Something I always dreamt about when I was younger were backpacking and backcountry style hunting trips out in the wilderness that would require long treks in the middle of nowhere on my own self reliance. As I look back to the last few years of my life, I have accomplished those dreams and had the opportunity to truly have a great learning experience backpacking in the wilderness and hunting for some elusive animals.
One of the most exciting, yet daunting tasks as you begin to think about embarking on a trip like this is the research on gear. One of the most important pieces to your gear list is a great tent, especially an ultralight tent. Here is a list to consider as you think about choosing a tent.
Weight: How much should my tent weigh?
Tents [also tarps] vary in weight from 1lb to 8lbs (on average) depending on your variable choices. When looking at tents you might not think that a 4lb tent for yourself would be much. I can tell you from experience that once you see the packaged size and how much space it takes up in your backpack that you might reconsider.
Size: How many people will be in my tent?
Are you going to be out on a backcountry hunt by yourself or a couple of other buddies? 1 person tents are typically set for the solohunter. A 2 person tent can be used for a solo trip with a little more room or 2 people in a really tight capacity. A rule of thumb is to size up by 1 person if you want a little more space for yourself.
Price: How much do I want to spend?
You can find great tents for around the $200 pricepoint. The phrase “you get what you pay for” means you are paying for weight or lake thereof. The materials are going to be more expensive to keep that weight down while still being durable and waterproof. You will hear of Silnylon, Dyneema, and Cuben Fiber as you are doing your research. You really can’t go wrong with either of these options but Cuben will be the most expensive.
Season Ratings/Weather: What time of year will you be out?
Most hunters can get away with a 3 season tent for their excursions. A 4 season tent will come into play if you are hunting into the late season and/or if you are really going high in the mountains. I would say most sheep hunters, alaskan hunts and real late season hunts should have a 4 season tent tied to them. Please know that you will be having a heavier tent for these cases by roughly double. You might have a 3 season 2 person tent at 2 1/2lbs. Your 4 season tent will be hitting that high 4lb to 5lb mark, if not more.
Doors and Vestibules: How many entrances, how many vestibules and where are they located?
This is an interesting question that I truly believe factors in experience. There are a plethora of 1 person tents out there with both front doors/vestibules and side doors/vestibules. You will see both options on the market with most tenured backcountry hunters enjoying the side options. This is mainly due to the ease of getting in and out of the tent which can be a big deal depending on the weather.
Single or Double Wall: Do you want 1 piece or 2 pieces to your tent? What is the difference?
The best description I can give you is that a single wall tent is fully attached together as one piece already and you do not have to add a cover (tent fly) over it. Basically, you are going to take your tent out, stake it and pop a pole up and you’re done.
With a double walled tent, it comes in 2 pieces. The first piece is the main compartment of the tent that will be the living space and the second part is the tent fly which goes over it. That is your weatherproof layer that protects you from the elements and is also your vestibule.
Why would you choose one over the other? Well, the single walled tent is going to be lighter and take up less space. You also could get a 2 person tent for potentially the weight of a 1 person double walled tent. Those are great reasons! However, there is a negative to them and that is condensation. In wet or cold weather, your breath from inside the living space will cause condensation and potentially cause your gear to get a little moisture. This is something that you have to consider because there certainly is a trade off.
A double walled tent will have less condensation due to the separation of the layers. It will allow more breathing room and for some, it is extra comfort and safety. I small hole in the second, outer layer isn’t as scary as a whole in your direct living space.
So what do I prefer and what have I used personally? Depending on the season and the hunt I am on, I use 2 different tents. One of them is no longer made by the prior company but there is a new version out there by the former owner. The old company used to be called GoLite and they made a tent called the ShangriLa 3. I have the 3 person version of that which I believe is a 2 person tent. It has a pole in the middle of it which makes it weird to think a 3rd person could actually fit in there. There is a new version of this tent from the My Trail Company which is now named the Pyramid 3 Shelter. I enjoy the space in there and also have been caught in some rough storms and have stayed bone dry. For this shelter, you are looking at a little over 5lbs when it is all said and done.
I also have tried multiple solo tents and have come to really like the MSR Freelite 1. It has a side door and vestibule and has extra room by my feet and around my head to store items. What I have found to work is that I keep my bag and shoes in the vestibule while bringing my gun/bow and dry gear inside. I put all my clothes all around the corners of the inside and I put a guy line inside of the tent to hang some clothes as well as a light. It is the ultimate utilization of space but it is light. All together that weights just 2.7lbs. MSR has recently updated their lineup and the closest option to this tent that is actually now lighter is the MSR Carbon Reflex 1.
All in all, it is all up to your personal preference of what will work for you. If you are looking to get out in the deep backcountry and see some monsters, there are no better options out there than ultralight tents.
I hope this information is helpful to anyone that is looking to get into the backcountry style of hunting or lightening their load slightly from prior hunts. Let me know if there are any questions by shooting me an email or contacting me via Facebook.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat