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Ultralight Tents and Shelter Information: Execs and Cons

Ultralight backpacking tents and shelters are available in all styles and sizes, however every kind has execs and cons for various tenting situations. It’s greatest to grasp these earlier than you waste cash on a tent or shelter that doesn’t fit your wants or consolation preferences.

There are six primary forms of ultralight tents and shelters:

  1. Single Wall Tents
  2. Double-Wall Tents
  3. Pyramid Tarps
  4. Catenary-Minimize Tarps
  5. Flat Tarps
  6. Hammocks

For the needs of this text, I’m defining an ultralight tent or shelter as one which weighs 3 kilos or much less. A few of the classes listed above overlap, so should you suppose I’ve misclassified a shelter or left one out, simply go away a remark and I’ll attempt to handle your query.

As well as, I’ve listed the preferred makes/fashions for every shelter kind with the load of the shelter in siliconized nylon (silnylon) or siliconized polyester (silpoly), if accessible. A few of the shelters listed are additionally accessible in Dyneema Composite Materials (DCF) and weigh significantly much less however are way more costly. For brevity, I’ll cowl the variations between silnylon, silpoly, DCF, and polyurethane (PU) coated nylon or polyester in a separate put up. Nonetheless, I notice variations in materials when it has a fabric affect on shelter utility or efficiency.

1. Single Wall Tents

Lanshan 1 Pro single wall tent
Lanshan 1 Professional single wall tent

Single-wall tents don’t have a separate internal tent and exterior rainfly. As a substitute, they’ve one wall with a mesh door or vents that enhance airflow by way of the tent and assist to forestall inner condensation. Most single wall tents have a totally built-in bathtub ground which is sewn to the partitions of the tent, making it simple to pitch and preserve dry if you must arrange within the pouring rain. Many even have an built-in entrance vestibule that can be utilized to cowl gear or cook dinner beneath in dangerous climate. These awnings don’t come right down to the bottom like a full vestibule in an effort to preserve good airflow by way of the shelter.

Some widespread examples embody:


  • Simple and quick to arrange
  • The residing space of the tent stays dry when pitched within the pouring rain
  • Light-weight and compact
  • Normally arrange with trekking poles, which helps remove some weight
  • Quick drying
  • Bug proof and slither proof
  • Aerodynamic shapes present good wind resistance
  • Most have vestibule storage
  • Waterproof, after seam sealing, offering good safety from rain so long as you choose campsites that don’t pool water


  • Susceptible to inner condensation which is a nuisance
  • Decrease ambient temperature because of elevated airflow by way of the shelter
  • Partitions of bath flooring usually are not as excessive as on double-walled tents, requiring considerably higher campsite choice abilities to keep away from being flooded out at evening by pooling water
  • Tough to pitch on wood platforms and rock ledges as a result of they require tent stakes
  • Seam-sealing is could also be required earlier than use

Greatest Used When…

  • Pitched on flat floor for optimum consolation
  • Winds are reasonable to gentle
  • Nice in heat climate when different tents are too heat

2. Double-Wall Tents

Nemo Hornet 2P double-wall tent.
Nemo Hornet 2P double-wall tent.

Double-wall tents are designed to guard occupants from inner condensation (see Forestall Inside Condensation). They’re referred to as double-wall as a result of they’ve a separate internal tent and an outer rain fly which protects you from the rain and wind. All inner condensation or moisture contained in the tent evaporates by way of the mesh partitions of the internal tent and adheres to the underside of the rainfly, away from you and your gear. Lately, the load of double-wall tents has plunged, to the purpose the place they’ve turn out to be aggressive with different ultralight shelter varieties.

Some widespread examples embody:


  • Simple to arrange
  • Internal tent prevents inner condensation from making your gear moist
  • Insect proof and slither proof
  • Normally has a vestibule for coated gear storage
  • Can be utilized in just about all three-season climate situations
  • Internal tents are inclined to have deep bathtub flooring that may forestall flooding if water swimming pools beneath
  • Much less drafty and heaters than different ultralight tents and shelters


  • Susceptible to inner condensation as a result of they’ve comparatively poor airflow
  • Are typically heavier, bulkier, and dearer than different forms of ultralight shelters
  • Most double-wall shelters (excluding the Tarptents and X-Mid listed above) require that you simply pitch the internal tent earlier than the rainfly, leading to a moist internal tent within the pouring rain.
  • Tent poles may be awkward to pack in a backpack
  • Hotter in scorching climate

Greatest Used When…

  • When tenting at established tent websites which have packed earth tent pads or dished out tent websites that pool water
  • In sustained dangerous climate whenever you need extra inside room to hang around and preserve your gear undercover in a vestibule
  • Freestanding double-wall tents may be pitched with out tent stakes making them very handy for tenting on rock ledges, sandy soil, or wood tent platforms.

3. Pyramids (additionally referred to as Mids)

Ultralight Pyramid Shelters
Ultralight Pyramid Shelters

Pyramids, usually abbreviated as “Mids”, are floorless shelters with a pyramid-style form which have strong floor-to-ceiling partitions on all sides (apart from the facet with a door). They’re designed to shed excessive winds from all instructions, eliminating the necessity to repitch your shelter if the wind adjustments route at evening. Most mids don’t include a bug-proof internal tent or bathtub ground, however one may be added for extra consolation. This will just about double the load of your shelter system, nevertheless. Mids are generally pitched with a middle pole, though smaller mids may be pitched with trekking poles organized in an inverted V in order that they take up much less inside residing house. One of the simplest ways to control the quantity of inner condensation in a mid is to pitch it in order that the bottom of the partitions are a couple of inches off of the bottom. Many mids even have prime vents which may help vent moisture in stormy situations.

Some widespread examples embody:


  • Wonderful multi-side wind and climate safety in less-protected environments above treeline or on open floor
  • Most mids include prime vents which assist restrict inner condensation buildup
  • Backside edges may be pitched off the bottom to offer an air hole for higher air flow or pitched flush with the bottom to guard in opposition to rain in dangerous climate
  • Massive sufficient to cook dinner inside with ample air flow and a well-controlled flame like a canister range
  • Pyramids with extremely angled partitions shed snow properly in winter, enabling 4 season use (silnylon is extra slippery than Dyneema DCF and higher for winter use)
  • Gives good cowl in winter over a dug out snow pit
  • Gives wonderful privateness


  • Many pyramids pitch with a middle pole, which cuts down on the interior house accessible
  • Have to be pitched on a stage floor as a result of the corners are all the identical size and should be pulled taut for structural integrity
  • Requires a big footprint, making them troublesome to pitch in tight spots akin to forests
  • Slanted sides can scale back inside livability. Most pyramids have a hard and fast wall angle, though the MLD Trailstar may be pitched taller or flatter primarily based on situations
  • Including an internal tent to a pyramid shelter provides a major weight penalty
  • Requires some type of bug safety akin to a bug internet or bug bivy

Greatest Used When…

  • Tenting in very windy terrain
  • Unhealthy climate with little panorama safety
  • Winter when mixed with snow constructions
  • Lengthy distance, expedition-style journey in hostile environments

4. Catenary Minimize Tarps

Shaped catenary cut tarp
Formed catenary reduce tarp w/ a bivy sack for insect safety

Catenary reduce tarps, additionally referred to as formed tarps, are easy tarps with curved edges that enhance their aerodynamic efficiency, scale back weight, and assist guarantee a really taught pitch with out wrinkles. They’ve open ends and are normally pitched in an A-frame configuration utilizing trekking poles or bushes. In dangerous climate, catenary reduce tarps may be pitched near the bottom to forestall rain or wind from blowing onto the occupants, however they’re usually pitched larger as much as enhance airflow. Catenary reduce tarps are continuously mixed with an internal tent with a bath ground or an ultralight bivy which may present insect and moisture safety.

Campsite choice abilities turn out to be extra vital when utilizing a Cat-cut tarp as a result of it doesn’t have a ground or finish cap safety in opposition to the wind. Perfect campsites are protected against the wind by forest or panorama options and on stage floor with good drainage to forestall rain pooling.

Some widespread makes/fashions embody:


  • Very light-weight and compact
  • The catenary reduce offers good wind resistance, a taut pitch, and eliminates flapping
  • Cat reduce eliminates some cloth making one of these tarp lighter weight
  • Ends may be pitched utilizing trekking poles or bushes/shrubs
  • Wonderful airflow just about eliminates inner condensation


  • Not as versatile as a flat tarp as a result of you could all the time pitch it in an A-Body to get a taut pitch
  • Requires some type of bug safety akin to a bug internet or bug bivy
  • Restricted privateness

Greatest Used When

  • The climate is pretty dry
  • In well-protected settings on pretty flat and well-drained floor
  • Sleeping on the bottom and never on wood platforms

5. Flat Tarps

A Variety of Flat Tarp Pitches or "Shapes"
A Number of Flat Tarp Pitches or “Shapes” all made with Sq. Tarps

Flat tarps are easy tarps which have a sq. or rectangular form with 90-degree angles within the corners.  They are often pitched in some ways, together with ones that incorporate panorama options akin to tree trunks or boulders. Probably the most primary A-frame type configuration may be very simple to grasp when tied out to bushes or trekking poles however many different pitch “shapes” are doable starting from awnings, caves, and garages to pyramids, relying on the dimensions of the tarp, the way you fold it and tie it out. In contrast to Cat-cut tarps, the man strains on flat tarps are sometimes not connected when pitching, since totally different tie-outs are wanted for various configurations or “shapes”, and are knotted somewhat than tensioned with line-locs.

As with Cat-cut tarps, campsite choice turns into extra vital as a result of flat tarps don’t have flooring. Flat tarps can be augmented with an internal bug bivy or bivy sacks to offer extra bug or thermal safety or to forestall rain from bouncing again beneath the tarp and making your sleep insulation moist.

Perfect camps websites are protected against the wind by bushes or panorama options with good drainage to forestall rain pooling. In contrast to Cat-cut tarps, flat tarps don’t require stage floor and may be bent round obstructions to create workable shelters.

Some widespread fashions embody:


  • Very light-weight and compact
  • Probably the most primary A-frame pitch is simple to grasp
  • Will be pitched utilizing trekking poles or tied to bushes/shrubs
  • Simple to regulate the quantity of air flow and remove condensation by elevating facet partitions or orienting open ends towards the wind
  • Doesn’t require a flat floor to pitch
  • Will be configured in an infinite variety of methods, together with ones that incorporate panorama options akin to fallen logs, boulders, or pitches which are very weatherproof akin to pyramids.


  • Doesn’t present as a lot safety as a tent
  • Requires some type of bug safety akin to a bug internet or bug bivy
  • Takes significantly extra ability and apply to grasp superior or advert hoc tarp “shapes” and man line knots
  • Requires that you simply carry extra stakes and man strains since you by no means know what form you’ll pitch prematurely
  • Restricted privateness relying on the pitch used

Greatest Used When…

  • You get pleasure from adapting the form of your shelter to panorama options that current themselves
  • You’re tired of A-frame pitches
  • You might have additional time to fiddle together with your tarp pitch earlier than it will get darkish or the climate turns nasty
  • In protected settings on well-drained floor
  • The wind is reasonable to calm

6. Hammocks

Porch-mode in the Hammock Gear Wanderlust
Porch mode within the Hammock Gear Wanderlust

Backpacking hammocks are similar to double-walled tents besides they’re suspended within the air somewhat than pitched on the bottom. They’ve two elements major elements, an insect internet that’s draped over the ridgeline and a tarp that’s suspended overhead. In case you’re new to hammocks, we advocate beginning with an entire hammock system together with a hammock, tarp, and suspension. It is going to prevent a number of money and time.

These are nice light-weight choices:


  • Nice for tenting in forests, particularly when good ground-level campsites are scarce, as a result of they are often suspended between bushes
  • Bug proof and slither proof
  • By no means have to fret about floor moisture flooding your shelter
  • Gives protection on your gear at evening and a spot to cook dinner out of the rain
  • Nice go away no hint or stealth tenting choice


  • Backside insulation (foam or undequilt) is normally required

Greatest Used When…

  • Tenting or backpacking in forested areas
  • You sleep poorly on the bottom

The place to Begin

Selecting an ultralight shelter is usually a complicated course of, even for skilled ultralight backpackers, as a result of it’s troublesome to anticipate the livability, adaptability, or usability of shelters in several types of terrain and climate. That is additional difficult by the truth that you’ll be able to’t strive a lot of the ultralight shelters accessible as a result of they’re bought by smaller producers with much less versatile return insurance policies. Whereas you are able to do a number of analysis about totally different ultralight shelter varieties on-line, there’s nothing fairly like attempting one out to see should you prefer it in actual life. Give it a few nights out so that you’re not too hasty in passing judgment and by all means apply pitching it at house earlier than you must do it for actual within the wild.

In case you’re transitioning from a heavier double-walled tent and primarily wish to reduce your gear weight with out sacrificing a lot consolation, I like to recommend you borrow or purchase a reasonable seam-sealed single-wall tent just like the Gossamer Gear  “The One” to get began. The Lanshan 1 Professional and the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo are additionally wonderful picks, however you’ll have to seam seal them should you camp within the rain.

If you wish to strive a hammock, I’d advocate getting an All-in-One package to begin just like the Hammock Gear Wanderlust to scale back the hammock tenting studying curve, which may be very steep should you purchase the elements individually. I exploit the Wanderlust myself as a result of it’s best-of-breed and I like it.

If you wish to strive a pyramid tarp, or a flat or catenary reduce tarp, you’ll most likely wish to purchase a bug bivy or ultralight bivy sack to go along with it for insect and moisture safety. This will add vital weight to those choices and it’s helpful to weigh them in opposition to the opposite options listed above.

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