Best Backpacking Tents Reviewed
Nothing quite feels as freeing or as rewarding as hitting the trails to explore the wilderness and outdoors with only a backpack to carry. Once you get started on a trail, start breathing in the fresh air, and see all of the beautiful scenery, problems from a busier pace of life seem to melt away. Most people that are going backpacking are going for a couple days or even weeks, and everything you can bring with you must fit into your backpack, as that will be all you have with you for your time in the woods.
Now when you start thinking of all the gear you will want to bring with you, it can get overwhelming thinking about where you are going to pack it all in your backpack, this is why specific backpacking gear is recommended to complete the trek. One of the most important pieces of gear you will want to bring with you on your next backpacking adventure is a tent, and this is because a backpacking tent will not only provide you with the shelter to stay warm and comfortable but also be lightweight as well.
When looking for a backpacking tent and with so many on the market it can get overwhelming trying to find the right one for you and your next backpacking adventure. Maybe you require something that can last for all four seasons. Perhaps, you want a tent that has no bells or whistles but is as light as possible. Or you may find that you desire a tent that is durable, so it can last for a five-month backpacking trip. No matter what your needs are, we have done the research to list you the top ten backpacking tents on the market and explained why they are the best of the best. We are confident that by the end of this list you will know exactly which backpacking tent is right for you.
- ALPS LYNX
- Easy setup
- HUBBA HUBBA NX
- Two entry doors
- Snugpak Scorpion 2
- Waterproof Polyurethane Coating
10 Best Backpacking Tents
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx
It is also quite affordable and will be a great investment. If you are looking for a tent to fit a couple of your friends, then you will want to check out the two person model from ALPS.
Easy to setup
Not a lot of room inside
MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Comfort: The interior of this tent is manufactured for comfort, and includes a spacious interior with a two-door design. You can fit two people in this tent, and still have room to store your items.
Weather Protection: While the MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent does a decent job of keeping rain out of the interior of the tent so you stay warm and dry, more could be done to make this tent stronger. The tent doesn’t always hold up well against strong winds.
Ease of Use: The MSR Hubba Hubba NX uses a hubbed pole design to set the tent up, which does have a learning curve and can take some time to get used to, but once you understand how to use it, you can get the tent up quickly. Typically you can set the tent up and take it down in around 20 to 30 minutes.
Could be more durable
Snugpak Scorpion 2
Comfort: It has ample floor space for two adults to sleep and in emergencies it can hold up to six sitting adults. If you are planning to stay camped in one spot for more than a few days then multiple storage pockets will be useful.
Weather Protection: 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. All seams are taped.
Ease of Use: Scorpion 2, which is a four season tent, because is very reasonable in price 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.
Pitch outer tent first
Light weight total pack weight 2.6Kg
Only available in green
Nemo Dagger 2
Comfort: The Nemo Dagger 2 has a lot of room for both storage and cooking. You also get mesh pockets and a nice, soft light you can use whenever you need it.
Weather Protection: The Nemo Dagger 2 is designed with high sidewalls which are strong enough to cut out the wind and also keep out the rain. You also get some privacy from the sidewalls, which is a nice bonus feature.
Ease of Use: This tent features a single, hubbed pole design, which makes it very easy to set-up. In fact, most of the time, you can get this tent up and down in as little as five to ten minutes.
Easy to set up
Easy to setup
Big Agnes Copper Spur
Comfort: The Big Agnes Copper Spur is designed to give you a lot of comfort, and has a lot of space in the tent while still remaining lightweight and easy to carry. You’ll also get two doors on this tent and a lot of extra head room, which you’ll love anytime you need to move.
Weather Protection: Designed to be a durable, lightweight tent, this tent holds up well in the wind and easily blocks out those cold breezes. Also, the tent performs well in the rain, and easily keeps water from passing through into the interior of the tent.
Ease of Use: The Big Agnes Copper Spur uses a single, interconnected pole that has ends to help keep the tent up when it gets windy. You can easily set this tent up and take it down in around 20 to 30 minutes.
Lots of space
Skyrocket Dome II
Comfort: 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 tent is really a spring/summer tent and you may feel a bit cold in it if used in early spring.
Weather Protection: 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.
Ease of Use: 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.
Vestibule for pack and boot storage
Removable inner tent
The North Face Triarch
Comfort: Made to fit two adults, the tent can do this but both of you will feel the snug fit inside the tent once you lay down in it. There could be more space to include items as well on the interior of the tent.
Weather Protection: The North Face Triarch is a durable tent, and holds up well against strong winds, giving you plenty of protection. It also does an excellent job of keeping rain out of the interior of the tent.
Ease of Use: This tent requires a learning curve to get the hang of setting it up. It’s not the fastest set up process, and you will probably need to follow the directions the first few times you set it up and take it down.
Vango Mirage 300
Comfort: There is plenty of comfort in this tent, which has a decent amount of room for people and items. You’ll stay warm and you’ll get plenty of protection from the weather.
Weather Protection: One possible downside it the groundsheet for the vestibule. This is not fixed and grass and mud may ingress into this area. 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 the 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.
Ease of Use: 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. In low visibility you can still easily see the pegging point due to the reflective point that has been added.
Self supporting structure
Outer tent and inner tent pitch together
Multiple reflective points
Heavier than others
Eureka Midori 2
Comfort: The interior area of the Eureka Midori 2 provides you with a moderate amount of space, which is pretty comfortable for the value. You’ll be able to store your items and move freely inside this tent.
Weather Protection: The polyester exterior of this tent and the PU overlay help provide you with protection against the rain. Also, this tent holds up well when it gets very windy.
Ease of Use: The Eureka Midori 2 comes with an easy clip-in design, which makes the set-up process very quick and simple. You should be able to get this tent up and down in around 20 minutes.
Lightweight for the price
Only one door
Gossamer II Tunnel Tent
Comfort: It has enough room to sleep 2 people comfortably. 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.
Weather Protection: 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.
Ease of Use: 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 into 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.
- Tunnel tent design
- Light and durable
- Inner tent can be pitched alone for mosquito protection
- Reflectors on main guying points and zips
- Vestibule to store backpack and boots
Not a lot of headroom
The Criteria We Used To Find The Best Backpacking Tents
So you are 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.
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 the minimum amount of 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 among your group.
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 alternatives 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 planning to have sleeping inside. Do you want to be able to sit up, do you want inside pockets to organize your 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 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 color of the outer tent can have a huge impact on how the tent feels, a dark interior will always feel smaller, so brightly color 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 has 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.
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 planning 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.
Ease of Use
Ease of use measures how easy and quick the tent is to set-up, but also how easy it is to live inside 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?
Other Important Factors to Consider
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 than 4 season tents, but not in all cases. For most expeditions, a 3 season tent is all you will need.
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 needs 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 ones, 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 to the reduced ventilation and may even feel stuffy.
It is important to remember that whichever tent you buy you are going to be spending time inside it. It will be your home for the duration of your trip, whether that be 1 night or 10. So this leads us to the capacity of the tent.
Q: What does “three-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.
Q: What is the difference between a three-season and four-season tent?
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.
Q: What size tent do I need?
We 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 has 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.
Q: How do I choose a backpacking tent?
When you are looking for a backpacking tent, and you don’t know where to start, there are four main points you ned to consider.
- Capacity: How many sleepers do you need to fit in your tent? How much gear are you looking to store in the tent?
- Seasonality: For this, you will want to look at how the tent is constructed, and how this will serve you in various weather conditions.
- Weight: How much does your tent weigh and are you willing to carry that weight on your back?
- Comfort: Is the tent designed in a way that will allow you, your gear, and others to feel comfortable?
If you can find a tent that fits the criteria above, you will be well on your way to having a backpacking tent that will serve you well.
Q: How do I clean my tent?
For your specific tent’s maintenance, you will definitely want to read the manual that it comes with. Each tent is unique and comes with specifications that the manufacturer can let you know about so that you don’t damage it during cleaning. However, as a general rule, you will want to be gentle with the tent’s poles and its zippers, so that they remain in great shape for a long time to come.
Next, you will want to ensure that you do actually clean your tent and it’s fly from time to time. Yes, it can be a bit of a chore, but it is necessary to ensure that it stays fresh and lasts a long time for all of your adventures.
Lastly, try never to store your tent when it’s wet. This can cause mold to grow on your tent, and it is very difficult to remove, and the mold can actually damage your tent’s ability to protect you in rain or other weather conditions. In short, make sure that you thoroughly dry your tent before packing it up.