What Is a Freestanding Tent?

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What Is a Freestanding Tent

So, what is a freestanding tent? Choosing a tent these days can be challenging due to the abundance of options available as far as backpacking tents are concerned. When you go to the market to buy a tent, you will come across two kinds freestanding and non-freestanding. If you’re unsure about what this implies or how important it is, don’t worry. A freestanding tent is different from a non-freestanding tent, so you’re unsure which one you need for your camping needs. We are here to assist.

Here, we’ll explain what freestanding tents are and how they differ from non-freestanding tents. In addition, we’ll look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Keep reading to find out which product will provide you with the best value for your money.

What Are Freestanding Tents?

What Are Freestanding Tents?
What Are Freestanding Tents?

A freestanding tent can be kept upright solely by the tension of the tent’s poles. There are no guy lines (a piece of rope, cord, or twine (most typically) used to tie out a tent wall or rainfly/tarp/canopy to the ground) needed for freestanding tents.

The tent poles provide shape to the tent and keep it upright by applying strain. They do not need attachments and may be picked up and moved without altering the form.

However, this does not negate the importance of staking your tent down unless you enjoy seeing it disappear down a hill in the wind. As an added benefit, guy lines will save you from being buried by the tent on a windy night. Tightening the tent walls is essential for maintaining surface tension, which is critical in keeping the interior space dry.

For both car camping and backpacking, freestanding tents are a big hit. A freestanding tent is easier to erect since you can move it around more efficiently, and you do not need to place as many stakes and guy lines.

Single and double walls are common in most freestanding tents. In other words, they have a separate rainfly linked to the tent’s interior. Single-wall variants have a single layer of fabric used to construct the entire tent.

Before we move on to the differences between the two, let us tell you what a non-freestanding tent is.

What Are Non-Freestanding Tents?

Non-freestanding tents, often known as trekking pole tents, use trekking poles rather than specialized poles. Tents that are not self-standing are called non-freestanding tents. Because the stakes have to be removed and re-installed each time you move the tent, preventing you from conveniently transferring the tent from one location to another.

It’s not the tension in the tent poles that gives the tent its shape; it’s the tension between guy linespegs, and the tent poles themselves.

Non-freestanding tents often use trekking poles as tent poles. It gives the tent height without requiring you to load tent poles. Because of their compactness and portability, non-freestanding tents are a favorite among backpackers everywhere.

Non-freestanding tents frequently use trekking poles instead of traditional tent poles, signifying that the tent is one piece. There is no rainfly. 

Tents that rely solely on the strength of stakes are at risk of collapse if one stake fails. Thus, many individuals prefer to use a freestanding tent since it is more secure.

What is the Difference Between Freestanding and Non-Freestanding Tents?

What is the Difference Between Freestanding and Non-Freestanding Tents?
What is the Difference Between Freestanding and Non-Freestanding Tents?

You can distinguish freestanding tents and those that aren’t in various ways. So let’s go through each one one by one.

Setup

Freestanding tents are typically easier to set up than non-freestanding tents. After the tent poles are in their loops and the tent’s framework is complete, you can peg down the posts without watching the tent. There is never any confusion regarding setting up the tent because it always goes up in the same manner.

Non-freestanding tents, on the other hand, maybe a pain to set up. You’ll need to peg down the tent first, which may be problematic due to difficult terrain or deep snow. You’ll have to use logs, stones, or tree branches to hold the tent tight in such a scenario. However, setting up non-freestanding tents becomes more straightforward once you get accustomed to it, and the difference in setup time fades away.

Weather Protection 

Regarding weather protection, freestanding tents are preferable since they have a specific pole framework that is not reliant on pegs in high winds. However, in heavy winds, much may go wrong with non-freestanding tents. Second, non-freestanding tents are more likely to have a single-wall tent design than freestanding tents. Therefore, freestanding tents provide an additional layer of protection from the weather.

Not all freestanding tents are double-walled, just as not all non-freestanding tents have only one wall. When making a purchase, it’s important to remember this.

Weight and Packability

Non-free standing tents are the apparent winners in weight and packing size. In truth, the two tents vary significantly in terms of weight and packing dimensions. For example, backpackers choose non-freestanding models for this exact reason.

These tents are lighter and more compact since they feature a minimalist single-wall construction and mostly do not contain tent poles. However, freestanding ultralight tents are available. These tents are small and light, but durability is compromised, and they are also expensive.

Interior Space

Freestanding tents are superior in terms of living area and headroom because of the steeper walls generated by the construction of specialized tent poles. Still, non-free-standing tents have a reduced livable space because of their frame-like design.

It can fit up to four people in a freestanding model, although non-freestanding tents can only accommodate three people.

Durability

In terms of durability, there’s no difference between a freestanding tent and a non-freestanding tent, as both may be made of delicate textiles or tough materials. Thus, the most critical factor is the choice of material.

However, in the case of freestanding ultralight tents, durability is sacrificed to reduce the weight of the entire structure.

Ventilation 

Double-walled tents are superior for ventilation since the inner tent body is composed of a permeable fabric that enables moisture to escape. Freestanding tents provide superior ventilation than non-freestanding tents because of their double-walled construction. There are, of course, some notable exceptions to the rule.

Versatility

When it comes to versatility, double-wall freestanding tents are the best option. During hot weather, you might omit the fly to maximize ventilation.

The bulk of non-freestanding tents, on the other hand, have just one design. There are limited options for reducing weight or tailoring ventilation.

Cleaning

Cleaning a freestanding tent is significantly simpler than cleaning a non-freestanding tent. Unstacking the tent, lifting it with the entrance open, and shaking away any dirt or sand is simple since it retains its form without the tent stakes.

Double Wall Tents & Single Wall Tents

Typical freestanding tents are mostly double-walled, whereas non-freestanding are single-walled structures. A double-wall freestanding tent provides extra weather protection as it has an additional rainfly over its primary frame. The mesh material used for the inside tent offers good ventilation.

Price

Within both variations, there is a tremendous variety in the price range; lighter tents of both categories are more expensive.

Benefits of Freestanding Tents

Benefits of Freestanding Tents
Benefits of Freestanding Tents

Pitching and utilizing a freestanding camping tent has several advantages.

Usability

A significant advantage is freestanding camping tents are extremely handy and quick to set up. Even a novice can probably have it up and running in minutes, and there isn’t much of a learning curve.

When it’s windy or wet, you don’t have to deal with hammering in-ground pegs or building poles. Instead, join the tent poles to its body, and you’re ready to go!

Having the ability to relocate a freestanding camping tent to a new location without collapsing is another perk.

Flexibility

When camping, a freestanding tent can be set up anywhere, from wooden tent platforms and desert sands to a rocky crag. Forget about digging stakes into the ground or locating a tree to tie guy lines to.

When staking isn’t an option due to loose sand, camping on the beach is another good use for this tenting solution. It is an excellent all-purpose alternative for those who want to travel light and rough.

However, staking the tent down is always a good idea to make it more wind- and weatherproof. An unattended tent can be easily blown away by the wind.

Sturdy in Windy Weather

There is nothing worse than struggling with your tent in the wind on a rainy night. Non-freestanding tents that rely on pegs might easily come crashing down if you lift them off the ground. Wind can loosen stakes and guy lines, putting these tents in greater danger of falling over and breaking their support poles and guy lines.

The included tent poles in a freestanding tent make it more solid and easier to move. It is superior at coping with windy circumstances. They’re more durable and can keep you dry in inclement weather.

Larger Interior Space

A freestanding camping tent has more width and height than a tent supported by a single tent pole. Your personal belongings will have plenty of room to rest well at night.

Several large freestanding tents are available on the market that can accommodate large groups of people, some of which can hold as many as 20 people. Thanks to the pouches, storage pockets, and lantern hooks included in most, organizing your gear have never been easier.

Vestibule Area

A large vestibule is standard in most freestanding camping tents. It eliminates the need to pack all of your camping stuff inside or risk having it get wet or soiled by leaving it outdoors.

From one tent to the next, the size of the vestibule might vary. As long as the rainfly covers the bigger vestibule, you’ll be more protected from rainfall leaking inside. Consider that some freestanding tents lack a vestibule space, so be sure to verify this information before you buy.

No Need for Support

Tents that are not freestanding need guy lines to extend the tarp or rainfly and increase their stability and capacity. In contrast, freestanding tents do not require them because they are supported entirely by poles and have a rainfly attached to them.

Trekking Poles Aren’t Required

Many campers and trekkers need to carry trekking poles to set up their freestanding shelter to decrease their weight; however unless you intend to use them for treks while on your trip, a freestanding camping tent eliminates the need for them.

You don’t need to worry about falling over or becoming loose once you’ve set up the poles. A freestanding tent is a self-sustaining system; this is a significant advantage.

Drawbacks of Freestanding Tents

Drawbacks of Freestanding Tents
Drawbacks of Freestanding Tents

There are some disadvantages of freestanding tents, and we think you must be familiar with them.

Heavier

Even while double-walled tents have apparent advantages, the extra weight they add to your camping gear is inevitable. In addition, you will have tent poles, whereas a non-freestanding tent might not have them at all or, if it does, it might use fewer of them.

It’s possible to lose some weight by not carrying stakes along. Even with a tent that stands on its own, we suggest that you use at least a few stakes.

Bulkier

In the same way, if you’re planning to carry your tent on your back, keep in mind that adding an extra layer and more poles will increase your overall pack size. Long poles limit the collapse range of freestanding tents.

Having a freestanding tent in your bag takes up an additional liter or two. The tent can be attached to the outside of the bag while hiking, so this isn’t a problem. If you must fly to your camping location, this is an issue. These days, airline luggage limitations are somewhat restricted.

Fragile

In freestanding tents, the poles are the weakest link in the chain. These lightweight tent poles are made of aluminum or fiberglass so that they are flexible since the material is so thin. They may break or bend if you bend them too far too forcefully. Trekking poles are required to set up a non-freestanding tent; however, these poles are noticeably bulkier and difficult to carry. 

Difficult to Get a Replacement Pole

You need to have tent poles to erect a freestanding tent. The manufacturer will tailor these poles specifically to your tent to ensure a perfect fit. However, if there is a malfunction, it is necessary to replace a pole as quickly as possible. The most common course of action is to place an order with the manufacturer for a replacement pole. In most cases, you won’t be able to walk into an outside shop and purchase a new one there.

It’s possible that you won’t be able to find the replacement pole you need if you go camping in a remote location or in a country that is still developing. Purchasing poles of this kind does not come cheap. When erecting a tent that does not stand on its own, you will need an adjustable tent pole or a trekking pole. If you do not have any other choices, you can even use a stick.

What Are Semi Freestanding Tents?

Semi Freestanding tent is the mid option between a freestanding and a non-freestanding one. It uses a few strong poles with pegs that maintain the tent’s tension without trekking poles. Manufacturers and sellers often classify semi-freestanding tents as “freestanding” because of the poles they include.

Although this distinction is significant, hybrid types can be an excellent middle ground, matching freestanding tents’ headroom and weather shelter with the lightweight and compact packed size of non-freestanding tents.

You may tell whether a tent has a full-pole structure or not by searching for mentions of stakes in the design and setup. Semi-freestanding tents typically utilize poles with a Y-shape or a T-shape. This pole keeps the tent inside upright without staking it down. The tent is freestanding in this regard.

Some semi-freestanding tents require stakes to attach the pole to the ground. Stakes are needed in some designs to keep the rainfly in place. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to designing. It is important to stake out your tent to make the most of its interior area while keeping the pole in place so that you do not lose its shape. There’s a simple reason for this: The tent’s poles only hold the top half of the structure. With no defined shape, the foot end dangles off the pole. Thus, the tent is unable to support itself.

You can set up a freestanding tent without any stakes, while a semi-freestanding one requires many pegs to hold out the vestibule space.

You can find the best of both worlds in these semi-freestanding designs. For example, the ability to set up a freestanding tent without poles is a benefit. If you haven’t anchored the tent down, you can still move it around. A minimalist pole design might match a non-freestanding tent’s weight and space reductions.

When looking for a tent, one thing to keep in mind is that the phrase “semi-freestanding” is used in a manner that is not very consistent. For example, one company’s semi-freestanding tent may pitch without stakes, but a similar tent manufactured by another manufacturer may require stakes.

Even though there is a significant distinction between the two types of tents, retailers frequently believe that semi-freestanding tents are the same as freestanding tents. So check that you completely understand everything involved in the purchase before doing it.

Using the term “semi-freestanding” for marketing purposes is more common than any other reason. Most individuals would opt for a freestanding tent rather than a tent that cannot stand on its own if all other factors were the same. If they market the tents as semi-freestanding, they may be able to sell more.

What is a Freestanding Tunnel Tent?

Tunnel tents are composed of at least two parallel poles that do not cross.

You can think of it as a half-cylinder, but many loops support it. In contrast to cabin-style tents, which feature steep and straight sidewalls, some tunnel tents may merely have a curved loop on the ceiling and straight side poles.

The tent poles need to have their tips joined together to make bows to set up the tent. Compared to its weight, the amount of interior space that this type of tent provides is exceptional, and setting it up is a piece of cake. Quite often, the flysheet and the inner tent will be joined together.

Tunnel tents erected with consideration for the wind tend to be relatively stable. Tunnel tents frequently come with enormous vestibules that serve dual purposes as a location for stowing gear and a social gathering spot. The tents can usually withstand a brief snowstorm. Therefore, we do not recommend using tunnel tents if you are going to a location where there will be a lot of snow. 

The majority of tunnel tents are double-layered hybrids. It implies that such tents have a waterproof outer shell and one or more interior tents that serve as sleeping quarters. As a result, these sleeping quarters are double-layered, with one living room located directly beneath the shell. However, single-layer tunnel tents are also an option.

Final Words – What Is a Freestanding Tent?

We have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of freestanding vs. non-freestanding, but what if you’re still undecided?

To make an informed decision on the type of tent to purchase, you should weigh several factors. An important first consideration is the type of camping trip you want to take. The location of your vacation is also an important consideration that will impact your purchase.

Do you plan to travel by vehicle? The additional weight of a big double-walled freestanding tent is well worth it if you plan to travel by vehicle with your tent in the back and expect to encounter some significant downpours.

Your tent is an essential part of your camping gear. It would help if you had it to shield you from the rain, wind, and pests. You must have a tent that can withstand various weather conditions to have a successful camping experience.

There are a lot of variables to consider, including price, durability, and vestibule area, but it’s well worth the effort to select the appropriate tent for you.

We hope this guide will help you when you go to purchase a tent for your next vacation. If you’re looking to check out some of the best camping tents of other kinds, check out our guide!

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