both really easy to set up, easier than my traditional backpacking tent with poles (Quarter Dome 2p). I pitch down the 4 corners, throw in the trekking poles and then tweak the tensions. I leave the inner tent connected to the fly at all times (unless it’s drying out), and it’s especially wonderful in the rain since the inner doesn’t get wet.

      • Yeah, I meant the X-Mid-1.

      • Thanks Philip!

    • I have the 1P and the 2P. The 1P, as you might expect, is easier to set up because it doesn’t require as long a “wingspan” as the 2P. The 2P inner I find to be spacious, but I’ve only used it solo. The 1P is a bit tight, but then there is so much storage space available in the vestibules that you don’t have to keep a bunch of gear inside the inner.

    • I see the Dan dursten is the only tent that uses polyester. I personally really like the polyester because it doesn’t absorb as much water and stretch out. I wonder why more manufacturers haven’t started using polyester?

      • Because it’s a pretty recent innovation. I happen to think it has the potential to be a poor man’s DCF because it doesn’t sag and can be seam-taped, but many of the smaller tent manufacturers complain about a lack of sufficient quality from suppliers. I’ve very prevalent amongst tarp manufacturers though in the hammock space.

  3. Thanks, this is a great list. Sadly, it looks as if REI is no longer selling the Quarter Dome SL 1 – the Quarter Dome SL 2 is listed at 46 oz packaged (vs. 31oz Sectionhiker weight for SL1). Maybe this is just a temporary state of affairs.

    • They just do that when it’s out of stock. It was in stock last night when I checked last…
      I adore that tent. Used it a lot last year.

  4. I have to plug for my favorite, the Tarptent Notch LI. Take two cause they are so light. No more snoring and wiggling tent mates to interrupt a pleasant sleep. Super easy to setup tight and remarkably wind and weather resistant. Thanks for the long list Phillip!

  5. The Lunar Solo is SilPoly. I have one.

  6. I’m curious as to why the Copper Spur is listed as “semi-freestanding”? I have one and it’s definitely a fully freestanding tent. Even if you consider needing a stake for the vestibule to disqualify it, it’s certainly not in the same category as the Fly Creek or other similar designs that need to be staked out to stand up.

    • It’s not fully freestanding. Just the inner tent is freestanding. You have to stake out the vestibules. That’s called a semi-freestanding tent. The fly creek is also semi-freestanding. You just need to stake out the fly. Otherwise the inner really does stand up by itself.

  7. How come I’m blocked?

  8. This is the first review I’ve seen that considered staking out the vestibule as “semi-free-standing.” By this interpretation, there are basically no freestanding tents on the market. Doesn’t semi-free-standing really refer to tents like the BA Fly Creek that require staking the footbox corners for best functionality more accurately define “semi-free-standing?” Unless there’s a tent that needs the vestibule to achieve stability, I don’t understand this designation.

    • I don’t think there’s a universal definition. I’ve defined how I use the term above. There are actually freestanding tents, by my definition, on the market. Try Hilleberg, Exped, Terra Nova, Big Sky, Fjallraven, Black Diamond, MSR, Rab, and on and on. You’ve just not been exposed to them.

    • Shannon, your interpretation of the difference between semi- and freestanding tents is the usual definition. For example, a BA Copper Spur is free-standing. The only consequential difference between it and it’s cousin the BA Tiger Wall is that the Tiger Wall needs to have the foot box staked out and the Tiger Wall is considered semi-freestanding. Most semi-freestanders like the TW well actually stand on their own without the foot box being staked, but the foot end will not have any structure to it.

    • Philip, I agree with Mark. Whether you agree with BA or not, Freestanding tents with staked vestibules have been known as “Freestanding” for over 50 years. While they are often described as not needing stakes to stand up that has on ever applied to the poles. Vestibules in these tents do not hold the poles up. All tents need to be staked to hold them down so they don’t blow away and that is part of what these vestibules do. So while you may have your definition, it is not the one generally used.
      “Semi-freestanding” as currently used only refers to tents where the poles do not fully expand and shape the body…an innovation to save weight. The distinction is useful because semi-freestanding tents are more trouble to setup in any useable form than freestanding tents. While Big Agnes does not currently use the term “semi-freestanding” for their tents that qualify, REI and NEMO do and most descriptions and reviews of Big Ages TW and FC tents call them semi freestanding. I fail to see how it is useful to try and remove the distinction merely because a few fairly obscure or budget tents either don’t have vestibules or fully support them with the pole structure.

  9. Timely information, always appreciate your reviews, thank you!

  10. I have both the TT Moment DW and TT Notch Li. The Moment DW isnow mainly reserved for winter camping with the optional X-inb pole run under the fly and secured with sewn-on double sided Velcro cable wraps. Works very well.

    I probably COULD use my Notch Li for winter as it has the partial “solid” interior and 4 DIY stake loops (with DCF reinforcing patches) on the fly hem. But I know the modded Moment DW with the X-ing pole is a much more storm worthy tent, especially when it comes to handling a heavy snow load.

  11. Well since I bought my First Eureka! timberline 2 man double door & wall tent, self standing, in 1978 for $99.99 via mail order from Campmor I have not seen any real changes or upgrades to justify spending more than $150.00 for a Tent.. They all appear, Smaller, so more money for less product.. The Frames are unreliable by the moans and groans I hear at campsites and trail Shelters. I still have that Tent and over the years I only have had to replace the Rain Cover. The Poles and floor and sides are as good as they ever were. Sure it weighs 5 lbs but so do most the new very expensive Tents.. I bought a Shires Tarp Tent, the Squall in 2000 and it is a good 2.2 season tent as long as the Temperature stays above 50 degrees… I bought a new Eureka! Tent in 2005 whose name escapes me right now which doesn’t matter for they stopped making it for some reason. Olive Drab in color so the Sunlight or Bright Moon allows me to sleep. It is similar to the Eureka! Suma Tent and does a good job for a 3 season tent….I also bought a Snugpak Bivy Tent which is a great tent as well,, really keeps the Rain at bay for a Solo tent….. My current cold weather tent is a never issued, brand new in the box, USMC TCOP Tent. After half a dozen trips this winter, this is my “go to” tent. It did not collapse under 3 inches of overnight wet snow. It holds the heat pretty well and condensation is held at bay by a UCO Tea candle lantern. With two vestibules, storage is not a problem…It is also a Camo Colored and not an offending Bright Yellow, Blue, Pink, Orange or any of those other Forest Ugly colors that are so offensive to the eye… How come you never Review these kind of tents…

    • So scared of me that my post have to be Moderated… Ahh the baby….. did the manufactuers demand I be held at bay….

      • Just my “AI” spam moderator. I think the word “Campmor” triggered it. I really loved their paper catalogs. Too bad they stopped sending them out.

    • I actually do review “these” tents and have another series of them planned for later this spring and summer.

  12. Isn’t the Big Sky Mirage a single wall?

    • It really could go either way. It falls into the hybrid category. But I’ll admit that Bob at Big Sky doesn’t go out of his way to make it clear, one way or the other.

    • I sent an email to the owner at Big Sky and he says that the Mirage 1 is “Hybrid design: double wall sides, and single wall ceiling”
      That’s usually considered a single wall. They made the product description clearer to indicate this.

  13. Thanks Philip!! You’ve got serious cred to get that quick of a response from BSI.

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