Gear Guy

How well ventilated are single-wall tents?

What's the scoop on Eureka's Zeus EXO line of single-wall backpacking tents? They're inexpensive, light for the square footage, and look to have the se super-quick setup as the larger Eurekas. Do you have any info on how well these tents vent? Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

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Single-wall tents that don’t use an expensive, high-tech fabric are becoming increasingly common. They have the exact advantages you mention: less weight, low cost, and fast setup. The Zeus EXO 2, for instance, sleeps two yet weighs under four pounds. Setup is very fast¬óthe tent has an exterior frame that clips very quickly to the canopy. Price is $149 ( Marmot’s AT (three pounds, eight ounces; $179; and Mountain Hardwear’s new Waypoint 2 (three pounds, one ounce; $250; use tunnel-type designs with two poles, one at each end, to shave off even more ounces at the expense of slightly more complicated setups.

The downside to these tents is that the combined canopy and fly is completely waterproof. Formerly, single-wall tents used fabrics that resembled the waterproof-breathable materials used in jackets, a factor that tended to make them wildly expensive¬ómost single-walls went for well over $500 until the new generation of lower-tech ones hit the market. The trade-off is that these new tents may force you to battle condensation, particularly in cool, still conditions. But, these tents are designed to help keep that to a minimum through ample venting, and they seem to do a pretty good job. But, you can also get a double-wall tent in this price and weight range. REI’s Coupe sleeps two, weighs only three pounds, 13 ounces, and costs $169 ( It’s a new tent and looks like a real winner for REI.