September 7, 2020

Top-Rated Buyer’s Guide: Best Ultralight Tents

September 7, 2020

Top-Rated Buyer’s Guide: Best Ultralight Tents

The best ultralight tent is definitely the apple-of-the-eye of many backpackers and hikers. After all, when it comes to extensive, long-distance, and arduous trips, packing light is necessary. 

Heavy and rugged tents might sound good, but there are times that they can become a burden. In this guide, I will be showcasing some of the ultralight tents that can still provide optimal protection and comfort. 

Best Ultralight Tent Reviews

1. Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent - Editor's Pick 

The Nemo Hornet is considered to be an excellent option for an ultralight tent. This unit has superb livability, despite its limited space. 

Carrying it is such a breeze. It only has a minimum weight of one pound and a packed weight of two pounds, which is an excellent choice for weight-conscious expeditions. It also has the exclusive Flybar clips that further expands the internal space without adding weight. 

The pole structure of this tent is quite minimal. It is interesting to note that it is not too complicated; but at the same time, it didn't lose the stability that it needs to pitch the tent. 

Furthermore, the tent includes two doors and vestibules, which drastically improved its livability and storage.

Keep in mind that this tent features a 10-denier nylon ripstop fly with a silicone coating. The combination of these materials enables the tent to be light without sacrificing its overall weatherproofing. 

By the way, the poles used in this tent are far from ordinary. Specifically, they are DAC Featherlite poles that are known for their ergonomics and curtailed weight. 

Pros:

  • Provides sufficient interior space
  • Includes two doors and vestibules
  • Assembly and installation are both convenient 
  • Construction is durable and lightweight simultaneously
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • The stakes that are included on the tent are slightly on the heavier side

2. REI Co-op Flash Air 1 Tent - Runner-Up

REI Co-op Flash Air 1 Tent
  • The nearly 90° hubbed roof pole gives extra headroom; foot pole increases volume at the other end, giving your tootsies room to wiggle for a comfy night's sleep
  • Fly/vestibule protects your gear in bad weather, then rolls up over the roof for stargazing or pitches out to create a large awning in friendlier weather
  • Designed to pitch with most trekking poles so you can leave the vertical pole at home to save weight
  • Hybrid single-wall construction optimizes weight and livability
  • Large, easy-entry canopy-style door

Light packing is indeed an easy thing with the Flash Air 1 Tent. This unit has a compact construction and minimized weight, as proven by its one-pound packaged weight. 

The Flash Air 1 is undeniably livable and provides decent weatherproofing. It has a fly that covers your outdoor equipment from the harsh weather. It is easy to roll the fly so that you can do stargazing during fine conditions. 

There are guyout loops that are included in this tent, which you can use when the atmosphere gets watery and windy. 

One of the great features of this tent is its compatibility with many trekking poles. Hence, there's no need for you to bring vertical poles every time. That's a great space-saver, right? 

The ultralight design of this tent is due to its hybrid single-wall construction. It helps in its weight management while ensuring that the tent will never become weak or fragile.

You can easily pack this tent as well. It is not a space-eater in your hiking bags, which significantly adds to its user-friendliness. 

Pros:

  • Durable single-wall construction 
  • Fully protective against rain and harsh elements
  • Works with various poles
  • Features a large canopy-style door for enhanced accessibility
  • All essential accessories are present

Cons:

  • Highly susceptible to internal condensation

3. River Country Products Trekker Tent - Budget-Friendly Pick

If you are looking for a cost-efficient ultralight tent, you will certainly love the River Country Products Trekker Tent. 

It is definitely a lightweight choice, considering that it has a packed weight of only two pounds. It also features an interior space that is comfortable for two people. If used by a single person, the tent becomes a roomy outdoor shelter. 

This three-season tent is easy to pack. It is so compact that it can be stored in a bug-out bag or backpack without difficulties. 

Included in its package are the ultralight but highly-durable stakes. However, keep in mind that the trekking poles are not included in the purchase. But even without trekking poles, you can still pitch the tent by tying it to between two trees. 

Surprisingly, this affordable tent enables item organization on its interior. It has a pouch for your flashlights and small valuables, and loops for hanging lamps and clothes. 

The structural durability of this tent is pretty fantastic. It does wear off easily, despite its straightforward and streamlined construction.

Pros:

  • One of the lightest two-person tents in the market
  • Doesn't take up too much space when packed
  • Comes with ultralight stakes
  • Interior enables items organization
  • Great for survival use

Cons:

  • Doesn't include trekking poles

4. Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Tent - Premium Pick

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Tent
  • Tiger Wall combines simple yet strong single-pole architecture with DAC Featherlite materials, interior storage pockets, and comforts around every corner
  • Minimalist pole structure with DAC Featherlite poles create a strong structure that's extremely lightweight yet still spacious
  • Single-pole architecture makes setup and take-down simple and efficient; hub pole design
  • Dry-entry door design keeps the interior of your tent dry as you enter and exit; the 2 vestibules have stormflaps on the vestibule zippers
  • Dual-zipper doors are smooth closing and the discreet seam design creates a clean look; Quick Stash door keeper on tent body door makes stowing unzipped door quick and easy

As a 3-season, backcountry tent, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Tent surely lives up to the expectations of rabid outdoor fans. This tent is not only lightweight but also includes a myriad of ergonomic features that can make your adventure comfortable and safe. 

The tent is barely two pounds, but it is already a two-door, two-vestibule unit. It is something unique, even among its counterparts. Regardless if you are new or a seasoned backpacker, this tent will remain an extra comfortable shelter. 

The Tiger Wall provides simple but highly efficient architecture. It utilizes DAC Featherlite poles that ensure reliable strength and weight management. The simple setup of the pole is also one of the reasons why it is easy to pitch and take down. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the components of this tent are purely ergonomic. It comes with a dry-entry door that keeps moisture and water from getting inside.  

Both of the vestibules have storm flaps that also provide full protection against rainwater. Moreover, it is also notable that the foot-end corners of this tent have been structured. As a result, the tent gives an extra allowance between the tent wall and your feet. 

Pros:

  • Ultralight two-person tent
  • Hassle-free pitching and removal
  • Streamlined pole design enables lightweight and stable tent structure
  • Comes with many interior pocket and loops
  • All seams are taped for a guaranteed waterproof performance

Cons:

  • Rainfly tends to sag and collect water

5.  ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent

One of the most popular backpacking tents out there is the Lynx by ALPS Mountaineering. And there are various good reasons for that. 

With a minimum weight of only three pounds, this single person is the ideal choice for a myriad of expeditions. It has a streamlined, compact profile that aids in its weight management. 

This tent features a free-standing, two-pole design. The clips can easily be affixed to the poles without spending too much time or patience. 

Despite being a single-person tent, it is interesting that this unit offers a vestibule for added external space for your gears. Aside from that, there's a gear loft and pocket mesh inside the tent where you can store your valuables. 

Ventilation is pretty great, too. Its half-mesh walls do contribute to the optimal airflow of the tent. 

The 75 denier polyester fabric of this tent is capable of resisting UV rays. It is taut, too, enabling it to stand erect at all times. Meanwhile, the fly and floor seams of this tent have been factory sealed to guarantee superior weather protection. 

Pros:

  • Decent rigidity on its construction
  • Interior space is adequately ventilated
  • Taffeta floor is coated for water protection
  • Equipped with large zippers on doors and vestibules
  • Can be pitched quickly

Cons:

  • Not for large-body users

Are Ultralight Tents Durable?

One of the determinants of the durability of a tent is its weight. When it is cumbersome, it means that more materials and fabrics have been used to become sturdy and rugged. 

Of course, if you are a backpacker or hiker, there's no need for you to invest in these heavy tents. You are living by the adage of "pack light, travel light," and there's nothing that can change that. 

Now, you have doubts that these ultralight tents can offer the same structural integrity as other tents. That's pretty understandable since we are fixed to the idea that the heavier a tent is, the tougher it becomes. 

A Stark Realization

Let's make things a little clearer here. We can always see manufacturers like REI, Marmot, Coleman, and others produce double-walled tents. By the way, these units typically feature urethane-coated nylon. 

Honestly, this particular material has extreme durability and ruggedness. In fact, its structural integrity can withstand various tests and punishments. 

However, I do believe that overkilling the tent with strong and rugged fabrics are not suitable all the time. Some trips should require them, and others don't. 

Here's a deal-breaker that most of you should know: these heavy-duty materials sometimes contribute unwanted weight to the tent pack. Moreover, heavy-duty fabrics may not always affect the overall lifespan of the tent. 

"But I love camping and hiking. Why should I settle with fabric with mid-tier durability?" 

The answer to that question is simple. You don't actually go outdoors all the time. You are a big fan of it, but you don't really do it as much as you expect it. 

Even those that are considered as outdoor freaks only use their tents a dozen or two in a year. 

Now, here's a rhetorical question I am going to throw at you: why do you think that heavy tents are more useful and durable when in fact, lighter tents are manufactured to do the same? 

Material Of Choice

Ultralight tents are durable, especially if tailored adequately and properly. 

You can take silnylon tents as an excellent example of ultralight models. This is a streamlined design that incorporated silicone to nylon; hence, creating a reliable fabric for extensive outdoor use. 

Don't ever think that silnylon is a strange choice. It is a commercial alternative already. The indestructible hikers of the Appalachian trust it, and that alone testifies its strength and rigidity. 

According to those that have tents made from this material, the fabric can endure external factors pretty impressively. They can hold several nights without showing signs of flimsiness.

Interesting Facts About Ultralight Fabrics 

  • Denier - You have to be familiar with this term, as it will always appear whenever you are buying tents. Specifically, this is a classification that determines the strength of the material. 

Usually, it is expressed in numbers. The higher it is, the more ruggedness it can display. For example, 300-denier nylon is more robust than 150-denier nylon. 

But the thicker the fabric is, the heavier it becomes.

  • Silicone Coating vs. Polyurethane Coating - Coating is an essential aspect of tents. After all, it adds to their durability and weatherproofing even without contributing significant weight. 

It should come into your mind that polyurethane is an organic material. Hence, it is always susceptible to flaking and delaminating after extensive use. Every time that it is exposed to the external elements, several interactions could somehow degrade its quality. 

Silicone is not organic, and that alone speaks a lot about its longevity amidst different interactions. 

  • Dyneema Composite Fabric vs. Coated Nylon - Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) is quite a popular choice of material for composite tents. It is light and provides a decent level of durability. 

However, always remember that DCF is not as durable as coated nylon. Here's the thing: DCF is considered to be stronger than coated nylon when it comes to tensile strength. But at the same time, it is prone to mechanical damages. 

As a recommendation, you should never stuff a Dyneema tent carelessly. The best way to pack it is by folding and rolling.

The Best Ultralight Tents vs. Other Tents

Weight

Obviously, the notable difference between ultralight tents and other tents is their weight. These tents are not just light; they are constructed carefully to ensure that only the necessary weight is present. 

At this point, it is essential that you understand some key concepts involved in classifying the "weight" of a tent. Specifically, these are package weight and minimum weight. 

Package weight refers to the overall weight of the packed contents. Meanwhile, minimum weight directly indicates the weight of the tent body, poles, and rainfly. 

Therefore, if the tent has guylines and stakes, you need to remove them first before you can determine its minimum. Knowing this detail is vital as it helps you spot if a unit is ultralight or not.

Basically, you can have an ultra-durable tent without affecting the minimum weight. There are some models out there that can be pitched using their poles, footprint, and rainfly. 

Size

When it comes to an ultralight tent, size does matter. The smaller its capacity is, the lighter it becomes. 

This is one of the reasons why ultralight tents are the common choice for solo hiking and expeditions. You don't need to bring a large cabin or dome tent on a hike or trail anyway. 

Most of the ultralight tents out there are for one to two-person. Sometimes, you can also find tents that are for four persons. But personally, the term "lightweight" for bigger tents is already subjective. 

If you want to optimize your weight management, you only need to settle with smaller tents.

Wall Construction

Tents can also be classified as either a double-wall or single-wall. 

When it comes to weather protection, double-wall tents are the most trusted. Its anatomy features the combination of a mesh wall and a rainfly. 

Meanwhile, single wall tents only have a rainfly. The mesh is ditched to reduce its weight, but by doing so, the tent's users are more susceptible to internal condensation and harsh weather conditions. 

Hence, when picking an ultralight tent, make sure that you are aware of the conditions you use. In this way, you will still be able to enjoy the pleasure of the outdoors. 

Conclusion

Acquiring the best ultralight tent is essential. They are useful in backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor trips where weight could be an issue. 

As of now, I am confident that you got all the things you need to learn about these ultralight models. The only thing that you need to know now is to find the most optimal option for you. 

I hope you learned from this guide. If you have other questions and suggestions, just drop them in the comment section below. 

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