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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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