Gossamer Gear The DCF One Ultralight Tent Review
Gossamer Gear has just released a significant new player in the tent game with their DCF One. Weighing in under a pound, this trekking pole single-wall tent is a top option for hikers seeking the greatest and lightest. The (Original) One was already an excellent tent choice (mine for the entirety of the AT and majority of the PCT), so slap on the DCF tag and you’ve got something even better, right?
The DCF One At-a-Glance
- Weight: 15.3 ounces
- Shelter Type: Trekking Pole (non-freestanding)
- Materials: .51 oz/sqare yard DCF body, 7D sil-nylon ripstop floor
- MSRP: $539
- Packed Dimensions: 14″ x 4.5″
This tent is made for the ultralight hiker that likes to be comfortable. It strikes a sweet balance of light on the back and homey at camp. There’s even more space than average on the inside for a UL 1-person tent.
What it comes down to with this tent is a willingness to put up a non-freestanding tent at camp every night and, most significantly, an ability to afford the price tag. This tent also needs to be handled by someone who knows how to be gentle with gear. It can be tough if you know how to use it right.
Circumstance of Review
My relationship with the DCF One is still young, but already my tent has gotten to see a variety of wilderness areas here in Alabama. I haven’t yet had the luxury of sub-freezing temperatures, but I have spent a night in it just above freezing. I’ve set it up on a variety of leafy earth floors in moderately moist conditions. While I haven’t been able to log many nights yet in the DCF One, I do have well over 100 in the original version for comparison. For the last few years, The One has been my second home during the summers.
- DCF Tent Body: This is THE feature of the tent. None of the other features mean much without this material that allows the weight of the fully enclosed shelter to dip below a pound.
- Easy side entry: The door to the tent is large and easy to pin out of the way. After pinning back the vestibule, access into the tent itself is extremely convenient making it easy to set up your home for the night.
- Ample floor space: The floor width at the top of the tent is 33 inches (12 inches wider than the foot), which leaves plenty of room for miscellaneous gear.
- Highly adjustable pitch: All six of the main lines that need to be staked out for the pitch have an easy tension adjustment toggle, so adjusting is easy without having to move stakes.
- Large vestibule: In addition to the roomy interior, the vestibule provides 10 square feet of storage space. This is more than enough space for a pack, shoes, and anything else you may not want to bring into your tent at night.
- Factory-taped seams: Having factory-taped seams ensures excellent waterproofing.
- Interior clothesline and flashlight loop: This unique feature is actually pretty cool. While I’ve never successfully dried anything overnight on the clothesline, it can be a tremendous help in organizing gear with limited space. The little sliding clip on the line is great for stringing up a flashlight.
- Large mesh internal pocket: Yet another handy organizational tool. I typically store my phone, headlamp, glasses, and journal here at night.
- 6-10 stakes required for setup: Six stakes will get the job done, but I’ve always gone for the full 10. Doing so maximizes floor space on the inside and the perfectionist in me likes how crisp the corners look on the inside and outside.
Improvements to The One
When updating a tent to a new, lighter version, there are some assumed sacrifices to be made. In addition to materials that are a bit more fragile, surely there are corners cut elsewhere as well. I have been impressed to discover that every change made to The One has been a true improvement.
The other changes are much more subtle and not even really highlighted on Gossamer Gear’s website. But for someone who has slept more nights in The (Original) One than in my current apartment, the three changes I noticed were a big deal. And they were all genuine improvements.
The Vestibule Zipper
One of the biggest consistent issues I had with the older version of the tent was the vestibule zipper. In order to provide adequate vestibule rain protection, the original version had an extra flap that hung out over the zipper. It wasn’t possible to zip up the vestibule without getting the zipper stuck or using a second hand.
The new DCF One has an added TPU waterproof zipper for the vestibule, which means NO. MORE. FLAP. The first time I opened up The DCF One muscle memory took over and I reached in with two hands to zip it open. This new zipper is now an easy one-handed glider. Needless to say, this is a very nice improvement and a big win for convenience.
The Vestibule Toggle
This one isn’t quite as big of a deal but still a nice convenience update. The vestibule toggle is the little plastic knob that feeds through a loop to keep the vestibule rolled back. If you’ve slept in a tent or two before, you’ve definitely seen this. The older version of this tent had a little static toggle on the inside and a small sil-nylon loop on the outside it could slide through. It worked okay, but unless you were vigilant with your vestibule roll, it was easy to set yourself up for failure here without enough loop to secure it back.
Innovation has brought not only stretchy cord onto the toggle to help with your occasional lazy roll, but there’s even a second toggle and loop closer to the bottom of the tent for even better roll security. Again, this isn’t the biggest improvement, but there was definitely some work here from Gossamer Gear to make things easier for us, so I’m thankful.
The Interior Mesh Pocket
Finally, the interior mesh pocket has been subtly yet conveniently updated. The older version had the same sized pocket fixed at the same height, but on the far side of the tent against the outer wall. The DCF One moves that pocket across the way to the interior of the mesh wall just inside the vestibule. This is actually a significant upgrade for two reasons.
First, having the pocket against the mesh wall by the vestibule means significantly easier access. As I mentioned before, this pocket has always been home to my cell phone and headlamp at camp. When this was against the far wall, I couldn’t reach the pocket without fully unzipping the tent door and taking a knee inside the tent to extend far enough. Now that the pocket is essentially in the vestibule, it is much easier to grab goodies out of the pocket quickly.
Second, having the pocket situated in the virtual dead center of the tent against mesh means that it is no longer threatened by dripping condensation. Occasionally with the older version I’d wake up to damp pocket goodies from condensation having dripped down the sil-nylon wall and into the pocket. Now that the pocket is built into mesh, that issue is no longer even possible. This upgrade improves both the ease of access and the protection of things stored inside the nice big pocket.
The Real Cost of Lightweight: Fragility
Most of the points and specs of this tent are truly impressive. It’s a highly functional tent, spacious enough to call home, and makes for happy shoulders during the day. The cost of all of that (in addition to $539) is fragility.
Don’t get me wrong, DCF really is somewhat of a miracle material. It’s incredibly strong for its weight, waterproof, and actually holds up pretty well. But it needs to be treated with care. While DCF is an excellent material for a shelter, it can have issues with puncture resistance. Fortunately, that is easy to repair in the field with the included DCF patch kit.
One of the things that makes this shelter so unique is that it’s actually a hybrid of materials. The DCF tent body is combined with a 7D sil-nylon floor, which on paper seems to hold up better to punctures than DCF. It’s a bit heavier than DCF, but can actually pack down even smaller, a significant contribution to the packability of the shelter.
For a shelter this lightweight, the term “fragile” is a bit of an exaggeration. Gossamer Gear has done everything in their power across 6 iterations of this tent to make the sturdiest version they can. They put together a great quick-read blog post here about everything that went into their decision to move forward with a DCF tent.
And for even more information about DCF vs. Sil-nylon and how it pertains to this tent, check out Owen’s review of The DCF Two.
What Did I Think of it?
To put it bluntly, this will be the tent I use on my next thru-hike. I’m a sucker for counting ounces and wanting a low pack weight. And while I can function fine with a tarp setup, a tarp has always felt like a shelter to me while a tent has always felt like a home. I’ve already developed an affinity and downright nostalgia for the inside of Gossamer Gear’s tents. Having an upgraded version of that which also manages to shave off over half a pound has me sold. The improved simplicity of some of the basic functions of the tent is the icing on the cake.
It wouldn’t be fair to only sing the tent’s praises, however. And it’s definitely worth noting my biggest criticism of the tent: it isn’t very tall-user friendly. I stand at exactly 6 feet tall, and another inch would render the tent downright frustrating. As it stands, if there’s any condensation in the tent, I typically wake up with a wet footbox.
However, it’s worth noting that this is all dependent on the type of pad I’m using. My first night in The DCF One I was sleeping on the largest pad I’ve ever carried, a wide version of the NEMO Astro inflatable pad. I barely had any space from either end of my body to the tent wall sleeping on nearly three inches of pad. However, I’ve spent dozens of nights in a One with a closed-cell foam pad. Doing so almost makes the space feel like a different tent.
All of that to say, mind your height and preferred sleeping pad when considering this tent. And if you’re over 6 feet, I’m afraid this tent will be a stretch (and not in a good way).
- Sub-one-pound tent: A fully enclosed tent at this weight is as good as it gets.
- Genuine upgrade from The One: In addition to the significantly reduced weight, there are extra upgrades at play here that make the tent even more convenient.
- Fairly easy to set up: I’ve set up a few tricky shelters in my day, but The One really isn’t too bad. The adjustable cord is a huge help, and staking out the bathtub floor first makes things even smoother.
- Packs down small, even for a DCF tent: I’ve been truly pleased with how small this thing packs down. It makes it easy to toss the tent into any external pocket on a pack.
- Price: Although not unexpected by any means, $539 is still a hefty investment. There’s just no getting around it.
- Must be handled with care: It isn’t exactly fragile, but care and vigilance are necessary for a happy long-lived DCF One.
- Keep your height in mind: I’m putting the cutoff at six feet. Even there it can still be a bit tight depending on sleeping pad preference.
The DCF One is pretty much as good as it gets for a sub-one-pound fully enclosed tent. It certainly has a few drawbacks, but nothing that all of its competitors don’t also struggle with. Gossamer Gear has put its own spin on a pretty popular tent concept. The result, in my humble opinion, is at least as good as anything else on the market today.
For any The One faithfuls, know that this is an improvement on the classic design in every sense of the word. As long as you’re willing to swallow the price and aren’t too tall, it’s really hard not to like this tent.
Similar Ultralight Shelters
- MSRP: $549
- Weight: 15.3 ounces
- MSRP: $299
- Weight: 17.7 ounces (also highly improved, down from 24 by my measurements)
- MSRP: $545
- Weight: 17.3 ounces
This product was donated for purpose of review.
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