It took me several years to make my way from entering the world of backpacking to finding my way to the doorstep of ultralight.
As a bonafide gram weenie for the last 8+ years, I know how obsessive those grams can become. However, I’ve also learned that there’s a tradeoff to be made and everyone has their own definition of “ultralight”.
It’s my job to bridge the gap and help you jump to finding the right ultralight tents for you.
On the way there, though, I’m going to point out pros and cons. I’ll also throw in pro tips when I can. After all, you don’t spend hundreds of nights guiding backpacking trips without learning something, right?
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Ultra Light tents For 2019
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX Ultralight Tent
- Kelty Salida Tent
- Paria Outdoor Products Bryce 2P
- Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent
- Terra Nova Laser Competition
- Terra Hiker 2 Person Ultralight Tent
- Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Platinum
Best Ultralight Tents
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX||Terra Nova Laser Competition||Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Platinum|
|Weight:||2.8 lbs||1.88 lbs||2.0 lbs|
|Floor Space:||29 sq ft||30.5 sq ft||28 sq ft|
|Material:||20-denier ripstop nylon||20 denier ripstop silnylon||20 denier ripstop silnylon|
Ultralight Tent Reviews
- 2-person tent
- 2.8 pounds total (1.9 pounds per person)
- Free standing hub and pole system
- 29 square feet of floor
MSR is a branch of Cascade Designs and if you haven’t heard of them maybe you know their other branches: Therm-a-Rest, Platypus, or Sea Line.
This company has been dominating the world of great outdoor gear for years and they make some of the most trusted gear and the Hubba Hubba is our Editors Choice for the best ultralight tent.
Most of you may be tempted to go with a 1-person to save weight, too. But let me warn you that it sucks to turn down backpacking partners because your tent is too small. Instead of spending tons of money keeping two different size tents in the closet, you may prefer to just use a 2-person tent all the time.
While that might mean that you’re carrying 3.8 pounds of tent, it also means more wiggle room and space to spread out when it’s raining outside and you’re stuck in the tent.
I do love the simplicity of the hub and pole system which is a fool-proof to set up. It makes tent setup in a rush so much more reliable. Plus the open mesh design means tons of star gazing on good nights with the roll up rain fly that won’t leave you stranded in a burst of rain.
Best for a time-tested two person tent that’s about as light as it gets with all these features!
- Polyester walls, nylon floors
- 10 square feet of vestibule space
- 3.8 pounds (1.9 pounds per person)
- 30.5 square feet of floor
Kelty is another one of those tent makers that has just been around the block a time or two. They’ve been around making reliable gear for ages and the Salida is an evolution of that legacy. If you like deep, protective rain flys you’ll love this tent.
Comparably, this tent is about as affordable as it gets for the features. Like the Hubba Hubba, you get about 30 feet of floor space at the 1.9 pounds per person mark. That’s nothing new.
However, the price tag (as of writing) is less than half of what it’ll cost you to grab a Hubba Hubba tent. Why? Because the materials and tech on this tent are a bit dated.
For instance, it uses a simple A frame pole structure that has the traditional loop clips. There’s no hub and pole system here. While it might be “dated” by today’s standards, it’s up to you to decide what’s worth your money.
I think the very generous and protective rain fly combined with relatively lightweight, large floor space, and low price make this tent hard to ignore.
Best for a great two person ultralight tent at a price that’s pretty hard to ignore.
- 3.8 pounds (1.6 pounds per person)
- Dyneema guy lines
- 20 denier ripstop silnylon fly
- 31.2 square feet floor
I’ll be honest, I’m not personally familiar with Paria’s brand. However, as one of the lightest and most affordable 2-person tents on our list I think they’re demanding some attention, don’t you?
Let’s jump right into one of the best ultralight features of this tent and that’s the footprint-only option. This isn’t uncommon, but it is rare enough to note. In this method the tent is just a ground tarp with a rainfly over the top – essentially an enclosed tarp setup.
In footprint-only variant, this 2-person tent becomes just 2 pounds 10 ounces. That’s a featherlight 1 pound 5 ounces per person!
I love that they went with advanced features like hub and pole designs for ease of setup. Plus they even bothered to track down ultralight and ultra-strong Dyneema guy lines (the same stuff used in most climbing ropes).
Best for a versatile ultralight tent that can double as rainfly-only tarp protection.
Nemo has been around long enough now to have made its way into pop culture in the outdoor world. They’ve had a few big hits among ultralight hikers and their gear is almost always attempting to push the front edge of modern tech. Let’s be clear – this tent is one of the absolute lightest 2-person ultralight tents on the market from a major manufacturer. Or at least that’s what Nemo wants us to believe (see the next review). Not to mention all the convenient bells and whistles they manage to pack in at that weight. Hub and pole setup is quick and easy and you can’t possibly mess it up. Plus, the engineered guy-outs clip to the poles in such a way that nearly every possible inch of interior room is saved. That said, however, this tent has one of the smallest footprints of any in our lineup. At 28 square feet it’s 2-3 square feet smaller than most of our others. Those 2-3 square feet are precious real estate when you’ve got two people crammed into a small tent and it’s been raining for 9 hours straight… Best for an insanely lightweight tent with all the modern bells and whistles you could want.
Nemo has been around long enough now to have made its way into pop culture in the outdoor world. They’ve had a few big hits among ultralight hikers and their gear is almost always attempting to push the front edge of modern tech.
Let’s be clear – this tent is one of the absolute lightest 2-person ultralight tents on the market from a major manufacturer. Or at least that’s what Nemo wants us to believe (see the next review). Not to mention all the convenient bells and whistles they manage to pack in at that weight.
Hub and pole setup is quick and easy and you can’t possibly mess it up. Plus, the engineered guy-outs clip to the poles in such a way that nearly every possible inch of interior room is saved.
That said, however, this tent has one of the smallest footprints of any in our lineup. At 28 square feet it’s 2-3 square feet smaller than most of our others. Those 2-3 square feet are precious real estate when you’ve got two people crammed into a small tent and it’s been raining for 9 hours straight…
Best for an insanely lightweight tent with all the modern bells and whistles you could want.
- 1.88 pounds (0.94 pounds per person)
- Titanium tent pegs
- Reflective dyneema guy lines
- Floor size not specified
While I haven’t personally used Terra Nova gear, we’ve decided to put this tent into the lineup for a couple reasons. I mean, to be clear Terra Nova isn’t being humble about their thoughts on the “lightest 2-person self-supporting tent in the world”.
Terra Nova is attempting what few manufacturers will dare: the sub-2 two person tent. That’s a tent that weighs less than 1 pound per person. It’s been done before but not often and usually tents require DIY mods to get the weight down that low. Not so in this case.
In order to keep the weight down you’ll have only 1 door for two people. If you’re interested in less than 1 pound of shelter per person, though, you’ll eventually have to make sacrifices like this.
There are two rain fly hoods for improved ventilation on this tent. These are combined with lightweight waterproof fabric like the Watershed Si2 (let’s be honest, we’re not 100% sure what that means) to make a fast and light tent for two people.
I would say that Terra Nova counts as a cottage industry manufacturer. So, before you commit to this tent you’ll want to compare it to similar offerings from Zpacks, Hyperlight Mountain Gear, and Light Heart Gear.
Just watch out for the nosebleed price tag but if your looking for the lightest backpacking tent, this is it!
Best for the lightest possible two person tent you can find at a major retailer today!
- 4.8 pounds (2.4 pounds per person)
- Color coordinated setup
- Lantern hook and reflective stripes for visibility
- 29.4 square feet floor
The Naturehike Mongar is a lightweight tent shelter that allows you tons of freedom and flexibility in your choices.
While the last handful of tents we’ve reviewed have been in the high range of price, we’re coming back down with this one. You’re not going to be as lightweight as some of the pricy tents, but would you rather keep that extra cash in your pocket? This tent is as much as $300 or more cheaper than some ultra-models.
I couldn’t get a definite weight with the tent in footprint mode, but suffice it to say that it’s probably about half the weight of the full tent. I’d guess 2.7 pounds or so in footprint mode. Which would then make this a cheap and reasonable alternative to a tarp for ultralight backpackers in groups of two.
I would say, as we talked about earlier, that if you prioritize budget over sheer weight savings, this is a good tent to start looking at.
Best for the best lightweight tent two person tent that comes in light on the wallet.
- 2 pounds (1 pound per person)
- Dry entry vestibule
- No PVC or VOCs used in seam sealing
- 20 sq feet floor space
Big Agnes has always been a popular conventional brand with lightweight offerings. The Fly Creek is a tent that has come a long way and each iteration just keeps getting better and lighter. You can rest assured this tent is tried and true.
Of all the tents on our list this tent is nearly the lowest in two categories: weight and floor space. While it’s not the absolute lightest tent, the price tag (depending on where you order) is relatively reasonable. That said, the floor space is about 33% smaller than most other tents we reviewed here today.
There’s a pretty simple reason for that, though: this is a single person tent. Be sure to compare the “per person” weight and floor space when comparing single tents to double tents for an accurate comparison.
That said, you get a massive vestibule that doubles as a dry entry doorway. The flat front of the tent makes more room in the vestibule for gear and boots. Plus, lightly colored mesh and matching tent look modern and sleek.
Overall the design, weight, color, and features of this tent are distinctly modern and is the best ultralight backpacking tent,
Best for solo hikers wanting modern amenities in a lightweight, small package.
Ultralight Tent Comparison Table
|Ultralight Tent||Weight||Floor Space||Material||Rating|
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX||2.8 lbs||29 sq ft||20-denier ripstop nylon||4.6 / 5.0|
|Kelty Salida Tent||3.8 lbs||30.5 sq ft||68D Polyester||4.5 / 5.0|
|Paria Outdoor Products Zion||3.8 lbs||31.2 sq ft||20 denier ripstop silnylon||4.2 / 5.0|
|Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent||2.3 lbs||28 sq ft||15D Nylon Ripstop||3.9 / 5.0|
|Terra Nova Laser Competition||1.88 lbs||30.5 sq ft||20 denier ripstop silnylon||4.3 / 5.0|
|Naturehike Mongar Backpacking Tent||4.7 lbs||29.4 sq ft||20 denier ripstop nylon||4.9 / 5.0|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Platinum||2.0 lbs||28 sq ft||20 denier ripstop silnylon||4.9 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Ultralight Tent – Buyers Guide
- Tent Materials
- Tent Stakes
- Tent Frame Designs
- Ditch the Tent Bag
- Know Your Limits
- Waterproofing and Bathtub Floors
- Where Can You Get Ultralight Tents?
- Fly-First Pitching Tents
- Tent Geometry
- FAQs For Ultralight Tents
- Final Thoughts
So let’s find out just what you should be looking for when searching for an ultralight tent. We’ll go over what makes good, bad, and ugly lightweight tents.
Before we deep dive here, first you have to be honest with yourself. Which of these factors are important to you?
- Ease of use
- Ease of purchase
If you chose “weight” as your only priority in all honesty then you’re probably looking for bleeding edge ultralight tech. If you can’t stomach top dollar prices, however, you’ll have to make some sacrifices in the form of heavier gear.
Also called Dyneema Composite as it is now often called is the absolute lightest and most expensive fabric you can make a tent from. It lacks durability against puncture but is fortunately quite easy to repair. You’ll pay through your nose (double or more of lightweight conventional tents) and often will only save a few ounces compared to other tents.
Cuben fiber does not need to be sewn in many cases. Instead it is “welded” for a seamless and strong joint that is fully waterproof. If budget is no object and you are focused solely on the lightest possible gear, there’s no doubt that cuben fiber is for you.
Silnylon and other various versions including ripstop nylon are rugged and durable. Finished tents can be made quite lightweight with this material and it’s extremely affordable. Silnylon is also quite easy to repair but has a few disadvantages.
Silnylon must be sewn and therefore seam sealed to be fully waterproof. On top of that, silnylon or nylon tents from many budget brands are made with thick, heavy nylon. These tents struggle to compete for “lightweightness” but generally excel in value and durability.
Silpoly is short for silicone impregnated polyester. Similar to silnylon, silpoly in some forms can be lighter than most silnylons and yet remains quite affordable. It’s rare to find outside of cottage industry manufacturers, but is sometimes used as a component of lightweight conventional tents.
Usually, the absolute lightest tent stakes are made from titanium which is a rare and expensive metal. To keep the stakes light, ultralight companies make them quite thin. They’re therefore often prone to bending or having poor hold in all but perfect soil.
Instead lightweight aluminum tent stakes, such as the MSR MiniGroundhogs keep weight reasonable while exceeding expectations on soil hold and durability.
Tent Frame Designs
Most modern conventional tents, including readily available lightweight tents, rely on the skeletal frame of carbon, fiberglass, or aluminum frame poles. These poles are heavy and bulky unless you pay for extremely expensive sets.
Instead of paying through the nose, consider looking for a tent without poles. Tents without poles still need a frame of some sort. Most often this frame comes from your two hiking poles.
Lightweight hiking poles are used in some speciality tents to provide the structure of the frame. This thereby removes the need for the extra weight and bulk of a set of poles!
For many users, however, learning how to pitch a tent using just two hiking poles and a couple fancy knots can be a pain in the butt. There’s no doubt that conventional tent poles are popular for their ease of mastery.
Ditch the Tent Bag
If you’re going ultralight you’ll have to get over the idea of having a bag for everything. Those stuff sacks weigh grams and grams weigh ounces and ounces weigh pounds! Get with it, soldier!
Instead ditch the stuff sack and just jam your loose tent body down into your backpack to take up the void space between other objects. This keeps your whole pack more balanced and efficient and it makes the tent easier to pull out and set right up. Plus you can ditch that extra gram or two!
Know Your Limits
Before you go blasting off down the rabbit hole of shaving ounces, consider if you should save ounces. Sure, no one should be carrying dead weight in the pack, but at 10 pound pack weight isn’t for everyone either.
Do you really want to give up the large, luxurious and easy to setup space you had in your silnylon tent? You’ll have to pay up huge bucks, get new hiking poles, learn new knots, and sleep inside a much smaller and harder to setup cuben fiber custom tent if you want to get as light as it goes.
Are you really ready to make the sacrifices it takes to go as light as possible?
If you’re not sure, then maybe find a balance. Look for a tent that’s lightweight, within your budget, and find ways to reduce or improve the weight while still having an easy to setup and durable tent.
Waterproofing and Bathtub Floors
When it comes to tents, most often they feature bathtub floors. This means the floor materials wrap around, usually seamlessly, and up the sides several inches.
Commonly the floor material will be made from a thicker, more durable waterproof material than the tent body. This floor material may be sewn and sealed around the corners.
If this is the case, and across all other exterior seams on the tent, you need to be sure they’re seam sealed. Most premium conventional tent brands will come pre-sealed.
Budget tents may not disclose whether or not they are sealed and most often are not. Custom cottage industry manufacturer tents will usually say if they are seam sealed, but most often are not.
Don’t worry, though, if your tent is not seam sealed you can do it yourself easily. Honestly I prefer seam sealing my tents over having it done poorly in the factory on a cheaper tent.
To learn how to check if your seams are sealed and how to seal your own seams just watch this simple video.
Where Can You Get Ultralight Tents?
This is an important focal point – manufacturers of ultralight tents. Now, for the true ultralight purists and gram weenies you’ll have to head to cottage industry manufacturers such as Zpacks, Mountain Laurel Designs, or Hyperlight Mountain Gear. There just aren’t any major brand name companies pushing ultralight tents as far as they can go.
But, why is that?
Well, it’s because the overwhelming vast majority of the backpackers in the world shopping for lightweight tents do not actually want “pure” ultralight tents.
Many brand name manufacturers are making very lightweight tents that are slightly more on the “conventional” side of things than the “ultralight purist” side of things.
Like I said earlier: figuring out what type of lightweight backpacker you are (or want to be) is an important first step. Don’t forget to be honest and realistic when assessing your goals.
Fly-First Pitching Tents
Okay, so it’s pouring rain and you need to set up your tent. You grab the tent body, put the poles in it, and then throw the rainfly over it as fast as you can. Unfortunately, even at hyper-speed your tent is now soaking wet inside!
Alright, you can use a microfiber towel (you brought one, right?) to bail out the water from inside. Or… you could try to put the rainfly up before you put the tent up. But… how…?
You’re not the first person with this problem and it’s an issue which spawned the invention of the “fly-first” pitching method.
Like their name implies, mid tents are shaped like a pyramid. These tents usually rely on a single center pole (often a hiking pole) to hold the tent up. From that pole, the fabric of the walls is stretched taut to the ground.
Mid tents are some of the strongest and lightest designs out there. They’re fantastic at shedding wind and rain!
These classic tents are shaped like an A when erected. Because of the sharp peak and steep walls, they make sturdy 4-season companions. Most commonly today, the A-frame design is used in tarp pitching which is also common for ultralight shelters but rarely used in actual tents.
Geo tents use specialized geometry usually involving specific criss-crossing of tent poles. These overlapped poles and structural designs allow the tents to be significantly more sturdy than similar shaped tents.
Geodesic or variations on geodesic designs are perhaps the most common modern tent design.
These are perhaps most popular as the Hilleberg tents (which by the way can be fly-first pitched). Tube tents look like well… a tube. They’re quite strong but for several reasons they tend to be relatively heavy and bulky.
Tunnel tents are rarely, if ever, used in ultralight tent construction.
Pro Tip: There are many tent styles and designs out there. Explore more to learn them all – I’ve only covered those most applicable to ultralight tent designs.
Ultralight tent vestibules are usually minimalist by nature. However, a good vestibule doesn’t add much weight and can be well worth your investment.
When entering or exiting your tent a vestibule can provide some shelter to help keep rain out. It also leaves room for storing your gear like shoes and backpacking where they’ll be protected from direct rain.
FAQs For Ultralight Backpacking Tents
Q: How do I find all the specifications for my tent?
A: The best way to make sure that you’re seeing and researching the right info for your tent is to go to the manufacturer’s site. That said, you can double check and corroborate your information by reading forum posts and reviews from gear testers in the field.
These first-hand reviews usually will quickly tell you how close the manufacturer’s info is to accurate. Many manufacturers, like our politicians, have a tendency to “embellish the truth” in their specifications.
Q: Are tents the lightest shelter for ultralight backpackers?
A: No, they are not. Tents are nice for their features, reliability, and other amenities. However, the bug nets, poles, and bathtub floors all add weight.
So, what’s the lightest shelter you can find? Most likely a tarp shelter, in the majority of situations, will be the lightest shelter option for ultralight backpackers.
However, a footprint-only tent setup can be very lightweight as well!
Q: Are cuben fiber tents weaker than others?
A: Mylar laminate (once known as cuben fiber) is indeed quite a fragile material in some respects. In other respects, it’s extremely strong and durable!
Cuben fiber is strongest when tensile forces are applied (pulling inline with the fabric). It is extremely weak against puncturing forces, however. In fact, I had a hole punched in a piece of cuben by a falling pine cone at one time!
When it comes to fabric that might be exposed to heavy abrasion or puncturing forces, I would opt for either very thick mylar laminate, or a different fabric altogether (like silnylon).
In the end, it’s up to you. Do your research and make the best choice for your needs!
Q: Is silnylon or silpoly a better tent material?
A: There is a lot of technology, research, and information behind this. On top of all that, there is a lot of opinionated information circulating on this topic.
I would recommend not overthinking this. Go with the tent that best fits your needs and budget and don’t worry about whether it’s silpoly or silnylon. Instead, make sure the tent has good reviews, a weight you’re okay with, and a price you can afford.
Take it from me, you can spend weeks researching this topic and comparing tents. In the end it will really boil down to price and weight for most people. What is the lightest tent you can get for the budget you have? That’s the real factor.
Q: How do I make my tent lighter?
A: Often you can replace or modify things on your tent to make it lighter. In some cases, you may even find that a cheap tent, with a few mods, becomes a very competitive lightweight tent at a fraction of the cost!
So, what can you replace or modify?
- Tent stakes
- Remove stuff sacks
- Remove storage pockets
- Remove extra clips
- Cut off tags
In the end the lightest weight tents come from all over the world. Small manufacturers and big manufacturers alike struggle to keep weights down. DIY hikers modify gear in their basements all the time.
In all truthfulness, the lightest tents are probably homemade DIY projects by diehard enthusiasts. Of course, we’re not all diehards so that’s probably not the route to go.
We’ve tried to get a range of ultralight tents on our list so that you can pick the ones that work the best for you. Whether want to save money or save weight there’s a tent on our list for you. All of them are among the lightest tents readily available in their class.
Just remember to stay true to yourself. Searching for the absolute lightest tents can lead to sacrificing some parts of backpacking and hiking that we realize we enjoyed to begin with.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best ultralight tent to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a tent I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.