How to Choose a Minimalist Tent for Ultra-Light Camping

Minimalist Tents

If you are not familiar with the term, you may wonder just what ultralight camping is. Well, you are certainly not alone. Although this form of backpacking and camping has increased in popularity, not many people understand what it entails. The concept of ultralight camping is actually quite simple. It is basically taking as little as you possibly can when you hit the trails.

Since backpacking and camping became more commonplace, people have always carried rather heavy backpacks and gear. It is estimated that in these early years that the average pack could have easily weighed 20 kilos or more. Now, this is hardly surprising. After all, when you are headed out into the wilderness, you want to take as much with you as you can. This sentiment is amplified tenfold if you are going somewhere extremely remote, will be camping for several days, and the weather is cold.

Now another reason that campers carried so much all those decades ago was because they really didn’t have any other choice. Technology had not advanced enough for camping product companies to offer their target audience anything better. Therefore, even the most minimal packs weighed a considerable amount.

Not only is this form of camping require to carry a heavy load, it also can be quite unhealthy. This is because you are putting undue stress on various joints and your back. This is hardly the feeling that you want to take with you as you go camping.

Fortunately, science and technology have progressed, making ultralight camping possible for all. In a modern sense, ultralight camping can refer to packs that weigh 4.5 kilos or less. Now, this is not an easy feat to manage. One of the best ways to transfer over to ultralight camping is to replace your current camping gear. Now, of course, this can get quite pricey, especially since ultralight camping items often have a hefty price tag attached. Therefore, you should start with the big ticket items – the equipment that you really can’t live without. In this vein, we have decided to commence with minimalist tents that weigh as little as possible. Here is what you need to know about them:

Why Choose Minimalist Tents

Just looking at the cost of a minimalist tent can leave your wallet seriously hurting. Therefore, you may be wondering just why you should give up your trusty old tent and buy a new, lighter one. Well, don’t worry ultralight camping and by association, minimalist tents are not just a fad. There are many good reasons why getting one will change your camping experience for the better.

First off, there are the health benefits. Carrying a tent – and a backpack – that is lighter, will do wonders for your body. You are unlikely to suffer from discomfort, soreness, or worse long lasting physical effects. When you are carrying less with you, you can travel a greater distance, in a much shorter time. Therefore, if you are all about reaching a destination as soon as possible, minimal tents will certainly come in handy. Last but not least, there is that feeling of freedom when you are carrying a light load. There is a good chance that one of the main reasons that you go camping is to escape all of the shackles of daily life. This can be a little difficult to do when you are weighed down with packs that nearly match your body weight.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons that minimalist tents are a great decision. So, if it is the cost that you are concerned about, why not start saving up?

Types of Ultralight Tents

There are several types of ultralight tents. You will need to decide which one serves your purpose the best and opt for the one with the most appropriate features.

Double Walled Tents

These types of tents are best for wetter conditions. As the name insinuates, the tent is made up of two layers. The inner layer is protected by the outer rain fly. The purpose of this double walled feature is to protect campers from both external and internal moisture. The internal condensation evaporates through the inner layer and then forms on the rain fly. Not only are these tents quite easy to construct, they often come with specific flooring that prevents the inside of the tent from flooding. The Big Agnes brand offers some of the best options in this department. In particular, the Fly Creek HV UL tent weighing just 0.76kg and the Copper Spur HV UL weighing 1.04kg are ideal.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Backpacking Tent, Grey/Orange, 2 Person
  • AWARD-WINNING COMFORT - Based on the features of our best-selling, award-winning Copper Spur ultralight tents, the Copper Spur HV UL features a high volume pole architecture that creates steeper walls and a roomier living space, while maintaining all the strength and lightweight packability the Copper Spur series is famous for
  • A BETTER SHELTER - It's not all about the volume; 2 large, dual-zipper doors with discrete seams allow for easy entry and smooth closure while creating a clean, modern design; Dual vestibules provide a combined area of 18 sq ft for dry gear storage; All seams taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (No PVC or VOC's); Fly and floor are ultra-durable with 1200mm waterproof rating
  • ULTRALIGHT STRENGTH - 4-way, high-volume hub design increases strength by 25% and the useable interior volume by 20% compared to previous versions of the Copper Spur; Proprietary random rip-stop pattern nylon is 25% stronger, providing max durability; DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL pole system
  • BELLS & WHISTLES - Storm flaps on both vestibule zippers; Massive ceiling pocket provides loads of storage; 2 interior mesh pockets, 1 oversized mesh pocket with two cord-routing portals; 8 superlight aluminum J stakes; Media pockets above sleeping area enable clean earbud cord routing; Easy grip zipper pulls; Two-tone mesh provides privacy while allowing for star gazing transparency
  • WARRANTY & SPECS (2P) - All Big Agnes products are guaranteed against manufacturing or material defect; If replacement product is not available credit will be given for the original purchase price when returned with a receipt; To extent the life of your tent floor, we recommend using a Big Agnes tent footprint (sold separately); Trail weight: 2 lb 12 oz; Packed weight: 3 lb 1 oz; Packed size: 4 x 19.5 in; Head height: 40 in; Floor Area: 29 sq ft

Pyramid Tents

These tents don’t have a floor but the pyramid shape ensures that you are well protected on all four sides. The only exception is the side that consists of a door. The main benefit of a tent of this shape is that you are kept safe from strong winds. It also offers you a great deal of privacy and can even be used in winter. This is because the snow simply spills of the tent rather than accumulating. One of the lightest options available on the market is the Hyperlight Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 which weighs just 499 grams. Of course, this is quite small, even for just one person. If you are looking for something roomier, however, perhaps for two people, then the Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 is a better option.

Big Agnes Unisex Scout Plus 2 Person Tent Ash/Henna Tent One Size
  • Decrease of stake out points, designated pockets for the trekking poles, improved structure
  • Single wall tents designed to be used with trekking poles
  • Trekking poles fit into a specially designed pocket reinforced with durable materials to keep your tent body protected
  • Stabilizer loop at front door keeps pole in position
  • Built in cargo pockets

A-Frame Tents

These are a bit similar to pyramid tents except these type of tents are often stretched out a little more. These are great at protecting campers from winds and rain. They also usually come equipped with bathtub floors and inner tents so it helps to keep water out. On average, you can also expect the A-frame tents to be even lighter than pyramid tents. If you want to keep things as light as possible, you can opt for the cuben fiber version of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II tent which weighs just 201 grams. Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo is better suited if you want a more spacious tent.

Eureka! Timberline 3-Season 2-Person Backpacking Tent
  • The Timberline 3-season, 2-person backpacking tent helps you stay comfortable and dry in spring, summer, and fall.
  • With shock-corded eaves to increase stability and absorb wind stress, the Timberline is perfect for camping near the tree line.
  • Hooded front and rear flies and a rear window help maximize air flow and protect you from the elements.
  • The freestanding 5-pole A-frame sets up in minutes, with shock-corded poles, clips, junction tubes, and ring-and-pin assemblies.
  • This tent weighs 5 pounds 13 ounces, has a pack size of 6 by 24 inches, and a floor area of 36 square feet; includes tent and poles.

Flat Tarps

Flat tarps are the most simplistic design of all tents. They tend to have a rectangular or square-ish shape. However, these can be set up in a variety of ways. Of course, these can be unpopular due to the fact that they don’t really offer much protection from the elements and don’t have floors. There is no denying that they are incredibly light, nonetheless. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp weighs just 289 grams. Then you have the super light Z Packs flat tarps that are exclusively made from cuben material. The smallest tent (1.8 x 2.7m) weighs only 162g. The weight of the largest size (2.6 x 3.4m) is 232 grams.

Sanctuary SilTarp - Ultralight and Waterproof Ripstop Silnylon Rain Shelter Tarp, Guy Line and Stake Kit - Perfect for Hammocks, Camping and Backpacking (10 feet by 8 feet - Flat Cut)
  • WATERPROOF - The 30 denier ripstop nylon has a silicon/PU dual-coating and fully taped seams, providing 5,000 mm of hydro-static resistance. You'll stay bone dry in any weather!
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED - We provide a full kit so you don't need to spend more! With each tarp comes 60 feet of 1.5 mm reflective Dyneema guy line, six micro line-lok adjusters, and six aluminum Y-stakes.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT - So light, you won't even notice! Our 10 x 8-foot flat tarp comes in at only 15.5 ounces, while the full kit is only 20.5 ounces. The included 9 x 5 x 4 inch stuff sack fits everything into a nice and compact package.
  • FLEXIBLE - The flat shape, a total of 16 perimeter attachment loops, and one center loop provide unlimited flexibility. You'll be able to pitch the perfect shelter or hammock setup every time.
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY - We're a US-based company that offers a lifetime warranty on all of our gear. If you have any problems with your tarp, let us know and we'll do our best to help!

Ultralight Tent Material

Of all of the ultralight tents available on the market, they are most likely composed of one or more of the following materials:

  • Silnylon: this is what is most commonly used to construct ultralight tents. This is typically because it is one of the most affordable materials when compared to the other options. This material is composed of both silicon as well as nylon, making it impervious to rain and condensation. On average, this material weighs around 42 grams per square meter. Another benefit of Silnylon is that it has been woven with a ripstop weave. This prevents any tears from becoming larger and larger over the course of time.
  • High Denier Nylon Fabric: you may recognize the name Dyneema X better but it is just one of the names that manufacturers choose to give to the same material. Now at around 56 – 150g per square meter, this material is a bit heavier than Silnylon. However, it is also a lot tougher and is very resilient to scrapes and tears. Therefore, a tent made of this material will hold up well if you tend to make camp on abrasive surfaces such as rock.
  • Cuben Fiber: companies that are focused on creating the lightest tents possible will often turn to cuben fiber. This is because it weighs just 8.5 to 82 grams per square meter. The weight depends on the grade of the material that is being used. Although it is so lightweight, cuben fiber material is excellent at keeping the water out of your tent. Of course, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for these advantages. Also, cuben fiber is notoriously prone to tears and damage and requires excellent care.
  • Tyvek: Tyvek is used to make ultralight tents because not only is it light, it also has incredibly waterproofing capabilities. This material weighs a little more than silnylon at around 52 grams per square meter. It should be noted that there are two types of Tvyek with the construction version being heavier than what is used in the tents.
  • Waterproof Breathable Fabrics: there are a variety of materials that fall under this umbrella. eVent and Gore Tex are two of the most well-known manufacturers. While these materials do keep you dry, they are also quite unique in allowing condensation to leave the space that it is enclosing. Momentum is a material that has the same breathable property but is water resistant rather than waterproof.

Choosing the Right Minimalist Tent for You

So, how are you going to go about choosing the minimalist tent that is right for you and your needs? Here are a couple of pointers:

Consider the Weather

Most tents, even the minimalist versions, are waterproof or at the very least water resistant. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will be completely protected from the elements. You will also need to factor in wind, sun, and other weather conditions. Most tents will get you through the three seasons – summer, spring, and autumn. You could, potentially, use a three season tent in the winter as well as long as it protected from the wind and had steep walls to avoid snow accumulation. This is a decision that is entirely up to you, dependent on the temperatures and amount of snow that you will be facing.

Assessing Lightness against Durability and Comfort

Unless you are a hardcore camper, you are going to want a little bit of comfort. Also, considering how much you have paid for your minimalist tent, you want it to last you quite a while too. If these two factors are equally or more important than weight, you may want to stay away from materials that are too light, like cuben fibers. Instead, you will need to find materials that strike a balance between the two. Silnylon, for instance, is a good option in these case. This is especially important if you are hoping to use the tent in a variety of environments and want it to be adaptable to all of them.

Setting Up

The last thing that you want is to spend a considerable amount of time setting up your tent. Fortunately, with minimalist tents, this is actually a relatively simple process. The small size and minimal equipment mean that you will be able to set it up in no time at all. Still, it is worth it to look at the various types of tents available and determine which one would be easiest for you to set up. Don’t forget that it needs to tick all of the other boxes as well.


As you can imagine, minimalistic tents don’t really have a lot of space to move around in. The more spacious a tent is, the heavier it becomes. This is something that you should note before you go buy a one person or even two person tent. There may be a lot less room in there than you anticipated. Make sure to do a test run, especially if you are planning on keeping your gear inside with you or you are taking a partner along.

Now you know what you should consider when choosing a minimalist tent for ultralight camping. This should provide you with some clarity about what models to consider and which ones to stay away from. Make sure that you never rush when making the final decision.

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