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
w/Innernet
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 
w/Mamajamba Tarp
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.
 

Packed Size

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.
 

Fabric Thickness

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.
 

Interior Space

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.

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