Are dome tents better in the wind?
Not the best you can get is my limited guess. They are rated for seasons.
People on a backpacking forum might be better able to answer your question.
I’ve never really thought about wind with my tents (well, some, but not my main focus). I do know a dome tent gives you more useable space inside. My husband is 6’-5”, so that’s been one priority. But logically, something dome-shaped should be more aerodynamic than a flat wall. But then, lower-profile would be better than something taller.
Any tent not staked down properly will be a sail. Guy lines would be critical in bigger winds. I’ve never heard of anyone blowing away inside one, but I don’t think 40+ mph winds would be much fun in any tent.
Dome tents are roomy because of the design but are often relatively tall to accomplish that roominess. For real high wind protection, you should check out high elevation mountaineering tents.
Strange place to ask a tent question. Historically domed tents have been used successfully in alpine and extreme environments on a number if expeditions. Just do an image search of alpine mountaineering and you’ll see they are used in base camps etc.
Having said that, there are better, lighter and more compact designs if you intend to personally carry the thing on your back or in a boat. I’m relatively active as a backpacker. No one is humping these things around anymore, they are using narrower designs that use less material in terms of fabric and support poles. Look at Hilleberg, for example: bomber tents with a hint of dome in the design but with a more modern interpretation. They’re still heavier than most backpackers are willing to carry unless going into true 3 season weather.
I worked in the backpacking gear industry through my 20’s selling mid to higher end gear. North Face, Trailwise, Sierra Designs, Cannondale, Timberline, Marmot, Jansport, etc., )were some of the big tent manufacturers of the era that we carried. I have owned 8 tents myself during 50 years of wilderness camping, and have experience using another dozen or so that were either owned by my backpacking partners or in the gear rental and demo stable of the outfitters. Got a lot of vendor training in tent construction and features to assist in guiding customers to the right type for their intended usage.
The answer is that some dome designs can withstand high winds and others are terrible in those conditions. Simple cross domes with just 2 or 3 full cross poles, especially made of cheaper flexible nylon plastic or fiberglass that clip to the tent wall rather than run through continuous tunnels, will tend to have the walls pop in and out in strong winds and the poles can even break from that stress. The outfitters I worked for had a number of customers whose mid-price dome tents (like those from Timberline and JanSport) either broke or proved terribly uncomfortable to occupy during severe wind conditions.
Expedition grade domes with a more geodesic design with aircraft grade aluminum poles and full tunnels for 4 or more crossing pole sections and a rain fly the goes all the way down to the ground, like the old classic North Face VE24, will withstand near gale force winds. I used my VE24 for winter camping and it withstood high winds and even heavy snow loads without any problems.
The most wind-resistant models, which tend to be preferred by alpine mountaineers for severe conditions, are either the rounded tunnel type , like the Hilleberg Tarra, which is a variation on the geodesic design), or the aerodynamic vee-profile tents like the old Cannondale Aroostook that I have and the innovative Stephenson Warmlite (which seems to still be available).
I guided a group on a backpacking trip along the shoreline of Assateague Island back in 1978 and used the Cannondale. As often happens along coastal areas, we had extremely high winds every night. There were 8 other good brand name tents in the group of various styles, from A frame to dome. The first night the flapping and snapping of the walls and flys of the other tents was so loud that by Night 2 I moved my tent to the other side of a small dune so I could get more sleep. My wind tunnel designed tent tensioned between just two well-anchored pegs at the front and rear and with its very taut integral fly that went all the way to the ground so I could bank sand around the bottom was completely silent. I pitched it facing into the wind and there was no buffeting or wall caving at all. Others in their noisy tents reported having the walls constantly pushing in on them from the force of the wind and having the flies all or partially ripped off. One tent had two poles break. The only drawback to that Cannondale was that it was godawful heavy – nearly 9 pounds. I later got a 5 pound 2 ounce Marmot 2-man that is a 4 pole geo-tunnel (like the Hilleberg) which also served me well for 3 weeks camping at an archaeology site in side canyon in the mountains of Wyoming which also had frequent heavy winds overnight.
So a sturdily designed dome with full tunnels for the poles and a fairly low profile that will shed wind can be a good heavy weather shelter. But you need to be sure to stake it at EVERY point where the poles meet the ground grommets or it can lift and take off with you in it. An advantage of the two-point system with aero-design tents (which are increasingly rare these days) is that two very good stakings will keep you from become an involuntary kite sailor. In situations where the ground conditions are not conducive to being able to reliably place 6 or 8 or even 12 competent perimeter stakes an aero style tent can be a lot easier to place.
Pics below of a Hilleberg tunnel, my vintage Cannondale and the current Stephenson two-person Warmlite.
Thanks for going into detail. My response was to direct the OP toward doing a bit of research and comparison. Very helpful info as usual.
People that run rivers use all kinds of tents. They go on some long trips in tough environments. I think it is a good place to ask.
When it is windy I look for stands of small dense conifers to hunker down in. Sometimes there are good rock outcrops. Two trucks can make a good wind break.
We were camped in the desert with few wind breaks on the Colorado River. The wind was intense so we could not travel. The first night it was a steady 30-40 mph, with gusts at least 60 and maybe more. My Sierra Designs tent was flexing enough to break the poles. I finally took out all of the poles and slept in the tent with my dog with the tent totally flat. The sand went right over us.
I used to sail a lot I think those estimates of wind are pretty accurate.
I think wind fastness depends on the weight as well as the design.
Last month I bought a 4 lb Osmo Dagger tent to use in place of my 30-year-old Jansport dome. The dome holds 2 people plus gear, but 8 lbs. It is strong, full sleeves. When bush camping I value a small footprint (no, not the custom groundcloth) as it is easier to find a spot in a copse of cedar if its small. I have had to put rocks on the stakes to keep it from moving. Even then it was quiet in the wind, stayed taut and flexed very little.
The Osmo uses what appears to be a standard design these days, one or two “hubs” for the poles to radiate from plus a crossbar to make the walls vertical. I was not in the wind last week but the fly spreads out to the ground at such a low pitch that there is nothing for the wind to catch. That doubles the footprint size to way bigger than the dome.
I also bought an REI quarter dome, 3 lbs but flimsier and one hub instead of two. I ordered both online during REI’s 20% off sale and returned the lighter one. Both were so-called 2 person tents. Uh huh. I balked at the lightweight fabric, not sure how well it would hold up.
Another option is a super light 2 lb Spectra/Dyneema tent. I camped near one in the wind; you need earplugs. They seem to have a pup tent design, meaning uselessly low at the sides, but the sides were low pitch so it would be wind fast if it was oriented correctly.
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