Double vs Single Wall tent

1:00 a.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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So you all have helped me greatly with my pack selection.  Now it's time to look at tents.  I'm looking for a 2 person, even though it will mostly be used for 1.  I wan the option for 2.

I want to go light weight and under $400.

Looks like most are single wall designs wiht only 2 that I saw that were double wall.  Tarp tent double moment and the Big Agnes Seedhouse.

 Also to note I'm in the hot and very humid southeast.  I want condensation to be kept minimum as possible.  I also don't want to spend a bunch of money on a single wall to not be happy with it.

What are the pros and cons with single vs double wall? 

8:31 a.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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I am no expert, but have and do own both single and double wall tents in the humid SE. I have always had a slightly bigger condensation issue with single wall in this area. It can be minimised with orientation of the tent for best venting from prevailing winds and site selection to avoid camping in heavy condensation areas (I usually dry camp on ridges for views and avoid streamside camps when in a full single wall).

I looked at Tarptent and the Seedhouse on my last purchase and ended up with a Lightheart Gear Solong 6. It is a semi single wall that meets your specs if you use 2 trecking poles and don't mind some condensation. It only has one central strip of wall that gets condensation, which can easily be fixed with a quick wipe. My wife and I can fit snugly into it with the right sleeping pads, even though it is a solo. Check out my review if it is of interest.

I decided against the BA Seedhouse as I didn't like the front entrance. Personal taste, but I prefer at least one side entrance, and two if I am cohabitating. I looked seriously at the Tarptent and corresponded with Henry over there...I really liked his tents. My decision came down to style and visiting Lightheart in Asheville and seeing the construction in person. IMHO you can't go wrong with either one. There will be some condensation there however in any single wall sections in our area of the world.

10:48 a.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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You can get condensation with a single wall and with a double wall, the key difference is that the condensation will form on the outer layer, so if you have a double wall then you have a buffer between you and the condensation, if you have a single wall you can brush up against it and get wet (or knock it off to wet your equipment). Many double wall lightweight shelters today use only mesh netting for the inside "wall" so aren't the same as traditional double wall but still keep a barrier between you and the potential condensation.

You may want to take a look at the Six Moon Designs Haven tarp + net tent. I went through a similar selection process a few months ago and settled on the Haven because of its ultra light weight (about 34 oz), room for 2 (though some would consider it a little tight), not excessively large if you wanted to use it for 1, dual side entries with dual vestibules. full bathtub floor, and can be set up as only tarp, only net tent, or paired combo. Requires two trekking poles to set up.

2:19 p.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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tents with a fly are a proven design and allow better air circulation and moisture management in hot/humid conditions.  they weigh a little more - but not much.

i have never been a fan of spending a lot on tents - no matter how much they cost, a really bad night or difficult site can damage the best tents. REI brand are great; try a quarter dome, or they might have a lighter, pricier 3 season.  

3:04 p.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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So I'm pretty settled on double wall.

I'll start another thread on my selection of tent.

Man looking a weights the accuracy I'm sure is subjective to a point.  

MLD has a nice setup but it's expensive comparatively.  He is local to me also.

8:40 a.m. on June 29, 2015 (EDT)
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Although you have already settled on double wall, it does not really matter just thought I would an extra comment in case others are considering this.

Just for the record, I use a proper double wall (not a mesh inner) mountain tent for winter and/or harsh conditions, a single wall for spring/fall or summer when conditions are poor... and recently switched to two different tarp configurations for summer which I supplement with an ultralight bivy with mesh face cover.

You will get condensation on anything that isn't adequately ventilated... it's just a matter of where it builds up. Using a double wall (or a single wall with mesh inner which is what most tents in the US tend to be) buys you a bit of space from rubbing against the condensation... however with a mesh inner, some of that condensation will drip onto the mesh anyway.

So while yes, your single wall tent may get a little moist.... it will also be much easier to dry out, which is great if you are out for multiple nights. Just invert it, give it a few shakes and let it dry in the wind/sun for a bit. So its not all bad, and if you value weight savings, it might just be the configuration for you.

2:20 a.m. on July 2, 2015 (EDT)
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I choose double walls. Double walls tents are versatile. You can keep warm and dry.

9:02 p.m. on July 2, 2015 (EDT)
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" You can keep warm and dry"

You can do the same in a single wall tent.

( a pound of insulation will keep you warmer than a pound of extra wall...)

The important bit is to get the type you like and know how to use it.

12:42 p.m. on July 5, 2015 (EDT)
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I live in coastal SC, a very hot & humid area much of the year, also extremely buggy!

No way would I use a single wall tent designed for a colder, drier climate in the Southeast US. I own two and only use them (or loan them) during the winter in the mountains, or at other times when the humidity is below 50%.

I do like the open single wall shelters like Tarp Tents, or using an actual tarp & bug bivy. I also prefer a hammock & tarp when it is hot & humid.

The beauty of a double wall tent (when used in the Southeast US) is the ability to open up the inner tent (some are all mesh these days) for maximum airflow, while still having complete protection from rain & bugs.

During summer I prefer inner tents that are mostly mesh coupled with a rainfly that does not extend all the way to the ground to maximize air circulation.

In really windy areas or during cold weather I like the same type of mesh inner tent but would opt for a rain fly that does go all the way to the ground. With the right sleeping bag it doesn't really matter to me one way or the other, it's just worth noting the difference in design performance.

The issue with condensation is an unavoidable one in the Southeast. We regularly hit the dew point during the night at some point, and when this happens the inside of the fabric touching the outside air will collect condensation (dew), there is no way to get around it. This will happen to any shelter you use.

My experiences & what I have learned from others tells me that the keys to dealing with condensation are to maximize airflow across the inside surface of the fabric, try not to disturb or touch the fabric (causing the dew to drop off), and to keep a towel, or something like a Sham-wow handy to deal with wiping things up when needed.

The ability to create airflow through the shelter due to the shelters design, and by proper orientation of the shelter in relation to the wind have been the biggest help to me. In the Southeast you have to do this and still be able to keep the bugs out.

7:15 p.m. on July 5, 2015 (EDT)
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Mind you , as far as keeping dry when it rains AND still have air flow, I was thinking more along the line of our Tarptents  hybrids(naturally..)

That is a single wall with attached wall panel/s and floor.

Most can be kept at least partially open under rain but all have a 360 degree mesh around the floor so if pitched for it you can get airflow that way.

So in the end , yes it has to do more with the specific design rather than a general category.

Here is a good example of Mike's comments on airflow :


You can't tell by looking at it but the fly is fully  wet on the underside.

I forgot (!!!) to open up the bottom and top vents on the tent.

(this one has a fabric inner so no drips on me)

The next night, identical weather conditions,  I had the vents open , dry fly in the morning.

So you can get just as much condensation on a two wall tent , ventilation is the key.

6:37 p.m. on July 6, 2015 (EDT)
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I don't think it is a question of Double Wall versus Single Wall, but rather, your intended use. This especially is what kind of weather you encounter. As well, it is also a question of design and materials. With any tent, ventilation is important. Without some means to carry moist air away, you can feel like you're in a rain forest, or in some cases, a snow storm. Single wall tents have the advantage that they are generally lighter than the same size double wall tent, and erect quicker. The exception to this in a double wall, would be the style popular in Europe in which the poles erect the fly and the tent is suspended from the poles. My Exped Venus is like this and so the fly and tent can be erected together. Goretex or other breathable materials can make a very useable single wall tent. I had a Bibler Impotent for two decades and found it to be a very user friendly tent. The material had a soft inner layer that collected moisture and allowed it evaporate.

I have not found any fully enclosed tent that is immune from collecting moisture. What I've found to be important is a ceiling and walls that have a continuous arch so that moisture that collects can run down the side walls, rather than drip right on the middle of the interior.

Mesh tents with a fly can work well providing ventilation, but any moisture which collects on the underside of the fly can drip into the tent.

9:54 p.m. on July 6, 2015 (EDT)
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It is interesting..even open tarps get condensation in the right conditions, such as this grassy ridge top with big temperature swings.

I've shown these before but here is one of my first tarp camps on Grassy Ridge, Roan Mtn TN at about 6000 feet on a prominent ridge; I just started experimenting with tarps a few years ago and I took these pics out of fascination with how wet it got (even with open sides all around and at both ends).



Camp was a clear spot in the middle of a large Rhododendron thicket that borders a wide grassy bald.


Notice the discoloration where my head swiped the water off as I moved around under the tarp..surprisingly wet.

water beads on the underside



5:57 a.m. on July 7, 2015 (EDT)
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Patrick - Have you found more condensation when camping on grassy areas like the one pictured? I definitely have more issues when I camp on grass vs leaves, as well as open areas vs under a tree canopy. Of course, I still prefer the open ridge for the views...

I have had relatively equal issues here in the SE with condensation in double wall and a hybrid single wall tent. While the double wall with mesh inner kept the drips dispersed better, the single wall hybrid was shaped and vented better to allow moisture to disperse or run down the side rather than drip as Erich mentioned.

Campsite selection has been the biggest factor for me to control moisture over which tent I bring o a trip.

7:12 a.m. on July 7, 2015 (EDT)
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Phil yes I've the same experiences as you. Open grassy balds are wet camps overnight. And true enough, around here it's just so humid it doesn't matter what type of tent you use or how much you ventilate it, you have to deal with it.

I agree with Mike ; I don't think single wall tents are a good choice in the southern humidity.

9:04 a.m. on July 7, 2015 (EDT)
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Good points about site location!

I have found that the amount of moisture present in the ground / vegetation under and around a tent plays a role in condensation and muggy-ness inside the shelter.

In the early morning light when you can see a mist hanging in the air close to the ground you have to wonder if that was going on all night.

8:57 p.m. on July 7, 2015 (EDT)
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I agree with you all in general on single wall not being as good in the SE, except in the case where the double wall tent shape is not as conducive to venting. My single wall hybrid (Lightheart Solong) is better vented than my older solo double wall. A newer DW would probably do better. For winter camping I usually use the Solong and choose sites more carefully. It just has a thin central panel that is SW, so easily taken care of with a wipe of a small pack towel. Wouldn't matter which one I used last time out as the mist like Mike describes was pretty much everywhere...damp all over regardless of condensation.

12:31 p.m. on July 8, 2015 (EDT)
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Patman, in the case above, without a floor, any moisture from the ground will end up on the ceiling of your tarp. As well, the Rhodie thicket will constrict any breeze. You may not have had a choice in this case, but such a camp invites moisture.

4:55 p.m. on July 8, 2015 (EDT)
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Erich, yes I've since discovered that and now use a wider "bathtub" type floor when 'tarping.  

These days, unless I'm trying to catch a sunrise/sunset a long way from a better camp I will avoid those grassy balds (even with tents) and try to find a tree covered spot and preferably a more durable surface/ or one with less vegetation to contend with. You know it's kinda funny, I tend to use my tarps more in winter now than other seaons; less bugs and so forth I guess.

  PS I did in fact choose that spot in the thicket as it was the only wind block on a very prominent ridge (highest point around for a fairly large area); but as you point out, that sure didn't help with moisture!

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