Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent Options

Weight is the enemy of every ultralight backpacker. Ounces can quickly add up to pounds, and more and more pounds can equal an uncomfortable backpacking trip. It is easy enough to leave non-essential gear items at home, but if you are expecting wet weather conditions on you trek, you will need a tent to add needed protection from the elements.

Tents come in all shapes and sizes. Solo tents and bivys are perfect for ultralight backpackers. But they are tight for space and many backpackers like the flexibility and extra space offered by a two man tent. Below, we will go over the best tent/bivy/tarp options for ultralight backpacking, starting with the most minimalist and moving towards the two man tent options.

Minimalist Options (Tarps/Bivy Sacks)

Black Diamond Beta Light Ultralight Tent – $199

[amazon_link id=”B000RVX27K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Black Diamond Beta Light Shelter Blue/Silver, One Size[/amazon_link]The Black Diamond Beta Light is designed to be used with your trekking poles to provide you with a lightweight outdoor shelter. If you don’t hike with trekking poles, this won’t work for you. This is a fantastic minimalist option that provides great protection from rain without adding more than 19 ounces to your pack. It is lighter than a bivy but has more space than one, since two people could sleep dry underneath one. For those of you who want rain protection without having to haul around a tent, this is the option for you. [amazon_link id=”B000RVX27K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to purchase yours today.

Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy – $300

[amazon_image id=”B000VVHYE8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy (Mojo Blue, One Size)[/amazon_image]

When it comes to bivy sacks, especially options that are 3 season capable, the Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy is our favorite model on the market. It features 3 layers of Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric, a durable hydroseal coated waterproof nylon floor, and completely fully taped seams to keep ground water out. Two shock corded poles allow for sturdy head space, but can be left behind for extra weight savings. What really sets this bivy apart from others is the internal volume. There is  a ton of room for a high-loft down sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and there are integral loops for attaching the pad to the bottom of the bivy. This bivy sack comes in at 37 ounces, so it is a nice ultralight option for solo backpacking. [amazon_link id=”B000VVHYE8″ target=”_blank” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to order your Outdoor Research Advanced bivy today.

One Man Tents

Eureka! Solitaire – $69

[amazon_image id=”B000EQCVNY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Eureka! Solitaire – Tent (sleeps 1)[/amazon_image]

The Eureka! Solitaire solo tent has taken the good points of a bivy sack and expanded it out to a tent. Instead of feeling couped up in a constrictive bivy sack, the walls are 2 feet high the length of the tent. Without the rain fly on, the entire tent is made of mesh for excellent ventilation on warmer days and for stargazing at night. The weight is very manageable for one person, at only 41 ounces. For all the extra space in this tent compared to a bivy, the extra few ounces are worth it for me. And the price (always subject to change) of under $70 is a steal! To get your Eureka! Solitaire solo tent today, [amazon_link id=”B000EQCVNY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click here[/amazon_link].

ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1 Tent – $119

[amazon_link id=”B00B9GCRL4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1-Person Tent[/amazon_link]Another great option for a solo tent is the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr. This tent comes in heavier than the Eureka! Solitaire, but boasts a lot more interior space and comfort. Weighing 62 ounces (3 pounds 14 ounces), it is by no means a light weight tent (and some two man tents weigh the same or less), but the tall walls add an amount of comfort that a lot of backpackers seek from their tents. Maybe this doesn’t fit in our ultralight discussion here, but if you are alright with sacrificing a little bit of weight for a lot of comfort, the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr is the solo tent for you. [amazon_link id=”B00B9GCRL4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Click here[/amazon_link] to get yours today.

Two Man Tents

Nemo Equipment Meta 2-Person Ultralight Trekking Tent – $319

[amazon_link id=”B0035EJMTI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nemo Equipment Meta 2-Person Ultralight Trekking Tent[/amazon_link]The Nemo Meta two person tent is our favorite ultralight option out there right now for a few reasons. First of all its weight – an astonishing 47 ounces (2 pounds 15 ounces) – is outstanding for a two person backpacking tent. This weight is achieved by utilizing your trekking poles for the construction of the tent body, so if you don’t use trekking poles again, this tent isn’t for you. There are also well placed vents on this tent that allow for exceptional air flow. The internal floor space is 37 square feet, with an additional 22 square feet of vestibule space for gear. That is a lot of floor space for two people. There are other 2 person tents out there with weights close to that of the Nemo Meta, but they are cramped (often with less than 30 square feet and a tiny vestibule area). This is a very comfortable and ultralight tent option, usually two characteristics you have to choose between. To get your Nemo Meta two person trekking tent today, [amazon_link id=”B0035EJMTI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click here[/amazon_link].

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Person Tent – $369

[amazon_image id=”B00GSYH5IC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2-Person Tent – Silver/Gold[/amazon_image]

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is another exceptional two person tent. Another ultralight tent option, coming in at 42 ounces (2 pounds 10 ounces), the Fly Creek could easily be divided between two backpackers or carried solo. The internal space is cramped when compared with the Nemo Meta above (only 28 square feet of internal space, with only an additional 7 square feet of vestibule space), so it is not as comfortable. But it does shave 5 extra ounces off the overall weight, and you don’t need your own trekking poles to set up the tent. This award winning tent (winner of Backpacker Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award in 2010) is one of the lightest two person tents on the market. For ultralight backpackers, that is the most important factor. To get your Fly Creek UL2 from Big Agnes, [amazon_link id=”B00GSYH5IC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]click this link[/amazon_link] today.

Summary And Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

There are several things to think about when investing in an ultralight backpacking tent, starting with the overall weight. Do you plan on sleeping in your tent alone? With another person? Your dog? Do you like having extra space for gear storage? Can you handle cramped quarters? Do you like to sleep under the stars? What will the weather be like? Think about these questions as you browse our favorite ultralight backpacking tent options on the market today. Hopefully this article will help you to choose a tent that fits your needs.

What is your favorite ultralight backpacking tent? Do you prefer the bivy sack to the tent? Are you a true minimalist that sleeps under the stars/tarp? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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New To Backpacking? Get Started For Under $300

Are you interested in backpacking, but not willing to commit a large amount of money upfront until you know you are going to like it? Are you on strict budget? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this article will hopefully help you to see that you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get into this great hobby. Below, I will go over some of my favorite low cost (but still high quality) gear to consider.

For the sake of this article, we will assume you have no backpacking gear. That means you will need to buy a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and other items to keep you going, less the consumables (food, fuel, etc). Let’s say you have a strict budget of $300 to get all the gear you need to go on a summer weekend (3 day, 2 night) backpacking trip that is more or less on a flat trail.

Here is a breakdown of the items, and below will be more details of the gear choices:

  • Backpack$115 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack[/amazon_link]
  • Tent$110 [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2XT 2 Person Backpacking Tent[/amazon_link]
  • Sleeping Bag$40 [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Scorpion 45 Degree Ultralight Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]
  • Water Prep – $25 [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 Ounce Flip Top Water Filter Bottle[/amazon_link]
  • Food Prep$10 – [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Stainless Steel Mess Kit[/amazon_link]
  • Total Cost = $300

Backpack – $115

[amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Internal frame Backpack, Forest Night, Medium/Large[/amazon_link]For the backpack, the Kelty Coyote 80 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]can be picked up off of Amazon currently for $115[/amazon_link]. That is a great deal for a backpack that boasts 78 Liters (4750 cubic inches) of interior space. This is more than large enough for a 3 day excursion. It is more suited for a longer trip, but at that price point, it’s hard to pass this deal up. Additional features in this pack include:

Bag Features:

  • Top loading
  • 420-denier polyester Ball Shadow body fabric
  • 420-denier polyester Oxford reinforcement fabric
  • Hydration compatible
  • Reservoir sleeve
  • Front-panel access
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Mesh water bottle pockets
  • Side compression straps
  • Load stabilizer straps
  • Spindrift collar
  • Ice-axe loops
  • Daisy chain
  • Key fob
  • Zippered waist belt pockets
  • Lid converts into lumbar pack
  • Carry handle

Suspension Features:

  • CloudLock II adjustable suspension
  • LightBeam II dual aluminum stays
  • HDPE frame sheet
  • Removable HDPE reinforced dual density waist belt
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Ventilating back panel
  • Load-lifter/stabilizer straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Patented Scherer Cinch

Specifications:

  • Capacity: 4,750 cubic inches (78-liters)
  • Weight: 5 lb. 9 oz.
  • Measures 16 x 34 x 16.5 inches (W x H x D)

Highlights of the Kelty Coyote 80 backpack are the price point, the capacity, removable waist belt and lid (converts into hip pack), and construction. The pack is on the heavy side at 5 pounds 9 ounces empty, but as long as it isn’t over packed for a 3 day trip, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Tent – $110

[amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2 - Tent (sleeps 2)[/amazon_link]The tent of choice is the Eureka! Apex 2XT tent. This is a lightweight 2 person backpacking tent that is also a very palatable price right around a hundred bucks. We chose the Apex 2XT tent because of the price, as well as a few features, such as: the 2 door design with 2 vestibules totaling 27 additional square feet, solid construction, and light weight (6 pounds 5 ounces). Here are some additional features and specifications:

  • Seasons: 3
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Floor dimensions: 7′ 6″ by 4′ 11″
  • Center height: 3′ 10″
  • Minimum weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces
  • Frame: Freestanding, shock-corded fiberglass
  • Vestibule: 2, with 13.8 square feet of storage each
  • Storage pockets: 2 mesh
  • Clothes line loops: 4
  • Flashlight loop: Yes
  • Warranty: Lifetime

This is great tent, and for the price, you won’t be disappointed. [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Pick yours up today[/amazon_link].

Sleeping Bag – $40

[amazon_link id=”B006WPZBA6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports FeatherLite +20 F Degree Ultra Light Design, Ultra Compact Sleeping Bag (84 X 32 X 20, Red)[/amazon_link]Since this is a summer trip, we can get away with suggesting a summer sleeping bag. And that is completely fair, because if you are new to backpacking, you probably don’t want to get into a cold weather trip right off the bat because you might ruin your outlook on the hobby. Start with a mild, warm weather trip to see if you like it first, then as you get more experience and become more adventurous, expand. Back to the sleeping bag of choice – [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Featherlite 20 degree ultra light sleeping bag[/amazon_link].

The price is right at $40, and the weight is also a bonus coming in at 3.4 pounds. This sleeping bag is nice because is compresses well and takes up minimal room. It is a synthetic fill sleeping bag, so even if it gets wet, it should keep you warm down to 30 degrees or so. It also comes with a stuff sack. Pick up one of these affordable 3 season sleeping bags today!

Food and Water Prep – $35

For cooking your food, this [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]stainless steel mess kit[/amazon_link] is just right. It offers a frying pan, pot, two lids (plates) and a plastic 8 ounce cup. At just over $10, all you need to have is a bed of hot coals and you can cook food or heat water.

[amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28oz Flip Top Advanced Filter Water Purification / Filtration Bottle[/amazon_link]As for purifying your water, the [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 ounce flip top water filter bottle[/amazon_link] is a high quality option that is affordable ($25). It removes 99.99% of bacteria, virus, contaminants, and pollutants from water. It can filter up to 100 gallons of water, depending on the quality of the water (dirtier water = less filtering capacity). It weighs just 11 ounces and you can fill it up from any body of water along the trail.

The Bottom Line

If you are just getting into backpacking, and you are worried that you won’t like it, it doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on gear. I can tell you that if you like nature, exercise, the outdoors, and camping in general, you are going to absolutely love backpacking. But keeping your start-up costs low just in case you don’t is a good idea. The nice thing about all of these items is that they could all be sold used to recoup most of your money if you decide you don’t like backpacking. Another nice thing about all of these items is that if you do like backpacking, they are high quality products that you will be able to enjoy for a long time.

Use this list to find the right gear for your needs. This is just a list of the most essential gear items. I didn’t include hiking boots because they require such a specialized fit and vary greatly in price. For a flat 3 day hiking trip, sturdy tennis shoes should be alright. Other items might include a good flashlight, first aid kit, survival kit, GPS, fitted hiking boots, multi-tool or pocket knife, and a sleeping pad. They will greatly increase your comfort and safety in the backcountry. As always, happy trails!

Do you agree with this list? What would be your $300 starting setup? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

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