Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Slingfin 2Lite Trek
$329, 2 lbs. 6 oz.
The world of ultralight backpacking tents can sometimes resemble a sort of Galapagos Islands of backcountry shelters, where odd-looking species evolve along a track (that probably defies some basic rules of evolution) toward competing goals of becoming stronger and incrementally larger while becoming lighter. Looked at from that perspective, the 2Lite Trek from Slingfin—a small company co-founded by a former Mountain Hardwear designer—doesn’t depart radically from traditional tents, other than pitching with trekking poles. But a unique design allowed it to stand up to winds of 30 to 40 mph in the Grand Canyon and Idaho’s City of Rocks. It’s also relatively roomy and featured for a two-person tent weighing under 2.5 pounds.
If a light pack on the trail is priority one for you, read on.
The 2Lite Trek rippled and snapped a bit but was largely unaffected by relentless winds of 30 to 40 mph during three June nights of camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and four May nights backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop. Even tents that outweigh the 2Lite Trek by a pound or more can bend in 30 mph winds. I tested it in wind, pitched with and without its rainfly, in both of the tent’s configurations: with trekking poles, as well as substituting the optional bow pole for trekking poles (more on the pole options below). A friend who used it on a six-day bikepacking trip in Arizona reported similar conditions and results.
Without the rainfly on, the interior canopy walls naturally got pushed around some in those winds, but the poles held up well—reinforced by me taking about five minutes to install the internal guy lines at the head of the tent, which help stabilize it. The rainfly presents a broad, flat wall at the head end of the tent that I thought would act as a sail; but it sustained hours of direct winds gusting over 30 mph without so much as bending under that assault.
The unusually good stability for an ultralight tent that pitches with trekking poles owes to the unique design of the pole sleeve over the tent’s peak, which can be tensioned using adjustable straps at each end of it. Plus, the 2Lite Trek employs two small poles, at the peak/head and at the foot, which contribute a lot of structural integrity for their minimal additional weight.
Weighing just two pounds, six ounces (without the optional front pole, which isn’t needed when pitching with trekking poles), its interior measures 89 inches (2.25m) long and has 28.5 square feet (2.6 square meters) of floor space, with a 41-inch (1m) peak height—that’s more living space than typically found in two-person tents in this weight class (more, for instance, than the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2, which is two ounces lighter). It sits two standard, 20-inch-wide air mattresses side by side, though with little room to spare, so two average-size adults should expect to bump one another occasionally. After all, this is an ultralight tent, and none of them would be confused with a palace. In its stuff sack, the packed tent measures a compact 13×5 inches (33x13cm), comparable to its competitors.
The two vestibules extend the length of the tent, measuring 10.7 square feet each—larger than found on many tents in this weight class—creating space to store midsize packs out of the way, with space to spare. The vestibule doors roll almost completely back to really open up the tent in good weather. The 2Lite Trek has a good drip line: The vertical side walls and overlapping rainfly keep all but blowing rain out of the tent when entering and exiting.
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Pitching isn’t as complicated as with some ultralight shelters with unique designs, but worth going through a dry run in your yard the first time. A traditional double-wall tent, though not freestanding, it pitches using two trekking poles to reduce pack weight. (An optional front pole, weighing four ounces, can be purchased separately and used instead of trekking poles; that conversion kit costs $54. Slingfin’s 2Lite is identical except that it pitches using the front tent pole instead of trekking poles, and a different conversion kit, costing $45, can convert that model to the 2Lite Trek. My advice: Use trekking poles and get the 2Lite Trek.)
After staking out the four corners, you attach a fabric sleeve that toggles to the high points of the tent and anchors the two trekking poles. Slide a short, bow pole through that sleeve and into grommets at each end. Straps adjust the tension on the bow pole, increasing it for more stability in windy conditions. You only have to attach this fabric sleeve once, unless switching between the trekking-pole setup and the optional front-pole setup. An arched pole supports the lower, foot end of the tent.
Lastly, adjust your trekking poles to about 44 inches and insert them into pouches at each end of the fabric sleeve and ground-level side grommets; the trekking poles lift the front end of the tent. Cord loops at the corners of the rainfly secure it to the same stakes used on the tent body corners, and the two vestibules stake out independently. Tabs on the underside of the rainfly secure it to the arched pole to enhance structural integrity.
From the PU-coated, nylon ripstop rainfly to the walls and mesh of the interior tent, the fabrics are all 15-denier, while the floor is a PU-coated, 20-denier nylon ripstop—all very lightweight, as expected, but also more susceptible to tearing than heavier tent fabrics. When I had to use a couple of large rocks to “stake out” the vestibules in a campsite with ground too rocky to pound in stakes, the steady, strong wind caused the stake cord at the bottom of one vestibule door to rub back and forth over the rock (which had rounded sides, not sharp, but coarse granite), sawing it almost completely through.
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Yes, ultralight tents and other gear make the carrying part of backpacking trips more pleasant, and they’ll hold up fine as long as you exercise a reasonable amount of care when handling them and selecting campsites. But wear and tear happens faster.
I wouldn’t bother purchasing the optional footprint ($60, 5.5 oz.) for the 2Lite—you might as well just buy a tent with a more-durable floor.
Whether you’re a thru-hiker, dedicated ultralight backpacker or bikepacker, or simply want to prioritize minimizing pack weight and don’t mind a confined tent, the Slingfin 2Lite Trek offers good living space and strength in strong wind for this tent category, and two doors—rare qualities for a sub-2.5-pound tent—all at a competitive price.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy a Slingfin 2Lite Trek at slingfin.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.