Best Backpacking Tent (Buying Guide)
Oh, the great outdoors. Nothing like spending the day walking around some trails with friends, a couple of laughs and a few good views. You reach some lakes, you cross some streams, at one point you hear the squish of the mud beneath you as you press firmly into your boots. Your body becomes tired with all the moving, and at the end of the day, it’s time to cozy up into your backpacking tent. But perhaps not before singing a couple of cowboy classics around the campfire and sharing a few stories from the day’s adventure.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best backpacking tents on the market today:
Before you start the next day’s adventure, you need to recover from the last. This makes your tent is an incredibly important piece of nylon when you’re out among the creeks and trees because it’s where you spend around a third of each day, tucked into your sleeping bag or rolling around on the firm tent floor beneath you. With so much time spent in this storable home, we figure it’s important to consider all the various models and provisions a modern backpacking tent can offer you, so you can best determine what’s the right choice for you. So before we go to the various models of a tent, let’s first address what factors go into this provision.
What to look for in a backpacking tent
There are many aspects of a tent you should delve into when looking to purchase this packageable home. Of course weight is a pretty strong consideration, when you’ll be lugging this thing around for as many days as you’re about on the trail, but also interior space, number of doors, how extensive is the weather protection, ventilation, how long it takes to set up and break down, and more. And again, because this is something you will spend so much time in, and with the invaluable importance of a good and safe night’s sleep, nothing better prepares you for the next day than a good recharge and relaxing night. So without further adieu, let’s prop of these careful considerations to determine what to look for, and what to expect, in the tent models down below.
Backpacking tent weight
This is probably the most scrutinized feature of a tent and becomes even more important as you strap it across your backside for the umpteenth day in a row. The range has some variety, with the lowest ultralight varieties coming around 1 pound, three ounces, with the heaviest being around 5 pounds. Not necessarily such a burdensome provision but still certainly something worth mentioning.
Though with this added weight, of course, you get more benefits as well. More interior space, durability, weather protection, and price (usually the ultralight options are more expensive, as they have more expensive fibers and technologies built-in). The lighter the tent, the more streamlined and minimalist you’ll see, with the intention of minimizing weight whenever possible.
Sloped walls and tapered ceilings, more flimsy zippers, and poles out of carbon are practical for the intense hiker who is counting each ounce and multiplying it by the days they’ll be out on the range, but for a more casual crowd, maybe not as important or worthwhile. Admittedly, there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution to the tent discussion, as a lot depends on the personal needs, expectations, and capabilities of the individual.
A tent’s packaged weight versus minimum weight
Basically, when you see a tent’s listed weight, it will show its trail weight, meaning the tent body, rainfly, and poles. It ignores the other doo-hickeys that can often come included, including the tent body, rainfly, poles, stakes, guy lines, repair sleeves, plus the bags for the tent and stake. That difference can add around another 6 ounces, so you have to be careful. It’s nice to know the minimum, and if you’re hiking somewhere where you don’t expect much rainfall, like Arizona, go ahead and leave some of that burdensome stuff behind like tarps and rain protection. If you’re doing something as extensive as the Appalachian trail why then, by all means, stow as much as you can.
Interior space: The floor, walls and peak height
When looking at a tent’s specs, the floor will either give you the length by width numbers, or the general floor area in square footage. Just as the weight of a tent can vary from one end being half of a third to the largest, the same rules apply here, ranging anywhere from a cozy 27 square feet to a spacious 53. And peak height will obviously tell you the highest point of the tent, but depending on the slope of the cables, there’s really a large variety in how spacious that high point can really make you feel. It’s important to get a good visual of the tent as well, and just not rely on the data points regarding the tent’s dimensions.
Number of Doors
Obviously the more doors, the easier it will be to enter and exit your tent, and with two people (or upwards of a four-person option) in a tent, the less likely you’ll disturb your camping companion when you’re rustling around in the night looking for a flashlight and a place to relieve yourself. A single door, especially something so petite that you have to crawl through, isn’t our favorite thing to do in the middle of the night. So consider who else will be living in your tent and for how long you will be in there, to determine if you can bear the smaller cubic area provided in the name of weight and efficiency or if you would prefer something with a bit more give to it.
Durability and Denier
When talking about tent durability, you will often see a manufacturer listening to their tent’s denier rating. This is basically a measurement of the fabric’s weight, usually demonstrating how durable the material is. There’s a natural correlation between how to light a tent is and how limited its durability is. If you have an ultralight tent with thin materials less durable than the chunkier options, it’s even more of an imperative to check for sharp sticks and rocks, something that seems obvious but easy to overlook when exhausted after a long day climbing up switchbacks.
1. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
The newest model of the Big Agnes Copper Spur is a great backpacking tent and overall one of the best lightweight tents on the market. Backpackers will love the fantastic gear storage on this tent, and it also provides a lot of headroom so you can sleep comfortably here. For a backpacking trip, where you have to carry your tent and are looking for something high quality with a thoughtful weight ratio, look no further.
The pole design has been created in such a way that it means you’ll have plenty of extra space in this comfortable three-person tent. The sidewalls are lightweight and breathable, and as soon as you arrive at the campsite you can cozy in without lugging around extra weight. While not really a budget backpacking tent, if you want something that can withhold high volume usage and stay durable, look no further, as this is one the best ultralight tents on the market.
- Easy accessibility with two doors
- Incredibly lightweight at two pounds and three ounces
- A more expensive option
- The flip side of that lightweight fabric is limited durability
2. Nemo Hornet
- THE MASTER OF ULTRALIGHT - The updated Hornet offers unmatched livability and comfort for its weight; NEMO’s patent-pending Flybar volumizing clip adds even more interior volume, while top shelf...
If you’re a minimalist and still seeking something with a tent-pole supported shelter, look no further. We love this design because it has a thoughtful two-door design meaning you can roam freely without disturbing your partner. However, it is pretty snug on the interior, so make sure you know the other person well enough that some nearby neighbor space won’t bother them. However, with two “flyer” pole clips, it helps pop up the back and gives it some added livability. Another one of the lightweight camping tents you’ll see, its lightweight single-wall design means it’s more of a three-season kind of tent. But while it can’t stop the bad weather that comes with the winter months, this is a great two-person tent that is one of the lightest options available.
- Incredibly lightweight and thoughtful design at two pounds 9 ounces
- Great breathability and flexibility on the trails
- Can’t provide coverage as a winter season tent
- The inner tent is breathable but can’t keep you insulated
3. Marmot Limelight 2 Person Camping Tent w/ Footprint
- Body Zone Pre-Bends Create Vertical Walls for a more spacious living area
This is one of the best tent options you will see on this list. Whether trekking across the backcountry or looking a bit more glam like a car camping situation, the Marmot Limelight is a top pick for its easy comfort and livability. Campers can rejoice in this 2 person tent as it has color-coded easy pitch clips and poles, meaning you won’t have to waste half the night pitching your living space. And among tent designs, this one is one of there preferred because it offers so much volume while maintaining one of the lightest tents on the market. The tent’s plentiful floor space comes with a footprint, meaning there’s some added support and comfort beneath the backside below you.
- Classic design and simple finish
- Color-coded easy pitch clips and trekking poles
- No double-wall insulation
- Inner tent materials lightweight, but limited durability
4. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent
- 3-season, 2-person backpacking tent that offers the most livable accommodations in a lightweight freestanding design
We love this ultralight backpacking tent for its freestanding design and great livability. The Xtreme Shield waterproof coating that it comes with lasts up to three times longer than standard waterproof coatings so heavy rain won’t be a problem with this powerful tent. We should also mention that the tarp tent is sold separately, but won’t break the bank if you choose to add this option.
The wall tents are sturdy enough to withstand any sort of trouble, and the two large vestibules that can roll out to provide extra storage are a fantastic addition. There’s plenty of floor space to store your gear for any activity, from rock climbing to mountaineering. Plus with the strong ripstop nylon technology, the tent stays light while providing strong durability. We love this tent because it arrives at the nexus of all necessities we’re addressed while keeping the price within a reasonable range
- Waterproof coatings to withstand heavy weather
- Bountiful floorspace below so you stay comfortable
- One of the heavier options compared to the others at three pounds 5 ounces
- Have to buy the footprint tarp separately
5. Kelty Late Start – 3 Season Backpacking Tent
One of the cheapest options on our list, this is our bare bones pick for when you’re wallet can’t match your eager adventurous spirit. We appreciate the simplicity of this tent, that it’s easy to set up and easy to put back down. If you’re looking to do something simpler like maybe only a weekend excursion, go ahead with this choice. Unfortunately, there’s only a single door and vestibule, but that shouldn’t matter as long as you’re out with mates with them you’re comfortable and protected. And with thoughtful pre-bent poles to maximize internal volume, you’ll be able to hang out and sleep in with this choice from Kelty.
- Great price point
- Lightweight and simple with an easy set-up
- A bit flimsier than the other options
- Won’t keep you warm come winter
6. Marmot Tungsten 2 Person Backpacking Tent w/ Footprint
And showing up for a second time on the list is the reliable brand Marmot and their Tungsten tent. At a budget-friendly entry point, this is a great three-season option with all the fantastic features a weekend backpacker needs. With a roomy 32 square feet of floor space, you’ll be sure to have enough room to wiggle, and with a nylon-mesh blend around the tent, you get the best of both worlds regarding ventilation and privacy. This hybrid style option also comes with a footprint, which makes it even more of a bargain. However, it does come in at a moderately bulky four pounds and 13 ounces ounce you get everything in the stuff sack, so perhaps it wouldn’t make such a superb choice if you were to carry it around for weeks on end. However, knowing the reliable brand behind it, and the thoughtful development evident by its shape and price point, we think the Tungsten 2P is a terrific choice.
- 32 square feet of space with a footprint provided
- Nylon-mesh blend gives you great breathability with privacy too
- A bit on the heavier side at four pounds and 13 ounces
- Not a great option for a seasoned outdoorsman who needs more features
Caption3: There are not many views better than the stars from nature’s remote locations
There are so many good options within the lightweight backpackers market, that it’s really tough to determine one single winner. As we mentioned earlier, it’s really dependant on what your wallet’s ready to depart with, as well as how long you hope to depart from the office. For something suitable for a weekend warrior or casual climber, we love the Kelty Late Start and Nemo Hornet. Both are two of the lightest, simplest products on the market, but won’t be able to keep you protected against stronger elements.
So know where you’re hiking and what you’ll be up against. If you’re the kind of person who will be lugging this guy around for weeks or even months at a time, unsure of what will be coming next and hoping to stay better prepared than whatever Mother Nature has cooking beyond the backside of the mountain, well the Big Agnes Copper Spur is a great choice. There’s unreal gear storage while staying lightweight and reliable. Of course, that comes at a cost, specifically listing this product is the most on our tally sheet. But when it comes to the combination of comfort and protection, the high-volume option from the good people at Big Agnes can’t be beaten.
Regardless of what your choice is for the trails, know that few of the options listed have much insulation instead of focusing on breathability and lightweight function. We think this is a fair tradeoff, but it does mean you have to be considerate if you hope to climb and explore the outdoors in those months where there’s the least amount of sun. We’d recommend a good pair of hiking gloves and all the other important accessories that you may forget to pack as you’re racing out the door on Friday afternoon. So whatever you choose, know to stay safe, have fun, and have an unforgettable time out there in the wilderness. There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars, and there’s nothing better than getting a good night’s sleep outdoors in a great backpacking tent.
Bonus tip: While you’re at it, check out this cool video on how to efficiently pack a tent for your next adventure!