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Best Tent for the Solo Camper?

Updated on December 30, 2010

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!

Fellow campers, share your tent thoughts... - Want more on tents? Let me know!

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    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      Camping, you always forget or can't find one important thing from matches to mustard!

    • profile image

      Positivevibestechnician 7 years ago

      as long as it keeps you dry it's a good tent

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      If you are going somewhere where you don't have to walk too much, you could bring a pop up tent and either use it for shade and to keep the rain off, or put it over your sleeping tent so that you can sleep in the morning without the sun baking you in your tent.

    • sittonbull profile image

      sittonbull 8 years ago

      I've always loved to camp and have a large 6 person dome tent for the family trips and a one person backpacking tent for solo excursions. Excellent lens and thanks so much for stopping by my lens to say hello in the duals. Peace.

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 8 years ago

      >> "How is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire? LOL

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      My solution is to have a variety of tents for a variety of trips. It's not a cheap alternative of course, but I backpack and car camp often enough that it's worth it. What I don't really get is why they call four-season tents ... well, four-season tents. They're more like one-season tents: winter. They usually don't "breathe" well enough for any other time of year, at least in my experience.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      There are so many tents to choose from these day. I like a tipi, but for easy and fast set ups a tent is the way to go. Blessed by a Squid Angel today.


    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I love to camp but have never gone camping alone. It might be something worth considering.

      Great lens


    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 9 years ago

      The only time I've been camping is when I was in the Army, but I don't think that counts. The funny thing is that I still enjoyed it! 5 stars

    • chucknp profile image

      chucknp 9 years ago

      Some obvious research and experience went into this info about single-person tents. Thanks!


    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      I'm still using my old REI Nightfly (or whatever it was called). Great lens!

    • profile image

      Roy-Scribner 9 years ago

      There is a wealth of great information here - nice job!

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 9 years ago from Ireland

      Fantastic lens! It many years since I was camping, but this brings it all back. 5*

      Thanks for dropping by my Wine lens.