Flagstaff Hikes

Sedona Hikes

Helpful Info

Finding a Tent

Tents vary considerably in design, construction, size and weight. A tent is supposed to protect you from the weather outside. Since climates and conditions vary considerably, the best performing tents are those that are designed for specific weather conditions and the right number of people.

Ultralights the lightest total protection in a shelter by taking the tunnel tent to the extreme of minimal size and weight. A shelter that resembles a sleeping bag, this close-fitting sleeping system is highly breathable and ventilated. Ideal for one or two people, these tents weigh five pounds or less and are designed for compactness.

Bivy sacks are perfect for cyclists or backpackers who need some protection from the elements, but cannot carry a lot of weight. Some designs have added pole systems for more space and comfort.
Strengths: Lightweight; ease of setup; portability; ventilation
Weaknesses: Decreased year-round versatility; less protection from elements (rain, snow, wind)

Backpacking/ three-season tents are highly functional through virtually every element with the exception of heavy snow. Emphasizing lightweight compactness and ease of assembly, most are two-layered in design, although some waterproof, breathable single wall designs are available.
The choice of most recreational hikers and campers, three-season tents typically weigh in at around three pounds per person.
Strengths: Functional; versatile
Weaknesses: Heavier and bulkier than ultralights

Four-Season/expedition tents are ready to handle anything short of an avalanche. Specifically designed with steep walls, oversized webbing, stable shape and strong frames to withstand snow loads, winds and other climatic conditions, this extreme weather tent is available in both single-wall and double-wall construction.
They are built to withstand anything the mountaineer can find and are the most durable, most flexible and of course most expensive available.
Strengths: Durability; weatherproofing; protection
Weaknesses: Low profile offers less interior room, limited ventilation; increased weight and bulk

Tent Design

  • The A-Frame is commonly referred to as a pup tent. Easy to set up, roomy and stable, the A-Frame is typically an economical buy. This sturdy, traditional design’s slanted walls are a drawback when it comes to less floor space, but are highly effective in keeping out condensation.
    However, due to their size and design, they tend to be somewhat unstable in the wind.
  • The dome is the evolution of the A-Frame. Freestanding, stable and taut, the curved design of this tent style allows for maximum space without a lot of weight. Easy to put up with just three of four corded poles. Some dome designs have been improved over the years with features like additional doors and improved weight to volume ratios.
  • The bivy sack is simply a waterproof envelope, usually only large enough for you and your sleeping bag. A one-person shelter resembling a sleeping bag, this close-fitting sleeping system needs to be highly breathable and ventilated. Most tents are flame retardant. However, the best defense against fire is to keep your tent away from any open flame and to never cook inside.

Windows, Doors, & Seams:

Increased ventilation in a tent means additional doors and windows and more seams that can be breached by the weather and insects. Just like a pair of hiking boots, tents need to have their unprotected seams waterproofed with seam sealer approximately once a year. Factory taped seams reduce the need for you to do a great deal of handwork.

  • Zippers crafted from vinyl and plastic composites perform better under unfavorable weather conditions than their low-cost metal counterparts.
  • Canopy & Rain fly The two work in tandem to keep a tent’s interior dry and comfortable. The canopy (interior roof) is crafted from breathable fabric that allows moisture from breathing and perspiration to escape, while the fly (the outer most shell), is treated to prevent moisture from coming in.

Be sure the rain fly of your tent stops several inches above the ground. Otherwise, all of the windows and flaps designed for maximum airflow will be much less effective.

Tent Size & Weight:

All tents are rated by the number of people that the tent is intended to sleep. On average, allow approximately 15 square feet per person. Most experts recommend that tent weight should be approximately 3 to 4 pounds per person. Consider tent weight carefully before purchase. What may seem like only a couple of extra pounds now can seem much heavier over the course of a long trek.

Page Last Updated 4/14/02
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