Choosing the best tent for a thru-hike is a core decision where you are making a choice in warmth and space for you to have comfort from the outside. The options are vast between 1 person, 2 person, ultralight, ultra-expensive, and overall budget.
What is the best tent for Appalachian Trail thru-hikes? Our choice is the Dirigo 2 from Hyperlight Mountain Gear as it is ultralight but spacious and features plenty of extras to ensure an amazing thru-hike experience. In total this tent weighs in at about 28oz in a 2 person size with 2 entrances and 2 vestibule areas!
What data and information did we use to make this decision? Well, we went through the criteria below to help build out a set of information based on needs and requirements for thru-hiking which then was applied against the tent options to give a winner.
Please note this is something which is highly variable depending on the hiker and you may disagree, add the comment below and I would love to talk about it! Each person's sleeping system use will depend on the skill of the hiker along with the pack and weight chosen to bring along.
The Dirigo 2 tent is built to support a single thru-hiker providing you a large amount of indoor space while using your trekking poles to set up. The Dirigo 2 is a three-season tent built with a blend of 5 Dyneema fabrics which helps with the weight, waterproofness, breathability, and long-term durability of the tent.
The Dirigo 2 comes in at an ultralightweight of 28 oz. It offers protection against unwanted moisture and doesn't have a crazy amount of setup steps and separate pieces.
100% Waterproof Fabric - This tent and Dyneema fabric eliminates the need for a separate rainfly and using the strongest man-made fibers in the world means you can pitch the Dirigo 2 without a groundsheet or footprint.
Trekking Pole Tent - Since the tent uses your hiking poles for structural support, you don’t need to carry separate small diameter aluminum poles lowering your overall weight.
Hand Built In America - HMG tents are built in Biddeford, Maine by highly-skilled craftspeople, not in another country by the cheapest labor available.
Missing Dual Zippers On Vestibules - Since they are only opening from bottom to top you can't use the zipper to open for more ventilation at the top.
Condensation Concerns - As with most tents of this style condensation can be an issue if you are in contact with the outer layer.
While I am sure most looking to hike the Appalachian Trail have heard of and seen the Duplex I wanted to give more details to those looking and haven't heard much about it prior. The ZPacks Duplex is a 2P tent built out of Dyneema fabrics which allows for ultralight weight and size.
This tent is built to be very roomy and well-ventilated to allow for better enjoyment on long trail nights. The Duplex packs down very small while offering a simple set up that can be done almost anywhere!
Spacious Feeling Interior - Space internally allows for less of an "enclosed" feeling versus most tents.
Quick Setup - This tent is incredibly quick to learn how to setup and the setup itself is a fast process. (Setup Instructions PDF)
Supremely Ultralight Weight - Coming in at a super low 19.4 oz proves that making your tent small and efficient is possible.
Condensation Concerns - As with almost any single wall tent there is possibilities where condensation could get into the tub.
Bug Netting Crooked - Some reported that while functional the netting wasn't very pleasing to the eye as it wasn't aligned correctly.
Mesh Doors Hit Ground - When unzipped the doors can lay on the ground and aren't supported without being tied up.
The Andake 2P ultralight tent is not only light and sturdy but also focuses on high-quality ventilation and breathable design which includes a highly waterproof outer SilNylon material.
This tent is the best of both worlds being small and compact to carry and giving the space to enjoy time on the trail without feeling too claustrophobic.
Ultralight Budget Saver - People love the under 2.5 lbs weight and quality sil-nylon tent which sets up fast and provides nice vestibule area for storage.
Noisy In Heavier Winds - People said the setup allows the sides to move and bellow a lot creating noises which could irritate light sleepers as wind can get under.
Last update on 2020-04-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
In developing this set of tents we chose based on criteria around thru-hikers and their needs over the length of the trail and the viability of the tent surviving the entire way. We looked at the feedback from users about the points they cared about most which were centered around the weight and size, the internal size and capacity and overall durability.
A large and primary concern for people hiking 2000+ miles is the weight of the tent, this weight may seem inconsequential to start but it wears on you mile by mile. Needless to say, the top 3 options above are all exceptionally light and durable which will help you finish your thru-hike in style.
When you are packing everything into your backpack the size of your tent when packed makes for a very important detail to help ensure the proper backpack size is chosen. The three tents above all have a very small overall form when put into their sacks allowing for easy carry and storage.
Nothing is worse than having a tent which is too small to be comfortable inside for a long period of time. This is why the list consists of 2 person tents, these allow for one person to have a nice space of their own without adding too significant of weight to your pack.
Can the tent make it the 2000+ miles without issues or problems that are hike breakers. The budget end with the Andake has had people complete the AT and PCT without issues but out of the three, it has the least big public knowledge.
When you choose to take on the Appalachian Trail you are committing yourself to 4-6 months of consistent travel, you really want to spend some of your money making sure you have a tent that will take you end to end. Nothing is as frustrating as being in the middle of nowhere trying to rig your tent to not leak or fall apart, don't chance it!
I would love to hear from you if you have used any of these tents, I am a huge fan of my Andake tents and will continue to use them until they are falling apart, as a father my budget limit isn't like some others which is why I wanted to share them out with the general public as they are a tremendous value!
As you would expect the Zpacks and HMG side are always quality hardware which are made in the USA and this makes them good for the country!
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