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Backpacking Tent - 1P or 2P?

Since all y'all have never given me bad advice (that I am aware of), I'll ask another question.

I'm about to purchase a new tent for backpacking and I found two I want. As part of my "decision making process" (or, as my wife calls it, my "inability to make a decision without over-thinking it" process), I thought I'd take a quick pole (yes, I know it's supposed to be "poll" but since we're talking about tents, I thought I'd throw a bad pun in there).

  • Option A - 1 person tent that's 4 lbs, 2 oz 
  • Option B - 2 person tent that is 5 lbs, 8 oz

They're from the same manufacturer and boast the same features except for the weight and size. Yes, they're priced differently but both are within my budget so I don't care.

Would you save weight and get the smaller one, meaning your pack would have to sit in the vestibule or would you keep your pack in the tent (and off the ground) and pay the price of another pound and a half on your back?

P.S. - I know there are lighter options out there but I've decided on a freestanding tent because my hiking goals this year include places where I can't guarantee a place to hang a hammock or stake a semi-freestanding/trekking pole tent. And lighter freestanding tents are not within my budget.

I now eagerly await your wisdom  (AKA, thanks, as always)

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

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14 Replies

Oh, man.  Tough parameters there.  I really like having my pack inside so I don't worry about rodents, bugs, rain, snakes, scorpions, etc.  But the 5lb8oz one is quite a bit of weight if you're going solo and not sharing cooking gear and tent.  I'd have to go with the one man.  I'd see if there's a way to squeeze my pack in and still be comfortable.

Or identify a lighter 2-man that you like but is out of budget, and see if it goes on sale.  Maybe a previous season one.  Check all the good companies.  

And there is no over-thinking when it comes to gear.  

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I would save one and a half pounds and get the smaller tent. 

Of course it really depends what those tents actually are,  how small is small and where you are going with the tent.  One person tents can feel a bit confining and a two person tent is going to be more livable if you need to spend much time in it say because it is raining.  Apart from weight another reason to get a 1P tent is the small footprint enabling you to set up in much more confined campsites which is big advantage in some areas

Not sure what your budget is but really I would get a different tent that weighs less.  Unless you have an immediate need or some unmissable deal,  I'd probably wait for the spring stock to come in and the spring sales to start and see what you can get then.

Two years ago I needed a new tent for solo carry and chose between a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 on sale or a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 with the Spring 20% off coupon.   Because of the sale and the 20% off coupon the tents were about the same price  (~$300 I think) .  They were also about the same weight...~2.5 lb out the door and with a factory footprint and all the giblets and custom stake set about 3lb.  I tried both and decided on the larger TW UL2 accepting it's semi-freestanding set up as the trade off.

Last year I needed a new tent for solo carry for a different reason (not sharing tents due to covid) and  got a Six Moons Lunar Solo single trekking pole tent...which is lighter still ( just over 2lb with Tyvek footprint and seam seeling and custom stake set)   and very generous in space for a 1P.  It's a good "budget" tent although it is not dirt cheap (~$250) and 3 seasons may be pushing it.   Get the factory seam sealed option unless you like doing that kind of thing.  You have to make your own Tyvek or cryo footprint although the sil-nylon 6 moons uses is fairly robust so if you camp on grass you can probably do without if you so prefer.

Go with the lighter tent for a significant weight saving.  your pack is tough enough to hang out in the vestibule or even outside.

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Those are both very heavy tents.  The Army did a study and for every pound on your back, its 8lbs on your legs.  If you are doing short runs in 4 seasons, I could see it but if its 3 season, i'd recommend something a bit lighter....less than 3 lbs 🙂  Good luck ...analysis paralysis is real

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @Dad_Aint_Hip .

First, let me congratulate you on your bad pun!  I am a fan.  😁

Now, on to the tent dilemma.  I personally would accept the extra weight for the additional room and, presumably, comfort level in camp of the 2-person.  I have a Sierra Designs 2P that is my go-to option.  But then, I typically am only doing "weekender" types of trips, hiking no more than 10 miles to a site, setting up and staying there for a few nights.  If I were contemplating a lengthy through-hike, I may rethink that decision.  

I also have a 1P tent that I got from the REI Used site, and have used it a few times.  While I don't dislike it, it does feel a bit confining.

So, I guess you have to reconcile what your end goals are and how much long-term usefulness your choice will afford you.  Is this the start of one or more extended backpacking trips where the tent may spend more time on your back than you inside it?  If so, then the lighter weight 1P would be your best option.  Or, conversely, are you more likely to have more opportunities for shorter excursions where the extra weight would be negligible and the added comfort and durability would prove advantageous?

I know, I know...more overthinking to add to your own. 

Good luck!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
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"confining" may or may not equal to "cozy"  - it all a matter of perception....  I am generally only in my tent for sleeping, so it is not a big deal.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
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I use the one-person REI Quarter Dome 1 that I purchased three years ago for backpacking and bike touring and love it. I am 5'8" and find it very roomy with plenty of room to store my pack and boots under the vestibule. I recently went car camping with an old two-person Kelty Quartz and wished I had taken my Quarter Dome instead. The Quarter Dome is a lot easier to get in and out of than the Quartz was. The only down side to the Quarter Dome is that it is not a four season tent while the Quartz is. I agree with those who would opt for the smaller tent at less weight, all other things being equal. Maybe you should just make sure what ever tent you buy has a "Q" in the name.

aka "Boonerelli"

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Thank you, everyone. As always, your wisdom and guidance is likely more appreciated than you know.

After reading through everything, I've decided to drop either of these two tent options - or, at least, put them on the back burner - and wait to find a lighter tent. 

Besides the great reviews, the reason these two tents were my main choice was because they allowed the fly to be set up before the main body - a definite advantage when you're caught in the rain. Plus a great price (around the $150 mark). At that price, though, I definitely knew there'd be a trade-off and that trade-off seemed to be weight.

In a moment of clarity (which happens less often these days), it occurred to me that my shelter - the one item I need to rely on to keep me safe from the elements while I sleep - should not be decided upon strictly by budget. So I'll continue to look.

But now a follow-up question - freestanding tents all seem to be around the  4-5lb (and above) mark unless I want to spend $400 or more (and I don't). My reasoning for the freestanding is that, regardless of where I am, I could pitch the tent. 

So here's the follow-up - for those of you who have trekking pole tents or semi-freestanding tents, how often have you found yourself in a situation where you couldn't use stakes? I should add that the only trip I am planning where this could be an issue would be the GC rim-to-rim trail.

Again, thanks!

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@Dad_Aint_Hip Most Nemo and BG tents and the 2020 REI QD SL series tents (in theory...see below)  allow "fly first" (aka fast pitch) setup...maybe other brands too.   Fly first is most useful for fly last when it is raining and you are taking down the tent since it allows you to keep the body dry although I have never actually done this on the trail.  It is also useful if you want a free standing "tarp" for bug less trips and you want to carry less weight.  Haven't done that either.   But it does need the factory footprint or something similar you hack up yourself since you have attach the footprint to the pole feet keep them spaced while there is no tent body to do that job.  The BA footprints are a bit pricey although I got mine on sale.  It is nice to have the fly first option as an idea but in practice you may never bother using it.

The REI QD SL 1 and SL 2 are a very light semi-freestanding tents that are a bit less expensive.   I think they were both less that $300 last year although the footprint was extra of you want fly first.    I suspect they will be back in stock before the REI Spring 20% coupon and will probably be on sale at some point.

My daughter got herself a QD SL2 last year and it is a nice tent although we haven't taken it out yet except to set it up in the back yard.  I think she slept a night in it.  Personally I like my TW UL2 better but the QD SL2 vestibule doors are easier to get in and out of.  We had to fix hers up to make the fly first feature work because the REI's factory goofed up on the clips and put the wrong ones on the footprint.  REI made it right but we had to replace all the clips with S2S repair clips.   Semi freestanding is more of a pain that freestanding since you have to stake out the two foot end corners and you need to counter that with a stake at the head but it is less of a pain that a trekking pole tent where you have to fiddle with the pitch and it is more difficult to be consistent in small sites where the ground around is not flat.  It just takes a bit more practice and patience.

If you can't use stakes, you use rocks...or you can guy out to trees and roots if you know a few knots..trucker hitch and a couple of half hitches works securely.  Why you should carry extra guyline.    I did this a few times with my TW UL2 on rock shelves in the Sierras and I had to partially do it camping in a small rock surrounded site in Desolation Wilderness with my Luna Solo trekking pole tent.