Michael:

I just got turned to your site today and have enjoyed reading your gear reviews. I plan to return for more reading soon and learn of your adventures. I noticed that we like a lot of the same brands of gear and particularly thought you might help me with my dilemma.

I have used a Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 for years and loved it. Early this year I bought a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 in order to lighten my load. However, now that some cold temps are coming around, I have found that the Fly Creek 2 gathers condensation pretty bad when the temp gets around freezing. I would go back to the Seedhouse 2 for cold temps, but in heavy rains, water tends to splash up under the fly and onto the netting. I backpack in rain and in 15-degree temperatures, can you suggest a tent I could use year round.

I have been considering the Sierra Designs Flash 2, which you also like. Will this solve my problem? I am a little concerned that because it is a single-wall tent, and my extra-long winter sleeping bag will touch the end wall, that it will take on some of the moisture. Any advice appreciated. FYI, I always use a 2-person tent for just me and sometimes dog so I can keep gear in the tent.

Jeff
South Carolina

Hi Jeff,

I’ve also been a Seedhouse fan since it first came out; I remember seeing one of the first samples of the tent, actually, before it went on sale. But it’s really a tent for milder temps and there is the problem of rain spattering and dust blowing up under the rainfly.

The condensation you experienced with the Fly Creek 2 will be common to many compact-size tents that have just one door, because they don’t have the cross-ventilation that you get with either two doors or high-low vents at opposite ends of the tent. Especially on calm, cold nights, you’re just exhaling a lot of moisture in a small space and it’s not getting moved out of the tent. So you may have to consider getting a slightly larger (and heavier) tent with some design element that promotes cross-ventilation: either two doors or vents at both ends. And double-wall tents are just better at avoiding condensation problems than single-wall tents.

You may already do this, but whenever I camp in temperatures near or below freezing, especially when there’s no wind to help ventilate the tent, I keep the tent door(s) either partly or fully open. That requires having a sleeping system (bag, pad, and clothes combined) that’s warm enough. But that’s really the best way to prevent condensation buildup in those conditions.

I don’t think you would have as much of a condensation problem with the Sierra Designs Flash 2 because it ventilates so well. But with its big, high vent, it’s quite airy on cold nights.

A tent I’ve used a lot and which I think crosses over nicely from summer to cooler autumn use (or milder Southern winters) is the Exped Mira II. It has two doors and a rainfly with a drip line that keeps rain out when you open the vestibule doors, so you can cross-ventilate by cracking those doors open slightly. Plus, its rainfly reaches nearly to the ground.

But I would add one caveat about the Mira II or any three-season tent: They typically are not built to hold a load of snow. If you’re going to camp at a time of year when snow could fall, you have to seriously consider a four-season or mountaineering tent. The lightest of them are single-wall, which will present the same issues with condensation, but there are good, sturdy double-wall models out there.

I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have other questions.

Best,
Michael

Michael,

I was more worried about water from rain of a single wall than condensation. Old tents when you touched the wet wall the water came through. Is technology past this?

Jeff,

Single-wall tents are made with some kind of waterproof fabric. It’s condensation that’s the problem, not rain coming through.

Michael

Michael,

Thanks for everything, enjoying your book!

Jeff

[In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at mlanza@thebigoutside.com or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.]

—Michael Lanza