6 Lightweight Shelter Options

by Andy Amick on August 29, 2013

in Backpacking, Bikepacking, Gear

After detailing my own shelter system, I thought I would list a few other options for bikepackers or backpackers looking into lightweight shelters.  There are A LOT of options, and a full list of all gear shelters would go on for pages.  This post details 6 shelters which have different designs and materials.  Some of the companies have multiple shelter designs, but only one of their products is highlighted here.  Please visit the company websites to see all of their shelter models.

ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent

ZPacks Hexamid Solo TentStyle:Modified pyramid
Weight:16 oz.
Cost:$430
Pros:Lightweight, easy setup, fully enclosed
Cons:Cost, cuben fiber requires proper gear care
Setup:Single pole
A fully enclosed shelter that combines a cuben fiber tarp with a bug screen and cuben fiber ground sheet. The Hexamid is on the high end of the price range, but it's a fully enclosed shelter that weighs 1 pound. The Hexamid also comes in a tarp only format without the screen and groundsheet.

Tarptent Contrail

TarpTent ContrailStyle:Single wall, fully enclosed
Weight:24.5 oz.
Cost:$199
Pros:Fully enclosed
Easy setup
Cons:Heaviest of shelters profiled, but still lightweight
Setup:Single pole
The Contrail is a sil-nylon single wall tent. The mesh between the sides and the floor provide ample ventilation to help keep condensation from forming. Although the Contrail is the heaviest of the shelters profiled, it is only 1.5 pounds which is light for a fully enclosed shelter. Setup is easy with a single pole.

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid tarpStyle:Pyramid tarp
Weight:16 oz.
Cost:$185
Pros:Easy setup, pyramid design holds up to wind very well
Cons:Least bug protection of the 6 profiled in this post.
Setup:2 poles
MLD offers quite a variety of shelters. The Solomid is a sil-nylon pyramid shelter that can provide full coverage from the elements. It is a tarp only configuration so a groundsheet is required. The two pole configuration does provide extra wind stability. The door can be opened on mild nights to provide extra ventilation.

Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform SW

Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform 1PStyle:Single wall, fully enclosed
Weight:19.5 oz.
Cost:$420
Pros:Fully enclosed, high bathtub floor
Cons:Cost, cuben fiber requires proper gear care
Setup:2 poles
The Cirriform has a unique design with a cuben fiber top and a high walled sil-nylon bathtub floor. This provides great protection from the elements but does limit the amount of mesh used for ventilation. The use of a second pole elevates the foot area and gives this shelter more interior room.

Borah Gear Tarp And Bivy

Borah Gear silnylon tarp and bivyStyle:Flat tarp and bivy combo
Weight:14.2 oz.
Cost:$120
Pros:Versatile combination, low total cost, great air flow
Cons:Requires practice to pitch tarp correctly
Setup:2 poles
Combining a flat sil-nylon tarp and bivy results in a shelter that has full protection from the elements while also having an open air camping feel. The ventilation of a basic tarp cannot be matched, but there is a learning curve to properly pitch a tarp. The Borah Gear combination is the least expensive of the shelters profiled.

Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis

Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis tarpStyle:Pyramid
Weight:13 oz.
Cost:$175
Pros:Easy setup, bug skirt
Cons:Less head and foot room
Setup:Single pole
The Wild Oasis design with it's bug net skirt places it between a pyramid tarp and a fully enclosed shelter. It's not fully enclosed by itself, but with a groundcloth on top of the bug skirt, it would keep out all but the peskiest bugs. The zippered door makes entry easy and can be shut for full storm protection.

Wrap-Up

All 6 of these shelters are great options for ultralight camping.  While the cuben fiber shelters are the lightest, they are much more expensive.  The variety of design styles show that going lightweight doesn’t pigeon hole you into a specific type of shelter design or a specific price point.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, please visit the manufacturer websites for more details.

Notes:  All images in this post are from the manufacturer’s website.  Some pictures were cropped and resized to fit this post style. 

 

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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  • Randy Martin

    Another distinguishing factor between shelters is their footprint. The Solomid has a small footprint which gives it some flexibility in pitching in tight locations.

    • Good point Randy. Footprint size definitely makes a difference when camping in tighter areas or heavily forested areas.

  • Dennis Patterson

    After decades of B&B-packing I have come to rest under the 6 Moon Designs Granny Gatewood Poncho Tarp. 17oz with pole & pegs. Of course it’s all about learning that less is more. Love that thing!!!!

    • Yes, it’s funny how much less we can pack and still be comfortable, safe, and enjoy the trips.

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