Best ultralight tents for backpacking and hiking in 2017

best ultralight tents for backpacking

If you love backpacking and carry your own gear, then you should aim at saving on the weight of essential gears. These include the big four – backpack, shelter, sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

Saving a couple of pounds on your shelter can help reducing the burden on your body and spare some extra space and weight for other essentials.

If you want to go ultralight without losing too much on comfort, then opting an ultralight tent is a perfect option. While there is no standard definition of an ultralight tent, such tents are specially designed premium tents with a minimum trail weight of fewer than 2 pounds per person.

In this article, we look at some of the best ultralight tents available in the market.

Unlike our article on tarp tents, where our primary focus was to list out economical 3-season tent options, in this article, we will focus on high-end ultralight tents which have a minimum trail weight of less than 4 pounds for a 2 person tent.

We will also look at some of the factors to consider while picking the best ultralight tent for your needs. Even though the options we list are mostly 2-person tents, you can find single person ultralight tent options for the same model.

Best ultralight tent list

The best ultralight tents in the market and how they stack against each other.
PictureProductWeight
(lbs.)
DimensionsFeatures 

Big Agnes - Copper Spur UL Tent3.2Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
- A top of the line high-performance ultralight tent made with ripstop nylon and polyester mesh
- Freestanding, hub/pole design makes set up quick and easy
- Features two rainbow doors, two vestibules with 4 interior mesh pockets
- Also, has a patented in –built lightning version.
- The tent is backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent3.4Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Max height: 39 in.
- This award-winning and bestselling lightweight tent is made with ripstop waterproof nylon fabric.
- Each tent has a unique free-standing geometrical design that maximizes space available in the tent.
- Each tent has 2 doors and two vestibules with storage pockets.
- Comes with an ultralight compression sack and all accessories.
- Backed by a three-year limited warranty.
Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent2.4Floor area: 28 sq. ft.
Max height: 40 in.
- A well-designed ultralight tent made with durable ripstop nylon fabric
- Features 2 large side doors and 2 vestibules for extra storage.
- True tub floor design and quick semi-freestanding setup
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.
Marmot Force 2p Backpacking Tent3.5Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Max height: 38 in.
- A feature rich, lightweight tent made with high-grade 40D nylon fabric with waterproof coating.
- Each tent has a unique free-standing design with extended head and foot zones
- Each tent has two doors and two vestibules with storage pockets.
- Backed by lifetime claim & repair warranty without the need of registration.
Sierra Designs Lightning 2P Tent3.3Floor area: 31 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
- This freestanding, fully-featured tent is made with 30D Nylon Ripstop canopy and polyester fly.
- Features best in class floor area without considerable additional weight to carry.
- Features one door and two vestibules for extra storage.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.
Big Agnes - Fly Creek HV UL Tent2.3Floor area: 28 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
- A super ultralight backpacking tent made with ripstop nylon with waterproof coating.
- Each tent has one vertical door with unique steep wall free-standing architecture.
- Also, has one vestibule and three interior mesh pockets for extra storage.
- Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Kelty TN 2 Person Tent4.2Floor area: 27.5 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
- This award-winning, lightweight, freestanding tent is made with high-grade Silnylon.
- Each tent has two doors with two vestibules for extra storage.
- Supports quick three pole setup with innovative hug-clip technology and a roll-up Stargazing Fly for extra ventilation and sky view.
Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent2.3Floor area: 30 sq. ft.
Max height: 40 in.
- An ultralight tent made with ripstop weather proof nylon with a higher space-to-weight ratio
- A unique two door design provides high ventilation and comfort.
- Has two vestibules and a side pocket on each side to store personal items.
- Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent4.0Floor area: 38 sq. ft.
Max height: 43 in.
- This double-walled, comfortable lightweight tent is made with 75D polyester taffeta.
- Each tent features a unique hoop-style design with a two-stake setup as opposed to a freestanding setup.
- The tent has two doors and interior mesh pockets but no additional vestibules.
- Backed by one-year manufacturer warranty.
Black Diamond Firstlight 2P Tent3.3Floor area: 27.3 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
- Advertised as 4 season tent, this tent is made from a patented waterproof Nanoshield fabric
- Each tent has 1 door and 1 vestibule with 2 mesh pockets for extra storage.
- Backed by one year manufacturer warranty.

Ultralight Tents vs. Standard Tents

Ultralight tents are premium lightweight tents which offer the comfort and livability of a tent without the extra weight you have to carry. Modern ultralight 2-person tents generally weigh no more than 4 lbs. (2 lbs. per person) and have a floor area in excess of 28 square feet to “tightly” fit two persons.

They are not as lightweight as a hammock or a simple tarp setup but still provide a more convenient and comfortable shelter.

Moreover, ultralight tents provide better weather protection when compared to the hammock or tarp setup. However, when compared with standard tents, the ultralight tents provide a minimalist, lightweight shelter with some compromises on livability and comfort.

In summary, the major differences between ultralight and standard/normal tents are listed below:

Ultralight TentsStandard Tents
Made with more premium ultralight material which may not be as sturdy.Made with standard synthetic material which is generally more durable.
Generally less spacious and have fewer features such as no footprints.Generally more spacious with addl. comfort features such as footprints, long guy lines etc.
Lighter to carry with minimum trail weight less than 3 lbs., making them suitable for backpacking.Heavier and mostly suitable for distributed-carry or car camping.
Most tents have either unique shorter pole geometry (freestanding) or stake setup to maximize space without additional poles.Most tents have a traditional dome or cross pole design for maximum height.
Generally support 3-season camping.There are 4-season models also available.
Because of premium construction, can be costly.Standard models can cost no more than $150, though 4-season tents can be costlier.

How to pick the best ultralight tent for your needs?

Picking the best ultralight tent can often be a challenging task, considering so many options are available in the market. Typically, ultralight tents support only three seasons and cannot be used for extreme weathers, but still cost more than traditional tents. Once you have zeroed in on your requirements and the number of occupants, you can consider the following factors to pick the most suitable choice for you or anybody else you are buying it for:

  • Construction and design
  • Type of tent setup
  • Size and Weight
  • Comfort and Ventilation
  • Additional Features and Considerations

Construction and design

The construction material for the tent body (outer cover), floor and rain fly of the tent is an extremely important criterion to consider as it governs the durability and season support that the tent can provide.

Most of the ultralight tents use high-grade 15D or above silicone coated nylon (abbreviated Silnylon) for tent body with nylon-polyester rainfly and meshes. These materials are fireproof/retardant.

The fabric is then coated with a 1200-1800 mm waterproof polyurethane coating to make the tent as water resistant so that tents can withstand light to medium rains.
The material for poles and stakes and accessories is also important. Most of the tent poles are made up of featherlight high-grade aluminum manufactured by DAC. The stakes are either made from high-grade plastic or aluminum.

The design of tents is also a major consideration. Most freestanding ultralight tents such as the Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent have a hub-and-pole setup system for quick installation and setup. Moreover, these tents have tub floor design for maximum living space possible. The bathtub floor design also provides better protection against bugs and insects. Additionally, most ultralight tents do come with a floor made of high-grade 10 to 30 denier silicone nylon, though they do not include a footprint.

Check all the construction and design features to see which design would best fit your needs.

Type of tent setup

Closely tied with the design of the tent is the type of setup- free standing vs non-freestanding. Freestanding tents are quick set up tents which use the included poles (2 or 3 max.) to stand up. Since such tents primarily rely on connected pole frame, they are pretty quick to setup and move around without losing their shape.

Also, freestanding tents tend to have more headroom when compared to non-freestanding tents. Moreover, such tents generally have bigger vestibules and better space management. However, because of the additional weight of tent poles, they tend to be heavier to carry than the non-freestanding ones. Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent are two popular examples of freestanding tents.

Non-freestanding tents rely primarily on cords and stakes for setting them up. The cords are tied to the stakes, which can then be hammered into the ground to hold the tent setup.

Such tents, if properly setup, tend to provide better wind and water protection. However, interior tent condensation can sometimes be a problem with non-freestanding tents. To avoid that, backpackers tend to rely on trekking poles for a more elaborate semi-freestanding setup. Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent and Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent are two popular examples of such non-freestanding tents.

Based on your preference and gear list (trekking poles or not), you can choose to go with freestanding or non-freestanding tents.

Size and Weight

For any thru-hiker or backpacker, the size and weight of the tent are extremely important, even if you have two people carrying the supplies.

This is also one of the primary reasons why ultralight tents have become so popular. Most ultralight tents have a minimum trail weight (weight of the essentials- only the tent body, rain fly, and poles and excluding things like guy lines, cords, repair kits etc.) of not more than 2 pounds per person. What that means is for a two person tent, such tents are typically not more than 4 pounds in weight.

Non-freestanding tents such as Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent and Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent weigh under 2.5 pounds, while Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent tend to weigh slightly more.

The size of the tent expressed in terms of floor area and maximum height is also an important criterion, which generally works against the weight considerations – tents with bigger floor area tend to be heavier. Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent probably has the best space-to-weight ratio. Sierra Designs Lightning 2P Tent is another great option which provides more living space, without adding more than a pound of additional weight.

Check out the floor area, maximum height and associated weight of the tent to pick the most suitable option. If you can share the weight with your partner, you can opt for heavier tents for more livable space.

Comfort and Ventilation

Since proper rest is a rudimentary factor for an enjoyable camping trip, it is important that the tent you pick has a design that provides reasonable comfort and ventilation for your needs. Some tents such as Big Agnes – Fly Creek HV UL Tent and Sierra Designs Lightning 2P Tent have only one door, thus limiting the ventilation a little.

However, such tents provide unique zipper mesh windows on the sides or top for some air circulation.

In addition, to provide extra space, most of these tents have one or more vestibules. These vestibules are pretty useful as additional dry storage space to store things such as backpacks, boots etc. An exception to this is the Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent which has clipped fly and tent cover and hence no extra vestibule. Moreover, all popular ultralight tent models have additional mesh pockets to store small personal items.

Additional Features and Considerations

In addition to the four major factors discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous factors that can make a particular model more suitable than others for your needs.

One such consideration is the accessories and packing or compression sack that come with the tent. Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent scores big in this category as it comes with high-quality DAC Aluminum poles, a well-designed stuff sack and 8 superlight aluminum J-stakes for a comfortable setup. Another example is the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent that comes with an ultralight compression sack, but you may need to get some extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in inclement weather.

Another factor to consider is the terrain you are going to most commonly pitch your tent in. If you have hard, rocky surface to pitch your tent in, then going with free standing tents such as Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent is an obvious choice. After all, you would not be able to hammer the stakes down in hard rocks and may have to use guy lines and cords to properly pitch your tent. Similarly, if you are going to pitch your tent in windy or rainy weather, then semi- and non-freestanding options such as the Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent would be a better choice.
Finally, the color of your tent is another additional consideration that you must think about. Since ultralight tents compromise on space, you should prefer lighter color tents, as they tend to feel more spacious, brighter and less claustrophobic. Almost all the tents listed above come in bright colors. The Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent, even has a patented inbuilt lightning version based on the patented mtnGLO Light Technology.

Which are the best ultralight tents and what our picks are?

Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent – Editor’s choice pick for the best ultralight tent

best ultralight tents
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL Tent (UL2, UL3 etc.) is really a well-designed, high-performing ultralight backpacking tent which provides an excellent balance between weight, size and comfort.
This bestselling backpacking tent has a freestanding design with a unique hub/pole setup system, making the tent setup quick and easy. It has a floor area of 29 square feet and a maximum height of 40 inches. While it is slightly heavier than some other options with a weight of around 3.25 pounds, this tent still has an above average space-to-weight ratio.
The Copper Spur UL2 tent has the tent body and made with high-grade 20D Silicone treated Nylon with 1200 mm waterproof PU coating. The meshes are made with polyester. The tent comes with ultralight DAC Aluminum poles and ultralight plastic clips that attach tent body to pole frame.
The UL2 and higher tent versions feature two wide doors for maximum ventilation and two nine square feet vestibules with four mesh pockets and two media pockets for extra storage.
Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent comes with all standard accessories including a well-designed stuff sack, reflective guy lines and 8 superlight aluminum J-stakes for a comfortable setup. The only complaint you may have with the tent is that it does not come with a footprint and you will have to purchase it separately.
What’s more, the Copper Spur even has a patented inbuilt lightning version based on the patented mtnGLO Light Technology. With three AAA batteries, you can get extra lighting in your tent through LED lights fitted in the tent.

Moreover, like all other Big Agnes products, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL Tent is backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.

For its superior design, high-quality design and decent durability and performance, the Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent is our Editor’s pick for the best ultralight backpacking tent available in the market. If you are looking for a well-priced ultralight tent without compromising too much on comfort, you should definitely consider getting this tent.
Pros
  • High quality, double wall 20D Silnylon construction which is lightweight, yet durable, with a decent space-to-weight ratio.
  • Freestanding design with a unique hub/pole setup, making installation quick and easy.
  • Unique geometrical design with lower profile makes it perform better than other free-standing tents in wind and rain.
  • Has fully functional two doors, two vestibules and four mesh pockets for extra storage.
  • Comes with DAC aluminum poles, stuff sack and 8 superlight J-stakes.
  • Backed by limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Cons
  • About one pound heavier than the lightest ultralight backpacking tents.
  • Does not come with a footprint, which has to be bought separately.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent – Best value pick for the best ultralight tent

best ultralight tents
When it comes to value-for-money ultralight backpacking tents, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent is an excellent all-rounder. The Hubba Hubba series has been around for quite some time and has gone quite a few modifications over the years as the technology has evolved over the years.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent features a sturdy and durable canopy made with high-grade 20D ripstop nylon with Durashield PU waterproof coating. Although the tent is about 1.1 pounds heavier than the lightest ultralight tents, it is also considerably cheaper – making the extra weight acceptable.
The tent features bathtub designed floor with an area of 29 square feet and a maximum height of 39 inches, backed by a unique free-standing geometrical design that maximizes space available in the tent. Also, its standard fast-and-light hub-pole setup system that makes it very easy to pitch and move around.
Each tent has two D-shaped doors with Side entry zipper orientation. With two large sized vestibules and adjustable rain fly, the tent offers excellent air circulation and feels very comfortable. The rainfly has an opening on the top for stargazing. The tent has standard mesh pockets for extra storage within the tent.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent comes with an ultralight compression sack and all standard accessories, though you may need to get some extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in inclement weather.
Each MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent is backed by a no hassle three-year limited warranty.

For its easy setup, decent quality, high livability and excellent value for money, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent is Editor’s pick for best value ultralight tent.
Pros
  • Well-designed freestanding tent made with high-grade 20D ripstop nylon.
  • Has a unique floorless fast-and-light setup system, making it very easy to pitch and move around.
  • Has two doors and large vestibules, with adjustable rainfly for excellent ventilation.
  • Comes with a durable and compact ultralight compression sack for easy storage and transportation.
  • Priced much lower than comparable lightweight tents.
Cons
  • You may need to buy extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in windy conditions.
  • About 1.1 pounds heavier than the lightest ultralight backpacking tents.

Ultralight tent accessories

Many backpackers follow the practice of discarding the tent poles and stakes that come with the tent and rely on trekking poles and lightweight yet more durable titanium or aluminum stakes for pitching the tent. If you are looking for some lightweight stake sets, then you can consider the following options:

  • Tripmas Ultralight Titanium Tent Stakes
  • MSR Mini Ground Hog Stake Kit
  • TOAKS Titanium V-shaped Tent Stakes
  • Bestblue Titanium Round Hook Tent Pegs
  • TNH Outdoors Aluminum Tri-Beam Tent Stakes
  • Moreover, if you are looking for guy lines, cords and adjusters to support your ultralight tent, you can consider the following options:

  • Kelty Guy Line Kit
  • Sierra Designs Reflective Guy line Kit
  • GEERTOP Reflective Guy Line Cord with Aluminum Adjuster
  • Another accessory to consider is the footprint. Footprints prevent the wear and tear of your tent against the ground, though you may have to carry some extra weight. Additionally, if you are going to camp in normal weather conditions, you can have a minimalist super-ultralight setup with the rainfly, poles and footprint and leave out the outer tent body altogether.

    Most of the tent options listed above come with manufacturer-specific tent footprints. Still, if you are looking for generic options, you can consider the following products. These footprints can double up as overhead tarps as well:

  • GEERTOP Ultralight Waterproof Tarp Footprint
  • OUTAD Waterproof Camping Tarp Footprint
  • Triwonder Outdoor Waterproof Footprint
  • Ultimate Survival Base Hex Tarp
  • Finally, another accessory worth considering is a tent repair kit or just the repair tape. This is especially handy if you are camping for more than a couple of days and expecting some rough terrain and/or weather. You can consider the following options (check the building material of your tarp tent before picking the right repair kit)

  • Gear Aid Tenacious Tape for Fabric Repair
  • Tear-Aid Fabric Repair Kit
  • Coleman Tent Repair Kit
  • Coghlans Nylon Tent Repair Kit
  • Final thoughts on best ultralight tents

    In this post, we looked at some of the best premium ultralight tents available in the market. We listed out the ultralight options which would help you to save on shelter weight, without losing too much on comfort. We primarily focused on freestanding and non-freestanding 2-person three season tents with a minimum trail weight of fewer than 4 pounds and a packaged weight of fewer than 6 pounds.

    We also looked at some of the key factors to consider while picking the most suitable ultralight tents for yourself or somebody else. Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Best wishes for your next backpacking or hiking trip with your favorite tent!

    Related posts

    Best tarp tents for backpacking, hiking and camping
    Best trekking poles for hiking and backpacking
    The best camping hammocks

    Shop products related to ultralight tents

    Image credits:Amazon.com

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *