Having a great tent when you go out backpacking can make all the difference to your experience.
But, over the years, technologies have improved, and now there are lightweight options available that are as good as, or if not better than the bulkier tents, a lot of people are lugging around with them. Nowadays, ultralight camping can be a reality.
There is a train of thought that thinks these lightweight tents will compromise quality, but again this isn’t true.
Fabrics are stronger and more resilient to harsh weather without piling on the weight of your gear.
To make sure you are on the best foot when looking for a new tent, here are some of the best, which could find their way onto your new camping supplies list in this ultra-lightweight tent review.
What is an Ultralight Tent?
These tents are designed with lightweight as the primary focus. With thinner materials, the weight of your tent can plummet considerably, but to do this, there are some tradeoffs that backpackers need to be aware of.
An ultra-lightweight tent won’t have the same space as more traditional tents and is more geared to just providing a space for sleeping overnight than spending several days in one location.
Some tents can be found, which are not much more than tarp shelters over some frame, and these lack many comfort features and only offer protection from the weather and maybe protection from bugs and insets.
One way in which these tent developers can minimize weight is by changing their designs. Now, you can see many of these lightweight tents come with a skeletal frame on the outside, which supports the tent. These poles are super thin and super strong.
Some tent manufacturers even go as far as using trekking poles as the means of support. This, in a way, though, is slightly confusing when looking at tent specs because the pole weights won’t be included.
Ultralight tents can use some super-light fabrics, but in some cases, they are not as durable as more conventional materials. There are pros and cons with almost all ultralight tents because some features are left out. (Learn How To Hang A Kayak On A Wall)
This tent review aims to find the best of both worlds for backpackers to find the best tents for camping, which give a good balance of weight, price, and performance ratios.
Top Ultralight Tents Reviews
1. Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent
Kelty is one tent manufacturer who has been around for a while, making excellent camping gear. Kelty Salida has set the standard and understands that an affordable freestanding tent is on the heavier side.
The Kelty Salida 2 is available in either ultralight 1 person tent, 2-person tent, or a 4-person variety. For support, two shock-corded poles support the inner tent and are then covered by the rain fly.
While the materials used in the construction are dated compared to some of the newer fabrics, they still offer more than enough protection and durability, hence the more affordable price.
As a guide, the 2-person variety can be found for a little over $100 and can range up to around $170 for the 4-person offering. It comprises one door and one large inner vestibule, this could make it the best 1-person tent.
Durability can be seen all the way through, and none more so than the floor. It uses tough 68 deniers like the wall material, so there is no chance of a tear appearing with use.
One other area where an old design comes into play is with the traditional loop clips, but these are still effective and add nothing much to the weight.
- Oversized door
- No-See-Um mesh
- Quick and easy set-up
- Gear loft included
- Seam taped for rain proofing
- Only 1 door – can be awkward for the furthest person to get out
- Packs square
- Low ventilation with rain fly fitted
- Polyester walls and tough 68 denier nylon floors
- 10 square feet of vestibule space (2-person model)
- 30.5 square feet of floor area
- Weight: 3 pounds and 14 ounces (2-person model)
- Dimensions: Length 88in x Width 55/45 in x Height 43 inches
The Kelty Salida tent is a very affordable option and can be at home on a campsite as well as campers who are hitting the trail.
It is unfortunate it packs square rather than roll up, but this shouldn’t detract from its lightweight compared to other offerings. If backpacking in arid conditions, the ventilation problem is less of an issue because the door or even the rain fly can be left off.
Overall, the price to performance ratio is high compared to other top picks that are available. If you decided to buy a footprint, you could check out the cheaper polypro groundsheet, which can be available on the site of the Kelty tent; this will double the denier rating of the floor.
2. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent
The MSR tent comes from one of the best names in outdoor gear. It comes with plenty of features while remaining light to carry.
It has excellent weather protection and is comfortable inside. Although the floor isn’t as robust as some, it comes with a durable 30-denier floor covering suitable for light wear and tear.
Its easy hub and pole frame construction are easy to set up and quick to take down. Inside there is enough room for two adults to sit upright, and this is thanks to its near-symmetrical construction of the side walls.
- Roll up rainfly
- 2 doors
- 2 year limited warranty
- Lightweight and convenient
- Good ventilation
- A little on the heavier side
- Walls feel too close to the face when laying
- Weight: 3.8 lbs.
- Construction: 20-denier ripstop nylon and 15-denier mesh
- 29 square feet floor area
- 17.5 square feet vestibule area
- Dimensions: Length 84in x Width 50in x Height 39 inches
The Hubba Hubba tent does tick quite a few boxes on what people would look for. But, there are options available that use more robust materials without adding anything to the weight. Because the company is a premium tent manufacturer, this is reflected in the price tag.
With a guide of around $300, it comes in a lot more expensive than some other enclosed tents with equivalent features and construction. In some cases, there are cheaper alternatives that give a better overall experience while forgiving a couple of features. (Read Pop Up Canopies Reviews)
Users might also be concerned with the floor, and in most cases, an extra footprint tarp is purchased to take the floor up to the strength of some competition.
These only add ounces to the overall tent weight, but it does add a considerable amount to the MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent cost.
For casual backpackers or beginners, this high price might be a little too much. The price could have been justified if it was a 4-season tent rather than merely a 3-season.
3. Terra Hiker 2 Person Tent, 4 Seasons Tent with Tent Fly, Tarp for Outdoor Activities
The Terra 2 gives great versatility by being used as a tent or a footprint-only pitching tent for when the temperatures are on the warmer side or you need to get out of the rain quickly.
It is also the only one on the list of a 4-season tent compared to all the others, 3-season tents.
It should be noted that even though it is marketed as a 4 seasons tent. The minimalist tent materials are only 20 deniers on the rain fly and ground tarp and only have a one-layer silicone coating on one side. This degree of protection might not stand up to rougher weather should you find yourself confronted by it.
It comes with two doors which makes access more natural. Its simplest configuration makes a decent alternative to an ultralight tarp for an ultra-lightweight backpacking tarp tent with better protection.
- Lantern hook
- Inner storage pockets
- Mesh vent in rainfly
- Comes with footprint
- Not highly weatherproofed with silicone
- No zip on rainfly – toggle fastening only
- Weight: 4.73lb. (2.15kg)
- Footprint only 20 denier
- Dimensions: Length 80in x Width 53in x Height 43 inches
- Weight: 4.73 pounds
- Construction: 20 denier one coat PU4000MM silicone oil
- Aluminum poles
As it stands, and with versatility, it is an excellent option to build on top of other ultralight tarps. With a guide price of around $160, it comes in a little over the best tarp prices, but with that, you do get some extra versatility.
As for it being a 4-season tent, that remains to be seen, but with thin materials and lightweight waterproofing, any backpacking later than early fall could be a bit of a misjudgment.Check Latest Price
4. Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent
The Nemo Hornet is super light, but this comes with some serious compromises. Nemo has been in the game for quite a while and has made its way into the pop culture scene.
There is no doubt that it is the lightest backpacking tent in this review. This, not semi-free standing tent, comes in at under two pounds in weight and comes with 2 doors.
The rugged tub floor construction doesn’t need to use seams and thus improves the waterproofing around the floor area, made from ripstop nylon.
One feature is you can divide the lightweight tent and other parts using a divvy sack. This can cut down the weight for each hiker even more. (Read Pop Up Camper Organization)
Ventilation is carried out by the topper half of the inner tent being mesh, and the rainfly is separated from this by the supporting pole.
- Super lightweight
- Built-in privacy panel
- Hubbed pole intersections
- Triangulated guyouts give a volumizing effect
- Light pocket – headlamp can be diffused
- Small footprint
- Nonsymmetrical design
- Floor only 15 denier fabric
- Fly fabric only 10 denier
- Weight: 2lbs 5 oz.
- Dimensions: Length 85in x Width 51in x Height 40 inches
- Floor area: 27.4 square feet
- Ripstop Nylon
With only one pole, the guy lines are required to make full use of this ultralight backpacker’s tent. On occasion, this could easily compromise where it can be pitched.
It should also be noted the guy lines are required to claw back 15% of space that could be lost, and in a tent with only a 28 square foot footprint, every inch of space is required.
It might be the lightest 2 person tent on the test, but with a guide price over $350, you would expect a little more for your money.
One of the most redeeming features of a costly tent is it has two well-proportioned vestibules.
These with the two doors give an element of freedom and comfort in what would amount to the smallest space on offer from all of the tents in this review. While it is marketed as a two-person tent, it is better suited to one person and has a more ready room.
5. Paria Outdoor Products Zion 2P Two Person Lightweight Tent and Footprint
The Backcountry Camping Zion tent is another option that can be used as a camping tarp shelter or as a full tent with the inner tent included. During testing, it was found there was a lack of ventilation allowed to inside to get warm when the rainfly was fitted.
If this was for an extended period, the amount of condensation could be considerable, but without, there was proper ventilation.
It was good to see a roomy tent inside compared to some more of the more expensive options. Much of this was down to the hub and pole design, pulling the inner tent nicely outward.
What we did find was, it can take a little over ten minutes to pitch the tent in its full guise, and if you were up against the elements, you would come off worse rather than being moderately damp.
- Four mesh pockets and gear loft
- Ripstop fabric used all through for durability
- Hub and pole design
- 2 side vestibules
- Two doors
- Inferior stitching on some pole loops
- Weight under-declared full weight 5lbs – from customer review
- Low-quality fabrics and fittings
- High fitting rainfly
- Floor, not one piece tub design
- Small vestibules
- Long set-up time
- Dimensions: Length 85in x Width 53in x Height 38 inches
- Footprint and tent floor: 40 denier ripstop nylon
- Rainfly: 20 denier ripstop nylon dual silicone coatings
- Mesh: 20 denier no-see-um polyester
- Weight: 3lbs 15oz.
- Floor area: 31.2 square feet
For a tent that comes in with such a lightweight, it was nice to see the inclusion of silnylon, but for the price of around $170, it is easy to see why there was only a dual-layer and not more.
However, it was good to have this inclusion when the fabrics used were only 20 deniers, but again, this is thicker than many offerings at a higher price.
Some customer reviews mention fabric quality and the standard of the stitching, and although none of this failed during the review, it was possible to see why this could happen.
Overall, it’s a roomy two-person tent that is versatile, but for durability on the trail, you might find it lets you down. It could be a good option as a beach shelter tent or when you are guaranteed good weather and only want shade from the sun.
If the materials and const4ruction were better, we might be looking at one of the best ultralight backpacking tents or very close.
What to Look For When Buying an Ultralight Tent
Buying an ultralight tent is a little different from purchasing a more traditional tent for camping. These would need more space and more features to make it more comfortable for an extended stay.
Ultralight tents are mean for comfort and protection for shorter periods of one might or maybe two, depending on where you are backpacking.
They should also offer fast erection and takedown times due to the nature of backpacking. The last thing any backpacker wants to do after a full day of hiking is taking time to erect their tent.
With this, and other things you need to know, here is a comprehensive rundown of what can affect your tent purchase.
It can be easy to be tempted to spend more than you need to on your ultralight tent. But as you can see from the options above, there is no need to do so.
If you are a frequent backpacker, you might justify a little extra cost for a superior quality product, but spending a significant amount won’t bring you any noticeable benefits for the more regular backpackers.
One of the only real benefits you would notice is weight, but again looking at the options, this would be not very important.
A few ounces difference between a tarp vs. a tent might not sound like too much, but to fully enjoy your backpacking forays into the wilderness, keeping the pack weight down can be crucial.
These lightweight tents can make the overall experience more fun because you don’t feel weighed down with your gear.
A tent will be one of the four heaviest items that you need to carry along with your sleeping bags, backpack, and sleeping pad, so to keep the overall weight down, the tent is a great place to start.
All of the above tents, which are recommended, have the best mix of convenience, comfort, and weight. It is possible to go lighter, but this is where things become more expensive, and you might overlook many added benefits.
When you have a backpacking tent that isn’t capable of protecting you from the elements, it is pretty much useless and can be downright dangerous.
When you are hitting the trails, the last thing you want is a budget tent that doesn’t offer enough protection. Whichever double-wall tents you choose should provide some degree of storm protection in water repellency and sturdiness, so it doesn’t fall over.
Conventional camping and tents are built with a different purpose in mind, but these ultralight tents need to turn in the weather rapidly.
Interior Tent Space
Backpacking tents, in most cases, keep their weight down by minimizing the overall size of the tent. This, in turn, uses less material in their construction.
Many 2-person tents have space for two adults to sleep comfortably with a couple of backpacks as storage, which can be stored in the vestibules, although there are some 2-person tents used as solo tents.
If you need more space, you can opt for the next size up in the tent category. Some offer 2,3, or 4-person while others only come in 2-person or 4-person. Comfort and weight will be the deciding factor in your decision.
This follows on from the interior space of your tent. It doesn’t matter the number of persons it states on the tents data; there can be a massive difference in the real world when you are crushing the miles and want to relax after a long day.
Here are some quick briefs on tent sizes and who they are good for.
1-person: these are ideal for solo hikers who want to travel light.
2-person: these sizes are the most popular due to their balance of space and weight. On occasions, solo hikers opt for these to have that little extra room they can wriggle about in without compromising too much on weight. When there are 2 people, space can be eaten up pretty quickly.
3 & 4 people: these might sound the ideal solution when there are a higher number of hikers in your party, but this is where the capacity descriptions quickly go out of the window. Tents of this size for this number of people become impractical.
Two or three hikers can fit in relative comfort, but when you reach four, this makes things awkward. Sleeping head to toe is the first downside, but with three hikers, there is enough room to sit out a storm with space to spare for your backpacks.
With internal space being a premium, there is more focus on vertical walls to allow for sitting or, at best, crouching inside your tent.
If you see a tent that doesn’t have this kind of headroom, or in the case of a single-person tent, a large vestibule, it might be an old-style tent that has been superseded.
Backpacking tents need to be erected quickly, and a flaw in the design can ruin what could amount to a good tent.
Designs should be simple, and for the larger tents, one side door won’t suffice, and two doors are a must. Vestibule space is also one of those features which can make or break a hiking trip.
After this comes headroom, interior space for storage, and, most of all, ventilation to prevent condensation; again, this is where a 4-person tent falls because inside can get pretty toasty with little ventilation.
The most spacious being the quarter dome design, as it is pretty symmetrical. Although we have none on the list, there is also the pyramid tent, and although these have the standing capability, they lack any depth at the side and can be cramped when sleeping.
The most common type of backpacking tents are 3-season, and most of the above are 3-season due to the popularity of this type.
As you can expect, these are designed for spring, summer, and fall. If you are hiking toward the back end of fall, many of the tested tents can handle a small amount, but not for long periods of heavy downfalls.
They are designed more to keep the bad weather out and allow plenty of ventilation to prevent condensation build-up.
When backpacking, tents need to be quickly and easily erected. On many occasions, the terrain could be hard or even rock, so freestanding tents are necessary. These are easy to set rather than using tent poles, guidelines, and stakes.
Fixed pole systems can be set up almost anywhere compared to non-freestanding tents, which cut down on weight through a lack of tent poles.
A trekking pole tent will make use of your poles as the supports. This type and other non-freestanding types are also harder to master pitching than their freestanding counterparts.
Double-walled tents come with a two-part construction. This comprises the mesh tent body and a rainfly. The inner-tent function acts as a barrier against the condensation problem, which forms on the inside of the rainfly.
When you compare this to single-walled tents, there is no ventilation in the same areas, so condensation builds up in wet or cold climates.
This type, though, is much lighter in weight, but once they have condensation build-up, comfort has very much been lost.
Lightweight tents are made from thinner materials, and as a result, they lose a lot of their strength.
With this in mind, there is always an element of care that needs to be taken with these ultralight tents to make sure they last a long time.
This can mean you are limited to where you can pitch your tent because a sharp rock or a stick can quickly pierce the tent fabric.
This is why any backpacker should carefully consider spending too much on the best ultralight tents to save a few ounces, and choosing a more durable one can be the saving grace and give countless years of operation.
When purchasing a tent, be sure to check the denier of the fabric; the higher the denier number, the more durable the material.
This denier rating isn’t the be-all and end-all when choosing tents. More expensive options come with low denier ratings, but with silicone coatings, which increase the tear strength.
These coatings can be three layers on both the interior and the exterior and can significantly affect the cost of a tent.
Although most tents come with a floor of some kind, these, on most occasions, aren’t all that durable. Many companies sell footprints that are placed under the floor of your tent to give it durability.
For the more expensive tents, these footprints can add a considerable amount to the overall price, which in effect means you are paying for an additional item because there is an inefficiency in the construction of your tent.
This should be considered at purchase time because if your tent is given weight, this won’t be the case when adding the weight of an additional footprint.
This being said, even tents that have highly durable floors, the addition of a footprint, can cut down on repairs over the lifetime of your tent.
Depending on the manufacturer, you can purchase a footprint where the size and holes are an exact match for the size of your tent.
Vestibules and Storage Pockets
Due to the lack of lightweight tents, the storage options are limited to vestibules and gear closets on the tent’s exterior. On the inside, you might find storage pockets and a gear loft where you can hang things above your head.
The most crucial part of your tent will be the vestibule because it will be the only place you can store gear aside from bringing it inside the tent.
This makes limited space even smaller, but if conditions are wet, comfort will be severely compromised.
Although interior storage shouldn’t be a top priority when buying a tent, it can make an organization a little easier when some things are close at hand.
If there is storage internally, this should be located close to your head.
Hence pockets or loops close to where your head will be are ideal, but a gear loft is even better because you only have to reach up to find any small item you need.
After reviewing all the tents above, it was clear there was only one contender. Considering all of the above purchasing conditions, we saw the Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent was the best overall choice for ultra-lightweight camping.
It comes with highly durable flooring and sidewalls without adding too much weight. It also gave more than enough storage room through the gear loft and storage pockets inside, and the vestibules were more than adequate for two full backpacks outside.
With the most significant drawback being only one door, we found it a small price to pay for the best light tent for regular camping trips.
We also had concerns about the reports of condensation when the rainfly was attached, but this was in severe condition. In ordinary circumstances, this wouldn’t pose much of a problem.
For overall ease of use, comfortability, and cost, none of the other tents could match the durability of this best lightweight tent.
Either they were much more expensive, or the quality of the materials was reduced to reach the same price point.
A worthy choice, and one that will last many a backpacker lots of years’ service.