If you’ve never had to take a tent on a hiking trip, you probably haven’t given much thought to how heavy it is. But once you have to carry it on your back, every gram counts.
But which grams are the important ones? How light is too light? How much minimalism is enough for your next trip?
We created this guide for new backpackers to help you make the right choice while shopping for a backpacking tent. Let’s dive in and check out the best lightweight hiking tents in 2023.
What Are Lightweight Hiking Tents?
Lightweight hiking tents use minimalist designs to remove extra weight. Ideally, they strike a balance between “burly enough to stand up to some wind and rain” and “light enough to carry without much trouble.”
To do this, they use lighter materials, like carbon fiber poles and single-layer walls. They often use fewer poles, or a single trekking pole in place of normal tent poles.
How I Made My Selections
Over the years, I’ve explored a lot of different landscapes, almost always from the comfort of a tent. From warm desert nights to snowy, rainy, stormy ventures into the mountains, I’ve relied on a lot of tents. Not just for shelter, but as a home away from home while on the road.
Using my knowledge of brands, materials, designs, and applications, I put together this guide. Top tents listed here strike a balance between being lightweight and being practical in a wide variety of situations.
Picking a lightweight shelter for hiking is tricky. You never know what mother nature might throw at you, but you still want to be as portable as possible. Helsport’s Ringstind Pro 2 solves this issue elegantly.
The Ringstind Pro 2 uses a space-saving floor plan and profile to cut down on materials. This keeps it light.
But the interior is still roomy enough for two people to sleep comfortably, and the dual vestibules provide ample gear storage. On top of that, the materials are waterproof, while the zips offer great ventilation.
But it’s not the most budget-friendly option on this list by a longshot. If you can afford to shell out for a reliable, quality tent, go for it. But if not, the Ringstind Pro 2 won’t even be an option.
On the other end of the cost spectrum, Naturehike swoops in to save the day. Naturehike produces solid products at fair prices, most notably, their lightweight tents.
The Cloud Up 2p has gotten a recent facelift and is ready to hit the trail. It’s a roomy two-person, double-walled design that weighs a little over two kilograms.
The pole structure offers decent rigidity, while cutting weight. And the front vestibule provides a good amount of gear storage.
But the materials are lacking in comparison to some of the more expensive options on this list. Waterproofing is lacking, as is abrasion resistance. Don’t expect to get more than a couple years out of the Cloud-Up.
If you want to go as light as possible, go solo. For solitary missions into the bush, you need a solid one-person tent. And as always, Naturehike provides.
Naturehike’s 1-person backpacking tent uses a double-walled design totaling 1.67kg. Its design incorporates dual vestibules for gear storage, strong guy lines, and it doesn’t break the bank.
But like with the other budget-friendly options on this list, it may not last very long. The nylon in the floor and shell are flimsy, and won’t put up with much abrasion.
Whether you’re buying a tent, a sleeping bag, or a jacket, The North Face is the first brand you should be looking into. In this case, they’ve done an excellent job of creating a highly versatile, sturdy, lightweight tent to suit a variety of outings.
The best way to combine all the features you need in a tent while keeping it lightweight is to go with a single-wall design. The Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT can handle any conditions (unless you're winter camping).
It has good floorspace for two people and weighs 2.5kg on the trail. If you want reliability and waterproofing that you can count on, The North Face has got you covered.
The main downside here is cost. While the Assault 2 is certain to last a long time, the high-price point will be a barrier to many. It also lacks gear storage, as single-walled designs lack vestibules.
Whether you’re camping on a warm summer night or going in the middle of winter, your tent is your fortress. The North Face Mountain 25 reflects that philosophy with every design choice.
The main adjective I’d pick for the Mountain 25 is “bombproof.” The inner wall alone would be enough for camping in the summer. But with the fly, you’re covered in extreme weather (down to -51°C).
It sleeps two comfortably and has a huge canopy for storing gear. It’s far from the lightest, but for a burly 4-season tent, it’s great.
But as a high-end product, it comes with a high-end price tag. It’s also way too heavy for long distances.
If your normal hiking group is more than a couple people, it’s a good idea to go for a larger tent. To this end, Naturehike hits the mark with a larger version of the Cloud Up. This 3 person tent is a solid option for adventures during the summer months.
For starters, the Cloud Up 3 person weighs under 2.3kg. Per person, that’s very light. It’s spacious and has decent gear storage under the front vestibule.
The pole structure maximizes headroom, without sacrificing much in the way of weight. It features a double-wall construction, which offers a good mix of waterproofing and ventilation for 3-season use.
But it isn’t the flashiest design out there. Having one door and a single vestibule isn't exactly top-notch comfort. The material isn’t very durable, either.
If you ask an ultralight-obsessed backpacker what kind of ultralight hiking tent you should get, they might say “don’t get a tent at all.” Pyramid shelters reduce weight by ditching conventional poles. But they can still be very weather and water resistant.
Enter, the Hyperlite Ultamid 2 Ultralight Pyramid Tent. It’s everything an ultralight fiend could want. First of all, it weighs just half a kilogram. The pyramid structure can be set up in seconds with a hiking pole and a few tent pegs.
The Dyneema fabric is incredibly weather resistant. It can fit one person plus gear, or two sleepers without gear.
But it’s not a perfect piece of gear. The pyramid shape cuts down on headroom quite a bit. Pyramid shelters are less wind-resistant than traditional tents. And the cost will be prohibitive to some.
If you’re braving the alpine and facing everything the mountain throws at you, you may want to ditch a tent altogether. Bivy Shelters are very lightweight, waterproof, and very wind resistant.
I would bet that the North Face Assault FUTURELIGHT Bivy Shelter is the best bivy on the market. It uses a single pole design to create a little headroom and DWR-treated triple-thick nylon for waterproofing.
Weighing just 780g, it’s a perfect companion for high altitude trips where every little bit counts. But make no mistake - this is not a freestanding tent. It doesn’t have any living area, gear storage, or any other creature comforts built in. It’s a shelter to sleep in, nothing more.
How To Shop For A Lightweight Hiking Tent
The differences between a normal tent and a lightweight one for hiking are subtle. If you don't know what you're looking for, it can be hard to find the right thing. Here are a few factors to weigh while you shop for the right lightweight tent.
As with any major gear purchase, cost is always a deciding factor. Lightweight tents have a large price range.
For example, a high-end, single-walled, four-season tent for expeditions in extreme weather could range up to $2,000. When your survival depends on your shelter, that's a worthy investment.
But many lightweight tents are much cheaper. On the low end, a decent lightweight 3 season tent can cost around $200. If you're seeing products with brand names you don't recognize for less than this, that's when you should be suspicious of the quality.
Tent Capacity, Internal Space And Weight
One concern you face when trying to go as lightweight as possible is how much space you can afford. The more internal space your tent has, the heavier it will be. So if you’re shopping for a tent to take on a solo hiking trip, get a 1-person ultralight hiking tent.
But if you want something more for general use, it might be wise to get a 2-person or even 3-person tent. What you need to consider is how many people are normally in your group when you go camping.
So as a general rule, go as small as you can while still being comfortable. To cut down on weight, some people shy away from traditional tents with poles in favor of pyramid shelters. These use a trekking pole as the main structure, which cuts weight and packed size by a lot.
Pole Structure, Setup And Weather Resistance
The number of poles you have, and how they form the structure of the tent, can be a major factor in buying a tent. More poles means heavier, always. Lightweight tents often use lighter materials in their poles, but all the same, having more will weigh you down more.
But don’t forget that poles are what give your tent its structure, and resistance to high winds. It would be unwise, for example, to get an ultralight tent with a skeletal pole structure for a high alpine expedition. Harsh conditions might blow your tent right over.
So, as always, finding the right item for you is about balance. Find something light, but never sacrifice stability when you need it.
The other factor to consider with poles is how easy they are to set up. If you’re setting up camp in heavy rain, your goal is to get your tent up as quickly as possible.
When shopping for a tent, many manufacturers will make videos demonstrating how to set up their product. It’s a good idea to check these out, so you can get an idea of how long it will take you to go from “out in the elements” to “sheltered and warm.”
Waterproofing And Ventilation
Waterproofing is the main thing to consider when looking at materials. There are two main factors that affect how waterproof a tent is: the type of material used, and the number of layers.
The material most often used in tent walls is nylon. The thinner the fibers in the nylon, the more waterproof it is. This is often simplified down to a single number, called the “denier.”
Higher denier means sturdier, less waterproof fabric. Lower denier means a better waterproof rating, but less abrasion resistance.
As for layers, tents come in two basic kinds: single-walled and double-walled. Most people have used double-walled tents (or double skin tents) before. Double-walled tents have a main body, covered by a tent fly.
Single-walled tents (or single skin tents) simplify this design, using a single layer of thicker material as the tent body to keep the elements out.
This type of tent is more common for four-season use. While they are more waterproof, they have one downside: a lack of ventilation.
Whereas double-walled tents usually have a mesh inner wall, single-walled tents have very little mesh. So while they often perform better in cold, wet weather, single-walled tents don’t do as well in warm weather.
Gear storage is important on long-distance treks. If you’re carrying a lot, you need a way to keep it out of the elements. One common way of accomplishing this is adding either a vestibule or gear loft to a tent.
Vestibules add some weight, but are usually worth it. Gear lofts give you a little overhead storage for small items, and usually weigh very little. Keeping your gear dry is the whole point of having a tent in the first place.
The Helsport Ringstind Pro 2 is the best all-around lightweight tent on the market. On a budget, the Naturehike Cloud Up will get the job done. Naturehike’s Backpacking Tent is the best 1-person ultralight hiking tent. For four-season adventures, The North Face Mountain 25 is a clear winner.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.