Best Backpacking Tents Reviewed
Backpacking, the joy of exploring the outdoors with everything you need in a sack on your back. You’ve planned your route, checked your equipment, your food, your emergency kit, and cleaned your boots. So off you march, maybe 5 maybe 10, maybe 20 miles is what you have planned to walk until the first night campsite. The campsite that will be you home for the evening.
Your tent is your new house, your shelter from the elements, and the place you are going to sleep dry and warm so you are fresh for the journey ahead. I know first hand the trauma of waking in the middle of the night to rain beating your tent and finding that you didn’t fasten the flap and you now have a small puddle in your tent. But tents have come a long way over the years, lightweight carbon poles, even lighter waterproof and breathable fabrics and internal pockets to keep the thinks you want close to hand in an easy to find spot. There is no best tent, but there is the right tent for your needs.
Hilleberg have been manufacturing tents for 45 years and divide their tents in to 4 categories, Black 4 season tents (if your thinking of camping on a snow covered mountain or the north pole), red and yellow 3 season tents and blue specialised tents. The Anjan 2 is a 2 person tent from the yellow label category.
Total packed weight 1.8kg
Kerlon 1000 outer fabric with an 8kg tear strength.
Outer tent can be lowered on one side/raised on the other to increase protection on the weather
1 m interior height (you can sit up in the tent)
Vestibule to store backpack and boots.
Outer tent does not go all the way to the ground, in colder weather will feel cooler inside.
The Anjan 2 is a true 3 season tent, and Hilleberg understand that 3 season in northern Sweden compared to northern Australia is a vast difference, but I think they have produced a very good tent here. It is incredibly lightweight, only 1.8kg packed weight, that’s less than a 2L bottle of water. The inner tent has a mesh door and a large mesh window at the rear which allows constant airflow and ventilation, and in very warm conditions you can roll up the outer tents rear and the vestibule at the front to allow more ventilation.
Although the outer tent does not reach the ground completely when pitched correctly it will disperse rain away from the inner tent and the bathtub floor of the inner tent protects you from any surface water running into your bedroom. The outer tent can also be lowered on one side to increase protection on the weather side. The tunnel design of the Anjan 2 makes it easy to pitch in windy conditions. Pitching the tent is also very easy as it has only 2 poles and 4 pegs to form the basic shape and a further 4 guide ropes and 2 front and rear pegs, the guide rope are only really needed in windy conditions. The inner tent clips into place once the outer is erected.
Inner tent 220cm (l) x 130cm (w) x 100cm (h)
Vestibule depth 105cm.
The Anjan 2 is a lightweight 3 season 2 man tent. It will comfortably sleep two people with out having to be over intimate. The vestibule is large enough to hold your backpacks and boots and protect them from the elements. It is very easy to erect, even in windy conditions and well ventilated meaning it will not become a sweet box in hotter climates, but in cooler climates it might feel a little cold. In short this is an excellent tent and will tick most of the boxes, but its not cheap.
Gossamer II Tunnel Tent
Jack Wolfskin, the company behind the Gossamer II Tunnel tent are committed to the enjoyment of the the outdoors. They want you to feel comfortable and at home, whilst respecting the diversity of nature They manufacture everything you might need for a hiking trip and spend time in researching what is needed and beneficial and it shows in these next two tents.
Tunnel tent design
2 internal pockets
Light and durable
Inner tent can be pitched alone for mosquito protection.
Reflectors on main guying points and zips
Packing size: 57 x 17 cm
Total packed weight: 2.28 kg
Vestibule to store backpack and boots.
Good for warmer climates but might feel colder in cooler weather.
Not a lot of headroom for a tall person to be able to sit up straight.
Pitches inner tent first
The Gossamer II tunnel tent is worth a look at. Because of the high level of tension in the pitched tent it only needs guy ropes in very windy conditions. The poles are less curved than other tunnel tents and so more usable space is available in the interior. The poles are thicker at the sides of the tent than on the roof, meaning the tent is sturdier from the sides with a flexible roof. In the vestibules, because the tent poles are in the tent corners and almost vertical there is an increase in usable storage space for your pack and other gear without the risk of them leaning on the tent fabric and soaking up condensation.
The tunnel shape helps to keep weight to a minimum and also enables it to be packed in to a very small packing space. It may not be as light as some tents but the space it takes up in your pack is certainly smaller than most. It has enough room to sleep 2 people comfortably. If your camping in the summer and there is no chance of rain you can pitch just the inner tent to keep you cooler and fall asleep under the heavens. If however the weather is not so great the Gossamer II has a great guy rope system making it incredibly stable in windy conditions. Perhaps the best feature is the 2 entrances. Meaning that if for any reason you need to leave the tent in the night you don’t need to scramble over your pack and boots in the vestibule, you can just exit from the other end.
Inner Tent Measurements: [L x W x H] 225 x 125/105 x 90/60 cm
Vestibule depth: 80 cm
Jack Wolfskin Skyrocket Dome II
vestibule for pack and boot storage
removable inner tent
2 roof vents
lightweight Total packed weight: 2.49 kg
ZIP VENT door vent
3 internal storage pockets
GEAR LOFT: removable stow space in roof
reflectors on zip tabs and guying points
Pitches inner tent first
Dome tents have always been easier to pitch than many other types of tent, but the skyrocket have taken this even further, with a fast pitch system with the poles clicking into place at the base with out the need of finding a small anchor hole. Once the two poles are in place the tent is pretty much stable, then pegging out with 6 pegs, 12 if you choose to deploy guy roped.
The poles are thicker at the sides of the tent than on the roof, meaning the tent is sturdier from the sides with a flexible roof adding extra strength in windy conditions and more usable space inside the tent. The total weight of the tent is only 2.5 Kg and is packed into a small 55cm by 18cm bag. Its vestibule is smaller than some tents at a 65cm depth, but still a good usable space. The tent is really a spring / summer tent and you may feel a bit cold in it if used in early spring.
Inner Tent Measurements: [L x W x H] 220 x 140 x 105 cm
Vestibule depth: 65 cm
Packing size: 55 x 18 cm
Both these tents from Jack Wolfson are nice tents made well. The construction has been thought about with the backpacker and outdoors trekker in mind. They are both very quick and easy to pitch but the inner tent is pitched first then the outer tent placed on top. This is great in good weather, however if it is raining it is preferable to pitch the outer tent first as it helps to keep the inner tent and more importantly the ground sheet dry, this being the part of the tent you will be sleeping in. Both tents are very reasonably priced, which make then idea for the first time backpacker. Out of the two I prefer the Gossamer II, the larger vestibule and 2 entrances clinch it for me. The Gossamer also having its highest point at on end will enable you to sit up and gaze out into the wilderness whilst still being sheltered, whereas the skyrocket you would be sitting in the middle of the dome. The Gossamer also looks more stable in windy conditions. The main draw back with both of these tents from Jack Wolfson is the lack of protection from cooler climates. I feel that these tents will be great for Spring / summer camping, but would be too cold for autumn.
Snugpak Scorpion 2
Pitch outer tent first
Light weight total pack weight 2.6Kg
large floor space
All year round tent
Can accommodate 6 people sitting in emergency
extremely water proof HH 5000.
Only available in green
The Scorpion 2 by snugpak has been around for a few years and has been tried and tested with mountaineer, climber and campers throughout Europe. It has am ample floor space for two adults to sleep and in emergencies it can hold up to six sitting adults. The outer tent is pitched first meaning in poor weather conditions you can erect a waterproof shelter quickly enabling you to keep the inner tent in which you will sleep dry. It is light weight at 2.6Kg (2.4Kg trail weight) This is a true 4 season tent, and extremely water proof, it has a hydrostatic head of 5000mm, this means that you could support a column of water 5 metres high on the outer tent or fly and the water would not leak through, that’s a lot of water pressure. All seams are taped. If you are planing to stay camped in one spot for more than a few days then then multiple storage pockets will be useful.
Inner tent 205 cm (l) x 110 cm (w) x 105 cm (h)
Vestibule depth 95cm
When I started researching tent for this guide I decided to select 3 season tents and not mention 4 season tent, the main reason was that most people don’t plan to go hiking or backpacking in extreme winter conditions. Also 4 season tents are in general very expensive, with just cause as they need to provide shelter and protection for the worst of possible climates. However I choose to include the Scorpion 2, which is a four season tent, because is price is very reasonable and comparable to many 3 season tents available. You may never camp on snow and ice, But with this tent if you choose to you could and stay as dry and protected as any 4 season tent. The Scorpion 2 runs a bit higher priced, but I have seen it offered on Amazon for a decent price.
Vango Mirage 200
Self supporting structure
Outer tent and inner tent pitch together.
Multiple reflective points
One hand open doors
5000HH outer tent.
Colour coded poles for easy pitching
Poles on the outside of the fly sheet.
Only available in green
Mirage 200 is a great tent. Vango state it is a 3 season tent, but with a 5000 Hydrostatic head flysheet it is usable in most season, sun wind rain and snow. The tent is erected with 3 colour coded poles so there is no guessing which pole goes through which sleeve, once the poles are in place the tent is up and you could sleep in it like that without pegging it out, but pegging it out is advisable as it aids to the overall stability and strength of the tent. It is pitched in around 12 mins and both then inner and outer tent are pitched at the same time which is great if you are having to
pitch the tent in the rain. One possible downside it the groundsheet for the vestibule. This is not fixed and grass and mud may ingress in to this area. In low visibility you can still easily see the pegging point due to the reflective point that have been added. Inside the tent there is a Tension Band System (TBS), this is specifically for camping in areas with strong winds, the tension bands connect to then tent to make a triangular frame bracing the whole tent and stopping extensive movement in high winds. The Mirage is a well thought out tent and definitely worth considering.
Inner tent 225cm (l) x 120 cm (w) x 107 cm (h)
Vestibule depth 105 cm
The Mirage 200 is a great tent and reasonably priced, really in most places or websites who carry it. This one is a great option for those who are just starting out, or those who are on a budget.
How Do I Know What Kind Of Tent To Buy?
So you buying a tent. Which tent do you need to buy. This is a very difficult question to answer and all depends on when and how you are going to use the tent. There are four main areas you will want to consider.
Capacity: how many people are going to sleep in the tent.
Season: Which seasons are you going to be using the tent in? You will certainly need to take that into account, before you head out on your , hopefully, planned journey.
Weight: do you really need the lightest tent on the market?
Comfort: how much luxury do you need. Is it just you, or are you backpacking with a partner who might be sharing the tent as well?
It is important to remember that which ever tent you buy you are going to be spending time inside it. It will be your home for the duration of you trip, whether that be 1 night or 10. So this leads us to the capacity of the tent.
Throughout this guide I compared 2 person tents, I choose 2 person tents because the weight different between most models of 2 person and 3 person of the same model is so small it doesn’t really apply. A two person tent can be very spacious if only used by one person and generally are comfortable for two people. But you need to know. If you know that. Don’t get hung up on weight if you are not trekking alone, in most cases you can split the tent between the group. One of you carries the inner tent, while the other carries the outer tent and poles.
You should consider your body size, and when possible have the tent pitched in the store so you can get inside it and get an idea of if it is the right size for you. You don’t want to be on the first night camping to find you are too long for the tent and have to decide to either sleep with your feet outside or hug your knees to fit. It is worth considering the vestibule, how big does this need to be? What will you be storing inside the vestibule? Just one pack and boots? Or do you need to fit several packs? You want the vestibule to be as weather proof as the part you are sleeping in, no one wants to wake up and have to put on soaking wet boots because the vestibule where you stored your boots leaked. You might want to consider how many doors the tent has. Do you mind having to climb over your packs to get out of the tent, or is it easier to have two doors?
I know that we all like to plan for every possible emergency. You’ve always got your first aid kit, emergency food and Kendal mint cake, just in case you snowed out by a freak blizzard in August on the most popular hiking trail in southern England (it rarely snows even in winter in southern England). But don’t rush out and buy a 4 season mountaineering tent, suitable for Everest unless you are planing to encounter snowy conditions like on Everest.
Throughout this guide I looked mainly at 3 season tent but a couple of 4 season tents were included as they offered a good comparison. If you are only going to trek during the summer then a 3 season tent is the way to go. But knowledge is all powerful so below are the differences between 3 season and 4 season tents.
3 season tents
3 season tents are the most common tents you will see in your local store, they are generally lightweight and designed for summer and into early autumn. As long as you pitch them correctly they will offer very good shelter against heavy rain and light snow. 3 season tents have good ventilation to reduce condensation and often the inner tent is mainly a mesh to boost the airflow and serve as insect netting. The walls are usually more upright and the poles and fabrics are lightweight. The outer tent or fly on a 3 season tent does not usually reach all the way to the ground so there is the small possibility of the wind blowing rain into the tent, but in reality the rarely happens. 3 season tents generally cost less that 4 season tents, but not in all cases. For most expeditions a 3 season tent is all you will need.
4 season tents
4 season tents can be used all year round, but are built for winter and to withstand very low temperatures, (thing mount Everest), high winds, and heavy snow. So if you are going to face these conditions then definitely you need a 4 season tent. 4 season tents are heavier than 3 season tent, then need to withstand more, high winds and the weight of snow falling on the tent, this obviously need stronger construction, stronger poles, more durable fabrics, which in turn increases the weight. A 4 season tent’s fly or outer tent usually reaches the ground to seal out the wind and snowdrifts. These type of tents do not have the same amount of ventilation as 3 season, mainly because they are designed for the cold and therefore you want to keep the heat in and the cold out. A 4 season tent in the summer is not as practical as a 3 season, due the the reduced ventilation and may even feel stuffy.
How much do you want to carry or can you carry. Sure you can go and buy the lightest tent out there. You will either spend a lot of money, or end up with a bivouac sack and be sleeping inside it. You have to reach a balance between lightweight materials, and durability. The rule of thumb is a heavier tent will be more durable, but not always the case. You should aim for a 3 season tent to weigh about 1 kg per person and a 4 season around 2kg per person. You will see on tent specs “packed weight’ and “trail weight”.
This can be misleading. Packed weight is the weight of the tent, inner and outer, poles, pegs and bag. Basically everything you will be buying. Trail weight is for the minimum amount on components needed to pitch the tent. Usually inner and outer tent, and poles, NOT pegs, guys, and bag. In some cases not even the outer tent. So be careful when reading Trail weight. I always work from packet weight as this is the maximum weight you will be carrying. And remember if you are not hiking alone this weight can be split between your group.
Ultra light tents.
Ultralight tents are available. These are more expensive and will minimize features to save weight. Expect only one door, fewer zips means less weight. Smaller interior, less fabric less weight. And the fabrics will be thinner and less durable. There are also alternative to tents if weight is the most important feature. Bivouac or bivy sacks are a waterproof and breathable sack that you put your sleeping bag inside. They usually have a pole or support to lift the sack off of your face while you are sleeping. And you can make a tarp tent with a tarp 2 hiking sticks and a few corner pegs to pitch a basic a frame roof to sleep under. But for me what is more important than the weight is the packed size. How much space will it take in my backpack.
Tents are designed to be space efficient. All have sloping walls so that rain or snow will run off and not build up on the tent and collapse it. Tents are usually low to the ground so that they don’t become a sail for the wind. The bigger your tent, the heavier it is, the smaller it is the lighter. You need to consider floor space and how many people you are planing to have sleeping inside. Do you want to be able to sit up, do you want inside pockets to organise you belongings. Do you want a roof loft to store things.
Most tents give you the length, width and height, but as you know tents are rarely a cube. The width may be less at one end, the height is measured from the highest point, this might be the middle of the tent or one end. If the highest point is at the rear of the tent and you like to sit in your tent and look out the door this might not be good for you. If the highest point in in the middle and you know that 2 people will want to sit up, you will have to consider if there will be enough space. The wall shape is often overlooked, but this can be the most important feature in the comfort of the tent. The more vertical the walls the more overall space you will have.
Doors, is it better to have more than one? But more than one will increase the weight, but makes it easier for one person to leave the tent without having to climb over their companion. The colour of the outer tent can have a huge impact on how the tent feels, a dark interior will always feel smaller, so brightly colour outer tent will feel bigger.
Vestibules are needed to hold your gear, or a bigger tent then you can store them inside, but again increased weight. Ventilation to reduce condensation, but too much and you will let a lot of cold air in. It all depends on the climate you are in.
I hope this guide is helpful, but in reality everyone have different needs when it comes to the perfect tent for them. Mostly don’t rush buy a tent. Don’t buy only on price, or weight, or season, or comfort, but spend some time to think about what you really need and will use and enjoy. Your tent will be your home for a short time.
What does “3-season tent” mean? Adaptable every-man camping for Spring, Summer and Autumn.
A 3-season tent is designed to keep the British weather off you during the camping ‘season’ from Easter to September.
A 3-season tent will typically have 2-layers – an inner tent and flysheet – and be waterproof above 2000mm on the Hydrostatic Head gauge. It will also usually have taped seams to stop rain coming in through sewing holes.
Poles used in 3-season tents should be strong enough to hold their structure in a light gale, as long as the tent is pegged down properly. Tough guy-lines and reinforced pegging points should be a feature.
Depending on the design of the tent, a 3-season tent will probably have some form of ventilation to allow condensation to escape, which can often be closed to keep out the cold.
A porch of some sort is often found on 3-season tents to allow for storage of wet items and cooking in the rain.
There is a vast difference within the range of tents claiming to be ‘3-season’, so check that any tent you choose will be suitable for the types of weather you plan to camp in.
A 3-season tent is the best purchase for the novice camper, since it provides the widest range of possibilities for use.
For use in winter, in storm conditions or snow, you will need a 4-season tent.
Wow. Difficult question, so here’s a guide based on personal experience.
I strongly recommend that you go to a tent-dealer and get inside a few tents before you buy. And get them to put a mattress in so you can gauge sizes more easily.
1-man tent: Good for one person with very little luggage indeed. Prepare to feel snuggly/claustrophobic, but the small space warms up easily. Look for one with a porch if you plan to take a backpack. 1-man tents are generally too small to sit upright for any long periods so if you plan to stay under cover all day, get used to laying down.
1.5-man tent: Good for one person with a backpack, as long as you don’t mind curling up around it. Also great for impromptu nights with an Oompa-Loompa, as long as they don’t bring any luggage.
2-man tent: Good for 2 people with no luggage. Look for one with a porch if either of you have a backpack or luggage. Look for height if you plan to sit up, since they can often slope in quite a lot, meaning that one of you needs to shove over if the other sits up.
3-man tent: Good for 2 people with a backpack or 3 (very comfortable with each other) people with no luggage. I’d consider this the best size for 2 people to share for more than a couple of nights.
4-man tent: Good for 2 people when ‘social’ camping with cookers and food. The extra space means you can find things without having to lift mattresses. Yes, you can probably squeeze 4 people in, but it’d be a sleeping-only space.
6-man tent: Now you’re looking at something suitable for two couples or a family of 4 doing minimalist camping without too much luggage. Generally the tent will be starting to get big and heavy to carry now, so bear that in mind. There are so many configurations of 6-man tents now that it’s worth thinking about how you will use the porch space, and how you’d like the sleeping arrangements. Tents of this size often have room dividers in them, which can be a bonus.
8+ man tents: A family of 4-6 should find a tent this large ample for a holiday. Consider porch space and sleeping arrangements… there may well be 6 of you, but who doesn’t want to sleep next to who?