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What’s the best backpacking tent?
Backpacking tents come in different styles and technologies. Having the right one is a necessity, but not all are created equal, nor a perfect one size fits all. As many experienced adventurers know, having the right equipment is essential to any outdoor activities like backcountry backpacking or multiple-day hikes.
Finding the right backpacking tent is never an easy job. There are so many options out there that you can get lost in the sea of brands and products. If you often find yourself in this kind of situation, then today is your lucky day. That’s because we’ve done all the possible research for you and have compared dozens of products from all of the top brands.
We at Always Wanderlust have combined decades of backcountry and long-term backpacking experience. We’ve braved the elements. We’ve climbed mountains, and we’re here to take the guesswork out of choosing the best tent for you.
We’ve handpicked a few tents worth mentioning to make this top 10 list. You won’t have to worry about picking or searching for the right tent because we’ve already done the research for you.
Here are our picks for the Top 10 Tents for Backpacking or any Adventures for that matter.
Tarptent ProTrail | Best thru-hiking tent
ZPacks Duplex | Best Ultralight Tent
HyperLite Mountain Gear Echo II | Best Solo Ultralight
Marmot Tungsten | Best Budget Ultralight
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo | Best For Taller Individuals
NEMO Hornet 2 | Best All-Rounder
Kelty Salida 2 | Best 2 Person Budget Tent
MSR Hubba Hubba NX | Best 3-4 Person Tent
Gossamer Gear The Two | Best Non-Freestanding
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 | Best 2 Person Ultralight
How to Choose a Backpacking Tent | Best For You
Tarptent ProTrail (2 Person Backpacking Tent)
Tarptent is known for and very good at making durable and light backpacking tents. They use specialized materials like Silnylon (a blend of nylon and silicone) to make their tents. You can tell by the name of the company that they have made use of the simple tarp in order to come up with a minimal and functional tent with lots of space and little clutter.
- It has a minimum trail weight of 6lbs.
- Size dimensions are 82 x 42 x 45 inches (L x W x H).
- The internal height of the ceiling is 45 inches.
- It is available in two sizes: 1-Person & 2-Person.
This is a 3-season tent, meaning it can be used in hot, humid or cold weather. It has one door/vestibule, and the walls are single-sheets. The best features of this tent are that it’s ultralight, very spacious, and extremely durable.
The tent uses 30d Silnylon, which is a sturdy and durable silicone despite being extremely light. The high ceiling gives you plenty of room in the tent to do much more than just lie down in.
The internal mesh screen has a bit of tension to it, which prevents moisture from finding its way in and ruining your gear. Although this tent is not freestanding and doesn’t come with poles, there aren’t many stakes needed to set it up. This leads to more comfortable and hassle-free pitching.
ZPacks Duplex (1 to 4 Person Backpacking Tent)
ZPacks have done it again with one of their highly-rated products, the ZPacks Duplex. This tent offers all superior qualities while being ultra-light and extremely functional. The tent is made from heavy-duty construction materials that make it stand up to just about anything. Whether you’re braving strong winds or heavy rains, this tent can handle it all. That’s because the Duplex is made of high-quality DCF fabric that is light, wear-resistant, and waterproof. It also doesn’t sag down like the other tents in this range.
- Its minimum trail weight is 1.3lbs (without poles).
- It has size dimensions of 90 x 45 x 48 inches.
- It comes in 4 sizes: 1P, 1P Tall, 2P, and 3P.
This, too, is a 3-season tent, and similar to the ProTrail has single-sheet walls. It has two doors/vestibules. Duplex is the best choice for long-distance thru-hiking. It’s not all good, though. There are some minor downsides to the Duplex. Because the fabric is ultra-light, it brings in some side effects, like being a little more expensive than your average tent. It also means you’re only going to get a single-wall tent, which isn’t great for handling condensation and moisture buildup.
The Duplex isn’t a freestanding tent, which means you’ll have to spend some extra time and effort setting it up. But despite these setbacks, this is still a perfectly viable choice for anyone looking to go backpacking on a weight limit.
HyperLite Mountain Gear Echo II
HyperLite is best known for its range of ultralight backpacking tents and camping equipment. They make hundreds of different tents along with their many product lines. But one of their most renowned and well-known product ranges is the shelter series. The Echo II provides immensely great value with great functionality. While most backpacking tents of this size will be tapered off to maintain balance, this isn’t the case with the Echo II. The tent is roomy enough for you to be able to feel the most comfortable.
- It has a minimum trail weight of 1.8 pounds.
- Size dimensions are 84 x 52/44 x 41 inches.
- It comes in two sizes: 1P & 2P.
This tent is a 3-season tent and has doubled walls and 2 doors. It is a freestanding tent so you won’t have to spend extra time keeping it upright. The great thing about the double-wall design of this tent is the amount of flexibility. The outer tarp and the inner insert can be used independently. You can remove the insert if you’re in hotter and humid climates. But if you’re camping out in the cold, the insert can come in handy to insulate you and keep out the cold.
It’s very stylish and sleek, which makes it stand out. It has great space-compartmentalization. The only thing that manages to stand out as a setback is a fact that the price is a little steep for what it offers.
Marmot Tungsten (2 to 3 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent)
The Marmot Tungsten 2P UL provides the best value for money in our book. It manages to balance great features at a decent price point. It’s made out of durable polyester rainfly. This material is very light and doesn’t sag. Setting up this tent is ridiculously easy, and you can easily open and close the zipper doors without any hassle. It has a decent-sized floor space, which makes it easy for you to be able to fit inside.
- Its minimum trail weight is 3.25 pounds.
- Size Dimensions: 88 x 54/46 x 42 inches (wider at the head, narrower at foot).
- It comes in two sizes: 2P and 3P.
If you’re on a budget and require most features and lots of interior space, then this is the best choice. It’s a 3-season tent with double walls, two doors and freestanding.
While there are some problems with the tent, like an uneven frame, it’s still a viable option. For backpackers on a budget, this provides the best middle ground for functionality and durability without burning a hole in the pocket.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (1 Person Backpacking Tent)
If you’re in the market for something new and unique, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is the answer for you. At just $200, it’s cheap enough for just about anyone to get an ultra-light style for an affordable price. This tent has a unique shape when you have it pitched up. The only setback for having this kind of unique design is the fact that you can only fit one person into it. But even then, there’s plenty of space if you want to drag in a ton of gear. The floor space is pentagonal, and the vestibule is large enough to hold your backpacks and gear.
- Minimum trail weight: 2lb 26oz
- Size Dimensions: 88 x 54/46 x 42 inches (asymmetrical triangle-shaped top, the pentagonal shape at the base).
- It is a 1-person tent. No more sizes are available.
It is a 3-season tent with double walls, one door/vestibule. Although it is a non-freestanding tent, it only requires one pole to stand it upright.
The side door is easy to access, and you can move in and out of the tent easily. It also opens up really wide so you can vent the air in hotter climates. And if you happen to be caught in the rain, the bathtub-style floor and the wide side door will make the water drain out quickly.
This one too is a great choice for people on a budget looking for lightweight backpacking tents with enough interior space for one person.
NEMO Hornet 2 (2 Person Backpacking Tent)
Nemo is known for making high-quality lightweight tents for all kinds of purposes. The Nemo Hornet 2P is a great tent from one of their premier product lines. It has an igloo-like shape where there are a small narrow opening and a dome shape for the actual tent area. The one problem with this is that the dome shape is slanted inwards, which limits your usable space. Despite that, you can fit two people comfortably. The slanted shape works great for colder climates where you would want to have less room to keep the heat contained.
- It has a minimum trail weight of 2 pounds.
- Dimensions: 85 x 51/43 x 40 inches (wider at the head, narrower at foot).
- Four sizes are available: 1P, 2P, Elite 1P, and Elite 2P
It is a 3-season tent with double walls, two doors and is ultralight. Setting the tent up can be a bit of a pain considering its an awkward design that sits somewhere between non-freestanding and freestanding (semi-freestanding).
You have to put up two poles to pitch it up because of that. It’s not the ideal situation if you’re trying to put it up on anything other than a smooth surface. Barring that, you have a pretty decent ultralight tent that can work great for solo situations.
Kelty Salida 2 (2 Person 3 Season Backpacking Tent)
Maybe you’re on a pretty tight budget, and spending several hundreds of dollars is not the ideal situation. At a budget-friendly cost of just $150, this tent is a shoo-in for a great beginner tent. It’s simple enough that you don’t have to worry about all the technical aspects. All you have to do is set up a tent and enjoy your trip with comfort.
- The minimum trail weight is 3lb 14oz.
- Dimensions: 88 x 54/46 x 42 inches (standard parabolic shape).
- Available sizes: 1P & 2P
It is a 3-season, double-walled tent, has one door/vestibule, and is freestanding.
Setting up can be a little intimidating for some people, but it’s the perfect primer to learning about everything involved in backpacking. While this tent is freestanding, you still have to set up the outer tarp with pegs in the ground. Despite that, the inner part of the tent is completely freestanding, so setup is relatively minimal.
If you’re just starting out on your camping and backpacking trips, this is the perfect option for you. With a great balance of cost, convenience, and ease of setup, there aren’t many better options out there.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX (1 – 4 Person Backpacking Tent)
If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX might just be the option for you. Remarkably designed from the ground up. Everything from the material to the fabric and the construction of the tent is decently constructed.
- Minimum trail weight: 3lb 7oz
- Dimensions: 84 x 50 x 39 inches
- Available sizes: 1P, 2P, 3P & 4P
This 3-season tent has double walls, two doors, and is freestanding.
The tent’s symmetrical design is complemented by its flower petal style tent fabric. It makes the inside roomy and comfortable. The material is fully waterproof and has a thick consistency to it. This means that anything from strong winds to heavy rains, and even snow, won’t bother you.
A side effect of such a fabric that the MSR Hubba Hubba NX weighs more than the average tent. But for the superior durability and comfort, it’s a small price to pay.
Gossamer Gear The Two (1 – 2 Person Ultralight Tent)
Gossamer Gear is known for making superb designs that work well for any occasion. They make all kinds of backpacking tents for all sorts of people and all kinds of situations. The Gossamer Gear II is no exception; it’s a well-built and reliable tent with an exceptional design that makes it versatile enough to be used for just about any situation.
- Minimum trail weight: 1 lb 8.9 oz (with six stakes)
- Size Dimensions: 88 x 36 x 46 inches
- Available sizes: 1P & 2P
It is a 3-season tent with double walls and two doors and is non-freestanding.
The Gossamer Gear The Two stays true to its roots by incorporating a standard triangular V-shaped design. While this does mean that you might have to spend time and effort setting it up, it has its benefits too. You get a solid, well-built tent ready to tackle anything thrown at it. It has excellent storage, excellent ventilation, and above all, a very reliable design.
There isn’t much that can be said for other tents that are in the same category as the Gossamer Gear II. It’s a tried, tested and true tent that doesn’t fail you.
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 (2 to 3 Person Ultralight Tent)
Big Agnes is no stranger to making high-quality tents that stand the test of time. Their line of ultralight tents is some of the most popular and in-demand products out there. The Tiger Wall UL2 is one of the company’s bestselling products, and it’s not really hard to see why.
Built from the coattails of the Big Agnes Copper Spur and the Fly Creek design, the Tiger Wall UL2 takes it all to another level. It combines all the functional elements from both these models and elevates it further. The Big Agnes takes the stylish appearance of the Copper Spur but reducing the weight of the tent at the same time. It borrows the intricate pole structure of the Fly Creek but manages to squeeze in more interior space than you could ever get.
- Minimum trail weight: 2lb 3oz
- Size Dimensions: 86 x 52/42 x 39 inches (wider at the head, narrower at foot)
- Available sizes: 2P & 3P
It is a 3-season tent with double walls, two doors/vestibules, and is semi-freestanding (you require some work to pinch it up straight, but not much).
How to Choose the Best Backpacking Tents
Despite what you may have heard, buying a tent can be quite challenging if you have no prior experience. Even seasoned and veteran backpackers often have to debate over the kind of tent they will need to fulfill their requirements. Getting the right specifications, you need to have a balancing act and one that requires careful consideration. With that in mind, we’ve listed below some of the aspects that you need to keep in mind when shopping for a tent. This will also help you narrow down your choices from the above-mentioned candidates.
The last thing you need on a backpacking trip is to have more weight tugging on your shoulders. While most tents are light enough not to add a significant impact, that’s not always the case. There are many tents out there that are quite heavy and do not fare well for hiking and backpacking. Less weight also means that you have more room for other things like supplies, gear, utilities, food, and extra pairs of clothes. Generally, you’ll find that backpacking tents are anywhere from normal weight to lightweight and even ultralight weight. The best thing to do here is to choose according to your total carrying capacity.
The next aspect that’s crucial is the capacity of the tent. You don’t want to end up going through your trip, enjoying yourself only to be cramped in a tent with five other people at night. At the same time, you don’t want to bring a big heavy tent if you’re going solo. Make sure to buy a tent according to your requirements. Buying multiple tents is also an option if you’re going with a big group. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Obviously, you’re not going to buy something you can’t afford. Cheap backpacking tents don’t have to be bad. This is why you have to carefully consider the price of the tent that is on offer. It’s important to remember here that price doesn’t directly correlate to quality. You can find good-quality backpacking tents for cheap and similarly find average-quality tents with a not-so-average price tag. Make sure you’re getting the best value for money when making your purchase.
What good is a tent if it can’t shield you from the outside elements? That is why it’s crucial that you find out what kind of protection your tent can provide. Whether it’s water-proofing or netting to reduce inner humidity, make sure your tent is up to the task. Some cheap beginner backpacking tents out there offer little to no protection, so choose carefully.
No one wants to stand out in the cold for hours, trying to find out how to assemble the tent. It’s an essential factor to consider when buying a tent. Make sure that you know what kind of tent you want, whether it’s a freestanding tent, a semi-freestanding tent, or a non-freestanding tent. These ranges vary in terms of difficulty of setup. A tent that needs minimal poles and pegging points will always be easier to set up. Similarly, a freestanding tent has the absolute minimum amount of setup required.
If you regularly go on backpacking and camping trips, you need something that’s rugged and can survive at least a couple of trips. While no tent lasts for an eternity, anything that wears out in a few trips is less than ideal. Make sure that your tent is made from durable materials. Try to read up on the manufacturer’s return and warranty policy, just in case you get a defective product.
Vestibules and Doors
Having more than one person in the tent means that they will need to enter and exit at different times. If you have more than one door and vestibule, you can be sure that they can go about their business without disturbing you and vice versa.
Getting a tent with two vestibules is also beneficial when dealing with more than two people. The last thing you want is being huddled in the tent with another person only to have their equipment hit you while you’re asleep. By getting a tent with two vestibules, you can solve this problem. This way, you can each have your belongings safely put away without having them in the tent, taking up valuable space.
It’s easy to spot a well-designed tent as opposed to a poorly designed one. When considering different designs, make sure that you pick something that will stay functional and practical. These days, a lot of tent manufacturers go for crazy-looking designs that don’t offer a lot of practicality. Try to get past how well designed it is on the outside and try to find out what it’s like on the inside.
It’s also essential to make sure that everything functions well and doesn’t break or stop working when you least expect it to. When you’re in a camping ground miles away from civilization in the middle of the night, it can really come back to haunt you.
Despite what some people will have you believe, not all backpacking tents can brave the four seasons. Usually, you’re going to find tents built for three seasons or less, which are summer, spring, and fall. Light winter can still be tolerated by a few tents, but if you’re planning on going camping near the Rocky Mountains, you’ll need something more specialized. If rain is a concern, make sure you have waterproofing available on your preferred tent.
Aside from the tent’s exterior, you also need to pay attention to the way the floor is designed. A lot of times, you may have a wide tent with a narrow floor that really limits your space and capacity. While you’re at it, you might also want to consider getting a tent that has a footprint that can help protect your floor from tearing through pointy rocks and uneven terrain. Getting a tent with a more layered floor will also help you keep warm against the cold ground.
Another overlooked aspect of buying a tent is the walls of the tent. Traditional tents come with single walls that may be thin fabric or padded with foam. But you can also get double-walled tents that provide a bit more protection. These tents come with two layers; an outer layer often called the tarp and an inner layer made of mesh lining. Double-walled backpacking tents are especially handy in situations where you have to deal with wet and damp conditions. Any condensation that forms on the inside of the tent is kept at bay with the inner mesh layer. These tents are also great at keeping your body heated, resulting in more warmth for colder climates.
By now, you should have all the tools you need to pick out the tent that will work correctly for your needs. At the end of the day, you can think of it as an investment. The more time and effort you put into it, the more output you get. It’s not all about getting something that’s the most expensive or the most feature-rich. Instead, you should get something that fits your needs perfectly and makes your trip feel memorable.
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