Lets start with the basics: Types of Tents
Yes, you get to choose if your tent will work for all seasons. Most backpackers will choose a three-season tent because of weight and storage. The information below is intended to focus on the features of three-season tents.
Threes season tents are the most popular with backpackers because they are designed for use during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Commonly these tents are designed to hold up against the rain, light snow, windy conditions and are fairly light weight.
Four-season tents are designed to withstand the nastiest of conditions that mother nature can send your way. These tents are resilient to strong winds, heavy rains and snow. To retain warmth the inner canopy has less mesh than three-season tents. Most are free standing structures that utilize a dome design which helps to reduce the accumulation of snow, reducing the chance of collapse. Four-season tents are typically heavier because of their sturdier design.
Wall Design for Three-Season Tents:
Most three season tents on the market use a double-wall design that combines a ventilated inner canopy covered by separate rainfly that is waterproof. Ventilation of the inner canopy reduces the formation of condensation by allowing excess moisture to escape and fresh air is to circulate between the canopy and rainfly. The inner canopy is key to keep those pesky insects and critters from you and your gear. The basic function of the rainfly is to protect the inner canopy by blocking the wind, rain and snow.
- You are virtually guaranteed to stay dry inside.
- Greater storage area in vestibule.
- Multiple doors to access tent.
- Can last a life-time if proper care is taken.
- Increased weight compared to a single-walled designs.
- Potentially requires more staking for securing the tent and guying out the rainfly and vestibule.
- Most are made from nylon that tends to stretch when wet, which requires the rainfly to be readjusted.
Single-wall tents are typically constructed using a single layer of material that is waterproof and breathable and lacks a vented canopy and rainfly. Single-wall tents most commonly used in alpine environments and camps.
- Lighter weight compared to double-wall tents.
- Simple setup, which is key when setting up the tent in nasty weather.
- Can be pitched in smaller spaces.
- Potential for more condensation buildup inside of tent
- Not as much storage space for your gear.
Styles of Tents
The A-frame style is a classic that has been around for a very long time. These tents are use friendly and easy to set up in even tow worst conditions. Aluminum poles are the go to material and when combined with the shape makes them more susceptible to buckling in heavy winds.
Implied by the name, the shape of the tent is a dome. These tents are free standing and utilize flexible poles. The flexibility allows the tents to withstand heavier winds.
Probably the most common tents that you will see in the campground. These tents are designed to accommodate large groups of people and gear. Since these tents tend to very heavy and bulky they are generally intended for car camping.
Base camp Tents
Base camp tents usually aren’t an option for the individual or small group because of their weight, unless you are a pack mule. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have their place in remote locations. If you were to choose such a tent, the key to transporting it is to split the weight among group members. Or you could hire a Sherpa to do the work for you!
A bivy sack (bivouac) is a waterproof breathable shelter designed to provide protection from the elements. But unlike a traditional tent, most bivy sacks lack a structural pole and leave little if any room for room inside for your gear. There are models that do include a single pole that creates and arc over you face that provides a little head room.
Look for my next post about the anatomy and specifics to consider. Choosing a tent based on style is only one facet of the decision making process and many other aspects should be considered before making a purchase.