ultralight backpacking tent reviews

Gear Review: Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL Tent

Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL
Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL

Ultralight Tent
Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL
$390, 2 lbs. 10 oz. (without the included stuff sack and nine sturdy stakes, which are needed to pitch the tent)
sierradesigns.com

When I first saw this tent displayed at the Outdoor Retailer trade show a year ago, I wanted to test it in the backcountry. The whole concept behind SD’s new Tensegrity line intriguingly throws out the playbook on what backpacking tents are supposed to look like: Gone are the inward sloping walls, traditional vestibules, and poles, all with the goal of making a shelter that’s not just lighter but more functional. I took the Tensegrity 2 FL on a six-day rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River—and mostly liked what I saw in this unusual shelter.

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Gear Review: Tarptent Double Moment Tent

Tarptent Double Moment
Tarptent Double Moment

Three-Season Tent
Tarptent Double Moment
$349, 3 lbs. 4 oz.
tarptent.com

With a preference for backcountry tents that are lightweight and stable, I’m willing to sacrifice capacious living space and the convenience of freestanding models, and I’ve seen tunnel-style designs that stand up well to strong winds despite their low total weight. Intrigued by the Double Moment’s space-to-weight ratio, I took it out on a five-day backpacking trip down Paria Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border in late March and a three-day backpacking trip on the Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon, to see how it would hold up.

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Gear Review: MSR FlyLite Tent

MRS FlyLite
MRS FlyLite

Ultralight Tent
MSR FlyLite
$350, 1 lb. 9 oz. (not including stakes)
moosejaw.com

More backpackers are realizing what tent makers have known for years: The smartest way to reduce pack weight is by trimming the single heaviest item in your backpack—your tent. And you achieve the greatest weight savings there by eliminating or at least greatly reducing the poles and rainfly. The MSR FlyLite does both. On a five-day, late-March backpacking trip with my family in Paria Canyon, in Utah and Arizona, the FlyLite shined for having an outstanding space-to-weight ratio while proving itself stable in strong gusts, and not very susceptible to the bane of most single-wall tents: condensation.

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The Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp in the Yosemite backcountry.

Review: Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

Ultralight Tarp
Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp
$230, 12 oz. (large)
Sizes: Large 10 ft. x 10 ft./3x3m, medium 6 ft. 6 ins.x8 ft. 6 ins./2×2.6m ($200, 9.5 oz.)
backcountry.com

When rain began falling while a friend and I were sleeping under the stars in Yosemite National Park’s Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, we grabbed our gear, pitched this tarp in just a few minutes, and had dry shelter for the night. Besides using the Escapist Tarp on that four-day, 85-mile, backpacking trip, I camped under it with my son in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, where the tarp held up well throughout a windy night. For late-summer and fall trips where I won’t encounter bugs, there’s no need to carry the weight and bulk of a tent. The Escapist tarp provides a sturdy, spacious, and durable ultralight shelter from rain, acts as a wind break, and on calm nights will keep you a little warmer than you’d be sleeping under the stars because it traps some warmth.

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