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M State of the Market Report: Single Wall Tents (2008)

by Will Rietveld and Chris Townsend

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Article Summary:

A lot has happened in the four years since our 2004 Single Wall Tents and Shelters Review Summary. Single wall tents are now more numerous, more refined, more user-friendly, and lighter. In fact, they are getting so light that it's becoming a difficult decision between a tarp (or other floorless shelter) versus the full weather and bug protection of a single wall tent. And several of the tents reviewed can fit into an ultralight backpacking gear kit. The latest designs set up quickly, are easy to enter and exit, and have adequate space and headroom inside. We also have more choices of single wall tents as far as design, size, and features. Most are made of silnylon, with a few made of spinnaker fabric, and now one made of Cuben Fiber.

Judging from the number of hits on our previous Single Wall Shelters Review Summary and the frequency of discussions in our forums, single wall tents are a popular subject with our astute readers. This new State of the Market Report (SOTMR) provides background for beginners and brings veterans up to date on the latest and greatest. In the last four years some favorites have disappeared, most tents have been upgraded or replaced by more user-friendly designs, and some brand new designs have appeared.

First, we want to define the scope and selection criteria of this SOTMR. There are basically five shelter categories:

In this SOTMR, we focus on single wall tents that meet the following selection criteria:

1. Weight less than the limits summarized in the following table:

2. Sewn-in floor (to distinguish them from Tarps and Floorless Shelters)

3. Constructed of waterproof/non-breathable fabric

4. Provide complete bug protection

Tents made of Epic water-resistant/breathable fabric or waterproof-breathable fabrics are designed differently and perform differently from waterproof/non-breathable fabric single wall tents. We will address them in a separate SOTMR at a later date, in which we will evaluate the technology and compare similar products.

This report does include hybrid tents, in which part of the tent is double wall. That's mostly semantics though, because most single wall tents have a vestibule or beak protecting the entrance, which makes it double wall on that part of the tent (vestibule plus mesh entry wall).

There are several 'single wall shelters' that are not included in this article because they are floorless and therefore do not meet our selection criteria, namely the GoLite Shangri La and Utopia series, the Black Diamond Mega Light and Beta Light, Mountain Hardwear Kiva, Outdoor Research LightHaven and NightHaven, and the Integral Designs SilDome. All of these fall into the Tarps and Floorless Shelters category, and will be addressed in a separate SOTMR later on.

The GoLite Shangri-La and Utopia series tents have a clip-in floor available, which would seem to qualify them for this article. However, we feel that an add-on floor does not create a single wall tent that provides total protection from insects. This may seem like a fine line, but we must stay with our requirement for a sewn-in floor or run into a huge realm of 'fast fly' tent pitches that consist of a rain fly plus a groundsheet, an option offered by a lot of manufacturers of double wall tents. Thus, a sewn-in floor is a key for determining what's included.

In this SOTMR, we summarize current technology and design trends in single wall tents, discuss their advantages and limitations, provide specifications for the current tents that meet our specifications, and identify our favorites for a variety of uses.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

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