Home > Gear, ultralight bicycle touring > Ditch the Tent: Go into Fast Fly Mode!

Ditch the Tent: Go into Fast Fly Mode!

A few free standing tents offer a rain fly only set-up.  This allows the tenter to leave the tent at home and sleep in comfort under the rain fly alone.  There are some great advantages to this and a few drawbacks as well.  In the plus column is a tremendous savings in weight and packing space.  About a pound of weight is dropped from the Big Agnes and half its packing volume is saved by leaving the tent behind.  An optional foot print is required to turn this already light weight tent into an Ultralight shelter.  I’ve spent many nights under ponchos and tarps.  Coverage from the elements is much greater under a ‘fly only’ set-up.  You also get greater air flow in hot muggy weather than when using the full tent.  It’s true that a good tarp shelter, like the Golite Shangri-la, does essentially the same thing lighter and less expensive, having a tent with a ‘fly only’ option gives you just that…options.  You can choose to bring the full tent along in buggy conditions or if the person you’re sharing the tent with is not comfortable with the occasional something or other slithering in.

And that brings me to the drawbacks.  Things do slither, crawl and fly in.  I’m okay with that; my wife is not.  So it’s nice to have the versatility to go either way.  Also, although going ‘fly only’ offers more coverage than most tarps it still doesn’t protect as well as a full tent.  Being mindful of where and how you pitch is important if rain is in the forecast (a lesson I learned on my last trip out).

So if you’re shopping around for a new tent to tour or backpack with, consider a tent that can be pitched ‘tentless’.  It’s the best tent feature since Velcro.  MSR Ultralite Hubba, Sierra Designs Delta and the tent I use, Big Agnes Seed House are three examples of tents that can be pitched ‘tentless’.

Thanks for reading, Jack

  1. July 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I am a chicken and I need the full tent. But I can see the benefits of the method you are talking about!

    Peace 🙂

  2. The Velo Hobo
    July 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    It’s always a good idea to know what crawled in beside you before swatting and screaming at it…sometimes it’s best just to lie very still and hope it goes away.

  3. tearick
    May 16, 2018 at 12:34 am

    If you want some fun.
    And you don’t need a reason.
    Bring just the fly.
    It’s camping season!

  1. November 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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