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Gear Guy

What's the deal with fly-only pitching options with tents?

What's the deal with "fly-only pitching" options with tents? My partner wants a roomy, comfortable double-wall tent for two (she likes The North Face's Roadrunner 2). However, I also want a lightweight single-wall tent that's easy to pitch for solo camping and just traveling light (something like a Bibler Megid or GoLite Den 2). Will a tent with fly-only pitching meet both needs? Jes Sydney, Australia

A: The deal is this: Sometimes the weather simply makes the usual double-wall tent construction superfluous—all you need is a rain fly to deter the odd shower. Or, you don't care if you lack bug netting, but you want to save the two or three pounds that the canopy weighs. So yes, a tent such as TNF's Roadrunner 2 ($249; or Sierra Designs' Orion AST ($219; gives you the option of camping in luxury or taking a more Spartan approach. In the case of the Roadrunner, its packed weight is about six pounds including fly, canopy, and poles. Leave the canopy, take a ground cover of some sort (a piece of polyurethane sheeting would be fine), and cut the weight in half. Same for the Orion.

Alternatively, you could simply purchase one of the new, light single-wall tents on the market. I just got back from a weeklong bike tour in which I slept in a Mountain Hardwear Waypoint 2 ($250; It uses good design to ventilate, not high-tech fabrics (although it does use a high-tech, super-light silicon-coated nylon). Even with two of us in the tent, condensation was minimal. And it kept us dry during a four-hour downpour in Yellowstone National Park. Its three-pound, seven-ounce weight is fantastic. The lack of a vestibule is a downside is, though. For that, try Marmot's similar AT, which is a touch heavier at about four pounds but costs only $179 (

The Bibler Megamid ($178; is a single-pole, fly-only tent. No floor, which sometimes is a real advantage. But, it has somewhat limited utility and I'd probably carry a Waypoint before I'd carry a Megamid. The GoLite Den 2 ($199; uses the same principle—a non-breathable single wall design—as the Waypoint or AT. It's a fine little tent, but I think both the Waypoint and AT have a more practical design with no real weight penalty by comparison.

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