15 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tents In 2020

4-people-holding-tent
  • Success and enjoyment on long trails can come down to keeping your gear as minimalist as possible
  • It is possible to find an ultralight backpacking tent that is both comfortable and small enough to take up minimal space in your pack and weight on your back.
  • no lightweight tent is created equal and there is enough variety on the market to find the right one for your specific needs.
  • Scroll to see all our lists of Best Ultralight Tents beginning with Top 1 Person all the way up to 4 Person Tents

Best Ultralight Backpacking Tents 2020

Best 1 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Best 2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Best 3 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Best 4 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Ultralight Tents For Backpacking

Backpackers are finding more innovative ways to cut down weight in their pack.

This has a lot to do with the growing popularity of thru-hikes like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

To survive these long treks success and enjoyment can come down to keeping your gear as minimalist as possible.

Even shorter term hikes and adventures are better experienced with less gear to carry.

A lot of backpackers are now ditching their heavy tents for lighter shelters like bivy sacks and hammocks.

Many backpackers simply don’t think they can find a light enough tent.

Although tents will always weigh more than these lighter shelter options, it is possible to find an ultralight backpacking tent that is both comfortable and small enough to take up minimal space in your pack and weight on your back.

Ultralight Is Great But…

As we’ve discussed in other articles about bivy sacks and hammocks there is no shortage of options for lightweight outdoor shelter.

Snugpak Ionosphere 1 Person Tent, 94 inches x 35 inches x 28...
The Snugpak The Ionosphere 1 Man Dome Tent is super lightweight at 2 and a half pounds and takes very little time to setup.

But we know not everyone is up for the minimal accommodations these options provide.

The problem with ultralight backpacking is this myth that you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

It is possible to have an extra pound or two on your back and still have a successful trip.

If you’re fit and agile enough to spend a few days on the trail, then you should be capable of lugging around an extra bit of weight.

Not to mention after a long day of hiking, it can be a treat to have an extra bit of space

Feeling squished and claustrophobic like some people get in smaller shelters is not an ideal way to experience the outdoors.

Especially considering the way hiking backpacks are made these days it’s totally possible to arrange your pack and gear to take a lot of extra pressure off your back.

So if you know you want the extra space, and don’t mind the extra few pounds of gear, then a lightweight tent might be right for you.

TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent; 1-4 Person Backpacking...
The TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent is a low cost 1-4 Person Backpacking Dome Tent and Includes Footprint and Rainfly.

Ultralight Backpacking Tent Advantages

Any minimalist hiker can tell you that finding the right lightweight tent can be just as important as finding the right trail.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent,...
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent includes a mesh roof for air circulation and a ventilated rainfly that also makes 2 vestibules for extra storage.

Unless you’re on the run from the law or going through Navy Seal training, there’s no reason to compromise the quality of your overnight shelter.

With the technological advances in tent materials and design, you may even find some luxuries in your ultralight backpacking tent that you didn’t expect.

The biggest advantage you get is the added flexibility of comfort.

Unlike a bivy sack, you can actually sit up to read, play cards or, watch a movie on your phone.

You also have the advantage of storing your pack inside the shelter as opposed to leaving it outside where it’s more vulnerable.

Keep in mind that no lightweight tent is created equal and there is enough variety on the market to find the right one for your specific needs.

1 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent

A 1 person ultralight backpacking tent is as minimalist as you’re going to find.

They’re meant for the solo traveler who can tolerate tight spaces.

Inside the tent, you’re dealing with minimal length, width, and height.

Some aren’t even big enough to hold you and your pack.

Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent, 2 Person
The Kelty Salida 2 Tent was awarded the 2011 Backpacker Editor’s Choice Award.

This causes backpackers to instead go with a bivy sack, a hammock or even a tarp.

In the planning phase, when just comparing these different shelters on paper, it may make sense to shrug off the 1 person tent and save the extra pound by going with one of these other options.

But in the field and on the trail, the one person tent may work better for you because you may find you do actually want the extra overhead space.

If you have to wait out a rainstorm, a tent undoubtedly is your best option.

Coleman Sundome 3-Person Dome Tent, Green
The Coleman Sundome 3 Person Tent can be set up in less than 10 minutes.

If you’re exhausted and start feeling burnt out, a tent will also be much more comfortable.

Also, keep in mind that the interior volume tends to vary from tent to tent.

Not all tents with the same listed capacity are actually the same size.

Some 1 person tents tend to fit people well over 6 feet tall and some don’t.

Most of all you will still find a good variety to fit your specific needs with 1 person tents

2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent

The 2 Person ultralight tents are where you really start to see a lot of variety.

The fact is that many 2 person tents on the market are built for 2 tiny people or one person who wants extra space.

Coleman Pop-Up Tent
The Coleman Pop Up Tent is a great tent for camping beginners.

Consequently, make sure you know the floor dimensions of the tent relative to your own size.

Its possible to find a tent that gives you plenty of width and height.

But if you’re over 6 feet tall you might find your feet scrunched up against the wall.

Despite the extra few pounds in your pack, a lot of couples opt for 3 person tents for the extra space, .

Sometimes a good night sleep is worth the extra weight.

Furthermore, be sure to look at the setup of doors.

Some 2 person tents come with only 1 door.

This leads to a lot of climbing over other people.

Multiple doors will also help with ventilation.

On a warm night, you want can open up the 2 doors to create a nice cross draft.

This will help the air inside from becoming stale and uncomfortable.

Ultralight Backpacking Tent Features

  • Floor dimensions
  • Square footage
  • Peak height
  • Single Wall vs Double Wall
  • Doors
  • Vestibules
  • Ventilation

At first, it may seem overwhelming to remember these considerations, but knowing you’re individual needs in relation to these features will help you find the perfect ultralight backpacking tent for your trip.

TENT CAPACITY

The trail can get lonely.

However, there are great lightweight tents that can fit up to 4 people.

These tents are comfortable and provide security.

ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 2-Person Tent, Sage/Rust
The ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 2 Tent has enough space to snugly fit a queen sized air mattress.

When it comes to assessing what size tent you need, a good rule of thumb is to get a tent that holds a capacity of people one higher than will actually be sleeping inside.

For example, if you have 2 people then a 3 person tent works great.

If it’s just you then a 2 person tent will be much more comfortable.

This is not a hard rule.

There are plenty of 1 and 2 person tents out there that will comfortably hold the number of people they claim.

But if you want that extra bit of space for gear and clearance from walls or other people then step up to the bigger size.

SEASON

Do you need a 3 or 4 season tent?

If you’re going out in the spring, summer, or fall then a 3 season tent will work just fine.

If you’re going out in the winter and anticipate much colder temps with some snow then a 4 season tent is what you want.

Just keep in mind that although a 4 season tent can technically be used in the spring or fall, it might provide too much heat for milder outdoor temperatures.

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent, Clay/Rust (5224617)
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent includes mostly mesh walls to keep fresh air flowing throughout the night while providing a view of the night sky.

So if the weather is going to be warmer, make sure that your 4 season tent has good ventilation.

Ideally, you’ll find this in a double wall tent.

This setup gives you the option of removing a layer from the tent to help cool it off.

If it’s a single wall 4 season tent look for windows on the top or a couple of doors on both sides of the tent.

Most of all this will help create a cross draft that will keep the tent cool in warmer months.

Staked Or Freestanding

While the traditional way of pitching a backpacking tent is by staking it into the ground, many backpackers opt for the freestanding tent.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really comes down to you.

Staked tents tend to be lighter and more weather resistant, while freestanding tents are easier to setup but also heavier.

If tying down your tent gives you too much anxiety, or you just know you get lazy at the end of a long day of hiking, check out a freestanding or pop-up tent.

Winterial Single Person Personal Bivy Tent, Lightweight 2...
Winterial Personal Bivy Tent has such a high hoop that it is often considered a one person tent. Either way, it offers the most breathing room of any bivy we tested.

Tent Vestibules And Storage

Look for ultralight tents that offer a vestibule.

The biggest drawback of a smaller tent is the compromise in space you make.

But if the tent is designed with a vestibule then you will have at least a covering to place your shoes and pack under while saving space inside.

Not to mention sparing you and your tentmates from the smell of your gear.

A lot of tents are also built with mesh pockets inside to store smaller, important items like keys, phone, GPS, beef jerky, etc.

Tent Materials and Zippers

It’s important to know what materials you’re tent is made out of.

The 2 big ones are nylon and polyester.

You’ll find the degree to how they’ve been designed in the Denier and Thread count.

The higher both of these numbers are, the more durable your tent is going to be.

As an example: “190T Polyester, 70D Ripstop Nylon”

Essentially these numbers are telling you how durable the tent is.

Ripstop nylon will help the tent from tearing but will also add weight.

Be sure that the numbers are strong on both the walls and the flooring.

Zippers are one of the most problematic features on any camping gear, but with tents, a broken zipper can absolutely wreck your adventure.

Be sure to pay close attention to the reviews of tents for any zipper problems.

If you find more than one or two reviews with a bad zipper, then there’s a good chance that manufacturer made the tents with bad zippers and poor craftsmanship

The few bucks you may save initially will come back and ruin your camping trip.

 

Last update on 2020-07-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Erik

Erik grew up as a desert rat in Arizona. After exploring the backcountry of the west coast he came east for a job but still finds time to explore the beauty of the northeast.