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What’s the Greatest Backpacking Tent for the Appalachian Path?

What is the Best Backpacking Tent for the Appalachian Trail

What’s the greatest backpacking tent or tenting shelter for thru-hiking or part mountaineering all or among the Appalachian Path? Working over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Path travels throughout closely forested and mountainous terrain, with broadly various temperatures, each cold and hot. Frequent rain, ferocious insect life, and hiker competitors for good tenting areas are all essential components to think about when deciding on a tent or shelter to hike the path.

Given the selection of single-wall and double-wall tents, q hammock, flat tarps, and formed tarps, which one is the perfect to make use of? Are you able to simply sleep and shelters and never carry a tent in any respect? What about early spring or winter mountaineering situations? I’ve skilled all of those approaches whereas part mountaineering the Appalachian Path and the reply is…it relies upon:

  • On nighttime temperatures
  • On biting bugs
  • On the supply of fine campsites
  • In your pockets
  • In your tolerance for carrying cumbersome gear and extra gear weight
  • In your want for private consolation

Let’s check out the totally different choices and take into account their benefits and downsides.

Single-Wall Tents

The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is a single wall tent with plenty of ventilation
The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is a single-wall tent with loads of air flow

Most single-wall tents have partitions which might be half stable and half mesh. This improves airflow by way of the tent and helps to stop inner condensation. Most single-wall tents have a totally built-in bathtub ground that’s sewn to the partitions of the tent, making it simple to maintain the inside dry if you must arrange within the pouring rain. Many even have an built-in entrance or facet vestibule that can be utilized to cowl gear in unhealthy climate. Standard fashions embody the Zpacks Duplex, the Gossamer Gear “The One”, Six Moon Designs’ Lunar Solo, and the Tartpent’s Rainbow. 

Benefits on the AT

  • Simple and quick to arrange
  • Wonderful airflow which helps cut back inner condensation
  • Light-weight and compact
  • Arrange with trekking poles, which helps eradicate some weight
  • Bug-proof and slither proof

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Drafty and chilly in cool climate.
  • Requires good campsites with stage floor and enough area to arrange
  • Tough to pitch on wood platforms at designated campsites

Double Wall Tents

A double-wall tent like the NEMO Hornet 2 has a separate inner tent and outer rainfly that prevents condensation transfer to your clothing and gear.
A double-wall tent just like the NEMO Hornet 2 has a separate inside tent and outer rainfly that forestalls condensation switch to your clothes and equipment.

Double-wall tents supply wonderful climate safety, particularly in cool, windy, and moist climate through the cooler spring and autumn shoulder season months on the Appalachian Path. They’ve an inside tent with a bath ground, mesh partitions. and a separate rain fly that covers the inside tent and collects any inner condensation which will happen at evening.

There are two varieties of double-walled tents: tents the place you must arrange the inside tent earlier than you pitch the rain fly; and double-walled tents the place you’ll be able to pitch the rain fly and inside tent on the identical time, or with the rain fly first after which cling the inside tent below them: the Durston X-Mid-1 and the Tarptent Notch don’t require a “quick fly” footprint to arrange, whereas the Massive Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and the NEMO Hornet Elite OSMO 1 & 2 do.

Benefits on the AT

  • Can be utilized in all three-season climate situations, together with colder climate
  • Wind-proof with absolutely enclosed partitions
  • Bug-proof and slither proof
  • Often, have a vestibule for lined gear storage
  • Interior tents have deep bathtub flooring that may stop flooding if water swimming pools beneath

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Will be onerous to seek out campsites with ample area or stage floor
  • Are usually heavier and bulkier than tarps and tarp tents though weights have been coming down.

Hammock w/ Tarp

A hammock can still be used if the ground below is uneven.
A hammock can nonetheless be used if the bottom under is uneven.

Hammocks are available in a variety of shapes, lengths, and weights, starting from tricked-out backpacking hammocks like a Hammock Gear Wanderlust or a no-frills ENO Singlenest. The largest benefit of utilizing a hammock is that you could make camp wherever there are timber to hold your hammock from, which is nearly in every single place on the Appalachian Path (so long as rules allow). That’s an enormous benefit since there are a whole lot of locations on the AT the place it’s onerous to discover a first rate place to camp: the place there’s no stage floor, the place the campsites fill with water within the rain, or the place crowded situations require using stealth web site.

Benefits on the AT

  • Nice for tenting in forests, particularly when good ground-level campsites are scarce
  • Bug proof and slither proof, supplied you add a bug internet in case your hammock doesn’t include one
  • By no means have to fret about rain flooding your shelter ground
  • Offers protection to your gear at evening and a spot to cook dinner out of the rain
  • Simple to pack and arrange when used with snakeskins
  • Nice stealth tenting possibility

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Requires additional backside insulation and wind safety layers below 60-70 levels which will be costly, cumbersome, and heavy in comparison with different choices.
  • Not an excellent possibility when no timber can be found. It occurs, even on the AT.

Flat Tarps

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp set up in a flying diamond pitch
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp arrange in a flying diamond pitch

Flat sq. or rectangular tarps have sq., 90-degree corners and are form of old skool now. They’re price mentioning, nevertheless, as a result of they’re cheap, light-weight, and extremely adaptable since they are often arrange in many alternative shapes and orientations. In addition they match very nicely into slim areas between timber and may incorporate panorama options like fallen timber and enormous boulders.

Pitching them is a little bit of an artwork kind and requires a whole lot of creativity, however will also be a whole lot of enjoyable. Nonetheless, good campsite choice is essential as a result of flat tarps don’t have flooring and should be augmented with an inside bug bivy or bivy sacks to supply extra bug and wind safety. Standard flat tarps embody the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp and the Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp.

Benefits on the AT

  • Very light-weight and compact
  • Low price
  • Probably the most primary A-frame pitch is simple to grasp
  • Will be pitched utilizing trekking poles or tied to timber/shrubs
  • Doesn’t require a flat floor to pitch
  • Will be configured in an infinite variety of methods, together with ones that incorporate panorama options corresponding to fallen logs or boulders
  • Can match into slim areas between timber, unusable by different shelters

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Doesn’t present as a lot chilly, damp, or wind safety as a shelter with a ground that’s absolutely enclosed on all sides
  • Requires some type of bug safety corresponding to a bug internet or bug bivy
  • Takes significantly extra ability and apply to grasp establishing
  • Requires that you simply carry extra stakes and man traces since you by no means know what “form” you’ll pitch prematurely

Mids and Formed Tarps

Shaped Pyramid Tarp, the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid on the Connecticut Appalachian Trail
Formed Pyramid Tarp, the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid on the Connecticut Appalachian Path

Mids (brief for pyramid) and formed tarps differ from flat tarps in that they’ll solely be pitched a technique, as dictated by their form. They’re primarily floorless single-wall tents with out an inside tent, though most individuals decide to make use of some form of inside shelter with them on the AT for rain and bug safety. These inside shelters are equal to the inside tents present in double-walled tents. Alternatively, you should use an ultralight bivy bag with a mesh cowl over the face, typically with some form of UL footprint. Nevertheless, while you issue within the want for an inside tent, it nearly makes extra sense to purchase an all-in-one single-walled shelter or tarp tent since they’re the cheaper possibility.

Formed tarps embody pyramids, double-apex tarps, A-frames with entrance vestibules, catenary lower tarps, and so forth. Standard fashions embody the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2, the Mountain Lauren Designs Duomid, and the Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doorways. 

Benefits for the AT

  • Light-weight and simply packable
  • Bug and slither proof when used with an inside tent or bivy sack
  • Partitions will be raised for higher air flow or pitched flush with the bottom to guard towards rain
  • Many arrange with trekking poles, which helps eradicate some weight

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Requires good campsites with stage floor and enough area to arrange
  • Tough to pitch on wood platforms at designated campsites

No Tent or Shelter: Simply Use AT Lean-tos

Possibly the worst shelter on the AT - the Fingerboard Shelter in New Yorks Harriman State Park has two fireplaces inside and is filled with soot and debris from people who try to live in it.
Presumably the worst lean-to on the AT – the Fingerboard Shelter in New York’s Harriman State Park has two fireplaces inside and is stuffed with soot and particles from individuals who squat in it in winter.

One possibility is to hike the Appalachian Path or a bit of it and never take a shelter in any respect, with the intent of simply utilizing the designated lean-tos that are spaced at 10-15 mile intervals. I’d advise towards doing this as a result of having a tent or shelter with you is a vital piece of security gear, you probably have an accident and may’t go on, climate situations pin you down, you’ll be able to’t make it to a shelter every evening, a shelter is already full while you arrive (first come, first serve) the shelter has resident Copperheads, Rattlers, or a wasp’s nest inside, you don’t wish to share a shelter with the folks already there, or it’s so disgusting and decrepit that you simply’d by no means wish to sleep in it.

Carry a light-weight tent or shelter, even should you solely use it occasionally. You’ll be glad you probably did.

Tents and Shelters for Winter Circumstances

DuoMid in Snow - Crawford Notch, White Mountains - 2011
Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid in Snow – Crawford Notch, White Mountains close to the AT

Hikers, particularly thru-hikers, are more and more taking to the Appalachian Path in March to keep away from path crowding even though winter situations nonetheless prevail down south. Winter provides a completely totally different dimension to shelter choice on the AT because it’s practically inconceivable to pound tent stakes into the frozen floor in case your shelter requires them. As an alternative, pitching a non-freestanding tent on high of snow requires using deadmen (stakes frozen in place) which takes longer to arrange since they should freeze when you wait, whereas 12-14 hour-long nights make shelter consolation and livability extra of a precedence.

Black Diamond Firstlight Tent
Freestanding on the Massachusetts Appalachian Path

Sadly, not one of the shelter varieties talked about above is good for such situations, except yow will discover an excellent single-wall or double-wall tent which is free-standing. Free-standing, light-weight tents are comparatively uncommon however are nice in chilly climate as a result of your physique weight and your gear are sufficient to maintain them from blowing away with out staking within the comparatively protected campsites you discover on the AT. The Massive Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 or 2 are good freestanding double-wall tents that stability consolation, ease of use, and light-weight.

If you happen to had been desirous about mountaineering the AT in March (or earlier) and utilizing the lean-tos since they gained’t be full, I’d urge you to rethink. Sleeping in a shelter with one open wall in freezing and windy climate the place it’s so chilly that it’s good to spend each second of a 14 hour evening in your sleeping bag is the pits. There’s actually no comparability between that and sleeping in a snug, windproof freestanding tent, even when it weighs a bit extra to hold.

While the shelters are emptier in early spring, the nights are quite cold.
Whereas the shelters are emptier in early spring, the nights will be fairly chilly.


I’ve lined a whole lot of totally different tent and shelter choices above, however how do you resolve which one to carry? I feel crucial components depend upon the climate you intend to hike in and your private consolation wants.

  • If the bottom continues to be frozen and it’s inconceivable to drive stakes into it, I’d advocate utilizing a freestanding tent since you don’t must stake it out and they are often arrange in rain with out the inside tent turning into moist.
  • After nighttime temperatures rise persistently over 40 levels, I consider a hammock is the best choice, so long as you increase it with some backside insulation like a foam pad or underquilt. Totally different quantities of insulation are wanted as temperatures improve, however the ease of discovering campsites and the flexibility to arrange a dry shelter within the rain are the chief promoting factors of hammock-based shelter programs.
  • If you happen to don’t like sleeping in a hammock, you’ll be extra snug switching to a tarp tent which gives higher air flow as the warmth and humidity of spring and summer season improve.

Whichever tent or shelter you select, don’t overlook that you’ve got the choice to hike the Appalachian Path in hotter climate, deferring thru-hikes or part hikes to a later date when it’s good to carry much less insulation (clothes and sleeping) and lighter-weight shelters.

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