Trail weight is the weight of a tent with just the fly, the inner tent, pre-attached guylines, and the tent poles minus the tent stakes, stuff sacks, extra guylines, and repair kit if one is included with your tent. Packaged weight is the trail weight, plus those all those added components. The difference between the two is usually about 5-7 ounces for a two-person double-wall backpacking tent, depending on the size of your tent.
The reason retailers list trail weights in addition to packed weights is because most backpackers:
- Repack their tents into lighter weight stuff sacks that are easier to carry inside a backpack instead of the low quality and long cylindrical stuff sacks that most tents come packaged in.
- Leave the tent repair kit at home.
- Discard the tent stakes that come with the tent or replace them with ones that are lighter weight, longer, tougher, or hold better in your local terrain.
- Many tents also come with more tents tent stakes or extra guyline than are strictly necessary so they can be removed.
Of course, replacing the items you remove with new stuff sacks and tent stakes will add back some of the weight you removed so you usually only save a few ounces in the end over the tent’s packaged weight. Adding a footprint will also increase the weight of your tent, often quite substantially.
If you’re a cynical consumer, and who isn’t these days, you might view the publication of trail weights as a marketing ploy by larger manufacturers to compete with smaller cottage tent manufacturers (see our Directory of Cottage Backpacking Gear Companies) who don’t bundle a lot of non-essential extras with their tents and have lighter weight specifications. There’s a certain amount of truth to that.
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