This is actually a rather fun subject for me – and in my book Ultralight and Comfortable the politically incorrect guide to backpacking, I really play on this subject a lot. Here is an excerpt from the book:
Ever hike 20 miles with boots on? Backpack or not, boots are a bitch on any feet. They say you need to break in the boots first; the truth is you have to break in your feet and body to the boots. You have to get used to the idea of your feet cooking, wringing out your socks from sweat, avoiding water at all possible costs. You have to start loving and accepting blisters, double socks, tape and god knows what else. The first time I went on a long hike with boots on, I thought the bastard who invented boots was a masochist. I wanted to murder that fucker.
The tent is by far at least for me the funnest part of the whole transition. As I wrote in earlier posts it was actually the Hilleberg Akto that showed me the way. It’s not exactly light or large, but it is lighter than most 2 person tents – and that’s it really for me – I always thought I needed two person tent in-order to be comfortable. Or course after buying and testing about 15 different tents I realised this to be true. I do need at-least a two person tent to be happy and comfortable. I just don’t need one made for everest style expeditions that weigh 3-4 kilos.
I imagine that most people will ignore my other posts and jump directly to the tent purchasing phase – which is just fine of course, not many of us have any willpower to speak of; So I get it. Buy the tent first 🙂 I purchased and tested many different tents over the years some of the reviews you can read on this site, other reviews I haven’t gotten around to posting yet and a few more I haven’t even started writing. I enjoy being out in nature more than sitting in front of my computer screen. Here is a list of some of the different tents I have tried over the last 5 years:
Zpacks Hexamid solo
Tarptent double rainbow
Hilleberg Nallo 2
Six moon designs Skyscape trekker
Gossamer Gear Qtwinn (tarp)
Zpacks winter hammock tarp w/ doors (used even as ground tarp)
These are the ones I remember at least for the time being. Anyway, I found that I prefer the single wall two man tent style. The double rainbow by Tarptent is one that I can recommend to just about anyone making their transition over to lighter gear. Its large, relatively light 1.1kilos on my scale, more traditional tent feel and is also relatively cheap for what you get. It can be set-up as a free standing tent or stakes in ground. You can even purchase an inner tent cheap for it.
I sold my Double rainbow because I started using walking sticks and wanted to be able to use my sticks as tent pole instead of having to carry that extra weight of the tent poles. That led the way for the more popular single wall tarps such as the MLD Trailstar and Qtwinn. The trailstar is nice and roomy, quite large floor space actually and a very large vestibule when it rains if you just want to hang out in the tent. But the tarp didn’t work for me for a number of reasons, mainly because I don’t like the idea of having to add-on an extra inner tent in order to keep bugs out and close up shop. Of course you don’t have to have this option, but most people, including myself do eventually get the add-on for the comfort. Also, I prefer now the headroom of the Duomid. On top of that I thought it could be a pain at times to set-up on forest trails – it requires a lot of ground space, most of my trips or in forest and tight spaces. The trailstar Just didn’t work out to well for me. Though I am willing to give it a shot again in the future and see if my opinion changes on it.
That is when I made my move over to the Qtwinn – single wall cuben fiber tarp. This was excellent for weight to size ratio. 300 grams on my scales and large innerspace for two people. The problem here of course is that it can’t be shut, and in Sweden bugs are rampant which meant I would bring a ground floor and innernet. It became more hassle than just setting up a traditional two man tent with poles, and I didn’t have enough room under my bugnet to even read a book. Now I know there are more bad ass alphas out there that love the tarp and getting eaten by bugs, but it’s just not my thing. My site is after all called ultralightandcomfortable.com. My reviews and why I don’t use the Hilleberg akto and Skyscape trekker
The Zpacks tents were fantastic, both of them, just not really what I was looking for. I have gotten to the point where I don’t want a floor on my tent – I think it’s just an added bit of comfort and simplicity not having a floor that I really like. I like being able to walk into my tent without worrying about all kinds of shit and dirt getting in. In the winter I like being able to dig snow caves and have the tent as a roof. On top of that my preferred rain gear is the Zpacks poncho ground floor. So it is a fantastic ground sheet, large and roomy (I have the two man version) and it is in my view more practical as raingear compared to rain jacket or umbrella. – Even if it looks terrible.
So eventually I found my way to the older MLD pyramid tarps after a quick try with the Lotus Gear Khufu – which this was a very quick trip down Lotus gear lane as the pyramid was way to small for me. Both my feet and head touched the sidewalls at the same time. Anyway, the first MLD pyramid I bought was the Supermid because I had fantasy of bring along my family with me on trips.. of course this ended up just being a fantasy. In any case I found the Supermid to be fantastic in the winter – big and roomy
Just not something I wanted to carry with my during my other trips. It’s just way to big for a solo adventurer such as myself. Massive in fact – but still weighed less than 1 kilo. It is also a bit of a pain to set-up as I had to strap both of my trekking poles together in-order to make the tent stand. I prefer simplicity over complication. SO from the Supermid I tried the solomid – too small. Again, I am 190cm and 95kilos, I prefer my comfort. Also the weight saving from the duomid to solomid in my mind is rather negligible. So I eventually found a Duomid on ebay with a sewn in perimeter bug net for 150usd.
I found the Duomid with perimeter bug netting to be the perfect tent for my style of backpacking. Larger than most 3 man traditional tents, took less ground space than the Trailstar, can be zipped up and closed off completely, can be opened up completely to give a massive panorama under the stars feel, simplistic to setup and tear down and for what you get the weight is 743grams with guy lines, seam sealed, stuff sack and bug netting – is amazing. So that’s where I am now. The MLD Duomid with perimeter bug netting could only be better if it was en cuben fiber. Which I will eventually purchase – just not yet.
So what tent would work for you?
I have no idea, I wrote what works for me and why I have the tent I currently have. Everyone’s journey is different. I can however give a few tips and some things to think about.
For one, do you use walking sticks? if not, why not? Anyway, if you have walking sticks than it is only logical to have a tent that you can setup with only walking sticks. You don’t have to worry about the hassle or weight of tent poles.
Do you need double wall? – if so why? Is it because you are scared of being in the wild? The icky bugs or water? then perhaps a tarp is not your optimal solution, nor the Trailstar as you can’t close it off. What purpose does the double wall tent serve? Less condensation? warmer? – I haven’t noticed any of these advantages when compared to the Duomid – though very prevalent in other tarps and tents – even the double rainbow lets in a lot of wind, which can get very chilly in the middle of the night. Are you traveling where there is a lot of sand and dust in the air? perhaps double wall is that best solution.
Do you need a floor? Again, why? This is different for different people: I found bringing a ground sheet was a better solution than having a floor built in. My reasons of course I already wrote about.
Also, how big of a tent do you need? I am a big person hence I need or at least want a big tent – if you are small then a lotus gear khofu or MLD Solomid would probably be more than suitable.
I think a pretty good guideline is to keep your total tent weight to under 1 kilo. In my next post I will go through one of the philosophies of the lightweight movement which is called the 3 for 3 – your three biggest pieces of equipment – tent, sleep system and backpack for 3 kilos.
There are an unlimited amount of suppliers that sell 1 kilo or less tents. Though if you want a double wall tent your options are pretty limited to expensive and tiny tents such as the Hilleberg Enan (around 1 kilo), the Terra Nova laser and the Nordisk Telemark. That might work for you, but I go insane in such tiny little shelters.
If you can upgrade your beta ways and enjoy the freedom of a single wall tarp or tent than your options become very open and very enjoyable.
Such suppliers I have already mentioned are:
Mountain laurel designs
Six moon designs
Hyperlite mountain gear
Henry shires tarp tent
Buying a tent much like buying gear in general is a pretty personal experience. You have to find and buy the gear that works best for you. A general guideline is to keep the tent at around 1 kilo. Also, know where you will be camping, there is no such thing as the one tent for all trips. For 99% of your trips a floorless, single wall shelter is probably more than adequate. My shelters have to have a bug net, I find that the duomid with perimeter netting works superbly well even in the densely bug populated regions of northern Sweden.
Also, don’t be afraid to check out and purchase different gear – usually the resell value on a good shelter from the smaller producers don’t lose much if any value – if anything they gain value because the wait time is non-existent. I have bought and sold many shelters on Ebay at a profit. Buy gear, try it and if it doesn’t work for you sell it on.
Ultralight hiking and gear brings mankind back to nature. period. (see how I did there.. but wrote the actual . and spelled it out to make it more effective). It’s the title and my point. I wrote about going lighter and why you should do it, and it brought some funny images to my mind and something I thought would be fun to write about – mainly because I’m an asshole, but also because I think the people reading this are like me and find what I write to at least to be mildly entertaining. Read More
So which type are you? do you research things to death? read reviews and get a little panicky when you think you found something? And after you get all the information known to human kind, you still can’t make the purchase? You start to sweat, palms get wet and you make a little tinkle in your undies when your about to hit the purchase button? That is called in purely academic terms: Analysis paralysis – or as people like myself might say: Beta. Read More
So, in earlier parts of this series I have gone through the why to go lighter, then the first step which is to weigh what you have. Now in reality step two is probably more reading and checking out other blogs for lightweight tips and know how. To help get you started here are a few that I recommend Read More
That’s right, you heard me say it first! You there, with your hipster plaid shirt and cotton pants, big ass gore-tex boots.. be afraid of the icky water! Dance of the rocks to cross the stream and live in the safe little bubble of no dirt, water or bugs! Read More
I touch up on this a bit in my about section on this website, and I get the question quite a bit. Why should one go light? I think it’s pretty obvious really but I will try and break it down a bit. I will tell my story first and my move to the light side. It was about 5 years ago now when I made my first solo long distance hike – before that I had done a lot car camping and overnight stays, but never a long distance hike. I was going to walk 50 miles in 3 days. Not too long, but horrific with a heavy pack. Read More
I just got back from a week long hike in the Swedish mountains above the artic circle with a friend from Denmark. My friend Mike is nowhere near an ultralight hiker – or even a lightweight hiker for that matter; his bag alone weighs 3.6 kilos his tent closer to 2.5. Through no fault of his own of course, he just didn’t know any better. How could he? he was raised with the scouts and for him anything that was green and said fjällräven was of course the best way to go. Read More