The evolution of ultralight tents has come a long way since a piece of sheeting was draped over a length of rope and stretched between two poles. While you can still find tents reminiscent of those humble beginnings, modern advancements in materials and technology have revolutionised tent construction. Heavy steel poles and oiled canvases have been replaced by fibreglass and metal alloys, resulting in lighter and more flexible tents.

Since joining the Valley and Peak team and getting to know our awesome community, I’ve been drawn into the world of ultralight hiking. Here the use of multi-purpose gear, clever hacks, and lightweight essentials enables adventurers to cover longer distances with less strain on the body. This approach caters very well to the needs of thru-hikers in particular. The ultralight philosophy is simple: carry only what's necessary for warmth, comfort, and safety while spending all day on the trail. 

A valuable tip I've gleaned from seasoned thru-hikers is to conduct a 'shakedown hike' to assess gear and determine what can be left behind. Just spending 3 or 4 nights testing things out can help you decide what might lighten your pack and make your days more comfortable.

When selecting a tent, weight is important but must be considered alongside anticipated conditions. While a lightweight tent is ideal for summer trips for example, it may not provide adequate shelter for winter mountaineering.

So without further ado, let's shift our focus to the stars of ultralight backpacking: tents.

Here are six top picks for solo thru-hikers. 

  1. Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL1 Solution Dye Ultralight Tent

 

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL1 Solution Dye Ultralight Tent

The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL1 Solution Dye Ultralight Tent boasts a trail weight of 850g and a packed weight of 964g. Crafted from solution-dyed fabric with high UV resistance, it offers enhanced durability and reduced environmental impact.

 

Ideal for solo campers seeking a lightweight shelter, the Tiger Wall UL1 features a skeletal pole structure maximising headroom and simplifying setup. Its freestanding inner tent is easily repositioned for optimal camping comfort, with a bathtub-style floor and mesh upper providing ventilation and weather protection. The flysheet, equipped with a large door and tension straps, ensures three-season-rated protection against wind and rain.

Additional features include double sliders on vestibule zippers for versatile venting, mini slats in foot-end corners for added space, and convenient ceiling pockets for storage. 

While the Tiger Wall UL 1's hydrostatic head rating may not be particularly impressive, we've never encountered any leakage issues. US tents typically feature robust weatherproof coatings, and the angle and shape of their walls consistently excel at shedding water effectively.

The tent's eco-friendly construction and solution-dyed fabric underscores Big Agnes' commitment to sustainability while delivering on lightweight design and spacious interior, making it a premier choice for solo wild campers, long-distance walkers, and bikepackers.


About Big Agnes 

Hailing from a ski town in Colorado, Big Agnes epitomises a commitment to inspiring adventures while prioritising environmental preservation. With a legacy spanning two decades, the company crafts award-winning gear aimed at enhancing comfort and sustainability in the wild. From innovative water and energy saving Solution-Dyed tents to BioFoam pads derived from sugarcane resin, Big Agnes has worked exceptionally hard and smart to minimise its ecological footprint. 

  1. Durston Gear X-Mid 1 Solid Ultralight Tent

 

Durston Gear X-Mid 1 Solid Ultralight Tent

Weighing 825 grams, the Durston Gear X-Mid 1 Solid Ultralight Tent has quickly gained popularity among the ultralight community. The tent features patented X-Mid geometry for stormworthiness, a full double-wall design with separate fly and inner components, dual vestibules and doorways for easy access, and optional guyouts for added stability. Constructed from non-sag polyester fabric, it maintains structural integrity in wet conditions.

 

The offset design maximises living space effectively, creating two large storage areas beside each door. With an outer-first pitching option and additional guy lines for stability, setup is simple. As the name suggests, the Xmid Solid variant features a solid inner for added warmth, and the tent handles condensation well. Quality-wise, it impresses with double-stitched seams and high-quality YKK zips. 

About Durston Gear 

Durston Gear, led by Dan Durston, is based in the Canadian Rockies, crafting highly functional ultralight gear to enhance outdoor experiences. His innovation journey began long before Durston Tents, marked by pioneering efforts like crafting one of the first Dyneema tents - before most other companies knew the material existed! Alongside his wife T, they form a formidable team dedicated to product development and customer support. Durston Gear stands out for constant innovation, simplicity, functionality, and lightweight design, informed by user feedback and technical expertise.

  1. MSR Freelite 1 Person Ultralight Tent

 

MSR Freelite 1 Person Ultralight Tent

With a minimum weight of 740 grams, the MSR Freelite 1 Person Ultralight Tent provides ample liveable space without sacrificing weight. It features a true rectangular floor plan, a micromesh tent body for ventilation, DAC NFL poles for strength, and a cutaway rainfly with a large vestibule for gear storage. The DuraShield-coated rainfly and floor, along with taped seams, ensure excellent waterproofing.

 

The MSR Freelite 1 impresses with its lightweight design and surprisingly spacious interior, thanks to its ultralight fabrics. Pitching the tent is straightforward, with the inner going up first followed by the flysheet, although additional pegs are advisable for stability in windy conditions. The tent's porch offers sufficient space for cooking and gear storage. 

About MSR 

Seattle-based Mountain Safety Research (MSR), founded by Larry Penberthy, is rooted in a mission to enhance climbing equipment safety. With a dedicated team of outdoor enthusiasts, MSR crafts reliable, high-performance gear leveraging engineering and scientific expertise. Embracing functionality, simplicity, and reliability, MSR products are meticulously crafted with a commitment to quality. Founded on the belief that superior gear opens the door to epic adventures, MSR continues to engineer gear for adventurers worldwide, fostering enduring design principles and respect for nature.

  1. Exped Mira I HL 1 Person Ultralight Tent

 

Exped Mira I HL 1 Person Ultralight Tent

The Mira 1 HL by Exped is a top-end solo tent ideal for lightweight backpacking in moderate climates. With a commendable packed weight of 1350g, it offers a balanced blend of space, comfort, and trail livability.

 

Featuring two entrances and vestibules, generous headroom, and a tonal green canopy blending into nature, the tent ensures mosquito-free shelter. Constructed from 10D ripstop nylon rainfly with silicone/PU coating, it provides enhanced weather protection.

Pitching is made easy with a tripod hubbed pole set and inner-first method using plastic snap clips. The tent accommodates taller individuals comfortably with ample room and convenient storage options including a good-sized porch and small secondary vestibule.

Ventilation is managed with mosquito mesh in the upper two-thirds of the inner tent and a 15-denier ripstop nylon fabric on the lower third. Despite lacking door clips, the practical porch design keeps the inner dry even with the flysheet door unzipped. Reinforced pegging points, sturdy webbing, and tensioning buckles ensure durability.

The Mira 1 HL offers excellent livability and weight for solo backpackers, with thin but durable fabrics requiring careful handling. Its sil-nylon flysheet provides good tear strength, making it a practical and high-performance choice for a lightweight shelter.

About Exped AG 


Established by Heidi and Andi Brun, Swiss-based Exped AG embodies a commitment to innovation and self-sufficiency in outdoor exploration. With a small, dedicated team, Exped designs and manufactures a range of high quality outdoor gear, prioritising self-sufficiency and outdoor exploration along the way.


5. Nemo Dragonfly OSMO 1 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent

 

Bonfus Middus 1P Ultralight Tent

Weighing in at 985g (excluding pegs & bags), the NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 1 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent is crafted with NEMO's proprietary OSMO fabric, enhancing performance and sustainability. It boasts generous doors and vestibules, an overhead Nightlight Pocket for illumination, and a Divvy Cube stuff sack for efficient packing. Constructed from OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric with 100% recycled yarns, it delivers superior water repellency and durability.

 

This spacious, lightweight 3-season shelter provides impressive headroom and a colour-coordinated, user-friendly pole setup. Large vestibules and ample storage options accommodate gear, while fully roll-back doors ensure unobstructed views and easy access. Nemo's meticulous design includes features like Gatekeeper™ door tiebacks and pre-bent DAC Featherlite® NSL poles. The use of Bluesign® approved materials underscores Nemo's sustainability commitment. Included accessories such as stakes and repair kits add further value.

About NEMO Equipment 

NEMO Equipment, founded by Cam Brensinger in New Hampshire, emerged from a vision for better outdoor gear after a sleepless night on Mount Washington. Dedicated to intelligently designed gear, NEMO embodies the belief that adventures bring out the best in people. With a focus on thoughtful design and innovative solutions, NEMO products enhance the overall adventure experience, fostering consciousness, inspiration, connection, and mindfulness. Inspired by New England roots and Captain Nemo's spirit, NEMO continues to craft gear that champions exploration and outdoor discovery.

  1. Bonfus Middus 1P Ultralight Tent

 

Bonfus Middus 1P Ultralight Tent


The Bonfus Middus 1P Ultralight Tent, weighing a mere 295 grams, stands out as an excellent option for fast and light solo adventures. Its pyramid design, fortified with multiple guy-out points, ensures stability even in high winds. Crafted from DCF 0.75 Spruce Green fabric, this tent offers a blend of durability and weather resistance.

 

With additional mid-panel and ridgeline guy-out points featuring removable linelocs, the Middus 1P adapts seamlessly to fluctuating weather conditions. Catenary cuts enhance wind resistance without compromising interior space.

The tent's features include a YKK #5 water-resistant zipper, a spacious peak vent for superior airflow, and internal hang loops for convenient gear storage. 

While not explicitly designed for winter conditions above the treeline, the Middus 1P's robust construction makes it suitable for adept usage by experienced individuals who understand its capabilities.

About Bonfus 

Founded by Niccolo and Stefania Bonfadini, Bonfus is a small Italian family business with a dedication to crafting ultralight, high-quality outdoor equipment using modern materials and design concepts. Born out of their passion for the outdoors, Bonfus products aim to enhance outdoor experiences while minimising weight and bulk. Dissatisfied with mass-produced gear, they began creating their own ultralight gear, from quilts to tents, fostering a community of like-minded enthusiasts who value lightweight equipment. With meticulous in-house manufacturing, Bonfus maintains control over every aspect of production, ensuring quality from concept to delivery. 

Choosing the Perfect 1-Person Ultralight Tent 

When it comes to ultralight tents for solo travellers, each of these options brings its own set of features and benefits to the table. Whether you prioritise weight savings, durability, or liveable space, there's a tent out there to suit your needs.

Before making a decision, consider factors such as the expected weather conditions, terrain, and personal preferences for setup and features. Investing in a high-quality ultralight tent can significantly enhance your solo experience outdoors, allowing you to explore further and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness without unnecessary burdens.

Happy trails!

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June 11, 2024 — Jessica Soo-Banham