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Easy question: What's the difference between a lightweight tent and an ultralight tent?


14 March 2010

I'll put you out of your misery straight away. It's weight, isn't it.

Like I've always said: the obvious is my speciality. Here's another: don't put toast in your DVD player. Yes, I'm good at it. SO, back to the tents, let's talk about weight. What is the definition of a lightweight tent?

 Definition of a lightweight tent Definition of a lightweight tent
According to Trail magazine in their lightweight 2 person tent test we can assume lightweight would be the weight of the winner. The Vango TBS Sprint 200 lite was the winner. This little beauty weighs in at 2300g. Of all the Trail test finalists the lightest was 1600g and the heaviest was 3280g. So these are the ranges we are talking about if you are buying a lightweight tent.
What about ultralight?
The Gossamer Gear Squall classic and the Integral Designs Silshelter fit somewhere below this scale. Both are 2 person tents - the Squall Classic weighs in at 707g including poles and pegs, the Silshelter weights in at 1037g including separate bug liner/inner tent. The weight difference between the Vango and the Squall Classic is 1593g.

Another important consideration is pack size. All these tents are pretty similar. The Vango and the Squall Classic packs down to 50cm x 10cm; the Silshelter with bug liner packs into two stuff sacks: total size 45cm x 12cm.

So, all these tents will keep the rain off and keep the bugs out, they have similar pack sizes, they are around the same price mark (£200), all have integrated ground sheets, are fully waterproof, have vestibules and mesh inners. The Vango has an inner tent but so does the Silshelter, which if you are going into a midge-less environment you don't need to use and then the weight plummets to 470g. The Squall Classic is single skinned and has mesh front and back to allow ventilation and cut down on condensation. These tents do the same job.

So why Karrimor, sorry, carry more?So why Karrimor, sorry, carry more?
Since most of the time you will be carrying your tent and not using it, it seems reasonable to pick the lightest, drop it into your rucksack in the morning and forget about it until your blistered feet have had enough; which, by nightfall, will be 5 miles further down the path with your back pack now hovering somewhere above your shoulders…

If reducing weight is not the most important thing for you, just think what else you can carry for that extra 1593g. I like a bit of comfort inside the tent when I'm snuggling down so I could throw in a regular length Prolite 3 Thermarest (570g) to supplement my Gossamer Gear Nightlight torso pad, I could carry a comfy medium sized compressible pillow (255g), an ipod (136g), my favourite teddy (350g) and still be carrying less weight than if I was lugging the Vango Sprint.


How durable are these ultralight tents?
The answer is an easy one. All the ultralight equipment we stock was designed and perfected by hikers hiking The Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail in the US. Both these trails are over 2000 miles and take on average over 100 days of continuous hiking. There's snow, rain, sun, bears. Americans on these trials - so I think they're durable.

Ultralight certainly doesn't mean insubstantial. There may be a few extra features missing like two entrances, or doors that roll to the top for easier access but will you use these extra features and are these extra features worth the weight penalty in your rucksack all day?
Summary
So, the actual difference between a lightweight tent and an ultralight tent is 5 miles or a good night's sleep with your teddy.
Definition of a lightweight tentDefinition of a lightweight tent
According to Trail magazine in their lightweight 2 person tent test we can assume lightweight would be the weight of the winner. The Vango TBS Sprint 200 lite was the winner. This little beauty weighs in at 2300g. Of all the Trail test finalists the lightest was 1600g and the heaviest was 3280g. So these are the ranges we are talking about if you are buying a lightweight tent.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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