Gear Guy

Can you help me shed some weight from my trail load?

I need a very lightweight tent for extended hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail. I carried the Marmot X-Racer last week and ended up with knee problems, so I'd like to shave off three to four pounds if possible. Is there a single-walled tent weighing around three pounds that uses trekking poles for supports? Matt Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Tents are good items on which to focus weight-saving measures. Lots of them weigh six pounds or more, so if you can cut that to three or four, that’s a pretty good whack.

As a result, many tent makers have dipped into the lightweight-tent category and, as you ask, some employ trekking poles in the framework, so you’re not lugging pieces of metal that get used only at night. MSR, for instance, makes what it calls the TrekkerTarp ($129), a tent-shaped, single-walled device that sets up with tent poles, trekking poles, walking sticks, or whatever you have handy. It sleeps up to three, but isn’t all that light at about three pounds. And, if you add the bug-proofing mesh insert ($80), it comes perilously close to five pounds. GoLite makes a somewhat similar tarp/mesh-insert combo called the Cave 1 Tarp ($119) and One-Person Net ($89), at a combined weight of just over two pounds.

You can also find very light “traditional” tents. The all-time classic, of course, is the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight. A compact two-person tent, it has plenty of room for one, is extremely storm-proof, and has bug netting. Cost is $169. It weighs just over four pounds in full “trail” setup—poles, stakes, the lot—but can be packed as fly and poles only, weighing in at under three pounds. Mountain Hardwear’s Tri-Light 1 ($275) weighs about three pounds, six ounces, and like the Clip Flashlight is a canopy-plus-fly combo. Marmot’s Home Alone ($189) is another light (four pounds) solo-hiker tent.