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shelters for camping - tents, swags, vans, hammocks

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  • I don't sell any of these nor do I receive any remuneration if you buy them, and I have not personally reviewed all of them, they are listed here to give you perspective
  • BEFORE you buy a tent or swag or other shelter consider these aspects:
    • nylon/polyester tents only last about 200 days in strong UV sunlight - if you plan to have it up for weeks or months - a heavy canvas shelter is a better bet
      • for everyone else, NO part should exceed 20kg when wet for occupational health and safety reasons ie. your back! - yes, 35kg canvas tents are great but perhaps your back will not be thanking you, especially when they get wet!
    • all shelters need to be dried out thoroughly before packing away for storage - do you have space to do this for the size shelter?
      • if not, a 2P free-standing hiking tent is probably your best option - dries out fast and can tip it on its side to dry before packing away
    • will it fit in your vehicle with all your other gear?
      • some tents pack into very long packs and need to go on roof racks eg. Oztents
    • if hiking overnight, is it light enough and strong enough?
      • usually you will want something under 2.5kg, preferably under 2kg in warm weather
    • can it be set up and taken down in wind and rain by one person?
      • sure you may be traveling with another person but they may do their back in and you may need to do it with one person - usually better to have two smaller tents than one giant one!
    • no tent shelter will reliably protect you from a severe wind storm over 80-100kph! AVOID camping in these conditions
      • even if you can get the shelter partly protected from the wind, trees are likely to fall crushing vans/cars/tents/swags and blocking access roads - falling trees / tree branches kill more people in Australia than snake bites!
  • Unless you have special need, MY RECOMMENDATION for camping shelters for one to two campers is a LAYERED APPROACH as follows:
    • a relatively light, strong, freestanding one-two person (2P) tent as your 1st base shelter
      • this is extremely versatile, and will keep you warmer than larger tents or caravans due to less air volume, and provide more space and be lighter than a swag
      • at only 2kg +/- 500g it is an ideal hiking tent which should provide sufficient protection from most weather conditions
      • can be used on car trips as an insect-proof shelter without the fly to have a nap on long road trips
      • can be used on overseas travel without the fly when you may wish to sleep on balconies or rooftops on a balmy summer's night (mesh version inner tent is best for this)
      • without the fly it will fit inside most larger tents for when you want more amenity (see below)
      • large enough to even fit a king single stretcher bed inside it
      • see:
    • add a good 3x3m lightweight hiking tarp
      • this can provide lots of additional amenity such as extra space for managing prolonged rain events
      • can provide extra warmth and weather protection for your 2P tent
      • can provide shade for your 2P tent so you can sleep during the day
      • can function as a backup shelter if your 2P tent fails
    • optionally add a spacious tent to house your 2P tent and provide lots of amenity
      • my preference for this is a 4x4m tent without a floor (or a 4-5m diam tipi) but with at least two large doors and a stove jack for a wood stove chimney
      • such a tent should only be 4-12kg and the absence of a floor means less weight, less bulk, and much faster drying times
      • the tent will then provide standing height, space for your 2P tent without its fly, space for the stove, a table and a large chair to really allow you to enjoy your camping even if it does rain
      • many of these will double up as gazebos, and many allow you to back your car into them for access to your cooking gear or even car sleeping options
      • unless its winter when there are few insects, the absence of the floor means you need an insect proof inner tent (ie. your 2P tent without the fly but for added warm you can clamp the fly or blankets onto it)
  • an alternative may be a 4-5P air tent
    • especially if you regularly camp at windy destinations such as Wilsons Prom - but you will need extra strong sand pegs!
    • pros:
      • very few if any poles to work out how they connect together and attach to the tent
      • does not require as much cognitive skill but does require a bit of exertion due to its weight and need to pump it up
      • one of the strongest in high winds as no poles to bend and break
      • theoretically is less likely to be struck by lightning in a storm than tents with metal poles - but in practice probably makes little difference to outcomes
    • cons:
      • much heavier - not many are under 20kg - especially those with more than 1 door
      • very bulky packed size
      • can pop in very hot sunny weather especially if over-inflated
      • valves can be difficult to manage if one has arthritic hands
      • you need to bring a fairly large pump
      • most are not freestanding - need to peg out straps when setting up - so not so easy to move after setting up
      • some require poles to set up the fly eg. Zempire Pronto 5 Air Tent V2 which may be an issue in strong winds!
  • for those just wanting an ultra-fast setup for overnight use:
    • either:
      • swag - especially if it is very windy (will need an awning or tarp if rain or heavy dew) - can be an issue drying it out
      • a good freestanding 2P hike tent - great all-rounder - compact, very light, easy to set up, rain proof and fairly wind proof and can be used for overnight hiking and can be used inside a larger tent, and can be dried out quickly before packing up by lying on its side in the sun or wind
      • if you want standing room, just use the inner of a 4P fast frame tent - if windy you will have to add some guys, and if rain or heavy dew just clamp a 3x3m tarp on top (of course you can add its supplied fly but that takes a lot of time to set up and take down) - can be an issue drying it out, especially the floor.


  • there is no one type of shelter that is perfect for every occasion
  • there are always compromises to be made depending upon your needs
  • click on the following links for more details!
  • for those constantly on the road and for convenience and security some may prefer the campervan approach
  • when security is critical as for some solo women or those who prefer the van style approach, they may opt for some type of trailer shelters, vans and caravans for camping
  • for hikers, low weight and storm proofing become the prime importance and they will look at overnight ultralight bushwalking shelters and equipment, and these may include:
    • ultralight tents - some of these may use hiking poles as the support poles to keep the weight down
    • hammock +/- mesh tent cover +/- tarp rain cover if you don't mind sleeping in weird positions all night and there are trees around to hook it up to
    • bivy - although these do not provide much amenity and are generally reserved only as an emergency shelter
  • for families who are camping near their car, then a touring tent is probably the best way as you can stand up in these
  • for a single person or couple camping near their car, there are a range of options:
    • 4 person touring tent - if you want to stand up
    • standard hiking tents:
    • swags +/- stretcher bed to get it off the wet ground
      • these are favoured by those with 4WDs who have an awning to provide some rain protection and don't mind the weight and bulk
    • hammocks +/- mesh tent cover +/- tarp rain cover
      • if you want to be off the ground and can sleep in that position - you need to lie asymmetrically on your back to get yourself as flat as possible - NOT in banana curve
      • hammocks are normally set up at 30deg angles with centre height so you can sit with feet on ground
      • for nights below 20degC, you will need insulation under you such as:
        • foam mattress
        • “under quilt” which attaches under the hammock
      • for warm or humid nights with insects (mosquitoes, sand flies) you need a mesh tent attached to the hammock (you will want one if ants climb the trees too)
      • for rain, you need a tarp over the hammock
    • hammock tents - these are hammocks designed to allow you to lie flat and on your side but current designs are not great as they are heavy and imperfect
    • vehicle roof top tents (RTT)
  • for hot humid sand fly-prone conditions such as the tropics
    • consider some type of no-see-um mesh (require at least 1200 holes per square inch or 190 holes/cm²) tent / hammock (the larger and the more mesh the better) such as:

tent styles


4 season snow tents

3 season tents

car camping tents / swags

generalised comparison of shelters under 20kg

feature swag hike pole polyester or Dyneema tent 2P polyester tent 4-6P fast frame polyester tent ~4m diameter floorless polyester tent
weight 4-10kg < 1kg mostly 1.5-3.5kg but NatureHike Sand Dune hot tent is 7.5kg 15-18kg 4-15kg
freestanding without pegged some no most yes but will blow over in any wind some but not the teepees and some tunnel tents
hiking too heavy excellent those under 2.5kg: very good too heavy, bulky the lighter ones perhaps short winter hikes
insect proof v good good if has floor very good good but some have holes, and large doors let in more mosquitoes none - needs inner mesh tent
wind proof v good may struggle good, needs fly on and may need guys good but needs fly and good guy outs very good if guyed out
set up in rain w/o gear getting wet no no generally no - see Pomoly Leo 2 2P hot tent and NatureHike Sand Dune hot tent for set up in rain no yes
rain not much fun not much fun OK but not much space unless you get larger versions such as NatureHike Sand Dune hot tent very good as lots of amenity plus awning good as lots of amenity but preferably needs awning
dry out in morning sun to pack poor OK very good poor - floor takes a while very good as no floor to have to dry out
head room sitting up poor ~90cm height good very good ~110cm height excellent excellent
standing height room nil nil generally nil, some larger ones have standing height eg. NatureHike Sand Dune hot tent excellent most are very good, but teepees only have small central area
warmth without heating v. good good v. good esp. if full fabric inner poor as too large a volume but can use 2P tent inside w/o fly for warmth poor as too large a volume but can use 2P tent inside w/o fly for warmth
ability to use a stove with chimney nil nil generally nil, except some like the Pomoly Leo 2 2P hot tent and NatureHike Sand Dune hot tent only in vestibule very good - many have a stove jack
ability to see overhead stars most swags not if fly on not if fly on or full fabric inner design not if fly on, some can't even w/o fly generally no, but some domes and tunnels do have mesh or clear plastic ceiling panels
australia/shelters.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/25 19:42 by gary1

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