Having a tent gives you flexibility and freedom to set up camp anywhere you like during a multiple-day hiking trip rather than having to reach certain mountain huts or other shelters on the beaten path. The main advantage of tents in comparison to other portable shelters is that they are very versatile while other shelters can only be used in very specific situations. A bivy sack, for example, is not suitable for long trips as it doesn’t offer enough space (backpack has to be left outside) and becomes claustrophobic after days of use while tarps offer very limited protection against precipitation and wind and are thus only suitable for warm conditions.
Although you can buy cheap tents in supermarkets, they are usually heavy, rarely last long and usually perform badly in anything but perfect weather. A high-quality hiking tent, on the other hand, is designed to be as light as possible and will protect you against precipitation, wind, bugs and groundwater thus increasing your chance of waking up fresh and ready for new challenges. It should be noted, however, that not every lightweight hiking tent is suitable for all seasons and situations. While most tents can easily be used in spring, summer and autumn, only some tents are suitable for winter use. These differ from 3-season tents by being made of stronger fabrics and by being completely closed (single-wall and no mesh fabric). Hereby they can offer great protection in the worst weather (strong wind, snow, horizontally blowing precipitation etc.).
In this review we selected and reviewed the best lightweight hiking tents – three 3-season (double-wall) hiking tents and two 4-season (single-wall) hiking tents. We were especially looking for lightweight and well-packable tents that offer good protection against natural phenomena as well as good adaptability. All selected tents can accommodate two persons.
Regardless where you choose to spend the night on a multiple-day hiking trip, you will probably need other sleeping equipment besides a tent. For this, please check out our reviews of the Best Sleeping Pads (includes inflatable as well as closed-cell foam pads), the Best 3-Season Lightweight Sleeping Bags (includes sleeping bags with down insulation) and Best Summer Sleeping Bags (includes sleeping bags with synthetic insulation).
1. Buying a Lightweight Hiking Tent – What is important?
There are two types of tents; double-wall tents and single-wall tents.
Double-wall tents are very popular among hikers as they are relatively inexpensive while offering decent protection and good adaptability. They consist of a floor, a canopy and a fly, and while the floor and the fly should be waterproof, the canopy is usually made of a breathable (mesh) fabric so that it prevents condensation from building up. Many double-wall tents allow you to pitch the canopy without the fly, or the fly without the canopy which is indeed a good thing as it allows you to reduce the weight that has to be carried. The main disadvantage of double-wall tents is that they are often heavier and bigger when packed than single-wall tents. Additionally, they are not suitable for harsh winter conditions as they can’t be completely closed due to the space between the fly and the breathable canopy.
Single-wall tents are very popular among mountaineers and alpinists as they can be completely sealed for good protection in harsh winter conditions. These tents consist of a waterproof floor and a canopy made of a waterproof and breathable fabric (Gore-Tex, eVent etc). The waterproof canopy eliminates the need for a separate fly and therefore these tents are usually very light and small when packed. An additional benefit of single-wall tents is that they can be pitched faster than double-wall tents. However, single-wall tents also have disadvantages; they are more expensive than double-wall tents and they are more prone to condensation issues – depending on the breathability of the fabric. Furthermore, they also offer inferior protection against rain – every breathable fabric leaks at some point. Due to these disadvantages, they are most commonly used in winter conditions (“dry” snow precipitation) rather than for 3-season hiking where rain is more common.
Weight and size:
Tents are one of the heaviest pieces of hiking equipment and a lightweight tent therefore makes a big difference in the weight that you carry. In this selection we only included lightweight tents that weigh less than 1800 grams. We also choose tents for 2 persons as these are in average only 30 % heavier than one-person tents. Therefore, if you are hiking in a group, it is much more convenient that the group uses two- or three-person tents than one-person tents as this eliminates the overall weight that has to be carried.
For hiking and mountaineering it is required that the packed tent is as small as possible to fit into or onto a backpack. In this selection we only included tents that are fairly small when packed.
Most double-wall tents are made of nylon (floor and rainfly) and polyester (canopy). The nylon is usually coated with polyurethane or impregnated with silicone for better water- and wind-resistance. Additionally, it is also reinforced with interwoven threads at regular intervals (ripstop) for increased durability.
Single-wall tents are made of waterproof/breathable fabrics that usually consist of three layers; an inner liner, a membrane and a DWR-treated outer layer. The outer layer provides protection against abrasion and repels the water so that the material does not get soaked. The membrane prevents the water from entering inside but at the same time allows some moisture from the inside to escape to the outside – to which extent, depends on the quality of the fabric. The membrane is bonded to both inner liner and outer layer for enhanced protection. Popular manufacturers of such materials are Gore-Tex and eVent. Single-wall tents are usually also equipped with floors made of silicone-treated or polyurethane-coated nylon.
The condensation resistance of a tent greatly depends on the breathability of the fabric – the more breathable the fabric is, the better condensation resistance it offers. Double-wall tents do usually not have problems with the condensation as the breathable canopy allows moisture and warm air to escape to the outside. Single-wall tents are more tricky when it comes to condensation as the waterproof but breathable fabric of the canopy, to some extent, prevents the moisture and warm air from escaping to the outside (depends on the quality of the fabric).
2. The Best Lightweight Hiking Tents Review
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
- Black Diamond Firstlight
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
- Rab Latok Summit
|Feature/Product||Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2||Black Diamond Firstlight||Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2||MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2||Rab Latok Summit|
|Weight Packed||3 lbs. 2 oz.||3 lbs. 5 oz.||2 lbs. 9 oz.||3 lbs. 13 oz.||3 lbs. 3 oz.|
|Weight Packed (Metric)||1417 g||1500 g||1160 g||1720 g||1450 g|
|Packed Size||5.5 x 18 in.||5.9 x 9.1 in.||5.9 x 20 in.||5.9 x 18 in.||7.1 x 22 in.|
|Packed Size (Metric)||14 x 44.45 cm||15 x 23 cm||15 x 50 cm||15 x 46 cm||18 x 55 cm|
|Floor Area||2.7 m2||2.5 m2||2.6 m2||2.7 m2||2.9 m2|
|Head Height||42 in.||42 in.||37 in.||39 in.||43 in.|
|Head Height (Metric)||107 cm||106 cm||94 cm||100 cm||109 cm|
|Material||Silicon Treated Nylon + Polyester Mesh (Canopy)||Nanoshield||20-denier Nylon Ripstop + 10-denier Nylon Ripstop (Canopy)||Polyurethane and Silicone Treated Nylon + Nylon Micromesh (Canopy)||3-Layer eVent|
|Number of Doors||2||1||1||2||1|
1. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
Best use: 3-season trips (all conditions)
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent is extremely popular among hikers as it provides outstanding performance for a reasonable price. The tent has a sturdy fly and floor which are made of silicone-treated and polyurethane-coated nylon ripstop and a canopy made of nylon (lower part) and mesh polyester (upper part) for good ventilation. Even though the materials are very sturdy, the tent (all parts included) weighs merely 1417 grams. The fly is also equipped with taped seams for increased protection against rain. The poles are made of TH72M material – an innovative material which was created by blending titanium with aluminum and other metals. This material provides superb strength while being extremely light. Unlike carbon, the TH72M is also very resistant to impacts. The pole system comes only in one piece for easy handling and is equipped with fit connectors and lightweight hubs. The canopy is easily attached to the pole system with convenient twist clips while eight lightweight aluminum J stakes ensure that the tent stays securely in place. The tent is equipped with two side doors which come in very handy as they allow each occupant to enter/exit the tent without disturbing the other. Each of the doors has a rain gutter that can otherwise be used for storing a backpack and footwear (if the conditions allow). There are also six pockets inside the tent; two media pockets above the sleeping area and four mesh pockets for accessories. The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 is an extremely well-made double-wall tent which is perfect for lightweight 3-season hiking.
2. Black Diamond Firstlight
Best use: Winter trips
The Black Diamond Firstlight is a very popular single-wall tent that is best for mountaineers and alpinists who need a reliable and durable 4-season tent. However, it can also be great for hiking – especially in winter conditions. The tent has relatively steep walls to prevent snow from piling up. Due to the steep walls, the tent also offers more space – the inner height is 106 centimeters which is indeed good. The tent’s floor is made of nylon while the body is made of Nanoshield waterproof/breathable fabric. The Nanoshield fabric is made only of one layer but as it is coated with Silicone Nanocell coating it provides decent water resistance. Furthermore, the fabric is very light and well-packable. The tent comes with the same poles as the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent – DAC Featherlite poles – which are made of super durable but lightweight TH72M material. However, the Black Diamond Firstlight tent uses two pole systems while the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent uses only one system. The poles come inside the tent (hook and loop wraps) which is convenient as it allows you to set up the tent from the inside while being protected against snow, rain and wind. The tent is equipped with one door (covered with mesh), a rear window and two interior pockets. The Black Diamond Firstlight is all in all a great tent for hiking and mountaineering in winter as it is easy to pitch and provides great durability and functionality.
3. Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2
Best use: 3-season trips (moderate conditions)
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL2 is an extremely light tent (it weighs merely 1160 grams) and thus it is perfect for those who prefer lightweight hiking. The tent comes with a fly and floor which are made of 20-denier ripstop nylon and a canopy made of mesh fabric (upper part) and 10-denier ripstop nylon (lower part). The fly is relatively small and covers only the mesh part of the canopy while the lower part is exposed to the weather. However, as the lower part of the canopy is made of nylon, it offers decent water resistance. As both canopy and fly are made of super lightweight fabric, some caution is required when pitching the tent so the fabric does not get scratched or torn. The tent comes with the DAC featherlite NSL poles which are light and thin but provide good strength. The pole system is easy to manage as it comes only in one piece and the canopy can be easily attached to it with clips. The fly that comes over the canopy has taped seams, welded corners and welded clip anchors for good weather protection and durability. The tent is equipped with one door (head area) and a dry entry vestibule for storing backpacks and footwear. There are also two mesh pockets in the tent for accessories. All in all, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL2 tent is best for those who want a minimalistic tent for moderate conditions. The tent has a fairly low height and made of less durable and weather resistant fabrics than other tents in this review. However, it is a great super-light tent for lightweight hiking in reasonable conditions.
4. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
Best use: 3-season trips (all conditions)
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is another very popular tent among hikers and backpackers as it offers great functionality for a good price. This tent can be used with a fly and without canopy or with a canopy without a fly depending on the conditions. The fly (as well as floor) is made of 20-denier ripstop nylon treated with silicone and coated with polyurethane for good weather protection. The canopy is also made of 20-denier nylon and features an upper part made of micromesh for condensation resistance and good ventilation. The tent uses the same poles as the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and Black Diamond Firstlight tents ; the DAC featherlite poles which come only in one piece so that they allow you to easily pitch the tent. Furthermore, the tent is equipped with adjustable stake-out loops for faster setup. It has two side doors which allow both occupants to easily enter and exit the tent. The doors are protected with roll-up vestibules for storing gear. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is a well-performing tent for 3-season hiking as well as for other outdoor activities.
5. Rab Latok Summit
Best use: Winter trips
The Rab Latok Summit is, like the Black Diamond Firstlight, a single-wall tent that is best for mountaineers and alpinists who need reliable weather protection throughout the night on demanding trips. The tent is equipped with a waterproof floor which is made of 70-denier polyurethane-coated nylon while the canopy is made of a 3-layer eVent fabric. The eVent fabric is known to be highly breathable and thus condensation is rarely an issue with this tent. For better ventilation, the tent also has a rear tunnel vent with a drawcord closure. The vent as well as the door is not equipped with mosquito net as this tent is primarily designed for winter use. The tent comes with DAC Featherlite NSL poles which are inserted inside the tent and secured with Velcro loops. Therefore, the tent is very easy to set up – no matter the conditions. The Rab Latok Summit is the most spacious tent in this review – it offers both more space and height than the other tents in this review. However, it is also slightly bigger when packed. The Rab Latok Summit tent is best for winter trips but can also be used in other seasons (if you don’t mind the missing mosquito net) as it provides great condensation resistance due to highly breathable eVent fabric.
3. The most attractive product in the review