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 lbs, 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? Tarptents 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.
Tarptent Aeon Li Review
Cons: Expensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
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Tarptent Aeon Li
|Price||$535 List||$600 List||$700 List||$300 List||$715.00 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Under a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included||Only 21 ounces with included bug protection and flooring, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doors||Great weather protection, lightweight, adaptable||Roomy, easy to setup, fully enclosed, affordable||DCF construction is lightweight and waterproof, has the most enclosed interior space of any tent we tested, great for four season use|
|Cons||Expensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice||Expensive, doesn’t include necessary stakes||Expensive||A tad heavy to be considered ultralight for one, design not quite as wind stable as double vestibule options||Requires lashing two poles together for setup, very expensive, no floor or bug protection built in|
|Bottom Line||Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures.||The best combination of weather and bug protection, ample space for two people, and light weight makes it our Editors’ Choice winner.||This is one of the best, most liveable ultralight shelters money can buy.||The One is the best fully enclosed single person shelter that we have tested.||A super high-quality and spacious single wall pyramid made of DCF, with a price tag to match its materials and craftsmanship.|
|Rating Categories||Tarptent Aeon Li||ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade||Tarptent StratoSpire Li||Gossamer Gear The One||UltaMid 2|
|Weather Resistance (25%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (10%)|
|Specs||Tarptent Aeon Li||ZPacks Duplex Flex...||Tarptent...||Gossamer Gear The...||UltaMid 2|
|Trail Weight: fly/tarp, tent/optional bug net, poles||.98 lb||1.76 lb w/ Flex upgrade||1.75 lb (w/o poles)||1.68 lb||2.32 lb (w/o poles)|
|Shelter/ FastFly Weight (tarp and minimum guy lines or fly and poles)||.98 lb||1.06 lb (w/o poles)||1.06 lb||1.32 lb (w/o poles)||1.48 lb (w/o poles)|
|Weight of Components||Tent with Bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz Stakes: 1.7 oz||Tent with bathtub floor: 19.7 oz, Flex upgrade: 11oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz||Tent with bathtub floor: 25.6 oz, Floor and bug net: 11.5 oz, Fly: 14.1 oz||Total: 1 lb. 6 oz., Tent: 1 lb. 5.1 oz., Extra tie outs: 0.5 oz., Stuff sack: 0.4 oz., Optional aluminum poles: 5.7 oz.||Mid: 1 lb. 7.7 oz. (bug insert with floor = 22 oz, bug insert w/o floor = 13.4 oz.)|
|Max Floor Dimensions (inches)||88" x 30"||45" x 90"||86" x 45"||88" x 34"||83" x 107"|
|Peak Height (inches)||47"||48"||45"||46"||64"|
|Type||Tarp Tent||Tarp Tent||Tarp Tent||Tarp Tent||Floorless Pyramid|
|Fabric||Dyneema||.51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric||Dyneema||7D high tenacity nylon-blended sil/pu coating||DCF8 Dyneema Composite Fabrics|
|Capacity||1 person||2 person||2 person||1 person||2 person|
|Packed Size (inches)||14" x 4"||7" x 13"||16" x 4"||6" x 9"||8.5" x 6" x 5.5"|
|Floor Area||18.3 sq ft||28.13 sq ft||26.88 sq ft||19.55 sq ft||63 sq ft|
|Number of Poles||1 trekking pole||4||2 trekking poles||2 trekking poles||2 trekking poles|
|Number of Tie Outs||7||8||8||10||8|
Our Analysis and Test Results
In terms of weight savings alone, the Aeon blows the 2+ pound Gossomer One and the Nemo Hornet Elite away. When correctly set up and guy-ed out, the Aeon can take plenty of punches in a storm. This tent isn't freestanding like the Hornet and requires more a little bit more practice to set up. If you're willing to add 10 ounces to your kit, then the Tarptent Stratospire Li will provide space for you and a friend, or just you and a ton of gear.
Two tripod struts on either end plus an additional strut on the non-vestibule side of the tent effectively increase the height of the Aeon - 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. A better 1+ option for longer trips could be the Zpacks Duplex, which is tight for two but luxurious for one. Still, the Duplex can't touch the Aeon in terms of weight savings, and if you're quickly covering a lot of miles and need full bug or weather protection, the Aeon 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.
At just under a pound, the Aeon is one of the lightest and most functional shelters available. It's also much lighter than our previous Top Pick for Solo Adventurers, the Gossamer Gear One.
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.
Weather resistance is why you buy a tent in the first place; looking at the low sided, bathtub style floor of the Aeon, 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, as we did with the Black Diamond Megamid.
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.
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 with the Stratospire, the MegaMid, and 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 is not as easy to stabilize as the dual pole design employed by the Tarptent Stratospire Li. 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 masters 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 with the Aeon calls for grim weather.
Solo backpacking, pack rafting, and bike touring can be just the right mix of suffering and breathtaking beauty to illicit valuable introspection and peace of mind. But if you can carry a sub-one-pound tent to keep the bugs and the rain off during your precious moments of solitude and suffer a whole lot less, you're smarter than everybody else - not any less tough. The Aeon Li is a great mix of light weight and weather resistance and our favorite solo ultralight tent.
$535 hurts the wallet of the average backpacker. A night or two out a year in the Aeon means you'll be sleeping outside for the price of a decent hotel room. Following the logic of the ultralighters, 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. The Gossamer Gear One is a wonderfully designed single-person tent for $200 less, but it weighs over half a pound more than the Aeon.
"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. The Aeon Li is a solid investment for solo adventurers and our favorite ultralight shelter for one.
— Matt Bento