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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
  • Unless you have special need, MY RECOMMENDATION for camping shelters for one to two campers is a LAYERED APPROACH as follows:
    • NO part should exceed 20kg when wet for OH&S - yes, 35kg canvas tents are great but perhaps your back will not be thanking you, especially when they get wet!
    • a relatively light but strong mesh style freestanding 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 (except alpine snow which will need added warmth and you will be better to have a full fabric hike tent instead - see comparison of full nylon 2P and 3P tents for colder nights, or house the mesh tent inside a larger tent as per below)
      • 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
      • 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
    • 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)


  • 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 teepee polyester tent
weight 4-10kg < 1kg 1.5-3kg 15-18kg 4-5kg
freestanding without pegged some no most yes but will blow over in any wind no
hiking too heavy excellent very good too heavy, bulky 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 no yes
rain not much fun not much fun OK but not much space 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 nil excellent OK in the central area only though as sloping sides
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 nil only in vestibule very good but risk of ember burn holes or fabric melt/burn
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 no
australia/shelters.txt · Last modified: 2023/04/29 14:36 by gary1

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