What are the Best Lightweight Tents?
Why should you care about what are the best lightweight tents? Well when it comes to your physical safety in the outdoors, especially during early- and late-season backpacking, your tent might be the single most important thing in your pack. The three main criteria for tents are comfort, weight, and protection against the elements. If you’re planning to spend less time in your tent and more time on your feet, weight is probably going to be the most important of those three—but not so much you should ignore the other two.
Lightweight tents can cost anywhere from $200 to $600, with most quality options coming in between $300 and $400. There are a few good deals out there for less than $300, though, which we’ve noted here.
The main consideration among the tents listed here is whether they’re free-standing or non-freestanding. Freestanding tents, which come with tent poles and support themselves, are quicker and easier to pitch and can be set up anywhere, even on hard ground that won’t take stakes. Non-freestanding tents, which use poles and stakes, are better for experienced hikers who know how and where they can pitch them. They are a little lighter, though, and the trekking poles you use anyway can pull double-duty as tent supports.
Best Lightweight Tents:
1. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
For a double-wall, two-person tent, the Big Agnes Fly Creek has an incredibly low weight, at 1lb 15oz. While it’s rated as a two-person tent, beware actually trying to fit two people in the Fly Creek: it will do in a pinch, but the sloped walls and asymmetric design (which give it its low weight) make this a pretty tight fit for two. For solo hikers, though, it’s hard to beat the weight to comfort balance of the Fly Creek. It has excellent weather resistance for its low weight, too. This tent is classed as “semi-freestanding,” and requires two stakes for a proper pitch. Set-up is easy, but if you’re planning to camp on a lot of hard, rocky ground it may not be ideal. At $390, this tent a super high-quality option in the middle of the spectrum of tent prices.
2. ZPacks Hexamid Twin Shelter
At only 1lb 3oz (14oz if you leave the bathtub-style floor at home,) it’s hard to beat the weight of the ZPacks Hexamid Twin Shelter. It uses a non-freestanding design, pitched with six stakes and two trekking poles. If can handle that, what you’ll get with this tent is a roomy, bug-proof, snugly weatherproof two-person tent that weighs almost nothing. The Hexamid gives you the best of both worlds between a tarp and a tent—it doesn’t have zippers, and instead has secure storm doors that can be rolled up for ventilation, but it also has interior mesh walls to deal with condensation. At $530 it isn’t cheap, but will get you can unbeatable balance between weight, space, and weather protection.
3. Tarptent Notch
If you liked the sound of the Hexamid but didn’t like its cost, the Tarptent Notch could be the tent for you. It’s also a non-freestanding tent, pitched with trekking poles and four stakes, and is also a super light 1lb 11oz. The outer wall can also be pitched on its own, so if you can plan on good weather, low moisture, and minimal bugs, you can leave the rest of the tent at home and get the weight even lower. It’s not the most weather resistant option here, but the pitch can also be adjusted to best keep you dry if you’re expecting rain, or to allow more ventilation if the weather’s good. And at $285, it’s a pretty good deal and that’s why it makes one of the best lightweight tents.
4. REI Quarter Dome 1
If you’re not into dealing with stakes and lines and trekking poles, but also don’t want to pay more than $300, the REI Quarter Dome 1 is a great value-conscious choice. At $230 it’s one of the most affordable high-quality tents on the market, but doesn’t sacrifice weight (it’s only 2lb 2oz) or comfort. It’s mostly freestanding with two stakes, and is spacious, well-ventilated, and easy to pitch. It is, however, not the most durable tent out there—if you’re expecting harsh weather or just know you’re hard on your stuff, you might save money in the long run by paying for something sturdier.
5. Hilleberg Anjan
This one goes at the end of our list the best lightweight tents because it isn’t exactly lightweight at 3lb 7oz, but still goes on it for its unbeatable versatility. If you’re looking to get your weight down because you plan to do a lot of long-distance, multi-season, variable weather thru-hiking, this tent is just about indestructible in any weather conditions. It’s a bit expensive at $645, but with its durability and adaptability will also be the only tent you need for years. If you’re willing to trade a few ounces for the security of knowing you can handle anything, the Anjan might be the tent for you.
Caring for your tent
Even with the most durable tent and the most careful hiker, tears and punctures can happen. It’s worth always having a tent repair kit with you—Gear Aid sells a good one, and MSR has one specifically for tent poles. And, while most of these tents should hold up, be careful when selecting campsites to avoid rocky or uneven ground that could puncture the bottom of your tent, or even your sleeping pad too.
That said, if light is the way you want to go, it probably isn’t worth getting a footprint (a tough ground layer cut to fit your tent.) Choosing your campsite well should eliminate the need for it. That said, if you think you’ll might have to cover some treacherous ground, you can easily and cheaply make your own footprint out of Tyvek Home Wrap or polycro plastic.
Ounces are easy to count, but things like comfort and security in bad weather are harder to measure. How important those immeasurable factors are to you depends entirely on your needs and plans. All the options listed here are great options for the weight conscious traveler—from here, the decision is all your own.
And there you have our list of the best lightweight tents. We hope you got some useful information