Gear Review: Tarptent Aeon Li

Since receiving a prototype of the Tarptent Aeon Li in December, 2018, I’ve put about 550 miles (885 km) on the shelter. Most of these came on the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT), but additionally I’ve also done some shorter hikes in southeast Queensland and Mexico’s Sierra Madre. What follows are my impressions of the Aeon Li, along with recommendations for future users.

Yours truly and the Aeon Li at sunrise | Kosciuszko National Park, Australian Alpine Walking Track.

Specs

Sleeps: 1 person.

“Could it fit two people in a squeeze?”  Even the most cuddly of sleepers would struggle to fit two people in the Aeon Li. The one person rating is spot on.

Dyneema® Material:

  • Fly – 0.51oz / yd 2.
  • Floor – 1 oz / yd 2

“Do I need a Polycro or Tyvek groundsheet?” In rocky, desert-like conditions I’d say it’s worth the one to two ounce weight penalty in order to prolong the life of your floor. Otherwise you should be fine without one.

Weight:  16.8 oz (477 grams) – as per my kitchen scale.

  • The above total includes the stuff sack (0.39 oz /11 grams), guy lines (0.92 oz / 26 gr) and struts, but does not include the optional apex guy line or Easton Aluminium tent stakes (6) that come with the shelter (1.69 oz / 48 gr).
  • The weight of the Aeon Li not including any guylines, stakes or the stuff sack is 440 gr / 0.97 lb.

Size (as per Tarptent website):

  • Interior Height: 47 in / 119 cm
  • Floor Width: 30 in / 76 cm
  • Floor Length: 88 in / 224 cm
  • Packed size: 14 in x 4 in / 36 cm x 10 cm

Price:  $535 (see Value for Money below)

The Aeon Li on Viking Saddle in the Barry Mountains | AAWT

Design 

The Aeon Li is a fully enclosed one person shelter with integrated fly and bathtub floor. It is single wall, made with Dyneema®, and uses one trekking pole in the set up.

  • Struts and Interior Space:  As a long-time user of Mid-style tents, one of the only real negatives I’ve found with this type of shelter is the reduced amount of usable interior space due to the low angles of the walls. This isn’t such a biggie if like myself you tend to sleep in the foetal position, but for taller folks that like stretching out, chances are there is going to be some rubbing of the noggin and/or the foot end of your sleeping bag on the tent walls. The Aeon Li goes a long way in addressing this issue by its use of struts along the back wall, along with another strut (or “structural awning”) situated at the tent’s apex. This was one of the first things I noticed when using the shelter. I’m 6’1″ and can stretch out and sit up with room to spare, even when using an inflatable mat such as the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite or XTherm (see photos below).

Back struts and PitchLoc corners / Tent pitched at 108 cm / Above tree line in Kosciuszko national park on the Australian Alpine Walking Track.

This one is for the folks over at UL Reddit. Pictured is yours truly in a Katabatic Palisade quilt lying on a Thermarest Neoair sleeping mat (small). My feet are resting on an MLD Burn backpack. Note the space between my head and foot box and the walls. It took me five tries to get this photo using a 10 second timer on my phone!

Sitting up on a 2.5″ Thermarest NeoAir Xlite (small).

  • Ventilation and Condensation: Like all single wall shelters, condensation can be an issue with the Aeon Li in certain environments. This can be mitigated to a certain degree by savvy campsite selection, leaving the vestibule door/s open when conditions permit, and setting the height of your trekking pole as high as practical in order to increase ventilation under the sides of the tent. The Aeon Li also sports a top peak vent and PitchLoc corners, which can be left open when conditions are fine, or closed up via the adjustable storm flaps when the weather is coming in. While I think the corners can contribute to increased ventilation, practically speaking I’m not sure the small top peak vent makes too much of a difference.
  • Footprint: The comparatively small footprint of the Aeon Li – especially when pitched without the vestibule – comes in handy when you are hiking in areas where suitable camping space is at a premium (e.g. thick forest environs).
  • Bug netting and Floor –  For an ultralight shelter that tips the scales at around a pound, the Aeon Li sports a lot of great features. Among these attributes are a mesh entrance that doesn’t droop to the ground when unzipped (i.e. dirt and zippers don’t play well), and a bathtub floor that is easily tensioned. As someone who has literally spent hundreds of nights in the boonies using a tarp and bivy, I can attest that the extra space afforded by the built-in netting is worth its weight in gold when the bugs are out in force. As for the integrated floor, it’s nice to have when camping on boggy terrain is unavoidable. The fact that all of this comes in a compact 16 oz package (i.e. a similar weight to many DCF Tarp, UL Bivy and/or ground sheet combos), is the reason why the release of the Aeon Li has been greeted with such enthusiasm by the thru-hiking and ultralightweight backpacking communities.

Camped on a saddle close to Mount Magdala | AAWT.

Pitching

With a little practice, the Aeon Li makes for a quick and easy sub-2 minute setup. It takes either five or six pegs, depending on whether or not you stake out the Apex guyline (recommended in windy and/or inclement weather). See the Aeon Li Quick Pitch video for a step-by-step guide.

Inclement Conditions: In regards to the height of the shelter, I pitch it as low as possible (108 cm approx.) with the foot end (narrow side) into the wind when stormy weather is on the cards. When calm conditions are prevalent, I’ll set it up as high as possible (128 cm approx.). If the forecast is clear, I’ll roll up the front doors and pitch the shelter sans vestibule for maximum views and ventilation.

Tent Stakes: The Aeon Li comes with half a dozen 6 in/15 cm Easton “Nail” Aluminium tent pegs. Over the years I’ve used this type of stakes quite a lot with both Tarptents and Mountain Laurel Designs shelters. In general I’ve found them to perform well, but on three separate occasions I’ve had the heads pop off them. If I was taking the Aeon Li into an area where I knew the chances of regular stormy weather and unavoidable exposed camping were high, I would swap out the Easton Nails for full size MSR Groundhogs, along with two or three Ti Shepherd hooks just in case of uncooperative campsite terrain.

Creekside campsite on the AAWT.

Packing

While packing other Pyramid or Half Pyramid-style tents that I own, I tend not to use a stuff sack. However, in the case of the Aeon Li, due to its multiple struts I think it is well worth the 0.39 oz (11 gram) weight penalty (i.e. the weight of the Aeon Li stuff sack). The alternative is removing and refitting the struts every time I’m setting up or taking down the tent, which personally speaking seems like too much faffing about.

“Doesn’t this mean that you have to pack the tent vertically in your backpack?” Yes. Personally speaking I found this to be no big deal, as the tent is quite small when rolled up tightly in its stuff sack (see below). However, for folks that are adamant about packing their shelters horizontally or basically just stuffing them in sans sack wherever they might fit, removing the struts (and then putting them back in again) is the way to go.

Here’s how I packed the Aeon Li in four steps (see photos below):

  • Gather together the back struts and apex strut at one end.
  • Using their width as a reference point, lay out the rest of the tent in a rectangular fashion.
  • Place the stakes next to the struts, then roll the shelter up tightly around the struts and stakes.
  • Put the bundle in the stuff sack.

Struts and stakes ready to roll.

The Aeon Li in its original stuff sack beside a 600 ml water bottle.

Performance

Excellent. During the AAWT I camped above tree line in windy weather (gusts up to 45 km / 28 mi per hour) on a couple of occasions, and each time the Aeon Li proved to be rock solid. Additionally, I took the shelter out for two stormy overnighters in my home state of Queensland (heavy rains and gusts over 50 km / 31 mi) and it held up like a champ. To reiterate my comments above, in all of these instances I pitched the shelter as low as possible (108 cm) and with the foot end into the wind.

Value for Money

The Aeon Li (US$535) is made with Dyneema® so it’s going to be expensive. That said, its competitively priced compared to other similar-style Dyneema shelters on the market (e.g. MLD Solomids and Zpacks Plexamid), and when you take into account Tarptent’s well earned reputation for quality workmanship and the durability of its products, I think the Aeon Li represents good value for money (Note: As with all of Tarptents products it is made in the US).

Conclusion

The Tarptent Aeon Li is an excellent 3 season+ option for thru-hikers and weight conscious backpackers who head out into the wilderness on a regular basis**. As you would expect with any shelter made by Tarptent, the materials, design and attention to detail are all top notch. But what really struck me about the Aeon Li is that not only is it über light and storm worthy, it’s also very spacious and comfortable for something that weighs so little. And that triumvirate of features is what has earned it a high place in my backpacking shelter “quiver” – to borrow one of Pmags‘ favourite expressions – for the foreseeable future.

Sunrise over the Aeon Li | AAWT.

Disclosure: I was given a prototype of the Tarptent Aeon Li free of charge in exchange for feedback from the field. This was the second of Tarptents’ prototypes that I have taken for an extended spin, the first being the ProTrail during the Cordillera Blanca Traverse of 2014. On both occasions I was under no obligation to provide media coverage or write a review, and the opinions expressed are my own. Some (though not all) of the links in this post are affiliate links. 

**Note: For Jill or Joe Backpack, who’s outdoor calendar consists of a handful of shorter weekend-type trips per year, I would suggest saving your cash and purchasing a lightweight silnylon shelter from either Tarptent, or other companies such as Six Moon Designs, Yama Mountain Gear or Mountain Laurel Designs. These models weigh approximately 30% more than their Dyneema® equivalents, but will offer a similar ROI in regards to functionality and durability, and most likely save you US$200 or more in the bargain.


Comments

Gear Review: Tarptent Aeon Li — 26 Comments

  1. nice review Cam, thanks. How do you deal with condensation to avoid wetting out the floor of the tent ? Do you just swipe the ceiling with a bandana ?

  2. Nice summary of which im sure will be a very popular shelter for Tarptent. I know you are a fan of the MlD solomid XL. How do you feel these compare? Do you see some advantages to the strut and pitchloc system?

    • As I mention in the article, the Aeon Li’s strut and pitch loc system provide more interior space. On the other hand, the SoloMid is a quicker pitch, and the simpler design means there is less that could potentially break or go wrong. That said, I think they are both excellent shelters, and it’s hard to go past either company when it comes to workmanship and attention to detail.

  3. Great review, maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable in a tent like this, so light l wish it was now lol. Looking at getting a 1p tent and l am tossing up between a copper spur and nemo hornet 🤔 still not sure which

  4. you mention a need for the stuff sack due to it having multiple struts – mind expanding on that a little when you have a chance? to avoid wear/tear inside pack / to other items? cheers

    • I didn’t use the word “need”, rather I said that in my opinion it’s “well worth the 0.39 / 11 gram weight penalty.”

      The struts are like mini-tent poles or extra long stakes. From a wear and tear perspective, I think that if you regularly packed the Aeon Li loosely in your rucksack, then yes, there would be a greater likelihood that one of the struts would eventually come loose. Given enough prodding, shoving and pressing, this could potentially be problematic with the more delicate type items in your pack such as your quilt, down jacket, rain wear, etc.

  5. Thoughtful and thorough, a great review. Always curious how people cowboy camp with tents like this. Separate ground cloth or just on top of the whole tent. That seems like it’d be hard on the fly which wouldn’t be a good thing.

    Thanks

    • Thanks for the kind words. If I’m going with a tent in an area where I’m likely to cowboy camp occasionally, I’ll take along a one to two ounce piece of Polycro or Tyvek to use as a groundsheet. I don’t think it’s worth the potential wear and tear on your tent.

  6. Hi Cam,

    Great review as always.

    I was wondering if I could plumb your extensive knowledge.

    If you were going to a wet and windy area e.g. Western Arthurs or Kosciusko, I was wondering what shelter you would use?

    There are two factors at play here. For high rain you want space to get away from the tent walls and for high wind you need a shelter that is stable.

    Would you personally take the Aeon Li, the Solomid XL or perhaps something else?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Petras,

      I think either the Aeon Li or the Solomid XL are suitable for the places you mention. I’ve used the Solomid extensively in Tassie over the years, and the Aeon Li performed well on my recent hike of the Australian Alpine Walking Track.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  7. Hi Cam,

    You have a great site, thanks for all the info.
    Curious what parts of AAWT you did, or did you do it all? Always thinking of doing some seeing its in my backyard.

  8. Thank you for the review. Can you disclose what mechanism keep the vestibule doors together (i.e. is it velcro, magnets, hooks etc)? I have used and loved my Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo LE for a while now but I do not like what the velcro does to the bug netting … and it will touch it eventually, no matter how carefully I close the velcros and pack the tent.
    Thanks!

  9. Hi,

    thanks for the first view on the tent.
    Two questions:
    1) Do you have any video of the Aeon Li performing during strong wind?
    2) I do need to choose (this week) between the Aeon Li and the Duplex.
    It will be used on a 70 mile hike in northern Sweden (above treeline). I’am 187cm & will sleep on a TAR X Lite.
    What do you think? Which tent will handle the wind and the harsh weather in a better way?

    Regards!

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks for the message. In answer to your questions:

      1. No, I don’t have any videos of the Aeon in strong winds.
      2. Aeon Li Vs Duplex – A. Space – The Aeon Li is plenty big enough for someone 187cm; B. Winds/Weather – I’m sorry, but having never used the Duplex, I can’t personally speak to its performance in inclement weather. As I mentioned in the review, so far I’ve found that the Aeon Li holds up well in fairly strong winds and rain when pitched low, taut, and with the foot end into the wind.

      Cheers,

      Cam

      • Hi Cam,

        thanks for the reply!
        One more question: so you won’t hesitate to take the Aeon Li to the Kungslegen (Nikkaloutka to Abisko – so the very north of Sweden)?

        • Hey Phil,

          Funnily enough I actually hiked that section of the Kungsleden with a Tarpent ( the Squall – no longer made) back in 2009.

          Yes, I think you will be fine if you choose to go with the Aeon Li.

          Cheers,

          Cam

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