For generations, campers have been relying on complicated pole systems to form the freestanding, wind-breaking structure of tents. With its new Hoopla 4, Mountain Hardwear has a different idea: rely on the tent fabric itself to create the main structure with minimal hardware involved.

Like some other tents and shelters on the market, the Hoopla 4 starts off with the principle of light weight through multifunction. Instead of an independent pole system, the only pole you'll need is a hiking pole, which many backpackers carry anyway. The Hoopla only adds one piece of internal hardware, something that Mountain Hardwear calls a Trussring.

Basically a large hoop, the Trussring uses DAC Featherlight NSL - a standard in the backpacking industry. The ring rests on top of the hiking pole and supports the tent fabric from the top, keeping it taut and creating the structure without the need for additional poles. It's a concept Mountain Hardwear calls "tensegrity." The Trussring also allows you to string a small clothesline across the top of the tent, so you can hang up clothes.

Unlike A-frames and other designs, the Trussring design opens up the roof of the tent, creating a comfortable amount of head room. The tent fabric is a single layer of 20D nylon. It sleeps up to four, providing 64 sq feet (5.9 sq m) of floor space and 50 inches (1.27 m) of height. The Hoopla is an open-bottomed shelter, but a tub floor is available for separate purchase.

Given its minimalistic design, the Hoopla weighs just 2 lbs (0.9 kg) packed, a weight that's typically reserved for ultralight one- and two-person tents. Like other types of poles, the Trussring breaks down into segments, strung together with shock cord. There are 10 segments in all, each measuring 14.1 in (36 cm). The entire tent package packs down to 20 x 4 inch (50.8 x 10.2 cm), so it could slide into a backpack relatively easily. Mountain Hardwear envisions it as anything from an emergency backup shelter to a minimalist backpacking tent.

The Hoopla 4 hit the market last month and is available for US$350. The floor is sold separately for $130.

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