Choosing a lightweight solo tent is an exciting endeavor. By simply starting your search, you create within yourself a badass solo adventurer planning to cover some serious miles. There is nothing like crawling into your personal sanctuary at the end of a long day in a wild place, satisfied with the universe and your place in it.
Wait, I almost forgot, this post isn’t supposed to be poetic. This post is supposed to be brutally quantitative. There will be graphs! Bear with me for a second.
I know that 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 lightweight backpacking gear over the years, the intersection of low weight with affordable price has been my main focus.
So 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, I think you’re going to like this post. We’ll use a visual representation of solo tents arranged by price and weight, and broken out by features like freestanding and double wall construction, to deduce where the best value lies across a number of categories you might care about.
To start, here’s a table (in order of price) showing all the lightweight solo backpacking tents considered. You may need to swipe sideways to see the 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||$230||single||no||yes|
|REI Flash Air 1||20||$249||single||no||yes|
|Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker||28||$250||single||no||yes|
|Big Sky Soul||32||$250||double||yes||no|
|Tarptent Rainbow||35.5||$269||single||yes (with trekking poles)||no (only for freestanding)|
|Gossamer Gear The One||18||$299||single||no||yes|
|NEMO Hornet 1||26||$330||double||no||no|
|MSR Hubba NX 1||39||$380||double||yes||no|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1||34||$380||double||yes||no|
|MLD Solomid plus Silnylon Innernet||24||$420||double||no||yes|
|Zpacks Hexamid solo||10.4||$424||single||no||yes|
|Zpacks Hexamid solo with bathtub floor||14.3||$499||single||no||yes|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 Platinum||23||$500||double||no||no|
|Tarptent Aeon Li||15.8||$535||single||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.
Before we get to the exciting part – the graphs showing how these lightweight solo tents stack up in terms of price versus weight – let’s briefly review the design features in the above table.
Features to Consider
When choosing a lightweight tent, you’ll need to make a few critical choices about design and construction.
Double Wall or Single Wall
A double wall tent is the traditional design with a 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. 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 also excellent for bikepacking and bicycle touring, where it’s not unusual to end up pitching your tent 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 only 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.
Of course, not all tents are equal when it comes to quality, durability, and comfort. Though the rest of this post will focus on the big factors of weight and cost, keep an eye out for secondary considerations like living space, headroom, vestibules, durability, stability in wind, and ease of setup.
Lightweight Solo Tents by Price vs. Weight
Now for the fun part! I’m going to throw some charts at you. If you’re not into charts, don’t worry, I’ll break down all the important conclusions below.
If you are into charts, this one shows the most popular models of lightweight solo tents (as of early 2021) arranged by both price and weight:
Apologies for some of the labels running together. If you can’t read them, the one to the right of Big Agnes Copper Spur is the MSR Hubba, and the one to the right of Six Moon Designs Skyscape is the Big Sky Soul.
Shoutout to scatterplot.online, the only tool I could find that didn’t make this process a massive headache. Thanks folks!
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 orange, non-freestanding are blue
- Double wall tents are the big dots, single wall tents are the little dots
How Tent Features Affect Weight and Cost
If you squint at this chart for a little while, you can visually understand how tent features impact weight and cost. For example:
- All other things being equal, very lightweight tents are more expensive than heavier tents. You can see that the bottom-left quadrant is empty. This is where the magic super-lightweight and super-cheap unicorn tent would live, if it existed, which it sadly does not.
- Freestanding tents (the orange dots) tend to be heavier – further to the right on the chart – than non-freestanding tents (blue dots). This makes sense because they require a more robust pole structure.
- The lightest shelters – farthest to the left – are all single wall (small dots) while the double wall tents (big dots) range from middle to heavier. Keep in mind though, these are all still relatively lightweight tents, even the double wall options.
Standout Lightweight 1 Person Tents
Now, the exciting part: using this chart to narrow down options for the ideal lightweight solo backpacking tent. These winners are easy to spot just by looking for the left-most / bottom-most dots of each color and size.
Most Affordable Lightweight Solo Tents
Of all the tents compared, these options are the most affordable (closest to the bottom of the chart) in their respective categories.
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.
Lightest Weight Solo Backpacking Tents
These highlighted tents are the lightest of the lightweight (farthest left on the chart) within their respective categories.
Lightest Solo Tent – Overall: Zpacks Hexamid Solo
Though not cheap, the Zpacks Hexamid Solo is the lightest of the lightweight solo tents. Weighing in at just over 10 oz, this incredible single wall shelter pitches with a single trekking pole or substitute tent pole. The Hexamid was developed back in 2009 and remains a tried-and-tested classic lightweight backpacking tent.
Note that while the Hexamid is fully enclosed with mesh, the 10 oz version does not include a waterproof floor, so you’ll need to use a ground sheet or add the bathtub floor for $74 and 4 oz. Even with this addition, the Hexamid still stands out as the lightest fully enclosed watertight tent on this chart.
Lightest Solo Tent – Double Wall: Big Agnes Fly Creek 1
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 Platinum is the lightest double wall solo tent on the chart. Though Big Agnes is a larger brand compared to many of the small specialized lightweight tent makers, they have a good reputation for quality and their lightweight tents are very popular with backpackers. The Fly Creek has a simple pitch that’s mostly supported by tent poles, requiring only two stakes at bare minimum, and no trekking poles.
Lightest Solo Tent – Double Wall (runner up): MLD Solomid with Innernet
Though just a smidge heavier than the Fly Creek, the Solomid from Mountain Laurel Designs is considerably cheaper and therefore also worth a mention as a great value lightweight tent (and it’s even double wall!). The pyramid design pitches with a single trekking pole, which makes it rather different than the Fly Creek in design and ideal use case.
To count as a fully enclosed tent, the Solomid requires the detachable Innernet as well. You can save one more ounce by going with the DCF net floor, but Silnylon is the best value.
Lightest Solo Tent – Under $300: Gossamer Gear The One
Gossamer Gear The One is a lightweight single wall tent with a surprisingly affordable price, making it one of the best value solo lightweight tents available. It pitches with two trekking poles or substitute tent poles and comes with the assurance of a well-established lightweight gear company.
Freestanding Lightweight Solo Tents
If you want a backpacking tent that can also work for travel and bikepacking, or just don’t like messing with tent stakes, a freestanding tent might be for you. These tents can be pitched completely – at least the living area, not necessarily the vestibules – with zero stakes or trekking poles. You can pitch them on gravel, granite, concrete, or even indoors for privacy or mosquito protection when traveling.
Lightest Freestanding Solo Tent AND Cheapest Freestanding Solo Tent: Big Sky Soul
The Big Sky Soul is a uniquely designed lightweight, 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.
I’ve used the Big Sky Soul extensively for backpacking, bikepacking, and adventurous travel and recommend it highly (detailed review here). It’s a versatile do-it-all shelter at a very reasonable weight and for a very reasonable price.
Most Affordable Freestanding Solo Tent (runner up): Tarptent Rainbow
The Tarptent Rainbow isn’t quite as light or as cheap as the Big Sky Soul, but it’s worth a mention for its interesting hybrid freestanding 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.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tents
They may not be the very cheapest or very lightest, but if you’re looking for the best-value lightweight solo tent for your money, these tents stand out along the lower-left edge of the price vs. weight graph.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tent: REI Flash Air 1
The REI Flash Air 1 is surprisingly affordable for its weight, or surprisingly light for its price. Either way you look at it, it’s 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.
Best Value Lightweight Solo Tent (runner up): Gossamer Gear The One
Already mentioned above as the lightest solo tent under $300 (just barely), the Gossamer Gear The One stands out as an excellent balance of low weight and affordable price. It pitches with two trekking poles or substitute tent poles and comes with the assurance of a well-established lightweight gear company.
Trekking Pole Solo Tents
For hikers who care about trekking pole integration, here’s one last set section to help you find the best trekking pole and non-trekking pole solo tents.
In the chart above I used big dots to represent double wall vs. single wall. Now here’s the same chart, but with big dots showing tents that use trekking poles to pitch.
A few things to notice: all the lightest tents (farthest left) across all price ranges are trekking pole supported (big dots), which is unsurprising since that means tent pole weight isn’t included. Also unsurprisingly, freestanding tents (the orange dots) tend to not use trekking poles because their structure comes from dedicated tent poles.
It’s important to note that you can usually buy substitute tent poles if you don’t hike with trekking poles, turning most of the trekking pole tents into non-trekking pole tents for a bit more money and weight.
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.
More Lightweight Backpacking Resources
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