Top 10 best ultralight backpacking tents reviewed (Updated 2020)


If you love backpacking and carry your own gear, then you should aim at saving on the weight of essential gears. These include the big four – backpack, shelter, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Saving a couple of pounds on your shelter can help reduce the burden on your body and spare some extra space and weight for other essentials.

So if you want to save some weight on your shelter without losing too much on comfort, then opting for an ultralight backpacking tent is the way to go. While there is no standard definition of an ultralight backpacking tent, such tents are specially-designed, lightweight tents with a minimum trail weight of less than 2 pounds per person.

But which are the best ultralight backpacking tents available in the market?

In this article, we will specifically answer this question by listing the best options available online and help you pick the best ultralight tent for your needs. We would primarily focus on lightweight backpacking tents with a trail weight of less than 4 pounds for 2P tent.

If you are looking for some cheaper lightweight freestanding tents for backpacking and do not mind carrying a little extra weight, then check out our article on the best tarp tents for camping and backpacking.

Best ultralight tent list

The best ultralight tents available in the market for hiking and backpacking are listed below:

Picture Product Specifications Features  

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Max height: 40 in.
Weight: 3.05 lbs.
– A top of the line, high-quality ultralight freestanding tent with a ripstop nylon body and polyester mesh. Waterproof construction.
– New HV (High Volume), 4-way hub pole design increases strength by 25% and usable interior volume by 20% compared to the older Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent
– Features two rainbow doors, two vestibules with 4 interior mesh pockets
– Also, has a patented in-built lighting version – the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 mtnGlo Tent.
– The award winning ultralight tent is backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Max height: 39 in.
Weight: 3.4 lbs.
– This award-winning and bestselling lightweight freestanding tent is made with ripstop waterproof nylon fabric.
– Each tent has a unique free-standing geometrical design that maximizes space available in the tent.
– Each tent has 2 doors and two vestibules with storage pockets.
– Comes with an ultralight compression sack and all accessories.
– Backed by a three-year limited warranty.

Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent Floor area: 28 sq. ft.
Max height: 40 in.
Weight: 2.4 lbs.
– A well-designed ultralight tent made with durable ripstop nylon fabric
– Features 2 large side doors and 2 vestibules for extra storage.
– True tub floor design and quick semi-freestanding setup.
– Comes with a dual-stage stuff sack and all other standard tent accessories.
– Backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.
Marmot Tungsten UL 2P Tent Floor area: 32 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
Weight: 3.6 lbs.
– A feature rich, lightweight tent made with 40D nylon fabric with waterproof coating.
– Each tent has a unique freestanding design with extended head and foot zones.
– Each tent has two D-shaped doors and two vestibules with storage pockets.
– Backed by lifetime claim & repair warranty without the need of registration.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Sky 2P Tent Floor area: 27 sq. ft.
Max height: 39 in.
Weight: 3.8 lbs.
– This mid-range, lightweight freestanding tent has a 30D Nylon Ripstop canopy and polyester fly.
– Features two doors and two vestibules for extra storage.
– Comes with two DAC Featherlight NSL poles.
– Backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.
Big Agnes – Fly Creek HV UL Tent Floor area: 28 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
Weight: 2.3 lbs.
– A super ultralight backpacking tent made with ripstop nylon with waterproof coating.
– Each tent has one vertical door with unique steep wall free-standing architecture.
– Also, has one vestibule and three interior mesh pockets for extra storage.
– Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Kelty TN 2 Person Tent Floor area: 27.5 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
Weight: 4.2 lbs.
– This award-winning, lightweight, freestanding tent is made with high-grade Silnylon.
– Each tent has two doors with two vestibules for extra storage.
– Supports quick three pole setup with innovative hug-clip technology and a roll-up Stargazing Fly for extra ventilation and sky view.
Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent Floor area: 30 sq. ft.
Max height: 40 in.
Weight: 2.3 lbs.
– An ultralight tent made with ripstop weather proof nylon with a higher space-to-weight ratio
– A unique two door design provides high ventilation and comfort.
– Has two vestibules and a side pocket on each side to store personal items.
– Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent Floor area: 38 sq. ft.
Max height: 43 in.
Weight: 4.0 lbs.
– This double-walled, comfortable lightweight tent is made with 75D polyester taffeta.
– Each tent features a unique hoop-style design with a two-stake setup as opposed to a freestanding setup.
– The tent has two doors and interior mesh pockets but no additional vestibules.
– Backed by one-year manufacturer warranty.
Black Diamond Firstlight 2P Tent Floor area: 27.3 sq. ft.
Max height: 42 in.
Weight: 3.3 lbs.
– Advertised as 4 season tent, this tent is made from a patented waterproof Nanoshield fabric
– Each tent has 1 door and 1 vestibule with 2 mesh pockets for extra storage.
– Backed by one year manufacturer warranty.

** The Weight stated above is the maximum carrying weight of the tent and not the minimum trail weight, which would be around 20-40% less than the overall weight.

Ultralight Backpacking Tents vs. Standard Tents

Ultralight tents are premium lightweight backpacking tents which offer the comfort and livability of a tent without the extra weight you have to carry. Modern ultralight 2-person tents generally weigh no more than 4 lbs. (2 lbs. per person) and have a floor area in excess of 28 square feet to “tightly” fit two persons.

They are not as lightweight as a hammock or a simple tarp setup but still provide a more convenient and comfortable shelter.

Moreover, ultralight tents provide better weather protection when compared to the hammock or tarp setup. However, when compared with standard tents, the ultralight tents provide a minimalist, lightweight shelter with some compromises on livability and comfort.

In summary, the major differences between ultralight and standard/normal tents are listed below:

Ultralight Tents Standard Tents
Made with more premium ultralight material which may not be as sturdy. Made with standard synthetic material which is generally more durable.
Generally less spacious and have fewer features such as no footprints. Generally more spacious with addl. comfort features such as footprints, long guy lines etc.
Lighter to carry with minimum trail weight less than 3 lbs., making them suitable for backpacking. Heavier and mostly suitable for distributed-carry or car camping.
Most tents have either unique shorter pole geometry (freestanding) or stake setup to maximize space without additional poles. Most tents have a traditional dome or cross pole design for maximum height.
Generally support 3-season camping. There are 4-season models also available.
Because of premium construction, can be costly. Standard models can cost no more than $150, though 4-season tents can be costlier.

How to pick the best ultralight tent for your needs?

Picking the best ultralight tent can often be a challenging task, considering so many options are available in the market. Typically, they support only three seasons and cannot be used for extreme weathers, but still cost more than traditional tents. Once you have zeroed in on your requirements and the number of occupants, you can consider the following factors to pick the most suitable choice for you or anybody else you are buying it for:

  • Construction and design
  • Type of tent setup
  • Size and Weight
  • Comfort and Ventilation
  • Additional Features and Considerations

Construction and design

The construction material for the tent body (outer cover), floor and rain fly of the tent is an extremely important criterion to consider as it governs the durability and season support that the tent can provide.

Most of the lightweight tents use high-grade 15D or above silicone coated nylon (abbreviated Silnylon) for tent body with nylon-polyester rainfly and meshes. These materials are fireproof/retardant.

The fabric is then coated with a 1200-1800 mm waterproof polyurethane coating to make the tent as water resistant so that tents can withstand light to medium rains.
The material for poles and stakes and accessories is also important. Most of the tent poles are made up of featherlight high-grade aluminum manufactured by DAC. The stakes are either made from high-grade plastic or aluminum.

The design of tents is also a major consideration. Most freestanding ultralight tents such as the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent have a hub-and-pole setup system for quick installation and setup. Moreover, these tents have tub floor design for maximum living space possible. The bathtub floor design also provides better protection against bugs and insects. Additionally, most ultralight tents do come with a floor made of high-grade 10 to 30 denier silicone nylon, though they do not include a footprint.

Check all the construction and design features to see which design would best fit your needs.

Type of tent setup

Closely tied with the design of the tent is the type of setup- freestanding vs non-freestanding. Ultralight freestanding tents are quick to set up tents which use the included poles (2 or 3 max.) to stand up. Since such tents primarily rely on connected pole frame, they are pretty quick to set up and move around without losing their shape.

Also, ultralight freestanding tents tend to have more headroom when compared to non-freestanding tents. Moreover, such tents generally have bigger vestibules and better space management. However, because of the additional weight of tent poles, they tend to be heavier to carry than the non-freestanding ones. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent are two popular examples of freestanding tents.

Non-freestanding tents rely primarily on cords and stakes for setting them up. The cords are tied to the stakes, which can then be hammered into the ground to hold the tent setup.

Such tents, if properly setup, tend to provide better wind and water protection. However, interior tent condensation can sometimes be a problem with non-freestanding tents. To avoid that, backpackers tend to rely on trekking poles for a more elaborate semi-freestanding setup. Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent and Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent are two popular examples of such non-freestanding tents.

Based on your preference and gear list (trekking poles or not), you can choose to go with freestanding or non-freestanding tents.

Size and Weight

For any thru-hiker or backpacker, the size and weight of the tent are extremely important, even if you have two people carrying the supplies.

This is also the one of the primary reasons why ultralight tents have become so popular for hiking and backpacking.Most of them have a minimum trail weight (weight of the essentials- only the tent body, rain fly, and poles and excluding things like guy lines, cords, repair kits etc.) of not more than 2 pounds per person. What that means is for a two person tent, such tents are typically not more than 4 pounds in weight.

Non-freestanding tents such as Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent and Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent weigh under 2.5 pounds, while Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent tend to weigh slightly more.

The size of the tent expressed in terms of floor area and maximum height is also an important criterion, which generally works against the weight considerations – tents with bigger floor area tend to be heavier. Nemo Blaze 2P Backpacking Tent probably has the best space-to-weight ratio. The Marmot Tungsten UL 2P Tent is another great option which provides more living space, without adding more than a pound of additional weight.

Check out the floor area, maximum height and associated weight of the tent to pick the most suitable option. If you can share the weight with your partner, you can opt for heavier tents for more livable space.

Comfort and Ventilation

Since proper rest is a rudimentary factor for an enjoyable camping trip, it is important that the tent you pick has a design that provides reasonable comfort and ventilation for your needs. Some tents such as the Big Agnes – Fly Creek HV UL Tent have only one door, thus limiting the ventilation a little. Such tents, however, provide unique zipper mesh windows on the sides or top for some air circulation.

In addition, to provide extra space, most of these tents have one or more vestibules. These vestibules are pretty useful as additional dry storage space to store things such as backpacks, boots etc. An exception to this is the Eureka Spitfire 2P Backpacking Tent which has clipped fly and tent cover and hence no extra vestibule. Moreover, all popular models have additional mesh pockets to store small personal items.

Additional Features and Considerations

In addition to the four major factors discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous factors that can make a particular model more suitable than others for your needs.

One such consideration is the accessories and packing or compression sack that come with the tent. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent scores big in this category as it comes with high-quality DAC Aluminum poles, a well-designed stuff sack and 8 superlight aluminum J-stakes for a comfortable setup. Another example is the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent that comes with an ultralight compression sack, but you may need to get some extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in inclement weather.

Another factor to consider is the terrain you are going to most commonly pitch your tent in. If you have hard, rocky surface to pitch your tent in, then going with free standing tents such as Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent and MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent is an obvious choice. After all, you would not be able to hammer the stakes down in hard rocks and may have to use guy lines and cords to properly pitch your tent. On the other hand, if you are going to pitch your tent in windy or rainy weather, then semi- and non-freestanding options such as the Nemo Hornet 2P Backpacking Tent would be a better choice.
Finally, the color of your tent is another additional consideration that you must think about. Since ultralight tents compromise on space, you should prefer lighter color tents, as they tend to feel more spacious, brighter and less claustrophobic. Almost all the tents listed above come in bright colors. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent, even has a patented inbuilt lightning version based on the patented mtnGLO Light Technology.

Which are the best ultralight tents and what our picks are?

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent – Editor’s choice pick for the best ultralight freestanding tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent, 2 Person, Grey/Orange

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent (HV stands for high volume) is a really well-designed, high-performing ultralight backpacking tent which provides an excellent balance between weight, size and comfort.

This bestselling ultralight tent has a freestanding design with a unique hub/pole setup system, making the tent setup quick and easy. The new HV (High Volume), 4-way single pole design increases the strength of the tent by 25% and usable interior volume by 20% compared to the older Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL Tent. It has a floor area of 29 square feet and a maximum height of 40 inches, which is a slight compromise on the 42-inch height on the standard Copper Spur Model.

While it is slightly heavier than some other ultralight tents with a minimum trail weight of 2.75 pounds and a maximum weight of around 3.05 pounds, this tent still has an excellent space-to-weight ratio. You can setup the interiors in the tent in two ways, as shown in the image below:

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent, 2 Person, Grey/Orange

The Copper Spur HV UL2 tent has the tent body made of high-grade 20D Silicone treated Nylon with 1200 mm waterproof PU coating. The meshes are made of polyester. The tent comes with a single ultralight DAC Aluminum pole, which is supported by ultralight plastic clips that attach tent body to pole frame. The latest Copper Spur HV model is designed to withstand inclement weather conditions such as wind and rain better than most lightweight freestanding tents.

The UL2 and higher tent versions feature two wide doors for maximum ventilation and two nine square feet vestibules. For extra storage you also have four mesh pockets and two large media pockets. The tent has one fly vent for proper ventilation and star-gazing.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent comes with all standard accessories including a well-designed stuff sack, reflective guy lines and 8 superlight aluminum J-stakes for a comfortable setup. The only complaint you may have with the tent is that it does not come with a footprint and you will have to purchase it separately.

What’s more, if you are interested, the Copper Spur even has an ultralight tent with built-in lighting – the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 mtnGlo Tent based on the mtnGLO Light Technology. With three AAA batteries, you can get extra lighting in your tent through LED lights fitted in the body of the tent.

Lastly, like all other Big Agnes products, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL Tent is backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty. This is a testament to the quality of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent.

For its superior design, high-quality design and decent durability and performance, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent is our Editor’s pick for the best ultralight freestanding tent available in the market. If you are looking for a well-priced ultralight tent without compromising too much on comfort, you should definitely consider getting this tent.

Pros

  • High quality, double wall 20D Silnylon construction which is lightweight, yet durable, with a decent space-to-weight ratio.
  • Freestanding design with a unique hub/pole setup, making installation quick and easy.
  • Unique geometrical design with lower profile makes it perform better than other free-standing tents in wind and rain.
  • Has fully functional two doors, two vestibules and four mesh pockets for extra storage.
  • Comes with DAC aluminum poles, stuff sack and 8 superlight J-stakes.
  • Backed by limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.

Cons

  • About one pound heavier than the lightest ultralight backpacking tents.
  • Does not come with a footprint, which has to be bought separately.

Nemo Hornet Ultralight 2P Tent: Editor’s pick for the best ultralight semi-freestanding tent

Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2P

If you are looking for an ultralight semi-freestanding tent to pitch in windy or rainy weather conditions or have a preference for tents that use trekking-poles setup, then you should check out the Nemo Hornet 2P ultralight tent.

While the manufacturer advertises it as a freestanding tent, the Nemo Hornet supports the freestanding setup only when setup for one person; for two persons, you would need to use stakes on one end to maximize the interior space.

The Nemo Hornet is one of the lightest double-walled semi-freestanding tent, with a minimum trail weight of not more than 2 pounds and a packing weight of 2.4 pounds. The tent body is ripstop Nylon. The dimensions of 85″x51″x43″ can create a space of 28 sq. Feet. This may be slightly less interior space for two normal human beings, unless you do not mind snugging close!

The true raised tub floor construction and full-seam sealing along the tent body provide excellent protection in windy and light rainy weather conditions. The tent has two doors with one large side door making entry and exit easy. The other door is slightly smaller than the main door, but is still usable. The two vestibules and side pockets provide additional storage space.

The Nemo Hornet comes with a single Y-shaped, DAC NSL pole and a high-quality stuff sack that compresses the tent to a small packing size. It does come with guyout stakes, though you may have to get a few more for the best setup.

The Nemo Hornet 2P is backed by a limited lifetime warranty by manufacturer, so you can be sure of the quality of the tent. And it is also available in 3-person and costlier Elite models.

The Nemo Hornet 2P is our Editor’s pick for the best ultralight non-freestanding tent. If you are looking for a good quality semi-freestanding setup for luxurious solo or snug two-person shelter, then you can consider checking out the Nemo Hornet 2P ultralight backpacking tent.

Pros

  • Ultralight construction with a single-pole semi-freestanding setup with two guyout stakes.
  • Two functional doors, fly design and mesh canopy provide excellent ventilation. Built-in privacy panel provides additional coverage and security.
  • Elevated tub design provide decent protection in inclement weather.
  • Comes with a high-quality stuff sack and DAC NSL hub-pole.
  • Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

Cons

  • Not as spacious as true ultralight freestanding tents.
  • Additional guyout stakes may be required for a perfect setup.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P Tent – Best value pick for the best ultralight tent

best ultralight tents

When it comes to value-for-money ultralight backpacking tents, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent is an excellent all-rounder. The Hubba Hubba series has been around for quite some time and has gone quite a few modifications over the years as the technology has evolved over the years.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent features a sturdy and durable canopy made of high-grade 20D ripstop nylon with Durashield PU waterproof coating. Although the tent is about 1.1 pounds heavier than the lightest ultralight tents, it is also considerably cheaper – making the extra weight acceptable.
The tent features bathtub designed floor with an area of 29 square feet and a maximum height of 39 inches, backed by a unique free-standing geometrical design that maximizes space available in the tent. Also, it’s standard fast-and-light hub-pole setup system that makes it very easy to pitch and move around.
Each tent has two D-shaped doors with Side entry zipper orientation. With two large sized vestibules and adjustable rain fly, the tent offers excellent air circulation and feels very comfortable. The rainfly has an opening on the top for stargazing. The tent has standard mesh pockets for extra storage within the tent.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent comes with an ultralight compression sack and all standard accessories, though you may need to get some extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in inclement weather. It is a lightweight tent but definitely not the lightest freestanding backpacking tent.

Each MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent is backed by a no hassle three-year limited warranty.

For its easy setup, decent quality, high livability and excellent value for money, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent is our Editor’s pick for the best budget-friendly ultralight tent.

Pros

  • Well-designed freestanding tent made with high-grade 20D ripstop nylon.
  • Has a unique floorless fast-and-light setup system, making it very easy to pitch and move around.
  • Has two doors and large vestibules, with adjustable rainfly for excellent ventilation.
  • Comes with a durable and compact ultralight compression sack for easy storage and transportation.
  • Priced much lower than comparable lightweight tents.

Cons

  • You may need to buy extra guy lines and stakes for comfortable setup in windy conditions.
  • About 1.1 pounds heavier than the lightest ultralight backpacking tents.

Ultralight tent accessories

Tripmas Ultralight Titanium Tent Stakes - Anticorrosive Tent Pegs V-shaped Design with Reflective Pull Cords & Pouch - Pack of 12

Many backpackers follow the practice of discarding the tent poles and stakes that come with the tent and rely on trekking poles and lightweight yet more durable titanium or aluminum stakes for pitching the tent. If you are looking for some lightweight stake sets, then you can consider the following options:

Moreover, if you are looking for guy lines, cords and adjusters to support your ultralight tent, you can consider the following options:

Another accessory to consider is the footprint. Footprints prevent the wear and tear of your tent against the ground, though you may have to carry some extra weight. Additionally, if you are going to camp in normal weather conditions, you can have a minimalist super-ultralight setup with the rainfly, poles, and footprint and leave out the outer tent body altogether.

Most of the tent options listed above come with manufacturer-specific tent footprints. Still, if you are looking for generic options, you can consider the following products. These footprints can double up as overhead tarps as well:

Finally, another accessory worth considering is a tent repair kit or just the repair tape. This is especially handy if you are camping for more than a couple of days and expecting some rough terrain and/or weather. You can consider the following options (check the building material of your tarp tent before picking the right repair kit)

Final thoughts on best ultralight backpacking tents

If you are into ultralight backpacking, then saving on the weight of the shelter is an obvious choice. In this post, we looked at some of the best ultralight backpacking tents available in the market.

We primarily focused on our preferred ultralight freestanding tents, though we did share some semi and non-freestanding tents. All the options that we listed were 2-person three season tents with a minimum trail weight of less than 4 pounds and a packaged weight of less than 5 pounds.

We also looked at some of the key factors to consider while picking the best ultralight tent for yourself and shared our top picks.

Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Until next time, happy backpacking!

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