Gear

10 Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents

Overview

Among backpackers, the question of which backpacking tent to buy is a much debated subject. Furthermore, there is a fervent camp of ultralight backpackers that have abandoned tents for alternative shelters. Some of the more popular options include bivy sacks, tarps, and hammocks.

If the weather forecast is good, sometimes I ditch a shelter altogether to save weight. In these instances, I lay down a ground cloth, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag with a fleece liner to increase warmth.

I love to stargaze as I doze off and am always excited to spot satellites and shooting stars. For instance, I once saw a fireball streak cross the sky in the La Sal Mountains near Moab, Utah.

That being said, for most backpacking trips I bring a tent. The increased protection from the elements, extra insulation, privacy, and feeling of safety that a tent provides are hard to beat. For those same reasons, most of the friends and family I backpack with carry tents to the backcountry.

Based on the endorsements, complaints and years of field tests conducted by myself and campmates, I have whittled down a list of the ten best backpacking tents. All of the tents that made the list are lightweight, compact, durable, and affordable.

To learn more about what to look for and how to make an informed decision, read the section below. If you are ready to browse tents, scroll past it to see the full list.

Clay wakes up to snow on the Uinta Highline Trail

Top Things to Consider

Weight

As you shop for a tent, one of the most important specifications to look at is weight. Out of all the gear you carry on a backpacking trip, tents tend to be one of the heaviest items.

In many respects, we are fortunate enough to live in a lightweight gear renaissance. Every day, more backpackers are embracing the ultralight mentality and shedding weight from their packs. To keep up with demand, both established and startup outdoor companies are creating new lightweight gear.

Of course, not all of it is made well. In fact, fragility is likely the number one criticism of lightweight gear in general. However, I am not convinced that one must compromise durability or performance to lighten up. For that reason, I have excluded certain tents from this list to ensure quality.

The Difference Between Trail Weight, Packed Weight, and Fly Weight

Once you start comparing tents, you will notice the weight listed in a myriad of ways. It is important to understand what these are, so you don’t miscalculate the tent’s actual weight. Here is the breakdown:

  • Trail Weight: Weight of the poles, fly, and body. Does not include stakes, guy lines, or stuff sack.
  • Minimum Weight: Same as above.
  • Packed Weight: Actual weight of the tent package. Includes poles, fly, body, stakes, guy lines, stuff sack, etc.
  • Fly Weight: Weight of the poles, fly, and footprint.
The MSR Hubba Hubba in Waimanu Valley

Materials

Before you make a purchase, it is a good idea to find out what materials a tent is made of and their attributes. The quality of its materials will help determine how weather resistant it is and how long it will last. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Denier: A measurement used to indicate the thickness of fibers in a fabric. The higher the denier the stronger, though the type of material also plays a role.
  • Types of Material: Most lightweight tents are made from nylon. Nylon ripstop is more resistant to tears and rips than traditional nylon. Dyneema is lighter, thinner, stronger, and more water resistant than nylon, but also more expensive.
  • Waterproof and Coating: Tent specifications will often show a number in millimeters, followed by the type of coating. The number indicates how much water can sit on top of the fabric before it leaks. To repel water, an external coat of Silicone, DWR (Durable Water Repellant), or PU (Polyurethane) is often used also.
The MSR Carbon Reflex 2 in the Uinta Mountains

Features

There are countless features to look into when deciding on a backpacking tent. Without a fundamental understanding of what is available and why, it can be hard to choose your own personal requirements. Here are some of the most common features, along with explanations:

  • Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding: A freestanding tent can be set up without stakes or guy lines. This comes in handy when you need to pitch your tent on solid rock or ground that you can’t pound stakes into. Still, it is always a best practice to stake your tent in and set up guy lines for two reasons: 1) To keep it from blowing away 2) To keep the rainfly taut, so it does not leak.
  • Doors and Vestibules: If you plan to sleep two or more people in a single tent, then two doors is better than one. Otherwise, someone will be left to climb over another to answer the call of nature. In addition, I am a big fan of vestibules, because they can be used to stash your backpack and save room inside.
  • Floor Area and Interior Height: These specifications are easy to find and I have included them for the tents in this post. Interior height is a significant factor, especially for tall folks. It gives you an idea of how much difficulty you will have getting in and out of the tent.
  • Poles vs. Trekking Poles: Some of the lighter tents on the market got rid of the need for tent poles. If you use trekking poles anyway, this is a great way to lighten your pack. In the event that your trekking poles break, this feature puts you in a precarious position.

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents

Below are my recommendations for the best lightweight backpacking tents in no particular order. To make it easier to compare specifications, all of the tents listed are one or two-person. Nevertheless, you can find many of the models available in other arrangements.

REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - REI Quarter Dome 2

Packed Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 2
Dimensions: 88 x 52 x 42 in
Interior Height: 42 in
Floor Area: 29 sq ft

The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is a great tent option for backpackers on a budget. It was redesigned in 2017 to provide more headroom and though its a squeeze for some, can accommodate two people. It is not the lightest tent around, but its sturdy construction will withstand windstorms and keep you dry in the rain.

View at REI

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Packed Weight: 3 lb 13 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 2
Dimensions: 50 x 84 in
Interior Height: 39 in
Floor Area: 29 sq ft

For good reason, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX has an exceptional reputation among backpackers. Although its heavier than many tents, it makes up for it with a bombproof design. Kim and I have weathered some powerful storms in this tent. As an added benefit, it is comfortable and roomy for two people (and one medium-sized dog).

Tip: Check out the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 for a stripped down version of the Hubba Hubba that weighs only 2 lb 3 oz.

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Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Big Agnes Fly Creek

Packed Weight: 2 lb 5 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 1
Dimensions: 52 x 86 x 42 in
Floor Height: 39 in
Floor Area: 28 sq ft

In recent years, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 has gained popularity because of its low price and low weight. The tent is advertised as two-person, but unless both occupants are tiny, works best for one. The tent’s bathtub floor is low to the ground, so there is a tendency for water to seep through during heavy rainstorms. To combat this, stake out the guy lines and increase tension to keep the rainfly taut.

View at REI

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Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Mountain Hardware Ghost

Packed Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 1
Dimensions: NA
Interior Height: 37 in
Floor Area: 27 sq ft

The Mountain Hardware Ghost UL 2 is slightly roomier than the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 and close to the same weight. The bathtub floor also comes up higher, which makes it more water resistant. In addition, the tent’s fabric is rated at an impressive 20 denier.

View at Backcountry

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The North Face O2

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - The North Face O2

Packed Weight: 2 lb 4 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 1
Dimensions: 51 x 82 in
Interior Height: 37 in
Floor Area: 25.6 sq ft

The North Face O2 is another good tent option for backpackers looking to lighten up their packs. It sleeps one or two comfortably and packs down to a compact size. It performs well in rainy conditions, but is less effective in windstorms. As a rule, two-door tents hold up better in windy conditions.

View at Backcountry

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Hyperlite Echo II

Packed Weight: 1 lb 13 oz
Freestanding: No
Doors/Vestibules: NA
Dimensions: 84 x 52 x 41 in
Interior Height: 41 in
Floor Area: 24 sq ft

Among lightweight backpacking shelters, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II consistently tops the charts. The entire system weighs only 1 lb 13 oz and its modularity allows for even lighter setups. However, it does require trekking poles to set up.

Made of Dyneema, the rainfly is more durable and waterproof than its competitors. Of the tents on this list, the Zpacks Duplex is the only comparable option in terms of performance. The one drawback of this tent? It is a pain in the a** to pitch.

View at Hyperlite

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Zpacks Duplex

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Zpacks Duplex

Packed Weight: 1 lb 5 oz
Freestanding: Upgrade available
Doors/Vestibules: 2
Dimensions: 90 x 45 in
Interior Height: 48 in
Floor Area: 28 sq ft

I have yet to encounter a lighter backpacking tent than the Zpacks Duplex. Like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II, its rainfly is made of Dyneema, so it offers outstanding rain and wind protection while remaining light and durable. The tent includes a sewn in bathtub floor and bug screen and requires trekking poles to set up. The spacious interior sleeps two comfortably and it includes two vestibules.

Tip: Allow one to two weeks for the Zpacks Duplex to ship.

View at Zpacks

Tarptent Saddle 2

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Tarptent Saddle 2

Packed Weight: 2 lb 5 oz
Freestanding: No
Doors/Vestibules: 2
Dimensions: 84 x 50 in
Interior Height: 41 in
Floor Area: 29 sq ft

For several years, a longtime friend and  backpacking buddy has been using the TarpTent Saddle 2 and is a huge proponent of it. It requires trekking poles to set up and is trickier to pitch than freestanding models, but it is durable, windproof, and weatherproof. It is also easy to split up between two people. As an added convenience, the tarp and mesh portions weigh about the same.

View at Tarptent

Marmot Eos 1P

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Marmot EOS 1P

Packed Weight: 2 lb 7 oz
Freestanding:
Yes
Doors/Vestibules:
1
Dimensions: 36 x 87 in
Interior Height: 37 in
Floor Area: 21 sq ft

The Marmot Eos 1P is a solid choice for solo backpackers looking for a lightweight tent that won’t break the bank. Depending on what promotions are running when you read this, there is a good chance this is the most affordable tent on this list. It is not the roomiest by any means, but it does provide ample protection from the rain and wind.

View at REI

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NEMO Hornet Elite 2P

Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents - Nemo Hornet Elite

Packed Weight: 2 lb 3 oz
Freestanding: Yes
Doors/Vestibules: 2
Dimensions: 85 x 51 in
Interior Height: 37 in
Floor Area: 28 sq ft

The Nemo Hornet Elite 2P is slightly lighter than the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2, but has an additional door. It offers a similar degree (if not more) rain and wind protection, and is more durable. If you are looking for a tent that is ultralight, easy to set up, and does not require trekking poles to do so, than this tent is worth looking into.

View at REI

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