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The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Ultralight tents are the backbone of a streamlined lightweight backpacking loadout, and are your first line of defense against the elements. After years of testing, we've found the best ultralight tents of 2024.

Senior Editor Chris Carter rocking Gossamer Gear's The One on a thru-hike of the CDT; (photo/Chris Carter)
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Narrowing in on that elusive 5-pound base weight? You’re probably fastidiously scouring the web for the lightest ultralight tent, backpack, and sleeping bag, but beware — these flimsy, unassuming pieces of gear need to be chosen with care. The lightest model on the market may not be the best, or the safest, move. There’s a lot to consider when buying your core ultralight gear.

From full-blown thru-hikes to fast weekend missions, we’ve clocked some serious miles in a broad diversity of ultralight tents. We know the sinking feeling of mid-trip tent failures, and what to look for in a shelter that lasts for months of abuse. Author and Senior Editor Chris Carter has significant experience with various ultralight tents, having put around 10 different models to the test in the past year alone. An alumnus of each of the Triple Crown trails in the United States (PCT, CDT, and AT), Chris arguably sleeps better under a thin Dyneema sheet than a solid roof.

Thru-hikers going the distance are perhaps the best demographic to poll about featherlight gear. To pinpoint the best ultralight backpacking tents, we gathered sage advice from thru-hikers who’ve tracked the toughest, longest miles with their gear. These dedicated dirtbags haul their kit for thousands of miles through a spectrum of weather, terrain, wildlife, and obstacles.

At a trek’s end, gear is either a benediction or extraneous deadweight. In addition to our team’s personal experience, we rummaged through our rolodex of long-distance backpackers, and picked their brains to find the best ultralight tents on the market.

Whether you’re establishing a lightweight backpacking setup or preparing for your inaugural thru-hike, this guide is for you. Our reviews below are a combination of interviews with die-hard thru-hikers, and our personal experience with a number of different models.

If you’re not sure where to start, hop down to our comparison chart, buyer’s guide, and FAQ at the bottom of the page before scrolling through our roundup.

Editor’s Note: We updated our Ultralight Tents guide on April 4, 2024, to include the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo — a budget-friendly shelter that still manages to only tip the scales at 1 pound, 10 ounces.

The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024


Best Overall Ultralight Tent

Zpacks Duplex

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 3.4 oz.
  • Height 48 in.
  • Floor Space 28.1 sq. ft.
  • Materials Dyneema (0.55 oz./sq. yd.)
  • Vestibule Area 11 sq. ft.
Product Badge The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Phenomenal weather protection
  • Thoughtful construction

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Set up takes time to master
  • Requires large area, stakes, and guylines
Best Budget Ultralight Tent

Gossamer Gear The One

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 3 oz.
  • Height 45 in.
  • Floor Space (LxWxH) 84 x 33/21 (head slightly wider) x 43 in.
  • Materials Custom 10-denier nylon ripstop SIL/PU fabric
  • Vestibule Area 10 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Super spacious
  • Solid strength-to-weight ratio
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Condensation tends to build up pretty easily
  • Internal mesh pockets are placed a little awkwardly
Runner-Up Best Ultralight Tent

Zpacks Plex Solo Tent

Specs

  • Weight 13.9 oz. (for the blue color scheme)
  • Height 52 in.
  • Floor Space 20.6 sq. ft.
  • Materials Dyneema (0.75 oz./sq. yd.)
  • Vestibule Area 6.4 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Extremely ultralight
  • Well-ventilated
  • Unique system of dealing with condensation buildup
  • Only uses one trekking pole instead of two

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Somewhat annoying not having a zipper on the vestibule
Best Freestanding Ultralight Tent

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs.
  • Height 40 in.
  • Floor Space 20 sq. ft.
  • Materials Silicone treated nylon ripstop with a 1200 mm water-resistant, polyurethane coating and polyester mesh
  • Vestibule Area 5 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Freestanding but ultralight
  • Affordable

Cons

  • One door/vestibule design limits usability
Best Ultralight Tarp

Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp With Doors

Specs

  • Weight 6.1 oz.
  • Height 47 in.
  • Floor Space N/A
  • Materials .55 oz/sqyd Standard Dyneema Composite Fabric
  • Vestibule Area N/A
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight and packable
  • Excellent strength-to-weight ratio

Cons

  • Not the most spacious interior
  • A bit challenging to set up
Best Ultralight Pyramid Tent

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 Dyneema Tent

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 3 oz.
  • Height 64 in.
  • Floor Space 63 sq. ft.
  • Materials Cuben fiber, your trekking poles
  • Vestibule Area N/A
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Very strong

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Trekking pole tents aren’t for everyone
  • Need space to set up guy lines
Best of the Rest

Tarptent Stratospire Li

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 14 oz.
  • Height 45 in.
  • Floor Space 26.8 sq. ft.
  • Materials Dyneema, 20D ripstop nylon, 15D nylon mesh
  • Vestibule Area 24 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Tons of vestibule space
  • Excellent venting
  • Good balance of weight and durability
  • Comfortable for two

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not freestanding

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 10.1 oz.
  • Height 49 in.
  • Floor Space 26.3 sq. ft.
  • Materials 20D and 40D silicone coated polyester
  • Vestibule Area 8.5 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Affordable with a quality build
  • Spacious
  • Durable design
  • Good ventilation

Cons

  • Heavier than most other single pole designs
  • Setup takes some getting used to
  • Not our favorite door clasp system

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P Tent

Specs

  • Weight 1 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Height 48 in.
  • Floor Space 28 sq. ft.
  • Materials DCF5, DCF8, No-See-Um Mesh
  • Vestibule Area N/A
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Time-tested, simple design
  • Stable in high wind
  • Comparatively roomy

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Hot when in direct sun
  • Waterproof zippers a bit difficult to close

Durston X-Mid 1 Tent

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 14.4 oz.
  • Height 46 in.
  • Floor Space 46.5 sq. ft. (fly); 20 sq. ft. (insert)
  • Materials 20-denier polyester with 2,500 mm sil/PEU coating
  • Vestibule Area 20 sq. ft. (10 sq. ft. x 2)
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Unique, double-wall design
  • Simple, four-stake pitch
  • Affordable

Cons

  • On the heavy side for an ultralight tent
  • Small internal storage pockets
  • Guy lines are a bit difficult to adjust

NEMO Hornet Elite OSMO 2P Tent

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs., 1 oz.
  • Height 37 in.
  • Floor Space 27.3 sq. ft.
  • Materials OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric
  • Vestibule Area 12.4 sq. ft.
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Packs small
  • Withstands weather

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Fragile for car camping or sharp rocks

Black Diamond Distance Tent

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 10 oz.
  • Height 41 in.
  • Floor Space 26 sq. ft.
  • Materials High Tenacity 30D poly fabric
  • Vestibule Area N/A
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Simple design
  • Easy to set up
  • Fairs well in strong winds
  • Very waterproof

Cons

  • No vestibule
  • Blue interior color is a bit harsh in the sun
  • Bad condensation buildup
  • Water can sneak into mesh vent

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid 1

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 2 oz.
  • Height 54 in.
  • Floor Space 21 sq. ft.
  • Materials DCF5, DCF10, No-See-Um mesh
  • Vestibule Area N/A
The Best Ultralight Tents of 2024

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Very durable
  • Spacious vestibule

Cons

  • Condensation in cold temps
  • Proper setup requires practice
  • No guyline in the front for tension when both door flaps are open

Ultralight Tents Comparison Chart

Ultralight TentPriceWeightHeightFloor SpaceMaterialsVestibule Area 
Zpacks Duplex$6991 lb., 3.4 oz.48 in.28.1 sq. ft.Dyneema (0.55 oz./sq. yd.)11 sq. ft.
Gossamer Gear The One$2551 lb., 3 oz.45 in.19.25 sq. ftCustom 10D nylon ripstop SIL/PU fabric10 sq. ft.
Zpacks Plex Solo$59913.9 oz.52 in.20.6 sq. ft.Dyneema (0.75 oz./sq. yd.)N/A
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1$4002 lbs.40 in.20 sq. ft.Silicone-treated nylon ripstop with polyurethane coating and polyester mesh5 sq. ft.
Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp With Doors$3796.1 oz.47 in.N/A0.55 oz/sq. yd. Standard Dyneema Composite FabricN/A
Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2$6991 lb., 3 oz.64 in.63 sq. ft.
DCF8N/A
Tarptent Stratospire Li$6591 lb., 14 oz.45 in.26.8 sq. ft.Dyneema, 20D ripstop nylon, 15D nylon mesh24 sq. ft.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
$2601 lb., 10.1 oz.49 in.26.3 sq. ft.20D and 40D silicone-coated polyester8.5 sq. ft.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P$6991 lb., 8 oz.48 in.28 sq. ft.DCF5, DCF8, No-See-Um MeshN/A
Durston X-Mid 1$2401 lb., 14.4 oz.46 in.46.5 sq. ft. (fly), 20 sq. ft. (insert)20-denier polyester with 2,500mm sil/PEU coating20 sq. ft.
NEMO Hornet Elite OSMO 2P$6502 lbs., 1 oz.37 in.27.3 sq. ft.OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric12.4 sq. ft.
Black Diamond Distance Tent$3001 lb., 10 oz.41 in.26 sq. ft.High Tenacity 30D poly fabricN/A
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid 1$5991 lb., 2 oz.54 in.21 sq. ft.DCF5, DCF10, No-See-Um MeshN/A
Two backpacking tents set up in the Grand Canyon
Testing a number of different ultralight tents from Zpacks on a chilly, wind-blasted backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon; (photo/Chris Carter)

How We Tested Ultralight Tents

From dedicated ultralight weekend warriors, to lightweight backcountry hunters and full-blown thru-hikers living in tents for months on end, the GearJunkie squad has spent countless nights cuddled up in ultralight shelters.

They’ve trekked to some of the most far-flung, remote corners of the globe, and weathered galeforce winds, snowy whiteouts, and perfect star-speckled nights in all sorts of featherlight tent designs. They know the importance of a shelter for comfort and safety on any backcountry mission, and won’t settle for anything but the best.

Author Chris Carter has paid his dues on hundreds of backpacking trips over just as many miles through all manner of conditions. Chris has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in the United States: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail, and continues to backpack with an ultralight loadout all over the world.

He’s frustratingly particular about the shelter he hunkers down in each night on a long journey, and heavily scrutinized each candidate for this guide. Rest assured — only the most deserving, durable, functional tents earned any real estate on this roundup. He scoured online ultralight forums, bugged his broad swath of thru-hiking connections, and attended various gear shows to narrow in on the streamlined selection of 12 tents you see today.

We recognize that the ultralight tent market is organic and constantly evolving. We have therefore slotted this guide into an iterative update schedule, and are constantly on the prowl, scoping out new models the moment they hit the market, and testing them to see if they deserve recognition.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose an Ultralight Tent

We tested a variety of ultralight tent designs in a multitude of different environments and conditions to bring you the best of the best; (photo/Chris Carter)

Ultralight tents allow you to truly narrow in on absurdly minuscule base weights, but still must hold up to the rigors of life on trail. Your shelter is your first line of defense against life-threatening elements, and you shouldn’t fudge on safety for the sake of weight savings. Above we covered a broad range of ultralight tent designs, and it’s important to seriously consider your needs and personal comfort threshold before jumping to a decision.

Below we’ve outlined some important considerations when choosing the perfect model for your needs. The best ultralight tents help gram-conscious adventurers trim back the weight of their load. The tradeoff? These designs require more user care and, for some models, more time to set up than beefier builds.

All things considered, these featherlight tents are a great option for long-distance trekkers, thru-hikers, and other seasoned outdoor travelers wanting to slim down the burden of their supplies.

It’s important to note, this guide focuses on niche mega-light tents designed for extremely minimal base weights. For more casual backpacking trips that afford a bit more comfort, check out our comprehensive guide on regular backpacking tents. And, if you’re simply scoping out a camping tent for car camping adventures or base camp luxury, be sure to scroll through our guide on the best camping tents on the market.

Seasonality

Backpacking tents covered in snow
Senior Editor Chris Carter slowly getting buried by snow in the San Juans on the CDT in 2021. Gossamer Gear’s The One somehow survived the onslaught; (photo/Chris Carter)

Backpacking tents are typically built for three-season or four-season conditions. A three-season tent will suffice if you plan on using your tent across the spring, summer, and fall.

The infrastructure of a three-season tent can handle rain and light snow. Typically, these builds are not ideal for heavy snow, super-high winds, or vicious storms — like the harsh or blizzard conditions you might face while ski mountaineering. A four-season tent is a better choice for full-on winter, the weight of snow, and strong winds.

That said, ultralight shelters are designed with the demands of high-altitude stretches on long-distance trips like thru-hikes in mind. Our authors have weathered some seriously gnarly conditions in these flimsy shelters, including driving whiteouts in sub-zero temps.

Capacity & Doors

Lots of geometry and stitching wizardry is employed to maximize vestibule and living space in ultralight tents without packing on the pounds; (photo/Chris Carter)

Folks aiming for ultralight tents usually invest in a one- or two-person design. Three- and four-person ultralight tents exist too. For instance, the three-person Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Solution Dye ($500) is 2 pounds, 10 ounces.

Your ideal tent size depends on the number of campers, their overall size, and how much equipment needs to be stored. Brands categorize their tents based on the number of people, but the dimensions — length, width, height, and vestibule size — vary from tent to tent.

The tent’s peak height, which is where the tent is the tallest, also differs between each model. Get out your tape measure as you research. It’s also a good idea to visit a local retailer where the tent can be set up for you to check out in person.

You’ll want to consider whether one or two doors are more functional for you. Two doors can be helpful for each sleeper to have their own exit and entry. But, eliminating a door can cut weight and cost.

Ultralight tents that require only a single trekking pole for construction have the biggest challenge when it comes to maximizing space. Manufacturers have employed some serious geometric wizardry with these designs to increase space in both the vestibule and the enclosed sleeping area without adding significant weight. HMG’s Mid 1 features one of our favorite vestibule designs on a single trekking pole shelter, increasing its space by placing the stakeout point further away from the mesh insert on the vestibule itself.

Whatever ultralight tent you decide to go with, make sure there is adequate room inside for your backpacking sleeping pad and sleeping bag of choice to comfortably deploy inside while leaving plenty of space for other gear. Taller, larger hikers need to keep this in mind if they tend to rock longer or wider pads and bags.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear throws some extra space into the vestibule of their Mid 1 by placing the stake further out from the mesh insert than other models; (photo/Chris Carter)

Single-Wall vs. Double-Wall

Tents are either a single-wall or double-wall design. Single-wall tents are lighter weight, nonbreathable, waterproof, and don’t include a rainfly. They typically don’t offer as much storage for gear but do generally have some form of a vestibule.

A double-wall tent actually contains two items: a breathable tent that’s paired with a waterproof rainfly. The setup usually offers vestibule space to stash equipment. The kit weighs more and requires more time to set up compared to a single-wall tent. Single-wall tents are less breathable and produce more condensation.

Materials & Footprints

The materials of ultralight tents need to be strong and waterproof enough to last thousands of miles, but light enough to not weigh you down; (photo/Elina Osborne)

Ultralight, strong materials — like the Zpacks Duplex Tent’s Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) — cost more than heavier-set fabrics. For instance, the two-person Zpacks Duplex weighs 19.4 ounces and costs $669. DCF has a phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio and is highly waterproof.

In contrast, the single-person Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL ($370) is constructed with ripstop nylon and weighs nearly 33 ounces. Their volume isn’t apples to apples, but the lighter material certainly comes at a premium.

Gossamer Gear’s The One features an interesting nylon ripstop SIL/PU fabric that sheds water well and crams down tiny, but stretches out at night after your initial setup — particularly in the rain. We’ll often have to adjust the guyline’s tension in tents like these soon after they are pitched. This fabric is not quite as premium as DCF, but gets the job done and has a phenomenal pack size.

The material used in tent construction is either inherently waterproof or treated with a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating to block precipitation. If the fabric is treated, it’ll eventually need a refresh, depending on the conditions faced, user care, and volume of use. A separate footprint, or groundsheet, isn’t required for an enclosed single-wall tent.

Ultralight materials are pretty durable, but they tend to break down if they’re roughly handled. Investing in an ultralightweight bundle means the hiker should be mindful with gear care.

Black Diamond’s Distance Tent is made with high-tenacity 30D poly fabric, which is very strong and wind-resistant, but on the heavier and bulkier side; (photo/Chris Carter)

Minimalist Shelters

Minimalist shelters, like the Hexamid Pocket Tarp, are essentially rainflys that protect you from pouring elements — but not buzzing insects. The groundsheet is sold separately. Some designs have a zipper-free doorway that rolls up and can be clipped back. Campers can pair their superlight shelter with a personal bug net if the region is buggy.

To trim grams, some campers opt to leave behind the primary compartment of their double-wall tent kit. Instead, they solely use the footprint, poles, and rainfly.

Another option is a hammock tent: a hammock with a protective mesh enclosure and an optional rainfly, which is key if there are lethal insects around like scorpions or ticks.

Weight and Packed Size

Showing the pack sizes of two different ultralight tents
The packed sizes of two ultralight tents we tested; (photo/Darwin Rakestraw)

A dwelling’s ounces hinge on the materials — like the fabric and zippers — size, and whether poles, a rainfly, and footprint are included.

One of the lightest double-person tents on the market is the Zpacks Duplex, tapping in at 19.4 ounces. By comparison, the one-person ultralight Gossamer Gear The One is 20.6 ounces.

The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 is 33 ounces. To really slim down cargo, a minimalist option like the Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doors is 5.2 ounces.

There are no hard rules about what defines an ultralightweight tent. Folks with a goal to decrease haul weight need to consider the accumulative ounces of their entire kit. Generally, lightweight tents range from 48 to 72 ounces. Ultralight configurations are less than 48 ounces.

You’ll need to select a feathery tent that still delivers the features that you need — like built-in insect protection or not. Be forewarned, the lighter a tent is, the more complicated the setup is and the less headroom there is.

The packed size of a tent doesn’t correlate with its weight as much as it does with the materials used. Fabrics like nylon ripstop SIL/PU used in GG’s The One tend to squeeze down to smaller packed weight than tents made of DCF (like HMG’s Mid 1) in the above photo — though the DCF models may boast a lighter weight.

Make sure that the packed size of your UL tent fits comfortably with the rest of your loadout in your ultralight backpack. Many packs that accompany these ultralight kits fall in the 35-45L range, and every element’s volume needs to be considered.

Pitching Ultralight Tents

Testing ultralight tents on a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail
Putting the Gossamer Gear The One through its paces on a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail; (photo/Chris Carter)

The lightest tents and shelters are non-freestanding, meaning they don’t include tent poles to be hoisted up. Instead, one or two trekking poles plus stakes are used to elevate the tent. The tent is held upright by tensioning the tent fabric between the trekking poles and stakes firmly planted in the ground.

Some light designs, like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UV UL 1, are freestanding and fast to pick up and adjust location — they just weigh a bit more. Most of the designs we tested for this guide use trekking poles as the backbone of their structure.

Compared to a freestanding tent, this type of skeleton takes more time to assemble, because the ground needs to offset the stake just right — especially if it’s windy or rainy out. This can be difficult, particularly in the alpine where it may be too rocky to drive stakes in at the perfect locations.

The stakes on trekking-pole-style tents need to be firmly planted in tough ground at specific points so they can be tensioned against the trekking poles to keep your tent upright; (photo/Chris Carter)

In a pinch, large rocks can be used to get the corners and guylines of your tent where they need to be. If you can’t slide a large rock into the cords coming out at the stakeout points, you can insert a stake into the cord, and place it horizontally on the ground with a large rock between the stake and the tent. When you tension the cords, the stake won’t be able to slide under the rock. This was our author’s method on many a night on thru-hikes when pitching his tent above the treeline.

We like to bring a couple of different lengths and strengths of stakes for the different stakeout points around our tents. We generally use shorter, lighter stakes for the four corners of trekking-pole-style tents and the guylines, and bring two longer, thicker options for staking out the sides of the tent, which bear more stress and need to have a more solid purchase in the ground.

Make sure to practice setting up your ultralight tent before setting off on your journey. It takes time to master how much tension you should put in the guylines, what to adjust your trekking poles to, and how to avoid an awkward off-center pitch. Freestanding tents can be much more straightforward to set up, and there are additional considerations when pitching a trekking-pole-style tent.

Trekking Poles in Ultralight Tents

Two trekking poles slanted slightly outwards afford Gossamer Gear’s The One and Two a shocking amount of internal space to sit up, change clothes, or shuffle gear around; (photo/Chris Carter)

As discussed above, it can be a challenge to master the art of pitching a trekking-pole-style shelter. A perfect pitch largely boils down to appropriate trekking poles. If you are going to be depending on these types of tents in the backcountry, your poles need to be sturdy enough to handle brutal blasts of wind and rain, and long enough to reach the required length to properly pitch the tent.

These tents require you to expand your trekking poles much longer than you would have them set for hiking, and not every pole can extend to the lengths needed to reach the tent’s peak. Also, you most likely won’t be able to use fixed-length poles if you plan on bringing these types of tents along.

Select poles that have broad grips that fit solidly in the reinforced pouches at the peaks of your tent. Thin grips shift around and could even slide out of the tent in strong wind. The clasps on your poles need to be strong, as heavy wind could force your poles to collapse if they are weak, making the tent tumble in around you at midnight. Not a pleasant alarm clock — we speak from experience.

Bathtub Floor

The bathtub floor on the HMG Mid 1 can be adjusted with pull cords to raise or lower the sidewalls and regulate airflow into the tent; (photo/Chris Carter)

Frequently, ultralight setups have a bathtub floor, which prevents groundwater from seeping in during a weather event. A bathtub floor means that the waterproof fabric comprising the floor extends a few inches off the ground and up the tent walls.

These are important elements of ultralight tents, and need to be made of durable, extremely waterproof fabric. Some floors in models like many Zpacks tents and HMG’s Mid 1 (photographed above) allow you to adjust the height of the floor to allow more or less airflow into the tent and help regulate condensation buildup.

Vestibule & Interior Storage

Plenty of vestibule space is important for keeping backpacks and dirty shoes dry, but separate from your sleeping space; (photo/Chris Carter)

Ultralight tents will often have storm doors that roll back or clip forward to protect equipment rather than a zipper-enclosed vestibule door. Compare your body measurements to the tent’s width and length. If it’s stormy out and you’re hunkered down for a while, it’s nice to have a bit of extra room to bring some or all of the gear inside.

Otherwise, the vestibule can be a great spot to leave the boots or pack overnight. Stashing these in the vestibule helps keep debris and pebbles that could poke through the tent floor out of your living space.

Some ultralight tents might have small, interior mesh pockets to store a few items like a phone or headlamp. Generally, ultralight tents don’t have as many storage compartments as lightweight or heavier tent designs.

Guylines

Showing the guyline systems of ultralight tents
Guylines help to maximize internal space on ultralight tents, and keep them secure in strong winds and storms; (photo/Chris Carter)

Guylines are important features on ultralight tents for a number of reasons. For trekking-pole-style tents, they serve as a quick and easy way to pull the sidewalls out further, immediately boosting the internal volume. For freestanding and double-wall shelters, this doesn’t apply quite as much, but they still can afford a bit more internal space.

Perhaps more importantly, however, guyline points allow you to further secure your tent to the ground in the case of tempestuous storms or strong wind. A properly guyed-out tent can withstand some seriously gnarly weather. Many tents come with a small spool of guyline cord in the box that you can stuff in the bottom of the stake bag in case they are needed. Others, like HMG’s Mid 1, require you to provide your own cordage if you want the additional protection.

Tent Stakes and Pole Splints

One of our author’s ultralight stake kits for a freestanding tent loadout; (photo/Chris Carter)

Like everything in the ultralight cult, the debate on the best ground stakes for an ultralight loadout is fierce and constantly evolving. Every iota of weight is scrutinized for each gear category — especially if there is any metal in the system.

The conversation around which stakes are best for which purpose is so nuanced and intense, that many ultralight tent manufacturers have stopped shipping stakes with their tents altogether. This is under the assumption that most UL backpackers have already dialed in on their specialized stake kit of choice — and in the case of our author — they’re not wrong.

We possess a variety of stake kits that we bring for different ultralight backpacking scenarios, and each serves its purpose in specific climates and environments. It would take too long to dig into the minutia of each kit’s models and purposes, but the one we use the most is our MSR Ground Hog combo. These stakes have proven themselves worthy over thousands of miles, and strike a healthy balance between strength and weight.

There are more featherlight options out there — like Vargo’s Titanium Shepherds Hooks (0.3 ounces) or Suluk 46’s absurd Atani Titanium Tent Stakes (0.17 ounces) — but unless we are trying to go as light as possible, the Ground Hogs are perfect for most UL backpacking trips we set out on. If we plan to rock a freestanding tent (which we usually do when hiking with a partner and sharing the tent’s weight), we simply bring the requisite number of ultralight MSR Mini Ground Hogs (0.35 ounces).

If we think we will have to pitch the tent in light snow or insane weather, we swap these out for their longer, sturdier older sibling: MSR’s regular Ground Hogs (0.5 ounces). For deep snow on winter objectives, you’d have to upgrade to beefier snow stakes like MSR’s Blizzard Stakes, or REI’s Snow Stakes.

When hiking with a trekking-pole-style tent — which is 90% of the time for us — we bring a combo of 4-6 Mini Ground Hogs, and two regular Ground Hogs for the side stakes. The stakes at the base of these tent’s doors and sides bear the most weight and are tensioned tight against the trekking poles. They need to be driven deep into hard ground so they don’t pull out when you cinch your tent tight, or when it’s hit with a strong gust of wind.

If we are backpacking with a freestanding tent, we will almost always throw in a lightweight pole splint in case one of our poles snaps or cracks mid-trip. Simply slide these splints over the broken area, and you can still pitch your tent until you get to a place where you can replace the poles. Splints have saved us on a number of trips, and we don’t like to leave home without them.

Ventilation and Dealing With Condensation

Showing the ventilation systems of ultralight tents
Ultralight tent manufacturers have come up with some creative ventilation designs to deal with condensation, but most single-wall shelters still struggle with moisture buildup at night; (photo/Chris Carter)

Ultralight tents often feature walls constructed of mesh, storm doors that furl back, or no walls at all for airflow. Walls that are constructed of mesh decrease the overall temperature inside the tent and help fight condensation. As mentioned, single-wall tents with a solid synthetic construction experience more condensation and feel clammy beneath precipitation.

Ultralight tent designers have done everything they can to limit condensation buildup, but the reality of the matter is — those walls are going to sweat. Vents on the walls (like in the photo above), broad mesh panels, and variable bathtub floor heights can minimize the misery, but in our experience, some condensation is inevitable.

There are a number of ways to mitigate moisture buildup in ultralight tents, and you can fight the condensation calamities if you work with the wind and pitch your tent in an appropriate location. Here is a bit of wisdom we’ve accrued through trial and error during our countless nights in the backcountry:

  • Ventilate your tent as much as possible by sleeping with all the doors rolled back or with the rainfly off if it’s not raining. This helps humid air and moist vapor from your breath to easily escape.
  • Avoid camping under the open sky as much as possible. If you can, pitch your tent under a tree’s canopy.
  • Orient your tent so that the vents are facing the direction of the wind. This allows the wind to circulate through your tent easier and boosts ventilation.
  • Try not to hang wet clothes or shoes up to dry inside your tent whenever possible. Drying them inside your tent boosts humidity. If you need to keep them inside, store them in a dry sack so the moisture is contained. Make sure you have plenty of lashing points on your backpacking backpack so you can tie wet gear up to dry in the sun as you hike the next day. Under the same token, cook and boil water outside your tent as much as possible.
  • Avoid camping right next to streams, rivers, lakes, or marshy areas with higher humidity when you can help it. We know — It’s fun to camp next to a babbling brook, though, so don’t sacrifice the beauty of a potential campsite just so your tent is a bit dryer. For us, the condensation cost is usually worth it for the experience.
  • If possible, don’t pitch your tent in low valleys or depressions of a landscape where cold air lingers at night.
  • As one of our old thru-hiking mentors would say, “Simply hold your breath all night. It’s the only way to keep ultralight tents dry.”

In all honesty, there’s no golden rule for getting rid of drippy condensation. Our best advice is to embrace it as part of the brutal but beautiful joy of backpacking — and pull your tent out to dry in the sun when you plop down for lunch the following day.

Soaking up that Sierra magic in Gossamer Gear’s flagship ultralight tent during a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail; (photo/Chris Carter)

FAQ

What is the best ultralight tent?

The best ultralight tent is one that keeps you comfortable in the terrain where you venture and one that alleviates the weight on your back. However, you could sacrifice comfort and durability if you choose an ultralight tent that’s too lightweight.

Some experienced thru-hikers and adventurers prefer to drop as much weight as possible to help them boost mileage. And they don’t mind the caveat of being more vulnerable to the surrounding habitat and inclement weather.

Are ultralight tents durable?

Ultralight tents are fairly durable against the weather but are also more sensitive to abrasion and rough handling than heftier tent designs. The lower the ounces, the more conscious the tent’s user needs to be.

How much do ultralight tents weigh?

There’s no universal guideline that defines the ultralightweight tent category. Generally, ultralight tents weigh less than 48 ounces. The shelters recommended in this guide range from 5.2 to 33 ounces, and this list isn’t comprehensive of all the best ultralight options.

Are ultralight tents worth the cost?

An ultralight tent is a stellar investment for long-distance or high-volume trekkers seeking to move faster and more nimbly. Also, if an outdoor traveler is seeking to pare down their entire overnight kit, cutting the den weight is a good avenue.

Some hikers need to lessen the burden on their bodies for health reasons and overall longevity, and the extra cost is worthwhile.   

How long do backpacking tents last?

Backpacking tents degrade over time due to exposure to the elements. Those variables include rain and direct sunlight, contact with the terrain, overall handling, care, and storage conditions.

As with any outdoor equipment, tents reflect wear and tear with time. They will last longer if they’re well maintained.

To give you an idea, the Zpacks Duplex Tent claims it will last a minimum of 2,500 miles straight or several years of casual use. Thru-hiker Elina Osborne confirmed the tent tackled her 2,653-mile journey along the PCT and counting.

At print, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 handled 200 days of use. The Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doors withstood more than 300 nights. And the Gossamer Gear The One breezed through more than 3,000 miles, all according to our expert crew of thru-hikers. Each of those tents isn’t in mint condition but they’re all still workable, protective, and in the field.

How do I make my backpacking tent last longer?

You can integrate a few simple routines to extend the life of your tent. During a trip, shake out the tent before you pack it away, to relinquish loose debris that could scrape the fabric.

After heavy use, your shelter can be soaked in soapy water, rinsed, and hung or put up outside in the shade to completely dry. When it’s ready to be stashed, make sure the tent is in a dry, fairly cool place and not wound up tight.

You can make simple repairs too. Tent seams are taped to prevent water from entering the tent but can degrade. They can be restrengthened with seam sealer.

A waterproof coating can be reapplied, as well. Be sure to check with your tent’s manufacturer about which aftermarket products are compatible with the materials.

How do I know when to replace my backpacking tent?

If the interior material itself is falling apart — as in, the waterproof coating is peeling off — that’s a clear sign the tent is worn out, and it’s near time for a replacement. If there are large holes (like from a campfire spark) that can’t be dependably patched, it’s a fair segue to a new purchase.

Furthermore, as more outdoor industry brands remove chemical treatments from their tent products, you might opt to purchase a tent that is more environmentally friendly and aligns with your health needs.

A man stands next to an ultralight tent at an overlook
Basking in the glory of one of the most magical sunsets author Chris Carter saw on the Continental Divide Trail next to his trusty GG The One; (photo/Chris Carter)

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