Oh my…such a variety of choices when it comes to backpack shelters!
Tents….want to stay out of the rain, yet have room to play cards? Bugs really bad? Timid outdoorsperson? I much prefer to sleep under a starry sky with the night breezes soughing gently across my face as I sleep. However, there are times when a tent is heavenly…rain and bugs will chase me into a tent.
Bivy Sacks….love em! Waterproof “sleeves” if you will that you slip your bag into to keep warm and dry. They are very snug, and no sitting up in them. You can get models with a hoop over your head so you can hold up a book and read. I like the ones that come with a little mosquito netting you can pull over your head. You do get condensation on your bag by morning…but then there is a bit of condensation even with tents. Alas, my hubbie just does not like the discomfort of being so constricted, so I either sleep under the stars …or use a tent these days.
Tarps, tube tents, ponchos etc….they all work to a degree. I’ve been very creative in the past in trying lightweight ideas. And, back in the 60’s when I hiked, most folks just used tube tents as a rule!
Depends on where you are hiking and how much you want to fuss with your shelter. I’ve been in pretty good downpours in a tube tent where we had to get very creative in sealing off the ends. Inclement weather can really test your skills tarping. You need to “weigh” how much you are willing to carry with how comfortable you need to be at night.
Set your prospective shelter up in the store and play with it. Do your head and feet touch at the same time…uh oh. How do you want your doors? Does it bother you to climb over your partner every time you need to go out? What color do you like? I won’t use a grey or blue tent! Dark and dreary and depressing on a rainy day! I like beige or cream or gasp, even yellow. Many folks want to blend in with the wilderness and won’t use bright colors…that’s a good consideration…so then go with the lighter beiges and creams.
When I bivied, and I bivied extensively for years, I tried silnylon bivies and several models of proprietary materials, my favorite bivy was a single hoop model by Outdoor Research.
As far as tents go, I have had several great tents! My current tent which I like very much and which has taken me thru the John Muir Trail and several seasons since is the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent. Besides the lightweight of this tent, I really like the all mesh upper for night sky visibility!
A close second to that tent was my Sierra Designs Lightning. The one I had was lightly colored and was cheery in a storm but blended in with the environment, alas they now make this Lightning in a really dark color only.
In any case, in this day and age you should be able to get a good 3 season tent for 2 people for under 4 pounds if you opt for a tent…and even less weight if you go for a tarp, tube tent or bivy! Happy Sleeping!