Ultralight Solo Backpacking Tent
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid-1
$599, 16.8 oz./476.3g
After crossing Texas Pass, at around 11,460 feet, a friend and I descended into the incomparable Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, reaching the shore of Lonesome Lake—where the sky suddenly darkened, soon followed by thunder and lightning. We hustled to pitch the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid-1 as a temporary shelter and both dove inside just as the full force of that thunderstorm walloped us with pounding wind and rain, even spawning a new, little stream that flowed under one end of the tent. But we stayed warm and dry inside it while waiting 30 minutes or more for the storm to pass. And that’s just one tale of the weather the Mid-1 endured, demonstrating its value as one of the very best ultralight solo backpacking tents available today.
I swapped this with another solo tent with two different friends for three nights in the Wind River Range in mid-August and six nights in Glacier National Park in September, with lows from the upper 30s to around 50° F (3-8° C) and strong wind every night in the Winds, with gusts exceeding 40 mph/64 kph and perhaps 50 mph/80 kph, plus hard, wind-driven rain for hours on our last night in the Winds and light rain one morning in Glacier. And the Mid-1 stood up solidly in all of those conditions. I also slept in it for two nights while backpacking the 22-mile/35.4-kilometer Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow Loop in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in early October, with clear nights in the high 40s.
First of all, at 16.8 ounces/476.3 grams (for the tent only, not including stakes, guylines, stuff sack, etc., and certainly not the trekking pole weight), the Mid-1 certainly ranks among the very lightest ultralight solo backpacking tents—as well as one of the roomiest. And when pitched properly, as evidenced by its performance in severe conditions in the Winds, it is about as sturdy a shelter as you’ll find, suitable for virtually any three-season backpacking trip.
Made with highly durable and waterproof Dyneema Composite fabrics (DCF5 in the rainfly and DCF10 in the floor), this non-freestanding, pyramid shelter pitches using one adjustable trekking pole that ideally extends to 135 centimeters, although it pitches tautly and to an adequate height with a pole extended to 130 centimeters. It barely even shook through hours of wind gusts to 40 and possibly 50 mph in the Winds—and that was without staking out any guylines using the 11 tie-outs around the tent’s exterior. (Use trekking poles that are relatively sturdy and extend long enough; many do not.)
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Pitching is simple and relatively quick for a non-freestanding tent: First, stake out the four corners, leaving some slack in the stake lines to fine-tune the tension later. Insert the trekking pole, handle upward into the tent’s peak and inserting its tip through the exterior floor loop in the center of the door-side mesh wall. Then extend the pole to 130 to 135 centimeters; its height will determine the steepness of the walls and slightly alter how close the ceiling is to your face when lying down. Then stake out the vestibule and rear wall; the tent requires six stakes for optimum stability and ventilation.
I found it easiest to achieve balanced tension on all stake points and an elevated bathtub floor (to keep water out) and still maximize venting through the perimeter mesh by tightening tension on all the stake lines only after all six stakes are in the ground and the trekking pole is extended to full height. And small adjustment straps inside the tent enable you to raise and lower the sidewalls of the bathtub floor to create a higher splash guard in heavy rain, which does reduce venting through the perimeter mesh.
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While it requires more time to pitch than a typical ultralight, freestanding tent, I could pitch it within a few minutes by myself after just a few times (including, of course, a practice session in my back yard before its inaugural trip).
One drawback of any pyramid tent is that the walls slope downward from the single center pole. But with 21 square feet of interior space and a bathtub floor measuring 96×32 inches/244x81cm, plus a peak height at the center of 54 inches/137cm, the Mid-1 provides abundant living space for one person.
At five feet, eight inches/1.73 meters tall, I had more than enough length and width to sleep without the sloping wall anywhere near my face or my head brushing it when I rose to sit up, with plenty of floor space remaining for my puffy and rain jackets, extra clothes, plus items like my camera gear, electronics, and various stuff sacks. I slept with my head at the door end of the tent—often with that side of the vestibule rolled up and tied back, for better ventilation and to see the night sky—and never felt like the sloping wall was too close to my head. The crescent-shaped door zips smoothly—most smoothly when the tent is pitched properly—and is reasonably large for easy in and out.
While mediocre to poor ventilation dogs many single-wall tents, especially smaller two-person and solo models, the hybrid single-wall Mid-1 performed more like a well-ventilated double-wall tent in this respect, thanks to No-See-Um Mesh comprising the lone interior wall (where the inside door is located), plus two peak vents and perimeter mesh around three sides of the bathtub floor, enabling good high-low venting, even with the vestibule door zipped up in heavy, wind-driven rain.
While there’s no doubt that windy nights helped ventilate the tent, it also developed very little condensation inside even on completely calm, cool nights in the upper 30s F (about 3° C). Much colder than that on a calm night, especially with the vestibule closed up, and I would expect some condensation. But the spacious interior also means your bag and clothes will rarely brush against the walls if they do develop condensation.
The vestibule, with a waterproof zipper and a cool little detail in the magnetized tieback for rolling up one side on dry nights, has enough space to store a midsize pack and boots under one side of the vestibule, leaving the other side (where the interior tent door is positioned) unimpeded for entering and exiting.
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Another common drawback of pyramid tents is a drip line that enables rain to fall directly into the interior because of the sloping walls. But the Mid-1’s design creates a drip line that keeps light rain out because the vertical mesh wall does not slope into the vestibule area (see photos). In heavier, windblown rain, though, I unavoidably had to close the vestibule nearly to the ground to keep rain out; but I did leave it open several inches above ground level for better ventilation without allowing any rain inside.
The tent’s packed dimensions of 8.5×5.5×5.5 inches/cm make it slightly bulkier than some of the most packable solo tents, which is the nature of Dyneema fabric and probably its only drawback. Still, at slightly larger than a football, it’s not a very big package to slip inside a backpack.
HMG also offers the Mid 1 Tarp ($479, 8.8 oz./250g), which, of course, lacks a floor or bug protection.
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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid-1
Extremely light at just over a pound, waterproof, highly durable, and impressively stable in strong wind, with good ventilation, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid-1 represents arguably the very best solo tent available today for backpackers, bikepackers, and other backcountry travelers who prioritize low weight and high performance.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking either of these affiliate links to purchase the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid-1 solo backpacking tent at hyperlitemountaingear.com, or the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Mid 1 Tarp at hyperlitemountaingear.com.
See “The 10 Best Backpacking Tents” and all reviews of backpacking tents, ultralight backpacking tents, backpacking gear, and ultralight backpacking gear at The Big Outside. See also “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent” and “Ultralight Backpacking Tents: How to Choose One.” (Both of those stories require a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read in full, which costs as little as $7, or under $5 per month for an entire year.)
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