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Q&A

Can windowless tents be adjusted for adequate ventilation?

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I have an older tent, and it has some zip-down windows that can be completely closed, or opened for ventilation, with a rainfly that covers more or less just the top of the tent and leaves the windows open. It seems like many of the newer tents I've been looking at have a completely mesh top, with a rain fly that covers the entire tent, so you have to choose between being completely open (with no real privacy) and completely covered. Instead of windows that open, they have ventilation tabs in the top.

Primarily - do the vents on these tents provide adequate airflow? They seem pretty small in comparison to having a few large windows that can be zipped open for cross-breezes. Do these tents get very hot and stuffy?

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We have never had a tent with windows, only 2-person backpacking tents. I agree with DudeOnRock's answer, and will add only one point.

The door, when unzipped, on a small backpacking tent is equivalent to a very large open window. The door can be zipped partially closed to any degree. Even in the worst weather, the door can be periodically partially unzipped to fend off claustrophobia or increase ventilation.

As for the OP's question about hot and stuffy: We do all our backpacking in the Sierra or the Rockies, most of it above timberline. The only time the tent can get hot there is in midday in full sun. As for stuffy, we find the vents plus fiddling with the door gives us as much or as little ventilation as we want.

We regard a tent as emergency equipment only, and if it is not actually raining or snowing, prefer to sleep outside, where we can see the stars. A ground squirrel running over the sleeping bag is something to enjoy, not avoid.

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TL;DNR: It depends if you are backpacking or car camping.

I have owned several mesh tents with windowless rainflies. I have not owned any tents with a "window" (an opening to the tent not meant for ingress and egress), though I remember them from my youth. The tents I have owned would all qualify as backpacking tents, meaning they where constructed with a focus on saving weight and withstanding wind and rain.

If you see me lugging a tent around, chances are that I brought it to facilitate an extended stay in nature and I try to spend the least amount of time as possible locked away in anything with walls. If I expect a lot of rain I often bring a tarp in addition to a tent. Under the tarp I can cook and hang out. If I want fresh air during the night, I leave the rainfly-zipper of my tent open but close the mesh. I normally don't leave the rainfly off. If I don't expect rain, there is little dew and I am somewhere in the wilderness I normally don't even set up the tent.

I could imagine use-cases for tents where having a window could be nice. If you bring a tent to a picnic to provide shelter from the sun or from rain, a window might be nice to keep an eye on the little ones. If you are planning an extended road trip and want an experience more similar to traveling by RV, a tent with windows might be nicer than a backpacking tent with a windowless rainfly.

Tents like the previous two are probably not very useful for backpacking though, since they are likely large and heavy.

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