By Will Rietveld
Ultralight backpackers love a single wall shelter because they save a lot of weight and (to them) function effectively to provide all the weather protection needed.
Lightweight backpackers disdain them because of condensation. “Yuck! The tent walls are all wet in the morning, and if I brush against them, I will get wet.” How terrible! Therefore they gotta have a double wall tent; no matter that it weighs one-third more, and costs more.
I have a hard time understanding lightweight backpackers; they want to reduce pack weight but somehow manage to shoot themselves in the foot every time :).
Somehow they fail to notice that a double wall tent gets condensation on the inside of the fly, so it’s just as wet. And that brings up another strange behavior of lightweight backpackers – they wait for the tent to dry out in the morning before they pack it up and get going. That can take hours in cool morning temperatures and high humidity. Direct sun is needed to dry out a tent.
Fortunately there is a simple, inexpensive, lightweight, effective accessory that fixes the condensation problem. It’s something everyone can carry in their pack for this purpose, and many others. It’s easy to obtain and easy to use. It works great for single wall tents, but is harder to use on double wall tents because the condensation is harder to get to.
After use, the tent walls are mostly dry, and one can decide whether to pack up the shelter mostly dry and get on the trail (a good choice), or let it stand while eating breakfast so it dries some more. Actually, with this accessory, you are better off to use a single wall tent, because you end up with a dry tent faster in the morning. Whereas if you use a double wall tent your choices are to pack it up wet, or wait it out for the tent to dry.
This accessory costs only about $10, but you can probably find a cheaper substitute, and it’s readily available at most outdoor stores or online. The weight is about one ounce, and it can be used multiple times. Single wall tent manufacturers ought to provide this accessory with each tent purchase, just to enlighten people. Frankly, when you find out what it is, it will seem like a lightbulb moment.
Okay lightweight backpackers, here is your chance to do something right and actually save weight; get a single wall shelter plus a pack towel!