We selected these tents because they represented a broad range of the many applications of the solo tent, and all performed well. This variety of application means that the category is diverse, but they share many common design features and inspirations. The tents were judged on five criteria: shoulder room, packability, setup, weatherproofness, and features.
One trend in the broader tent market that this test highlighted is the growing specialization of ultralight solo tents, which follows an overall surge of interest in ultralight backpacking. Five of the tents reviewed had a trail weight below two pounds. This trend comes with a price tag, though—the average price of those five tents is $400, which is considerably more than the average of the over two pound tents, which was $219. Ultralight tent manufacturers are using ever-smaller zippers, ever-thinner fabrics, and ever-more innovative designs to shave off ounces.
The ZPacks Altaplex finished in the top spot in this test set with a score of 94, thanks to its chart-topping performance in nearly every category. The most important feature of the solo backpacking tent—its weight—is this tent’s best characteristic. The chief limitation is the high price tag.
The Best Value distinction goes the the Eureka Spitfire Solo. The Spitfire performed reliably with a score of 86. This tent is easy to set up, but it has a large structural flaw—it has the inconvenience of a non-freestanding tent, without the weight savings of non-freestanding.
These tents were judged with two weights—the minimum and the maximum. The minimum, or trail weight, is the weight of all the necessary components to get the tent over your head. The maximum, or package weight, includes all tent components. Minimum weights were as low as 8.8 ounces (ZPacks Altaplex, with no pole) and maximum weights were as big as 3 lbs 14 oz. Floor space ranged from 16 square feet (Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL1) to 22.5 square feet (ZPacks Altaplex).
The tents in this test were used throughout the spring of 2017, mostly on a multi-week mountaineering trip that began at Mount Shasta and ended on Mount Olympus and hit Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier in between. Testing also took place in the central Sierra Nevada. The length and intensity of the trip allowed a close look at the performance of each tent, with a strong appreciation of the consequences of that performance.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our other tent tests, backpacking stove tests, and overnight backpack tests, along with other related hiking and camping gear tests.