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A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
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  1. #1
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    Default Free-Standing tent recommendations

    I'm looking for a durable, fairly lightweight freestanding one- or two-person tent for solo section hikes, mainly on the AT, mainly in warmer months, mainly a few days to a few weeks in duration.

    I've been using an REI Trail Dome for 20 years. We loved it; it could sleep three; we divided the weight. It's worn out and my two sons no longer backpack with me. So I'm ready to move to something smaller and lighter.

    I don't use trekking poles (and won't; I prefer my stout dogwood staff), so the tent must be freestanding (IE, no poles required for setup). Money is not decisive but is important. $200 to $300 would be great but if by far the best choices are more, I'd consider going higher.

    I've done enough research to see that Big Agnes products are highly thought of. And I think the MSR Hubba is a good candidate.

    The biggest thing seems to be that most of the ultralight products don't have a tub bottom and thus need the benefit of a separate tarp. All things considered, I prefer the tub for durability. If it really proved durable, I'd likely backpack without a footprint. But if the very, very best way to go is UL, no tub, footprint, I'll do it.

    I've done enough research now that I'm overwhelmed with info, options, reviews, uncertainties.

    Last fall, my wife picked up a Eureka bivy with fiberglass poles for $10 at a yard sale. You can't beat that price, and I'm not picky, so I took it. It was okay but heavy condensation and the poles shredded after the first use. I'd consider a bivy but only if a decided majority of the informed folks on WhiteBlaze said "best option, hands down." I prefer the design and room of a freestanding, though, and lean towards it.

    Any thoughts from you folks?

  2. #2

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    There are so many good options on the market these days. A lot of it comes down to your budget, how much space you really need inside, and durability questions. I'm not prepared to put down the money required for a modern DCF tent in the $500+ range, but there are some amazing options if you are that can get you below 2 pounds. Big Agnes and Nemo offer the Hornet, Tiger Wall, and similar options that get below 3 pounds for a fairly conventional tent with dual doors. I recently purchased a Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 and have been very impressed with it. Around 3.5 pounds, but for that you get basically vertical side walls and good vestibules for each occupant. As you suggested, the MSR Hubba line is another good choice in the traditional tent mindset.

  3. #3
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    Thank you, Caleb. I'll look at the others you mentioned.

    What is "DCF"?

  4. #4

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    Dyneema composite fabric, previously known as cuben fiber.

  5. #5
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    My wife was tent shopping over the holidays.

    When we backpack I sleep with a tarp/bivy so generally she has the tent all to herself. Current tent is an REI Half Dome which is a bit heavy when I sherpa it for her. Goal was to get closer to the 3# range. She prefers a two person tent so she can spread out her stuff and if absolutely necessary for survival I could sleep inside with her. Based on recommendations, research, and personal preferences she narrowed it down to two tents:

    Tarptent Double Rainbow ~ Good recommendations and she liked this tent. Setup looked like it had a little learning curve but once you had your method down you should be good to go. Not freestanding unless you use a hiking pole at both ends, but can normally be setup without the use of poles by simply using tent stakes at the corners. She is a bit OCD about moisture and felt the potential condensation of a single wall tent would bother her.

    Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 ~ Similar features to our current tent but at a lighter weight. Evaluate if you could take advantage of the awning with just your staff and tying off a corner to a tree. Just purchased this week and will be setting it up in our living room early Sunday morning for her Birthday/Valentine present. Hope the bears don't raid the candy I put inside.

    We had considered the REI Quarter Dome SL2 since we had been so pleased with our Half Dome, but the website says this tent is no longer available.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    I'm looking for a durable, fairly lightweight freestanding one- or two-person tent for solo section hikes, mainly on the AT, mainly in warmer months, mainly a few days to a few weeks in duration.

    I've been using an REI Trail Dome for 20 years. We loved it; it could sleep three; we divided the weight. It's worn out and my two sons no longer backpack with me. So I'm ready to move to something smaller and lighter.

    I don't use trekking poles (and won't; I prefer my stout dogwood staff), so the tent must be freestanding (IE, no poles required for setup). Money is not decisive but is important. $200 to $300 would be great but if by far the best choices are more, I'd consider going higher.

    I've done enough research to see that Big Agnes products are highly thought of. And I think the MSR Hubba is a good candidate.

    The biggest thing seems to be that most of the ultralight products don't have a tub bottom and thus need the benefit of a separate tarp. All things considered, I prefer the tub for durability. If it really proved durable, I'd likely backpack without a footprint. But if the very, very best way to go is UL, no tub, footprint, I'll do it.

    I've done enough research now that I'm overwhelmed with info, options, reviews, uncertainties.

    Last fall, my wife picked up a Eureka bivy with fiberglass poles for $10 at a yard sale. You can't beat that price, and I'm not picky, so I took it. It was okay but heavy condensation and the poles shredded after the first use. I'd consider a bivy but only if a decided majority of the informed folks on WhiteBlaze said "best option, hands down." I prefer the design and room of a freestanding, though, and lean towards it.

    Any thoughts from you folks?

    Dan, great post!! I'm in the same boat as you! did all the research blah blah blah..
    At first I dint want to cross the $300 limit but now I might have t to make me happy. So far My 4 tents are Nemo Dagger, Copper Spur HV UL2 , Tiger Wall UL2 and MSR Hubba Hubba. Which Ill get, remains to be determined and based the posts here could steer me one way or another.

    The last thing I was is t get a tent and not be happy with it and have a hard time returning it.. Let us know what you decide! Good luck!!

  7. #7
    Registered User Maineiac64's Avatar
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    I would look at zpacks duplex and gossamer gear two with pole kit. A stretch of budget but great tents.

  8. #8

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    I have the NEMO Hornet 2p. I still like a 2-wall design, and was looking for a light-weight tent that wouldn't break the bank.
    It is pretty light - mine is less than 34oz including 7 stakes (came with 6, but I switched them out for lighter stakes and added one as a spare).
    I also added a 4.5oz piece of Tyvek for a footprint (added weight; cut to fit). The fabrics are very lightweight and I like to protect the tent bottom (and my air pad) and keep any ground moisture away.

    I also looked at the Big Agnes Flycreek2, but I prefer the dual side doors of the Nemo. For some reason I prefer to enter/exit tent along the long end and not at the head end (although I have to admit there have been some sites where the door at the head end may have been useful. It is amazing how small an area you need for setup, but sometimes tucking it into a small spot between trees or logs makes the side vestibules a more difficult set-up).

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the input, WhiteBlazers.

    I looked at the Nemo tents (and a few others) after Caleb's post and added it to my short list. Right now, I'm leaning that way, with it ahead of the BA Copper and the MSR Hubba Hubba.

    The Zpacks is a budget-buster. With the addition of the stakes, more than $700.

    I might decide by sometime Saturday or Sunday, so I'll keep watching here and comparing possibilities. Very much appreciate all your input. It helps to hear from those with experience.

  10. #10
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    While not ultralight,I have carried a Hubba from Springer to Delaware Water Gap(so far),as has my son. Durable,just roomy enough,and easy set up. We have been happy with them,and no doubt they will last the rest of the journey when conditions permit.

  11. #11
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Why not TarpTent?
    There are models that donít require trekking poles. Henry sells aluminum poles that replace trekking poles if you donít use trekking poles. I havenít looked lately, but I think there are a freestanding model or two.
    I own the Stratospire 1 with the part solid inner tent body. Highly recommended. The SS 1 is huge for one person. When conditions permit, I only take the rainfly. Polycryo window insulation film from ACE HARDWARE keeps the tub floor protected. Light and inexpensive.
    I also have the MSR HUBBA HUBBA NX. Itís a nice tent. I have used it solo and with my granddaughter. Like all tents, the Hubba Hubba needs adequate staking. We had to improvise at Great Sand Dunes. The ground in the Campground was like gravel and cement aggregate. We managed to find enough rocks to keep the tent secure for the night.
    Lots of choices. Good luck!
    Wayne

  12. #12
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    Dan--You want a considerably lighter tent than what you have, one that costs less then $300 and does not require use of trekking poles to set up. You anticipate using it just for yourself, mostly in the eastern USA, "mainly in warmer months".

    With needs similar to yours, about twelve years ago I purchased a one person Tarptent Rainbow. It's gotten much use and served me very well, mostly here in Kentucky and elsewhere in the southeastern USA. The Rainbow has been my first single wall tent, so initially I was concerned that condensation might be problematical. Fortunately that has not happened, even without my having a liner. I would not want to share space in my Rainbow with another adult (The larger Double Rainbow is designed that.), but for holding me (5'10'', 220 lbs.) and some gear its large enough. And, the weight, just 2 1/4 lbs., is reasonable.

    https://www.tarptent.com/product/rainbow/#tab-id-1

  13. #13
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    Dan--You want a considerably lighter tent than what you have, one that costs less then $300 and does not require use of trekking poles to set up. You anticipate using it just for yourself, mostly in the eastern USA, "mainly in warmer months".

    With needs similar to yours, about twelve years ago I purchased a one person Tarptent Rainbow. It's gotten much use and served me very well, mostly here in Kentucky and elsewhere in the southeastern USA. The Rainbow has been my first single wall tent, so initially I was concerned that condensation might be problematical. Fortunately that has not happened, even without my having a liner. I would not want to share space in my Rainbow with another adult (The larger Double Rainbow is designed that.), but for holding me (5'10'', 220 lbs.) and some gear its large enough. And, the weight, just 2 1/4 lbs., is reasonable.

    When I purchased my Tarptent Rainbow I did not yet use trekking poles. I've found it works very well simply being staked out. So, even though I now hike with with trekking poles, I never use them to set up the Rainbow.

    https://www.tarptent.com/product/rainbow/#tab-id-1

  14. #14
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    For what it's worth. If length is any kind of an issue for you, the BA Copper Spur is slightly longer than the others on your list, regardless of what the specs say. The rain fly on Nemo tents, in general, don't pitch as close to the ground as the other tent's listed. This saves some weight, but, reduces effectiveness in heavy weather. If Nemo is still doing this, it would be an issue for me. The Tiger wall is a great ultra-light tent, but short for my tall body and more than $300, I think, as is the BA CS. It's hard to beat the price point per quality on some of the REI tents. Also some of the Tarptent models (if you're okay with single wall) are worth a serious second look.

    Good luck with your decision. And make sure to have lots of fun!
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  15. #15
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    I loved my Copper Spur UL2 for a solo hike of the JMT.
    Given that I used a large size pad, the UL2 is simply too small for two people, but it's got a crazy amount of room for just one.
    I had heard reports of critters damaging hiking pole handles and/or boot laces, so I brought EVERYTHING into the tent with me at night (except the bear cannister) and didn't feel cramped at all.

  16. #16
    Registered User Creature Feature's Avatar
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    I'm a little wary of offering my 2 cents because my solution to this question didn't involve these name brands. I also was looking for a freestanding one person tent and was discouraged by the prices until I ran across a used Big Sky sold by a equipment rental company. It's a very similar design to the other free standing tents but costs half the price. It came in excellent condition and I've used it once on a 5 night shake-out hike where it performed well. It weighs about 2 1/2 pounds which is a tad over the average but for the $140 price (including shipping) I feel like I did ok

  17. #17
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    A tent that works for smaller tent spaces is nice on some trails,so I bought a BA tigerwall 2 last year for the PCT... Well, the hike didn't go far, but the tent is awesome, so ilar to the copper spur, but a pound lighter and I like the doors better.I'd definitely consider the TW2.

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Whoops... Last post meant to say "similar" to copper spur!

  19. #19
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I have a Tarptent Rainbow. It has it's own poles. It can be staked or free standing. To be free standing, you need trekking poles or some sort of pole to splay the sides of the tent out. Check out their website for more information on setup if you're interested. It's a good tent, which I have used since 2016.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Creature Feature View Post
    I'm a little wary of offering my 2 cents because my solution to this question didn't involve these name brands. I also was looking for a freestanding one person tent and was discouraged by the prices until I ran across a used Big Sky sold by a equipment rental company. It's a very similar design to the other free standing tents but costs half the price. It came in excellent condition and I've used it once on a 5 night shake-out hike where it performed well. It weighs about 2 1/2 pounds which is a tad over the average but for the $140 price (including shipping) I feel like I did ok
    Never heard of them before so visited their site... Big Sky Chinook 2P $600

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