The Best Thru Hiking Tents of 2017

A hiker’s choice of shelter is an entirely personal decision. Solo hikers who value space over weight often opt for a two-person freestanding tent, which allows livable space for hiker-plus-gear. Some pairs of hikers size up to three-person shelters for the same reason. For simplicity’s sake, we’ve listed tents with their own pole systems as “freestanding,” but we do suggest staking these tents. Fast-and-light backpackers often opt for tarp-tents, which eliminate the extra weight of poles. Tarp tents can be more time-consuming to assemble, and can also compromise head/shoulder space depending on how the setup is constructed. Worth the saved weight? Up to you.

All of the following tents are built for one person, with the exception of the Big Agnes Fly Creek II and Copper Spur II. Many of the one-person shelters can be sized up depending on number of hikers and/or desire for more space.

When choosing your shelter, it’s important to consider what matters most to you. Ease of setup? Weight-saving? Livable space? Your shelter is something to look forward to at the end of a long day of hiking. Make sure it’s the right one.

Here are our top picks for 2017, in no particular order.

ZPacks Solplex

 

Weight: 15.5 ounces
MSRP: $555
Capacity: One-person
Category: Tarp-tent, two trekking poles required

Best for

Extremely ultralight thru-hikers who want to shave ounces and don’t mind a smaller shelter

Notable Features

Rainbow zipper allows you to flip orientation (i.e. you can’t pitch it the wrong way on a slight slope), two mesh interior pockets, one at either end of the floor

Description

ZPacks are pioneers of ultralight packs and shelters, and this single-person is one of the most popular UL tarp-tent options out there. All of their shelters are made-to-order, so plan ahead if this is something you want to try, there can be a several-week delay depending on volume. The tent requires eight stakes to set up, and two trekking poles at the front and back for height and stability… prepare for a learning curve. The tarp has a five-inch overhang over the bathtub floor, which protects from blowing rain. This is a well-designed shelter with solid protection from the elements, but the price tag might be a stopper for some hikers. It’s important to keep in mind that anything this lightweight will be sacrificing some durability, and though the tent is waterproof, care should be taken with the cuben fiber material.

Tarptent Notch

Weight: 1.7 pounds
MSRP: $285
Capacity: One-person
Category: Tarp-tent, two trekking poles required

Best for

Lighter-weight thru-hikers looking for different assembly options included in one shelter

Notable Features

Two vestibules and doors, rainfly can be pitched alone, openings for ventilation

Description

This shelter has the flexibility to be pitched as a mesh tent, a tarp, or a combination for extra protection. The ends of the tarp have triangular areas leveled out with struts that allow the edge of the tarp to be raised a foot off the ground. This creates a less drastic pitch to the walls, which increases living space, but the struts mean it’s not as packable as other options. The end ports can be opened with a flap to increase ventilation. Generous vestibules for gear storage, and the bathtub floor (a type of floor that extends up the sides of the tent before connecting with the walls) protects users from ground moisture and inclement weather. As with many trekking pole assemblies, we recommend practicing a few times to get the hang of it before you set out into the woods. The inner tent clips to the fly, and hangs a few inches below the material which also helps with ventilation and the resulting misery of condensation. Weight-saving clips on the interior can be finicky and difficult to maneuver, especially with cold fingers.

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid

Weight: 12.5 ounces
MSRP: $255
Capacity: One-person
Category: Tarp-tent, one trekking pole required

Best for

Solo thru-hikers looking for a (relatively) budget-friendly, well-designed pyramid shelter.

Notable Features

Nearly 40 square feet of living space, can handle snow up to a moderate load

Description

The low profile of this shelter means it’s highly stable and wind-resistant, bonuses for hikers who plan to set up in wintery conditions or on exposed sites. Pyramid shelters aren’t for everyone, the deep slant of the walls reduces the livable space. This shelter does give more room than others, but taller hikers will still end up with their faces close to potentially frosty or damp walls, and condensation is an issue with this shelter. We highly recommend adding the bug netting and bathtub floor combo. The bathtub floor protects against damp ground and precipitation, and the tarp overhang is more than adequate for keeping the elements away from the mesh netting. The listed weight is without additional modifications, and there are plenty of options for this particular shelter.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

Weight: Min. trail weight: 2.8 pounds; packaged: 3.1 pounds
MSRP: $450
Capacity: Two-person
Category: Freestanding

Best for

Solo hikers looking for extra space; hiking pairs looking for one of the highest-rated two-person tents on the market

Notable Features

Single-pole hub for easy setup, increased living space in the newest edition, interior pockets, two doors, large vestibule, seam-taped

Description

This is one of the most popular freestanding tents on the market, and for good reason. It’s reasonable for a single hiker to carry, and feathery light split between two people. The Copper Spur gets better with every iteration, and the latest boasts incredible amounts of livable space for how light it is, with the pole system allowing for some of the best use of square footage we’ve seen in a shelter of this weight. As with any lightweight tent, you’ll need to watch the fly and body material so it doesn’t snag and tear, but with some extra care, UL tents perform as well as burlier beasts. Setup is a breeze, with a single-pole system and a horizontal spreader across the top to widen the dome. The vestibules are a good size, with two entrances so hikers don’t have to crawl over each other for midnight outings. Color-coded grommets on the body of the tent correspond to the jakes feet, which makes this one of the easiest tents to set up. Have some extra cash and looking for the lighter version? Check out the Copper Spur Platinum.

Big Agnes Fly Creek 2

Weight: Min. trail weight 1.9 pounds; packaged: 2.3 pounds
MSRP: $390
Capacity: Two-person
Category: Freestanding

Best for

Solo hikers looking for more space without the weight; weight-conscious hiking partners

Notable Features

Fast pitch time, one of the lightest two-person freestanding tents available, interior pockets, single-hub pole design, single entry / vestibule

Description

For solo thru-hikers who want the luxury of a two-person tent, this is a sure bet. Pairs hiking with this tent might find the single-door entry frustrating, but for weight-saving, you can’t get much better. The single-hub pole has only three extensions, which makes this one of the quickest tents to set up on this list. We’ll be honest—this tent is tight for two people. It’s ideal for one-person-plus-gear, or for hiker-plus-dog. But for pairs of weight-conscious hikers who don’t mind being near the edge of the tent? Split up, you’ll hardly notice the weight in your pack. The single-person version is also popular, weighing in at 1.1 pounds. Lighter (and slightly pricier) Platinum version of the Fly Creek here.

Six Moons Designs Lunar Solo

Weight: 1.5 pounds
MSRP: $235
Capacity:
One-person
Category: Tarp-tent, one trekking pole required

Best for

Ultralight hikers who don’t mind limited shoulder space

Notable Features

Zippered vestibule, 48″ peak height, large screen door, 6″ bathtub floor

Description

Six Moons is a trusted ultralight company, and their shelters are becoming more common for UL thru-hikers. The Lunar Solo is one of their most popular options, in a sleek, streamlined package that doesn’t waste any ounces. The single-pole setup takes some effort and potential frustration to set up, but gets easier with practice. Also important to note is the single-pole creates a deep slope that eliminates some shoulder room, but helps buffer against wind. The head height is a generous 48 inches, which makes up for lost width. The Lunar Solo’s vestibule has over eight square feet of space, more than enough room to keep shoes and a pack out of the rain. The bathtub floor is six inches high, protecting from damp ground and splashing rain—we recommend seam-sealing the floor to entirely waterproof it. The mesh is sturdy enough to protect from bugs, but like all UL gear, take care of it!

MSR Hubba NX

Weight: Min. trail weight: 2.5 pounds; packaged: 2.9 pounds
MSRP: $350
Capacity:
One-person
Category: Freestanding

Best for

Thru-hikers looking for a comfortable, easy-to-assemble tent with plenty of features

Notable Features

Two doors, a lot of space for a single-person tent, horizontal spreader, good ventilation

Description

This tent is a great compromise between weight and practicality. At 2.5 pounds, it’s not the lightest on the market, but the comfort and ease of set up makes it worth it to a lot of hikers on the trail. It’s roomy, with a horizontal spreader pole included in the pole unit that increases sit-up space and helps keep tent walls away from your head. It’s also one of the best ventilating tents out there. The tent is roomy enough to sit up and move around in, and will keep most people’s sleeping bags away from the dreaded tent wall condensation. The current iteration of this tent has shaved a fair amount of weight from the original, using lighter poles, material, zipper pulls, and intelligent redesign. It’s not the lightest or cheapest solo tent on the market, but hikers will love the vestibules and head room.

REI Quarter Dome I

Weight: Min. trail weight: 2.5 pounds; packaged: 2.9 pounds
MSRP: $279
Capacity:
One-person
Category: Freestanding

Best for

Thru-hikers looking for a comfortable, sturdy freestanding tent with plenty of features

Notable Features

Large vestibule, increased head/shoulder room and larger footbox, pockets and hooks for interior organizing

Description

REI has completely redesigned their signature shelter. At nearly 19 square feet of space in the tent and just under 10 square feet in the vestibule, this is luxurious by one-person standards. They’ve increased the interior space by nearly half by developing a more space-effective pole system that increases space without adding weight. Hikers can easily sit up and shuffle around, and the large entrances on the tent body and vestibule mean you won’t look like a baby ostrich trying to climb out of it in the morning. This durable tent is made with 20-denier ripstop nylon, and the fly is made with a lightweight 15-denier ripstop nylon. The poles are color-coded to help assembly, and for those looking to shed ounces, the fly-pitch option lets you sleep under the fly and leave the tent body at home. This is a well-priced shelter that gets better with each redesign.

NEMO Hornet 1p Elite

Weight: Min. trail weight: 1.7 lb.; packaged: 1 lb. 14 oz
MSRP: $449.95
Capacity:
One-person
Category: Freestanding

Best for

Thru-hikers looking for an easily assembled tent, and who plan on camping where staking is an option

Notable Features

Single-hub pole system, 8-square-foot vestibule, single entry, interior storage pocket

Description

This single-person tent goes up in a flash, thanks to one of the simplest pole systems you’ll see out there. If set up correctly, hikers will have enough space between the mesh and the fly for adequate venting. These poles do not include horizontal spreaders, which takes away some width and shoulder room. Important to note that this model has a single-based pole at the head end of the tent, which means staking it is not really optional… it will need the stability.  It has one entry and a single-side vestibule. When fully staked, the profile of this tent will easily bear wind, rain, and moderate snow.

Gossamer Gear The One  

Weight: 1.2 pounds
MSRP: $300
Capacity:
One-person
Category: Tarp-tent, two trekking poles required

Best for

Ultralight thru-hikers looking for an all-around tarp tent with a bathtub floor

Notable Features

Fully enclosed floor, improved ventilation system over previous models, spacious vestibule

Description

This is one of the ultimate UL shelters, somehow managing to minimize compromise between comfort and weight. From the front, The One resembles the typical pyramid-shaped non-freestanding tent. From the side and back of the tent though, the rear extends out from the sleeping area, providing a large venting area that prevents condensation and improves comfort. Keep in mind that the rear pole is pitched at an angle to achieve this, we recommend practicing before you set out. The staking on The One can require up to 10 stakes—6 for the canopy and 4 (optional) for the bathtub floor. The shelter boasts more livable space and headroom than many other one-person trekking-pole shelters, which makes the extra staking worth it. The dual trekking pole setup is becoming more popular, as it allows for ample shoulder room and comfort when dressing. The nylon-blend shelter walls are highly durable for their weight, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations in this shelter, like with all UL gear. Watch for snags and set up on a forgiving piece of ground.

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Comments 4

  • Gustav : Jun 26th

    Mosquito netting is key option for my thru-hike tents. Minimalist design that incorporates sufficient netting for bite-free ventilation.

    Reply
  • Lyle : Jul 10th

    Could you show pictures of one of your writers/editors/staff getting into and lying in the tent so we can see how big they are, sometimes its hard to tell from pictures and getting a good idea from the specs can also be challenging.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • The Editors : Jul 10th

      That’s a great question. When we do single-item gear reviews, we try to include photos of our reviewers and editors in them. Here’s an example: https://thetrek.co/gear-review-trail-co-ul-tent-2/

      Thanks for the input though- we’re glad to know it’s important to see.

      -Trek Editors

      Reply
  • Chicken : Jul 10th

    ZPacks Hexamid is misseing? I would rank it #1 for weight, single pole, easy assembly, versatility, space and stability.
    But aa an ultralighter I’m mostly swayed by the weight.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Chicken Cancel reply