How to Choose the Right Shelter

Posted by Gabby Tinner on

There are two major criteria in choosing a shelter.  The first is simple: its size.  Your shelter must have sufficient space for the maximum number of people (and their things, like gear and dogs) who plan to use it.  If your shelter is too small then it will be crammed and uncomfortable; if it is too big then, per person, it will be heavier than it should be. 


The other criteria in choosing the right shelter are driven by your destination and the environment and weather conditions you will encounter there, specifically:

  1. Precipitation (frequency and intensity). Properly pitched, all My Trail shelters will protect you from free-falling and hard-driving precipitation.  The difference lies primarily in whether protection from wet ground is integrated into the design of the shelter (such as in the UL2 and UL3) or whether it comes as an optional feature. If you choose a My Trail tarp-style shelter, and want something between you and the ground and bugs are not an issue, the lightest ground cloth available is an inexpensive “space blanket,” available at most outdoor specialty retail shops.
  2. Temperature and humidity. Your shelter needs to be well ventilated if you expect to be in hot and/or humid conditions – otherwise it will become stuffy and condensation will collect overnight. In colder conditions it is better to have less exposure to the open air (such as with one of our walled shelters like the Pyramid’s) because shelter walls help retain body heat, keeping its occupants warmer as temperatures drop in the night.
  3. Mosquitoes, mayflies, no-see-ums, and crawling multi-legged bugs are a potential nuisance in all but the highest, driest, and coldest places. They can ruin a night of sleep and leave you itching for days.  A fully enclosed shelter (like the Pyramid’s, or any Nest) is the best solution for keeping insects away.
  4. Ease to Pitch. Pitching a shelter in your backyard on a summer day is very different than pitching it when the ground is frozen, when you are wearing insulated mitts, or when you are standing in a howling wind.  If you expect to pitch your shelter in challenging conditions, then consider a shelter that is easier to pitch – the fewer guylines, poles, and stakes the better.
  5. Snow loads. A shelter can collapse under the weight of snow if it lacks sufficient structural rigidity.  The Pyramid’s center-pole design makes it the best for snow loads. Even the UL tents, while not designed as winter shelters, will shed snow do to the long center pole design. 


After narrowing your tent selection based on the needs identified above, start to compare tents based on weight and price point. Ultralight often means ultra-expensive, but at My Trail Co our tents have been proven to be light, durable, easy to use, and affordable. Start you search at

(This post was previously written and edited for re-posting)

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