What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Trekking Pole Tents?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of trekking pole tents

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

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 and 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.

Trekking Pole Tents

Make / Model# PolesPeopleWeightPrice
REI Flash Air 1 Tent2120 oz$249
Gossamer Gear The One2122.4 oz$299
Lightheart Gear FireFly2129 oz$290
Lightheart Gear Solo2127 oz$260
MassDrop/Durston X-Mid 1P2127.9 oz$200
Seek Outside Silex w/ nest2133 oz$378
Seek Outside Silex UL w/ nest (DCF)2128 oz$648
Sierra Designs High Route2128 oz$300
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker2128 oz$225
Tarptent Notch2128 oz$314
Tarptent Notch Li (DCF)2121.5 oz$539
Tarptent Stratospire 12138 oz$325
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P2128.3 oz$335
REI Flash Air 2 Tent2231 oz$299
Big Agnes Scout 2 Carbon (DCF)2211 oz$700
Gossamer Gear The Two2231.4 oz$375
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II w/ nest2229 oz$695
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirgo 22228.5 oz$795
MassDrop/Durston X-Mid 2P2238.8 oz$250
Seek Outside Eolus w/ nest2236.9 oz$398
Seek Outside Eolus UL w/ nest (DCF)2232.4 oz$668
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo2245 oz$325
Tarptent Stratospire 22244 oz$359
Tarptent Stratospire Li (DCF)2227.7 oz$689
Tarptent Motrail2236 oz$265
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P2234.8 oz$395
Zpacks Duplex (DCF)2219.4 oz$599
Big Sky Wisp1123.5 oz$249
Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar DCF w/ nest1120.5 oz$675
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo1126 oz$200
Tarptent Aeon Li (DCF)1116 oz$535
Tarptent Protrail2126 oz$229
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 12127.5 oz$325
Zpacks Plexamid (DCF)1114.8 oz$549
Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid DCF w/ nest1226 oz$705
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 22235.4 oz$375
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32 comments

  1. One possible suggestion for the table: The Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle. 2 pole, 2 person, 34 oz. and $335. A lot of the designs on the table are hybrid single/double wall and/or have thinner fabrics (15d & 20d). The Haven has 30d fly and 40d floor. It’s main drawback is a narrower floor of only 44″, which may be okay for 2 regular pads since it has vertical walls. But wide pads would be hard I imagine. The Eolus & a silnylon Duomid with inner seem to be only tents with a roomy interior, durable fabrics and “similar” cost at about $75-$100 more.

  2. I hadn’t heard about those REI hybrid single-wall tents, which look brand new based on the lack of any reviews. That will put additional pressure on some of the smaller manufacturers but also opens up the possibilities of lightweight backpacking to more people

  3. Another disadvantage to trekking tents is for us old guys who need a trekking pole to get out of these kinds of tents in the middle of the night especially after a hard day of hiking!

  4. Another weakness of trekking pole tents is that the poles are prone to break under ordinary use in rough terrain, potentially leaving you without your tent support. That risk is mitigated in single-pole tents, but most of those have even more steeply-sloped walls and less useable interior space. Tarptent mitigates that problem with “struts,” but those add complexity, increasing the risk of failure under stress. Trekking pole tents are also usually more complex to set up and tension correctly than ones with dedicated, flexible poles, making them less friendly to beginners. As with shoes vs boots or tarps vs tents, its all about trade-offs. BTW: I didn’t know REI had entered the market itself for lightweight trekking pole tents. At 20 oz for $249 the new Flash Air ought to be competitive.

  5. I’ve used a trekking pole tent for many years and have loved it for the weight & pack-space saving advantages. One disadvantage is the loss of use of your trekking poles once your tent is set up. So, setting up camp and then hiking to a nearby location, or basecamping for a day or two means either finding a way to rig your tent without one or both of your poles, or hiking without the poles.

    Space-wise, I’ve found the space adequate for me and a medium-sized dog (GG The One, though the original had much more space than the newer one). Dog-related disadvantage, when the dog gets and does his morning shake after a dewy or rainy night causing it to rain down inside the tent, but I guess that would be a problem with any small single wall tent.

    • Many trekkkng pole tents have the option to buy a separate pole to set them up if you wanted to use them as a base camp tent.

      • I have a set of MYOG carbon fiber poles for the Duplex that weigh 5 oz total…much less than the shock-corded poles of any “freestanding” tent. If I want to leave the tent setup during the day and hike with my trekking poles, they are a no-brainer to pack.

      • Yep, I’ve just never made the additional investment for those occasions.

    • Not very good as a “Basecamp” to go trekking from that location for a couple of days as you will need the trekking poles that are in use.
      I guess you’ll have one, but prefer 2 in my hands

    • Just take your poles out of tent when you leave. I do that with my duplex. It will lay flat on the ground with all my sleeping gear in it. Tightened down the storm flaps and it’s super secure. When you get back, it’s easy to put the poles back in and all the stakes are in the proper places. Problem solved.

  6. With the caveat that I have not used such a tent…

    The “not free standing” aspect means they are a pita to pitch on anything but soft peat. Having moved to a semi free standing tent last year while I can pitch it perfectly competently and I modified it to make that easier, it soon became obvious that it took much more work and brain power than pitching my old tent which was being used side by side and was always up in much less than half the time. You have to consider whether the extra work and thinking you have to do when you reach camp and are tired is worth the weight savings.

    Another weakness worth noting is that they are vulnerable to failure due to loosing or breaking your trekking pole(s) which is not an uncommon occurrence. Trekking poles have a hard life when actively used and are hard to fix in the field. You may be able to improvise using a suitable straight stick, the simplicity of which is a mitigating advantage but that does assume suitable sticks are available.

    It is arguably far less likely that you will lose or break a tent pole. Bad weather could snap a pole when in use but you can fix a single break with the splint that usually comes with the tent. You maybe able to splint poles with handy sticks/cutlery/trekking poles and cordage. That said, I’m sure people do occasionally lose their tent poles and it is probably the case that you can’t use sticks instead very effectively due the complex curves the poles follow.

    • A trekking pole supported tent with a “floating” floor (eg., Six Moon Designs Lunar), can be pitched almost anywhere. If stakes don’t hold, rocks, sticks, guylines to trees and the passing hiker will work;-)

      • That’s not totally true. A massively uneven pitch can wreak havoc on a lunar solo or (any pyramid) which assumes that its ridgelines are fairly taught.

      • “Can be pitched” and the amount of work it takes are two different things. My point is the latter, basically expanding on the stated “Never freestanding” disadvantage. It is much more work to attach a guyline to pile of rocks or even a tree appendage than it is to gently insert a stake into soft peat. Sand and compacted gravel where there are no handy well sized rocks present other challenges.

        I have to admit I haven’t tried guying out to passing hikers but that seems even more challenging. I would think you need at least two fairly weak ones of similar size traveling in opposite directions at similar speeds for it to work so there is a large opportunity cost in addition to having to put up with all the complaining you will get all night.

    • Passing hikers as “dead men” that’s creepy

  7. Thanks Philip! Great article. Question: Is the charted sorted in any way? It would be great if it was sorted by one of the column headings, or even better if the reader could sort the chart by clicking on the headings. Would that be possible? Thanks again for a great article and website.

  8. Although I know others who have, I’ve never broken a trekking pole, however, I did have one get bent to the point it doesn’t retract very well. I did have an aluminum tent pole get broken by a friend who has the strength of the average gorilla and, although he’s a pretty sharp guy, was demonstrating an IQ less than that of an average gorilla at that particular moment in time. Duct tape got us through the trip and Henry Shires sent a replacement at no charge even after I explained what happened.

    Being old and having bad back problems, I like the few ounces of weight savings a trekking pole tent offers, although there’s been a couple times I wished I had my pole for day hikes while I had the tent set up.

  9. Something to think about… I once hiked with someone who damaged their tent poles beyond repair. None of us were able to help them out. However, had I broke a hiking pole, any of the people we were hiking with would have loaned me theirs. In addition, I believe I could find a stick in the woods that I could use as a replacement in a pinch. Once back to town, I could go to any outfitter or even a Walmart and replace a hiking pole. Not so easy with a tent pole.

    I think to use a trekking pole tent or not comes down to your comfort level. Which option will cause you less worry?

  10. There is no comparison when setting up in bad weather. A trekking pole tent requires precise stake placement and then final adjustment once pitched. They are just harder to set up. A Hilleberg or Kuiu tent goes up in one piece quickly with no stakes, although the use of stakes will make it more secure in very high winds. At 3.3 lbs for a 2p 56” wide, that compares favorably with all non DCF tents. For me, the difficulty or impossibility of setting up a trekking pole tent in bad weather rules them out. Thanks for the informative article.

    • I think it really depends on the model tent. Hilleberg makes tents that do require stakes and some trekking pole tents go up rather easy in bad weather, like the X-mid 1 and the Tarptent Notch. Come to think of io, you should watch Petra Hilleberg’s set up videos. The first thing she recommends that you do when setting up a Hilleberg in bad weather is to stake it down with one peg so it doesn’t fly away.

  11. I use tents that need just one of my trekking pole to set up, freeing up the other pole for other uses. If one pole breaks or bends, I will still set up my ent with no problem. if I have broken or lost two poles then I have bigger problems than setting up my tent.

    Not all freestanding tents are superior in band weather. The ones where the fly goes up last will have the inner soaked before the tent is pitched. Bad weather where I hike usually involves rain. Don’t trust some of the flimsy frames in freestanding. The only freestanding backpacking tent that I’ve had a close encounter with was being repaired in the field. Soured me on the idea of using them. Has anyone used a Luxe tent?

    • I have used a Luxe Hexpeak V4(A) I think, with treking poles and a pole adapter from backpackinglight.co.uk (no relation to the US version). It’s quite popular over here, and I’ve used it in snow and hot weather as well as pretty breezy (maybe 30mph?) winds. The adapter is a section of aluminium tube the size of the bottom trekking pole section that acts as a female-female adapter so two poles can join and make a higher pole.

      I’m 5’10 and was advised by Bob, that I am short enough for it (I agree, but wouldn’t want to be much taller). I do like the Luxe inner, even though I know many think it’s a bit heavy, and use a couple of hypothermia blankets as a footprint.

      It’s tall enough to sit up in with a large porch for one, and in the hot, I’ve raised the bottom of the fly about 8″ to allow more air in – or lowered it a lot in the wind.

      I do have extra pegs for the inner (and have put in some shockcord to self-tension the those but not the main guys).

      It’s a good tent for the money and does shed wind quite well.

  12. Thanks for a much needed review of this growing gear type.
    Believe me, at a healthy 76 I’m all about lightening my load. After looking at all the solo trekking pole tents I’ve settled on the Tarptent Notch Li (Dyneema fabric).
    The Notch Li is a double wall tent similar to my present Moment DW in design and only 3 oz. heavier than the TT AEON Li but much more weather worthy. AND it’s almost one pound lighter than my Moment DW.

    MODS to the Notch Li -> 4 stake loops on the fly hem, guy points 1/2 way up from each end, optional pole handle wrap for a handle-up pitch.

    MY CURRENT UL BIG 3:
    TENT-> Moment DW
    PACK-> Osprey EXOS 58
    SLEEP SYSTEM-> WM Megalite down bag, REI FLASH Insulated 3 season mattress (R 3.7)

    With either a tiny Brunton Crux canister top stove or Trail Designs Sidewinder ti cone stove for ESBIT tabs a 3 cup lidded pot W/ aluminum pot gripper, plastic cup and bowl I’m getting very low for kitchen weight.

    Eric B.

  13. BTW, it’s evident that Tarptent leads the industry in the number of trekking pole supported tents but what may be overlooked by some is Tarptent’s variety of designs that are definitely not derivative of other trekking pole tent designs.

  14. Another single pole solo options is to combine the Six Moons Lunar Net Tent with their Gatewood Cape (poncho) for a combined 23 ounce tent and rain gear solution. I’ve had that combo tested on some very wet and wind nights and it performed flawlessly (unless you count the idiot user who kicked his boot out from under the vestibule to right under the drip line.

  15. My husband and I (in our late 50’s) have been using a Triplex (larger version of z-packs Duplex) for a year and love it. We both use poles backpacking so have a spare set. It would be possible to buy dedicated vertical tent poles or carry extra trekking poles if having spares were a concern, especially for base camping and day hiking. (I’d probably improvise/repair in the case of a broken pole. I’ve broken a tent pole but never a hiking pole, fwiw.) Tent weight including stakes and the mylar blanket we use as a ground sheet is less than a pound per person – one of the weight-lowering moves that has allowed us to keep backpacking with teenage Scouts. Headroom is fine with the Duplex/Triplex design; similar designs are offered by several manufacturers. I’d say the breeziness of the tent, though a positive for minimizing condensate, is a potential negative in very cold weather. In extremely cold conditions we might go for a double-wall design. But this is hypothetical as our freestanding tent bodies are mostly mesh and we’ve used them into the 20’s.
    As for getting up in the middle of the night on old knees without poles, this works for me: nobody is looking, so I just crawl out the door rear end first until I have sufficient clearance, then go up on hands and feet. Then one by one I move hands to my knees and push up to a stand. Haha I also do this in the day when people might be looking, too, and not just getting out of a tent.

  16. Hi! I use a Plexamid from Zpacks that requires a single trekking pole. Before that I used the Wild Oasis from Six Moon Designs. I also use a Big Agnes Copper Spur Platinum UL 2P, and in the winter I still love my First light from Black Diamond.

    I was going to take the Plexamid on the Colorado Trail this past summer but ended up taking the Copper Spur because I wanted more room and less condensation. I did get that, but it was a little bit of a pain because it took much longer to set up than the Plexamid and the zippers were flimsy. It might sound a little crazy, but in a really bad storm, I’ll take a low pitched tarp over both of them!

    Plexamid (Single Pole Tarp tent) Advantages – Easy and Speed of setup, light weight, easy to pack up
    Plexamid Disadvantages – Condensation – this was a pain on the AT where I had multiple days of rain, and it still a pain any where in humid climates, rain splash – I have an older model with no good bathtub floor, so have to be careful about where I pitch it.

    Copper Spur Platinum Advantages – Roomy, head space, more stable in storms, very little condensation
    Copper Spur Platinum Disadvantages – too long to set up, platinum was flimsy to me, I take care of my gear an the fly ripped on the first trip in high winds, Pole also cracked on first trip out.

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