10 Best Ultralight Pyramid Tarps of 2021

10 Best Ultralight Pyramid Tarps

Pyramid tarps often called “mids”, short for pyramids, are available in multiple forms ranging from one-person ultralight monopole tarps to multi-person winter tipis, complete with inner tents, stove jacks, and wood stoves. Despite their differences, all pyramid shelters share a few common properties.  They are exceptionally wind and weather resistant, they have a single peak, and solid walls. This makes them a good choice for camping in exposed terrain that doesn’t have a lot of natural windbreaks like trees or vegetation, and for winter camping, where the steep sidewalls of a pyramid can help shed snow.

Here are the top 10 pyramid tarps that we recommend.

1. Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL

MLD Solomid XL
The Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL is a single-person pyramid capable of handling strong winds and moderate snow loads. It has an asymmetric design that increases the amount of space behind the one center pole, allowing the front to be used as a covered vestibule. This offset design allows entry and exit in rainy conditions to help keep the sleep side of the shelter dry. The Solomid XL is available in silnylon and Dyneema DCF. A companion inner tent is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs

2. Six Moon Designs Deschutes Plus Tarp

DESCHUTESPLUS2020-5_2000x
The Six Moon Designs Deschutes Plus Tarp is a spacious 1-person pyramid tarp with a twist. While the tarp is floorless, it has an 18″ wide noseeum skirt to keep away insects without the need for a heavier inner tent. Weighing just 16 oz, it has a side entry and boasts 44 sq ft of interior room with a 49″ peak height. The Deschutes Plus is made with silnylon and requires a trekking pole to set up. A carbon fiber pole is also available as an add-on purchase. A version without the noseeum skirt is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Six Moon Designs

3. Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doors

Zpacks Pocket Tarp with Doors
The Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp with Doors is a 6.1 oz pyramid tarp made with Dyneema DCF. It’s designed for fast trips where you want to carry a minimal amount of gear and expect fairly temperate weather. The two doors can be rolled back completely or partially opened for better airflow. You can use it with an ultralight footprint, bivy sack, or an add-on bathtub floor (shown above). An interior tent is not available as an option, but Zpacks sells a very similar single-wall tent called the Hexamid Solo, which has permanently attached noseeum netting and just weighs a few ounces more.

Check for the latest price at:
Zpacks.com

4. Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

MLD Duomid
The Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid is a two-person pyramid that can also be used by one person as a palatial shelter. Besides being larger, it’s a significantly different sleeping experience than in the MLD Solomid XL. It has a large peak vent with a foldable wire that can be used to limit airflow or block snow. It has 8 ground-level perimeter tie-outs all with LineLocks for easy adjustment and 3 panel-guyouts. Interior loops are provided to hang lights or an inner tent. It pairs well with the one-person Solomid inner tent if you want a screened-in sleeping area with a large open area for cooking or gear storage.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs

5. Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2

HMG UltaMid 2
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 is a rugged two-person pyramid tarp made with Dyneema DCF that’s seam-taped and highly waterproof. It has a water-resistant zipper as a front door with two peak vents backed by noseeum mesh for inspection protection. The Ultamid 2 comes with 8 reinforced perimeter tie-outs with line locks, 4 center panel tie-outs, 1 tie-out on the cone for hanging under trees. Hyperlite has a large number of compatible add-ons for it including a Ultamid 2 Half Insert (great for one person), UltaMid 2 Insert No Floor, UltaMid 2 Insert with DCF11 Floor and a DCF Ground Cloth.

Check for the latest price at:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear

6. Locus Gear Hapi

Locus Gear Hapi Pyramid
The Locus Gear Hapi is a single wall pyramid tarp available in silnylon, eVent, or Dyneema DCF. Sized for 1-2 people, its door is located along the side, making it easy for two people to share without having to step over one another to enter or exit. The Hapi has a single mesh-backed peak vent and a water-resistant zipper. Setup requires 1 pole, with up to 16 guy out points around the base and on the side panels. We’re very keen on the silnylon version which is quite affordably priced. Locus Gear is a Japanese gear company, known for its highly refined ultralight gear. They also ship to the United States.

Check for the latest price at:
Locus Gear

7. Seek Outside Cimarron Pyramid Tent

Seek Outside Cimarron Pyramid Tent
The Seek Outside Cimarron is a Pyramid Tent that comes with an optional stove jack so you can burn wood inside in cold weather. This is a popular option with backcountry hunters who are out for days at a time in cold weather. The Cimarron has eight side panels instead of the four found on most mids and 2 zippered doors instead of one.  There are several different models available in Cordura or Dyneema DCF as well as add-ons, including a carbon fiber pole, stove, winter liners, and guy-out extensions.

Check for the latest price at:
Seek Outside

8. MSR Front Range

MSR Front Range
The MSR Front Range is a surprisingly lightweight and roomy 4 person pyramid tarp with a 5’ 4” peak height. While it’s ideal for use as a ski mountaineering shelter or winter dining tarp, it also packs down small enough for fair weather use by couples wanting extra room to spread out or as an alternative to a conventional double-wall tent. The Front Range is made with the same PU/Sil coated nylon found on all MSR tents. There are reinforced line loc tensioners on the corners with added guy-out points along the seams. A ski strap is including so you can use trekking or ski poles to set up the tent. A mesh insert is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
MSR | OutdoorPlay

9. Mountain Laurel Designs Supermid

MLD Supermid
The Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Supermid is 4 person pyramid tarp 9’2″ x 9’2″. It incorporates design features to reinforce its larger size and increase livability, not found on MLDs other mids, including an oversized peak vent to minimize internal condensation, mid-height door snaps, and triple rolled seams. The Supermid is a great choice for ski mountaineering, winter camping, and base camping for 2-4 occupants. It’s available in silnylon or Dyneema DCF, with add-on options including an inner tent or a floor. A 6′ long carbon fiber center pole is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs

10. Black Diamond Mega Lite 4P

Black Diamond Mega Lite 4P
The Black Diamond Mega Lite 4 has been in the Black Diamond product line for over a decade but has been designed and updated in the past year. While it has always been a popular choice for winter and ski mountaineering, the updated model is now seam-taped and made with sag-resistant siliconized polyester. The Mega Lite 4 comes with a carbon fiber center pole and has a total of 12 guy-out points. It has a front zipper with a buckle to take pressure off the zipper and line loc tensioners on the corners, making setup a breeze. An inner tent is also available.

Check for the latest price at
Black Diamond

Pyramid Tarp Guide – Critical Considerations

We’ve used pyramid tarps and tents quite extensively for backpacking in a variety of climates and terrain. Here are some hard-earned insights into how to use them and what to look for when purchasing one.

Monopole Shelters

Pyramid tarps are called monopole shelters because they only require one pole to set up. The pole is usually placed inside the peak in the center of the pyramid, although it can also be slanted with the base off-center to provide more interior room. The peak itself is usually reinforced so the center pole doesn’t puncture it. Most peaks also include an air vent to release the water vapor and warm air that can cause internal condensation.

A pole is often included with the shelter or available as an option. Most smaller capacity pyramids (1-3 people) can be set up with a trekking pole instead of a separate tent pole, which is common with the ultralight pyramids made by cottage manufacturers. If your trekking pole is not long enough, you can lash it to a second trekking pole with a Voile ski strap to create a longer pole or extend it with a pole jack, which is essentially a tent pole repair sleeve that fits over your trekking pole tip to make it longer.

Inner Tents, Nests, Net Tents, Etc.

What’s the difference between a pyramid tent and a pyramid tarp? Pyramid tents are usually just pyramid tarps with an optional add-on inner tent that has a floor and mesh netting to protect occupants from ground moisture, insects, and creepy-crawlies. If you use an inner tent with a pyramid tarp, you’ve effectively turned it into a double-wall tent, with all of the advantages and disadvantages commonly associated with them.

On the plus side, many pyramids’ inner tents can be set up after the outer tarp when it’s raining, so they stay dry. They’re also optional, so you can leave them at home when you want to save gear weight or bulk. This is particularly advantageous in winter when insect protection is unnecessary.

Golite Shangri-La 3 (now available as the Pyramid 3 from My Trail Company) pitched with its inner tent. While comfortable, the inner tent significantly increases the shelter weight.
While comfortable, an inner tent can significantly increase the shelter weight.

If you opt not to use an inner tent in a pyramid tarp, you can use a lightweight footprint, like tyvek or window wrap, as a waterproof groundsheet, or an ultralight bivy sack with a mesh hood for added insect protection.

Another common alternative is to purchase a half-sized inner tent that only fills part of the pyramid to save weight and so you can safely cook in the floorless half in bad weather. Many of the manufacturers listed above sell half-mids inner tents that can be used for this purpose. When purchasing a pyramid, make sure to look for ones that have interior gear loops or attachment points so you can conveniently suspend accessories in the interior.

You can use a pyramid like you would any single wall tarp, with a UL groundsheet and UL bivy sack.
You can use a pyramid like you would any single wall tarp, with a UL groundsheet and UL bivy sack.

Front Door

Most pyramid tents and tarps have a single front door, which can be problematic depending on its position and the number of people sharing the shelter. While not an issue for solo use, you’re probably going to wake up a partner if you have to get out of a multi-person pyramid at night. When evaluating multi-person pyramids, try to find ones that lets you orient your head facing the front wall so you and your partner(s) have equal access to the door, rather than pyramids where you’re lying perpendicular to the door. Another option is to get a pyramid that is larger than necessary so you have more room inside to move around.

Wide air gap between the bottom of the tarp and the ground.
Wide air gap between the bottom of the tarp and the ground.

Internal Condensation

Pyramid tents and tarps are prone to internal condensation just like any other single or double-walled tent and shelter. The best way to reduce or eliminate any internal condensation is to maintain as much airflow as possible. While many pyramid shelters have a vent in the peak, this isn’t usually sufficient by itself to vent moisture build-up.  While sleeping with the front door rolled open in fair weather can be quite helpful, the best way to ensure good airflow is to maintain a wide air gap between the bottom edge of the tarp and the ground so breezes can pass through the tent. Lengthen the center pole a few inches to raise the peak, and stake out the base as normal.

The least amount of overhead clearance is at the head and foot ends under the slanted walls.
The least amount of overhead clearance is at the head and foot ends under the slanted walls.

Interior Volume

While the headroom at the center of a pyramid tent or tarp is usually quite good, letting you sit up with ease, the interior can be awkward to use depending on the slope angle of the walls and their distance from your face and the top of your feet. While elevating the center pole can help increase the distance between the tarp and your face, there’s always going to be less clearance at the edges of the tarp farthest away from the center pole. If this bothers you, look for pyramids with a higher peak height and steeper sidewalls. The shape of the footprint –  circular versus square or rectangular – can also have an impact on the amount of edge clearance you have. Edge clearance is usually less of an issue in winter because you can dig a pit into the snow under the pyramid to create more headroom.

It can be challenging to wedge a pyramid in between trees in dense forest
It can be challenging to wedge a pyramid in between trees in a dense forest

Campsite Selection

Pyramid tarps and tents have a fairly large footprint, which can make it difficult to pitch in heavily forested terrain where you need to wedge them between trees. They also work best on flat and even ground, unlike a flat tarp, where you can pitch one side considerably higher than the other and still get a viable shelter. If the only ground you can set a pyramid on is uneven, you’re probably going to get some “wall sag” instead of a drum-tight pitch on the high side. This can reduce the amount of useable space you have inside, but is unlikely to have a serious functional impact.

When camping in exposed and windy terrain, it’s best to set up your pyramid with the door facing away from the wind or at an angle. While you can stake out the sidewall guy-out points to prevent wind pressure from bowing the walls into your living space, the most important stakeout points in high wind are around the base of the shelter. Consider bringing longer, thicker, and heavier tent stakes when anchoring your shelter in windy terrain.

It best to pitch a pyramid with the door facing opposite the wind
It’s best to pitch a pyramid with the door facing opposite the wind

Dyneema DCF Vs Silnylon

Many pyramid tarp manufacturers offer their shelters in several fabric options, including Dyneema DCF and silnylon. While a DCF shelter will be lighter weight (the larger the shelters, the bigger the weight difference) than one made with silnylon, it will be bulkier to pack. DCF shelters are also significantly hotter inside when the sun is shining, which can make hanging out in one during the day insufferable.

Besides being lighter weight, DCF shelters are usually seam-taped, so you don’t have to seam seal them. The material also does not stretch when it gets wet by rain or morning dew. Both materials are likely to have a similar lifespan, although many people prefer using Silnylon over DCF in winter because snow slides off its surface more easily.

Summary

Pyramid tarps are a popular ultralight backpacking shelter option because they’re relatively lightweight and wind-resistant. If sleeping on the ground doesn’t appeal to you or if you need insect protection, you can add an inner tent to a pyramid tarp to create a double-walled tent. Internal condensation is best addressed by encouraging plenty of airflow through a pyramid, by keeping the front door open or pitching them so plenty of air can blow through, low down near the ground. Most ultralight backpacking pyramids can be set up using a trekking pole(s), but you can usually obtain and carry a separate tent pole if you don’t use them.

Pyramids work best on flat ground with fairly open campsites because they require a fair amount of space to set up and stake down. While headroom is quite good in the center of a pyramid, the ends can be quite low above your face or the tops of your feet. This can be addressed by getting a larger capacity pyramid that provides more living space, although it will be heavier to carry.

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