Why do you want / need vestibules?

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion Why do you want / need vestibules?

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    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Decades ago A-frame tents were the standard design. They had a zippered door or tunnel at one or both ends, without a vestibule. The fly was built like today’s shaped tarps, with a beak or awning over the front door.

    Somehow those ancient (cough) backpackers survived one thousand and one nights or more in all kinds of weather, without vestibules. After shimmying in through the door, we maneuvered around piles of gear, a running Svea gasoline stove, and the occasional dog all inside the tent in inclement conditions. Then other designs swept through the industry.

    Vintage A-frame tents, mostly without vestibules, discussed here with many photos:

    — Rex

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Rex, you stopped in the 1970s: nylon double walled a-frame made from nylon.  Go back another decade (or maybe later in the Boy Scouts) and you were using single wall made from canvas without an overhang and doors that tied shut, or millennia where you wrapped yourself in a wool blanket under a tree or ledge to minimize the weather.

    We can certainly live without a vestibule… though when doing that it’s handy to not have a sewn in floor so water doesn’t pool inside the shelter.

    Given the choice, I will go with a shelter that has a vestibule. I really appreciate a transition space.  The ultimate version of this is a large tarp which I found superior to a tent for managing camp life in really rainy weather.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    I bring everything inside my shelter at night, even wet packs and muddy boots. Then again, I always buy 2-person shelters because I like my space and I like to have all my stuff in the shelter with me. Having said that, I still want vestibules. As Mark said, they’re great as a transition area.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    I love vestibules. Grew up camping without them, but now I consider them essential. I store my pack, shoes, trekking poles (if not used as part of my shelter), stove, rain gear if its wet, all in the vestibule. Just enough room in my solo tents for me and sleep setup and clothes. Food goes far away, either in an Ursack or bear canister. I will make breakfast and coffee in the vestibule (flap open for ventilation), if it’s raining or cold. Or even on a nice day when I want to laze in my puffy down sleeping bag. I also have a “doormat” in the vestibule, usually a sit pad or if I don’t bring that, then just some of the plastic ground cloth, so I don’t have to kneel in dirt/mud. Things stay a little cleaner.

    BPL Member


    Locale: montana

    Decades ago A-frame tents were the standard design. They had a zippered door or tunnel at one or both ends, without a vestibule.

    I didn’t start backpacking until 1974/75, so I’m not able to speak much to what was available prior, other than what I’d read. I did use a couple different 2P A-Frames, both of which had vestibules. One was a Eureka with a long forgotten name, the other was a Gerry “Yearound.” My 1979 vintage NF VE24 however didn’t have a vestibule, which I found a bit inconvenient given it was the type of tent to ride out bad weather.

    Here’s a pic of the Gerry Yearound I pulled off the web (1971 Gerry Catalog):





    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I’ve been reading and re-reading this thread for a few days, and I think I finally have an answer that’s halfway sensible: I want/need a vestibule because they work well for me.

    I don’t have a ton of bears to worry about – some, yes, but it’s mostly micro-bears that bother me – and I don’t limit my hiking to fair weather and pleasant months.  I carry a heavier pack than most people to help with my sleeping and walking comfort, and I often share space with a large puppy, so for me, a vestibule works exceptionally well.  I only have one tent (among too many) that is vestibule-less, but that shelter is a specialized one-trick pony; all of the rest have them, some designed better than others.  I personally like the wet/dirt storage of a vesty, and I like how much more functional it makes my interior space…but my particulars don’t apply to everyone.  I think the smartest thing to do is to spend as much time in and around your shelter systems as possible, and really dial in your own answers to the question.  As is normal: absolute answers tend to introduce as many problems as they solve.

    Kevin M
    BPL Member


    Gear storage is the main thing, and keeping wet things out of the main part of the tent.

    My first wild camping trips were in the early 90s in bright orange, canvas walled Vango Force 10 tents. There would be 2 or 3 young teenagers crammed head/foot/head in one of these, so we needed all the room we could get to store our definitely-not-ultralight or compact backpacks and gear. What we would actually do is put two together door to door, about 3 feet apart, and fit a tarp over the space between creating a large extended vestibule to help make some extra space. This meant we could store some packs and have more sleeping room, keep the tent doors open and talk between the tents and still be sheltered from the weather, and also provided a cooking or making a hot drink space when needed.

    These days I have a much better selection of tents, but still use them broadly the same way. Especially with my DD X-Mid 1, I need the vestibule space for my gear.

    I have a footprint that extends out to cover one vestibule. This becomes dry storage so items stay protected even if I’m setting up on muddy or wet grass, and the non floored side is wet storage for boots, stripping off wet clothes, and cooking if needed.

    My other tents are all 2p, so when I’m on my own and have my dry storage inside the main tent with me, the vestibules still work for the wet storage/changing/cooking, and if I am sharing then they’re back to storing everything again.

    Diane Pinkers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Washington

    After a hike in the rain, where I didn’t want to change into dry clothes only to sit out in the rain to cook, I went looking for a solution for enlarging the vestibule on my Zpacks Duplex. I found an aussie dude that uses a Zpacks rain skirt, some mitten clips, and a couple extra poles to make a vestibule.  The best part is that the pole isn’t in the middle.


    I can pitch the tent, change my clothes, then sit in the tent, and have my stove just under the edge of the vestibule overhang. I’m dry, and the stove is sheltered but safely outside. Yes, bears and critters, but if you are careful not to spill food, it works well enough.

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