Recommended Tents and Tarptents

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A two-pound TarpTent on the Alaskan tundra

A two-pound TarpTent on the Alaskan tundra

  1. Look at The tents and shelters listed in my 9 pound gear list. It has recommended Tents and TarpTents in the “Sleeping Gear and Tent/Shelter” section.
  2. And then take a look at the recommended Tents and Tarp Tents below.


Here are a few suggestions for Tents and TarpTents


Mountain Hardware Direkt 2 Tent – $550 at REI

This is one of the lightest freestanding four-season tents on the market. While it’s made for fast and light alpine climbing, it could be just as good for fast and light… anything. At least anything where you need to stay out in crazy conditions safely! This tent can be staked out to handle huge winds, and is more comfortable, lighter, and stronger than the previous best-in-class alpine tent: Black Diamond’s FirstLight.


REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent – $300 at REI

Okay, not everyone needs a siege-proof alpine four-season beast of a tent. REI’s long-time favorite Quarter Dome Tent is a great option for those looking for a reasonably priced lightweight free-standing backpacking tent. If ultralight tarps seem too daunting, this will still help you cut weight, weighing just over 3 lbs, but the Quarter Dome remains comfortable with ample head room, and plenty of space for two backpackers. The increased room/livability from extremely vertical walls is what sets tent apart from most of its peers.


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 Tent – $450 at REI

If you want to cut a little weight, but keep lots of space, Big Agnes has you covered with the high volume version of their Copper Spur UL 2 freestanding tent. It comes in at 2 lb. 12 oz on the trail, and can be pitched even lighter using just the fly. This is one of the most spacious 2-person tents out there, which is great if you are going to be stuck in your tent playing cards for a while in bad weather, or just prefer highly livable tents.


Tarptent Notch 1-Person Shelter – $285

Tarptent has been around for ages with a great reputation in the lightweight backpacking community. As the name suggests it combines the best aspects of a tent and tarp. That is, low weight combined with a fully waterproof floor and mosquito protection. The Notch is a great 1-person shelter, that sets up with two trekking poles, and includes a full inner bug netting and a bathtub floor. The Notch will keep you and your stuff dry in a rain storm, and there is ample headroom to sit up and wait out the foul weather from dry comfort inside! The shelter weighs in at 27 oz, which is a fair bit lighter than even the lightest free-standing tents!


Tarptent MoTrail 2-Person Shelter – $259

This is a light shelter with plenty of room for two to sit up side by side and eat dinner looking at the view. This Tarptent MoTrail is more like a traditional tarp setup with a ridgeline held by two trekking poles in the long direction of the tarp. The tarp has a mesh inner, and a Silnylon outer with a Silnylon tub floor to keep you dry even in a total downpour. Inside is space for two people to sleep comfortably without a trekking pole between them. At 36 oz, it’s just over 1lb/person, and it’s less expensive than the 1-person shelters like the Tarptent Notch or MLD Solomid!

The following Pyramids are fully storm worthy shelters

All can be ordered with an Inner Nest if you need a floor and bug netting


Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid XL – $365

This is the pyramid shelter against which all others are measured. These have been used by thru hikers on the longest treks, deep in the wilderness of Alaska, on glaciers and high peaks, and even occasionally as car-camping tents! The design is flexible, durable, functional, livable, and light at 21 oz for the SilNylon version. It can withstand serious storms, and open up on nice nights. It is spacious and comfortable for two backpackers and their gear. Of course, for the gram counters, this tarp also comes in the much lighter cuben fiber (Dyneema composite fabric) version, weighing in at 16 oz even, and costing about $700 depending on the color of fabric used. Note Asym design: one of the few ‘Mids that allows a couple to sleep side-by side without a center pole between them.


Mountain Laurel Designs SOLOMID XL 4.5′ X 9.2′ – $265

This is the upgraded version of the shelter Andrew Skurka took on his epic Alaska-Yukon Expedition. It’s a 1-person version of the Duomid with all the same great features, but it’s lighter and less expensive! It fits 1-person with ample room for gear. This SilNylon version comes in at just over a pound (17 oz). The Cuben fiber (Dyneema composite fabric) is a svelte 12 oz, but costs $465. For such a versatile, lightweight shelter, it’s a bargain! Note: new 2017 Asym, single pole design with 70% of the user space behind the one center pole and the front 30% functions as a vestibule. This offset design allows entry and exit in rainy conditions to help keep the sleep side of the shelter dry like the DuoMid XL design.

8 replies
  1. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    This is exciting and timely news! I will try as you suggest. One thing is I with there were fly guyline tieouts beyond the two Apex line locks. Yes I can add my own to secure the two apexes but as MLD has done perhaps some reinforce tieouts for the fly would be handy to address high winds. For now I must rely on 4 pegs, 2 apexes, 4 fly edge ties really only for edge control not full wind control. I have my stakes at the ready and will test this weekend. I really want to rely on this little tent as it is so promising but I fo not want to worry about shelter collapse just because the wind picked up or changed direction in the middle of the night! Yes good site selection is to be considered but I don’t want a new tent that cannot handle what my MSR Hubba NX could just to save 12 oz. I know that’s a lot of ounces. Looking forward to your thoughts. By the way my base pack is now down to 14.5 lbs thanks to you! Some luxuries I am still not willing to part with. The best news recently is I ditched my 50oz hiking boots for some 11.5 Salomon shoes with built in gaiters! What a weight saving exercise that was!

    Thank you very much.

  2. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    I have just purchased the Tarptent Notch 2018 version. I would like to know your thoughts about the new fly which no longer uses zippers but rather two lengths of Velcro and a metal clip system to hold the doors closed. Wondering if this is actually enough in foul weather as they may blow open. Secondly I am wondering how you rate this shelter in winds regarding guy lines. Yes picking the right site is key but guy lines are critical. I know both apexes have a line lock to guy out from but I notice that the fly does not have guy lines tie outs such as you might find on the MSR Hubba NX. Looking forward to your thoughts as I am field testing and plan to get back in touch with Tarptent soon with my conclusions.

    Thank you as always.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Stay tuned. My 2018 TarpTent Notch arrived a few days ago. I will begin field testing it in the next few weeks. For now, when in an unprotected area, solidly staking out the windward guylines with will planted Y-stakes like MSR Groundhogs is your best option. Some panels are small and windshedding enough not to warrant/need their own mid-panel tie outs. And usually vertical trekking pole, pyramid style shelters (the Notch is one) are inherently more stable in the wind vs. many 3-season tents with poles like the MSR Hubba Hubba. Finally, I would not be too worried about a zipper vs. velcro. More later. Best, -alan

  3. Nico
    Nico says:

    Hi Alan! For the MLD Shelters, did you choose sil or dyneema to take with you to Patagonia? And what do you prefer? I didn’t seem to find an answer on the website. I’m hoping to get a Duomid XL, but now I’m stuck between sil and dyneema. Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Nico, if you can afford the DCF go for it. It’s what Alison and I use now. It’s lighter, stonger, doesn’t stretch when wet. That being said, the Silnylon one is perfectly adequate and is in fact what we used when we did the TdP trek in Patagonia. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

      • Nico
        Nico says:

        Thanks for the input Alan and Alison! We’re making a few optimizations in our gear to lighten up and it looks like it’s time to press the buy now button on this mid for the windier, wetter and cooler conditions expected in our next trip.

        This would mostly complete our system of 4 types of shelters for the current and future conditions we plan to travel/backpack in: an economical (not ultralight) tent for casual trips/campgrounds, tarp (for multiday backpacking), hammock (if trees are available), and a mid (multiday backpacking + environmental factors).

  4. Jake
    Jake says:

    The BA UL2 seems like the thin floor is flawed and customer service isn’t quick, would you consider using a blue tarp instead of the footprint that’s available? Would there be other options or considerations when addressing the lack of durability in the floor, based on a review?


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