Are Single Layer Tents Waterproof? (The Real Answer)


Our tents are arguably one of the most essential camping gear items that we have. When you are choosing what kind of tent to buy, one attribute that you may want in a tent is for it to be waterproof. Waterproofing is accomplished by many different features, and the number of layers plays a role in that.

So, are single layer tents waterproof? Single-layer tents are generally waterproof, but there are more pros and cons that you should consider before choosing one over a double later tent.

Many people that are choosing a tent tend to overthink it and worry about the small details too much. Unless you are a specialist camping in unique extreme climates, most regular tents will be just fine for you whether it be a single layer or double layer tent.

By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

What Is A Single Layer Tent?

A single layer tent is exactly what the name describes. It is a tent with just a single layer of fabric between you and the elements. There are some pros and cons to this tent style over a traditional double layer tent. A more typical double-layer tent is a tent with a separate rain fly. The rainfly provides the waterproofing features instead of having them built into the fabric as a single layer tent does.

The single layer of the tent must do everything on its own. It must be waterproof, it must protect you from UV rays, and it must shield you from the wind. A double layer tent would typically have a mesh top that allows for better ventilation and would need a rainfly on top in order to become waterproof and block UV rays from shining in.

Are Single Layer Tents Waterproof?

Most single layer tents are considered to be waterproof. Or at the very least they are considered to be water-resistant since it may not be able to be guaranteed to be waterproof. Single-layer tents may need to be reinforced with waterproofing features in order to perform better. The unique blend of materials used to create single layer tents is what contains the waterproofing elements. 

What Are The Pros and Cons Of Single Layer Tents?

Pro – Single Layer Tents Are Usually Lighter

Since single layer tents have less fabric (they don’t have a rainfly and other associated parts) they will tend to be lighter. This is one of the main draws of single-layer tents. Additionally, the fabric that these single-layer tents are made of is designed to be lighter. This makes these tents more ideal for backpacking rather than car camping.

Con – Single Layer Tents Are Usually Less Versatile

Reduced weight is a big benefit, but reducing weight often comes with a cost. In this case, single layer tents are not as comfortable when it comes to a variety of elements, especially because of the ventilation factor. This means that in hot and cold weather the single-layer tent will tend to not perform as well as a double layer tent. This is even truer in humid environments.

Beyond weather, single layer tents are really only best in short backpacking situations or other camping situations where minimizing weight is the biggest priority. Otherwise, a double-layer tent would typically be more comfortable and therefore more versatile than single-layer tents.

Pro – Single Wall Tents Are Usually Smaller

Single-layer tents are usually designed to be lightweight and one of the best ways to reduce the weight of something is to make it smaller. In this case with single-layer tents, a smaller tent would be more ideal when you have very little space to set up camp or if you are backpacking in a higher altitude where your options for setting up camp safely are limited.

Con – Single Wall Tents Are Usually Bad With Ventilation

Perhaps the most notable and important con of single-layer tents is their poor ventilation. Poor ventilation in a tent means moisture build-up from condensation inside, especially if it is humid. This is part of the reason why single layer tents may be considered to be less comfortable overall and less versatile than double-layer tents.

Double layer tents have a tent base and a waterproof rain fly that goes over them. The mesh top of typically double layer tents is what makes ventilation work. Single-layer tents by their design cannot perform the same function, and therefore, as a result, you may suffer from poor ventilation and increased condensation build up inside. Always keep this in mind when you are considering a single layer tent.

Pro – Single Wall Tent’s Are Usually Faster To Set Up

Another big advantage of single-layer tents is that they are easier and faster to set up and tear down than there double layer tent counterparts. Just by looking at their basic design, it is obvious why this is. Imagine a typical double-layer tent that you don’t put the rain fly on. That is similar to how setting up a single layer tent is, except that you still have waterproofing without the need for a separate rainfly. This is the main reason why setting up single-layer tents are usually faster than setting up double-layer tents.

When Is The Best Situation For Using A Single Layer Tent?

The best camping situation for using a single layer tent would be one where you need a tent that is lightweight such as backpacking. If you are backpacking and carrying all of your gear on your back then the weight is a huge priority. Single-layer tents are able to be more lightweight than similar double layer tents.

Since single layer tents tend to be less comfortable and do not ventilate moisture build-up as well as double-layer tents, they are best used for shorter duration trips since a long time spent in one could be less comfortable than a similar double-wall tent.

So overall the best situation for using a single layer tent would be a backpacking trip that is short in duration (such as 2 or 3 nights) where the weather is decent and the climate is not extremely cold, extremely hot, or extremely humid. Otherwise, a double layer tent would probably be more appropriate even for a similar camping situation where you can afford to carry a few extra pounds.

Are Single Layer Tents Cheaper Than Double Layer Tents?

Single-layer tents are more often than not specialized tents designed for their lightweight features. It is because of this specialization that single-layer tents are typically not cheaper than regular double layer tents. Double layer tents may be lower in price and may fit the needs of more general campers than single-layer tents. Of course, it all depends on many other factors such as the quality of each product, features, design, and brand.

Should You Buy A Single Layer Tent?

Whether or not you should buy a single layer tent depends heavily on your individual camping needs and style. By now you should have gathered that the main benefits of single-layer tents are that they tend to be smaller, lightweight, and fast to pitch and take down. Those benefits are great, but they also come with some drawbacks such as poor moisture control and comfort in extreme weather. The good news is that they are built to be waterproof, but if the ventilation is too poor then condensation could build up inside the tent and cause you to get wet anyway.

If you are primarily a backpacker that does short trips in a mild climate with decent weather and lightweight-ness of your gear is a large priority then yes perhaps a single layer tent like this one on Amazon may be best for you because of your camping style and situation.

If you are a more traditional recreational camper that primarily enjoys car camping then the weight is much less of a priority and comfort is a higher priority. In that case, I would highly recommend that you get a good decent tent that is affordable and yet has good recommendations. Luckily for you, the tent that I personally use fits that description. You can check out my tent recommendation by clicking here.

Related Questions:

How do you keep a tent dry in the rain?

The best way to keep your tent dry in the rain is to set up your tent over a structure that minimizes the amount of rain that touches your tent. Large trees work well for this, but also setting up a canopy can accomplish this.

How do you know if a tent is waterproof?

The best way to find out if a tent is waterproof is to test it out at home before you go camping with it. Set the tent up and use a garden hose to mimic rain in order to see if the tent stays dry inside.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.


Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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