There are lots of running activities for which a good lightweight one-man tent is invaluable. Think: mountain marathons, fast-packing journeys, self-supported multi-day challenges, long-distance FKT attempts and outdoor festival camping. A one-man tent can also be handy when crewing and supporting fellow runners in remote locations.
What to look for in a one-man tent
Weight and size:
Whatever your excursion, if you plan to run with your tent on your back, then you’ll be looking for something ultra-lightweight and packable. Extremely lightweight tents may have reduced weight at the expense of space, durability or waterproofing (particularly of the groundsheet). Often it is possible to purchase a footprint on which to pitch such tents, to protect the groundsheet and reduce dampness, but of course this is at an additional weight and cost to the runner.
To be considered fully waterproof, it must be able to withstand the pressure of a column of water 1000mm high without leaking. Higher values mean better protection in wet weather but also greater weight. As a benchmark, 2000-3000 HH is average for tents aimed at use in the UK climate.
Easy to pitch
You'll want a design that is easy to pitch and pack away. Most one-man tents are comprised of a waterproof outer tent with guy lines for tensioning, a breathable inner tent (usually with an in-built groundsheet), a set of poles and a set of pegs for pitching.
Alternatives to a one-man tent
There is also a wide range of tarps and shelters on the market which can make for great lightweight alternatives to a tent. However, tarps tend to require better weather and offer no barrier against foraging rodents or midges. And unless you run with poles, you’ll need to find trees or a rocky outcrop for rigging up a tarp.
If you want to go fast, and comfort and protection from the weather isn’t your top concern, then you should also consider a bivvy. A bivvy bag is essentially a waterproof but breathable over bag which covers your sleeping bag (leaving you looking like a giant cocoon!). A bivvy bag packs down to a small size and is usually lighter and cheaper than a one-man tent. They can usually be dried out more easily too but don’t tend to offer such a comfortable night of rest – and we know sleep-deprivation is cumulative and so important for running performance.
Despite the joys of lying out under the stars, however, some people find sleeping in a bivvy bag a damp and claustrophobic experience, compared to the more familiar sleeping environment of a tent. Most bivvy bags will leave you more exposed to the elements, insects and wildlife, whereas a one-man tent can offer you a space in which to sort your kit out, get some privacy and perhaps feel a bit more secure when out alone in the great outdoors.
What are the best one-man tents?
We tested a range of lightweight one-man tents with running adventures in mind and below we've listed our favourites. These models also work well for fast-hiking, trekking, backpacking and thru-hiking expeditions.
Best in test: MSR FreeLite 1
Minimum weight: 740g; pack size: 46cm x 10cm
The Freelite 1 is a spacious twin-skin one-man tent with an innovative pole system and lots of ventilation (perfect for warmer weather). It’s straightforward to pitch but its best feature is the 1m of headroom which allows you to sit-up comfortably. It also has a decent-sized porch to keep all your kit in. The inner tent can be pitched without the outer for a stripped-down option that provides bug-protection on warm, dry nights. 'This tent is ideal for multi-day adventures when you’re planning to spend some time chilling in your tent each day,' said our tester.
The only slight negatives are that you pitch the inner first, which is less than ideal in wet weather. The groundsheet also has a low Hydrostatic Head (HH) rating – the standard used to quantify the level of waterproofness of different textiles – at just 1200mm HH.
Best mountain tent: Nordisk Telemark 1 LW
Minimum weight: 830g; pack size: 41cm x 12cm
The Nordisk is a really compact and lightweight one-man tent. It pitches really well with just four pegs; set-up is quick and the design well-tensioned. It’s a great looking two-skin tent with a very big porch for its size and practical side entry. There isn’t loads of headroom but it’s still really roomy inside. 'I actually managed to sleep two persons in this tent for a mountain marathon, where it performed admirably!' said our tester.
Its robust structure and sturdy groundsheet make it a good option for wet and windy mountain weather. Groundsheet waterproofing is an impressive 8000mm HH.
Best for racing: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1
Minimum weight: 945g; pack size: 30 x 14cm
This is a lightweight two-skin tent that packs down to just 30 x 14cm. It has reasonable headroom and can be pitched as inner-only. The groundsheet waterproofing is good at 7000mm HH, making it a great option for expedition-style racing and multi-day running challenges in wet weather conditions. The two-person version is ideal for mountain marathons with racing pairs; and the more expensive but even lighter Terra Nova, Laser Pulse Ultra 1 (490g) is a great choice for fast-and-light racing where performance is paramount.
Best for long distance trails: Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
Minimum weight: 740g; pack size: 28cm x 11.5cm
The Lunar Solo is a packable, single-skin shelter that uses a single 124cm pole (which can be a running pole) to give tons of headroom and enough living space for a big pack and even a dog, if required. Side entry and a large porch make camp craft a dream, and it can be set up in a variety of ways to suit the conditions. Although perfect pitching takes time and skill to master, the result is a really versatile and comfortable camping experience – you can even pin up the door to create a covered vestibule for cooking. 'I loved this shelter for its airy volume and innovative design,' said our tester. 'It’s basically like sleeping under a tarp but with bug protection.'
The groundsheet waterproofing is suitable at 3000mm HH, however, we'd say this is best for low-level, long-distance trails in fine weather, where you’re expecting to camp many nights out on the trail.
It's worth noting that single-skin shelters are prone to condensation on the inside of the canopy. This can be reduced by pitching your shelter for maximum ventilation and is one of the trade offs of having such a capacious but packable shelter. For a two-skin equivalent, try the Gatewood Cape and Serenity NetTent in combination.
Best in poor weather: Terra Nova Starlight 1
Minimum weight: 1kg; pack size: 29cm x 10cm
Despite being positioned as a bike-packing tent, the Starlight 1 is also a great option for slower-paced journeys on two feet – especially in changeable British weather. As a two-pole, two-skin tunnel tent, it offers optimal protection from the elements and above-average capacity. All this extra protection comes at an additional weight but it won’t take up much room in your bag since it packs down really small. The Starlite 1 is quick and easy to pitch and is suitable for use in all seasons and elevations. Groundsheet waterproofing is a secure 7000mm HH. 'I would recommend this reliable tent for high-level trail running and fast-hiking journeys where protection from the weather is imperative,' said our tester.
Best for fast-packing adventures: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 Bikepack Tent
Minimum weight: 1.05kg; pack size: 34cm x 15cm
This tent is a brilliant all-rounder. The design is a twin-skin, single-pole system that is simple to erect and surprisingly sturdy despite its higher, rounded profile. It offers a decent 97cm of head height and a user-friendly living space that packs down well. You can also set up just the flysheet when the weather is hot and dry (so called ‘fly-fast mode’). 'I found the internal storage to be really well thought-out,' said our tester, 'and I also like that its production is more eco-friendly than other tents on the market, due to the use of solution-dyed fabrics (which reduce energy consumption).'
A slight irritation is the limited re-adjustment options once pitched but re-staking takes seconds and doesn’t impact the overall experience. Groundsheet waterproofing is also on the lower end at 1200mm HH.
Best for race/event camping: Quechua 2 Seconds Easy Tent
Minimum weight: 4.7kg; pack size: 59cm x 20cm
If you’re not carrying your tent while you’re running and you just want something for camping at a race or running festival, then this one is for you. It's technically a two-man tent but also serves perfectly as a one-man pop-up tent that can be set up in seconds. Most pop-up models are designed for more than one person, but if you’re not going to be carrying it anywhere, then you may as well enjoy the extra room.
Quechua is a well-respected budget brand that makes excellent outdoor kit. The 2 Seconds Easy may ultimately be just a festival tent, but it’s surprisingly waterproof, with the groundsheet waterproofing at 5000mm HH, and is robust in the wind. Thanks to its black-out design, you can enjoy 99% darkness and a great night’s sleep before race day. At 4.7kg, it's definitely not a lightweight option, though.
Best value: Alpkit Polestar
Minimum weight: 980g; pack size: 45cm x 14cm
The Polestar is an affordable twin-skin hiking pole tent. As such, it comes with only one short tent pole (reducing its weight) but is set up using two variable/fixed-length running or hiking poles of 120cm (not included). It can be pitched outer-only as a simple shelter but there is no way to use just the inner. Set up takes some figuring out but is easy once you know how. It has a decent sized porch for such a small tent, and there is a very effective vent for improved ventilation. Groundsheet waterproofing is also good at 5000mm HH. 'This is a lightweight but durable model for a very reasonable price,' reported our tester. 'I found it to be ideal for running adventures where I already had my poles with me.'
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