Friday, August 5, 2022
HomeHikingUltralight Tents and Shelter Information: Professionals and Cons

Ultralight Tents and Shelter Information: Professionals 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 finest 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 fundamental 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 in the event you assume I’ve misclassified a shelter or left one out, simply go away a remark and I’ll attempt to deal with 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 obtainable. A few of the shelters listed are additionally obtainable in Dyneema Composite Materials (DCF) and weigh significantly much less however are far 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 observe variations in materials when it has a fabric influence 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 the tent and assist to forestall inside condensation. Most single wall tents have a totally built-in bathtub flooring which is sewn to the partitions of the tent, making it straightforward 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 prepare dinner beneath in dangerous climate. These awnings don’t come all the way down to the bottom like a full vestibule so as to keep good airflow by the shelter.

Some in style examples embody:


  • Simple and quick to arrange
  • Wonderful airflow which nearly eliminates inside condensation
  • The residing space of the tent stays dry when pitched within the pouring rain
  • Light-weight and compact
  • Often arrange with trekking poles, which helps eradicate 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 decide campsites that don’t pool water


  • Vulnerable to inside condensation which is a nuisance
  • Decrease ambient temperature attributable to elevated airflow by the shelter
  • Partitions of tub flooring aren’t as excessive as on double-walled tents, requiring considerably higher campsite choice expertise to keep away from being flooded out at evening by pooling water
  • Tough to pitch on picket 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 average 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 inside condensation (see Find out how to Forestall Inner 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 inside condensation or moisture contained in the tent evaporates by the mesh partitions of the internal tent and adheres to the underside of the rainfly, away from you and your gear. In recent times, the load of double-wall tents has plunged, to the purpose the place they’ve turn into aggressive with different ultralight shelter sorts.

Some in style examples embody:


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


  • Vulnerable to inside condensation as a result of they’ve comparatively poor airflow
  • Are usually heavier, bulkier, and dearer than different forms of ultralight shelters
  • Most double-wall shelters (except for 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 could be awkward to pack in a backpack
  • Hotter in sizzling 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 while you need extra inside room to hang around and preserve your gear undercover in a vestibule
  • Freestanding double-wall tents could be pitched with out tent stakes making them very handy for tenting on rock ledges, sandy soil, or picket 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 stable floor-to-ceiling partitions on all sides (apart from the aspect with a door). They’re designed to shed excessive winds from all instructions, eliminating the necessity to repitch your shelter if the wind modifications course at evening. Most mids don’t include a bug-proof internal tent or bathtub flooring, however one could be added for extra consolation. This could nearly double the load of your shelter system, nevertheless. Mids are generally pitched with a middle pole, though smaller mids could be pitched with trekking poles organized in an inverted V so that they take up much less inside residing area. The easiest way to control the quantity of inside 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 will help vent moisture in stormy situations.

Some in style 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 inside condensation buildup
  • Backside edges could be pitched off the bottom to offer an air hole for higher air flow or pitched flush with the bottom to guard towards rain in dangerous climate
  • Massive sufficient to prepare dinner inside with sufficient air flow and a well-controlled flame like a canister range
  • Pyramids with extremely angled partitions shed snow nicely in winter, enabling 4 season use (silnylon is extra slippery than Dyneema DCF and higher for winter use)
  • Supplies good cowl in winter over a dug out snow pit
  • Supplies glorious privateness


  • Many pyramids pitch with a middle pole, which cuts down on the inner area obtainable
  • 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 tough to pitch in tight spots corresponding to forests
  • Slanted sides can cut back inside livability. Most pyramids have a set wall angle, though the MLD Trailstar could 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 corresponding 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 buildings
  • Lengthy distance, expedition-style journey in hostile environments

4. Catenary Minimize Tarps

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

Catenary minimize tarps, additionally referred to as formed tarps, are easy tarps with curved edges that enhance their aerodynamic efficiency, cut 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 timber. In dangerous climate, catenary minimize tarps could be pitched near the bottom to forestall rain or wind from blowing onto the occupants, however they’re usually pitched greater as much as enhance airflow. Catenary minimize tarps are steadily mixed with an internal tent with a bath flooring or an ultralight bivy which might present insect and moisture safety.

Campsite choice expertise turn into extra vital when utilizing a Cat-cut tarp as a result of it doesn’t have a flooring or finish cap safety towards the wind. Perfect campsites are shielded from the wind by forest or panorama options and on stage floor with good drainage to forestall rain pooling.

Some in style makes/fashions embody:


  • Very light-weight and compact
  • The catenary minimize offers good wind resistance, a taut pitch, and eliminates flapping
  • Cat minimize eliminates some cloth making any such tarp lighter weight
  • Ends could be pitched utilizing trekking poles or timber/shrubs
  • Wonderful airflow nearly eliminates inside condensation


  • Not as versatile as a flat tarp as a result of it is advisable to all the time pitch it in an A-Body to get a taut pitch
  • Requires some type of bug safety corresponding 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 picket 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 corresponding to tree trunks or boulders. Essentially the most fundamental A-frame model configuration may be very straightforward to grasp when tied out to timber or trekking poles however many different pitch “shapes” are potential starting from awnings, caves, and garages to pyramids, relying on the scale of the tarp, the way you fold it and tie it out. In contrast to Cat-cut tarps, the man traces on flat tarps are sometimes not hooked up when pitching, since totally different tie-outs are wanted for various configurations or “shapes”, and are knotted relatively 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 may also 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 shielded from the wind by timber or panorama options with good drainage to forestall rain pooling. In contrast to Cat-cut tarps, flat tarps don’t require stage floor and could be bent round obstructions to create workable shelters.

Some in style fashions embody:


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


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

Greatest Used When…

  • You take pleasure in adapting the form of your shelter to panorama options that current themselves
  • You’re tired of A-frame pitches
  • You have got further time to fiddle along 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 average to calm

6. Hammocks

Andrew Skurka's Warbonnet Ridje Runner Bridge-Style Hammock
Andrew Skurka’s Warbonnet Ridgrunner Bridge-Type Hammock

Backpacking hammocks are similar to double-walled tents besides they’re suspended within the air relatively than pitched on the bottom. They’ve two parts major parts, an insect internet that’s draped over the ridgeline and a tarp that’s suspended overhead. If you happen to’re new to hammocks, we suggest beginning with a whole hammock system together with a hammock, tarp, and suspension. It’s going to prevent a whole lot 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 timber
  • Bug proof and slither proof
  • By no means have to fret about floor moisture flooding your shelter
  • Supplies protection in your gear at evening and a spot to prepare dinner out of the rain
  • Nice go away no hint or stealth tenting possibility


  • 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

Choosing an ultralight shelter generally is a complicated course of, even for knowledgeable ultralight backpackers, as a result of it’s tough to anticipate the livability, adaptability, or usability of shelters in various kinds of terrain and climate. That is additional sophisticated by the truth that you may’t strive a lot of the ultralight shelters obtainable as a result of they’re bought by smaller producers with much less versatile return insurance policies. Whereas you are able to do a whole lot of analysis about totally different ultralight shelter sorts on-line, there’s nothing fairly like making an attempt one out to see in the event 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 observe pitching it at house earlier than you must do it for actual within the wild.

If you happen to’re transitioning from a heavier double-walled tent and primarily wish to minimize your gear weight with out sacrificing a lot consolation, I like to recommend you borrow or purchase a cheap 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 glorious picks, however you’ll must seam seal them in the event you camp within the rain.

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

If you wish to strive a pyramid tarp, or a flat or catenary minimize 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 could add important weight to those choices and it’s helpful to weigh them towards the opposite alternate options listed above.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently analysis, check, and price one of the best merchandise. We solely generate income if you buy a product by our affiliate hyperlinks. Assist us proceed to check and write unsponsored and impartial gear critiques, newbie FAQs, and free climbing guides.

Supply hyperlink



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments