The Best Tents for Backpacking
Arguably one of the most important pieces of gear in your pack, a backpacking tent is a home when you need it most. That’s why we tested numerous tents to make sure we presented you with only the best tents for backpacking.
We took key factors such as price, durability, size, and weight into consideration when rating our favorites. Although everyone has different preferences when it comes to tents, we consider price, weight, and weather resistance to be of the utmost importance when it comes to what makes a good backpacking tent.
In addition to these key features, we tried to offer varying tents with different strengths and weaknesses. That way you will have an easier time choosing a tent tailored for you, while still keeping budget friendly picks in mind.
Key Features to Look for in a Backpacking Tent
- Price: It isn’t hard to find a backpacking tent fairly priced, but we advise against going for the bare minimum – where qualities such as weather resistance tend to suffer. Our tents maintain quality while keeping budget in mind.
- Size: Roominess is always desirable, but it will always come at the cost of weight and general bulkiness. If you can, stick with a 2-person tent- where price, weight, and roominess tend to be at there best (relative to one another).
- Weight: Unlike standard tents for camping, weight is an extremely important factor in backpacking tents. Try to keep weight as low as possible, your back will thank you for it later.
- Durability: Since backpacking tents are intentionally lightweight, the durability of one compared to heavy-duty tents will always be on the lesser side. But that doesn’t mean backpacking tents are all fragile. As long as you take care of your equipment, your equipment takes care of you. Add-ons such as a tent footprint are helpful for expanding the life of your tent. A tent footprint is a custom sized cloth that goes underneath your tent to protect the lifespan of the tent and to delay the process of wear and tear.
- Seasonality/Weather Protection: Tents are designed for the specific season that they work best in. The most popular tent in terms of seasonality is what’s called a ‘3-season’ tent. These tents excel in spring, summer and fall because they promote air-flow, have more headroom, and can handle rain. Although spring-fall may be the most popular time to go backpacking, they also have backpacking tents for the winter warrior. A 4-season, or winter tent is a tent that can handle rough winds, and heavy snow fall. Of course, this comes at the cost of breathability, weight, and often times room.
- Extra Features: Added features can be a nice bonus, and helpful when it comes time to making a decision if two tents are similar on important factors, like price point and weather resistance. We’ve outlined the popular extra features to take note of.
- Vents: Tents can become extremely stuffy, especially in the heat and humidity. Ventilation is standard on almost all tents, but things like cross-ventilation can be a great bonus.
- Doors: How many doors a tent has can sometimes make the difference between a tent being a comfortable 2-person, or a cramped 2-person. Doors allow more maneuverability and flexibility while camping.
- Vestibules: These ‘mud rooms’ are a great place to store your pack and dirty boots without having to bring them inside your tent. Vestibules are typically at the front of your tent, and usually protect from the elements above, but do not enclose completely like your sleeping area- think of a vestibule like your tents front porch.
Cons: Tight for two
Weight: 2lbs. 2oz.
Features: 2-person, 3-season, 1 door, material: nylon, pole material: aluminum, 86 x 52 (foot width) 42 inches
Footprint: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Ultralight Tent Footprint
As one of the lightest tents on the list, the Fly Creek UL2 is a perfect choice for a solo backpacker who wants some extra space, without the added weight.
Don’t get us wrong, it is possible to fit two people in this tent, but we wouldn’t really recommend it. Especially with its lightweight design- it’s easily carried by one. In addition to its light weight, we really like it’s ability to handle heavy rain, but feel it could stand up better to strong winds- so try to use the UL2 in low-wind terrain.
Considering it’s weight, rain protection, and small packed size, we think the Fly Creek UL2 is fairly priced.
Pros: Very roomy
Weight: 6lbs. 3oz.
Features: 2.5person, 3-season, 2 door, material: nylon, pole material: aluminum, Tent Floor Area: 37 sq. ft.
Footprint: Mountain Hardware Optic Footprint
Although the heaviest on the list, the Mountain Hardware Optic 2.5 is one truly unique tent that is never short on room, or sweet views.
The 2.5 in the name is a good indicator of how roomy this tent really is. While inside, you might be tempted to even say it’s a 3-person tent! Furthermore, the side-by-side doors make for a really unique experience. In a practical sense, the doors allow versatility, so no need to climb over your partner for a bathroom break! But in an aesthetic sense, opening both doors allows for a full and complete view- totally eliminating any stuffiness.
When all buttoned up, the Optic 2.5 takes the hardest of rain, and has a reassuring sturdiness to it. If you’re able to get past the weight, (and considering it’s nice price-point) the Mountain Hardware Optic 2.5 is a winner of a tent.
Pros: Great weather protection
Cons: Zippers occasionally get stuck
Weight: 4lbs. 9oz.
Features: 2-doors, 2-vestibules, 3-season, 83 x 42 x 50 inches
Footprint: Kelty TN 2 Footprint
The Kelty TN2 is a high quality tent that’s loaded with features, and at a great price point.
Still considered lightweight as far as tents go (midweight for backpackers), the TN2 has pretty much everything you need, and in our opinion the most balanced out of all the tents on the list. Which is why we give the TN2 our Best Buy Award.
Features include: 2 doors, 2 vestibules – that add 20 extra square feet for storage, fantastic rain and especially wind protection, great room for two, and an easy set up. A neat feature that Kelty also added is the “stargazer fly” which allows you to roll back the vestibule on clear nights so you can stare up at the stars.
All in all a fantastic buy.
Cons: Tight squeeze
Weight: 1.4 lbs.
Features: 1-person, 1-door/vestibule, length 84 in., head width 26 in., feet width 11 in., widest point 36 in.
Footprint: Sea To Summit Solo Footprint
As the lightest on the list, the Sea To Summit Solo is for the fast-moving, weight-cutting addict who doesn’t want to budge on weather protection.
It’s clear the Sea to Summit Solo is for the backpacker who holds weight as the most important factor. And boy does it deliver, at 1.4 lbs. this sucker breaks down to the size of a water bottle. Of course, this comes at the cost of roominess within.
Don’t expect to be playing cards in this tent, the Solo acts purely as a tool to get yourself out of the elements. The width of the tent tapers to a tight 11 inches at the feet, making it a tight squeeze once you bring in your sleeping bag. Because of it’s dimension we wouldn’t really suggest some one taller than 6’1” or 6’2” choosing this tent.
If you’re not afraid of tight places, the Sea to Summit Solo is an extremely lightweight tent that will stand up to the elements.
Cons: On the fragile side
Weight: 3 lb. 7 oz.
Features: 2-person, 2-door/vestibule, 3-season, 84in. x 50in.
The Hubba Hubba is where livability meets lightweight design.
With 2 doors and great ventilation, the NX2 has a spacious feel to it. It was also nice to see 2 vestibules, so you have ample room for packs and boots. Rain was never an issue with it’s large tent bottom and DWR/Durashield coatings, and never had any problems with condensation due to incredible breathability.
It definitely leans on the fragile side, but we wouldn’t say it’s completely there. The NX2 is a hybrid of comfort trying to be as light weight as possible, and we think it did a great job at it – it’s no wonder it’s such a popular tent with backpackers.