What is a Lightweight Tent?

Josie Myers

A lightweight tent is most commonly used for backpacking trips. Campers in these situations require tents that can be carried without much effort, and that can be set up quickly. Most lightweight tents can fit into a backpack or convert to their own carrying pack when folded up.

The average lightweight tent can hold up to two people.
The average lightweight tent can hold up to two people.

The average lightweight tent is made for only one or two people to sleep in. They are commonly little more than a shelter set close to the ground with not much room to move around. Most are not intended for standing up in, and many do not have room to sit up either. There are less common versions that can fit up to eight people with standing room, but these tend to be heavier than the smaller versions, and therefore more suited to stationary camping than to long hiking trips.

Lightweight tents are typically used on backpacking trips.
Lightweight tents are typically used on backpacking trips.

The lightest lightweight tent weighs in at just under 3 lbs (1.36 kg), while the average, which sleeps one to four, is about 5 to 10 lbs (2.27 to 4.54 kg). Larger multi-person tents can weigh as much as 30 lbs (13.6 kg). If backpacking in large groups, it is preferable to purchase several small tents, rather than one large one. This allows those traveling in a group to distribute the weight load among all campers, as well as affording a greater degree of privacy.

There are a number of materials that a lightweight tent can be made of. Canvas has been the standard of tent materials for a very long time. New technologies have allowed manufacturers to manipulate the weight significantly lower, without compromising the integrity of the material. The main advantage to canvas is its ability to absorb moisture within the tent. Nylon and polyester blends have also made their way onto the scene, and provide a light and airy feel to a tent while still providing effective shelter from rain.

Tent materials are measured in two ways. Denier (di) measures the weight in grams per 1000 meters. A measurement of 50 di is considered very light, and means that there are 50 grams of weight per 1000 meters of fabric. the second measurement is in pounds per square inch (psi). This tells how much force the material can take before giving in to pressure and leaking, an important measurement when hiking in areas with heavy rains. Military tenting is rated to 25 psi, but some tents go well beyond with ratings of up to 165 psi.

The tent poles can be made from several materials as well. Aluminum had been the most common for years, until carbon fiber came along. Carbon fiber is well known for its use in fishing poles. It is a strong, light and flexible material that allows the tent structure to bend temporarily with the elements, and snap back to its normal state. Another material used in lightweight tent construction is aluminum alloy. It has slightly more weight to it than carbon fiber, but will never snap, and has a higher resistance to crushing and rusting than common aluminum.

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