Solo backpacking presents a unique mental and physical challenge, one that draws on all your skills, knowledge and experience. It also tends to excite a whole range of emotions, often all on one trip. Excitement and apprehension can jostle for space in your head, while other thoughts and feelings – both rational and irrational – can be magnified by the fact that you’ve no-one to share them with.
In addition, responsibility for every decision lies with a single person: you. There’s nobody else to blame if you get lost, cold, wet or hungry. Similarly, you’re responsible for carrying all your gear, for keeping yourself safe and for getting out of trouble if something goes wrong.
Sounds daunting? Maybe. We probably wouldn’t recommend it to novice backpackers. But while a solo trip can be demanding, it can also be immensely rewarding. At times you’ll undoubtedly find yourself way outside your comfort zone. But this gives you a chance to learn what you’re capable of – and without wanting to sound like a self-help guru, there’s a good chance you’ll discover plenty about yourself along the way.
Of course, if you’re going it alone, what you’re carrying in your pack becomes even more important. On an extended trip, a cosy sleeping bag, a dependable stove and a trusty tent basically become your three best friends, providing warmth, food and shelter. The last, the portable and packable roof over your head, is arguably the most important – which is why we’ve tested a range of one-person backpacking tents and selected our six favourites to help you tackle any trail this summer.
Key features to look for in a one person tent
Wind resistance: A good backpacking tent will allow wind to flow over it smoothly, without buffeting and flapping like crazy. Tents with a low-to-the-ground, aerodynamic profile will ‘shed’ wind better than tents with higher, more vertical walls. Either way, pegging out guylines will increase stability in high winds.
Flysheet: For maximum weatherproofing, a tent’s flysheet – the waterproof outer – should peg out flush to the ground, and be easily adjustable via tension straps so that it’s taut, stable and well-shaped. Some flysheets don’t quite reach the ground, which aids ventilation but risks water ingress.
Weight: If you’re carrying a tent up a mountain, you’ll want it to weigh as little as possible – but the lighter it is, the more expensive it’ll be. For a good quality, 3-season tent for UK use, 1kg or under is extremely light, 1.5kg is good and 2kg is a tad on the heavy side.
Pitching: Some tents, particularly from US brands, are pitched inner first – which isn’t ideal if it’s raining (and let’s face it, it probably will be!). Others are pitched outer first or all-as-one, enabling the inner to be kept dry while the flysheet is pegged out. Ease of pitching is another important consideration.
Ventilation: Condensation can be difficult to avoid in the UK’s wet climate, so good ventilation is key. Mesh vents on the inner and vent windows on the flysheet will help increase airflow, as will mesh panels on the inner’s walls. Good clearance between the inner and outer is very important too.
Comfort: The most comfortable tents have roomy interiors with vertical walls and ample head and shoulder room, enabling you to sit up and move around without touching the inner. Lower profile tents will have aggressively tapered walls, which can feel cramped and claustrophobic.
Groundsheet: The groundsheet – the bottom of a tent’s inner and the bit you lie on – needs to be strong, durable and waterproof because it’s constantly in contact with the ground. ‘Bathtub’ groundsheets have waterproof material stretching a few inches up the walls, creating a ‘tub’ of protection around you.
Waterproofing: For an indication of how waterproof a tent really is, check the hydrostatic head of the flysheet and groundsheet. A good baseline is 3000mm. However many other factors, including silicone or PU coatings, the tent’s shape, sealed seams, and the tightness of a fabric’s weave, affect waterproofing.
Features: Other important features include: a good-sized porch for stashing your backpack and wet boots, a wide door for easy entry and exit, sufficient length and width for lying down (check carefully if you’re 6ft+), a stormflap over the main zipper, internal pockets for gear organisation, an easy-to-fill carry bag, strong poles, good pegs, sturdy pegging out loops and robust guy lines.
MSR FreeLite 1
Verdict: A superb ultralight tent for solo backpacking that boasts a class-leading space-to-weight ratio, particularly for a double-wall design. It isn’t flawless, but it’s still impressive.
Weatherproofing 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Features 3/5 | Weight 5/5 | Value 4/5
This tent defies the expectation that small, lightweight solo backpacking tents are cramped and coffin-like. It’s got great headroom and a generous rectangular inner footprint with good length and width. This makes it extremely liveable, aided by a generous porch area that means gear doesn’t have to be stored in with you.
The exceptional space-to-weight is achieved via a design that incorporates steep walls and a clever overhead spreader bar, combined with ultralight yet weatherproof fabrics.
All extraneous features are omitted, so it lacks things like storage pockets. There are hanging tabs for a gear line or loft though, and a clever door design means the two zippers always meet in the same place – no fumbling around in the dark needed.
The mesh inner ensures ventilation for good airflow and minimal condensation. The fly also provides good all-round coverage except at one end of the tent, where only a single fabric inner guards against water ingress. But on test in drizzly north Wales, we stayed dry. Though it’s worth noting that the inner pitches first – less practical if it’s already raining when you set up camp.
We’d like greater flysheet coverage at the foot end. The groundsheet is very thin – use a footprint for added protection – and one side of the tent has a steep wall that can catch wind.
Type Semi-free standing | Doors 1 | Porches 1 | Packed size 46x10cm | Trail weight 0.88kg | Materials 15D sil-nylon ripstop Xtreme Shield (1200mm HH); 15D ripstop nylon Xtreme Shield polyurethane and DWR sewn-in groundsheet; 10D nylon micromesh inner
Wild Country Helm Compact 1
Verdict: Sturdy and protective with a compact packed size, this is a robust and reliable solo backpacking tent – but at nearly 2kg it is the heaviest option here, which will deter ultra-lighters
Weatherproofing 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Features 3/5 | Weight 3/5 | Value 5/5
We tested the two-person version of Wild Country’s Helm Compact tent last year and were impressed with its fast pitching, all in one design, practical features and reassuringly robust build quality. The one-person version is just as good as its big brother, and arguably this style of tent is even better suited to solo use.
When you’re not forced to share with someone else the internal proportions feel far more generous in terms of floorspace and headroom. The inner features two big mesh storage pockets plus a stuff pocket to stow away the door, and though it only has one entrance, the rear of the tent has a small half-moon zippered flap, which gives access to a secondary vestibule, ideal for stashing muddy boots. This flap also has a mesh lining, so it can act as a bug-proof vent.
Two further top vents ensure plenty of airflow, and there’s plenty of space between the fly and the inner. But the inner itself is comprised mostly of fabric with relatively little mesh, ensuring it isn’t draughty.
You get a roomy porch and the flysheet provides plenty of coverage too. All in all, this felt like the sturdiest and most protective tent on test, making it our top pick for more exposed wild camps.
Though compact and packable, it’s relatively heavy – in fact, it’s more than double the weight of a couple of rivals tested here.
Type Semi-free standing | Doors 1 | Porches 2 | Packed size 30x17cm | Trail weight 1.97kg | Materials 8.5mm Superflex aluminium alloy pole set; Stormex polyester fly (4000mm HH), AquaStop polyester groundsheet (5000m HH); 70:30 solid nylon/mesh inner
Alpkit Aeronaut 1
Verdict: This ‘air beam’ tent is an innovative and well-equipped solo shelter – but headroom isn’t the best. And we found it tricky to get a consistently taut pitch.
Weatherproofing 3/5 | Comfort 3/5 | Features 3/5 | Weight 5/5 | Value 4/5
This single hoop tent uses an inflatable air beam instead of a pole to provide structure and rigidity, which saves weight and makes the tent extremely packable. It does mean you’ll be carrying a pump too though. It pitches all in one, which makes for quicker set-up, though a bit of tweaking is typically needed to get a taut pitch.
Inside, it’s long enough for six-footers. Two small struts at one end create a foot-friendly ‘box’ section. The inner measures 80cm at the widest point, so there’s plenty of room for you and your kit. Inner mesh pockets and hanging tabs offer additional storage options, while a useful overhead pocket is the ideal place for a headtorch. There’s also a stretch pocket to quickly stow the inner door.
The porch is a good size too. The fly door only has a single zipper, but Velcro tabs enable you to crack it open for more airflow. A small vent at the top of the door adds extra ventilation. The flysheet provides excellent coverage and protection, and the air beam feels robust and stable. It did occasionally deform in high winds, but just sprang back into place every time.
The large sil-nylon fabric panel overhead tends to sag in wet weather, touching the mesh inner and occasionally causing drips. The bulky air beam reduces interior headroom and the tent tapers sharply at the head end.
Type Single hoop (non-freestanding) | Doors 1 | Porches 1 | Packed size 28x13cm | Trail weight 1.24kg | Materials 15D sil-nylon ripstop (3000mm HH) fly; 20D nylon inner with sewn-in 20D nylon ripstop floor (3000mm HH)
Sierra Designs High Route 3000
Verdict: Light and packable yet also practical and versatile, this spacious and airy trekking pole tent has plenty of upsides. It does need more careful pitching compared to simpler designs though.
Weatherproofing 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Features 4/5 | Weight 5/5 | Value 4/5
This unusual tent also lacks conventional poles, instead using a pair of trekking poles, placed at opposite corners, to create the structure. Again, this makes for a very light and packable design. It does require a little practice to get a consistent pitch, since the asymmetric offset configuration is a bit of a headscratcher on initial set-up. But despite the
strange looks, it is both practical and versatile – you can pitch it outer first, all-in-one or just use the inner as a bug shelter
Inside, headroom is an impressive 95cm - plenty of room to sit up in. The rectangular inner isn't the widest but offers generous length. There's one small mesh pocket, plus hanging tabs for a gear line or tent lantern. Two porches provide loads of space to stash gear, with a full-size zippered door as the entrance. A half-length zippered door on the other side of the tent, which Sierra Designs call a 'gear garage', gives quick access to rucksacks or boots.
A strutted vent improves airflow and reduces condensation build-up, as does the large gap between the flysheet and mesh inner. This version of the High Route also boasts a flysheet with upgraded waterproofing of 3000mm HH, making it well suited to wet weather.
This tent has an unusual design, so practice setting it up before you head out. Secure peg placements are also vital to ensure a taut pitch, so look for solid ground when selecting a campsite.
Type Off-set trekking pole (non-freestanding) | Doors 1.5 | Porches 2 | Packed size 40x16cm | Trail weight 1.08kg | Materials 20D sil-nylon Ripstop fly (3000mm HH); 30D nylon ripstop sewn-in groundsheet (3000mm HH); 20D nylon ripstop/15D nylon no-see-um mesh inner
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker 1P
Verdict: Originally developed for US ‘thru-hiking’, this tent is roomy, packable and light – but it can be a bit drippy and draughty on cold, wet nights.
Weatherproofing 3/5 | Comfort 3/5 | Features 4/5 | Weight 5/5 | Value 4/5
This hybrid design is halfway between a single-skin shelter and a conventional double-wall tent. Like many ultralight
shelters it uses trekking poles instead of standard tent poles, but unlike most it is very easy to pitch.
The weight and pack size are both impressive, but when set up it is exceptionally roomy. An integrated spreader bar adds headroom, ensuring even the tallest backpackers will be able to sit upright, and length and width are both generous too.
The twin porches on either side of the tent are also a good size, while two big doors make for easy entry and exit as
well as offering some superb ventilation. That’s just as well, since like all single-skin designs this tent can suffer from condensation, though it only affects one fabric panel overhead. It is manageable though, particularly as the flysheet and mesh inner work together to deliver consistent airflow. Ample coverage reaching to either end of the tent ensures you’re still well protected from the rain.
It’s also very stable, made from a sil-poly fabric that doesn’t sag, with a wedge-shaped profile that sheds wind well.
The single skin panels of the tent can cause condensation if the inner is insufficiently ventilated, or if you are camping in cold, wet weather.
Type Trekking pole (non-freestanding) | Doors 2 | Porches 2 | Packed size 38x13cm | Trail weight 0.91kg | Materials 20D silicone polyester (3000mm HH); 40D silicon polyester sewn-in groundsheet; 20D mesh inner
Exped Mira 1 HL
Verdict: Well built and airy with good headroom and generous porch areas, but there are lighter and more packable solo shelters.
Weatherproofing 3/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Features 4/5 | Weight 5/5 | Value 4/5
This well-engineered tent uses a hubbed pole design with a central spreader bar. This means that when pitched it offers plenty of headroom and generous length, making it ideal for taller backpackers. It also boasts two impressive porch areas, one of which is accessed at the rear of the tent via a half-moon shaped zipper. This gives quick access to all manner of items, from boots to water bottles.
The inner lacks storage pockets but is fitted with hanging tabs for a gear line or loft, and also incorporates plenty of mesh to ensure good airflow. There’s a vent in the flysheet above the door, which is also fitted with a two-way zipper to further improve ventilation.
The flysheet offers good all-round coverage, with reinforced pegging points to add strength at critical areas. We really liked the useful door clips, which are far less fiddly than toggles or tabs and make for quick, fuss-free entry and exit.
The tent pitches inner first, which is a drawback in some scenarios (such as wet weather), but fortunately it is relatively quick to set up – though we found it needed a fair bit of fine-tuning to pitch consistently on anything other than perfectly level ground.
The inner is fairly narrow, especially compared to most of the rivals tested here. Weight and pack size are also middling for a one-person tent.
Type Semi-freestanding | Doors 1 | Porches 2 | Packed size 42x12cm | Trail weight 1.61kg | Materials 20D ripstop sil-nylon fly (1500mm HH); 15D ripstop nylon and no-see-um mosquito mesh inner; 20D ripstop nylon sewn-in groundsheet (1500mm HH)