By Michael Lanza

Switching from a standard backpacking tent to an ultralight tent can shave pounds from your total pack weight—which for many backpackers will be the biggest step they can take toward a lighter pack. But it can be confusing to sort through the various ultralight tents out there, and the specs on them can look like a big pot of numeral soup, leaving you wondering: How are they different? And ultimately, which one is best for you?

I’ve tested and reviewed scores of tents of all types over a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—formerly as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for about 10 years and even longer running this blog. I love the best ultralight tents, but I’ve also used some that had flaws or shortcomings not immediately obvious.

This article will explain all you need to know to find the three-season, ultralight tent that’s best for you. See also my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent.”

Please tell me what you think of my tips or share your questions, suggestions, or favorite ultralight tent model in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent.
” data-image-caption=”The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Pasayten Wilderness. Click photo to read my review.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent.” class=”wp-image-47963″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sea-to-Summit-Alto-TR2-lead.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent in the Pasayten Wilderness. Click photo to read my review.

Size Matters

Consumers of backcountry gear have grown accustomed to focusing on the weight of a product—which is smart—but not always paying adequate attention to other performance metrics. Think of your tent’s weight like it’s a prospective spouse’s feelings about starting a family: It’s a critical and potentially make-or-break factor, but it’s not the only question to ask when evaluating compatibility.

An ultralight tent is a two-sided coin: Before getting one, be certain that low weight ranks as a higher priority to you than other
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