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  1. #1
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    Default Free standing tent vs. trekking pole supported tents

    I'm trying to decide on a new tent. On one hand there is a lightweight one-man tent that is free-standing and weighs 2lb 11oz (L.L. Bean) and another that uses trekking poles to set up and weighs 2lb 3oz (GoLite).

    I've never used trekking pole supported tents. Has anyone used them on the A.T. that could share their thoughts?

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    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    Tons of people use them. A good chunk of thru-hikers. You can find tents lighter than that fairly easily.
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

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    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

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    I have used both. I currently use a Tarptent Contrail (uses one pole) and my go to shelter is a Six Moons Wild Oasis tarp. Uses one pole--not a problem. With Sil Nylon tents, it is critical for the sil to be taught for best performance. If it is sagging, it is probably not set up right. Using a hiking pole is an easy way to adjust for taughtness.

  5. #5

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    If you are already using trekking poles to hike, using them as supports for your tent can save you weight because you wouldn't have to also carry tent poles.

    I can vouch for both LightHeart gear Solo and the Henry Shires Contrail tarptent. Easy set up, reliable shelters and low weight.
    Some people take the straight and narrow. Others the road less traveled. I just cut through the woods.

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    Those are good points. I would like to make it to the insanely light tarptents, etc., but the cost is too much at this point. GoLite is selling their Shangri-La-1 for about $137 during its 50% off sale right now. L.L. Bean's free-standing Microlight FS 1-Person comes in at about $170. I thought about Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout, but it is pretty much the same weight, though a hair cheaper.

    I've used an old Kelty Teton 2 at 4lb 10oz for my lst three section hikes. My knees start to scream after day 3, so I'm dropping weight as affordably as possible.

    I suppose my biggest concern is how stable the structure is when you're using trekking poles, plus if it is ever difficult to keep the lines taught in bad weather.

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    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    The only thing is - eventually your poles are gonna wear out with use and will have issues collapsing each day to fit the tent. But this is over a period of time from trail dust, use, etc. I also find like with Leki, if they get wet, they are hard to retighten.







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    Registered User Papa D's Avatar
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    I have done a ton of tarp camping - I even had custom-made tarps made for a youth adventure program that I ran for 10 years - - we would do 10 day unsupported backpacking trips and stay very nice and dry even in the worst downpours BUT it takes work - - and keeping teenagers dry took nearly constant monitoring before bed when the rains were upon us.

    Using trekking poles to set up your tarp or tent does work. For about a year of weekends I camped under a Mountain Hardware Stingray Tarp that I set up with trekking poles - - it's very crafty. One day, I re-discovered tent camping in the form of a MSR Hubba (and later the lighter Carbon Reflex) - - what a pleasant and relaxing feeling to KNOW that unless you really do something bone-headed in your set-up, you will sleep dry and worry-free. So this is my strong recommendation for fun backpacking is that each hiker carry a small light solo tent - - it's so much fun throwing yourself in a dry tent and your stuff in a dryish vestibule, kicking back and not worrying about blowing rain or splash-up or whatever.

    I occasionally use a little MSR Wing that is sort of like the stingray that I set up with poles - - I usually do this when I'm trying to go really fast on the AT and want to carry as little as possible probably for a weekend and plan to use shelters - - it makes a great little emergency bivy or can be used if the shelter is full - - weighs less than a pound - - but not my "go-to" for general use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest Snomin View Post
    I suppose my biggest concern is how stable the structure is when you're using trekking poles, plus if it is ever difficult to keep the lines taught in bad weather.
    Trekking poles make the shelter more stable than dedicated tent poles in my opinion. The design of the tent will be your weak link and not the trekking poles. Trekking poles are tough.

    Latch lock poles are better than the twist types common to older Lekis. I have had issues with twist lock poles slipping and will never buy them again. Newer Lekis have models with latch locks.
    Last edited by ChinMusic; 04-19-2012 at 21:23.
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  10. #10
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    I'm glad you mentioned the locking style of poles. I use an older style of Leki twist locking poles that so far haven't slipped much, but I also rarely adjust them. I'll have to keep this in mind when setting up the tent. I'm probably going to go ahead and buy the GoLite Shangri-La 1 tent because the weight to price ratio is pretty good if I can still buy it on sale for $137. I really want to get a nice tarp style of tent with all of the benefits of excellent airflow, but I'm bug-averse and have to have one with a built in nest or bug screen. I even checked out one of the make your own gear outfitters, but I have issues with paying $100+ for materials when I have to do all the work. So, until I can afford the price for one of those great tarp style tents, I'm stuck with what I can afford. Although, I don't think a 2lb 3oz GoLite is a tent you would feel "stuck" with, particularly for $137.

    I only get a week each year to do a section hike, which usually corresponds to 50-75 miles over 3-5 days, respectively, so I'm glad you all offered such useful info! I'm not as fit as I once was, so I need to figure out ways to reduce weight so I can keep up the 15+ miles per day I like to do. Using trekking poles or switching to a tarp style tent always sounds attractive, but I'm slow to change. Heck, this trip will be the first time I'm going to use non-waterproof trail running shoes instead of hard core waterproof boots (thanks to a great recommendation from Andrew Skurka via facebook-that guy actually responds to questions...amazing). Who knew long distance hiking came with such a peculiar learning curve?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest Snomin View Post
    GoLite Shangri-La 1 tent because the weight to price ratio is pretty good if I can still buy it on sale for $137.
    The description says it is a: "Floorless shelter system works alone or with Nest depending on conditions." Does this mean there is no bottom to the tent?

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest Snomin View Post
    I'm trying to decide on a new tent. On one hand there is a lightweight one-man tent that is free-standing and weighs 2lb 11oz (L.L. Bean) and another that uses trekking poles to set up and weighs 2lb 3oz (GoLite).

    I've never used trekking pole supported tents. Has anyone used them on the A.T. that could share their thoughts?
    Even free-standing tents need extra line and stakes (or tieout points) when the wind hits. Aerodynamics play a more important part in tent design than most people are aware of, but flexible poles are more likely to bend to the breaking point than stout hiking poles if they are not adequately supported by guy lines. The Tarptent Moment would be my current choice overall for weight, size, ease of setup, ventilation, and aerodynamics (when guyed out correctly). It could probably shed some snow as well , since it doesn't have a hint of a flat roofline anywhere.
    I owned a Lightheart solo tent briefly a couple of years ago, but since I'm a diehard hammocker, I sold it shortly after a brief testing. It's a nicely designed tent, too. The ventilation can't be beat unless you sleep in a hammock which allows the night air to flow completely around your body (only important in hot weather - it's coming! ).
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by shelb View Post
    The description says it is a: "Floorless shelter system works alone or with Nest depending on conditions." Does this mean there is no bottom to the tent?
    Yes, it does. It's a shaped tarp. A netting inner tent is available which has a floor.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  14. #14

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    I meant to say, "Yes, it does mean that there is no bottom to the tent".
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  15. #15
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    The older I get, the more multi-use items I look for, so I dropped my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 for a Lightheart Solo w/ an awning. With the awning pole and the trekking poles factored in, it's still lighter than my UL2 was, so it's a win in my book.

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    The Tarptent Contrail is $200, not too much above your upper price point, weighs 24 oz, has a floor, and only uses one pole so you'll have a spare if you hike with two poles.

    There is no perfect support system. Flexible poles definitely break or get lost, trekking poles break, but that's where ingenuity and spare paracord, trees, or stout sticks come in. Poles just make it easy. I trust my trekking pole more than a flimsy tent pole any day, but the trekking pole sees abuse all day. I think I'm just lucky I've never broken one, while I've broken and lost flimsy tent poles a couple of times.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  17. #17
    Registered User steveinator's Avatar
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    Free standing FTW... Coppur spur UL 1 wooooooo!!!!!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest Snomin View Post
    Those are good points. I would like to make it to the insanely light tarptents, etc., but the cost is too much at this point. GoLite is selling their Shangri-La-1 for about $137 during its 50% off sale right now. L.L. Bean's free-standing Microlight FS 1-Person comes in at about $170. I thought about Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout, but it is pretty much the same weight, though a hair cheaper.

    I've used an old Kelty Teton 2 at 4lb 10oz for my lst three section hikes. My knees start to scream after day 3, so I'm dropping weight as affordably as possible.

    I suppose my biggest concern is how stable the structure is when you're using trekking poles, plus if it is ever difficult to keep the lines taught in bad weather.

    I had a similar approach as you do and went with the Scout and I'm very pleased with it. Tons of mesh so its a great summer tent + easy setup,takedown + nice price point.

    An advantage of using treking poles as tent poles that I really like and no one seems to mention is its just a lot easier to pack with no poles. I think one of the most underrated aspects of backpacking is keeping weight close to your body and using trekking poles as tent poles makes that a lot easier.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by scissor View Post
    I had a similar approach as you do and went with the Scout and I'm very pleased with it. Tons of mesh so its a great summer tent + easy setup,takedown + nice price point.

    An advantage of using treking poles as tent poles that I really like and no one seems to mention is its just a lot easier to pack with no poles. I think one of the most underrated aspects of backpacking is keeping weight close to your body and using trekking poles as tent poles makes that a lot easier.
    I ended up getting the GoLite Shangra-La 1. After I ordered it I wished I had gone with the Scout. I'll likely order some of their stakes, though, because they are super light. I'm glad I didn't get the L.L.Bean tent even though it got the Backpacker editor's award. I pike a lot of their gear, but lighter is lighter, especially when it is from a good company at a good price.

    Thanks everyone for the discussion. No matter how many miles you hike, an outside opinion helps. With a little luck, maybe I'll get my total pack weight down to 20lbs. My body would thank me.

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    I used an M-16 rifle to replace a broken tent pole. The muzzle brake fit right through the grommet in the canvas tent Uncle Sam gave us. Nowadays, I could never find a field expedient method to replace my shock-corded slip-through poles.

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