Some context: I am a very small female (< 5 ft., < 100 lbs.) and I am thus very limited by gear weight. A lot of information is written for large/tall guys, so I'm having trouble researching tents for my specific situation.

I am looking for a two person backpacking tent that I could carry myself if needed in the Pacific Northwest region. So ideally I'm looking for something under two lbs. fully packed weight, less than $500 or so, and double walled or with a good system for dealing with condensation. I would prefer a tent rather than a tarp or hammock setup. I have looked into the Tarptent Double Rainbow or Stratosphere, the Zpacks Duplex, and the REI Flash Air 2. I do not use trekking poles but could start or am willing to bring tent poles if they are light.

Any tent suggestions would be much appreciated (especially from other very small backpackers)!

  • 4
    I know that shopping recommendations are not encouraged here. However, given that the OP has specific requirements that fall outside of a lot of general outdoor articles/reviews, it would be nice if the community found ways to address the question, without getting overly hung up on its usual rules. Maybe by answering in general terms of decision factors relevant to her circumstances, rather than model/manufacturer specifics. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica May 26 at 18:00
  • have you considered getting 2 tents? 1 optimized for your solo use, small but light. another, less high end, for when you camp with someone? the reason i am saying this is that lightweight tends to go with high price. from memory, you are somewhat pushing the weight/price boundaries on a 2 man tent. solo, you can probably do fine with a small 1 person tent. duo, you can let the other person carry the other, less weight-optimized, tent and many hikers have their own anyway. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica May 26 at 18:26
  • Shopping questions don't work well for the stackexchange format. I don't see any reason to treat this question differently from others of its type. – Ben Crowell May 26 at 18:58
  • tarps and/or bivvy bags tend to be a lot lighter and pack smaller – njzk2 May 26 at 20:45
  • 3
    Totally agree that this is a valid question for us to answer. IMO, we get too hung up on "shopping questions", and have required totuous workarounds to remove the tiniest hint of shopingness. That said, I agree that a pure shopping question (which IMO this is not) is off topic. – ab2 May 27 at 17:49

Okay, I've made enough suggestions in the comments I figured I'd better summarize them in an "answer." It's not fully what you asked for; this is more of a summary of all the "almost what you want" options I and others have come up with. Maybe one of these suggestions will give you a new idea that you can improve on, of maybe one will turn out to be good enough.

  1. Get two tents. Each tent will be less expensive than one tent that combines all the features you wanted. The cost of gear goes up a lot for a small decrease in weight, so you can save a lot of money by simply not trying to squeeze the two person tent into your solo two pound limit. Use the savings to buy a second, single-person tent.

    • A two-person tent, optimized for quality but heavier than you can carry by yourself. You'll save a lot of money by not requiring the two-person tent to be under two pounds. When hiking with a partner, divide the weight between you, eg one person carries the rainfly and poles, the other person carries the interior tent body and tent stakes. An option from REI is the MSR Zoic 2 Tent ($262, 4 lbs. 6 oz.).
    • A one-person tent, optimized for lightweight. Being for only one person, you can get a lightweight option under 2 pounds for much less while still having decent quality. Options from REI are the Exped Mira I HL Tent ($244, 2 lbs. 3 oz) and NEMO Hornet Elite 1 Tent ($338, 1 lb. 8 oz.)

    Eg, if you got the MSR Zoic 2 person tent and the Exped Mira I HL one-person tent from REI, your total cost would be $506, and your personal carry weight would be about 2 lbs. 3 oz with either option. (Note that those are sale prices; the sale ends on May 31.)

  2. Optimize for solo camping and compromise on two-person camping, or vice versa. Decide which scenario (solo camping vs camping with another person) is the one you will do most frequently. (If you do both with about equal frequency, this is probably not the best option.) Examples:

    • Scenario One: you usually camp with a partner and only occasionally solo camp. Buy the best tent you can afford that works for both of you. When you camp solo, carry only the tent poles, the rainfly, and a lightweight ground tarp. Or get a single-person tarp to hang from trees, which will be substantially lighter than your two pound limit.
    • Scenario Two: you usually camp solo, and only occasionally with a partner. Spend most of your budget on a good-quality, lightweight solo tent. For camping with a partner get a cheaper option: buy a tarp (if you prioritize lightweight and inexpensive) or a heavier tent and make your partner carry more than half of the tent.
  3. Buy a secondhand tent that meets all your requirements. Assume it may have some leaks, missing pieces or rips. Test it thoroughly before taking it camping and make repairs as necessary. You can get tent seam sealant and inexpensive, lightweight fabric remnants for patching from a DIY outdoor gear supplier like Ripstop by the Roll, DIY Gear Supply, The Rainshed, etc. If you post a few want ads on backpacking-specific forums and social media groups, you'll get access to gear that wouldn't have otherwise have been on the market.

  4. Get a rainfly-only tent with a separate ground tarp. If the tarp is the right size and stays well inside the edges of the tent, you do stay dry, because any rain or condensation drips on the ground instead of on your tarp. If you can, shop for a tent with side panel pulls; pulling out the side panels will prevent the panels from sagging in the middle and occasionally dripping from the low point of the sag.

    enter image description here

    Something like the UltaMid 2 with mesh insert from Hyperlight Mountain Gear might be a good compromise, although I can't tell from the photos if it has side panel pulls. It has bug netting, and if you put your tarp inside the bug netting your tarp should stay centered under the roof even if you move around a lot at night. Note that the ground tarp is sold separately, and costs almost as much as the tent. But you can DIY a much cheaper ground tarp from a plastic sheet (eg a plastic painter's dropcloth or one of those shiny silver-colored emergency survival blankets), with a hole cut a hole in the middle for the tent pole and reinforced with tape.

  5. Make your own tent. While this can seem crazy if you've never DIY'd any camping gear, it is possible, and extremely satisfying. You'll cut your costs by half or more, since you're only buying materials rather than a finished product. And you can make gear exactly to your specifications, in exactly the right size, at the exact balance of weight:durability that you want, as well as having all the features you want, but no extra features that would add weight and/or cost. I would suggest an A-frame tent as the easiest to construct. An advantage of the A-frame is that if you have trees, you don't need any tent poles. Something like this tent from Bass Pro Shops, but made of lighter weight materials, with the floor attached to an inner layer of noseeum mesh and the roof as a separate piece, suspended an inch or so above the mesh and staked out separately at the bottom corners.

    enter image description here

    Sorry for the lack of better examples, but all the best info is on the Backpacking Light forums, which are down for maintenance today. Even if you decide not to fully DIY a tent, you'll find lots of useful discussions there. You may even find a way to solve the problem with one of the tent styles you previously ruled out (eg, managing condensation in different styles of tent, or whatever it was you didn't like about tarps).

  • 1
    I think you've pasted the same link in 2 places - the "Backpacking light forums" link goes to the product page for the Bass pro tent – Chris H May 27 at 19:35
  • There are also a few just-about 2-person tents out there that come at least close to the weight requirements. For occasional 2-person trips some of those could be combined with a tarp as a gear shelter or for cooking out of the elements, as such tents tend to have minimal porches to save weight. I've seen something similar done with a single arch design, but don't know the model – Chris H May 27 at 19:48
  • 1
    @ChrisH Thanks for pointing that out. I fixed it. – csk May 27 at 20:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.