I follow a lot of different groups on facebook, and one comment I am always surprised to read is when someone of say 180cm or less is saying a tent that I personally use and think works just fine is “Too small”. An example of this is a comment I recently received on my article “My favorite solo tents” about the Hilleberg Enan. I was a bit surprised when the comment was basically “I’m 170cm and i think the Enan is too small”. So this led me to start thinking about the concept of tent comfort.
How can someone like myself at 190cm think the Enan is just fine and actually rather comfortable, while somebody at 170cm think it’s too small. I have a lot of theories on this, but I have kind of landed on one in particular: Tall people in general have to learn to like smaller tents. A tall person knows and in some cases actually likes their body squeezing against the inner tent. I know for example on the Enan I really like that I can mush my pillow into one side and kind of squeeze my head in there between the inner and pillow. I like it because it holds my pillow in place allowing me to fold the pillow a few times, to create height for my head for when I sleep. This means that I don’t get back pain while I sleep on my side as my head is elevated.
I also know that having your bag mush on an inner tent is no issue at all, it doesn’t cause you to get wet from condensation, or your bag to get wet, or from some kind of chain reaction that will result in death. The bigger issue is if you are mushing against the outer tent – that should be avoided. In the Enan my head, squeezed against the inner tent, does of course touch the inner tent, but not the outer. No part of my body is even close to the outer. Which means I don’t have any issues with condensation showers. However in some single walled tents, like most zpacks tents, my feet or head, or both are mushed against the outer, leading always to a very uncomfortable and wet night.
Shorter people on the other hand never have to deal with issues of touching inner and outer tents. So the idea that a strand of hair is touching the inner tent will lead to one feeling that a tent is “too small”. We can make arguments that a tent is not as big as another tent, or that you feel a tent is small. But just because one can’t set up a lawn chair and do jumping jacks in a tent doesn’t mean a tent is “too small”. It just means you prefer a larger tent.
I think this is an important factor to take into consideration when buying a tent. At no time should you be terrified if some part of your body is touching the inner (there are exceptions to this – such as with the Nordisk tents where the inner is literally touching the outer). More important factors to take into consideration are: is my body touching the outer, is the tent big enough for what I want, is the tent too big where I can’t find anywhere to pitch, is the tent easy or hard to pitch, Trekking poles or not and so on.
Anyway, just a quick thought on tent sizing and how to think about it!