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Tarptent Aeon Li Review

Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures
Tarptent Aeon Li
Photo: Tarptent
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $535 List
Pros:  Under a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included
Cons:  Expensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
Manufacturer:   Tarptent
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 15
  • Livability - 30% 8
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Adaptability - 10% 4
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 6

Our Verdict

While sleeping, reading, hanging out, and comfortably sitting up inside the Tarptent Aeon Li, our testers couldn't help but wonder why they would ever go backpacking with a bivy sack again. At a scant .98 pounds, the Aeon weighs less than your average waterproof, bugproof bivy sack and gives you plenty of headroom, as well as a a generously sized vestibule for your stuff. While bivys still have their place in the alpine, why would a backpacker want to be stuffed inside a burrito when they could enjoy a single-person sanctuary like the Aeon? Tarptent hits it out of the park (again); top dollar, yes, but every little detail, from the micromagnetic closure tabs to height boosting carbon fiber struts add to your waterproof, bug-free camping experience - without weighing you down.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Tarptent Aeon Li
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Tarptent Aeon Li
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $535 List$600 List$220 List$269.95 at Backcountry$129.00 at REI
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Pros Under a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes includedAmazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doorsAffordable, durable materials, removable inner, double doorsPlenty of room for two people plus gear, adaptable for four season use, very affordableAffordable, easy to set-up, simple, packable, comes with stakes
Cons Expensive, single pole set-up takes a little practiceExpensive, doesn’t include necessary stakesHeavy for ultralight, guy lines can be difficult to tightenNo floor or bug protection, potential condensation problems, needs to be seam sealedNot encompassing protection all around
Bottom Line Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventuresAmple space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelterAn ultralight, durable, highly adaptable, and fully featured shelter that won't weigh on your walletA single wall, floorless, all around awesome pyramid tent with a great value attachedThis is a high value tarp that acts as a great shelter
Rating Categories Tarptent Aeon Li ZPacks Duplex Flex... Durston X-Mid 1P Black Diamond Beta... Kammok Kuhli UL
Livability (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
3.0
Weight (25%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
10.0
Weather Resistance (25%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
4.0
Adaptability (10%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Tarptent Aeon Li ZPacks Duplex Flex... Durston X-Mid 1P Black Diamond Beta... Kammok Kuhli UL
Type Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Twin pole structure w/ removable bug netting Floorless pyramid Flat tarp
Weight With All Components 1.09 lbs 1.80 lbs 1.90 lbs 1.35 lbs 0.84 lbs
Measured Weight of All Included Shelter Parts Total: 1 lb, 1 oz, tent with bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz, stakes: 1.7 oz Total: 1 lb, 5 oz Tent: 19.7 oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz. (Flex upgrade: 11 oz) Total: 1 lb, 14.5 oz, fly: 18 oz, inner: 9.5 oz, stakes: 2.5 oz, stuff sack: 0.5 oz, stake sack: 0.2 oz Total: 1 lb, 5.6 oz, tent: 1 lb 1.3 oz, stakes: 3.8 oz, stuff sack: 0.5 oz, (bug netting and floor 1 lb, 13 oz - sold separately) Total: 13.45 oz, tarp: 11.65 oz, stakes: 1.40 oz, sack: 0.4 oz
Stakes Included? Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Poles Needed for Set-up? Yes Yes w/o flex kit
No w/ flex kit
Yes Yes Yes or Tree
Capacity 1 person 2 person 1 person 2 person 2 person
Max Floor Dimensions 88" x 30 in 45" x 90 in 87" x 28 in 98" x 80 in 132" x 88 in
Peak Height 47 in 48 in 46 in 49 in Depends on configuration
Fabric Dyneema Composite Fabrics .51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric 20 denier 420 thread-count 100-percent polyester 30D SilNylon Patagium 15D diamond ripstop
Packed Size 14" x 4 in 7" x 13 in 12" x 5 in 4" x 6 in 3.7" x 7 in
Floor Area 18.3 sq ft 28.13 sq ft 17 sq ft 34.7 sq ft 80.7 sq ft
Doors 1 2 2 1 0
Number of Poles 1 4 2 2 0
One person version? Yes No Yes No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

In terms of weight savings alone, the Aeon Li blows the competition for solo tents away. When correctly set up and guyed out, it can take plenty of punches in a storm; this tent isn't freestanding and requires more a little bit more practice to set up. It's our favorite solo backpacking option, making it one of our Top Picks.

Performance Comparison


Reservation for one? This tent has many of the features from the...
Reservation for one? This tent has many of the features from the Stratospire but paired down to a single pole support system with just enough room for you and your gear.
Photo: Matt Bento

Livibility


Two tripod struts on either end plus an additional strut on the non-vestibule side of the tent effectively increase the height - without increasing the size of the footprint. This feature allows you to comfortably sit up while you change clothes or rummage around in the vestibule.


The floor space is a very cozy 18.3 square feet, but the vestibule is large enough to keep your pack and shoes out of the weather. In short, this is strictly a one-person tent, and limited space puts a ceiling on the livability factor. If you're quickly covering a lot of miles and need full bug or weather protection, this is the lightest, most comfortable option for those flying solo. On warm nights, you can take out the stake that holds the vestibule down and roll back both sides for a wide-open (but still bug-free) view of your surroundings. This arrangement makes the tent feel less stable, so save this configuration for windless nights.

Our 5'10" tester (with the hair standing up) has plenty of headroom...
Our 5'10" tester (with the hair standing up) has plenty of headroom in this small shelter. It's large enough for people up to seven feet tall.
Photo: Matt Bento

Weight


At just under a pound, it is a super light and functional shelter. It's also much lighter than any of the other solo tent options discussed and tested for this purpose in this review.


The key elements are the PitchLoc foldable corners that increase the tent's stability while also increasing its height - all while not requiring a larger footprint and additional material. The lightweight and durable Dyneema rain fly and carbon fiber struts also keep the weight to a minimum (though not the price). Most impressive is the fact that the light, flimsy thing you pull out of the box will set up into an incredibly sturdy weatherproof shelter.

This tent packs down smaller if you remove the struts. We found...
This tent packs down smaller if you remove the struts. We found leaving the struts in helps to roll the tent up (better for storage) and leads to a quick and easy packing experience.
Photo: Matt Bento

Weather Resistance


Weather resistance is why you buy a tent in the first place; looking at the low sided, bathtub style floor, we were a little skeptical if we'd stay dry in a real torrent. There is a small internal clip on the non-vestibuled side of the tent that allows you to raise the side a little. Turns out, that's all it takes to keep the floor dry.


That said, you need to be careful with site selection (as you would with any tent) and avoid camping in low lying areas like arroyos and old stream beds. An inch of standing water, combined with some unconscious tossing and turning, could lead to a wet awakening. The Dyneema fly is entirely waterproof. Unlike Silnylon, it doesn't stretch and sag when it gets wet, so you won't have to get up and tighten guy lines and readjust your tent.

Taught and secured (with some help from river rocks, the ground here...
Taught and secured (with some help from river rocks, the ground here was very soft), this tent is ready for wind and rain.
Photo: Matt Bento

Adaptability


The main adaptability piece is the ability to adjust the height and angle of the trekking pole support.


You can set the tent up at a lower, wider pitch for stability in windy conditions. This model isn't a free-standing tent, so your spot selection is limited to where you can get stakes in the ground, or find appropriately sized rocks.

Since this tent isn't free standing, site selection is key for a...
Since this tent isn't free standing, site selection is key for a bombproof set up. The tripod structures at on the corners allow the tent to be pitched higher without widening the footprint.
Photo: Matt Bento

Ease of Set Up


Initially, it took our testers about 10 minutes of finagling, adjusting, and re-adjusting to get this tent livable. Had we watched Tarptent's excellent instructional video on their website, our first attempt would have gone much smoother. Like other tarp style tents, the strategy is to stake out the corners, pop in the trekking poles support, and tension the guy lines (an easy task with the Aeon since there is a pitchloc adjuster on each line).


The one trekking pole set-up, in this tent, is not as easy to stabilize as the dual-pole design. We had to re-adjust our stake placements and re-tension guy lines many times before the tent felt satisfyingly bombproof. We didn't encounter any rough weather during our testing period, but we suspect poor rigging would result in tent collapse, and this tent is less forgiving than its dual-poled cousin. You don't need a master's in tarpology to set-up this tent well, but practice makes perfect, and we'd recommend setting it up a few times if your first adventure out calls for grim weather.

Setting this tent up in the soft pine duff could be frustrating. We...
Setting this tent up in the soft pine duff could be frustrating. We needed to use rocks to keep the stakes in place which made micro adjustments more difficult. This is an issue with any non-free standing tent, and Tarptent makes things easier with pitchloc adjusters on every guy line.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


This price hurts the wallet for the average backpacker. A night or two out each year means you'll be sleeping outside for the price of a decent hotel room. Following the logic of the ultralight backpackers, a lighter kit means easier going, less weight in your pack, less pain on your back, thus more days of happy ambling out in the backcountry. If you can swallow the initial investment, you will be happy with it. It's a perfect option for pack rafting, bike routing, and just about any solo mission you can think of that requires you to go as light as possible.

The magnetic tabs hold the door and bug netting out of the way for...
The magnetic tabs hold the door and bug netting out of the way for easy entry. they are much easier to use in the dark than traditional hook and loop closures.
Photo: Matt Bento

Conclusion


"Boutique" comes to mind whenever we test these expensive high-end ultralight shelters. While magnetic closures and carbon fiber struts may make a few eyes roll amongst the crusties, our testers have found that the innovative design features (how the tent stays up) and problem-solving (how do we make it taller, but not wider) that go into a tent like the Aeon are exciting and fun to see. Also, most importantly, they lighten our loads. This is a solid investment for solo adventurers and our favorite ultralight shelter for one.

Matt Bento