Growing up, camping was a large family affair where everything and anything was tossed into the minivan and truck. If it could fit, it went. But once I reached university, backpacking beckoned. Suddenly, the rules changed, and weight was the priority. But knowing the weight of gear can be confusing. Take tents sold with terms like “packed weight” and “trail weight.” What?
Packed weight is the total weight of a tent’s package: from the patch kit to the storage sleeve. Trail weight, aka minimum weight, is based on the tent’s essential components: the main tent, poles, and rain fly. However, it depends on the manufacturer if trail weight includes stakes and guy lines.
The weight of camping gear has a great deal in common with the supplement industry: many claims and very little regulation. The laws and stringent testing in the outdoor market are focused on safety. But in the world of tents, the 4lbs. 13.5 oz tent might be lighter than the one that is 4lbs 5oz. It isn’t that manufacturers are outright lying, but being unclear on what parts of the tent are being weighed.
Looking to find out what is included in trail weight vs packed weight? Read on!
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How Much Does My Tent Weigh? Packed Vs Trail Weight
The only accurate method of determining your tent’s weight is to weigh it. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do. Customers either have to haul their bathroom scale with them to the outdoor store or buy the tent before they know its weight.
However, the advertised weights of tents are not widely off. The trick is knowing what the number refers to: the tent’s packed weight or its trail weight?
What Parts Of The Tent Make Up Packed Weight?
A tent’s packed weight is essentially everything that makes up a tent. This is typically the most accurate number, as manufacturers generally agree on the term’s interpretation. Thus, if you camp like my childhood style and bring everything but the kitchen sink, it’s the weight of the entire tent. Packed weight includes:
- Main tent (the fabric body)
- Rain fly (flysheet)
- Guy lines
- Patch kit
- Pole repair kit
- Tent carrying sleeve
- Any other stuff sacks
What Parts Of The Tent Isn’t Part Of The Packed Weight?
A tent’s packed weight does not include any outer packaging. So, if your tent was delivered in a large box, that box isn’t part of the number or any other packaging material such as bubble wrap.
Where it gets tricky is the footprint. Most tents sell the footprint separately; thus, it is not included in the weight.
However, some tents sell the footprint as part of the overall package. But just because the manufacturer is selling the footprint with the tent doesn’t mean it is part of its packed weight.
Since that tent is competing with tents sold sans footprint, in all likelihood, the footprint is not included in the reported packed weight. But this is not always the case. So yes, it is confusing.
Also, some tents are sold with little extras, such as a bonus flashlight, a spare pole, and additional stakes. These are not typically sold as the packed weight but could be. But, again, it depends on the manufacturer.
What Parts Of The Tent Make Up Trail Weight?
The trail weight of a tent is far harder to pinpoint than the packed weight. Trail weight is supposed to be the minimum parts of the tent that must be used to create a shelter. Thus, many manufacturers interpret this to mean:
- Main tent
- Rain fly
However, even hardcore, minimalist backpackers tend to bring their tent’s stakes or pegs and guy lines, even if leaving the stuff sacks. Thus, the trail weight is typically less than what a backpacker will have to haul.
Some manufacturers will include the stakes as part of the trail weight, but it is best to assume they haven’t unless otherwise stated.
Thus, if you are hunting for a quality 2-person backpacking tent, focus on the packed weight figure rather than the trail weight. The packed weight figure is more accurate and, if anything, an overestimate. Better to assume it is heavier than lighter.
What Part Of A Tent Weighs The Most?
The poles are typically the heaviest part of the tent. This is generally true no matter the type of tent because the heavier the fabric, the stronger, thus heavier the poles need to be to provide support.
However, backpack tent manufacturers have come up with genius solutions to reduce pole weight. But equally clever minds have devised ways to provide robust yet lightweight fabric for these tents. Thus, the poles are still the heaviest feature.
Why Do Some Tents Boast A “Fly Pitch” Option?
Fly pitch options are for campers like my partner that want to carry as little as possible. These campers strip the tent down to a minimum that goes beyond “trail weight”. The body of the tent is abandoned, and they just use the fly. Thus, they save weight and packing space.
This option is typically used by people camping on their own as they hike, bike or motorcycle. Space is limited, with the two-person tent no longer being shared by two people’s packs.
The extra room the full tent takes up could be used for food, water, or a spare shirt, and sometimes he just doesn’t want the extra weight slowing him down.
What Is Fast Pack Weight?
Fast pack weight is essentially the same as fly pitch:
- Rain fly
- Tent poles
- Groundsheet (usually)
- Stakes or pegs (usually)
What Is Minimum Weight?
Minimum weight is another term for trail weight. It is confusing since the minimum weight exceeds the fly pitch or fast pack weight.
Is The Rain Fly Or Body Of The Tent More Important?
Most campers prioritize the fly over the main body of the tent. This is because the fly acts like a tarp and offers shelter, whereas the main body of the tent is not much more than netting.
However, in some parts of the world, the bugs, such as mosquitos, are a much bigger concern than rain. These campers will not get a moment of sleep if they lose their netting and the chances of rain are nearly nonexistent.