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

What is the Best Backpacking Tent for the Appalachian Trail

What’s the finest backpacking tent or tenting shelter for thru-hiking or part climbing all or among the Appalachian Path? Operating 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 vital components to think about when choosing 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 very best 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 climbing circumstances? I’ve skilled all of those approaches whereas part climbing 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 completely different choices and take into account their benefits and drawbacks.

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 via the tent and helps to forestall inside condensation. Most single-wall tents have a totally built-in bathtub ground that’s sewn to the partitions of the tent, making it straightforward to maintain the inside dry if it’s important to arrange within the pouring rain. Many even have an built-in entrance or aspect vestibule that can be utilized to cowl gear in unhealthy climate. Well-liked fashions embrace the Zpacks Duplex, the Gossamer Gear “The One”, Six Moon Designs’ Lunar Solo, and the Tartpent’s Rainbow. 

Benefits on the AT

  • Straightforward and quick to arrange
  • Wonderful airflow which helps scale back inside condensation
  • Light-weight and compact
  • Arrange with trekking poles, which helps get rid of some weight
  • Bug-proof and slither proof

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Drafty and chilly in cool climate.
  • Requires good campsites with stage floor and sufficient area to arrange
  • Troublesome to pitch on picket 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 interior tent and outer rainfly that stops condensation switch to your clothes and equipment.

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

There are two varieties of double-walled tents: tents the place it’s important to arrange the interior tent earlier than you pitch the rain fly; and double-walled tents the place you’ll be able to pitch the rain fly and interior tent on the identical time, or with the rain fly first after which grasp the interior tent beneath them: the Durston X-Mid-1 and the Tarptent Notch don’t require a “quick fly” footprint to arrange, whereas the Huge 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 circumstances, together with colder climate
  • Wind-proof with absolutely enclosed partitions
  • Bug-proof and slither proof
  • Normally, have a vestibule for lined gear storage
  • Inside tents have deep bathtub flooring that may forestall flooding if water swimming pools beneath

Disadvantages on the AT

  • May be onerous to search out campsites with enough area or stage floor
  • Are typically 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 most important benefit of utilizing a hammock is that you may make camp wherever there are bushes to hold your hammock from, which is nearly in all places on the Appalachian Path (so long as laws 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 respectable place to camp: the place there’s no stage floor, the place the campsites fill with water within the rain, or the place crowded circumstances require using stealth website.

Benefits on the AT

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

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Requires further backside insulation and wind safety layers beneath 60-70 levels which might be costly, cumbersome, and heavy in comparison with different choices.
  • Not possibility when no bushes 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 fashioned 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 various shapes and orientations. Additionally they match very nicely into slim areas between bushes and may incorporate panorama options like fallen bushes and enormous boulders.

Pitching them is a little bit of an artwork kind and requires a whole lot of creativity, however can be a whole lot of enjoyable. Nonetheless, good campsite choice is vital as a result of flat tarps don’t have flooring and have to be augmented with an interior bug bivy or bivy sacks to offer extra bug and wind safety. Well-liked flat tarps embrace the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp and the Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp.

Benefits on the AT

  • Very light-weight and compact
  • Low value
  • Probably the most primary A-frame pitch is straightforward to grasp
  • May be pitched utilizing trekking poles or tied to bushes/shrubs
  • Doesn’t require a flat floor to pitch
  • May 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 bushes, 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 web or bug bivy
  • Takes significantly extra talent and apply to grasp establishing
  • Requires that you just carry extra stakes and man traces since you by no means know what “form” you’ll pitch upfront

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 will solely be pitched a method, as dictated by their form. They’re basically floorless single-wall tents with out an interior tent, though most individuals choose to make use of some form of interior shelter with them on the AT for rain and bug safety. These interior shelters are equal to the interior 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. Nonetheless, whenever you issue within the want for an interior 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 embrace pyramids, double-apex tarps, A-frames with entrance vestibules, catenary reduce tarps, and so forth. Well-liked fashions embrace 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 interior tent or bivy sack
  • Partitions might be raised for higher air flow or pitched flush with the bottom to guard towards rain
  • Many arrange with trekking poles, which helps get rid of some weight

Disadvantages on the AT

  • Requires good campsites with stage floor and sufficient area to arrange
  • Troublesome to pitch on picket 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.
Probably 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 piece 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, if in case you have an accident and may’t go on, climate circumstances pin you down, you’ll be able to’t make it to a shelter every evening, a shelter is already full whenever 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 just’d by no means wish to sleep in it.

Deliver a light-weight tent or shelter, even if you happen to solely use it sometimes. 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 although winter circumstances nonetheless prevail down south. Winter provides a wholly completely 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 prime 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 sorts talked about above is good for such circumstances, until yow will discover 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 Huge 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 have been eager about climbing the AT in March (or earlier) and utilizing the lean-tos since they received’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 cushty, 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 might be fairly chilly.


I’ve lined a whole lot of completely different tent and shelter choices above, however how do you determine which one to convey? I feel an important components rely 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 interior tent changing into moist.
  • After nighttime temperatures rise constantly over 40 levels, I imagine a hammock is the best choice, so long as you increase it with some backside insulation like a foam pad or underquilt. Completely 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 comfy switching to a tarp tent which supplies higher air flow as the warmth and humidity of spring and summer time improve.

Whichever tent or shelter you select, don’t neglect that you’ve 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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