Home / Gear Reviews / LL Bean Microlight UL 1-Person Backpacking Tent

LL Bean Microlight UL 1-Person Backpacking Tent

manufacturerd by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
299.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On April 18, 2016
Last modified:April 17, 2016

Summary:

The LL Bean Microlight UL-1 is a single person double-walled tent that weighs 2 pounds and 4.5 ounces. While quite lightweight, the Microlight has a cramped interior and limited vestibule space that make it hard to use by larger individuals or people who want a lot of covered storage. It is however easy to fit into small campsites, and therefore a good option if you camp in heavily forested terrain where there aren't a lot of good places to pitch a tent.

LL Bean Microlight UL 1 Person Tent
LL Bean Microlight UL 1 Person Tent

The LL Bean Microlight UL-1 is a single person double-walled tent that weighs 1 pounds and 14 ounces, including an inner mesh tent, aluminum poles, and exterior rain fly (but no stuff sack bags or tent stakes). While quite lightweight, the Microlight has a cramped interior and limited vestibule space that make it hard to use by larger individuals or people who want a lot of covered storage. It is however easy to squeeze into narrow or small campsites, making it a good option if you camp in heavily forested terrain where there aren’t a lot of good places to pitch a tent.

While the inner tent is technically freestanding, you need to stake out the corners to maiximize the interior space
While the inner tent is technically freestanding, you need to stake out the corners to maximize the interior space

Pitching the Tent

The Microlight UL-1 tent comes with two collapsible aluminum poles, a long pole with two Y forks at the ends and a short cross pole to maximize the width of the roof. The inner tent hooks onto the pole with plastic clips, making setup fast and efficient. While the inner tent is technically freestanding, you still need to stake out the corners to stretch out the bathtub floor to its full extent.

The Microlight UL 1 has a single vestibule which can be rolled open for better ventilation
The Microlight UL 1 has a single “front” vestibule which can be rolled open for better ventilation

Next, the rain fly needs to be staked out separately since the guy lines at the corners of the inner tent do not have jakes foot connectors, which would have been a nice convenience on this tent. Velcro tabs on the inside of the fly connect it to the tent poles for additional security in windy conditions.

The inner tent and the rain fly require different tent stakes
The inner tent and the rain fly require different tent stakes if you use the stakes provided with the tent. My advice, replace them with the thinner stake shown.

Unfortunately, the tent stakes provided with the Microlight UL 1 are too big to fit the fly’s corner grommets, so you’ll need to supply your own, like the thin Shepard’s hook stake shown here. (Note, MSR Mini Groundhogs are also too big.)

Livability

The inner tent is a snug fit without a lot of room to move around or store gear. While it has more room, especially head room, than a bivy sack, the Microlight UL-1 isn’t a tent that you’re going to want to use for much else except sleeping.

The interior of the Microlight UL-1 is sized more like a bivy sack than a more spacious camping tent
The interior of the Microlight UL-1 is sized more like a bivy sack than a more spacious camping tent

The dimensions of the inner tent are:

  • 35″ wide at the head of the inner tent, tapering to 24′” wide at the feet
  • 85″ in length
  • 34″ max height
  • 5″ deep bathtub floor

But those measurements don’t tell the whole story because the walls of the bathtub floor slant sharpy inwards, making it impossible for your sleeping bag or pad to avoid touching the side walls and picking up internal condensation. When you factor in the slant of the floor (where your bag/pad will touch), the width at the head end decreases to 30″ and at the foot end to 16″. That’s noticeably cramped at the foot end.

Side entry is pretty convenient however when the vestibule door is rolled back and secured using the toggles provided. It’s also nice to lie in the tent and watch the world go by through the big picture window.

The rainfly is cut to be a bit higher than the inner tent to promote airflow
The rainfly is cut to be a bit higher than the inner tent to promote airflow

But the vestibule space is fairly cramped when the door is shut and air flow through the tent diminishes. This can result in some internal condensation at night and moisture transfer onto your gear in the narrow confines of the inner tent, especially when you bump against the back wall, despite the double-walled construction. If you need to sleep with the vestibule closed, you can mitigate condensation build-up by using a separate set of stakes to pitch the rain fly, which is cut a bit higher than the inner tent floor to promote air flow. The actual amount of condensation you experience will still depend on the amount of airflow you can encourage through the tent, but every little bit helps.

Side vestibule space is quite limited and there isn't much protection over the side door to block out rain when leaving or entering the tent
Side vestibule space is quite limited and there isn’t much protection over the side door to block out rain when leaving or entering the tent

Assessment

While the LL Bean Microlight UL 1 is among the lightest weight doubled walled tents single person tents available today (1 pound 14 ounces), it suffers from the same interior space challenges that you find with many double-walled, one person tents from other manufacturers. I’m 5’11” tall and find the Microlight UL 1’s dimensions on the short side, making it a better for shorter statured backpackers or kids. Fabric weight and pole technology what it is, if you want a lightweight double walled tent with more interior space and livability, I suggest you get a lightweight two-person tent instead. The incremental weight difference is often worth it in terms of improved comfort (even if it’s still a tight fit for two people.)

Likes

  • Easy to pitch.
  • Fits into small campsites and tight spaces.
  • Inner tent can be used as a standalone bug bivy in shelters or under a tarp.
  • Packs up small.

Dislikes

  • Cramped interior for larger individuals.
  • No interior hang loops. One small corner pocket.
  • Poor rain coverage over door.
  • Tent stakes don’t fit rain fly.

Specs

  • Minimal weight without tent stakes, stuff sacks, and extra cordage: 1 pound 14 ounces
    • Poles: 10 ounces
    • Rain Fly: 10.7 ounces
    • Inner Tent: 9.3 ounces
  • 15-denier ripstop nylon coated with silicone and polyurethane
  • Packed size: 16½” x 6½”
  • Peak height: 31″
  • Floor space: 19 sq. ft
  • Vestibule area: 6.8 sq. ft

See the LL Bean Microlight UL 1 product listing for complete specs

Disclosure: Philip Werner received a sample Microlight UL 1 Tent from LL Bean for this review 

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25 comments

  1. Thank you for the review, as always. This sounds like a pretty useless tent – very cramped, and you are guaranteed to get your stuff wet from condensation. I thought it would at least be cheap, but at $299 there are much better options out there.

    • When I got this tent LL bean had listed its weighing 1 pound 4 ounces on their web site. That would have been pretty interesting. But the weight (which they’ve since corrected based on my feedback) is 1 pound 14 ounces, so a lot less interesting. Still it’s not a bad tent if you’re short.

  2. Good timing on this review I just set up the older version the microlight fs1 in the backyard Saturday for the 1st time and I was wondering about the height of the rain fly wasn’t sure if I was pulling it down far enough but makes sense now being cut higher for air flow , it’s kind of snug but does the job glad I’m only 5”7

  3. Eureka! Put out a very, very, very similar Tent under the “Back Country” name in 1999 or thereabouts..The Frame was different though but about the same size… I bought all three sizes of the Back Country 1, 2, and 4 person models. I started out my PCT Hike using the 1 man and it was just too confining especially when it rained on my 2nd day on the trail… So I went to the 2 man after three days of use. I lived in San Diego then an called my wife to bring up the two man to the Laguna Store. … I stopped buying LL Bean Gear back in the 90’s when Management made so many undesirable changes and turned it into a JCP Catalog and focused more on Clothing than Backpacking gear.. When I get a Catalog now I just dump it into the trash without reading it…. How sad, when I was kid right up into my 30’s we’d get this 1 inch thick catalog in November and would spend the winter drooling over the equipment, it was a Manly men’s catalog then…We’d shovel sidewalks as kids to get the money to buy the gear we wanted…And as an Adult had a special “Piggy Bank just for Hiking Gear… Another Company like Eddie Bauer who was Bean’s competition for so many years and like so many others having gone down hill. With this tent I don’t even like the Tents Colors….

    • There haven’t been any new tent designs in 15 years….
      But I find LL bean to be a very good clothing retailer because they’re not as expensive as others, especially for winter insulated clothing. They also have free shipping and an excellent money back guarantee.
      Check out their fishing rods too. Good prices on complete packages.
      They have their flaws like all mfg/retailers, but fewer than most.

  4. Wow that does look pretty cramped, but it might come in useful for overnight hikes where you will only be out for a night. I’m 5′ 9″ though so maybe not? lol. Not sure about the $299 price tag though! I would think there would be better options. Thanks for sharing though!
    ~Bridget aka Nutty Hiker =)

    • Exactly. It pitches very quickly (the benefit of many double walled tents) and fits into narrow spaces like a weatherproof bivy sack. That’s probably the best way to think about it.

  5. Frankly I don’t understand why more people aren’t willing to fork over the extra $$ for any of the properly sized and similarly weighing tents made by the cottage companies. It would be pretty hard to find anything better than a zpacks Solplex if you want a solo shelter that isn’t cramped, and weighs only 1 lb. As you well know, that also isn’t the only option. If Six Moon Designs did seam sealing and taping, they’d probably have this market on lockdown. Their options are cheaper, bigger, and better. But who wants to deal with sealing seams in the general consumer world?

    • Because at $550, a Zpacks Soloplex is absurdly overpriced and doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee.

      I’d rather make a car payment. Now if Zpacks offered interest-free loans or financing to buy their tents, that might make a difference.

      • Hey Phillip, I would argue, respectfully of course, that the zPacks Solplex is actually a great value and not overpriced based both on quality of construction and durability when compared to the average silnylon tent at about half the cost, IMHO.

        Furthermore, I’m not sure what level of “warranty” exists, but when I emailed them about a minor issue with an area of stitching that was a bit worn out, their reply was “repairs are free, just send it back and we’ll fix it.” That was that.

        Yes, at $550 that is expensive. That is more than my car payment. But for a tent like this, is that really THAT expensive? I’m intrigued to discuss it further, if it interests you :)

        Think about the amount of man hours that go into hand sewing this stuff. These are 100% made in the USA, sewn in the USA products. People like you and me sit in front of machines sewing beautifully straight lines and working with this difficult cuben fiber material.

        I just think that its a matter of perspective. I went 4 season with the same sleeping pad, backpack, sleeping bag, clothing and bear barrel. It didn’t seem like a bad use of the $$. And I’ll tell you, 2 seasons in, I will never go back to saggy silnylon and no longer want or need a double walled tent with poles.

        Forgive the long-winded reply, but I just wanted to convey a few key points that made it worth it for me, and likely for others, too.

      • People buy BMW’s even though you can get the exact same value for a third of the price with a Honda. I still think Zpacks tents are way overpriced to the point of absurdity. I’ve owned and used plenty of CF shelters and don’t believe there is any one CF shelter than is suitable for all of the conditions I need it for. I’d rather spend the money on getting a variety of shelters for different needs and trip conditions than get stuck with one for the rest of my life because it was so expensive. Just my thoughts.

      • That’s totally fair. However, unlike the BMW, you can re-sell one of these for about 80-85% of its original value in a heartbeat :) Is there ever really one shelter that does it all? Such is the love of gear, right? Have a great evening.

  6. Nice review. I wondered how this tent would perform when I saw the specs. Disappointing about the ‘actual’ weight compared to specs. Cramped, but easy to pitch and pretty much free-standing. I give LL Bean credit for jumping into the lightweight market. I know this is at least the 4th generation of this tent, but it’s still nice they keep getting lighter with it. That said, I’ll keep my BA Copper Spur 1 or Hilleberg Enan for solo trips.

  7. One better be a genuine serious “distance packer” to marinate in that thing…
    Good review though! I am of medium stature and not a big guy but once you live in a full size 2 person tent by yourself (mine is a 4 pound Kelty) it’s hard to go back… then again I don’t cover dozens of miles with it.

  8. I agree that this tent seems way to small, and unless you are living in a tent Zpacks stuff is out of budget for most backpackers. Check out REIs quarter dome 1 person. Lil bit heavier but has great liveability. I fit great at 6’4″ and my dog can fit next to me. Vestibule is big enough to keep my stuff dry as well.

    • +1 on the new version of the REI Quarterdomes. I wouldn’t be so hard on LL Bean, though – Big Agnes also plays fast and loose with dimensions. They still advertise the Copper Spur as being 90″ long when in reality the interior is more like 85″ or so (make or break if you’re tall). It seems to be very common to inflate the dimension specs as being from stake point to stake point rather than actual interior floor. The bigger issue is the race to the bottom that the UL mindset has created. Lighter material to the point of unreasonable fragility, downsizing of products to the point where it affects usability to shave off ounces, and misleading specifications that have little to do with how a product is used.

      • I wouldn’t be hard on LL Bean on that dimension issue. It was an honest mistake and they were as shocked as I was and quickly fixed it.

        As for the value of ultralight weight. I suppose I rate weight reductions a lot less than others. I care much more about function and comfort than the big brag about gear weight. When you get your base weight down to 12 pounds it’s not necessary to save 8 ounces of extra weight by spending an extra 400 dollars on a cuben fiber tent. It won’t affect your hiking speed or endurance one bit. You’re better off losing body weight or getting in better shape if you want to hike fast.

      • Your photo and comments for this review present an interesting dichotomy. Would the Hyperlite pack next to the tent for this review fall into the same category, “absurdly overpriced”, as the Zpacks Solplex on the weight/value calculation?

      • Excellent question!

        That’s actually a loaner that Katabatic gear sent me to review some time ago, not a Hyperlight Mountain Gear backpack. But I’ll answer your question by referring to the cuben fiber HMG backpacks that I mainly use for personal use, the Southwest 2400 and the Southwest 3400.

        For personal use (when I’m not reviewing gear) I carry HMG Southwest packs because they are overbuilt and extremely tough. They’re certainly NOT the lightest cuben fiber backpacks available in their size range. When it comes right down to it, the cuben fiber isn’t the most important attribute but the solid dyneema pockets, the design, and the way they fit me. I also prefer backpacks from Seek Outside for personal use that are made using XPAC which is also very tough fabric, but are external frame packs for hauling very heavy loads.

        While pricey ($330), the HMG Southwest packs are worth spending extra because they are so durable. Having used Gossamer Gear packs for many years, I found that they were just too fragile for the kind of hiking I do. I’ve shredded more mesh pockets than I can count and slashed more nylon and robic fabric than you would believe. Gossamer Gear makes a comfortable pack, but they’re a waste on me because they won’t survive one of my off-trail hikes.

        The cost difference between a Gossamer Gear Mariposa ($255) and an HMG Southwest is $75 and totally worth it for me. I want my backpacks to last for multiple years and want to use them as a fine “tool” that I can use in many different ways for many different types of trips. It’s worth reiterating that the HMG packs weigh MORE than the Gossamer Gear packs. The price difference really is about durability, not weight.

        Back to Zpacks cuben fiber tents:
        Are they more durable than silnylon tarptents or PU/sil double walled tents? No.
        More functional? No.
        More spacious? No.
        More weather proof? No.
        More durable? No.
        More soundproof in rain? God No!
        More comfortable in bright sunshine? Hell No!
        More private? No.
        More effective head room? No.
        Can you do anything except sleep in one? No

        So the only reason to buy a Zpacks Cuben Fiber tent is to reduce gear weight. I just don’t think a 100% price increase is worth it when I can simply carry a few fewer snickers bars to make up the weight difference in my food bag or eat more calorically dense food. Not to mention other types of shelters (tarp or hammock) that are arguably better for certain conditions.

        There are lots of places to save pack weight without spending huge dollars.

        I won’t go as far as saying Zpacks shelters are stupid-light. But I’m a Honda guy, not a BMW guy when it comes down to it.

      • Thank you for a voice of reason. It’s always pretty ironic to watch someone who could stand to lose a few (or more) pounds obsess over gear and spend hundreds of dollars to save a few ounces in gear weight when some free diet and exercise would allow them to drop pounds of body weight (and has countless added benefits beyond the trail that no Cuben fiber item ever could).

      • Having lost thirty pounds in the last year and needing to lose another fifty to get back to a reasonable weight, I think about this a lot. If I carried a loaded pack all day, it wouldn’t be any more than what I was carrying before I lost weight.

  9. I don’t understand the side door in a tent designed like this. And the fact that the rainfly needs to be separately staked and requires you to bring additional stakes…? I’ll take a hard pass!

  10. I enjoy my REI Passage1. At 3 pounds with a footprint, it is very worth the weight.

  11. Enjoyed the review! I have for some time had my eye on a tarptent Notch, which is lighter, cheaper, and seems far more spacious and functional. I haven’t actually used one (just lusted after it) but it might be worth flagging as an appealing alternative for those looking for a lightweight solo double wall tent.

    And I wholeheartedly agree on some of the weight insanity. Last year I found myself trying to justify buying 950 fillpower down in a quilt before I stopped to think how much water would make up the weight difference vs 800 fp. Pour out 1/4 cup of water and you’ve just saved yourself the same weight as $150 worth of 950 fp down!

    • Alex, your point about water weight is YUGE! :)

      Some of us are not able to become perfectly in shape/skinny, and sometimes we simply choose to drop some weight out of the pack to aid in the overall experience.

      The first place to look is often water! Especially traveling in the northeast, where water is much more readily available than some other areas of the country, carrying extra water is a huge penalty.

      I always make an effort to try to drink at every stream crossing where I’m thirsty, and try not to carry more water than I need at any given time. Great advice!

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