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What is a Tent Vestibule?

The Hilleberg Akto Side Vestibule has plenty of gear storage space, but does not block the tent entrance.
The Hilleberg Akto Side Vestibule has plenty of gear storage space, but does not block the tent entrance.

Tent vestibules are like mudrooms at the front of a tent or along its sides. They provide extra space to stash your gear out-of-the-way in a cramped multi-person tent, or a place to change out of wet, muddy gear before you get into the clean, dry end of your tent. They’re also quite useful in winter to get out of the wind and cook dinner, if you’re careful to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or setting your tent ablaze.

Type of Tent Vestibules

There are two types of tent vestibules: front vestibules and side vestibules. Most vestibules are floorless and rely on the structure of your tent to hold them up.

Front vestibules

Front vestibules cover the front door of a tent. While they’re often built into the tent body, some tents have add-on vestibules that you can bring on trips where bad weather is expected, like in winter. Front vestibules can be quite large, which means you can store a lot of gear out of the weather. This is desirable if the inside of your shelter is small or if you have bulky gear that requires extra rain protection like a bicycle. They also act like a covered porch in rain, so you can carefully cook under them.

Gear stored in a front vestibule blocks easy entrance and exit for both occupants in this 2 person HMG Echo II tent -2
Gear stored in a front vestibule blocks easy entrance and exit for both occupants in this 2 person HMG Echo II tent.

But front vestibules can be awkward because gear can block easy entrance and exit to one person or two person tents like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II or the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2.

Side tent vestibules

Side vestibules are usually wide enough that you can easily get in out of your tent by storing your gear on one half, while using the other as a door. Many one person tents like MSR’s Hubba NX Solo 1 and Gossamer Gear’s The One have wide side vestibules for this reason.

The-two side vestibules on the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 are wide enough for gear storage and use as doors.
The-two side vestibules on the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 are wide enough for gear storage and use as doors.

If you have a two person tent, it’s desirable to have two doors like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 or the REI Quarter Dome 2, each with their own vestibule for gear storage. The doors on these tents are usually oriented so that it is easy to get in and out of the side vestibules, even if gear is stored in them.

Is a Tent Vestibule Necessary?

Tent vestibules are not strictly necessary and some tents, like the Black Diamond Firstlight and the Mountain Hardwear Direkt2 don’t have built-in ones (although you can buy add-on vestibules for both). On the flip side. Vestibules can really improve the livability of a tent in bad weather. But whether you buy a tent with a vestibule or not really depends on whether you are willing to carry the extra weight.

The Black Diamond Firstlight Tent does not have a vestibule.
The Black Diamond Firstlight Tent does not have a vestibule although an add-on one can be purchased separately.

In the UK for example, it rains a lot, and having a tent vestibule is considered the norm. The same goes for mountain climbing, especially for basecamp tents when staying in one place for more than a few days. However, for less extreme three season camping and hiking in the United States, a tent vestibule is not usually a requirement.

Written 2017.

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  1. Being a large person (6’5, 240), I find the vestibule to be mandatory. Being able to free up inside space makes it more livable, enjoyable. Keeping my gear within arms reach is a plus also.

    • The extra space is nice when you’re alone, but it becomes vital if you’re sharing a lightweight tent where the interior volume has been sacrificed in the name of reduced gear weight. Weather conditions are also important to consider carefully.

  2. My SMD Haven tarp has pretty small vestibules. Never really cared until the GF and I decided to shelter in it when Tropical Storm Harvey hit during our hike of the Mahoosuc Trail. We had just talked with Judy from Lightheart gear and that storm convinced us that we needed a different option. A Solong Duo may be in the near future.

  3. I never fully appreciated how important a vestibule was until i got caught in a downpour. It’s really nice to leave your wet clothes, pack and boots in the vestibule while keeping your dry things in the tent.

    I’m no longer a ground sleeper, but if I ever buy another tent a vestibule is an indispensable feature.

  4. Mandatory in my book. Allows the removal of shoes in a sheltered area. I’ve also found that they can limit the number of bugs that join you as you move into the tent. Also, in better designs with clips, a good fly with vestibule can allow you to take down the inner tent and stow it in your pack before striking the poles/fly so that when you set up again later, your inner tent is still dry. A fly alone usually doesn’t have enough protection to do this.

    Cooking under a vestibule has to be done with care. Not only the exhaust, but heat, flames, and hot metal items don’t tend to mix well with tent materials. Especially lightweight ones. One nice thing about a double door/double vestibule design is that you can usually cook safely on one side while the storm pounds away on the other. Careful planning when you set up the tent is important. Just as you don’t want to be in a ‘bathtub’, you need to be aware of the terrain and weather patterns. Sucks when you placed your door facing into the wind. (been there, done that, learned the hard way)

  5. I have one of those old Quest Praying Mantis tents with the front vestibule with 2 entry doors , Left and right . It’s the best aspect of this fine tent . I get to get out of the rain to remove wet gear and boots and can even heat water for a hot cup of coffee . I know it’s not recommended but it works fine . This tent with its included vestibule is a great set up .

  6. Also mandatory for me as well. One of the may reasons why I’ve made my Tarptent Scarp 1 my go-to shelter. I like having two vestibules on each side. The new arrangement for adjusting the size of the floor allows a lot of extra storage on one side, and easy access/egress on the other.

  7. I like the vestibule option (in non-buggy/slithery times and places) that let me roll back the netting to make use of all the space under the fly.

  8. Vestibules are great but in a sense overrated. Your gear will still get wet underneath the vestibule from the ground , being 6’3 you’ll still throw your lower back out trying to get in and out of the tent, in a rainstorm you have to keep it closed so next to impossible to get out of the tent, maybe I’m just not using them right?

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