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Single-walled shelters are much lighter than double-walled tents and are a great way to save some serious weight. Almost all of the Backpacking Light staff routinely use some type of single-walled shelter for most of their trips. However, many people new to lightweight backpacking purchase a single-walled tent to reduce weight, and then get rid of it because "the condensation was terrible." This article will teach you the techniques that expert backpackers use to solve this problem.

Single-walled shelters are notorious for collecting condensation on the inside of the walls. There are many variables that determine whether - and how much - condensation will occur. Two campers can pitch the same tent in the same area on the same night and have totally different condensation scenarios, and we'll explain why below. Technique can help you avoid or minimize condensation, but tent design is very important too. And there are definitely situations where nothing can be done to avoid the dreaded drip.

When we describe condensation issues in our shelter reviews, or when readers discuss their experiences with condensation in our forums, keep in mind that differences in shelter design, campsite location, and shelter use are HUGE factors in condensation formation.

The message of this article is: if you use a single-walled shelter, it is imperative that you educate yourself about the factors that cause condensation, and learn the techniques to avoid or minimize condensation. There's no good reason to avoid using a single-walled shelter because it's "prone to condensation." Condensation is easy to manage and even avoid if you do the right things.

The key questions to be addressed in this article are:

  • What is a single-walled shelter?
  • How does water vapor move around?
  • Where does the moisture come from?
  • When does condensation occur?
  • Why is condensation more likely to occur inside a single-walled shelter?
  • Does breathable fabric make any difference?
  • What variables affect shelter condensation?
  • What techniques can be used to minimize condensation?
  • How does technique vary with shelter type?
  • What can be done once condensation occurs?
  • What are the best shelter options for a damp climate?


  • Introduction
  • Single-walled Shelters
    • Conventional Tent Designs
    • Breathable Fabric Tents
    • Tarptent-Type Shelters
    • Shaped Tarp Shelters
    • Tarps
  • How Does Water Vapor Move Around?
    • Phases of Water
    • Evaporation
    • Evaporative Cooling
    • Humidity
    • Relative Humidity
    • Temperature and Pressure Differences
    • Dew Point
    • Condensation
    • Nighttime Infrared Radiation
  • Where Does the Moisture Come From?
    • Breathing
    • Incoming Air
    • Wet Clothing or Gear
    • Evaporation from the Ground
    • Proximity to a Wet Area
    • Cooking
  • When Does Condensation Occur?
  • How Tent Condensation Happens
  • Single-walled versus Double-walled
    • Breathable Fabric
  • What Variables Affect Shelter Condensation?
    • Shelter Design
    • Campsite Selection
    • Weather Conditions
    • How the Shelter is Used
    • Number of Occupants in the Shelter
    • Combinations of the Above
  • How to Minimize Condensation
    • Take Advantage of Site Conditions
    • Select the Right Shelter
    • Take Advantage of Available Breezes
  • Condensation Differences Among Different Single-walled Shelter Types
  • What can be Done Once Condensation Occurs?
  • Best Shelters for a Wet Climate
  • Conclusions
  • About the Author
  • Acknowledgements

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