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What is the best lightweight shelter?
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David Dietrich

Locale: Central Mississippi
What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 14:27:33 MDT Print View

It seems like most lightweight hikers use tarps with bivy sacks, but I don't know anything about knots, stakes, or rope, and I don't want to learn unless there is a significant advantage over a small, single-person tent with a rain fly like the Eureka Spitfire:

A tent like that can be pitched in about 5 minutes, provides good ventilation, and good protection while being lightweight. If I went with a bivy sack and tarp, I would have to pay for stakes and cord as well as learn how to tie the stuff off. In addition, pitching this system would seem to take more time than a single-person tent. Is there some secret advantage to the tarp system which outweighs all these considerations?

Another option I've seen endorsed is a hammock with a rain fly tarp overhead. This has the advantage of being cooler (I'm in Mississippi, so this is huge), but it has the disadvantage of requiring trees, cordage, stakes, knots, and more time. Does anyone have experience with these? Are they significantly better than single-person tents and/or tarp systems?

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 14:32:49 MDT Print View

Welcome David!

Tarp w/ a bug bivy would probably be better for condensation prevention (vs a bivy) on the Gulf. The advantages are BIG weight savings and flexibility: you could use just the tarp when bugs aren't a problem, & just the bug bivy if good weather is likely.

I use hammocks also, and they are great. The main disadvantages for me aren't the ones you mentioned. Rather, it is packed bulk (bigger for me, but you can get them small) and weight. Stroll over to and start searching for enough info to make your eyes crossed.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 14:34:30 MDT Print View

The canned answer for this question which is raised from time to time is

(drum roll please)

There's no *best* lightweight shelter.

Hammocks are great and something I'm returning to.

From living in the SE, ventilation is a nice thing to have due to your high humidity and the condensation that results.

I haven't been to Alabama since the 1970s but from everywhere else I've been in the SE, ticks can be problematic. Having some netting as protection from them is nice.

If you don't like knots, fixed lines work fine with my Hexamid Twin. I do get condensation when the temperature drops and humidity is high.

If you like a freestanding tent that doesn't weigh a ton compared to what you'll find in REI et al, the Tarp Tent Moment with optional pole looks like a nice option.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 14:43:31 MDT Print View

These are really the cream of the crop when it comes to lightweight / ultralight shelters. Many different configurations so it will be up to you what you personally prefer.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Secret Advantage on 08/27/2014 14:46:51 MDT Print View

Its not really a secret. A tarp weighs less. Most of the time I can leave the bivy at home just use a light ground sheet under my pad, if anything. Then I am really saving weight.

The other secret is that a tarp is really not that difficult. Stakes work just like the stakes on your little Spitfire. Knots are not really needed on lots of tarps that have linelocs. Ropes (I assume you mean the thin lines) are not any more difficult than the lines your Spitfire has. Site selection requires a little more skill, maybe, but its not that different either.

The other "secret" advantages: better ventilation on warm nights in the south; better visibility to the outdoors; more flexibility in setup; quicker take down; easier to dry out; etc.

Joe A
(dirtbaghiker) - M
tarp/bivy on 08/27/2014 14:48:50 MDT Print View

I can pitch my tarp faster then I can pitch any tent. I can use my bug bivy if it's buggy out and sleep out under the stars without having to pitch my tarp. If it rains or snows I can simply pitch my tarp (MLD Patrol Shelter). I get full weather condensation. .full bug protection (Bearpaw Wilderness Bug bivy)..In winter I use same set up except I switch bivies, I use katabatic bristlecone bivy. Both setups weigh 1 lb, give or take a couple ounces depending which bivy I use. Many more options of how I want to sleep and where I want to sleep with this setup over a tent. Weighs less then any tent and packs down so small.

Bob Moulder
(bobmny10562) - M

Locale: Westchester County, NY
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 14:57:16 MDT Print View

"best lightweight shelter"

Them's fightin' words! ;-)

Time for my plug for the Zpacks Hexamid Duplex

Light, spacious and bug-free.

Edited by bobmny10562 on 08/27/2014 14:58:42 MDT.

Katherine .
(Katherine) - F

Locale: pdx
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 15:15:10 MDT Print View

What's the best? Depends on where you're going and your preferences. In some situations I would want the full 360 degree enclosure of a mid or tarp tent. In general I don't want to bring trekking poles AND tent poles.

I use a hammock when I'm sure to find trees. I use a tarp & bivy otherwise (in the desert or with my friend who's eager to get up above treeline)

If you can use a hammock a lot of the time, it's certainly worth a try. I find mine very comfortable, and there are several advantages to being up off the ground.

Hanging the hammock -- at least a Warbonnet Blackbird, with the straps and carabiners--is fairly easy, though requires some attention to angles for optimal comfort. You still have to deal w/cord, but it's a lot easier because you have two stable trees there for the main ridge line. You'll still want to learn the knot to use (what I use is called a slip knot with a truckers hitch, i think). Or I suppose you could get those line lock thingies. I keep the cord attached to the tarp w/bowline knots. Some people redo them each time, i don't.

Pitching a hammock tarp is easier than pitching a tarp with two trekking poles. I've recently gained competence at that, but it still helps to have an extra set of hands to hold a pole.

Advantages of using some sort of tarp: airflow (less condensation), weight, versatility, ease of exit/entry, no zippers to break, psychological benefit of the openness - if that works for you, in some cases price, possibility to squeeze another person under it, you can keep the inner element (net, bivy, hammock) dry by pitching the tarp first, often safer/easier to cook under, practical/aesthetic value of simplicity, ease of peeing in the night (for me only w/the hammock). And I'm sure there are more that other members can nameā€¦

Advantage of using a tarp + bivy: even lighter and if the weather is clear you can skip pitching the tarp altogether. Love sleeping in just the bivy!

Advantage of a hammock: comfort, opens up a lot of camping possibilities, which allows you to go further because you don't need to be as concerned about site-selection. Assuming the overall place is forested.

Advantage of a flat tarp: If you get bored you can try new pitches. It's cheaper than trying new shelters!

Oh, if you are ever ill you can stick your head out of a bivy (or hammock) pretty quickly! I had occasion to appreciate that once.

My sense is a tarp/hammock set up for you would be a gentle way to ease you into the tarp stuff if you're curious about that. Get some of those line locks if that'll make it an easier transition. If you don't get the perfect cord or the perfect stakes, hammock set-ups are pretty forgiving. A lot of the time I'll tie off to a root, branch or log.

Right now I'm using my hexagonal hammock tarp for my ground set-up too. So that's another advantage: you can use a hammock tarp with a bivy or a large enough flat tarp with a hammock. Separate inner/outer elements gives you some nice budgetary leeway to experiment. I could also experiment with a tarp & net and I'd only have to buy a net.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 15:28:55 MDT Print View

I find that "best" changes with my experience, with the trip, and with my health (no hammocking for me while this dagnabbit spinal injury finishes healing).

You're going to have to learn SOME knots no matter what you do. Fortunately it doesn't take many to handle the necessities. Most of the complex stuff is showing off.

I find that in the winter or summer, hammock weight/setup is pretty much a wash with tent. If I hit the rare bug-free weather-free week then it's easier because I can skip the rain fly and bug net.

Or you can just do what most people around here one of everything and hope your significant other doesn't add up the bills.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
The best? on 08/27/2014 16:24:47 MDT Print View

It all depends :)

Since you are coming from a traditional tent background and seem to prefer that, a tent-like shelter is probably best.

TarpTent, Six Moon Designs, Mountain Laurel designs, etc. all make nice shelters that should fit your needs.

Do you want more space? Floorl-ess OK? Lots of ventilation (seems key for you!)? Etc. On a certain budget? Want the absolute lightest?

There is no one best..just best for your needs. As with all gear. :)

Go to the websites mentioned above, see what looks good and then google reviews and ask more questions once you narrow down some choices. I can say for certain among the vast experience of this forum, someone has used the shelter and can answer the specific questions for you.

With dozens of styles, hard to say what will really work well for you.

Which flavor of ice cream is best? Hard to answer. Baskin Robbins does have 31 flavors after all! Same concept with gear.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
I'll do it on 08/27/2014 16:37:42 MDT Print View

As Dave have said, it depends on you.

But, I'll give you my own subjective opinion on the best lightweight shelters:

MLD patrol shelter in cuben fiber
MLD solomid XL in cuben fiber
HMG Ultamid 2
HMG Ultamid 4

Factors for me are the extra length, material (cuben fiber), ease of setup and the use of trekking poles for tent poles.

If I were shorter, less willing to spend $$$, my list would be different.


Edited by prse on 08/27/2014 16:41:39 MDT.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
the best on 08/27/2014 16:40:13 MDT Print View

For me, the very best shelter I have used is the pyramid. You only need four solid stakes for structure and an optional four extra to keep the panels taut. It is floorless but your choice of inner net can add a floor and bug protection. With silnylon construction, it isn't important to get a perfect pitch, since it will stretch enough to accommodate an awkward pitch. There's also four sides of full weather protection. Since pitching is simple, it is fast. In foul weather, I can get out of the rain in a minute or two.

With the Duomid, I have plenty of space to store all my stuff out of the rain and enough to cook. Couldn't want anything more.

That said, it's not for everyone. Once you add bug protection or a second person it gets less convenient.

Edited by skomae on 08/27/2014 16:41:16 MDT.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
preferences on 08/27/2014 17:08:25 MDT Print View

Well, depends on your preferences. BUT I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you think like I do because I love those tents and had one as my first backpacking tent. I'm going to assume you like tents and don't want to deal with being "trapped" in a bivy. I will also assume that you like the idea of the tent overall, maybe for the bugs, maybe for the fact that you are enclosed, maybe for another reason. All that being said, and knowing the mindset that I take... you want a zpacks hexamid solplex if its for 1 person, and a duplex for two.

I LOVE mine. Never looking back. Sets up just as fast as the tent you linked to. Where that weighs 2 lbs 12 oz for the solo version according to the first site I checked, you'll be at about 16 ounces for a zpacks hexamid solplex. It won't be much if any smaller, it will just weight less. You'll look at it and wonder if it will work. IT DOES.

Its worth every penny. No knots. No screwing around, just put in the stakes and the CF poles or trekking poles and you're done. Sleep well. No bugs. No rain. Best ventilation I've ever had in a tent-type shelter. Sleep with one door open and still be safe from the rain. You won't look back I know it. If you want lots of width do the duplex. Happy shelter-researching!

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 17:26:07 MDT Print View

If I wasnt so much into hammocks right now I would be looking hard at one of the Big Sky tents.

The lightest Cuben models are very light and super expensive.

This one weighs about 1# 9.5oz in its lightest form and is freestanding and cost about 1k for the lightest version.

I think its the Revolution 1P that has an exo skeleton and a removable interior and thats probably the one I would get. IE set it up from the outside, Fly on and it pops up the net interior with the setup or remove the net interior for winter.

Lightest version of that one weighs about 33.3oz.

David Dietrich

Locale: Central Mississippi
best lightweight shelter on 08/27/2014 18:06:06 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the helpful feedback! I was very interested to learn about using hammock tarps with ground bivies.

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 18:13:18 MDT Print View

A hammock tarp is usually at least 11' long so plenty of room.
Mine is 12' because I like a longer hammock than most. Cuben from Hammock gear and weighs 6.4 oz and is one of their new Camo patterns which is cool.

Add a 10oz bug tent and you are ready to go.

If you get a hammock winter tarp with doors, those can close up almost into a tent.

Edited by tammons on 08/27/2014 18:14:07 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 21:07:57 MDT Print View

Knowledge is power. Afraid to learn new things?

Katherine .
(Katherine) - F

Locale: pdx
Re: best lightweight shelter on 08/27/2014 22:44:39 MDT Print View

"I was very interested to learn about using hammock tarps with ground bivies. "

to be clear: There's nothing about the hexagonal shape that makes them easier -- no easier w/a bivy than a rectangular tarp. It's just when you're pitching them over a hammock you know you'll have the two trees there, which simplifies the process.

Glad that was useful

David Olsen
( - M

Locale: Channeled Scablands
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 23:22:28 MDT Print View


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What is the best lightweight shelter? on 08/27/2014 23:31:43 MDT Print View

Hinds wrote, "I don't know anything about knots, stakes, or rope, and I don't want to learn..."

It might save your bacon sometime and it's part of backcountry life. It will certainly expand your options for shelters. You might even enjoy the process.

As others wrote, there is no single best shelter. It's like shoes: there are boots, trail runners, hiking shoes, sandals, etc. Each has it's appropriate use.