Whilst you can slim a standard tent down a bit by leaving some pegs and the stuffbags behind, this often just won't cut it for demanding use and so most people will at some point turn to ultralight tents.
Obviously the most important thing with any such tent is the need for minimal weight and low bulk, but they still must be:
Lightwave, Hilleberg and Terra Nova provide all of this in one form or another for the discerning and demanding customer at weights below 1.5kg and even 1kg in some cases, as well as some around 2kg with improved comfort and more space but still with low pack sizes and weights for non-race and less critical use.
One thing to remember with anything that is lighter in weight than the norm is that it either has to have a radically different design (which may mean less strength), it may use lighter and therefore possibly weaker materials, or it will use the most advanced of everything and therefore will be rather costly. So we as retailers have to choose the best balances in order to give you the best selection from which to make your choice.
The architecture of the tent plays a major part in keeping weight down. The less pole you use the lighter the tent should be.
Single pole tents are very light indeed, but they do have the downside of being very dependant on pegging and orientation to the wind for stability. They tend to be better for one person and competition tents as the larger versions are particularly prone to instability. Terra Nova's Laser Photon is one example, and is the lightest fully waterproof tent in the world, and we think the Hilleberg Akto may be the finest.
Tunnel tents are the lightest two pole tents as their poles are that bit shorter than geodesic (crossed pole) designs. Tunnel tents do in fact give the greatest amount of useable space for weight of all tents, but once again their stability is somewhat dependant upon their orientation with regards to prevailing wind, but they are less peg dependant than single pole tents. Lightwave provide us with a great range of megalight tunnel tents that should be a serious consideration for all, even those on a tight budget. Terra Nova's Laser tents offer slightly more space but require more attention to pegging and feel less stable. The Hilleberg Nallo range provide exceptional room for the weight, and are constructed from the best materials available.
Geodesic tents have poles that cross over and form a stable pitch without concern for pegging out, but the large length or number of poles do make them heavier. Two pole geodesics are the lightest options, such as the excellent Terra Nova Solar 2.
Three pole options are stronger but slightly heavier again. They are, however, less orientation dependant for pitching and are self-supporting so require less pegging. This makes them better for 4 season or mountain work. For larger 2 and 3 person tents, check out Lightwave's g1 and g2 Ultra and Trek ranges, and Terra Nova's Voyager. Some geodesics, like the Hilleberg Allak, are completely free standing so they can be pitched on hard or sandy ground without pegs.
Four pole geodesics have recently become light enough to suit some lightweight backpacking situations. The lightest option is Light Wave's f2 ultra at just over 2.5kg which offers full 5 season protection but also worthy of consideration is the slightly more pure mountain biased Crux X2 Storm which lives in our mountain tents section along with the Terra Nova Ultra Quasar.
The old maxim "you get what you pay for" works for lightweight tents as much as anywhere. Obviously when you try to slim weight down you lose somewhere else, be that durability, or in the pocket. Less expensive tents tend to use PU coated polyester fly and groundsheets whilst the more expensive tents use silicon coated nylon (the more expensive the more coatings you will get as well).
The pros and cons of Polyester & PU verses Nylon & Silicon: both of these can be similarly light but nylon has the edge and has a much higher tear strength and wear rating. It isn't prone to rotting when left wet as well. Nylon tends to stretch and shrink more than polyester with changes of climate and so needs slightly more re-adjustment once pitched. Polyester and nylon are both susceptbile to UV degradation, but the more layers of siliconising to the exterior of nylon tents the less the effect. Nylon tends to bond better to coatings where as polyester delaminates quicker. It is easier to tape over PU coatings than silicon ones but it is possible to use a seam sealant to do this on siliconised flysheets (it isn't easy to do tidily so manufacturers leave it to the customer), but often well made seams won't need it anyway.
So to summarise nylon is usually more expensive, but will generally be lighter, far more durable and have a higher hydrostatic head throughout its life, so if you pay for the best this is what you will get.
565g 1 person pitch-as-one single pole design. Great for lightweight backpacking, adventure race and mountain marathon use. (490g race weight). Centered short pole at foot end for extra space. 11 x 22cm pack size.
575g 2 person pitch-as-one single pole design. Great for lightweight backpacking, adventure race and mountain marathon use. (500g race weight). Centered short pole at foot end for extra space. 11 x 22 cm pack size.
A very spacious 1 person pitch as one tent. 2000g weight (excluding pack sack) and pack size of 12 x 50cm. PU coated nylon flysheet.
A very spacious 1 person pitch as one tent. 1700g weight (excluding pack sack) and pack size of 12 x 45cm. Silicon coated nylon flysheet.
830g tent for lightweight backpacking, adventure race and mountain marathon use. A very spacious 1 person tent and so can be used fairly comfortably for 2 in event situations. Packs down to 12 x 41cm. Single hoop design with 4 short vertical poles at the corners.830g 12 x 41cm pack size 10D nylon rip stop fly sheet fabric magnetic 'quick-snap' door closure Integrated tarp conversion storage pocket
770g 1 person pitch-as-one single hoop design (carbon pole). 4 short corner carbon poles. Great for lightweight backpacking, adventure race and mountain marathon use. Pack size 12 x 41cm. 770g 12 x 41cm pack size 10D nylon rip stop fly sheet fabric magnetic 'quick-snap' door closure Integrated tarp conversion storage pocket
Fantastic 2 person pitch-as-one tent. It only weighs 950g, thats 475g each in your pack and the pack size is tiny. Single hoop design with 4 short vertical poles at the corners. Packed down size 12 x 41cm.960g 12 x 41cm pack size 10D nylon rip stop fly sheet fabric magnetic 'quick-snap' door closure Integrated tarp conversion storage pocket
1010g 2 person pitch-as-one design. With 2 entrances and single porch. An incredibly light option for 2 people. One main aluminium alloy pole and 3 short corner poles. Packed down size 13 x 41cm.