Gear Guy

What's the best tent for desert camping?

I need a tent that will protect me from dust storms while I'm camping in the high desert. (I admit it—I'm a long-time burner). Should I go for a single-wall tent? My mesh tent with a rain fly doesn't keep the dust out.

What's the best tent for desert camping?

Black Diamond Firstlight Photo: Courtesy of Black Diamond

Burner? I had to think for a minute before I got it—Burning Man.

Your point about dust is a good one. I've become an avid Grand Canyon hiker and I fight the same problem. Single-wall tents, of course, provide just one layer of fabric between you and the outdoors. Often, that fabric is a waterproof-breathable material treated for flame-retardation. (Some companies use less-expensive, completely impermeable materials, then include ventilation to clear water vapor that leads to condensation.) By contrast, double-wall tents have completely waterproof flies that sit over inner canopies made from fine-mesh netting and highly breathable ripstop nylon. In my experience, the ability to remove the rain fly makes double-wall a bit more versatile, but single-wall design would certainly help eliminate the dust-in-the-tent issue.

Interestingly, single-walls have become something of a dying breed. Five years ago, several tent makers offered single-walls, largely because they were so much lighter than other designs. But with double-wall tents shedding ounces by the season, it's become hard to justify the extra cost and engineering required to build single-wall tents. Today, Black Diamond is one of the only companies that still makes a range of single-wall tents.

For starters, check out their Firstlight tent ($379), which fits two people, or one person very comfortably. It’s free-standing and is made with a Black Diamond waterproof-breathable shell. At 2 pounds 13 ounces, it's also quite light. Another option from Black Diamond is the HiLight ($379) a large solo tent. Its generous side door, which can be fully zipped or covered with a mesh panel, is simple and user-friendly.

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