What is the Difference Between a Single-Wall Tent and a Double-Wall Tent?

Difference between Single-wall and Double-Wall Tents

There are two types of tents: single-wall tents and double-wall tents. Both have their pros and cons in terms of weight, weather-resistance, and comfort.

What is a Single-Wall Tent?

Single-wall tents are popular with backpackers and climbers who want to carry lightweight backpacking gear that won’t slow them down on long-distance hikes and summit attempts. While many can be pitched with trekking poles, single-wall tents have one layer of fabric that acts both as a rainfly and sleeping area to reduce their weight. Single-wall tents usually incorporate some insect netting into their doors, windows, or walls for added ventilation.

The Tarptent ProTrail is a single-wall tent with a solid rainfly that has mesh panels at the bottom for added ventilation.
The Tarptent ProTrail is a single-wall tent with a solid rainfly that has mesh panels along the sides for added ventilation.

Single-Wall Tent Advantages

  • Single-wall tents are usually much lighter weight than double-wall tents because they require less fabric to make.
  • Their interior doesn’t get wet when it’s raining because they’re set up all at once.
  • Many can be set up with trekking poles, which saves a few ounces if you use trekking poles to hike.

Single-Wall Tent Disadvantages

  • More prone to internal condensation transfer from the walls to your sleeping bag and gear since there’s no barrier between them and the outer tent wall.
  • They can be an be colder and draftier if the tent walls incorporate mesh panels
The Black Diamond FirstLight is a single-wall tent that uses tent poles
The Black Diamond FirstLight is a single-wall tent that uses tent poles

Comparison of Single-Wall Tents

Tent poles are usually used on single-wall mountaineering and climbing tents because they can withstand high winter snow loads and wind. Single-wall tents with trekking poles are usually much lighter weight than single-wall tents that require tent poles to set up.

What is a Double-Wall Tent?

Double-wall tents have a rainfly made with solid waterproof fabric and a separate inner tent made with insect netting, solid fabric panels, or some combination of the two. When set up, there’s a gap between the rainfly and the inner tent which air can flow through.

The NEMO Hornet 2 is a double-wall tent with a separate rainfly and inner tent.
The NEMO Hornet 2 is a double-wall tent with a separate rainfly and inner tent.

Most double-wall tents come with tent poles although there are some models that can be set up using trekking poles. Most double-wall tents made by US manufacturers, including Big Agnes, MSR, NEMO, and REI require that you set up the inner tent first and then drape the rain fly over it.

The rainfly is draped over the inner tent on most American-made double-wall tents.
The rainfly is draped over the inner tent on most American-made double-wall tents.

Most of the double-wall tents made in Europe and the UK by companies like Hilleberg, Terra Nova, and Exped can be set up with the rainfly and the inner tent pre-attached, or with the rainfly first, and the inner tent second. This is useful because Europe and the UK have a wetter climate, where you want to avoid making the inner tent wet if you have to set it up in heavy rain. It does result in a heavier tent, however.

The Hilleberg Niak 2 is a doube-wall tent that can be set up fly first and inner tent second.
The Hilleberg Niak 2 is a European-style double-wall tent that can be set up fly first and inner tent second, or both at the same time.

Double-Wall Tent Advantages

  • Most are freestanding or nearly freestanding since they include tent poles, so you can pitch them quickly without having to worry so much about staking and surface conditions
  • There is almost zero internal condensation transfer from tent walls to your gear since the moisture passes through the mesh of the inner tent and gathers on the inside of the rainfly, away from any contact with your gear.
  • Less drafty because they don’t have to be wind tunnels to combat internal condensation – meaning you can use many double-wall tents in autumn or winter when you’d freeze in a single wall tent.
  • Double-wall tents which set up fly first, stay dry even inside, even in the pouring rain.

Double-Wall Tent Disadvantages

  • Often heavier than single-wall tents, although their weight has dropped significantly in recent years
  • Take longer to dry when they get wet because they have more fabric.

Comparison of Double-Wall Tents


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More Tent Frequently Asked Questions

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

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