There is an exceptional and LIGHT tent here for every type of backpacker. But you’ll need to choose carefully to get the perfect tent for you at the right price! This guide to the Best Lightweight Backpacking Tents will help you do just that. We divide backpacking tents into 5 basic categories of features, weight and price. This makes it much faster and easier for you to find a fantastic backpacking tent at the right price that has the features that matter the most to YOU.
The Big Three: tent, backpack & sleeping bag are expensive. The Free Three can shave tons of pack weight without spending a dime.
The 2020 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent is our #1 pick for an all around, 2 person ultralight backpacking tent. Find out why in this review!
The Durston X-Mid 2P Tent is a great 2-person tent with a winning combination of low cost, low weight, a ton of livable area & great storm performance
Here are the best inexpensive 2 Person Tents (some in the $100-$150 range) that are light enough for backpacking, while being comfortable enough for more luxurious car camping outings.
The 1.9 lb REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent is an exceptionally light user-friendly, 2-person ultralight tent that’s also a great value.
The SingFin Portal 2 is a significant tent! At less than 3 pounds, it may be the lightest, 2-person tent that can handle four-season conditions. As such, it adds a margin of safety and protection that most 3-season tents can’t provide.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa Fanny Pack is an ultralight way to make key gear quickly accessible on the trail without having to take your pack off. it makes a great catch-all for the day’s trail food, maps, sunscreen, lip balm, iphone anything else that you want to quickly grab while walking. And it makes an excellent small fanny for minimal day hikes.
At a scant 1.8 pounds the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Tent is a serious contender for the title of “strongest, lightest and most storm-worthy backpacking tent” on the market.
The new Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 2 Carbon with Dyneema tent pictured above weighs just 1 lb 2 oz for a two-person, freestanding, double-walled tent with a full pole set! No trekking poles required. The incredibly popular, roomy and livable Tiger Walls series drops to 1.5 pounds with the new Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon with Dyneema! And finally, the Big Agnes Scout 2 Carbon with Dyneema Tent is less than ¾ pounds. These are just a few of the new and very light tents that Big Agnes announced for Spring of ’19 at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show this month.
Be sure to checkout or Guide to:
- Best Backpacking Tent 2020 | Lightweight & Ultralight for a full selection of our top picks for the best tents for 2020, including some interesting Dyneema Tent options including some sub 1 pound Dyneema tents with a whopping 64 ft2 area about double the area of most 2-4 pound ultralight backpacking tents.
What you need to know about Big Agnes Tent Models – new Carbon With Dyneema vs. Platinum vs. Classic UL
Big Agnes now has 3 versions for most of their lightest tents. In order of heaviest to lightest they are the Classic UL, Platinum and the new Carbon With Dyneema version. This post clearly explains the major differences Big Agnes’ three lines of tents Classic UL vs. Platinum vs. Carbon With Dyneema as well as discussing the the pros, cons and cautions for each of three versions. This should help buyers make an informed choice. In summary:
- Classic UL uses 20d nylon fabric and aluminum poles. The least expensive and likely the most durable.
- Platinum uses much lighter and more delicate 7d fabric for the fly and floor and the same aluminum poles. This saves ~¼ pound for a 2-person tent and has a modest price increase.
- Carbon with Dyneema uses uber-tech Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) lighter carbon fiber poles. This saves ~½ pound or 30% for a 2-person tent but has a substantial price increase! [note: fly fabric is 0.34 oz/yd2 DCF and the floor is 0.51 oz/yd2 DCF]
Big Agnes Tent – Carbon with Dyneema Version
Big Agnes, known for making some of the lightest backpacking tents, shaved even more weight from their lightest models. For spring of 2019 their “Carbon Collection” includes:
- 1 lb 14 oz (850g): Tiger Wall 2 Carbon with Dyneema Tent. That’s a 30% reduction in weight vs. the “classic” Tiger Wall Tent. My guess is that this tent will be the big seller in this lineup for its more spacious interior and a door for each person.
- 1 lb 2 oz (501g): Fly Creek HV 2 Carbon with Dyneema (lead photo for this post). This is an astonishing weight for a 2-person, double-walled, free-standing tent that does not rely on trekking poles! (Note that this shelter is snugger than the Tiger Wall and has a single door).
- 11 oz (312g): Scout 2 Carbon with Dyneema. That’s under a pound for a 2-person shelter with 27 ft2 of floor area! (Albeit it requires use of trekking poles, and it is a single door, single walled shelter that is more prone to condensation than the double walled versions above.)
The obvious omission in the Carbon Collection lineup are the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL series tents, the former mainstay of Big Agnes’ Ultralight tents. This is almost certainly due to the immense popularity of the new Big Agnes Tiger Wall tents.
Note: Durability these lighter tents, Platinum and Carbon with Dyneema Tents may hinge on a suitable footprint / groundsheet. Read more on this important topic below, including an extremely light $9 footprint hack.
In summary, Big Agnes now has 3 levels of weight and price for the same tent. These are from heaviest to lightest: Classic UL, Platinum and new for Spring ‘16 Carbon with Dyneema. The major reasons for lower weight and higher cost are included below using the Tiger Wall 2-person tent as an example:
- 2 lb 3 oz (992g) $400 for Classic UL version, theTiger Wall UL2 which uses 20d nylon fabric and aluminum poles
- 1 lb 15 oz (878g) $550 for the new Platinum version that uses a much lighter 7d for the fly and floor and aluminum poles
- 1 lb 9 oz (709g) $1,000 for the Carbon with Dyneema version that uses uber-tech Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) lighter carbon fiber poles. [fly fabric is 0.34 oz/yd2 DCF and the floor is 0.51 oz/yd2 DCF]
For 2019 the Fly Creek HV, Tiger Wall and Scout tents will be available in both Platinum and Carbon with Dyneema versions. In addition, the Copper Spur tents will be available in Platinum but not in Carbon with Dyneema.
Classic UL vs. Platinum vs. Carbon With Dyneema – Pros, Cons and Cautions
Classic UL – These tents are already among the lightest conventional, double-walled free-standing tents on the markets. While the lowest cost of the three lines they are still among some of pricier tents on the market due to their light weight. The 20d fabric used for the rainfly and wall/floor of the tent is likely the lightest fabric that will survive use by casual users (e.g. those people not experienced in the use and care of ultralight camping gear.) This fabric will likely remain waterproof and undamaged for a number of seasons of use, especially if you use a Big Agnes Footprint or a $9 Gossamer Gear Polycro Footprint under it.
Platinum – These tents use a much lighter 7d fabric used for the rainfly and wall/floor. This saves about 4 oz (¼ pound) and increases the price a few hundred dollars. And unless you are sleeping on nice soft grass, it almost requires you use a Big Agnes Footprint or a $9 Gossamer Gear Polycro Footprint under it. In addition, the lighter fabric requires that you use more care operating zippers, pitching and un-pitching the tent, etc to keep from damaging the fabric.
Carbon with Dyneema – These tents use uber-tech Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) for the rainfly and wall/floor and carbon fiber (vs. aluminum) poles to save ~1/2 lb or 30% vs a UL Classic Tent. DCF incredibly strong and waterproof and light. In addition, it’s stiff and has very low stretch when wet making it ideal for use in shelters. That is, DCF does not sag when wet fabric and you don’t need to re-tension the the tent in the rain. Downsides for DCF is that it is insane expensive and has only OK abrasion and puncture resistance.
In summary, the Carbon with Dyneema has clear advantages over the Classic UL version for its lighter weight and stiffer lower stretch fabric. It will be up to individuals to determine if those advantages are worth the significant increase in price. The advantages of the Platinum version vs. the Classic UL version are less clear.
Success of these tents may well rely on what BA puts under the floor to protect the more delicate DCF fabric tent floor. As of this writing BA has not revealed the weight and type of footprints that will be available for Carbon Collection tents. A too heavy footprint could negate much of the weight savings (right now a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Footprint weighs 6 oz and cost $70). On the other hand, not using a footprint could quickly damage your floor if you are not careful and/or experienced at campsite selection.
Use an off-the-shelf Polycro Footprint
The good news is you don’t need to wait for BA to solve this problem. To protect the floor of these very light tents, I would recommend putting a $9 Gossamer Gear Polycro Footprint under it. This multilayer, cross-linked polyolefin film weighs less than 4 oz and is much stronger and more durable than the typical painters plastic sheet you’d get at a hardware store. It’s also ~ 1/2 the weight and 12% the cost of a Big Agnes footprint. It should last for weeks of use. When it starts to wear it can easily be replaced by another $9 footprint.
Durability Verdict Not in for Big Agnes Carbon with Dyneema and Platinum Tents
Finally, neither the Big Agnes Platinum Tents (only a few models out last year), and the Big Agnes Carbon with Dyneema Tents (not due until Spring ’19) have had sufficient field testing to determine their long term durability and waterproofness. It will be interesting to hear the feedback from consummate backpackers & thru-hikers that use these shelters for weeks or months on end vs. the casual weekend backpacker.
DCF has been used for years by cottage manufactures for Tarps and Pyramid shelters, and even floors on Bivy Sacks. I own and love many of these shelters. They have been all over the world with me from Patagonia to Alaska. But none of these simple DCF shelters are tents with their complex of poles and multitude of panels and seams. By making complex tents with DCF, BA is entering uncharted territory. To give BA the benefit of the doubt, they have been one of the most successful manufactures of very light tents. As such, I wish them continued success with their new Carbon with Dyneema tents. I look forward to testing the Tiger Wall 2 Carbon with Dyneema as soon as it is available.
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Disclaimer: Posts on this site contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products I review. Unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, reviews express my own independent opinion.