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Best Ultralight Thru-Hiking Tents

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Those looking to purchase the absolute lightest tent that matches their needs will require you to purchase a tent made from Dyneema and in most cases using their trekking poles. From there it will depend mostly on how much internal space you need, typically 1p or a 2p.

For the thru-hiker looking to drop their pack weight as much as possible, you need to drop each of your big three gears weight to maximize the weight drop, your tent is one of those key items where you can drop massive weight moving to fabrics like Dyneema.

As you will see in the list basically every tent on this list is Dyneema, this is because the fabric has a tremendous drop in weight while offering more durability and it is also the best waterproof material to make a tent from.

To get this massive overall weight loss you will be paying a hefty premium, but the fabric makes this a simple option if you are looking for the best tent at the lightest weight possible!

Our Best Ultralight Tents for Thru-Hiking

  1. Zpacks Duplex (19oz) (Best Ultralight 2P Tent)
  2. Zpacks Altaplex (15.4oz) (Best Option for Tall Thru Hikers)
  3. Zpacks Plexamid (15.3oz) (Best for Ultralight Backpackers)
  4. Plex Solo (13.9oz) (New Release From Zpacks)
  5. Notch Li (21.5oz) (Best 1P Double Wall Tent)
  6. Aeon Li (17oz) (Best Half-Pyramid Tent)
  7. ProTrail Li (15.95oz) (Best Small Form Factor)
  8. StratoSpire Li (28.9oz) (Best 2P Double Wall Tent)
  9. UltaMid 2 (18.7oz) (Best Adaptability)
  10. The DCF One (15.3oz) (Retired Currently Not Offerred)
  11. The DCF Two (20.8oz) (Retired Currently Not Offerred)

10 Best Ultralight Thru-Hiking Tents Reviewed

Now that you have seen my list of the top 10 ultralight thru-hiking tents let’s dig into each and explain why I chose to rate them there and why they may be a perfect match for you and your long-distance hike.

Best Ultralight 2P Tent

Zpacks Duplex

  • The Zpacks Duplex Tent is an excellent tent for thru-hiking due to its weight and waterproof fabrics. It only weighs 19.4 ounces and is made of Dyneema Composite Fabrics.
  • The Duplex has two doors, two vestibules, and needs the use of two trekking poles. Despite its amazing layout and design, the Duplex is a very simple tent to put up and use, which is probably why it’s arguably the most popular tent on trail.

The Duplex is a lightweight, high-strength, highly waterproof fabric that makes it ideal for making tents and shelters since it does not absorb water or stretch during the night. The fabric is called Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), a lightweight, high-strength, highly waterproof fabric that makes it perfect for this use.

While the Duplex is a two-person tent for thru-hikers on the trail this is a one-person with space to spread out on the trail. Having space to layout gear and move around is highly valued when you are truly living on the trail and just like a house, a little more space is never a bad thing.

This is a single-wall tent which does mean you will face condensation internally and possible water drips overnight if the ceiling should shake more move a lot, some people find this a big downside to a single wall tent and a reason why they don’t purchase a DCF tent as this are very commonly single-wall constructs.


Best Option for Tall Thru-Hikers

The Zpacks Altaplex tent is my choice for Best Tent for Taller Thru-Hikers

Zpacks Altaplex

  • The Altaplex is the ideal ultralight tent for hikers up to 6’6″ tall, and it’s ideal for taking a rest on any trail or recovering after a long day of hiking.
  • The storm doors may be opened and closed independently. In nice weather, leave one or two doors open to provide a breeze and spectacular views.

This light tent is built to accommodate bigger backpackers and trekkers while maintaining a low profile and simple setup. With just one trekking pole, it can be set up quickly.

This tent is spacious, well-ventilated, folds down small, can be set up quickly, and can fit in the tightest of places. With this much room available, tall hikers won’t discover a lighter tent anywhere else on the market.

The canopy is 4-5 inches (12 cm) above the bathtub floor and screen doors. The screens can be left open in light rain or beneath dripping trees, allowing for free airflow without water droplets on the floor space. In most cases, at least one downwind door may be left open for air.

If you don’t want to bring your wet backpack or muddy shoes into the tent, a single closed door provides adequate vestibule space for storing them.


Best for Ultralight Backpackers

Zpacks Plexamid

  • This tent takes 6 or 10 stakes to set up, depending on the weather. In windy circumstances, you may use as many as 10 stakes. The walls are also pushed out with additional stakes, allowing for greater internal volume.
  • Storm doors can be independently opened and closed. Leave one or two doors open when it’s nice outside. Close the upwind door on a windy day, or close both if it is raining. The storm doors are closed with metal hooks that have a toggle in the middle to hold them together.

The Plexamid is an ultra-light and roomy tent that can help you take your treks to the next level. This tent allows you to put in more miles without harming your body, whether you’re on a thru-hike or getting the most out of those two weeks away from the cubicle.

The Squared-Off Peak on this lightweight tent provides extra height without requiring the use of a second 48″ (122 cm) pole to pitch it. While still allowing the tent to pack up small, the extremely strong titanium peak structure stays in place during usage.

The Plexamid is highly ventilated and may be used in even the tightest of camping locations. There’s no lighter one-person tent out there.


New Release From Zpacks

Plex Solo

  • The storm doors may be opened or shut independently. In the summer, leave one or two doors open for a breeze and spectacular views. To block the upwind door and provide 360° rain protection, close both of the overlapping doors with custom-made metal hooks.
  • The canopy covers the bathtub floor by 4-5 inches (12 cm), as well as the screen doors. In moderate rain or among dripping trees, the doors may be left open for ventilation without causing water to drip on to the floor space. Almost every condition allows at least one downwind door to remain open for air flow.
  • The room in this tent comes in handy for all sorts of reasons. With plenty of area to stretch out and your gear beside you or at the ends of the floor, it’s perfect for tall hikers. Tall hikers may increase even more head and foot space by propping up the side guylines.

The Zpacks Plex Solo is the lightest of the light, weighing in at less than 14 ounces while offering exceptional performance and comfort. For a hiker, the Plex Solo is a roomy one-person tent that allows you to redefine your limits and challenge yourself.

The Plex Solo is a single-person tent that can be set up in even the tightest campsites thanks to its single 52″ (132 cm) trekking or tent pole. There’s no such thing as a lighter one-person tent.

Best 1P Double Wall Tent

Notch Li

  • For the ultimate in strength and weight savings, US-made Dyneema® fabrics are used while being fully taped and waterproof with a 8,000mm+ hydrostatic head pressure rating.
  • The Notch LI tent uses dual trekking poles to support the structure without needing these poles to exist in your living space. This tent uses its double-wall, dual entry, and dual vestibules to provide massive living space.

The Notch Li is TarpTents’ lightest double-wall shelter, which has been updated for 2020. The Notch Li is made of Dyneema® and is ideal for trekking pole users who seek the maximum lightweight and protection.

Simple and robust, with a double wall and two doors, the Notch Li provides you with the freedom and security you want for a wide range of conditions.

Best Half-Pyramid Tent

TarpTent Aeon Li

The Tarptent Aeon Li is a significant upgrade in design over other half-pyramid shelters. The two most important developments are as follows:

  • The vertical back wall of the Tarptent design has a pair of foldable corners from Tarptent’s innovative PitchLoc™ technology to boost the volume and strength of the tent while keeping it small.
  • The two front doors can be completely rolled back and the structural awning, together with the PitchLoc™ corners, is used to increase head/shoulder room and establish static equilibrium, allowing both front doors to be fully rolled back without the use of a forward guyline.

The world’s lightest and most protective tents are made from DYNEEMA®, allowing for greater weight savings along with superior strength, in addition, the tent comes fully taped and waterproof: 8,000mm+ hydrostatic head pressure rating.

Is it possible to make the Aeon Li smaller by stuffing it? The 5 carbon-fiber struts and aluminum cross pole are simple to remove, but I would recommend rolling or folding rather than stuffing to extend the cloth’s life.

The type of camping you intend to do and the conditions you anticipate will determine whether or not you require a groundsheet. Once the ground is clear of sharp objects, the 1-oz Dyneema flooring is durable and does not usually require a separate groundsheet.

Best Small Form Factor

ProTrail Li

  • The ProTrail Li features a rear storm flap that opens and closes from inside, the interior never gets wet during entry, exit, setup, or takedown in storms and bugs can’t enter due to abundant mesh netting for views and airflow.

The ProTrail Li is a completely new Dyneema® shelter for 2020 that is one of the lightest and most affordable. It’s for trekking pole users who want the greatest lightweight and protection available.

The elegant and sturdy ProTrail Li will fit inside any backpack, giving you flexibility and security in a variety of environments.

Best 2P Double Wall Tent

Tarptent StratoSpire Li

  • The Tarptent StratoSpire Li is, at its core a highly adaptable tent. The clip-in points make it simple to remove the floor and bug net. They offer a huge variety of purchasing choices to adapt to your needs.
  • Amazingly resilient in inclement weather, able to weather the worst conditions you can throw at it!

The tent is light, handles moisture well, and is waterproof. Finding places to set up the tent is pretty simple, and in many cases, you will not need a footprint.

This tent features two vast vestibule areas. They are exceptionally useful in bad weather because they have room for your gear and you can cook inside while staying dry.

The Stratosphere is a very good tent. It’s easy to live in and it’s also good for people who like to travel and go places that might have bad weather.

Best Adaptability

HMG UltaMid 2

  • The UltaMid 2’s remarkable 1.17 pounds weight will be a relief to any kit’s overall weight, it should put any concerns to rest that it translates to a durability loss.
  • This elegant, long-lasting structure is constructed of 100% waterproof Dyneema® Composite Fabrics that will outlast garden-variety silnylon materials many times over.

When it comes to portable shelter, few designs have been as extensively tested and proven as those that are constructed in the pyramid style.

These are simple to put up, highly spacious, and, owing to such things as physics, extremely adaptable in every but the most severe weather.

For years to come, settle into the notion of unpacking the comfort and security of your home on the trail, wherever that may be, while you travel.

The UltaMid 2 may be raised high off the ground or brought right up against the earth. Use adjustable trekking poles or a central peak to suspend from.

*Important Note: The Ultamid 2 needs an insert to be purchased for the full “tent” effect but this is due to their modular setup making this work in any weather you need it to.

How to Choose a Tent for Your Thru-Hike

When you are deciding on what tent will work best for your thru-hike you have many things to consider before making your important purchase, each item can be a make or break for you and your enjoyment while out on the trail.

For some this is going to be based on how it can fit in a backpack, others will worry about the weight as the highest importance. Some will gravitate towards freestanding tents over trekking pole-style tents, others may care more about the space or materials.

This is all why you want to understand all the factors and which ones will be the most important to you and your choice. Let’s jump into each and give you some information on what they are and why they would matter.

Tent Setup

There are three main types of tents that someone will have, freestanding, semi-freestanding, and trekking pole tents. Each of these has some pros and cons but people are typically more comfortable with one of the three.

Types of Tents:

Freestanding – These tents require no tent stakes with the tent body and the rainfly ending along the tent body or the tent poles, there are not many options available in this type for backpacking use. Can be adjusted easily as you can pick up and move the entire tent without removing tent stakes for optimum camp placing.

Semi-Freestanding – Very similar to the above tents but you have tent stakes which are used to tighten up the rainfly and give full protection to the tent and vestibule area. This can be easier to move around the camp area for best placement unlike the next option below.

Trekking Pole – This tent uses your trekking poles to stand upright, it has no ability to remain upright without the framework the trekking poles provide. This also makes re-adjusting and moving the tent a full breakdown and re-setup as the entirety of the tent is staked out to maintain shape.

Seasonality

As to seasonality, this will depend on when your majority of trips occur, there are a few options which are three-season, three-plus season, and four-season. Choosing which will fit your needs and the weather you will expect will change the way it holds heat and breathes.

Three Season

This style of tent will often feature a rainfly made of solid material and an inner tent material which will be made from a no-see-um mesh, this allows you the most airflow possible which is very important when camping in warmer temperatures.

Three-Plus Season

Similar to the above tent but the walls will typically be a mix of solid material to block out some airflow but the rest are made from no-see-um mesh to allow some airflow to continue through.

Four Season

This tent style will have solid walls both inside and outside, this will block out nearly all breezes and will help conserve warmth non-stop in all weather. This can be critical in winter but also if you hike up high into mountains where severe cold is typical, not always just snow or inclement weather.

Livable AKA Internal Living Space and Capacity

While you live out on the trail you will want to have a space you can retreat to for some peace and quiet at times, for some people this space can be near cocoon-like and small and cramped, for others they need the biggest space they are willing to carry.

Key Specs To Think About:

  • Floor Dimensions – The length and width measurements give a general indication of the floor surface size. Many tents do not have completely rectangular floors, so you may see measurements like 85″ x 51″ / 43″ (L x W head/foot). A tapered floor provides shoulder and arm room while also saving weight by having a smaller foot.
  • Floor Area – This figure measures the total floor space in square feet. While this number is useful for comparing tents, it isn’t a reliable metric when measuring how well the area is utilized.
  • Peak Height – When you sit up, no one wants to bang their head. However, peak height is measured at a single point, so don’t rely on this metric alone to assess overall clearance. Your personal test pitch and validation is a far superior method of determining overall space.
  • Wall Angles and Shape – This is a far more significant aspect of tent livability than peak height. The higher the walls are, the more open the interior of the tent will feel. If you can’t go to a store to test pitch tents, look at the pitch of a tent’s walls in online photos.

Tent Weight

The weight of your tent is important as part of the big three it is one of your core areas to drop weight from your overall base weight. So you will want to look into the specific keys below as to tent specs that you should see how you align with and are willing to carry.

Understanding Tent Specs:

  • Minimum trail weight – The total weight of the tent body, rainfly, and poles (the bare necessities). You will probably add more tent-related items like stakes, and a footprint, but this is the best spec level for an overall comparison.
  • Packaged weight – This is the total weight of all the components included in a purchase: body, rainfly, poles, stakes, stuff sack pole sack, instructions, and other items. The combined weight you’ll carry on the trek will be between this and the minimum trail weight listed above.
  • Packed size – The amount of room a tent takes up in your backpack also has to do with how easy it is to manage in a pack. For couples, you can look to decrease the amount of space needed by separating components and having your spouse take only the poles and rainfly, for example.

Materials

There are many materials used to make tents, some provide more water resistance, others provide better costs. Let’s take a few minutes and discuss the three most common materials used in making tents:

  • Dyneema or DCF – First discvered on sailboats this fabric has amazing abilities like the ability to withstand water, incredibly lightweight, and pretty durable which makes it good for tents but it comes at a solid premium in the costs.
  • Sil-Nylon – The most common fabric used for backpacking tents, solid and dependable, the only large downside is that it abosorbs water over time and due to this it can sag and need to be tightened up after initial setup.
  • Sil-Poly – Very similar to Sil-Nylon above but doesn’t absorb water so once setup you won’t have to worry about sagging from water absorbtion, though from my understanding this fabric is a little more expensive it is near in-line with Sil-Nylon.

How the Tent Fits in Your Backpack

This may be fairly small to some but how you want to load your backpack is important and some tents can be very tall when in their sack. This can be an issue if you prefer to put your tent horizontally, as is my preference, as this allows for a simple stacking of gear.

Common Tent Thru-Hiker Issues

FAQ About Tents for Thru-Hiking