Freestanding vs Non Freestanding Tent. What's the Difference? - Level Up Your Skills

Freestanding vs Non Freestanding Tent. What’s the Difference?

When you go camping one of the most important things you will bring with you is your tent. That is because it is your tent that protects you from the elements and outside. You want to have a good tent with plenty of room on the inside to help keep you comfortable while you sleep. When it comes time to buy a tent there are two main types that you will encounter. Freestanding and nonfreestanding tents. In this article, we will explain what both kinds of tents are as well as the pros and cons of each type. Read on to learn everything you need to know about freestanding vs nonfreestanding tents.

Freestanding vs Non Freestanding Tent

Freestanding vs Non Freestanding Tent

What is Freestanding vs Non Freestanding Tent?

Before getting too deep into the freestanding vs. nonfreestanding tent discussion it is first important to make sure you know what is meant by the two terms. A freestanding tent is a tent that can stand on its own. In other words, it supports itself. This should make sense based on the name, but it is best to be clear to make sure you know what is meant. A nonfreestanding tent, on the other hand, will not support itself. It needs help in order to stand up. We will go into more detail a little farther down on what exactly is meant by needs help, but for now, all you need to know is that a nonfreestanding tent will not stand up or keep its form on its own.

Freestanding Tent

Freestanding Tent

Freestanding Tent

So, to get into more detail on what a freestanding tent is. For most that are looking at tents freestanding is going to be the type you see. They are the most common kind sold in stores. A freestanding tent is the one with the poles that snap together and you feed them into the tent. A freestanding tent does not have to be stacked down making it easier to move, however, it is a good idea to stack it because wind can carry it off. Freestanding tents actually take longer to put up compared to non-freestanding if you are experienced because freestanding tents have more parts.

Getting into the pros of freestanding tents now though, one of the biggest pros is that a freestanding tent is more versatile and can be put up anywhere. Since you don’t have to stack it you can set it up on hard surfaces. The setup is faster for inexperienced campers, but as we have mentioned that reduces with experience. Another positive about freestanding tents is they are easier to move. That comes back to the fact that you don’t have to stack it, so you can just pick it up and move it if you need too. Another big benefit to a freestanding tent is you don’t have to carry a bunch of extra gear with you for your tent when camping. A freestanding tent compacts nicely and fits into its bag for carrying. The fact that it compacts down also makes it easy to clean off. You can shake out debris before putting it up.

More pros to a freestanding tent are that there is more space on the inside usually, and the vestibule is bigger. This means you can fit more things inside your tent to keep it out of the weather. Also, the rainfly is removable, so if it isn’t going to rain, and it is hot you don’t have to have it on there and that can reduce heat inside the tent. These are the main pros to a freestanding tent, now we will move on to some of the downsides.

The biggest downside is that freestanding tents are heavy compared to non-freestanding ones. That is because you have all the extra poles that act as a skeleton for the tent. They are also more prone to bad weather conditions and getting damaged. Wind can do a number on them, especially if they aren’t stacked down. Also, they aren’t as waterproof as non- freestanding tents, especially if not set up well. The poles are also difficult to replace and getting replacement poles can be costly. Depending on how big of a freestanding tent you got and if it has multiple rooms, it can get really complicated to set up. You have to make sure to feed the polo thru exactly the right spot. Also, they are less warm, especially if it is bigger because the extra space takes heat away from you.

Non- freestanding Tent

Non- freestanding Tent

Non- freestanding Tent

So, moving on we can now look at what a non- freestanding tent is in more detail. We already know it is a tent that requires something else for support. The main support comes from trekking poles, ropes, and stacks. You use the poles to hold up the walls and tension to help keep the walls up. The tent has to be stacked down to give it support. Once you get the hang of it, it is fast to set up a non- freestanding tent. They also weightless because the trekking poles are lighter. You can also choose how many to bring depending on how you plan to set the tent up. non- freestanding tents are naturally waterproof because of how the walls of the tent are constructed. We will get to wall construction in a few moments. non- freestanding are also easier to repair and more durable. They keep you wamer as well, especially if small and outside of being more waterproof, they are also more windproof.

The downside to non- freestanding tents though is they have to be stacked. This means no set up on gravel, rocks, or other hard surfaces. Stacks may come out as well causing your tent to collapse, and the learning curve is harder for setting up non- freestanding tents. They have less space on the inside and can be hard to move because you have to take the whole tent down to move it. They can also be harder to clean and are less sturdy overall. These are the main differences between freestanding and non- freestanding tents.


The other big difference between the two is wall construction. Most freestanding tents are double wall meaning more ventilation, and cooler. However, they are less waterproof from the extra seams, have a permeable bottom meaning you need a footprint, and more complicated. non- freestanding tents, on the other hand, are normally single wall constructed. This means they are less complicated and have fewer seams making them more waterproof. The bottom is a bathtub bottom, so you don’t need a footprint and they are warmer. The cons to a single wall are there are less ventilation and more condensation. What works best for wall construction really depends on the temperatures outside and if you need to keep warm or not.

Camping with tent


So, now you know the pros and cons of freestanding and non- freestanding tents. More importantly, though you also know what the two are. You know what is meant when one says freestanding or non- freestanding. You know freestanding are the more common ones and will support themselves, while non- freestanding need something to support them. Now that you know the difference between freestanding vs non- freestanding tents you should be able to make an informed decision on what type of tent to get and bring with you the next time you go camping.

Tom Chandler

"When your hands hit the floor, they get cut up. When mine hit the floor, they slide with ease"

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