Article by: Craig Delger, Published: 2008-04-07 11:05:48.628976-06
As is the case with ultralight backpacks and ultralight sleeping bags, there are numerous options for ultralight tents on the market these days. Most tents considered to be ultralight weigh under four pounds, with many dropping below three. This is achieved by advances in fabric technologies, lighter weight poles, and weight saving designs and floor plans.
Many lightweight tents use what is called single wall construction. Single wall tents tend to be lighter weight and more wind resistant than a double wall tent. Single wall tents use a single layer of waterproof fabric for the canopy. This really slashes the weight because a single layer of fabric replaces two.
Advantages of the single wall tent include being very lightweight, better stability(and less noise) in the wind, more strength, and more simple designs. Great single wall tents are made by brands such as Black Diamond, Integral Designs and Rab. One disadvantage with single wall tents is they are more condensation prone. This is often solved by vents and the use of more breathable fabrics such as EPIC. This fabric is 2-3 times more breathable than waterproof laminates, and weighs much less. However it is not fully waterproof. This fabric is best for use in cold dry environments, great in snow but not as good in rain. When choosing a single wall tent consider the conditions you expect to encounter and make sure there are more than one well placed vents. Black Diamond has a great line of single wall tents using EPIC that will fit anywhere between one and four people.
Double wall tents are a classic design and are great when more ventilation is needed. These perform well even in very humid environments without running in to too much condensation issues. Many ultralight double wall tents are made by brands such as Big Agnes, MSR, Mont Bell, Sierra Designs and many others.
A double wall tent is generally the best choice for three season use, as it provides excellent ventilation even in hot weather. Make sure you select a model with adequate vents at both ends on the tent for good cross ventilation. Most double wall tent models feature vestibules. Vestibules are an extra space that the rain fly covers, these are a great place to store packs and footwear to stay dry during storm. For convenience it is often helpful to select a model with two doors so you do not need to climb over your tent mate to get out in the middle of the night. If shaving every ounce is a primary concern, get a tent with a single door.
Many tarp like tents exist on the market. Made by brands such as Six Moon Designs, Golite, Tarptent, Integral Designs, Gossamer Gear and many others. These shelters rely on the use of trekking poles to support the shelter. These shelters may or may not have bug netting or a floor and tend to weigh under a pound per person. Many of these shelters are essentially tarps with a removable bug netting liner and/or floor. These shelters are great when the comfort of a tent is desired but lower weights are needed.
Another very lightweight option is a tarp and bivy sack combination. Usually the best bivys for this type of shelter are ultralight breathable models made by Oware, and Bozeman Mountain Works. This type of bivy is not waterproof but windproof and very breathable, also able to withstand rain that can spray under the tarp. These bivy sacks are paired with very lightweight tarps made out of silnylon or often times lighter weight fabric such as spinnaker or cuban fiber.
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