10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tents

10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tents

Ultralight backpacking tents are a good option when you’re trying to reduce the weight of your backpacking gear but you’re unwilling to give up the comfort of a tent and sleep under a tarp without insect protection. The lightest weight ultralight backpacking tents are made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF) and use trekking poles instead of tent poles to save weight. While many are single-wall tents and more prone to internal condensation, some are double-wall tents or a hybrid combination of the two. See our advice at the bottom of the page for advice about how to choose between these different options.

Here are the 10 best ultralight backpacking tents that we recommend for 2021.

Make / ModelPeopleMaterialWeightPrice
Zpacks Duplex2DCF19.0 oz$649
Gossamer Gear DCF Two2DCF20.8 oz$589
Tarptent Double Rainbow Li2DCF28.6 oz$649
Zpacks Altaplex1DCF15.4 oz$625
Tarptent Aeon Li1DCF17.3 oz$535
Gossamer Gear "The One"1Sil/PU Nylon17.7 oz$299
Tarptent Protrail Li1DCF17.7 oz$499
Dan Durston X-Mid 11Sil/PU Poly27.9 oz$220
Tarptent Notch Li1DCF21.5 oz$599
Tarptent Stratospire Li2DCF29.1 oz$689

1. Zpacks Duplex Tent (2P)

Zpacks Duplex

The Zpacks Duplex is a single-wall trekking pole tent made with Dyneema Composite Fabric that only weighs 19.0 ounces. It has ample space for one person plus gear to spread out but can also fit two people comfortably. It has two doors, so you get good ventilation and vestibule space on both sides of the tent, plus you don’t have to climb over your partner at night to go for a nighttime walk. The Duplex has a full bathtub floor, seam taped seams, and mesh sidewalls for insect protection. Pitching the tent requires two trekking poles, but the dual apex structure is quite wind resistant provided it’s staked out securely. The Duplex can be quite drafty however in cold weather and is best used for warmer and drier weather. It is also translucent, which can compromise your privacy when camping near others. Read the SectionHiker Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Zpacks

2. Gossamer Gear DCF Two (2P)

Gossamer Gear DCF Two Backpacking Tent
Gossamer Gear’s DCF Two is an ultralight DCF trekking-pole tent that weighs 20.6 oz. It has a spacious interior for two people, with enough room to fit two 25″ inflatable, tapered sleeping pads, a real luxury with such a lightweight shelter. Two doors and two vestibules make access a snap and provide plenty of gear storage outside the living space. External guyout points on the end panels help improve internal volume while interior pockets let you store personal items close at hand. While the rainfly is made with DCF, the floor is nylon, to prolong the lifetime of the tent, while making it much more packable since all-DCF tents can be quite bulky. Read the SectionHiker DCF Two Review. Gossamer Gear also sells a non-DCF version of The Two, which we also recommend, that is much less expensive and only weighs 3 ounces more.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

3. Tarptent Double Rainbow Li (2P)

Tarptent Double Rainbow Li
The Tarptent Double Rainbow Li is a spacious Dyneema DCF tent is not a trekking pole tent but includes a carbon fiber tent pole and strut. Weighing 28.6 oz, it’s a single-wall ultralight backpacking tent favored by couples that want more room to interior spread out. It has two doors and two vestibules for gear storage and can be set up on wooden tent platforms by attaching trekking poles to the corners of the tent. The interior tent walls have partial fabric sidewalls for enhanced wind and splash protection and an optional ceiling liner is available for additional privacy, separation from internal condensation, and winter temperature regulation.

Check out the latest price at:
Tarptent

4. Zpacks Altaplex (1P)

Zpacks Altaplex Tent

While the Zpacks Altaplex is designed for tall hikers up to 6’6″ we like it because it is long and has a ton of room inside but is still easy to set up in a tight space. Weighing just 15.4 oz, the Altaplex is a single wall trekking pole tent made with Dyneema DCF which doesn’t stretch or sag at night and is extremely waterproof. It has a deep bathtub floor to keep you dry, steep walls to shed strong wind and snow, and a rainbow zipper that makes it easy to get in and out from either side of the front vestibule. Setup requires one trekking pole that can be extended to 142 cm or used with a 10″ pole jack (1.2 oz) which is commonly required for pyramid tents or tarps of this height and shape.

Check out the latest price at:
Zpacks

5. Tarptent Aeon Li (1P)

The Tarptent Aeon Li single-wall tarp tent has a floating bathtub style floor and mesh front wall. Weighing 15.8 ounces, the Aeon Li is sized for one person plus their gear. It requires one trekking pole to pitch and has a side door which makes it much easier to enter and exit. The Aeon Li is made with Dyneema DCF, which is a very lightweight and waterproof laminate that is taped and sewn together. Dyneema DCF can be rather noisy in heavy rain and provides limited privacy since it’s translucent, but it is puncture-resistant and easy to repair with Tyvek tape. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
Tarptent

6. Gossamer Gear “The One” (1P)

GG The 2021 One tent

Gossamer Gear’s “The One” is an ultralight, single-walled trekking-pole tent that weighs 17.7 oz. It has a spacious interior that’s a palace for one, with excellent ventilation to help prevent internal condensation. Made with 10d Sil/PU ripstop nylon, the One is factory seam-taped so you can use it without seam-sealing. The front vestibule is quite large with a zippered center opening which can be closed shut in inclement weather, or rolled back for views and ventilation. The vestibule is also large enough to store your pack under half the vestibule and get in and out through the other. Read the SectionHiker “The One” review. New in 2021, The One is also available with a Dyneema DCF rain fly and weighs 15.3 oz, but we don’t think the slight difference in weight is worth paying for unless your trust fund is burning a hole in your pocket.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

7. Tarptent ProTrail Li (1P)

Tarptent ProTrail Li
The Tarptent ProTrail Li is a single-wall DCF tent with a front vestibule that easy to pitch in very narrow spaces making it an excellent tent for camping in forests and wild campsites. It has a floating bathtub floor connected to an A-frame ceiling with mesh for excellent ventilation along and a solid back window that can be closed for additional weather protection. Weighing just 17.7 oz, the ProTrail Li is a trekking pole tent, though optional poles are also available from Tarptent. It also packs up smaller than Tarptents other DCF tents and can fit horizontally into small backpacks because it doesn’t have corner struts (pitchlocks.) I own myself and I just love it. Read the SectionHiker ProTrail Li Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Tarptent

[/one_half_last]

8. Dan Durston X-Mid 1 (1P)

X-Mid-1 UL Tent

The Dan Durston X-Mid 1P, now available on Amazon is a 27.9-ounce double-wall tent that is exceptionally easy to set up. It has two doors and requires trekking poles to pitch. All of the seams are taped and the inner tent is optional so you can just use the rainfly if desired. The X-mid can be set up fly first in the rain to keep the inner tent dry and has plenty of interior gear storage space. This mid-style tent is quite stormworthy and includes extra guyout points for extreme conditions. Read the SectionHiker X-Mid 1P review. 

Check out the latest price at:
Amazon

9. Tarptent Notch Li (1P)

The Tarptent Notch Li is a one-person, double-wall tent with two vestibules and two doors that weighs 21.5 oz. It’s a strong wind and weather-worthy shelter that is made with Dyneema Composite Fabric. Internal livability is excellent with plenty of headroom, space to accommodate a wide 25″ sleeping pad, and large vestibule spaces for gear storage, cooking in the rain, or a canine companion. Peak and end vents help maintain ventilation even in crappy weather. The inner tent can be set up by itself with trekking poles in dry weather and a solid inner tent is also available to extend the tent’s range in colder winter weather. Read the SectionHiker Notch Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Tarptent

10. Tarptent Stratospire Li (2P)

Tarptent Stratospire Li
The Tarptent Stratospire Li is a two-person 29.1 oz Dyneema DCF trekking pole tent with two doors and two vestibules. It is a strong and weather-worthy double-wall tent like the Tarpent Notch listed above, but sized for two people, instead of one. The two-pole, dual apex structure provides plenty of headroom and creates large vestibules which can be used to store wet gear or cook under in bad weather. The inner tent can be clipped into the rainfly after it’s set up or it can be packed away connected and erected simultaneously. The tent’s unique shape means that it can handle stormy weather from any direction, which is a definite plus if you encounter shifting wind directions on your adventures. A solid breathable interior tent is also available to reduce draftiness for cold weather use.

Check out the latest price at:
Tarptent 

Ultralight Backpacking Tent Selection Guide

The backpacking tent manufacturers who make trekking poles tents use a wide range of different materials and designs. When shopping for a tent, it’s important to understand the tradeoffs of the models you’re considering and how they can complement your adventures.

Ultralight Tent Materials and Price Points

Trekking poles tents are available in a variety of different materials and at different price points. Dyneema DCF is the lightest weight material and the most expensive, in part because it requires specialized manufacturing processes. Tents made with Silpoly, Silnylon, and PU coated silnylon are much less expensive than Dyneema because they can be sewn using conventional methods. They’re also roughly comparable in price. It’d be difficult to say which is the best fabric to make tents with because fabric quality varies widely depending on the manufacturer and specification to which it is made. That said, ultralight tentmakers are beginning to switch away from silnylon to silpoly because it has less stretch than silnylon and absorbs less water.

  • Tents made with Dyneema DCF are very expensive, but also very lightweight, waterproof, and strong. They are more prone to damage from sunlight over the long term, but that’s seldom an issue for most people. Dyneema tents must be folded when packed not stuffed, but can still be surprisingly bulky despite their low weight.
  • Tents made with siliconized polyester (silpoly) are an attractive alternative to Dyneema DCF because they don’t stretch much overnight or when they get wet from rain. They’re also far less expensive and come seam-taped, so you can use them out of the box without any seam sealing.
  • Tents made with PU-coated silnylon are generally more waterproof than regular silnylon, but you need to compare their waterproofing specs to be sure. The chief benefit of the PU coating over regular silnylon is improved UV resistance and the fact that the material can be factory seam-taped.
  • Tents made with silnylon are still common because it’s an easy material for manufacturers to work with. While silnylon does stretch at night and when it gets wet, it’s not as big a deal as people make it out to be. Silnylon tents must be manually seam-sealed before they can be used in rainy weather. While you can do this yourself, my advice would be to pay the manufacturer to do it for you so you get a tent that’s ready to be used when it arrives.

Single-wall vs Double-wall Tents

Ultralight backpacking tents are available in single-wall and double-wall models, with separate inner tents. While both are susceptible to internal condensation, the advantage of a double-wall tent is the moisture collects on the underside of the rainfly and not on a wall that has contact with your sleeping bag, quilt, or other gear. The inner tent and rainfly on many double-wall tents can also be used independently from one another, for example as a standalone tarp or as a bug bivy, which can extend their utility. The advantage of a single wall tent over a double wall one is usually reduced weight.

If tent condensation ever becomes an issue for you, we recommend carrying a small absorbent face towel to wipe it away. Tent condensation is a small price to pay for reduced gear weight and it won’t kill you unless you’re a witch (wizard-0f-Oz reference).

Headroom

Many ultralight backpacking tents pole tents have a pyramid shape which can limit the amount of headroom and foot room available under the sloping ceiling. Lying on your back and staring at a ceiling that’s three inches from your face can be unpleasantly claustrophobic. Make sure you examine the length of the tents you’re considering, in addition to their peak heights.

Trekking pole tents that require two poles to set up usually have two peaks, which can increase the amount of livable space overhead, compared to a one-pole tent. Some tent manufacturers also reduce the slope of the ceiling to create more headroom. The best example of this is Tarptent’s use of carbon fiber end struts to increase the amount of room under the ceilings at the head and foot ends of their tents. The downside of these end struts is that it can make tents harder to pack horizontally in a backpack.

Vestibules

Vestibules are good for gear storage, especially wet gear storage, and for cooking under cover in windy or rainy weather. Most one-pole tents have a single vestibule, while two-pole tents generally have two. When buying a two-person tent, you’ll definitely want two doors and two vestibules so you can each have your own entrance and gear storage area. It can also be quite useful to have two doors and two vestibules on a one-person tent, especially if you anticipate stormy weather conditions where you might have to hunker down in your tent for a day. For that matter, many people use two-person tents as solo tents, something that’s feasible without a major weight penalty since most ultralight backpacking tents are quite lightweight.

Pole Length

When you choose a trekking pole tent, you want to make sure that it is compatible with the make and model of trekking pole you use if you have a preference. Fixed-length poles that are not adjustable can be difficult to use with trekking pole tents which have very specific height requirements. In addition, you want to make sure that your trekking pole handles are compatible if they have a non-standard grip.

Check Out All of SectionHiker's Gear Guides!

Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed on SectionHiker.com, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!

Most Popular Searches

  • trekking pole tent 2 person

13 comments

  1. Why does Dyneema have to be folded and not stuffed? The theory of stuffing is that it avoids creating folds which will cause the fabric to fail through repeated refolding in the same place. How does that theory not hold for Dyneema? Is it a practical issue due to bulk or that the micro folds of stuffing cause more point stress or something else?

    • It doesn’t pack very well when stuffed. Repeated stuffing can also cause the DCF to scrunch up and “shrink” until full tension is applied in all directions. I imagine that’s more of a problem with things like tarps and stuff sacks than tents, though.

    • DCF is remarkably stiff for such a light weight material.

    • Stuffing creates an order of magnitude or more hard creases than folding. Had creasing causes unequal stresses on the layers and breaks down the laminate.

    • I fold my Altaplex flat and it takes up less space in my pack and there are numerous locations to store it in my pack when its flat. Also because Darwin said to! LOL

  2. Prefer freestanding tents myself.

  3. No Lunar Solo this year? These are all terrific, so perhaps it’s just a decision to create a “workable” list with variety. I have had mine in every imaginable weather except extreme cold. High winds, storms, etc., and always been snug and dry. I do pitch out the ends with their supplied tie outs, and have plenty of room for self and gear (I’m 5’8”).

    And, at 24oz., it’s right up there. Just puttin’ in a plug for my beloved and stalwart shelter;-)

  4. Lawrence H Constantino

    I confess I haven’t read this whole article but I hike with Grandpa a lot, and his tarptent is awesome and if was the Li model which it isn’t I think it would be probably on top. Mainly because you can set it up without the inner net and his vestibule seems good
    One thing that I’m not sure of if these weights include stakes and guylines?
    My sixmoon trekker weighs in at about 29oz but after stakes and guylines I’m at 32.5 oz. Of course it’s only in the low $200’s, and I can’t imagine any tent setting up or tearing down as fast as it, but again it’s not an option to set up without inner netting and the vestibule really won’t completely cover your pack, but it has room to stuff inside. I put pack at the foot.
    I think the sixmoon haven zero would be a runner up as a contender for one of the top 10 as well.

  5. Any comparison on footprint/pitch space required for the Protrail Li (w guy lines) & the Notch Li? It would seem the Protrail Li is less but once you think through it they may be more similar. Thanks!

  6. Thanks, as always!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *