Mom Goes Camping

Best Cheap Ultralight Tents for Backpacking

best cheap ultralight tents

I have a love/hate relationship with ultralight tents and backpacking gear. On one side, I hate how snobbish some people are about gear. Not everyone can shell out hundreds of dollars for UL gear, and they shouldn’t be made to feel bad for using whatever gear they can afford.

On the other hand, I’m a 110lb woman who goes backpacking with my young daughter.  Any weight I can shed from my pack is going to make the trip easier and more enjoyable.  Since we go backpacking often, it is worth it to invest in an ultralight tent.

However, there are actually a lot of great light tents out there which don’t cost a fortune.  They don’t have the brand-name recognition as some others, but are still reliable.

 

*My Top Pick: Naturehike Cloud Up

If you don’t feel like reading through all of the reviews, then just check out the Naturehike Cloud Up.  It is the tent that I have and I’m really pleased with it.  It’s a knockoff of the Big Agnes Fly Creek tent, but costs a fraction of the price.  The total weight of the Cloud Up (with all pegs, groundsheet, poles) is 3.75lbs for the 2-person tent. It also comes as a 1p and 3p tent too.

Click Here to Jump to the Reviews

 

Yes, There Are Good, Cheap Ultralight Tents

Until recently, you couldn’t find an ultralight tent that didn’t cost a fortune.  Big Agnes tents, for example, start at around $300 and go over $800. The same goes for brands like NEMO and MSR.  If you couldn’t afford these and wanted to get under 3 or 4lbs, you were basically stuck using a tarp shelter.

However, as backpacking gets more popular, a lot of generic brands have started making cheap ultralight tents.

You need to be very careful about buying generic brand tents though:

  • The listed weight often doesn’t match the actual weight
  • Seams might not be taped
  • The materials could be complete crap
  • Waterproof level might be very low
  • Is there a bathtub floor? If not, expect flooding in heavy rains!
  • The weight of the groundsheet and stakes often isn’t included.

If you buy a cheap tent which fails on you, then you’ve just wasted money.  You could end up spending more than if you’d shelled out for a pricier ultralight tent (hence the phrase “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap gear”).

So,

  • Read reviews carefully
  • Don’t buy from new brands which haven’t been user-tested!

Tip: It’s worth considering a trekking pole tent if you want to go ultralight on a low budget.  These tents use your trekking poles for pitching.  Read more about trekking pole tents here.  Some of them are listed here.

 

What About Buying Used Tents?

When I decided to upgrade to an ultralight tent, my first reaction was to look for something secondhand.  I started scouring the net for a Big Agnes.  I quickly gave up though.  Most of the used tents only had a slight markdown, which meant I’d still be paying close to $300 for a tent.  Plus, there was a surprising amount of competition.  Auctions on eBay had insane bidding wars!

Plus, I’m a bit squeamish about buying used tents because of a bad experience I had years ago.  The cheap used tent I bought was mostly fine.  But one of the pole was cracked and broke quickly.  There were no replacement poles available for this tent, so I had to rig it with tape.  No fun! I’d rather pay full price for a new tent than risk defects.

 

Best Cheap Ultralight Tents

When looking for low-cost ultralight tents, I used these parameters:

  • Priced under $200
  • Under 4lbs for 1-person tents
  • Under 5lbs for 2-person tents
  • 3 Season
  • 2-layer design
  • Reputable brands

*The weights listed are for TOTAL WEIGHT with all pegs, mats, poles, and groundsheet. 

 

Naturehike Cloud Up (1p, 2p, 3p)

nature hike cloud up 2 ultralight tent

This is the tent that I have.  The brand is based out of China and makes knockoffs of Big Agnes tents.  I was wary about buying a Chinese brand tent, but the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.  My friend joked that that, since Big Agnes tents are made in China, he wouldn’t be surprised if the same factory was making Naturehike products too.  The first shift would brand them with Big Agnes and the second shift with Naturehike.

I’m very happy with my purchase.  It almost seemed too good to be true.  The 2-person tent only weighs 3.4lbs with the footprint.  It has a waterproof flysheet of 4000mm and the floor is also 4000mm.  The poles were a bit weird at first – they splay out very wide when pitching and it might be difficult in a tight spot. But pitching is fast and easy.

I couldn’t decide whether to get the 2-person or 3-person Cloud Up tent.  Ultimately I went with the 2-person because I already have a 3-person tent.  My daughter and I are tiny and it is still a tight fit. If you have a lot of gear and/or the two of you are bigger people, then definitely go with the 3-person option.

*Note that there are different versions of the Cloud Up tent.  The GRAY tents are lighter weight.

Specs:

  • Total Pack Weight: 3.2lbs (1p), 3.75lbs (2p), 4.9lbs (3p)
  • Interior Dimensions: 83x39x40” (1p); 83x50x40” (2p); 85x71x43” (3p)
  • Vestibule
  • 20D rain fly and bathtub floor
  • Other: No pockets, has lantern hook
  • See It Here

 

Naturehike Taga 2

naturehike taga 2 ultralight

The Taga 2 is a knockoff of the Tarptent Double Rainbow tent, but at a much cheaper price. It is also easier to set up because it doesn’t require clips for the bathtub floor It has one main door plus a small window that can be opened for venting.

Even though this tent is lighter than the Cloud Up 2, I still like the Cloud Up better.  Why? Because the Taga 2 has poles which have to go through a sleeve – which makes it a pain for pitching. The tent also doesn’t come with a groundsheet for the 20D floor, so you’ll have to get your own.  This adds to the price and weight of the tent. I also read that condensation can be an issue with the Taga 2.

Note that the usable floor space of the tent is actually only 41” wide instead of the listed 53”. This is very narrow for two people, so be prepared to spoon with your camping partner – or just get it as a one-person tent.

Specs:

  • Total Pack Weight: 3lbs
  • Interior Dimensions: 82(L)x53(W)x41(H) inches
  • 20D nylon rainfly and bathtub floor
  • Vestibule
  • Other: groundsheet mat not included, no pockets, a bit annoying to set up, lantern hook, one mesh pocket
  • See It Here

 

Paria Bryce Ultralight Tent (1p, 2p)

paria bryce ultralight tent

This ultralight tent is a bit pricier than the others, but is loaded with features.  Some of the things to like about it are: the 40D bathtub floor, quality aluminum poles and stakes, clips for the poles (for easy setup), vent window, 5000mm waterproof rating, and mesh inner pockets.

Considering that it’s got a higher waterproof rating and tough floor, the weight is very light. Note that the listed weight does NOT include the stakes or footprint.  The actual total weight for the two person version of the tent is 4lbs 6oz.  If you only want the rain fly, footprint and poles, you can get the weight down to 2lbs 10oz.

Specs:

  • Total Packed Weight: 3lbs 13oz (1p), 4lbs 6oz (2p)
  • Interior Dimensions: 85(L)x36(W)x36(H) inches for 1-person, 85(L)x53(W)x36(H) inches for 2-person
  • 20D rainfly, 40D bathtub floor and footprint
  • Other: Groundsheet included, mesh pockets, easy setup
  • See It Here

 

GEERTOP 42oz Trekking Pole Tent (1p)

geertop trekking pole tent

This is a trekking pole tent, meaning that you need two trekking poles to pitch it.  This means you don’t have to carry tent poles and the weight is significantly reduces without costing a fortune.

The tent is a bit cramped inside, but it has two vestibules.  You’ll be able to keep your gear outside instead of crowding it inside.  The floor of the tent is a thick 30D, 5000mm nylon, so you can skip on using a groundsheet.  It’s also really nice that there are two windows and doors.

Specs:

  • Trekking pole tent
  • Total Packed Weight: 2.65lbs
  • Interior Dimensions: 6(L)x35(W)x41(H) inches
  • 20D 3000mm silicon coated fly
  • 55D 5000mm bathtub floor
  • Two vestibules
  • Other: No groundsheet, two doors, storage pockets, requires trekking poles
  • See It Here

 

Mier Ultralight (1p, 2p)

mier trekking pole tent

Here’s another trekking pole tent. It isn’t as light as the Geertop tent above, especially since the groundsheet isn’t included, but it has a better design that allows for more interior room.  It also has two doors and two vestibules, which will make storing gear and getting in/out easier.

The tent gets good reviews and is fairly easy to pitch.  You’ll probably want to buy the footprint for the tent too, which will add an extra 5.3oz to the total weight of the tent.

Specs:

  • Trekking pole tent
  • Total Packed Weight: 2lbs (1p), 2.8lbs (2p)
  • Interior Dimensions: 9’x2.5’x49” (1p), 6.9’x3.6’x49” (2p)
  • 15D 6000mm bathtub floor
  • 15D 5000mm fly
  • Two vestibules
  • Other: Groundsheet (5.3oz) sold separately, two doors, storage pockets, lamp hangers, requires trekking poles
  • See It Here

 

Weanas Ultralight Tent (2p, 3p, 4p)

weanas ultralight tent

This is one of the few 4-person ultralight tents you’ll find (at least that is still affordable).  All sizes of the tent are very cheap and the quality is good enough for serious backpacking in 3 seasons.

They even claim that it can be used as a winter tent with the right sleeping bag and pad.  Since there is good ventilation in the tent to prevent condensation, it probably would serve decently in very cold weather.

Compared to many other tents, the dome design makes it very easy to setup and it’s fairly roomy. Of course, as with all tents, don’t expect to have lots of room.  Two people will be more comfortable in a 3-person tent, and so on.

Note that no footprint is included.  Even though the bathtub floor is pretty sturdy, you’ll probably still want to use a footprint with it.

  • Total Packed Weight: 4.9lbs (2p), 5.4lbs (3p), 6.5lbs (4p)
  • Interior Dimensions: 86”x51”x45(H)” (1p); 86”x62”x45(H)” (3p); 86”x80”x53(H)” (4p)
  • 150D, 5000mm Anti-tear Oxford cloth floor
  • 201T polyester rainfly, 4000mm
  • 2 vestibules, one of which doubles as awning
  • Other: two doors, storage pockets, lamp hangers, lots of ventilation
  • See It Here

 

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About the author /


Diane Vukovic is an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast and couchsurfer. She loves finding ways to explain complex topics to her 9-year old daughter and hunting beetles with her 1-year old. Follow MomGoesCamping on Facebook and Twitter @MomGoesCamping to stay in touch!

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