Backpacking Camping Tents
Will a Bivy Sack Do? How about a 2-Person Tent?
Choosing from among the dozens of backpacking camping tents currently available can be an overwhelming experience. Do you need to give up all comfort? Does a two-person tent really hold two people? If you’re going solo do you even want a tent or will a bivy sack do? For that matter, what is a bivy sack? While many considerations are influenced by personal taste, such as comfort level, there are some basics that will help you sort out the many options.
Weight vs Comfort
For many backpackers the weight of every piece of gear matters, but most enthusiasts happily add a bit of weight in order to be comfortable overnight. In regard to backpacking camping tents, comfort considerations usually include interior space, organizer pockets, and room to stretch out completely. If staying dry is an issue you’ll want the extra, but small, weight of a rainfly. Many new tents cut down on weight by using large areas of mesh that also provide ventilation even when the fly is in place. If you prefer to keep your gear under cover overnight you’ll want a tent/fly configuration that includes a vestibule, adding a bit more weight but also more peace of mind.
Most backpacking camping tents are rated for two people, although there are also solo tents and slightly larger lightweight tents. However, a tent that is rated for two means a maximum of two people—no gear, no dogs. Two campers might be happier in a three-person tent, or at least a two-person tent with a vestibule. For larger groups there are some pretty light four-person tents out there; you can split up the components among the group.
If you can sleep pretty much anywhere you can cut down on pack weight by using a bivy sack or even a tarp. A bivy sack (or bivouac sack) is basically a waterproofed casing for your sleeping bag that closes up snugly around your head. A bivy shelter goes a step further with a small frame to create a tent-like space around your head, usually with mesh to keep bugs away.