Best Tent for the Solo Camper?
Choosing a Tent for Hiking, Backpacking, and Camping Alone
"People don't take trips - trips take people." - John Steinbeck
If you travel solo, you don't have to wait for others to arrange their lives, get vacation time, find babysitters for the kids, etc. etc. etc. Go on your own, and you can go whenever you're ready... but keep in mind an important camping/backpacking question:
Who's going to help you put up the tent?
Fortunately, there are lots of one-person tents out there that you can carry and put up on your own. Some even have extra room for the dog.
Read on to see what sort of tents are out there and perfect for the solo camper.
Basic Tent Selection Considerations--Read Before You Buy
Before you buy tent, make sure understand the terminology!
"Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter." - John Muir
When you're a solo camper, it's especially important to make a smart tent decision, because you'll be putting up this bad boy alone! And just because you can get it up in your living room without trouble doesn't mean you'll face ideal conditions on every camping trip. It could be raining, it could be windy, or it could be dark when you make it to your site. It's important to get a tent that you can set up alone if needed.
Some of the tent selection basics to consider are:
- weather conditions
- three season vs four season tents
- dome vs. tunnel tents
- one person vs. two person tents
We'll take a closer look at these options below.
Consider all weather conditions you might encounter before buying a tent
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
"We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." - Hilaire Belloc
If you can afford it, choose a tent that's designed to withstand the worst weather conditions you might face. This is especially true if you're backpacking, biking, or climbing in and you can't just hop in the car to escape a thunder and lightning storm.
On the other hand, if you will primarily be car camping in the summer where the weather is predictable, you can probably get by with an inexpensive tent.
A Three Season Tent or a Four Season Tent?
The differences between 3 and 4 season tents
"Once in a while it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world in the way they have been told to." - Alan Keightley
You'll see the terms "three season" or "four season" when you're reading tent descriptions.
Three Season tents are appropriate for early fall, late spring, and summer camping. A quality 3-season tent will have lightweight aluminum poles, sturdy stitching, a reinforced floor, and a decent rain-fly.
Premium tents might come with such features as pre-sealed and taped seams or a "silicone-impregnated" rain-fly which gives you better waterproofness.
If you do most of your camping in hot weather, you might consider one of the models with more open air netting.
Four season tents mean they're appropriate for winter camping and alpine travel. They can handle heavy snowfall and high winds without collapsing on you. Four season tents usually have more durable fabric coatings and more poles, and weigh 10 to 20 percent more than three season tents.
Weight is definitely something to consider if you're backpacking and every ounce counts.
A four season tent also tends to be more expensive.
Dome Tent vs. Tunnel Tent
The differences between dome and tunnel tents
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
Most tents fall into one of two categories: freestanding (they can stand up on their own) and those that need to be staked to the ground to stay upright.
Freestanding tents usually feature a dome-shaped design. The dome is stronger than other designs, and most four-season tents fall into this category (since there are no flat spots, snow can't gather, and it will simply slide off the top of the tent).
Tunnel shaped tents are more often found in the three-season models. They are still freestanding, but they use fewer poles and less fabric than a dome tent. Because of that they're usually lighter weight too.
Tunnel-shaped tents usually have a rectangular footprint, which equates to less storage space than with a dome tent.
Note to the solo camper:
A lot of one- and two-person tents aren't freestanding, though they generally make up for it by being lightweight (great for backpacking).
Also, because these smaller tunnel tents have fewer poles, they can be quicker to set up than a dome tent. (I have a two-person tunnel tent that I got from REI, and it's very easy to set up by myself, even with the "help" of my dog.)
Should the Solo Camper Choose a One or Two Person Tent?
Because size matters
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tent size matters, especially for the solo camper.
You might assume that a one person tent is desirable, but if you will be camping with dogs, lots of gear, or you'll be staying in one spot for a while, you may prefer a two person tent. Generally if you're car camping (driving to a camp site in a campground), then you can afford the weight of a two-person tent. Many two person tents are still simple for one person to set up without depending on outside help.
If you are traveling unencumbered, and/or if you're hiking in to a campsite, then you'll want to consider a one person tent.
If you're a minimalist, and you don't care if there's any real living area in your tent, then you can go even further and choose a waterproof-breathable bivy sack (this is what climbers favor).
Some bivy sacks have poles and stake points to give you a little more breathing room.
Bivy Sacks (A Tent for the minimalist camper) - If you don't need much room, consider an small bivy sack tent
A closer look at bivy sacks...
One Person Tents - Is a one-person tent right for you?
A few solo camper tents you can choose from...
Save Money by Purchasing Your Tent from Ebay - Be an eco-friendly camper--buy your tent used
Why spend money on a brand new tent when you can use one that's still in great shape? It's recycling for campers!
A Few Last Camping Quotes to Make You Grin
Hey, we can't be serious all the time!
"How is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?" - Author Unknown
"It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent." - Dave Barry
"Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet." - Author Unknown
"Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong." - George Carlin
Share your camping and traveling experiences, or just talk tents!