The ultralight movement has gone mainstream in the last few years and you can't shop for a tent without seeing it's lightweight as a major selling point from most of the major brands.
But trying to find an ultralight tent can be really hard. You're basically choosing between a 4lb, $75 tent and a 1lb $500 tent. So where do you get the most bang for your buck?
This article will break down 9 different ultralight tent options ranging from the super cheap to the super expensive and we'll explore the pros and cons of each option so you can find the best tent to fit your budget.
Why You Should Trust Me
I am a backpacking fanatic. I live in Michigan and have backpacked the Manistee River and Manitou Island. I flew out to Colorado last year and spent a week in the Rawah Wilderness and this year I'm going out to backpack in Grand Teton.
Whenever I get a chance to get out in the wilderness I take it and I've been able to field test a ton of gear over the years.
I've spent hundreds of hours reading reviews and first hand testimonies from other backpackers on what they liked and didn't like about every piece of gear.
I hate when I buy a crappy piece of backpacking gear only to upgrade later; I like to buy the right gear from the beginning and not have to worry about it breaking down or wearing out in 6 months.
Budget Friendly Ultralight Tents
First up we have 3 budget friendly ultralight tents that are great for people who are new to backpacking or are looking to upgrade from a 'car camping' tent (anything over 5 lbs).
None of these tents are going to be the super ultra lightweight tents that wins awards or gets recommended on ultralight forums. But if you're not looking to spend north of $300 on an ultralight tent then these are good starting points.
Eureka Spitfire 1
The Eureka Spitfire 1 is my tent of choice when I'm flying solo and while some ultralight snobs may turn their nose up at this tent since it weighs 2 lbs 12 oz, but you can pick this tent up brand new for right around $100 which makes it a tremendous value.
Eureka Spitfire 1 - Best Ultralight Budget Tent
The Eureka Spitfire is easily the #1 choice for anyone looking to make an entry into ultralight backpacking.
It's not the lightest tent on the market but for the price, you won't find anything better.
This tent can easily fit hikers up to 6' 6" tall although it might be a little cramped if you try to sit up.
I'm 6' 1" and there's nothing I hate more than feeling cramped in my tent when I'm laying down. I have a long REI sleeping pad that fits people up to 6' 6" tall and the pad fits inside the Spitfire with room to spare at both ends. You could probably even go up to a 7' pad (do those exist?) pretty easily.
That doesn't mean you can sit up in this tent though. Most ultralight tents sacrifice the extra roominess to cut weight and Eureka did exactly that. You can move around and change your clothes pretty easily but don't mistake this tent for something you'd take car camping. This is for sleeping in and hauling around in your pack which is why weight is it's most important feature.
One other thing to look out for is that the stakes included with the tent are pretty easy to bend. If you try to drive a stake into the ground and it hits a rock, it will bend. Now since they're so easy to bend, they're also easy to bend back into shape. One of the first upgrades I made when I got this tent was to buy some MSR Groundhog knock off stakes from Aliexpress for $.50 each.
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1
Alps Mountaineering makes some great beginner gear and the Lynx 1 is no different. Just like the Eureka Spitfire, you aren't going to see a ton of recommendations for this tent on the popular ultralight communities like Reddit/r/ultralight or Backpacking Light. Those folks are on another level and we'll cover some of their favorites later on in this article. For now we're focusing on the budget conscious, entry level options.
Alps Lynx 1 - Most Budget Friendly Ultralight Tent
The Lynx 1 comes in at between 3.5 - 4.0 pounds depending on how many of the stakes and accessories (storage bags) you decide to bring with you. This tent is quite a bit heavier than the Eureka but it also costs less so it's just a matter of what you value. If you're willing to carry a few extra pounds in order to save some money then go for it. I'd recommend investing the extra money since you'll be carrying this thing for a loooong time and the extra ~$20 or so isn't enough to sway my vote. If this tent cost half as much as the Eureka then I might give it more consideration.
Kelty Salida 1
Kelty is another popular brand for entry level backpacking equipment and the Salida 1 is a solid challenger to the Eureka and Alps offerings. It's even a little heavier than the Alps Lynx 1 but it sports an even roomier interior.
Kelty Salida 1 - Spacious and Inexpensive
If you prioritize having a roomy interior then the Kelty Salida 1 is probably your best bet for entry level ultralight tents.
The Eureka Spitfire has a diamond shape towards the feet end of the tent which makes it lighter but causes the top of the tent to have a steeper slope and less space inside.
The Kelty Salida prioritizes interior space while balancing it with weight and cost.
The Salida 1 weighs in between 3.5 - 4.5 pounds, again depending on how many accessories you want to bring with you. Most people will want to bring all of the stuff sacks and should expect this tent to be closer to 4.5 pounds which is definitely on the high end of ultralight and honestly probably is the absolute max I'd consider in this category.
You can tell that Kelty put a lot of though into this tent and focused on maximizing functionality in every single component. Even down to the stakes that come with the tent, you'll find pull loops on the stakes that make removing them from the ground super simple.
One issue with this tent is the sub par ventilation. The rain fly hugs the tent pretty closely and if you get rained on you might have an uncomfortable night since this tent seems to trap in the humidity. The rain fly is excellent even in strong winds, so you won't get wet, just a little muggy from the moisture.
High End, Ultra Lightweight Tents
Next up we've got the tents that go all out on being lightweight. Ultra lightweight tents have a couple significant differences that set them apart from the budget tents we covered early. Depending on how hardcore you want to go into the world of ultra lightweight will determine how many trade offs you're willing to make. Here are some of the most popular modifications you'll see on ultra lightweight tents and what they mean.
Trekking poles vs tent poles - If you're already carrying trekking poles, then you can use them as supports for your tent instead of carrying tent poles which just add weight to your pack. Not all of these ultra lightweight tents make use of trekking poles as supports but it's an easy way to shave 8 oz - 16 oz off of a tents weight if you can ditch the aluminum poles.
Cuben fiber vs Nylon - Cuben fiber is a special lightweight material that's incredibly strong. It's used frequently in airplanes, kites, yacht sails, and of course, backpacking. It's exceptionally strong while weighing less than nylon which is what most tents are made of. The only drawback is that it's incredibly expensive. Some manufacturers will offer cuben fiber as an upgrade to nylon and this will usually run you $200-$300 on top of the base price of the tent.
No floor - Going ultra lightweight doesn't come without some sacrifices. The entire ultralight mindset is about critiquing every single piece of equipment and figuring out if it's necessary. If you can go without a floor then you are basically only carrying a tarp so your tent will weigh about half as much.
Get rid of the entire tent - A bivvy is basically a waterproof sleeve for your sleeping bag that eliminates the need for a tent completely. Combine this with a bug net for your head and you can sleep under just a tarp and get rid of some additional weigh.
The Notch is one of the most popular mid-level ultra lightweight tents because of it's roomy interior, low weight, and relatively affordable pricepoint.
The Notch weighs in at just 28 ounces while sporting a peak height of 43 inches, a width of 76 inches, and a length of 108 inches. This tent can fit anybody inside of it with tons of room to spare. The rainfly also has ample space for your pack and boots.
The Notch makes use of trekking poles to support the tent so you can ditch the tent poles and save weight.
Tarptent Notch - Best Mid Level Ultra Lightweight Tent
The Tarptent Notch is a great mid level ultra lightweight tent and is one of the most frequent upgrade paths for backpackers looking to move from the entry level category.
This tent isn't cheap, coming in at $300-$400 depending on the configuration but the roomy interior and rave reviews make it worth it.
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker
The Skyscape Trekker uses trekking poles to support the tent which means it comes in at just 27 ounces excluding the weight of stakes/poles. This tent needs to be seam sealed so you can either do it yourself or pay an extra $30 and Six Moon Designs will do it for you.
The Trekker is a hybrid double wall tent made of 30D Nylon with 20D No-See-Um netting to keep all bugs out, even the tiny ones.
SMD Skyscape Trekker - Affordable and Lightweight
Six Moon Designs (SMD) Skyscape Trekker is a nice middle ground between the Tarptent Notch and the entry level tents we covered earlier.
This tent isn't the most lightweight but it's also much more affordable, coming in at $275 with seam sealing included.
Zpacks makes some incredible tents that focus on cutting weight as much as possible. The total weight for the Altaplex is just 17.9 ounces (excluding stakes/poles).
The Altaplex is their 1 man offering that costs $585 with the screen and floor or just $299 if you only want the tarp portion.
This tent is called the Altaplex because it's really tall (Alta is Spanish for tall). The peak interior height is 58" and the floor length is 7.5 feet so tall backpackers will feel comfy in this roomy interior.
Zpacks Altaplex - High End, Low Weight
The Zpacks Altaplex has one of the lightest weight tents and the most spacious interiors.
This comes at a steep price though, $585, which is about double the price of the offerings from Six Moon Designs and Notch.
If you prioritize weight and space and have the money, the Altaplex is a great pick.
Nemo Hornet Elite
The Nemo Hornet Elite comes in both 1 person and 2 person sizes. The 1 person tent weighs just under 2 pounds and costs $450.
There's nothing wrong with this tent, it has ample interior space and is relatively lightweight, but to be honest it's kind of in that middle ground between the Eureka Spitfire and the Six Moon Designs Trekker. It's lightweight but it costs almost $200 more than the SMD trekker and you only end up saving 2 ounces.
The Hornet Elite does have it's own traditional tent poles so you won't need to rely on trekking poles which is why it's weight isn't as light as some of the other options.
Hornet Elite - Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Nemo tried to strike a balance between weight and price but this tent ends up coming in at the high end of the price spectrum while not nailing the lightweight part.
If you want to save some money and reduce your weight, you might be better off looking at Notch or SMD which uses trekking poles for supports.
Mountain Gear UltaMid 2
All of the other tents on this list were 1 person tents but Mountain Gear doesn't offer a 1 person version of the UltaMid so the 2 person model is the only choice. Obviously this is going to give it a huge advantage when it comes to space since it's meant for 2 people. What's incredible about this tent is that it can easily fit 2 people but it still only weighs 19 ounces.
UltaMid 2 - Sleep Like an Egyptian
Ever wanted to sleep in a pyramid? Now you can. And you can do it while only carrying 19 ounces in your backpack.
UltaMid has nailed both the ultra roomy and ultra lightweight with their pyramid shaped tent.
Be ready to shell out $700+ for this tent but it should be an investment that lasts for years and years.
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