Best Lightweight Tents for Hiking and Backpacking
What are the best lightweight tents for thru hiking and backpacking in 2020. Tents seem to be getting better year after year and 2019 see some of the big companies such as Nemo and Big Agnes bring out extra light versions of their popular backpacking tents.
Lightweight hiking tents have come a long way in the last 20 years. It was not that long ago that I was so proud to have the latest light weight tent which weighed 2.5kg (5.5lb) nowadays there are so many great tents on the market that weight less than 3lb (1.36kg). In 2020 there is no need to look at tents that are heavier than this unless you plan on mountaineering or visiting the windy high latitudes.
If you are in the market for a new tent there are many options. A good quality tent will be a compromise on cost, weight, durability and size but it’s primary function is to keep you dry and comfortable. A great tent for the desert may not provide enough comfort in cold weather, the reverse is also true.
Best Lightweight Tents
Nemo Hornet 1P – 1lb 16oz (907 grams)
Nemo Hornet 2P – 2lb 4oz (1003 grams)
Nemo Hornet Elite 2P – 2lb 1oz (933grams)
Nemo Hornet Elite 1P – 1lb 14oz (840 grams)
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1P – 40oz (1130 grams)
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2P – 49oz (1400 grams)
Big Agnes Copper Spur Platinum 2P – 420z (1190 grams)
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1P – 33oz (936 grams)
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2P – 37oz (1050 grams)
Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum 1P – 29oz (822 grams)
Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum 2P – 32oz (907 grams)
ZPacks Plexmid – 16.55oz 1.75 (469 grams)
ZPacks Duplex – 20.75oz (588 grams)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultrmid 2 -18.85oz (534g)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo 2 – 29oz (823g)
There are many other tents that could be on this list but I am yet to review them. What tents do you think should be added to the list of great lightweight tents? Leave a message in the comments section below.
My favourite tent. It has served me well hiking the Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. I have used the regular 1 person version and 2 person versions . I must admit I prefer the 2 person version when solo. Having used these tents for over 400 nights of camping I can report these tents are great. The only issue is the inside mesh near the pole connection loop is prone to ripping over a long period of time. Still, it is one of the best lightweight hiking tents on the market.
They now have an even lighter spec version the Nemo Hornet Elite. This is an even lighter version of the Hornet, but it is more expensive. Is it worth the extra price. If you are looking at going ultra light then I would say yes. The Nemo Hornet Elite is my dream tent. When my normal Nemo Hornet tent wears out this is what I will be buying.
- Good value for money
- Semi free standing
- Solid in bad weather
- Very Lightweight
- The Hornet Elite is one of the lightest semi freestanding tents on the market
- Great warranty and after sales service
- The tent pegs bend easy if you use a rock on hard ground
- Elite model is quite expensive
- The inside mesh is prone to tearing near the pole connection loop
I used the Copper Spur before I switched to the Nemo Hornet. I loved the tent but that was before Big Agnes bought out the Ultra Light Platinum version. Now the Copper Spur Platinum can compete with Nemo in the ultra light self standing market. Many people report that the Big Agnes tents are slightly less waterproof than Nemo but as I have used both I believe they are equal in their waterproofness.
The Copper Spur is roomy enough for most people and the weight is light enough to keep all but the most ultra light hikers happy.
On the downside the material is very thin, specially on the Platinum model do hikers should be careful not to rip or tear the tent due to carelessness. And it will let in some water in very wet weather. Overall a great tent.
- Good value for money for the UL version
- free standing
- Solid in bad weather
- Lightweight, the platinum version is ultra lightweight
- The material on the Platinum is very light and almost see through
- Platinum model is quite expensive, is it worth the extra money
One of the most popular lightweight tent on the long distance hiking trails of the world. I started with this tent when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail but changed to the Copper Spur for the second half of the trail. My reason was it felt like I was crawling into a cave. I am a fan of side entry tents so I didn’t really like this style of tent. Having said that, there are many fans of this tent for good reason.
The Fly Creek is very easy to set up and lightweight but it is the Platinum version that you might want. This is one of the lightest freestanding tents on the market at 29oz (822 grams) for the 1P and 32oz (907 grams) for the 2P. If you don’t mind the tunnel tent set up then this might be the tent for you. This tent, like many will suffer in very wet weather but for most hikers it will work great. If you want the lightest freestanding tent available then this might be your tent, if you prefer side entry then the Nemo Hornet or Big Agnes Copper Spur might be a better choice.
- Good value for money with the UL version
- Semi free standing
- Solid in bad weather
- Very Lightweight, the Platinum is ultra lightweight
- Tunnel style tent can feel like crawling into a cave
- Platinum model is quite expensive
- Platinum model is rather see through
Zpacks Soloplex / duplex
The ZPacks Duplex is made with Dyneema (Cuban Fibre) this is not only the lightest tent of the list but it’s the most waterproof and best in bad weather. The Dyneema does not sag when it gets cold and wet nor does it hold or absorb water as it is naturally water repellent. The disadvantage of this tent is it is not freestanding and needs either trekking poles or poles from Zpacks that are not included in either the weight or cost of the tent 2.5 oz (71 grams). 8 tent pegs are needed to hold all the guy lines and they are also not included in the cost or weight, add between 1.75oz (50 grams) and 3oz (85 grams) to the weight. So the trail weight of the tent with pegs is between 20.75oz (588 grams) and 23.75z (673 grams) with pegs and poles. There is a learning curve when it comes to pitching this tent so pitch it at home before heading to the trail.
The Zpacks Plexamid is the 1 person version and has most of the features of the Duplex but weighs 14.8 oz (420 grams).
Overall these tents will serve any hiker who wants to lighten the weight in the packs. They are high quality, waterproof and very popular on the long distance hiking trails for good reason.
Micheal ‘Grizzly’ Ivey uses this tent with his trekking poles and loves it. He reports that you need to be a bit more picky when selecting a campsite. At 6’4″ he is a tall hiker and fits two hikers in the tent without too much problem. His head does rub up against the end of the sloping walls when stretched out but he says it’s not an issue. He reports that the tent has excellent ventilation and offers a couple of options to allow more or less ventilation depending on the weather. Grizzly loves and recommends the tent and will be using it in 2019 for his thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. You can follow Micheal ‘Grizzly’ Ivey as he hikes the PCT on https://www.instagram.com/grizzly_hikes/
- Very waterproof and stormproof
- Extremely Lightweight
- Durable enough to last a couple of thru hikes
- Tent pegs and poles not included (trekking poles can be used)
- Expensive and can only be purchased from their website, sometimes there can be a backlog of orders.
- Not freestanding, need to be more selective with campsites
- Many people report poor customer service from Zpacks, more so for other products, less so for this tent.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultramid 2 is one of the best lightweight tents made from ultra light Dyneema Composite (Cuban Fibre) Tent. It weighs only 18.85oz / 534grams. It is more spacious, lighter and made from much stronger grade of fabric than Zpacks. The higher grade Dyneema material makes the tent more expensive and requires a separate mesh insert, weighing 22oz / 626grams, if using in mosquito country. Also, the mesh insert is solid and does not require the use of a ground sheet to protect the fabric. It is tough.
The Ultramid 2 costs $715 and the Full Mesh Inner costs $395. That is a huge outlay for a lightweight tent. It is good to know it is covered by a good warranty. But it is expensive. Is it worth the price? I asked a couple of seasoned adventurers.
Bethany ‘Fidget’ Hughes and Lauren ‘Neon’ Reed used this tent in Patagonia on their epic journey hiking the whole length of South America. We were impressed with the spaciousness inside the tent, as we both have tall torsos and prefer a fair amount of personal space. The double trekking pole/tent pole middle created an easy marker as to whose side was which and were able to sleep comfortably with our gear lining the edge of the tent. We opted for the floorless mesh insert which provided protection from the biting flies. As with almost all outdoor gear I have used, the first thing to fail was the zipper, so maintenance and periodically lubricating the zipper is advisable.
The Dyneema composite fabric was durable, extremely light, and the vents at the top as well as controlling the amount of space between the base of the tent and the ground allowed for good ventilation and could be adjusted to prioritise warmth. It was quick to set up and withstood gale force winds, hail, snow, and driving rain. All in all, the best two person tent I have ever used.
- Ultra Light
- Sturdy and Resilient
- Large Vestibule
- Good warranty and backing
- Zippers Require Care
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo 2 is another one of the best lightweight tents available. Also made from ultra light Dyneema Composite (Cuban Fibre) it weighs only 29oz / 823grams. It is not as spacious as the Ultramid 2 and more suited for 1 person or very close couples. Made from the same high grade Dyneema Composite material makes it also rather expensive. But it comes complete with the outer fly and inner bug net. As with the Ultramid the material is tough so don’t bother with the extra weight of a groundsheet. It is tough.
The Echo 2 costs $695 which is a lot of money but it is not too much more expensive than tents from other companies. Rest easy as it is covered by a good warranty.
Bethany ‘Fidget’ Hughes and Lauren ‘Neon’ Reed also used this tent on part of their epic journey hiking the whole length of South America. It copped a beating during an 8 month hike across South America, from Chile to Peru. It survived everything from the Atacama heat and sand to high altitude Huayhuash snowstorms. It is a versatile and sturdy shelter. The Echo 2 is best used as a single person tent, or a person and a dog. The Dyneema composite fabric which makes HMG excel in the field held up wonderfully to adverse conditions. The variety of set up options also means getting to know your shelter and familiarising yourself with different methods before heading into heavy weather.
Follow ‘Fidget and Neon’ their incredible Journey from the very southern tip of South America to the northern tip of North America. A multi year journey of adventure. https://her-odyssey.org/ Her Odyssey on FaceBook
- Compact but plenty of room when pitched
- Bathtub floor on insert
- Good warranty and backing
- Somewhat technical set up
This is far from the most comprehensive survey of all the best lightweight tents, however, any of these tents will serve you well on the trail. What tent do you think should be added to the list and why? Leave a message in the comments section.
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