One-person shelters are the definitive expression of going ultralight. Eschewing creature comforts, those that sleep solo reap the benefits of cutting precious ounces from their packs. To identify the absolute lightest models available in 2016, we’ve researched and compiled charts of backpacking tents, bivies and hammocks. We did level the playing field and require the shelters to have a waterproof and bugproof design, so there are no minimalist bivies or tarps here. Trekking-pole supported tents lead the way starting at 13 ounces, but we came away impressed with the sheer number of shelters on the market under 3 pounds. No matter your preferred sleeping style, there is a lightweight one-person solution available.
1-Person Tents with Poles
|Tent Model||Packed Weight||Price||Fabric (Bottom)||Floor Area||Packed Size|
|Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1||1 lb. 4 oz.||$999||Unavail.||20 sq. ft.||3 x 13 in.|
|MSR Carbon Reflex 1||1 lb. 13 oz.||$400||15D||17 sq. ft.||5 x 17 in.|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum||1 lb. 13 oz.||$500||Unavail.||22 sq. ft.||4 x 17 in.|
|Terra Nova Solar Photon 1||1 lb. 15 oz.||$450||Unavail.||17 sq. ft.||5 x 16 in.|
|Nemo Hornet 1||2 lbs.||$320||15D||21 sq. ft.||4 x 19 in.|
|Nemo Blaze 1P||2 lbs.||$370||20D||18 sq. ft.||4 x 15 in.|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1||2 lbs. 1 oz.||$350||Unavail.||20 sq. ft.||4 x 19 in.|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL1||2 lbs. 1 oz.||$349||20D||16 sq. ft.||5 x 20 in.|
|Big Sky Evolution 1P||2 lbs. 2 oz.||$310||Unavail.||Unavail.||5.5 x 19 in.|
|Tarptent Moment DW||2 lbs. 2 oz.||$295||Unavail.||18.1 sq. ft.||4 x 18 in.|
|MSR FreeLite 1||2 lbs. 7 oz.||$370||15D||18 sq. ft.||6 x 18 in.|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1||2 lbs. 8 oz.||$380||Unavail.||22 sq. ft.||4.5 x 16.5 in.|
|The North Face Mica FL 1||2 lbs. 8 oz.||$300||20D||14.6 sq. ft.||5 x 24 in.|
|Big Agnes Slater UL1+||2 lbs. 10 oz.||$340||Unavail.||28 sq. ft.||5 x 19 in.|
|REI Quarter Dome 1||2 lbs. 10 oz.||$229||30D||21.4 sq. ft.||6 x 20 in.|
|Exped Mira I HL||2 lbs. 10 oz.||$329||20D||16.1 sq. ft.||5 x 16.5 in.|
|Hilleberg Enan||2 lbs. 10 oz.||$585||Unavail.||18.3 sq. ft.||Unavailable|
|The North Face Triarch 1||2 lbs. 13 oz.||$300||30D||16.9 sq. ft.||6 x 21 in.|
|Marmot Eos 1P||2 lbs. 13 oz.||$350||40D||21 sq. ft.||6 x 21.5 in.|
|MSR Hubba NX||2 lbs. 14 oz.||$350||30D||18 sq. ft.||6 x 18 in.|
|Marmot Force 1P||2 lbs. 14 oz.||$340||40D||21 sq. ft.||5 x 20 in.|
|Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1||2 lbs. 15 oz.||$300||Unavail.||20 sq. ft.||5 x 18 in.|
1-Person Trekking-Pole Supported Shelters
|Tent Model||Packed Weight||Price||Fabric (Bottom)||Floor Area||Packed Size|
|Big Sky Wisp 1P Super Bivy||13.4 oz.||$560||Unavailable||Unavailable||Unavail.|
|ZPacks Hexamid Solo||15.4 oz.||$475||1.0 oz/sqyd||16.3 sq. ft.||6 x 12 in.|
|ZPacks Solplex||15.5 oz.||$555||1.0 oz/sqyd||18.75 sq. ft.||6 x 12 in.|
|Six Moon Designs Skyscape X||1 lb. 1 oz.||$565||.75 oz/sqyd||23 sq. ft.||5 x 15 in.|
|Sea to Summit The Specialist Solo||1 lb. 1.9 oz.||$429||15D||14.5 sq. ft.||4.5 x 10 in.|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid
|1 lb. 3.5 oz.||$690||.75 oz/sqyd||16.3 sq. ft.||Unavail.|
|Big Bear Wilderness Designs AT 1||1 lb. 6 oz.||$249||30D||19 sq. ft.||Unavail.|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo||1 lb. 8 oz.||$215||30D||26 sq. ft.||4.5 x 15 in.|
|Tarptent ProTrail||1 lb. 10 oz.||$225||Unavail.||21 sq. ft.||4 x 12 in.|
|LightHeart Gear Solo||1 lb. 11 oz.||$260||1.1 oz/sqyd||30 sq. ft.||Unavail.|
|Tarptent Notch||1 lb. 11 oz.||$285||Unavail.||15.2 sq. ft.||3.5 x 16 in.|
|Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 FL||2 lbs. 3 oz.||$300||30D||18.8 sq. ft.||Unavail.|
|Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1||2 lbs. 6 oz.||$350||Unavail.||18 sq. ft.||5 x 17 in.|
1-Person Bivy Sacks and Hammocks
|Shelter Model||Packed Weight||Price||Fabric (Bottom)||Fabric (Body)||Packed Size|
|Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpini Bivy||1 lb.||$250||40D||15D||Unavail.|
|Rab Alpine Bivi||1 lb. 1 oz.||$260||70D||15D||5 x 12 in.|
|Outdoor Research Helium Bivy||1 lb. 2 oz.||$169||70D||30D||4 x 15 in.|
|Rab Ascent Bivi||1 lb. 6 oz.||$280||40D||40D||5 x 10 in.|
|Integral Designs Diamond Bivy||1 lb. 6 oz.||$275||70D||40D||4 x 12 in.|
|Warbonnet Outdoors Blackbird XLC
|1 lb. 10.5 oz.||$310||70D||30D||Unavail.|
|Hennessy Hammock Hyperlite Asym Zip||1 lb. 12 oz.||$280||30D||20D||4 x 8 x 5 in.|
|Nemo Gogo Elite Shelter||1 lb. 12 oz.||$430||20D||10D||4 x 6 in.|
|Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy||1 lb. 14 oz.||$250||Unavail.||Unavail.||6 x 13 in.|
|Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip||2 lbs.||$250||70D||20D||4 x 6 x 9 in.|
|AntiGravityGear Quicksilver Ultralight Hammock||2 lbs. 2.7 oz.||$299||30D||30D||Unavail.|
|Eno SubLink Hammock System||2 lbs. 13 oz.||$250||70D||70D||8 x 14 in.|
The Lightweight Shelter Debate: Tents, Hammocks and Bivy Sacks
I’ll start with the bad news: we’re not going to crown one shelter type as the absolute best way to go ultralight. There are simply too many factors at play. What we can do is take an objective look at the charts above, and trekking-pole supported shelters are the winners with a number of options under 1 pound (not including your trekking poles). From there, the order is as follows: bivy sacks, traditional tents with poles and hammocks.
Each shelter type has their various pros and cons. Most folks won’t venture away from the traditional backpacking tent, and with a number of options under 2 pounds, it’s hardly a huge sacrifice. That said, the fabrics are less durable relative to their weight, and without the wild Terra Nova Laser Ultra tent, they'd have finished in last place on our list. If you already backpack with trekking poles, getting a tent that’s supported by those handy sticks is a great way to go lightweight. Not everyone, however, is up for the more complicated setup.
Bivy sacks and hammocks are on opposite ends of the comfort scale, but both have a small but dedicated group of devotees. Bivies are great for the hardcore adventurer that isn’t prone to claustrophobia, while hammocks are a relaxing getaway for those that like to sleep off the ground. Keep in mind that not all wilderness areas allow hammocks so do your research before diving in. No matter your preference, the good news is that the industry’s focus on keeping weight down has yielded a sub 2-pound option for each shelter type.
Trekking-Pole Supported Shelters
As our overall lightweight winners, trekking-pole supported shelters have earned a more detailed explanation. As the name indicates, your trekking poles replace the standard tent poles in creating the structure. The resulting shelters are rigid, just as capable in bad weather as a standard tent, and roomy for their weight. But these tents are not for everyone. To start, not all backpackers use trekking poles. More, someone coming from a freestanding tent model may find the set up a little confusing—it’s not as simple as clipping on the poles and staking it out. With practice in setting them up and familiarity in choosing a good campsite, the process can become very smooth. Serious adventurers and thru-hikers are the biggest proponents of these designs, but we anticipate their appeal will grow as they are blazing the trail in ultralight shelters.
Packed Weight vs. Trail Weight
When researching tents, you’ll often see two weight specs: packed weight and trail weight. Packed weight is the heavier of the two and includes everything that’s shipped from the manufacturer: the tent body, rainfly, poles, stakes, guylines, instructions and bags. Trail weight is the most brag-worthy but includes just the basics: the tent body, rainfly and poles.
The truth is the actual weight you’ll be hauling around will probably be somewhere in-between the two. For the sake of this comparison, we’ve chosen to list packed weight because it’s the more accurate number for the majority of backpackers. Trail weight doesn’t include stakes, which are an essential part of setting up a tent, and most people don’t ditch the guylines and tent bag. Packed weight does include some extras we prefer to leave behind like the instructions or the tent pole bag (subtract about an ounce total for those items), but we still think it’s the better number for the purposes of our charts.
A quick scan of the charts above reveals the obvious: packed size and weight go hand-in-hand. Lighter and thinner materials are on average more compact and compressible, and these one-person shelters easily can be fit into just about any size backpacking pack. That said, packed size is only so helpful because we rarely store our tents as a single unit. Instead, we prefer to strap the tent poles along the outside of our pack, which opens up even more space inside the main compartment. We like the spec as a means for comparing how much total space the tent will take up, but don’t be hamstrung into thinking you have to squeeze the whole thing inside your pack as one unit.
Ultralight Fabrics: Nylon, Silnylon and Dyneema (Cuben Fiber)
The single biggest influencer in reducing weight is the shelter body fabric. The long-time standard has been ripstop nylon, which is affordable and can be made waterproof with a polyurethane coating and seam taping. Its unfortunate downside is durability. As the fabric gets thinner (measured in denier) its tendency to puncture and tear increases more than other fabric options.
Many small-time cottage industry brands turn to silnylon, which is silicon impregnated ripstop nylon. This process makes the fabric waterproof and more durable than standard nylon at a very low weight. Silnylon once was considered ultralight nirvana until the release of Dyneema (formerly Cuben Fiber). This relatively new fabric to the outdoor industry is extremely expensive and requires precise manufacturing, but has the best strength-to-weight ratio of anything on the market (see our review of the Dyneema Hyperlite Windrider pack here). It’s no surprise that the lightest shelters on this list from Big Sky, ZPacks, Six Moon Designs and Mountain Laurel Designs all utilize Dyneema fabric.
The industry-wide obsession with ultralight fabrics has pushed them to become so thin that many are literally see through. Calling them paper thin doesn’t do justice, and although the various fabrics are surprisingly tough for their weight, durability suffers. Of particular importance is retaining some tear resistance, or thickness, in the floor material—this is the area most vulnerable to punctures and wearing out over time. When available from the manufacturer, we list the floor thickness of every shelter model in the charts above.
Unfortunately, there aren’t universal thickness measurements to use across fabric types. Standard nylons are given a denier rating, with a lower denier being thinner and flimsier than a higher denier. Tents with 15 and 20-denier floors in particular require gentle treatment to keep them intact (and don’t even think about ditching the footprint). As we cover in the section above, silnylon and Dyneema fabrics have superior weight-to-strength ratios than standard nylon, so you get a thinner fabric with fewer compromises. Their thicknesses are measured in an ounce/square yard ratio with Dyneema fibers as mind-blowingly light as .51 oz./sq. yd., while silnylon is about double that at a still impressive 1.1 oz./sq. yd.
One-person shelters are built for sleeping one person and that’s about it. Don’t expect space to store a pack inside or play host to a game of cards with a buddy. As such, interior space is undeniably tight in just about every model on the charts above. Bivy sacks are the ultimate expression of a snug fit and offer about as much room as a large sleeping bag—they aren’t for the claustrophobic. Tent interior volume can vary, and you can get a good indication of interior space by looking at the floor area. But keep in mind that this length by width measurement is taken at ground level and doesn’t account for sloping walls or the peak height. Analyzing the shape of the tent is always recommended to get a clearer picture of true interior volume.
Realistically, interior space isn’t a top priority for one-person shelters. But if you fall into the category of ultralight but comfort-oriented backpackers, we recommend a 2-person tent, which we cover in this Backpacking Tent Weight Comparison Chart.
Weighing the Rest of Your Gear
Shelters are only one part of putting together an ultralight backpacking system. We’ve found the process of identifying areas where you can cut ounces to be really fun, and it’s something you can do on just about any budget. As a means to pinpoint these opportunities, we’ve researched and compiled detailed comparison charts of 2-person backpacking tents, lightweight sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. Trimming ounces from each of these items can lead to pounds being dropped from your total carrying weight, which makes backpacking that much more enjoyable.