Camping can be a casual affair, and it’s a great way to bring friends and family together to enjoy Mother Nature. Backpacking is a bit different, being on the trail for a few days or longer. If you’re thinking about tackling the Appalachian Trail instead of the local campground, you’ll want the best lightweight tent for backpacking – not one built for family fun.
Quick Look: Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents – Recommendations
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX
- Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 Person tent
- Teton Sports Mountain Ultra Tent
- Nemo Galaxi Backpacking Tent
- ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr Tent
- Kelty Grand Mesa Tent
- Sierra Designs Tensegrity 1 Elite
- Lux Tempo Sky Admirer 2
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What You'll Learn
- Best Lightweight Tent for Backpacking: Reviews
- Lightweight Backpacking Tent Buying Guide
- A Tent for All Seasons
- Tent Care Tips
Best Lightweight Tent for Backpacking: Reviews
- Weight – at 3lbs 13oz this will satisfy the gram-weenies
- Roomy for it’s size
- Stargazer view
- Kickstand vent on the rainfly
- Easy to put up and use
- Trouble in rough weather if you don’t set up the guylines
- Stakes included are not the sturdiest
Well, you’d be remiss to write this one off as it’s roomy, lightweight and has a few features we think you’ll appreciate while you’re in the wilds.
This geometric tent is designed to battle the elements but won’t weigh you down. It’s in the ultralight class with a packed weight of 3 lbs. 13 ozs. and is freestanding, with two doors and a vestibule.
The company used 20D ripstop nylon in the canopy, rainfly, and floor. The overall design of the tent and an ample amount of Durashield coating will keep you dry in some fairly harsh weather.
When it comes to living space, the Hubba Hubba NX does not disappoint. It provides 29 square feet of floor space with an interior height of 39-inches.
The vestibule adds a bit more room and the rainfly rolls up with ease when the weather is clear, and the stars are bright. It’s simple to pitch with a unified pole and hub setup complete with color-coded clips.
The Hubba Hubba NX is not what we would consider cheap, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. In this case, you’re getting a high-quality tent capable of outliving others by years. The tent is only available in one hue and comes with 6 stakes and guylines.
If you’re heading to some rough weather, I’d recommend you get hold of the MSR Groundhog Stakes which are more robust. Also, you’ll need to get a tent footprint as it’s not included.
- Packed weight of 3lbs. 1oz.
- Double Ripstop Nylon Poly blend means it’s durable
- Media pocket so you don’t lose small items
- Dual Doors and Vestibules
- Multiple sizes from 1-4 people
- Not exactly budget-friendly
- Poles can be tough to pack
Big Agnes went with a proprietary blend of double ripstop nylon in the construction of the Spur HV UL2. This increases the durability in the canopy and floor along with the four-way pole and hub system.
Fully taped seams help keep the water away, and we liked the fact they used a solvent-free PU tape for good measure. Between the tent and rainfly, you’ll stay dry unless it’s monsoon season.
The steep walls give you a bit more room in the Copper while dual vestibules free up even more leg room. Storage isn’t limited to the “wet gear” area either as this tent has plenty of pockets.
The oversized pockets allow you to keep your gear at the ready and a media pocket with cable routing as well.
We would classify the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL as a “Pro” level tent.
If you only hit the trails once or twice a year, it may be overkill, but if you put a lot of mileage on your gear, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option. We also like the fact it’s available in solid Grey along with the usual two-tone color scheme.
- Large Mesh Sides for great ventilation
- Quick Assembly and Takedown
- Dual Vestibules
- Quality Stakes
- Lighter Alternatives – not for the ultralighters!
- Door design could use some work
This tent has the popular exoskeleton design with only two poles made from 7000 series aluminum.
The fly is resistant to rain and UV rays with 1500mm coating and is relatively thick considering it’s made from 75D 185T Polyester.
The floor is rated at the same thickness but is Poly Taffeta with 2000mm coating. Sturdy #8 zippers for the double doors add to the durability, and it’s hard to argue against any product sporting a limited lifetime warranty.
One of the big perks of the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx is its design – especially if you want to stay cool.
There is plenty of ventilation courtesy of half-mesh walls while the 2-pole design makes it extremely easy to set up. While it’s not the lightest tent to make the cut with a minimum weight of 5 lbs. 4 oz., it is quite affordable.
The company didn’t designate this tent with a season, but we’ve deemed it a 3-season tent with one exception.
Those vented walls won’t keep you warm when it gets chilly compared to similar models despite the solid rainfly. Aside from warmth and the lack of colors, it’s a high-quality tent and certainly one of the best around for the price.
- Easy to Pitch
- 150D Oxford Footprint
- Micro-Mesh Design
- Great warm weather tent
- Excellent Rainfly
- 4.8 pounds isn’t exactly light
- Better alternatives for colder climates
This tent is from their Mountain Ultra lineup and is a tough, but affordable, option for solo adventurers.
The Mountain Ultra tent doesn’t carry a season rating, but the design tells the tale. The first layer is micro-mesh which will keep you feeling fresh during the spring and summer.
It will also keep the bugs out while letting you get a clear view of the sky at night. When the weather turns foul, you can slip on the rainfly and batten down the hatches.
Teton went with a 1-pole design for this tent so you can set it up in a matter of minutes. Due to the simplistic nature of the Ultra, extras are a bit sparse.
It has two doors, but no vestibule although the bathtub style floor is a nice bonus. We also like the fact it comes with a footprint rated at 150D; something you typically have to buy separately.
The Teton Sports Mountain Ultra is a mesh tent with a removable waterproof shell. It’s not something you’ll want to get stuck in during the colder months, but it’s perfect for summertime backpackers looking to keep things simple.
It’s also available in several different sizes if you dig the style, but need more room.
- Great tent for beginners
- Excellent ventilation
- Dual vestibules and footprint
- Multiple color options
- Bent pole construction adds height
- Heavy! Packed weight of 6.2 lbs.
- Pocket placement
Colorways are far from the only highlight with this 3-season tent. It’s a full mesh tent aside from the floor, and one that sports not one, but two vestibules for convenience.
It has dual doors and a rainproof fly you can remove or roll back. Airflow will never be an issue with the Nemo, and it provides you with a fantastic view of the sky at night.
The design of this tent means it won’t keep you as warm as others, but it’s built from quality materials. No-See-Um mesh is used in the canopy while the floor is 75D PEU Polyester with 3000mm of coating.
The rainfly only has 1500mm of coating and is made from the same material although thinner at 68D.
The Galaxi is quick to erect or take down, even if it’s a little heavier than other tents in this class.
It tips the scales at 6.2 lbs. packed measuring 19” x 8”. Nemo included everything you need to get started out of the box including guylines, stakes, a repair kit, stuff sack, and a waterproof footprint.
As for the colors, you can pick it up in two shades of Brown or Green with Earth, Canyon, and Birch Leaf.
- Build quality
- Handles winds well
- 36″ center height
- Vestibule for gear storage
- Sleeves instead of hooks
- Needs a footprint for wet weather
- Lighter options
It has 23 square feet of space with a center height of 36-inches. This durable tent can handle most seasons with ease, and will quickly become a favorite during spring, summer, and fall.
The Zephyr is another mesh tent, but one with a 2-pole system which provides plenty of height. The poles are made from aircraft alloy aluminum for additional strength and work alongside sturdy pole clips to keep the tent secure.
Due to the size, there is only one door, but a 5.5 sq. ft. weatherproof vestibule is included for your gear.
While there are no exotic materials used in the build aside from the poles, the Zephyr is a sturdy tent.
The fly and floor are both rated at 75D 185T poly like the Lynx, but the Poly Taffeta floor has an extra 1000mm of coating on this model. Mesh walls will keep you cool on even the most humid nights while the factory-sealed fly and seams keep you dry.
This tent is a bit hefty at 4.5 lbs. with a packed size of 6” x 18”.
It’s not quite in the Ultralight class although we do like the size, durability and the fact it has plenty of pockets for internal storage.
The Zephyr is the perfect choice for the lone adventurer looking for an affordable, sturdy shelter.
- Great value for the price
- Under 5lbs. packed
- Color-coded clips makes set up a breeze
- Storage Pockets so you can stay organized
- Easy to set up even for an idiot like me!
- Only one door
- Not the largest 2-person tent
- Guylines are tough to see at night
At first glance, the Grand Mesa looks like an ordinary 2-person tent, albeit one with a large door.
It provides 30 sq. ft. of floor space with a 6 sq. ft. vestibule which is more than enough for two regular-sized adults or a gaggle of small children. Regardless of the inhabitant’s size, the tent will keep you comfortable thanks to full mesh walls.
When the weather turns against you, you can slip on the rainfly in a matter of seconds.
The tent has taped seams where it counts and “hug” clips to keep things stable. A series of color-coded clips allow you to set this tent up quickly regardless of your wilderness experience. The Grand Mesa gets high marks for ease of use in our eyes.
The color options are limited to Grey with this tent, and while it performs just as you’d expect, the floor is a bit thinner than we’d like.
You may want to pick up a footprint if you don’t have one already. The price makes up for the floor and makes it an option for the best budget-friendly backpacking tent.
- Can use Trekking Poles to set up
- Only 2.2 lbs. packed
- Three Configurations
- Excellent Ventilation
- Can be tricky to set up
- Not great for cold weather
- Suffers from condensation
Billed as a 3-season tent, the Tensegrity 1 Elite has an unusual design. It’s roomier than it looks with a 1-pole design which adds room in the back, so the 88” x 30” x 45” measurements are somewhat deceptive.
It offers up 360-degree ventilation as well which is great in both stargazing and open modes. The design removes the need for a traditional door with guylines as well.
This leads us to one of the best features of this tent – the weight. The packaged weight is only 2.2 lbs. with the minimum weight coming in around 6 oz. lighter.
Impressive considering the tent has a peak height of 41” and 17.1 sq. ft. of floor space. The design gets wider towards the shoulders.
Sierra Designs Tensegrity tent won’t be for everyone. The design does come with a few drawbacks; condensation can be an issue depending on the weather, and the style is an acquired taste. It’s a bit of a learning curve to pitch it properly – it can be difficult to get a really taught pitch.
That said, we feel this tent is well worth a look if you want a one-man tent in the UL class and prefer spring and fall to the colder months.
- A lot of bang for your buck
- Super durable 210T Ripstop Polyester
- Dual doors and vestibules
- Pretty heavy
- Zips a bit flimsy
Lux Tempo bucked the trend with the Sky Admirer, one of the best two-person tents for year-round usage.
Whether you’re worried about rain, snow or bugs – this tent has you covered. It has double-layered doors with a taped ripstop rainfly covered in 3000mm PU coating.
The floor has welded corners and is in the bathtub style, so rain and condensation won’t be an issue – especially when you factor in the fabric.
The SA2 uses 210T polyester with ripstop threads for increased durability in the canopy, rainfly, and floor. The latter also have 5000mm of coating to help resist the elements and take it from 3-season territory into the winter months.
You still wouldn’t want to get caught in a blizzard using the Sky Admirer, but it is considerably warmer than it is 3-season brethren.
As much as we light this tent, it’s heavier than most at 5.7 lbs. packed.
It won’t break anyone’s back, and it’s a trade-off worth making if you need the best tent for wet weather or chilly conditions.
The tent is spacious for two people as well, with 43.3” of peak height and 55.1 sq. in. of floor space.
Lightweight Backpacking Tent Buying Guide
For the inexperienced and indecisive amongst us, choosing a new tent can be a major ordeal. Well, it doesn’t have to be if you focus on your needs and a few key areas.
We’ve put together a buying guide to help you find the best lightweight backpacking tent, and included a few tips that ensure it stays in good shape throughout the seasons.
While all tents serve the same fundamental purpose, the design can vary wildly. These are two of the most common types of tents you will encounter:
- Freestanding – freestanding tents get their name from a unique pole system. The poles can be external or internal, and the design allows you to move the tent without breaking it down. Stakes fall to the wayside with this style although you’ll still want to keep a few handy along with guyline.These dual-wall tents are quick to set up and perfect for when you’re camping on ground where staking proves difficult including rock and sand. On the downside, winds can be an issue as can the initial setup if it’s raining due to the detached rainfly.
- Non-freestanding – To wrap your mind around non-freestanding tents, take everything we just told you about freestanding tents and reverse it. Despite the fact you need to carry stakes, the single-walled design of the tent keeps the weight down.This style is often cheaper as well, but not without a few drawbacks. Condensation and ventilation are two of them although many high-end tents can handle both issues with ease.
What’s it Made From?
Once you decide the type of tent you need, it’s time to think about the materials used in its construction.
Denier is a word you should familiarize yourself with as it refers to the thickness of the fiber or thread. Higher numbers are preferable, but this guy explains it better than we ever could.
We won’t delve too deeply into materials as a form of Polyester is usually what you’ll find in the floors, walls, and rainfly.
Companies use their own techniques and coatings to help their tents stand out, but unless you go exotic, your new tent is probably a mix of coated polyester and mesh.
While you should pay close attention to the thickness of the floors and walls, the quality of construction is critical.
Tents with bathtub style floors and taped seams are sturdier than most and built to keep water at bay. The overall design of the tent comes into play as well, but lousy stitching anywhere will end your trip quickly.
Also, keep an eye on the zippers. They may seem minor, but do you really want a jammed up track or broken zipper in the middle of a storm?
A Tent for All Seasons
Do you prefer to backpack throughout the spring or are you more of a winter warrior? Even the best tent won’t do you much good in a heavy snowfall if you buy for the wrong season.
- 3-Season Tents – If you plan to hit the trail during the spring, summer or fall this is your best choice. A 3-season tent can withstand the rain and keep you cool on those hot summer nights. Most can deal with a light snowfall or storm but are not ideal for colder climates or harsh weather.
- Extended Season – Tents dubbed “Extended Season” are a bit of an oddball. They still have the same basic features as 3-season tents but are still not built for real winter weather. In a nutshell, they provide more strength and protection against the elements than a typical tent.
- 4-Season Tent – This is the type of tent you’ll want if you camp in the winter months or are into mountaineering. A 4-season tent will keep you toasty and dry even in the worst conditions. They are usually domed to deal with wind and handle heavier snowfalls which would cave in a standard tent. While great in the winter, you still have to think about the other three seasons.
Are you an experienced backpacker or have you just started looking at gear for an upcoming trip?
Regardless of your expertise, some assembly is required with tents unless you go the pop-up route. Serious backpackers wouldn’t bother with one of those – which means you have to think about how easy is it is to put up… and take down your new tent.
This is also where size and weight come into play as you can’t always trust the tech specs. Depending on the gear and the size of your group, several members may carry parts of the tent which can reduce weight.
By splitting that weight, you can choose a beefier tent than you usually would. How you carry the tent is up to you, but there are a few terms you’ll need to know.
- Packaged Weight – When you see this term, it refers to everything from the instruction manual and poles to the stuff sack. In many cases, the actual carrying weight will fall slightly below this number unless you take it all.
- Minimum Weight – Sometimes referred to as Trail or Packed weight; this term only refers to the basics. In most cases, it includes the rainfly, tent, and poles along with any stakes or guy lines needed.
Vestibules, Vents, and Dimensions
While all our choices are built for one or two people, understanding the internal dimensions is essential if you want to sleep comfortably in a tent.
For tents, this includes the overall dimensions, floor area, the vestibule, and footprint. The floor area gives you a rough idea of how much room you’ll have to sleep while a footprint needs to be large enough to accommodate the tent.
When in doubt with any aftermarket footprint or pad, go larger.
As for vestibules, they are standard on some tents and something you’ll need to buy with others. If you’ve ever climbed into a tent with muddy shoes, you already know how handy they are and why the size is significant.
Any gear you don’t want in the tent can go into the vestibule as well which makes it an option for storage if you’re sleeping in cramped quarters.
Whereas you may find a tent without a vestibule, you won’t find one missing a flap or vent.
Doors or flaps can come in many shapes and sizes, but don’t focus too heavily on those unless heavy rains are a concern.
Due to heavy usage, consider the quality of the material, any privacy concerns, and the zippers.
Proper ventilation will keep the interior of your tent moisture-free, so tent windows and rainfly vents are critical to your comfort as well.
Tents are like most consumer goods as some models have more bells & whistles than others. In the tent world, it usually boils down to pockets, gear lofts, loops, stakes, poles, and zippers.
Those additional goodies may be items you’ll need on the trail, but in some cases, they will only take up space and add weight to your backpack.
Depending on the type of tent you choose and its size, you may need a dozen stakes and plenty of guylines.
With pricier tents, the quality of the stakes is usually high, but still something to check once you break the box open.
The same goes for guylines, poles, vestibules or any extras that may wreak havoc on your trip down the line if the quality is subpar. Don’t trust the box, open it up and check out your gear before you hit the road.
Tent Care Tips
It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up the best tent for cold weather or budget-friendly dome, you still need to care for it properly.
The first rule is “never pack a wet tent” and don’t even think about using the washing machine or dryer on that fabric. It may be tempting if you’re dealing with mildew or mud, but your tent will be toast soon after.
Poles are made for pitching, not scratching an itch or slapping your friends. It’s also one part of the tent you can’t do without, and fighting with poles is a surefire way to void your warranty.
Plan on camping near the beach? Saltwater will destroy your zippers and metal poles over time, so extra care applies when you’re dealing with the ocean.
Clean water and a soft cloth are your best bet against abrasion and potential corrosion. Whether you set up camp in the wood or the sand, always dry your gear off properly and shake things out before stuffing your sack.
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