By freekiedave

16 May 2008 08:23

A friend and I are hoping to do some backpacking in Scotland around September. I've been looking at tents to buy, but I can't decide whether to go for a semi-geodesic or a tunnel design - which one would you recommend?



By GrahamThompson

This is an interesting question as I grew up using tunnel tents and happily carried one all over Europe and the UK without too many problems. Then they went out of favour for a few years and now they have returned!
Tunnel tents are not as stable as geodesic designs. Often a tunnel tent will sag in the middle and the wide, flat sides can flap about a lot in cross winds. Geodesic designs are far more stable and the inner is usually tighter too, so you tend to feel there is more space inside.
What is best for Scotland in September? The geodesic design will be more stable and the tunnel design will be lighter. So it depends on your priorities between weight and stability. I would say that if you are camping mostly in the valley then go for a tunnel but if you are wild camping high on the hills then go for a geodesic.
If I was buying just one tent I would go for a geodesic as it allows more options of where I can camp in the long term. But if I was prepared to tolerate the odd night when the tent flapped around but I was generally camping in the valley and I really wanted to save weight, then the tunnel would win!


Rate this...

Average rating: rating is 3 (52 votes)

Discuss This

Are semi-geodesic or tunnel tents better?


Your comment

By submitting your comment, you agree to adhere to's Terms and Conditions



pjclinch says

RE: A friend and I are hoping to do some backpacking in Scotland around September. I've been looking at tents to buy, but I can't decide whether to go for a semi-geodesic or a tunnel design - which one would you recommend?

I think tunnels are being rather put down in this answer: "stability" and "strength" are not the same thing, as a tunnel can absorb wind hits by moving more easily than a geodesic. This means they're certainly *noisier* than a geodesic, but that doesn't mean they'll fail. Consider, for example, the fact that tunnels like the Hilleberg Keron are tents of choice for unsupported polar expeditions where tent failure is simply not an option. A well executed tunnel can be an incredibly strong tent. Where geodesics really score is snow loading, which really isn't much of an issue in the UK as even if it does snow it won't be in the sort of quantities to make a problem for a decent tunnel tent, or really awkward pitches on places like shingle beaches, but that's not usually an issue for backpacking as you've usually got some choice of pitches. And of course if a flapping (but not collapsing!) tent bothers your sleep too much then the extra weight of a quieter geo makes sense. They're also better for base camps, as you don't have to carry them around so much and the longer term effects of guys slackening over time will affect them less, but that's not much of an issue for backpacking! It's often a fallacy to assume that just because Tent X is a tunnel it is necessarily weaker than geodesic Tent Y, but lots of people make that assumption. I own a geodesic I use for sea kayaking, as the weight and bulk are not an issue and I have comparatively little choice of campsite. For walking I'll go with my tunnel tent as there's more space and less weight and I'm still confident it'll take some serious flak. If I had one tent for everything it would be a tunnel: less weight for the same space with similar toughness (as opposed to stability) makes it easier to carry, and that actually makes it a more flexible shelter in my book. For years my only tent was a single-hoop Spacepacker, and it took gales and blizzards high on the Ben and was pitched successfully on Norwegian skerries with hardly any soil. I know from that that tunnels (stronger and more stable than a single hoop) actually work in a lot of places that people assume they won't. We use a Hillelberg Kaitum as our primary Weapon Of Choice. It's lighter than most geodesics and has a lot more space than those that are lighter. I also trust it for high camping in all but the worst conditions in Scotland, and would trust it a lot further than a lot of geos or semi-geos. Pete.

27 November 2008 10:39


reward badge

Mountaineer204 says

Re: Are semi-geodesic or tunnel tents better?

If you off to scotland in September it would be worth bearing in mind that it may rain during your trip, in which case a tent that pitches the flysheet first would be advantageous. I think Andy Stay covered all the main pros and cons of the two tent types. Semi geodesics tend to have more of an angled tent roof than tunnel tents as they taper back from the front to back, wheres a two (or more) poled tunnel tent has more of a flat roof, and thus creates a bit more of a constant internal height.


How much were you looking to spend on a tent? As this can determine the quality, weight and also pack size of the tent. If you dont mind paying the price two decent semi-geodesic tents are the Terra Nova Voyager (and Voyager Superlight); rrp about £300, and the Marmot Grid (£250). The Hilleberg Nallo 2 GT is a great Two person tunnel tent - i've recently used it in Knoydart and it performed well, although a tunnel tent wasn't ideal because we were wildcamping.


If you do decide to go for an inner-pitch first tent it may be worth buying either grangers or nikwax tent and gear proof. All it does is adds a bit of water repellancy to the inner which is useful if pitching in wet weather. I've done this to a couple of tents in the past and it has worked.

10 June 2008 12:20

Andy Say

reward badge

Andy Say says

Re: Are semi-geodesic or tunnel tents better?

Horses for courses.  Straightforward tunnel tents tend to be a bit simpler to erect and also many of them go up fly first (can be an advantage if its normal british weather); they also tend to have slightly more internal volume as a result of steep end walls.  They tend to be cheaper.

Geodisics, using a set of mutually supporting poles, tend to be far more stable in wind and much less reliant on guying out to give them shape.

The hybrids give a wide variety of pole configuration; I use a Solar 1 which is just a single pole tent as well as a Solar 2 which I suppose is a 'semi-geodisic'  as it has two poles which brace each other.

I, personally, would not go for a tunnel for a backpacking trip except where I was fairly happy I'd be in sheltered locations; I don't even think I've got one!

20 May 2008 13:51

Can't find the correct answer? Post a new Question