When it comes to finding the lightest backpacking tent, this is unarguably one of the cornerstone gear decisions a long distance hiker will make. Any backpacker, seasoned or novice, can appreciate the importance of a proper lightweight tent.
Because this piece of gear is so integral to the backpacking experience, it is no wonder that the outdoor market is rather saturated with a plethora of tent options, all helping to make the trail planning and shopping stage of any excursion a tad overwhelming. Below is a list of ten of the best ultralight backpacking tents on the market right now.
Each has their benefits and drawbacks, and appeals to different preferences and demands. Carrying a lighter tent allows for a lighter pack, which in turn means a happier back, an increase in speed, and a greater amount of available pack space.
Top 10 lightest backpacking tents:
1. REI Quarter Dome SL1
Weight: 2 lbs, 7 oz
A classic, and for a reason. REI’s one person single dome has carried lots of hikers across hundreds of miles, proving durability season after season. Although it is certainly not the lightest tent on this list, its low price point makes it an accessible entry tent while transitioning to a lightweight or one person tent.
The REI dome tents are well known for their ease of setup, and rightly so. Regardless of wind, rain, or mosquito swarms, this tent can assembled in less than five minutes.
2. Dan Durston Second Gen X-Mid 1
Weight: 28 oz
Durston tents have earned themselves a fantastic reputation, well regarded as one of the most weather proof lightweight tents among the thru hiker community. This tent has a rectangular footprint with offset poles, making it a solid competitor against wind and rain storms.
Even in hearty snow, this polyester tent is well known to withstand the conditions and provide a warm and dry place to sleep. It also features zippers on either side of the tent entrance, making it easy to haul both gear and people inside. The set up is not quite as intuitive as other lightweight tents, and requires a bit more time.
However, the low price point makes it an accessible upgrade for those looking for a more durable yet lightweight option.
3. Zpacks Duplex Flex Upgrade
Weight: 1 lb 3 oz
Well known within the ultralight community, the Zpacks Duplex Flex Upgrade is an incredibly lightweight two person tent. Utilizing trekking poles to reduce weight substantially, it is perfect for either an individual or a pair in the backcountry. This tent uses Dyneema, a lightweight material often used in boating sails, in order to achieve its incredibly low weight.
It is also bug proof, which is an incredibly valuable attribute in the backcountry. Some users have reported a fair amount of draftiness, and the high price point makes it more of an investment. However, for hikers seeking to shed some serious pack weight, this tent is a very viable option with significantly more roominess than the traditional one person tent.
4. Gossamer Gear the One
Weight: 17.7 oz
The Gossamer Gear the One tent achieves such a low weight through the same trekking pole concept as other tents. However, this tent is a single wall pole tent, constructed of nylon. It has been reported to be quite comfortable and well ventilated, in addition to being decently durable in different weather conditions.
It is a good all around lightweight backpacking tent. However, it is worth noting that the 17.7 oz weight does not include the Dyneema rainfly, which adds another 15.3 ounces.
5. Big Agnes Scout 1 Platinum
Weight: 1 lb 1 oz
Big Agnes is well regarded in the outdoor community, consistently producing high quality gear. The Scout 1 Platinum tent is no exception. Coming in at slightly above one pound, this tent uses either trekking poles to maintain its low pack weight, or accessory poles that can be purchased separately.
Big Agnes gear is known for its durability, and the Scout 1 Platinum tent exemplifies this reputation. It is a well seen piece of gear on plenty of trails, in a wide variety of weather conditions. This tent has a unique foot plan that resembles a bivy sack more than a traditional pyramid tent.
The downside to this tent is that it does lack vestibule space, making it more cramped than other tents on this list. However, for some, a slight lack in a space is an easy price to pay for an incredibly low weight.
Also read: Is a 1 Person Tent Worth it?
6. Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2
Weight: 2 lb 2 oz
Though it comes at a steeper weight and price point than many of the other tents on this list, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 is a four season tent, setting it apart from its competitors. Utilizing a pyramid shape with a center pole in the center instead of just hiking poles, it boasts comfort, space, and warmth.
Durability is essential for any tent, but especially for a four season tent, and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 does not disappoint. Due to its waterproof design, it is able to maintain its warmth and dryness amidst fierce storms and weather, making it an ideal piece of gear for those venturing into rugged winter conditions.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 does require lashing two poles in order to set up, making it more difficult than some of the other mentioned tents. However, for its durability, it is a fantastic option for winter lightweight backpacking.
7. Nemo Hornet 2P
Weight: 2 lbs
The Nemo Hornet 2P is a great overall lightweight tent that is easy to set up and durable in most weather conditions. It is a freestanding tent, and its design makes it incredibly easy to put up in even the worst of weather conditions, which is a hugely important attribute.
The two door design is also beneficial and easier to navigate for pair backpacking together. Although this tent claims to be a two person, it can be a slightly tighter fit, which can be an issue if gear needs to come inside as well. But, as an overall lightweight backpacking tent, it is a fantastic option.
8. Black Diamond Distance Tent
Weight: 1 lb 10 oz
Black Diamond, a reputable climbing gear brand, has brought their expertise to the world of tents and did not disappoint. The Black Diamond Distance Tent is roomy enough to house two people, while maintaining an incredibly low weight. It also has an extremely small pack size, down to the size of a 16 ounce water bottle.
It utilizes two trekking poles and the included adapter that connects their pole with yours, creating the structure for this single walled tent. Easy to assemble while still being lightweight, it is a great overall lightweight three season backpacking tent.
9. Slingfin Portal
Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz
Another ultra weight four season tent, this two person tent stands up to extreme wind and weather conditions. This tent is freestanding, but still manages to protect from severe storms and weather. The interior space of the Slingfin Portal is also impressive, with vertical walls, two doors and vestibules, and generous sleeping space to spread out.
10. Tarptent Stratospire Li
Weight: 1 lb 8 oz
Though it has a pricey spending point, the Tarptent Stratospire Li is perfect for extended amounts of time spent in your tent, especially during a storm. It has copious amounts of space, and the height makes it possible to boil water within your tent.
Equipped with two vestibules and storm flaps and zippers, this waterproof and bug proof tent will feel more like a home than a tent in the midst of rugged weather. Although this tent does rely on personal trekking poles for assembly, it is possible to purchase separate support poles instead.
How much should a lightweight backpacking tent weigh?
The technical specifications that differentiate ultralight and lightweight backpacking tents are often slightly contested. However, a good rule of thumb is anything under three pounds is lightweight, and anything under two pounds is ultralight.
Obviously, some brands and tents are going impressive distances in order to go below these numbers, but between two to three pounds is a consistently safe bet.
Is a 4 lb tent too heavy for backpacking?
Once again, this is a rather situational question. In general, if you are a single person, a 4 lb tent is too heavy. Even if you are backpacking as a pair, this is quite a heavy tent to carry. The weight of your tent should never be a reason to hold anyone back from getting outside.
If a 4 lb tent is all you can access, by all means, go for it! But if the option to acquire a lighter tent is a possibility, your body will certainly thank you.
What is a good weight for a 3 person backpacking tent?
If you want to maintain a lightweight backpacking tent weight, stick with the 2 lb per person general rule of thumb. This means that you should generally look for a 3 person backpacking tent that weighs about 6 lbs. Given that 3 person backpacking tents range from roughly 5 to 8 lbs, finding a 6 lb or under backpacking tent for 3 people is very attainable.
What is the difference between trail weight and packed weight in tents?
A tent’s packed weight is the weight that it is sold as, including all of the bags, stakes, and any poles. Most backpackers do not take all of a tent’s packed weight with them on the trail. This makes a tent’s trail weight, which simply means the weight of a tent once all the unnecessary items are removed.
Removing bags, sacks, unnecessary stakes or other accessories can save significant amounts of weight.
I have been a personal loyalist of the REI Quarter Dome SL1 for many years. Though not technically an ultralight tent, it has happily and successfully carried me through the entirety of the Arizona Trail, trekking across Alaska, and backpacking trips in snow, rain, and dust storms.
For me, it is the perfect entry tent into backpacking, and the ease of setup is an essential quality I value. After a 20 mile, snowy day, a complicated tent is the last thing I want. However, now through my work as an archaeologist, my REI tent has been rather battered through weeks in hot desert field camps.
In picking another tent and being weather and storm conscious, my eyes shift towards the Dan Durston Second Gen-X Mid 1. Though I know plenty of solo backpackers who prefer the roominess of a 2 person tent, I am personally a fan of single person backpacking tents.
Having met plenty of backpackers who endured unpredictable torrential thunderstorms, the only ones who were totally satisfied with their setups seemed to own this particular tent. If I were to pick a backpacking tent focused more on weight than weather proofing, I would steer closer to the Gossamer Gear the One.
Slightly lighter, this tent is not quite as weatherproof as the Dan Durston, but depending on the trail I was doing, would provide a lighter option with roominess and enough weatherproof capacity to stay dry and comfortable. Picking the perfect backpacking tent is no small feat.
Having an understanding of exactly how long and where your adventure entails will help to narrow down the overwhelming process of choosing your trail home. Sometimes, it is necessary to try one tent and switch to another. Different qualities might be more or less important than you originally expected, and different tents might be better candidates for different adventures.
But either way, having a trusted structure to rest at the end of every trail day is a necessary feeling for anyone who calls the outdoors home.
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