The best ultralight freestanding one-person tents and shelters are a small but growing contingency in the ultralight world. Oftentimes freestanding shelters weigh a bit more than their non-freestanding counterparts, but sometimes a freestanding tent is what’s called for (or wanted).
The best backpacking tents and shelters are all of remarkably high quality and you shouldn’t lose too much sleep over which one to choose. Choosing one over the other isn’t necessarily about choosing one that’s better than another but choosing the one that’s best suited to your needs in a particular environment. If you’ve made it as far as deciding you want an ultralight, one-person, freestanding shelter, you’ve already come a long way in narrowing down your choices.
The following list is drawn on from my personal experience and the results of tens of thousands of hiker data points provided by the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and John Muir Trail hiker surveys. The chart included at the bottom includes some of the other (similar) shelters available. If you have a favorite that you don’t see here, I’m always looking for more to try out!
Best Overall: SlingFin Portal 1
+ Internal guylines for improved lateral stability
+ Six pockets allow for a ton of interior storage
+ Extended cross pole for additional interior space
+ Can be set up with trekking poles for extra support
– On the heavier side (minimum weight 2.5 lb / 1.13 kg)
– Seam sealing costs extra (or you can do it on your own)
– Can frequently be out of stock
The SlingFin Portal 1 is a single vestibule, side-entry, freestanding, one-person tent and is the overall pick for the category. SlingFin, a small company located in Berkeley, California, and dedicated to making exception shelters, designed the Portal 1 in response to the overwhelming success of their flagship backpacking shelter, the Portal (or now, the Portal 2). The Portal 1 has a floor area of 19.25 ft² / 1.79 m², a single set of equal-length poles (connected in the middle) with a single crossbar, 11 guy out loops, 3 perimeter pull-out loops, and an interior height of 41 in / 111 cm. It’s the shelter I used on the Hayduke Trail and is one I will be using again. Check it out here.
Runner-Up: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1
+ Large interior floor and vestibule area
+ Can be pitched with footprint and fly only for an even lighter shelter
+ Plenty of internal pockets for storage
+ Vestibule can be supplemented with trekking poles to create an awning
– Included stakes should probably be replaced with something more substantial
– Plastic clips for attaching rain fly are potential points of failure
– Footprint sold separately (and isn’t cheap)
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 is the long-time flagship freestanding ultralight tent from longtime tentmaker Big Agnes out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Big Agnes has been tweaking and revising this shelter over the past few years and it continues to be a favorite among thru-hikers and anyone else looking for an ultralight, freestanding, one-person shelter. It weighs 2.12 lb / 962 g and can also be set up with just the fly and footprint for a shelter weighing just 1.62 lb / 735 g (note that this requires purchasing the footprint separately). There are several larger versions of the Copper Spur available as well, including a bikepacking version (two-person), a two-person version, and a three-person version. Check out the HV UL1 here.
Lightest Option: NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 1P
+ One of the lightest, freestanding, single-person tents
+ Interior pockets and overhead light diffusion pocket
+ Generous interior space and good-sized vestibule
+ Lifetime warranty from NEMO Equipment
– If not properly pitched/staked/guyed out in the wind, it is susceptible to being flattened
– White mesh is susceptible to filth and can be difficult to see out of (for stargazing, etc.)
The NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 1P is one of the lightest options available for anyone looking for a one-person, freestanding tent. It’s made with NEMO’s proprietary OSMO which is 100% recycled composite fabric (PFAS-free) that’s designed to repel water better and stretch less when wet – in addition to being more durable as well. There are interior gear pockets and an overhead Nightlight Pocket designed to diffuse light from a headlamp (I was confused about what this was at first, but it’s pretty cool). It’s simple to set up and has 20.3 ft² / 1.9 m² of living space with a 10 ft² / 0.9 m² – two of the largest figures among the freestanding, one-person shelters. Check it out here.
Budget Option: REI Co-op Trailmade 1
+ Affordable option for a one-person, freestanding shelter
+ Tall interior height of 41 in / 111 cm
+ Internal pockets and gear loops
+ Footprint included
– Significantly heavier than other (more expensive) options available
– Doesn’t pack down as small as other single-person tents
If you’re looking for a one-person, freestanding, tent on a budget, look no further than the REI Co-op Trailmade 1. At less than half the price of most of the other shelters included here, the Trailmade 1 is made for anyone looking to complete their backpacking kit but not break the bank. It has all the features of the more expensive shelters, including interior gear loops, pockets, and (something that’s not included with most of the more expensive options) a footprint. It weighs 3.5 lb / 1.587 kg, has a floor area of 20 ft² / 1.858 m², an interior height of 41 in / 111 cm, and a vestibule area of 9.5 ft² / 0.88 m². Check it out here.
The Expensive Option: MSR Hubba Hubba 1
– Quite expensive at nearly $500
– Only two small patches of mesh on the tent body for ventilation
– One of the smallest floor areas at 18 ft² / 1.67 m²
I’m not sure why the MSR Hubba Hubba 1 costs so much. It’s neither the lightest option nor is it made by a small company with a larger overhead and limited distribution. The interior tent body is mostly solid save for two small patches of mesh near the top of the tent. Why a double-walled, three-season shelter wouldn’t have a mesh body is a bit perplexing, but maybe MSR knows something I don’t. It comes in at 2.12 lb / 962 g, has just 18 ft² / 1.67 m² of interior living space, an interior height of 37 in / 94 cm, and 7.5 ft² / 0.7 m² of vestibule space. The Hubba Hubba 1 is undoubtedly a great tent, but its cost and the lack of interior mesh will likely be a dealbreaker for some. Check it out here.
The Two-Person Option: Zpacks Duplex (+ Freestanding Flex Kit)
+ Exceptionally lightweight for a two-person shelter
+ Large footprint with two vestibules and two side-entry doors
+ Tried and tested by thousands of thru-hikers
– A two-person shelter
– Requires additional purchase to make it freestanding
– Bulky when packed
– Exceptionally expensive
The Zpacks Duplex or the Zpacks Duplex Zip is neither a one-person shelter, nor a freestanding shelter, but I felt it important to include it here for two reasons: 1) it is by far the most popular tent used by thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, and 2) it can be converted into a freestanding shelter with the Freestanding Flex Kit. More on the Duplex and how to make it freestanding in the best ultralight, two-person, freestanding shelters. If you’re interested now, check out the Duplex here.
One-Person Freestanding Backpacking Tent Comparison
|SHELTER||PRICE||WEIGHT||FLOOR||PEAK HEIGHT||VESTIBULE AREA|
|ALPS Mountaineering Ibex 1||$180||3.62 lb | 1.64 kg||23 ft² / 2.14 m²||21 in / 53 cm||5.5 ft² / 0.51 m²|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1||$450||2.12 lb | 962 g||20 ft² / 1.858 m²||38 in / 96 cm||9 ft² / 0.84 m²|
|Marmot Tungsten Ultralight 1||$270||3.94 lb | 657 g||20 ft² / 1.858 m²||39 in / 99 cm||12 ft² / 1.11 m²|
|Montbell U.L. Dome Shelter 1||$399||1.59 lb | 722 g||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|MSR Elixir 1||$270||3.94 lb | 657 g||20 ft² / 1.858 m²||39 in / 99 cm||12 ft² / 1.11 m²|
|MSR Hubba Hubba 1||$470||2.12 lb | 962 g||18 ft² / 1.67 m²||37 in / 94 cm||7.5 ft² / 0.7 m²|
|NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 1P||$420||2.06 lb | 935 g||20.3 ft² / 1.9 m²||40 in / 101 cm||10 ft² / 0.9 m²|
|REI Co-op Trailmade 1||$159||3.5 lb | 1.587 kg||20 ft² / 1.858 m²||41 in / 111 cm||9.5 ft² / 0.88 m²|
|SlingFin Portal 1||$490||2.5 lb | 1.13 kg||19.25 ft² / 1.79 m²||41 in / 111 cm||9.8 ft² / 0.91 m²|
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