The number of ultralight double-wall backpacking tents with a trail weight of 3 lbs or less that are available today has grown significantly, driven by consumer demand and advances in fabric and material technologies. If you prefer a double-wall tent over a single-wall tent because it’s more spacious, warmer, less drafty, and has a separate inner tent and rainfly to prevent internal condensation transfer, you can have it with just a slight weight penalty compared to a single-wall tent.
While ultralight single-wall tents will always have their advocates, the vast majority of backpackers prefer freestanding (See: What is a Freestanding Tent) and semi-freestanding tents (See: What is a Semi-Freestanding Tent) that don’t require much practice or advanced site selection skills to set up. Ease of use often trumps a few ounces of added gear weight when it comes right down to it. See for yourself, below in this sortable table.
Tent Fabrics and Materials
The lightest weight ultralight double-wall tents are made with DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabrics) which is more of a synthetic laminate than a fabric. In addition to being very lightweight, it’s much more waterproof than conventional tent fabrics and doesn’t sag when it gets wet. The downsides are that it’s very expensive and is bulkier than conventional tents to pack, even though you’d expect the opposite.
Most ultralight double-wall tents are still made with more conventional fabrics including ripstop nylon. These are usually coated with PU (polyurethane) or its variants including PeU (polyether urethane), which is becoming increasingly popular. These waterproof coatings allow tents to be factory seam-taped so you don’t have to seam seal them yourself, something that a number of single-wall tent manufacturers, including Six Moon Designs, Lightheart Gear, and Tarptent require to this day with their silnylon and siliconized polyester tents.
Silpoly, which is siliconized polyester, is a relative newcomer to the ultralight tent scene but is being adopted by more and more lightweight backpack makers including Durston Gear and Tarptent. Like DCF, it doesn’t sag or stretch when it gets wet, which has always been a problem with silnylon.
Some of the tents listed above, including those from Big Agnes and MSR, also include carbon fiber tent poles to save weight. These became available about 5 years ago and have proven reliable, so more and more tent manufacturers are adopting them.
To summarize, there are more ultralight and lightweight double-wall tents available today than ever before. If you’re in the market to reduce the weight of your backpacking tent but are hesitant to get a single-wall tent instead of a double-wall one because you’re concerned about tent condensation or ease of use, rest easy. The weight difference between ultralight double-wall and single-wall backpacking tents has narrowed considerably and you can stick with a double-wall tent with only a slight weight penalty.
Double-wall Tent Advantages
- Easy to set up
- Inner tent prevents internal condensation from making your gear wet
- Can be used in all three-season weather conditions and mild winter weather
- Vestibules provide covered more gear storage in poor weather
- Deep bathtub floors prevent flooding if water pools underneath
- Less drafty because less airflow is required to mitigate condensation
- Easier to set up on rock ledges, sandy soil, or wooden tent platforms
Double-wall Tent Disadvantages
- Tent poles can be bulky and awkward to pack
- Warmer in hot weather
- Take longer to dry because they have more surface area
- The inner tent may become wet when pitched in rain, although some double wall tents can be pitched fly first to keep the inner tent dry
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