Review: Tarptent Aeon Li backpacking tent
The Tarptent Aeon Li tent is an ultralight single-wall one-person tent that utilizes trekking poles and stakes for setup. This is my go-to tent for most backpacking trips due to the low weight – just 1 pound.
Note: I purchased this tent with my own funds and receive no compensation from Tarptent.
- ultralight – weighs 16 oz. (2019 version)
- sets up with one trekking pole and six stakes (an optional pole can be purchased from Tarptent for use instead of a trekking pole)
- made with Dyneema fabric
- waterproof without the need for coatings
- front doors open fully for views
- tent interior stays dry when setting up in the rain
- small footprint
Tarptent, based in Nevada City, California, is a cottage industry company specializing in ultralight and lightweight tents. Their products are not sold in outdoor retailers and need to be purchased directly from Tarptent.
Current price – $569 (note that this tent is sometimes out of stock, so plan ahead to make sure you receive it in time for a trip)
- Interior Height: 47 in / 119 cm
- Floor Width: 30 in / 76 cm
- Floor Length: 88 in / 224 cm
- Stakes: 6 x 6 in / 15 cm Easton Nanos (included)
- Reflective guyline: 2.5 mm
- Packed size: 14 in x 4 in / 36 cm x 10 cm
Note that the Aeon Li was updated in 2020 and now features a waterproof zipper on the vestibule doors (mine has a hook and velcro strips on the doors), as well as guylines on the PitchLoc corners for more adjustability.
This tent uses one trekking pole and six stakes for setup. Since it is a single-wall tent, there is no separate rain fly – the tent walls and mesh side walls are sewn together to make a single layer. Due to having only one layer of fabric, the interior stays dry when setting up in the rain.
While I would not have wanted a single-wall trekking pole tent when I first started backpacking, now I wouldn’t want to take a heavier freestanding tent. I used to think that a tent like this would be too difficult to setup, but it’s super easy once you get the hang of it.
To pitch the Aeon Li, I like to use the method shown in this video: Darwin on the Trail – How to Get the Perfect Pitch.
Here is my set up method:
- start by staking the PitchLoc ends (place the stakes so they lines up with the tent’s ridgelines)
- place a trekking pole handle-side up (or use the optional pole) in the top awning, angled slightly to make getting in and out easier. While it can be pitched with the trekking pole handle on the ground, I prefer to place it handle-side up to keep my trekking pole handles out of the dirt.
- stake the apex guyline
- with both doors closed, stake the vestibule with the apex guideline using one stake
- stake the two front corners (place the stakes so they line up with the tent’s ridgelines)
- stake the middle back
A great feature is the small footprint for fitting into tight spaces… in the photo below, I wanted to be in some shade and get protection from wind, so I tucked it in between a tree and a small shrub.
The Aeon Li has several features to provide good ventilation, utilizing two PitchLoc corners (one on each end of the back of the tent) that can be left open for ventilation, or closed with attached fabric when needed. An apex vent above the doors also provides ventilation. And when even more ventilation is desired, adjust the height of the trekking pole to raise the front walls of the tent to allow more air to flow.
Single-wall tents have a reputation for condensation build up inside, but all tents can get condensation – the mesh of a double-wall tent prevents it from dripping in the interior while a single-wall tent doesn’t have separate mesh. If there is condensation inside, mesh sewn to the bathtub floor at the end of the walls will catch any moisture drips where they will fall through to the ground.
The best method to prevent condensation is to setup your tent in an area where it will be less of an issue.
Advice from Tarptent:
“Try to avoid camping overnight in cool, damp environments such as river valleys, meadows, marshes and next to water. If possible, choose an elevated campsite with a bit of a breeze and preferably under a tree canopy.
When condensation occurs, the best you can do is to dry off the inside of your shelter as thoroughly as possible before you take it down–a sponge or pack towel is useful for that. Give your shelter a good shake before you pack it up and use snack/lunch breaks in the sun to drape the fabric over a bush, especially if you can take advantage of breezes to accelerate the drying process.
Note that the dew point temperature increases as the humidity goes up. Surfaces can actually be colder than the surrounding air—note frosty roofs and windshields on morning when the temperature never hits freezing—due to radiational cooling. That’s why it’s often best to camp under trees since the foliage traps heat and keeps your tent canopy warmer.”
I’ve used my Aeon Li on 50+ nights of backpacking in the Pacific Northwest – and it’s still in like-new condition with no holes or tears anywhere in the fabric or mesh. I leave all of the struts installed and roll my tent, carrying it in a stuff sack on the outside of my backpack.
I use a footprint made from Polycro – the same plastic film used to seal windows – mainly to keep the bottom of my tent clean, but it also provides a layer of protection for the floor from abrasions due to sand or rocks.
Dyneema fabric is waterproof and doesn’t need coatings to stay that way. During a heavy downpour with 1.5″ of rain overnight in the Olympics, this tent stayed completely dry inside. Water somehow got inside my bear canister that night, but not in my tent!
This tent feels roomy to me, although I’m just 5’1″. However, it is longer than most one person tents and can accommodate taller campers and the interior height is a generous 47″ for plenty of head space. The interior of the Aeon Li has a 30″ x 88″ rectangular floor that isn’t tapered at the foot end. I prefer this shape so I can orient my sleep system at either end based on the slope of the campsite (there’s always a slope!).
I can use a full size sleeping pad (72 inches long) and place a backpack above the sleeping pad horizontally. However, I usually put the backpack so it’s partway under my sleeping pad to raise my head while sleeping.
The PitchLoc corners raise the walls of the tent to provide more interior space, as well as to provide stability to the structure. I place my sleeping pad close to the doors so there’s room on the side for gear.
I keep my backpacking chair in the vestibule whenever I’m not using it – handy for storing wet gear out of the tent and off of the ground.
The interior apex strut provides an advantage not listed on the Tarptent specs – it’s a great place to hang gear, both inside the tent and in the vestibule. On the outside, I hang my Kula cloth, and on the inside, I wrap my headlamp around the pole for inside lighting.
One of my favorite features of this tent are the magnetic closures for the mesh and vestibule doors. No more fumbling with toggles when rolling up the doors. I wish every tent had magnetic closures.
While this is an expensive tent, if you backpack as often as I do, it’s well worth it to have a shelter that’s as thoughtfully engineered and as light as the Aeon Li. Note: I purchased this tent in 2019 with my own funds and receive no compensation from Tarptent.
Purchase the Aeon Li: Current price – $569