Choosing a lightweight solo tent is an exciting endeavor. There’s nothing quite like crawling into your personal sanctuary at the end of a long day in a wild place, feeling simultaneously small and vulnerable and totally badass.
Wait, I almost forgot, this isn’t supposed to be poetic. It’s supposed to be brutally quantitative! There will be charts! Bear with me for a moment.
For many backpackers, myself included, weight and cost are the two biggest factors when choosing a lightweight tent. As I’ve built up my own collection of favorite backpacking gear over the years, the intersection of low weight with affordable price has been my main focus.
To help other backpackers sort through the dozens of options for lightweight 1-person tents, I decided to get nerdy and make some graphs. If you don’t like graphs, wait, don’t run away! I’ll explain all the important conclusions in words too.
And if you do like graphs, and you also like lightweight backpacking, you’re going to love this article. I’ll use a visual representation of solo tents arranged by price and weight, broken out by features like freestanding and double wall construction, to help you find the best value across a number of categories you might care about.
Below is a table (in order of price) showing all the lightweight 1 person backpacking tents considered in this post. It’s been updated as of January 2022 because, as you probably know, prices have gone up and some models are out of stock.
You may need to swipe sideways to see this entire table on a smartphone screen.
|Model||Weight (oz)||Price||Wall Type||Freestanding||Uses Trekking Poles|
|Dan Durston X-Mid 1||27.9||$220||double||no||yes|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo||26||$250||single||no||yes|
|Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker||28||$270||single||no||yes|
|REI Flash Air 1||20||$279||single||no||yes|
|Tarptent Rainbow||35.5||$279||single||yes (with trekking poles)||yes (only for freestanding)|
|Big Sky Soul||32||$280||double||yes||no|
|Gossamer Gear The One||18||$299||single||no||yes|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1||34||$400||double||yes||no|
|MLD Solomid + Innernet (Silnylon)||27||$455||double||no||yes|
|Tarptent ProTrail Li||17.7||$529||single||no||yes|
|Tarptent Aeon Li||15.8||$569||single||no||yes|
|Zpacks Plex Solo||13.9||$599||single||no||yes|
|Zpacks Hexamid solo + bathtub floor||14.3||$649||single||no||yes|
|Tarptent Rainbow Li||24.1||$649||single||yes (with trekking poles)||yes (only for freestanding)|
|MLD Solomid + Innernet (DCF)||24||$805||double||no||yes|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 + half insert||32.8||$1040||double||no||yes|
To keep this list manageable, I drew the “lightweight” line at around 40 oz or so. Of course you could apply the same reasoning to slightly heavier tents to see how they compare.
I’ve defined “tent” for purposes of this list as a fully enclosed pole-supported structure, big enough to sit up in, with waterproof floor and rain fly. It might be double wall or single wall, or some creative combination of net tent and rain tarp, but it can’t be a bivy or a standalone tarp.
Now for the fun part! This chart shows popular models of lightweight solo tents as of Jan 2022 arranged by both price and weight (click to enlarge):
How to Read This Chart
If that looks like a lot to decipher, here’s a quick guide:
- Lightest tents are on the left, heaviest on the right
- Cheapest tents are at the bottom, most expensive at the top
- Freestanding tents are shown by triangles, non-freestanding are circles
- Double wall tents are shown in blue, single wall tents are orange
Note: Tents costing above $700 have been left off the chart to improve readability. These outliers are still included in the table above in case you’re interested, but they’re no lighter than the lightest of the sub-$700 tents and they definitely don’t win any prizes for affordability.
Types of Lightweight Solo Tents
When choosing a lightweight solo tent, you’ll need to make a few critical choices about design and construction. These choices have a lot to do with where a tent shows up on the price-weight chart, so let’s briefly review.
Double Wall or Single Wall
A double wall tent has a bug-proof mesh inner and separate waterproof rainfly. Double wall tents are often a bit sturdier, easier to keep dry in bad weather, and have fewer issues with condensation building up inside and running onto your sleeping area. They’re almost more flexible; you can set up just the mesh inner in dry weather, or just the rain fly as a tarp. The downside: they are heavier, all other factors being equal.
Single wall tents use just one layer of waterproof fabric for weather protection and incorporate some areas of mesh for ventilation. They tend to collect condensation on the inside which can make them a bit drippy, and depending on design they may not offer robust protection in stormy weather. Their primary advantage is lighter weight.
Freestanding or Stakes Required
A freestanding tent can be pitched without stakes; the tent poles themselves provide the necessary structure for the walls and corners. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re camping on granite slabs in the Sierra Nevada you’ll certainly appreciate it.
Freestanding tents are excellent for bikepacking and bicycle touring, where it’s not unusual to set up on gravel, concrete, or even inside a building, inhabited or abandoned. Note that even when a tent is considered freestanding, its vestibule(s) may still require stakes but the living area will not.
The downside to freestanding tents: they tend to be heavier because they require a more complex pole setup to provide enough structure.
Trekking Poles or Dedicated Tent Poles
Most single wall lightweight tents incorporate one or two trekking poles into their pitch in lieu of dedicated tent poles. If you’re a backpacker who hikes with trekking poles already, this creative solution saves weight and bulk. Trekking pole shelters can be a bit fussier to set up and are never freestanding, but they are the lightest tents available.
If you’re a bikepacker or don’t hike with trekking poles, you can usually buy substitute tent poles instead, but you’ll be giving up some of the weight savings from the trekking pole design.
Other Qualitative Factors
Of course, not all tents are equal when it comes to quality, durability, and comfort. The rest of this post will focus on the big quantitative factors of weight and cost, but qualitative factors have a huge impact too.
As you research lightweight 1 person tents, think about considerations like living space, headroom, vestibules, durability, stability in wind, and ease of setup. There may also be other nuances to price and value. For example, some tents come with seams already sealed and others charge extra for the service (or you can do it yourself).
Most Affordable Lightweight Solo Tents
Now let’s get down to specifics. Using the chart above, it’s easy to spot the cheapest solo tents because they’re closest to the bottom:
Most affordable lightweight solo tent – overall: Dan Durston X-Mid 1
The Dan Durston X-Mid 1 is unusual in several ways. It’s a rare example of a double wall trekking pole-supported tent (most are single wall) with a unique roomy shape and surprisingly affordable price. This relative newcomer to the lightweight tent scene is designed by an experienced lightweight backpacker and seems to be acquiring a growing list of fans. It’s the most affordable lightweight solo tent in this list, as well as the most affordable double wall shelter.
Most affordable lightweight solo tent – single wall: Tarptent ProTrail
Just a hair lighter and a tad more expensive than the Dan Durston, the Tarptent ProTrail is the most affordable single wall tent on this list. It pitches with two adjustable trekking poles, or the option of substitute tent poles. Tarptent is one of the original and most beloved makers of lightweight backpacking tents – they launched back in 2002! I’ve used their Double Rainbow for years and can personally vouch for its quality and value.
To be fair, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is only $11 more expensive than the ProTrail and a couple ounces heavier. Its design is very different – most notably, it has a lot more headroom – so check it out too if you’re after a bargain lightweight 1 person tent.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tents
All other things being equal, very lightweight tents are more expensive than heavier tents. You can see that the bottom-left quadrant of the chart is pretty sparse. This is where the magic super-lightweight and super-cheap unicorn tent would live, if it existed.
If you’re looking for an ultralight solo tent on a limited budget, the tents closest to the bottom-left of the chart offer the best balance of low cost and light weight. They may not be the very cheapest or the very lightest, but we can safely call them an excellent value for those who prioritize cutting weight from their pack.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tent: Gossamer Gear The One
As the lightest solo tent under $300 (just barely), the Gossamer Gear The One stands out as an excellent balance of light weight and affordable price. In fact, it’s also the lightest tent under $500, which is another way of saying you have to pay quite a bit more to get something lighter. It pitches with two trekking poles or substitute tent poles and comes with the assurance of a well-established lightweight gear company.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tent (runner up): REI Flash Air 1
The REI Flash Air 1 is surprisingly affordable for its weight, or surprisingly light for its price. At 2 ounces heavier and $20 cheaper than The One, the Flash Air is one of the best value lightweight solo tents on the market. It’s a single wall design that pitches with one trekking pole or a substitute tent pole. Some reviewers mention the ventilation isn’t great, which might make this tent less of a standout in humid climates.
Freestanding Lightweight Solo Tents
Most lightweight and ultralight backpackers are happy to use a trekking pole supported tent. The clever design saves a bit of weight and bulk by making use of the poles most hikers already carry anyway.
If you don’t hike with poles or want a more flexible tent for bikepacking or travel, a freestanding tent is for you. These tents can be pitched completely – at least the living area, not necessarily the vestibules – with zero stakes or trekking poles. This means you can pitch them on gravel, granite, concrete, or even indoors for privacy or mosquito protection when traveling.
Before I list the best value freestanding tents, here’s a version of the chart with them highlighted so you can see for yourself:
Best Value Freestanding Solo Tent: Big Sky Soul
The Big Sky Soul is a uniquely designed lightweight and completely freestanding solo tent. Two foldable poles cross in the middle and extend beyond the door, so that even the vestibule is freestanding – unlike any other freestanding tent I’m aware of. Its double wall design is very flexible; you can use the inner or outer alone, or both in combination.
I’ve used the Big Sky Soul extensively for backpacking, bikepacking, and adventurous travel and recommend it highly (see my detailed review here). It’s a versatile do-it-all shelter at a very reasonable weight and for a very reasonable price.
Best Value Freestanding Solo Tent (runner up): Tarptent Rainbow
The Tarptent Rainbow isn’t quite as light as the Big Sky Soul, and it isn’t technically freestanding unless you have trekking poles, but it’s worth a mention for its interesting hybrid design. The four corners can be staked out for a no-trekking-poles-needed pitch, or attached to either end of trekking poles or substitute tent poles for a freestanding pitch (minus vestibules).
This makes the Rainbow a flexible option that can readily adapt to different activities or regions. If you backpack with trekking poles in areas with rocky ground, the Rainbow allows you to pitch freestanding when needed or stake when it’s easy.
I first started backpacking with a Tarptent Double Rainbow (with my husband) which is a very similar design, and highly recommend it. It’s lasted many years, is still in great condition, and performs well.
Double Wall Lightweight Solo Tents
Though single wall shelters can work quite well, sometimes a double wall is more appropriate. In really humid climates, for example, the ventilation of a single wall shelter might not be adequate.
If you use your tent in a wide variety of climates, double wall designs offer more versatility. Set up the inner mesh alone for bug protection in hot climates and dry weather, or set up the waterproof outer alone as a tarp for quick rain protection, or set them both up together for a more typical situation.
If your heart is set on a double wall tent, here’s a version of the chart with double wall options highlighted:
Best Value Double Wall Solo Tent: Dan Durston X-Mid 1
If your heart is set on the flexibility of a double walled shelter, the unique design of the Dan Durston X-Mid 1 offers the best weight to price tradeoff. It also happens to be the cheapest of all the tents in the chart, breaking the usual rule of thumb that double walled shelters are more expensive.
Best Value Double Wall Freestanding Solo Tent: Big Sky Soul
If you want a double wall AND freestanding shelter for maximum versatility, the Big Sky Soul is the obvious choice and an excellent value. I’ve used mine extensively for backpacking, bikepacking, and adventurous travel and recommend it highly (see my detailed review here). It’s a versatile do-it-all shelter at a very reasonable weight and for a very reasonable price.
Lightest Solo Backpacking Tents
The lightest of the light, these ultralight solo tents live on the far left of the chart. They tend to also live near the top (most expensive), so consider them only if you care more about cutting ounces than saving dollars.
Lightest Solo Tent – Overall: Zpacks Plex Solo
Though not cheap, the Zpacks Plex Solo is the lightest of the lightweight solo tents. Weighing in at just under 14 oz, this incredible single wall shelter pitches with a single trekking pole or substitute tent pole and claims to be both roomy and functional.
The Plex is essentially a new and improved version of the Hexamid, a classic developed back in 2009, but with more headroom, an integrated floor, and lighter weight than the old Hexamid + bathtub floor combo.
Though Zpacks does dominate the ultralight category, it’s worth checking out the two ultralight solo tents by Tarptent as well: the Aeon Li and the ProTrail Li. Their different designs might appeal to some hikers and their position in the price-weight neighborhood is very similar.
Other Lightweight Solo Tents
I tried to include the most popular and innovative solo tents in this analysis, but the options change fast and I’m sure I missed a few. You can apply the same reasoning to any solo tent just by finding its position on the above graph based on price and weight. To make it a fair comparison, make sure you’re looking at fully enclosed tents; tarps are another topic for another time!
Also keep in mind, cost and weight tend to be the main focus when shopping for a new backpacking tent, but they’re not the only considerations. Read reviews and descriptions carefully to find a tent that’s durable, comfortable, and easy for you to use.
A carefully chosen solo tent should be a cozy haven at the end of a long day on the trail, so choose something you will love crawling into each night.
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