Best Solo Tents For Backpacking 2021 | The Only Companion You Need For Hiking And Backpacking - Outdoors Magic

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Best Solo Tents For Backpacking 2021 | The Only Companion You Need For Hiking And Backpacking

From a cheeky weekend wild camp to a long-distance thru-hike abroad, here are our pick of the best solo tents

It is your home away from home, your refuge from the storm, and your ticket to a wild, adventurous night out under the stars, all rolled into one. So, naturally, you want to make sure your solo backpacking tent is up to the task. You need it to be lightweight and compact, as you’ll be carrying it on your back wherever you go; you need it to be waterproof and windproof, as you’ll be camping in all weathers; and you need it to be as comfy, cosy and roomy as possible, as you want to enjoy rather than endure the experience.

Tent Buyer’s Guide | How To Choose a Tent For Backpacking

Is that too much to ask from one tent? Our in-depth, in-field research – undertaken throughout the Highlands of Scotland during a Munro-bagging hiking expedition – concludes a categorical ‘hell no’.

These six one-person tents all strike an effective and impressive balance between weight, size, comfort, price, and ability to withstand wind and rain. Wild campers can have their cake and eat it, after all. So why not pick up one of our top six tents and start planning your next solo backpacking adventure.

What Are The Best Solo Tents For Backpacking?

  • Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo – Best In Test Solo Tent
  • Terra Nova Laser Competition 1
  • Big Sky Wisp Bivy
  • Hilleberg Enan
  • Vaude Hogan SUL
  • Snugpak Ionosphere
  • Wild Country Helm 1
  • Vango F10 Helium UL 1

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

Weight: 740g
Price: £240
Internal Size: 2.4 m2

While you may not have heard of Six Moon Designs before, they are in fact an extremely popular brand within the ultralight hiking and fastpacking community. For that reason, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo makes for an ideal tent for fast and light solo trips.

The Lunar Solo is a hybrid tarp / tent design that features a single skin of silicon coated polyester upper that’s suspended off a trekking pole. This upper is pegged down at the edge and corners to form a hexagonal shape around its base.

This design gives a relatively large sleeping area, with 1.2 metres of height and 2.4 square metres of sleeping space. On top of that, you’ve also got the benefit of a 0.8 square metre porch, providing plenty room to cook and organise your kit – something we feel is an essential feature in single skin tents to avoid touching the potentially damp walls of the main compartment.

You’ll be able to pitch this tent in no time, once you’ve got the hang of it. First of all,  peg down the back corner, then stick your trekking pole in place and pull the guyline on the peak to then peg down the front, followed by the corners. Don’t worry if the sides look to be high off the ground; this has been done to promote ventilation.

Full Specification

Full vestibule / high vent / zipper vestibule closure / easy tensioning adjustment / floating canopy / floating floor / optimized sleeping area / centre pole support

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Read our full Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent review

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Terra Nova Laser Competition 1

Weight: 970g
Price: £440
Internal Size: (LxWxH): 220cm x 93cm x 95cm

Terra Nova’s Laser Competition 1 is an iconic backpacking tent. Its trophy cabinet is brimming full of ‘Best in Test’ badges from reputable outdoor magazines and websites, as well as industry awards. Why? Well, first and foremost, it is incredibly lightweight. At just 970g, it is the lightest tent on test, meaning it won’t weigh you down (or take up much space in your backpack) during your adventures – and, somewhat miraculously, the sub-1kg weight doesn’t mean the Laser Competition 1 is light on features.

With its transverse hoop design, utilising one main alloy pole in the centre and two tiny poles at each end, the Competition 1 still feels relatively spacious for one person. Most people can just about sit up without your head touching the inner’s roof, while the two mini poles ensure improved structure and room at the foot and head ends.

A large backpack can easily be accommodated in either the interior or the single porch, which at 220cm long and 50cm wide is easily big enough for gear storage or cooking. In terms of durability, the Laser Competition 1 is rated for three-season use, especially when additional guy ropes are used to provide extra support. Its low profile stands up excellently to strong winds, with air flowing aerodynamically over the tent, while the flysheet and groundsheet are made of Terra Nova’s Watershed fabrics, ensuring they are waterproof and ‘cleverly designed to prevent water penetration into the inner’. Condensation is effectively dealt with too. Half of the inner door has a midge-proof mesh and there are mesh panels at the end of the inner and flysheet.

Another useful feature is that the inner and flysheet come attached, so the tent pitches quickly and easily ‘as one’; or during wet wild camps the inner can be detached and stored separately, thus preventing the outer wetting the inner.

As with any product, the Laser Competition 1 isn’t flawless. It isn’t as durable as others; taller campers may find it somewhat small and claustrophobic; and I found that the zips of the single door often annoyingly jam and catch on their seal. This, however, is nit-picking. The Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 is a classic tent at an unbelievable weight, as well as being sturdy, durable and comfortable. It’s an epic tent worthy of epic adventures.

Full Specification

3 season backpacking / 5 mins pitch time / single porch / single door / fly and inner pitched together / 42x12cm packed size / 10 x 11g Alloy pegs.

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Big Sky Wisp Bivy

Weight: 684g
Price: £250
Internal Size: (LxWxHcm ): 230 x 90 x 120

The name ‘super bivy’ is a spot-on description of this. Big Sky have come up with a shelter that you could arguably say comes with all of the benefits of a bivy bag without the claustrophobic downsides.

Like a good bivy bag, it’s extremely light and also very packable – good for bedding down in during ultralight adventures. But unlike a bivvy bag, it has a large compartment that you can sit up in comfortably and a decent sized porch to keep your pack and boots in. 

It pitches like a tarp tent, requiring a trekking pole to prop it up which should be either 120cm of less in length. There’s then a 15-inch aluminium pole that props up the other end. This is embedded but can be removed if necessary. 

“It’s one for those who take a minimalist approach to their hiking.”

The pitching time is really quick. The first time we used it, we approached it blindly, not knowing what we should really be doing with it, but in the end it took us less than five minutes to have a well propped shelter for the night. 

It’s by and large a single skin tent, albeit with a double wall on one side where the mesh door separates the sleeping compartment from the porch. Single skin in the moisture-heavy air of the UK that we’re so fortunate to have means that you are vulnerable to a heavy soaking from condensation if you don’t ventilate this well enough, and while there is an adjustable air vent at the top of the Wisp Bivy, for heavy summer evenings you’re certainly going to need to sleep with the door open. 

The Wisp Bivy’s incredibly light weight is mainly down to the technical materials that have been used, more specifically, the clever SuperSil fabric, which is a ripstop nylon that’s coated on both sides with silicon to add both waterproofness and durability. 

What about its sturdiness then? Well, we’re sorry to say we’ve only tested this in moderate winds (which it handled very well) but considering its multiple pegging and guy line points we think it could be pretty dependable in any strong stuff. All the pegs and the guylines need to be purchased separately however. 

At its base weight, this tent weighs just 567g, but that measurement doesn’t include the pegs and guylines. Add them in and you can expect to be carrying around 100g extra. 

When it’s all packed up into its stuff sack (with pegs and poles), it’s about the size of a small loaf of bread – the official measurement on the site given as 39cm long x 11.5cm diameter.

Long story short, the Big Sky Wisp Bivy is one for those who take a minimalist approach to their hiking, long-distance running or bikepacking but want a little more luxury than a simple bivy bag or open sided tarp. We like it. 

Full Specifications

Pegs and guylines not supplied / packed size 20 x 14cm / SuprSil Ul flysheet with silicone on each side / no-see-um mesh netting / seam taped floor / 1 x aluminium 7.9mm 38cm foot end pole / interior pocket / top vent / large side door.

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Hilleberg Enan

Weight: 1200g 
Price: £640
Internal Size: (LxWxH): 220cm x 95cm x 93cm

If any tent can match the superlative levels set by the Terra Nova Laser Competition 1, this is it. Hilleberg’s Enan – which is a lighter, three-season version of the firm’s best-selling Akto – is another high-end tent with a host of impressive features. In many ways, there is very little to choose between the Laser Competition 1 and the Enan: they have an almost identical size and shape, the same single central pole design with shorter vertical rods at each end, and comparable internal and external features. Both are superb options for the dedicated – and well-off – backpacker.

But there are differences. At 1200g, the Enan weighs in 230g heavier than the Laser Competition 1, making it less appealing to ultra-lightweight specialists. The extra weight, however, gives the Enan superb durability for a three-season tent – and being bomb-proof in the worst of weathers is what Hilleberg’s products are known for, after all. The Enan’s strong 9mm pole, the same one used in the Akto, and its outer, which drops all the way to the ground and is made from a sturdy Kerlon 1000 fabric, ensures it will keep you safe and dry in the worst of conditions.

The Enan is full of other nice touches too. The full mesh inner tent door, coupled with outer meshes at both ends, allows constant air flow and excellent ventilation. Waterproof panels can be used to cover the end meshes in inclement conditions. The 75cm deep, full-length porch is great for cooking, or stashing a rucksack, while the outer-first pitching is quick and simple, benefitting from a continuous pole sleeve and tension system. Pitching is flexible too: the linked inner and outer can be pitched together, or separate, depending on your needs; and inside there is ample room for a single occupant with gear.

That’s not all. Multiple internal pockets are useful for organising your kit; the top-loading stuff sack is feather light; and the guy lines are adjustable at the top and bottom for fine-tuning your set-up. All of this, naturally, comes at a price – and there is no escaping the fact that the price tag of £640 is somewhat eye-watering. But, if you want a premium, high-quality tent with superb durability at a low weight, this might just be the one for you. Get saving.

Full Specification

Kerlon 1000 outer tent fabric / 9 mm poles / 3 season design / fly and inner pitched together / single entrance / single porch.

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Vaude Hogan SUL

Weight: 1250g
Price: £475
Internal Size: (LxWxH): 235cm x 110cm x 95cm

Vaude’s lightweight, stable and spacious Hogan SUL (Super Ultra Light) is ideal for backpackers who don’t mind a bit of extra weight in return for extra room. At 235cm long inside, it is far better suited for taller backpackers than the Enan and Laser Competition 1, while the 110cm internal height provides better head room and space for moving around. The main crucifix-shaped pole, coupled with two sewn-in short poles to the rear, create this spacious structure, which is classed as a one to two person tent – meaning it’s easily big enough for one camper with a lot of gear. Despite this added room, the Hogan SUL is pretty lightweight too, at just 1250g.

Vaude, a German firm respected for its ethical and environmental approach, claims the three-season Hogan SUL ‘defies wind and weather’, describing it as ‘extremely wind resistant and durable’. And that seems to hold true. The outer is siliconised on both sides, ensuring excellent beading in rain, while five guy ropes with large adjustors create a steady and strong structure capable of withstanding gusting winds.

Other positive features on the Hogan SUL are plentiful too. The inner hanging-line and large pockets are handy for organising your kit and clothes; all of the zips are smooth and easy; internal meshing improves breathability; the single door at the head end can handily be toggled half or fully open; and, despite a myriad of Velcro straps, poppers and clips, the tent is pretty simple and quick to erect. I do have one gripe: the porch is an awkward shape, making it difficult to store a large backpack. But, all in all, this is another top-notch tent with an array of premium features – and it’s ideal for any wild campers towering above 6ft tall.

Pros: spacious and long
Cons: awkward-shaped porch

Full Specification

Ripstop Silicone coated 3.000 mm outer / waterproof taped entrance zip / single entrance / single porch / inner first construction.

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Snugpak Ionosphere

Weight: 1520g
Price: £174.95
Internal Size: (LxWxH): 240cm x 90cm x 75cm

If you can’t stomach forking out £500 or so for a premium tent, but still want a sturdy, roomy and weatherproof shelter for your backpacking adventures, then look no further than the Ionosphere. At £180, Snugpak’s offering is the joint cheapest tent on test, making it an affordable and excellent value option. It can’t compete with Terra Nova, Hilleberg and co in terms of weight – at 1520g it is heavier than many solo wild campers would prefer – and it isn’t as flush with high-end touches and premium materials. But don’t be fooled into thinking the low price tag means low features. This is a great tent at a great price.

Snugpak’s Ionosphere is a long, narrow and low profile tent, with a huge floorspace. At 240cm in length, it is big enough for even the tallest of wild campers, and there is ample room for a single occupant with lots of equipment, despite the lack of a porch. At only 75cm high, it isn’t the best for sitting up in, but the low profile means the tent isn’t thrown around by the wind. The two-pole, hooped structure feels sturdy and durable, while the 5000mm hydrostatic fly sheet with taped seams effectively keeps out the rain and the accompanying mesh interior effectively prevents condensation (and midge attacks). Other positives include the military green colour, which is ideal for stealthy wild camping; and the 16 star-shaped pegs, which enable extremely secure pegging out.

As with any product, there are of course some negatives. The pole sleeve, which is split into three parts, is fiddly and awkward, while the very low profile of the tent makes sitting up without your head pressing against the inner roof impossible. In some ways, the Ionosphere could be described as a very large, hooped bivvy bag, or perhaps a particularly shallow, squat tent. But none of this really matters. At £180 and a weight of 1520g, this is an amazing value tent that is lightweight, sturdy and weatherproof – a great companion for adventures, both big and small.

Pros: excellent value; large floorspace
Cons: poor head room; relatively heavy; no porch

Full Specification

210T ripstop nylon 5000mm outer / 48cm x 14cm pack size /
anodised Aluminium poles, 100% aluminium / single-point side entry / taped seams / 14 lightweight alloy pegs.

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Wild Country Helm 1

Weight: 1870g
Price: £180.00
Internal Size:
(LxWxH): 220cm x 80cm x 92cm

If you love Terra Nova’s approach but can’t afford its prices, then its sub-brand Wild Country – which offers simple, good value products utilising Terra Nova’s own design and quality standards – is exactly what you’re looking for. The Helm 1 is a freestanding, spacious tent with a three-season rating. Its main drawback is the weight. At 1870g, it is by far the heaviest tent on test – almost twice the weight of Terra Nova’s Laser Competition 1. But, if you can cope with the weight, the Helm 1 has a host of advantages. It is pretty roomy, with a big porch, a high profile providing good head room, and ample space for one person and gear. A small door at the back of the inner also provides access to the space under the flysheet for useful extra storage.

In terms of ventilation, mesh panels run around the top of the inner and there is a half midge-proof mesh inner door for additional breathability; while in adverse weather conditions, the Stormtex flysheet is waterproof and four guy ropes provide a sturdy, durable base. The Helm 1 pitches quickly with the inner and outer together, and its two-pole, freestanding structure enables easy fine tuning of your positioning and angle. Other nice touches include the colour-coded pole sleeves, two large mesh pockets and the ability to fully open the circular interior door to almost 360-degrees. It isn’t the best looking tent ever – its slightly odd, asymmetrical shape won’t be winning any beauty contests, that’s for sure, but who cares when it’s such good value?

If it weighed in at 1.2kg or so, the Wild Country Helm 1 would be an incredible buy. Sadly, it feels like the 1870g weight lets it down a little, and for many wild campers the extra grams will be a deal-breaker. But, if you’re starting out as a backpacker or you’re on a tight budget, then this is still an excellent choice. After all, a three-season, spacious, sturdy and weatherproof tent for £180 is pretty phenomenal.

Pros: excellent value; spacious; freestanding
Cons: heavy

Full Specification

5 mins pitch time /single porch / single door / 48xm x 13cm packed size / Stormtex 4000mm flysheet 8.5mm Alloy poles / 10x Alloy pegs.

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Vango F10 Helium UL 1

Weight: 1200g
Price: £240
Internal Size: (LxWxH): 210cm x 95cm x 95cm

Vango’s F10 Helium UL 1 is the ideal mid-range option in our list of 2019’s top 6 solo backpacking tents. It can’t match the high-end, premium features of Terra Nova and Hilleberg; nor is it as competitive as Snugpak or Wild Country on price. But this means it fits neatly on its own, in the middle, providing a mid-range option with an excellent balance between weight and price. In fact, with a price tag of just £240, the F10 Helium UL 1 is incredibly lightweight, measuring just 1200g – saving valuable grams from your backpack. And the small weight still comes with big features.

Vango bill the Helium UL 1 as a ‘welcome and reliable shelter’ – and that’s certainly how it felt testing it out in the Scottish Highlands. The hybrid tunnel, constructed with one main and two shorter poles, provides effective bracing against side winds, while the Protex 3000mm waterproof flysheet and 70 denier nylon fabric ground sheet provide effective protection against the rain. Vents allow air flow to combat condensation and pre-angled poles achieve greater internal space, including generous head room. Other handy features include internal storage pockets, reflective points on pegs and guy lines (to stop you tripping up) and the oversized fast-pack bag for ease of storage.

Downsides? The tension band system is a little annoying and can get in the way, while the central curved pole can be a little awkward to thread through the sleeve by yourself. But all in all the F10 Helium UL 1 is an extremely good value tent. For just £240, you get an ultra-lightweight, durable, weatherproof and spacious one-man tent – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pros: competitively priced; lightweight
Cons: not as advanced as others

Full Specification

Protex 3000mm flysheet / internal storage pockets optional footprint / oversized tent bag with compression straps for easy packing  / dyneema pegging points / multiple reflective points.

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Header image: © David Miles


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