5 Best Ultralight Tents of 2019
The Short Version:
Best Ultralight Single-Wall Tent: Zpacks Triplex
Best Ultralight Double-Wall Tent: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
Best Ultralight Fully-Freestanding Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
The Long Version:
Whether you are on a weekend backpacking trip, or sleeping outdoors for three months on a long distance thru-hike, your shelter is a vital piece of equipment. In good weather, an inadequate shelter will be annoying and uncomfortable. But in bad weather, an inadequate shelter will be dangerous. This is true regardless of whether you choose to hike with a backpacking tent, a tarp, a bivy, or otherwise.
Of course — if you opt for a backpacking tent — it will be one of the heaviest items you carry on a multi backpacking trip. So choosing an ultralight tent can shave ounces, or even pounds, from the weight of your pack. This can make a huge difference to your comfort levels during the day… lightweight backpacking is both safer and more comfortable.
Yep. Choosing an ultralight tent is the best place to start lightening up your load.
Innovative designs and modern materials mean that the best ultralight tents are now sturdy, reliable, and durable. Ultralight backpacking tents now offer a trustworthy alternative to heavier traditional backpacking tents.
But of course, like with any industry or product — you get what you pay for. And this adage is excruciatingly true for ultralight tents. By no means are all backpacking tents created equal. And a poorly manufactured or low quality ultralight tent can be dangerous since it may lack the protection, durability, or stability to keep you protected from the elements. However, the ultralight backpacking tents we include in our review below are all high quality and produced by respected manufacturers.
In this article we provide reviews of the best ultralight two-person tents currently available. These are the tents that we believe are worthy of being carried on your next backpacking trip. At the end of the review article we describe important things to consider when buying an ultralight tent.
Side note: if you are a solo hiker, many of the ultralight tents we discuss below also have one-person variations that we suggest and link to.
If you love reading this gear review article, then you'll likely love reading our other gear-fiend related articles:
TRAIL WEIGHT (excluding poles and stakes):
1 lb 8 oz
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (L x W x H):
90 x 60 x 48 in
230 x 153 x 122 cm
At Ultimate Gear Lists, we believe that the Zpacks Triplex is the ultimate two-person backpacking tent.
This tent is likely to be the lightest two-person tent on the market, yet it doesn't sacrifice on space or durability. The tent has room for two hikers and all their gear. And better yet, each hiker has their own door access and vestibule. And all this for less than 800 grams! The downside? It is quite expensive.
Note that if you want to save even more weight then consider the Zpacks Duplex. It is similar in design to Triplex but slightly less width. Although they are both effectively two person shelters we believe the Triplex is a more comfortable fit for two adults with their gear.
The Zpacks Triplex is a single-wall, fully enclosed, shelter. The exterior of the tent is made from Dyneema Composite Fabrics, formerly known as cuben fiber. You can read about it here. It was originally designed as a fabric for high-performance yacht sails, so it has an extremely high tensile strength, is fully waterproof, and doesn't sag when wet. More importantly it is extremely light.
The default design uses two trekking poles. For those hikers who do not use trekking poles, tent-specific poles can be purchased from Zpacks. They have two options: 1) more traditional straight tent poles, or 2) their newer freestanding flex upgrade. Unfortunately both of these options would need to be purchased separately from the tent and therefore incur an additional cost (thereby making the hiking poles option leading to both cost and weight savings).
The single-wall design may be a deterrent for some people, due to the potential lack of condensation control, but with the Triplex we have not found this to be an issue. The tent has plenty of ventilation. In addition, the walls and bathtub floor are designed so that any condensation building up on the interior will run down the wall and drip out through a mesh perimeter - rather than running onto the floor or dripping on you while you sleep.
COMFORT & FEATURES
The biggest comfort factor for the Triplex is how spacious it is. Even with two tall hikers, there is plenty of room to move around and sit up. The other massive benefit with the Triplex is how light it is in your pack, thereby increasing your comfort level while hiking during the day.
This tent is outrageously light, especially for how spacious it is. The DCF material is one of the lightest materials on the market. However, one consideration is that the base weight of the tent does not include poles. The tent is designed to allow two trekking poles to be used in place of tent-specific poles. This has the benefit of reducing the overall packed weight, since your trekking poles are carried in your hands (ideally) and not in your backpack.
For two hikers, our preference is for the Triplex. It provides plenty of width for both hikers to spread out and even store some of their gear alongside their sleeping pad.
Zpacks does offer alternative sizes though. Their Duplex tent is slightly narrower than the Triplex, perhaps making it a better option for couples who are trying to minimise their base weight or a solo hiker who needs some extra space. However, the Duplex weighs in at just 3 oz (85 grams) less than the Triplex. This means that the weight saving is quite minimal even though the reduction in space is quite noticeable.
If you are a solo hiker then the one-person Plexamid tent might be worth a look. Note that these one-person tents only require a single trekking pole to set up (which differs from the two- and three- person tents which require 2 trekking poles).
A freestanding poles upgrade is available. Thicker or patterned materials can also be chosen for the exterior walls.
TRAIL WEIGHT (excluding stakes):
2 lb 3 oz
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (L x W x H, tapered width at foot end):
86 x 52/42 x 39 in
218 x 132/107 x 99 cm
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is one of the lightest double-wall two-person tents on the market, but this is achieved with some sacrifices in durability and space. It uses thin materials and is a bit cramped for two people, or for tall hikers. We believe its ideal niche would be the solo hiker looking for a spacious double-wall ultralight setup.
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is a two-person, double-wall, semi-freestanding, shelter. It has a single-pole hub system that is user-friendly and easy to set up for one hiker. It has two entry doors, each with their own vestibule, which provides good access.
To minimise weight, Big Agnes have used very lightweight materials. The fly and floor are both made of 15-denier nylon materials. For comparison, the Nemo Dagger for example uses 30-denier for the floor and 20-denier for the fly. As we have found with all Big Agnes tents, the zippers on the door can be prone to snagging, which can cause some frustration.
Also the Tiger Wall UL2 is not overly spacious, particularly for two hikers. We would not recommend it for tall hikers (e.g. above 6 foot) and if you will be sharing the space between two hikers it can feel a little cramped. If there will be two of you sleeping in the Tiger Wall, then we would suggest up-sizing to the Tiger Wall UL3 (which is marketed as a three-person shelter, but in reality is a more comfortable and spacious version for two people).
The Tiger Wall is one of the lightest double-wall two-person tents on the market. This is its major strength (no pun intended, since it sacrifices on durability to achieve this!). As we mention above, in minimising the weight Big Agnes has made the living space a little cramped which may lead some hikers to up-size to the three-person version which will add on 7 oz (0.2 kg) to the trail weight (which we believe is worth it, for the additional space).
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall comes in two-person (UL2) or three-person (UL3) options. In reality the UL2 is somewhat cramped for two hikers, and so we would suggest only buying the Tiger Wall UL2 if you are a solo hiker, and buying the Tiger Wall UL3 model if you are sharing between two hikers.
TRAIL WEIGHT (excluding stakes):
2 lb 12 oz
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (L x W x H, tapered width at foot end):
88 x 52/42 x 40 in
224 x 132/107 x 102 cm
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the lightest double-wall, fully-freestanding, two-person tents on the market. It is spacious and thoughtfully designed. The benefit of the fully-freestanding nature of this tent is that it can be easily set up on uneven terrain or where stakes might be hard to use. If you are set on getting a fully-freestanding shelter then the Copper Spur HV is hard to beat.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is a two-person, double-wall, fully-freestanding, shelter. It has a single-pole hub system (or two poles for the three-person and four-person options). The pole system is easy to set up; although the tent is tapered, colour coding allows you to easily figure out where each pole end goes.
The tent has two entry doors (or one door for the one-person option), each with their own vestibule, which provides good access. The HV in the name stands for "high volume" owing to the pole design which is meant to create near vertical walls thereby maximising the usable internal space.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV and Big Agnes Tiger Wall share many similarities in design, however the Copper Spur HV is a bit heavier (9 oz heavier to be exact), is slightly longer (and therefore better for tall hikers), and has a slightly more durable floor (20-denier vs 15-denier). The Copper Spur HV is also fully-freestanding (vs the semi-freestanding Tiger Wall), meaning that the Copper Spur HV can easily be set up in a variety of terrains including rocky ground where it might be difficult to use stakes.
The Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the lightest double-wall free-standing two-person tents on the market. The Zpacks Duplex/Triplex and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 are both much lighter, but neither is free-standing (and the Duplex/Triplex is also single-wall). If you want a fully-freestanding double-wall tent then the Copper Spur HV is hard to beat in the weight category. This is especially true given that it uses 20-denier materials for both the fly and the floor which - although still somewhat fragile - is slightly more durable than some other lightweight tents which use 15-denier or sometimes even thinner.
If you are willing to carry a little extra weight then the Copper Spur HV does provide some additional space and durability compared with the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. But, don't forget that the Tiger Wall UL3 (i.e. the three-person option in the Tiger Wall range) is another alternative. The three-person Tiger Wall UL3 weighs about the same as the two-person Copper Spur HV, but it will give you much more space, will cost the same price, and all you will really be sacrificing is the fully-freestanding design.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV comes in one-person (UL1), two-person (UL2), three-person (UL3), and four-person (UL4) options. As with our review of the Big Agnes Tiger Wall, we think that the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV two-person model is a little cramped for two hikers. So we suggest buying the two-person Copper Spur HV UL2 if you are a solo hiker, and buying the three-person Copper Spur HV UL3 if you are sharing between two hikers.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur footprint can help increase the durability of the tent floor. The footprint is available for the one-person (4 oz; 0.11 kg), two-person footprint (6 oz; 0.17 kg), three-person (8 oz; 0.23 kg), and four-person (11 oz; 0.31 kg) tents.
3 lb 5 oz
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (L x W x H):
90 x 50 x 42 in
229 x 126 x 107 cm
Overall, we found the main benefits of the Nemo Dagger 2P are that it provides a relatively comfortable living space, with two spacious vestibules for access and gear storage. Its long length makes it suitable for tall hikers. It seems durable and it is easy to set up.
The Nemo Dagger 2P is a double-wall, freestanding, shelter. The pole setup is extremely easy. The tent can be set up by a single person in just a few minutes. The pole setup includes a horizontal crossbar, which reinforces the near vertical walls on each side. We found that although the poles are lightweight they were very strong, however, we found the included stakes to be a little too lightweight to be reliable.
The lower half of the sidewalls on the inner tent are made of a ripstop nylon material (as opposed to mesh). This helps to provide some additional protection from wind, but at the sacrifice of some breathability and condensation management. However, there is mesh beginning about half way up the sidewall and this ensures relatively sufficient ventilation. An additional benefit of the high sidewalls is that you can keep the vestibule open in all but the worst weather, thereby improving ventilation and views of the outdoors.
The Nemo Dagger 2P is highly ranked when it comes to comfort. It provides a spacious, rectangular, interior floor. Its long length (90 in; 229 cm) makes it suitable for tall hikers. And accompanied by the vertical side walls these dimensions provide enough room to move around inside the tent without feeling cramped.
There are two large vestibules - one on each side of the tent - which provide good access and gear storage for each person. The tent includes interior mesh pockets and an overhead light pocket made of special light-diffusing fabric that is intended to provide an even glow throughout the tent (rather than the light shining down into your eyes!).
Although the Nemo Dagger 2P is in the lightweight category, it is not amongst the lightest tents in our review. If you are exclusively looking for an ultralight backpacking tent and counting every gram, then consider looking elsewhere. For instance, the Zpacks Duplex (for a single-wall shelter) or the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 (for a double-wall shelter). However, one upside of the Nemo Dagger is that it comes with a "Divvy Stuff Sack", which allows you to pack the components separately and share the weight between two hikers.
3 lb 7 oz
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (L x W x H):
79 x 50 x 39 in
200 x 127 x 100 cm
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is amongst the veterans of the lightweight backpacking tent category. It is one of the more popular mainstream choices for a lightweight backpacking tent, in part due to some ideal features and in part due to its wide availability.
Although this tent is relatively lightweight and reasonably good value, we believe there are other ultralight tents on our list that are better overall performers. For example, the Zpacks Triplex provides more room for less weight, albeit more expensive and single-wall, and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall is also lighter and more spacious, but is semi-freestanding.
However, if you are looking specifically for a fully-freestanding lightweight tent then the MSR Hubba Hubba NX may be a worthwhile choice. Amongst our "best-in-class" tents listed here, the only other competitors in the fully-freestanding category are the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV and the Nemo Dagger.
There are many features to consider when choosing an ultralight backpacking tent. At the very least, you want a tent that is:
stable (in wind)
lightweight / ultralight
spacious enough to meet your needs (e.g. length, sitting height, space in the vestibule for gear)
easy enough to set up (including in wind or rain)
Of course, some of these factors can be competing. For instance, a more spacious tent is likely to be heavier. And some of these factors might be compromised by manufacturers in order to achieve a desired price point. Nonetheless, it is possible to find ultralight tents that optimise their feature set to provide an ideal package.