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Top 5 Ultralight Backpacking Tents: Gear Options

Updated on December 27, 2015
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Five Amazing, Lightweight Backpacking Tent for UL Hiking

Backpacking is one of the most enjoyable activities around, especially if you're able to spend several days on end in the great outdoors. It's always good to be prepared, but too much gear (or the wrong gear) can weigh you down and make the entire experience a chore. Ultralight backpackers ensure their packs are as light as possible, and part of that is choosing the best lightweight backpacking tent you can find.

An ultralight backpacking tent has a few key differences over a conventional tents. They're made of lighter materials, they pack up to a very small size, and they often contain less structural supports. Many ultralight backpackers camp with just a tarpaulin for shelter, but it's possible to get a fully enclosed tent that weighs very little.

This article is intended to outline a few of my favourite ultralight backpacking tents, offering reviews and thoughts on each item. For your convenience I have organized the selections by price point, so you can find something that'll work within your budget. Before the reviews, I'll cover a few extra considerations, in case you're new to minimalist backpacking. Ready? Let's get started!

How Does an Ultralight Backpack Tent Work?

So what is that sets one of these lightweight backpacker tents apart from the more conventional options?

Size: If you're designing a tent that fits inside a pack, it's not going to be huge. Most will fit between one and three sleepers, and the interior won't be spacious. Most ultralight hikers will carry their own tent, so the small size isn't an issue. But you shouldn't expect them to fit the whole family!

Material: The ultralight philosophy necessitates weight reduction, so the best ultralight backpack tents will either consist of lighter fabric or use modern lightweight alternatives. Sometimes, they won't even be fully enclosed, being more like a lean-to.

Pros and Cons:

The pros should be pretty obvious: these guys fit easily into a backpack, they weigh very little and many of them are really quick and simple to assemble. If you're looking to hike and camp in a minimalist way, they are a fantastic option.

As for cons, these tents all utilize lighter material, so they aren't built to withstand a storm or anything (at least not without shelling out for a high end tent). Also, many ultralights aren't freestanding and require trees or additional support lines.

Wenzel: A Cheap, Lightweight Backpacking Tent

If budget is a stumbling block, you'll be happy with the Wenzel. This is definitely one of the most affordable tents you can find in this segment. Obviously that lower budget comes with some detractors, but stick with me!

Unlike most of the other tents in this review, this is a 'traditional' A-frame style tent, so you'll recognize the silhouette. It's a design that Wenzel created years ago and they've stuck with it. Why? Because it works!

It's not a perfect rectangle, and it tapers from 4 feet down to three feet at the back. It features ventilation on both sides with pest protection. It's long enough for even a taller person to sleep in comfort.

It does rely on collapsible poles for support, but the whole thing breaks down to fit in a compact duffel. It weighs in at 3 pounds 5 ounces, which is heavier than other 1 man tents, but for the price it is outstanding. If you're on a tight budget, this is one of the best ultralight backpacking tents to consider.

Eureka: A Reasonably Priced One Person Backpacking Tent

If you're backpacking on your own or with friends, and you need a one person backpacking tent with a great weight for a reasonable price, you might be saying "Eureka" too! It's versatile, portable and very light in weight.

This is definitely a one person sleeper. It features a sloping roof that's tallest at the entrance, so it's easy to get in and out of. If you're a star gazer, you'll love that the storm shield roof flap can be removed, leaving a mesh covered opening that will allow cool air and starlight into your sleeping quarters.

This is a tent that utilizes hoops instead of straight poles for portability's sake. It's only about 2 and a half feet in height at the tallest, so it's not really something you can hang out it, but it's perfectly cozy for sleeping, and it weighs in at 2 pounds 9 ounces.

It's the lightest and most portable tent in Eureka's lineup, and it's very affordable. On the whole this top quality ultralight backpacker's tent reviews well and would be right at home on your hike.

Aqua Quest Solo: Feather Light Hiker's Dream Tent

Are you an ounce counter? If so, this is the tent for your hiking adventures. It's a solo 'bivy' with an included tarp, so it can hardly even be considered a full tent. It's ideal gear for an ultralight backpacker or hiker, and it weighs an astonishing 1 pound 8 ounces.

If you're not afraid to be a little more exposed to the outdoors, this is an excellent choice for a single sleeper. It compresses down to a tiny size, and the weight is so negligible you might forget you've packed it.

The system uses just a single pole to reinforce the shape of the shelter. The body of the tent is a lightweight mesh system that will keep the pests out. One wall is a waterproof nylon material.

The included tarp has plenty of reinforced loops, and you can use it as a sun shade, a partial cover or even a full on fly to keep your sleeping quarters nice and dry.

Your fellow ultralight hikers will drool over this amazing tent and tarp system. It's definitely one to check out.

Nemo Equipment: Amazing, Lightweight, Two-Person Tent

Traveling as a pair? Don't worry! There are some really lightweight backpacker tents out there that can comfortably sleep two. That will understandably increase the weight, but not by much.

This is a great example by Nemo. At just 3 pounds and 7 ounces, it's hard to believe it sleeps two people. It combines higher end tent materials with waterproof seaming, making it a strong choice if you're uncertain about weather.

The roof of the inner portion is mesh, so you stargazers can enjoy the night sky. If weather rolls in you can attach the fly pretty quickly, and the ground seams will ensure you won't wake up with a damp sleeping bag.

The seaming actually works well enough for insulation against cold winds too, and it's a great choice for hot or moderately cold weather hikes. It's well ventilated (which can lead to some condensation).

It's a dream to assemble, and all the fabric portions will compress to a ridiculously small size in a compression sack. The poles are the bulkiest portion.

It's one of the best ultralight hiker's backpacking tents for two people, and it should serve you well for multiple seasons.

Sierra Designs: A Minimal Backpacking Tent for Four People

If you want a bit more breathing room than some of the other options offer, or if you're needing to sleep up to four people, you are in luck. Sierra Designs has a number of light weight tents and similar ultralight camping gear, and the Flash sleeps up to 4 people (it'd be a squeeze though).

It's a lot heavier than the others reviewed here, weighing in at 5 pounds 12 ounces, but it does sleep four people after all!

It's an externally reinforced tent, with the poles on the outside to reduce the amount of fabric materials needed and reduce weight. The fly is integrated, and the floor has waterproof seaming for your comfort. There are integrated vents on both sides to allow airflow, and there are two doors for easy entry and egress.

For such a minimalist hiking tent, it is remarkably good at keeping out moisture and rain. It is the bulkiest one reviewed here today, and it has four poles in total, but it's still easily packed and very lightweight. It's a backpacking tent that reviews well and has plenty of upside!

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Other Shelter Options for Minimalist Backpackers and Hikers

Not so keen on hauling a tent along with you? The minimalist philosophy states that you bring along the least gear possible. If you can handle sleeping in a bit more of an exposed manner, you aren't stuck with a tent!

Hammock camping is popular because it's an ultralight, dry and comfortable way to camp in the great outdoors. You just hang a hammock between two points and use a waterproof tarp over your head in wet weather. It doesn't work so well in storms and extreme conditions, however.

Some ultralight backpackers eschew the tent altogether, opting to construct a basic shelter with a tarp and nothing else. This is best done during the dry season to avoid having to bivouac on muddy ground.

Why Camp Like This?

The more advanced our technology becomes, the more dependent we become on things to make ourselves safe, happy and comfortable. Ultralight camping challenges the assertion that we have to rely on lots of things to survive.

Ultimately, we only need food, water and shelter to be happy. Hiking and camping with very little equipment is incredibly rewarding, especially when you are able to successfully improvise with whatever is at hand.

Another reason to support this movement is it means less waste and garbage in the woods. The less you haul in, the less you have to haul out!

I hope this article has sparked your interest in the ultralight camping movement! Thanks for reading.

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