Best Backpacking Tents of 2023
An in-depth look at the top backpacking tents on the market, from ultralight models to spacious all-rounders and leading budget options.
Switchback Travel ( Brian McCurdy )
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In choosing the right backpacking tent, you have a wide range of options from minimalist ultralight shelters to inexpensive and heavier entry-level models. Uses and budgets vary, and the ideal tent for beginners and those taking shorter trips differs significantly from thru-hikers counting every ounce. After extensive testing and many nights sleeping under the stars, below we break down the best backpacking tents of 2023. For ease of comparison, we’ve primarily listed two-person models here with other available capacities in the specs. For more background information, see our backpacking tent comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Our Team's Backpacking Tent Picks
- Best Overall Backpacking Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
- Best Combination of Price and Performance: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+
- Best Budget Backpacking Tent: REI Co-op Trail Hut 2
- Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Zpacks Duplex
- Best All-Season Backpacking Tent: MSR Access 2
- Best Backpacking Tent for Families: REI Co-op Trail Hut 4
Best Overall Backpacking Tent
1. big agnes copper spur hv ul2 ($550).
For a backpacking tent that deftly balances weight, interior space, and features, look no further than Big Agnes’s Copper Spur. This tent helped define the ultralight category and still is going strong many renditions later. In the latest 2-person version, you get a healthy 29 square feet of floor space, solid headroom with pre-bent poles and steep walls, and two doors and vestibules—all at just 3 pounds 2 ounces. It’s much lighter than competitors like the Nemo Dagger below but has few compromises with a spacious and freestanding design. We’ve tested various iterations of the Copper Spur everywhere from Patagonia to Mongolia, and it’s performed flawlessly in conditions ranging from warm nights to heavy rain and wind.
At $550, the Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the pricier tents in its class, and you’ll want to be careful with the delicate materials (its 15 x 20D floor in particular is quite thin and won’t hold up to wear and tear as well as heavier models below). In addition, while the low weight is worth it for those who get out a lot, recreational backpackers may be better off with a heavier yet more durable design. Nevertheless, the Copper Spur’s quality is impeccable, with substantial zippers, thoughtful interior storage, color-coded grommets, and easy adjustments to really dial in your setup. And for bikers, Big Agnes also makes the Copper Spur HV Bikepack in 1, 2, and 3-person versions, which features shortened poles and rugged compression sacks that attach to a bike frame in multiple configurations... Read in-depth review See the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Best Combination of Price and Performance
2. rei co-op half dome sl 2+ ($329).
If you’re looking for the right combination of performance and price, it’s hard to beat REI’s iconic Half Dome. This tent has gone through multiple iterations over the years, and the most recent SL (“superlight”) is one of the most balanced offerings yet. For $329, the SL is well built, easy to set up and take down, relatively durable with a 40-denier floor, and has ample mesh for stargazing and ventilation. Yes, you can save with the cheaper REI Trail Hut below, but there are real tradeoffs in terms of interior space, weight, and packed size. All told, we think the Half Dome is a great value for what you get and should keep many backpackers happy—it’s the tent we recommend most to family and friends.
For more than $200 less than the top-rated Copper Spur, the Half Dome SL offers a bump in durability, and its generous dimensions make it a very roomy tent for two. But you can’t have it all, and in the case of the SL, the big compromise comes in terms of weight and bulk. At over a pound and a half heavier than the Copper Spur, “superlight” is a bit of a misnomer, although you can drop about 8 ounces by leaving the included footprint behind (the Big Agnes does not come with a footprint). Despite the nitpicks, we think the Half Dome SL is in a class of its own among value options, making it a reasonable choice for avid backpackers and beginners alike... Read in-depth review See the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+
Best Budget Backpacking Tent
3. rei co-op trail hut 2 ($199).
Let’s be honest: A fair share of us are casual, fair-weather backpackers who make our way into the backcountry for just a weekend or two each summer. If this sounds like you, a budget pick like REI’s tried-and-true Trail Hut 2 is a great choice. For just $199, you get a durable tent (its 66D and 68D materials are much tougher than the lighter-weight options here) that features a door and vestibule on each side, full-coverage rainfly, and ridge pole for increased headroom. Throughout our testing (we even took the tent to Southern Patagonia), we’ve been very impressed with its high-quality and confidence-inspiring feel. The sub-$200 category is dwindling as inflation causes tent prices to rise, but the Trail Hut 2 continues to hold down the fort with a winning formula that few tents match.
What do you sacrifice by going with the REI Trail Hut? At almost 6 pounds (that includes the footprint), it will add significant weight and bulk to your pack, which is not ideal for those covering long distances over multiple days in the backcountry. In addition, you get standard aluminum rather than DAC poles, which are generally less premium and don’t come pre-bent like many high-end designs (this helps to boost interior space). But we can’t help but love the low price of REI’s budget model, which makes it a great pick for shorter trips and most casual backpackers. It’s also worth noting REI’s even cheaper Trailmade 2 ($179), but its quality and livability are noticeably more compromised for a mere $20 savings... Read in-depth review See the REI Co-op Trail Hut 2
Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent
4. zpacks duplex ($669).
A number of leading ultralight tents are built with Dyneema—the high-tech fabric praised for its hydrophobic nature, sag resistance, and stellar strength-to-weight ratio—and the Zpacks Duplex is best in class. With an incredibly low all-in weight of just 1 pound 2.5 ounces (not including stakes), it’s by far the lightest tent here, yet still sleeps two and includes a bathtub floor for protection from the elements. In use, we found the Zpacks to feel decently roomy for its weight with a 48-inch peak height, and you can adjust the dimensions fairly easily depending on the campsite and conditions. In the end, no ultralight tent is perfect, but the Duplex is a high-quality option that has been relied upon by serious thru-hikers for years.
What are the shortcomings of the Zpacks Duplex? We’ve had no issues with water entering the tent—even while camping in snow—but the mesh sides and thin materials definitely can make it feel drafty in certain conditions. Second, with a trekking pole design you don’t get the steep walls of tents like the Copper Spur above, making the Zpacks a cramped (but still feasible) option for two. And third, setting up the tent is more complicated than with a freestanding model, so we recommend practicing before heading out to make sure you know how to get a taut, even pitch. Last but not least, $669 is a big investment for a small tent, but for the right person the weight-savings are well worth it. It’s worth noting that Zpacks offers the Duplex in two different fabric weights, the .55 ounce-per-square-yard version here, and a more durable .75 model ($699)... Read in-depth review See the Zpacks Duplex
Best All-Season Backpacking Tent
5. msr access 2 ($800).
The majority of backpacking tents are of the lightweight, 3-season variety, but if you anticipate getting out in tougher conditions, you may want to step up your protection. Slotting just below a full-on winter-ready design is MSR’s Access 2. With a sturdy structure, durable poles, and considerably less mesh than its warmer-weather counterparts, the Access is built to handle driving wind, rain, and snow. Importantly, you still get two doors and vestibules and a decently roomy, non-tapered floor area for just 4 pounds 1 ounce, which is a truly impressive feat. For backcountry ski trips or spring mountaineering when you need a step up from a standard backpacking tent, the Access is well worth a closer look.
Our biggest gripe with the Access is that it’s not particularly versatile for mild conditions—with very little mesh in the tent body, it’ll overheat quickly unless you’re mindful to keep doors and vents open at night. And at $800, it’s surprisingly pricey. In terms of other tents that fit a similar designation, the Hilleberg Nallo below is an impressively tough option (compare its 70D floor to the MSR’s 30D), but offers less interior space, is less breathable due to its thicker materials, and is over a pound heavier than the Access at 5 pounds 5 ounces. Additionally, Big Agnes makes a beefed-up Expedition version of its popular Copper Spur, we’ve had good luck with the Nemo Kunai over the years, and REI offers the Arete ASL for a reasonable $449. These are all worthy tents for intrepid backpackers headed out year-round, but the Access meets a particularly nice balance of weight, price, and performance. See the MSR Access 2
Best Backpacking Tent for Families
6. rei co-op trail hut 4 ($299).
Most of the tents here are designed to fit two sleepers—we do this both for comparison’s sake and because two-person designs are the most common and versatile size among backpackers. But if you’re traveling with children, want to mix in some car camping, or are willing to bear the extra burden for a roomier shelter, a four-person tent is a great solution. Within this category, the Trail Hut 4 is our favorite model: For just $299, you get sufficient room for four side-by-side sleeping pads, two doors and vestibules, and a generous 48-inch peak height. And unlike the 90’s-era REI tent that we spent countless nights in as a kid, the Trail Hut here is decidedly modern with a center ridge pole to increase headroom throughout.
But at 8 pounds 1.6 ounces, the Trail Hut 4 is undeniably heavy and bulky for human-powered travel, even when divided between two backpacks. There are certainly lighter four-person designs on the market, including the 5-pound-11-ounce Copper Spur 4P, but expect tradeoffs in terms of price ($800 for the Copper Spur) and durability. On the other hand, opting for two two-person tents will give you more room overall (including vestibule space) and can result in a better night’s sleep for everyone, albeit with increases in both weight and cost. Given that the majority of family trips are of the casual variety, we think the Trail Hut 4 is the best overall solution for most groups of three or four. And all specs aside, we wouldn’t trade anything for the memories of waiting out a high-country storm with the whole family, complete with a deck of cards and a good book. See the REI Co-op Trail Hut 4
Best of the Rest
7. msr hubba hubba 2p ($550).
One of the most well-rounded backpacking tents on the market for years running, MSR’s Hubba Hubba offers exceptional livability and weather protection in a durable, lightweight package. Revamped last year, the newest version shaves a considerable amount of weight (10 oz.) off of the outgoing model with the use of thinner materials, but the overall design remains the same. A non-tapered floor plan, 40-inch peak height, and near-vertical walls offer excellent interior space, and you get great weather resistance with a long-lasting waterproof coating on the fly and a hubbed pole design for stability in high winds. Checking in at just 3 pounds 4 ounces, our takeaway is that it’s the best Hubba Hubba yet.
How does the Hubba Hubba measure up to our top-ranked Copper Spur? The Big Agnes is 4 inches longer and 2 inches wider at the head, and the steep walls and non-symmetrical pole structure create an impressive amount of headroom at one end. On the flip side, the MSR’s non-tapered build offers more width throughout, which means you have the option of sleeping head-to-toe with your tentmate. Another factor to consider is the Hubba Hubba’s solid tent walls (the Copper Spur is more mesh-heavy), which will be better in high winds but result in less ventilation overall. Finally, both tents use relatively similar materials—the MSR’s floor is 20D versus the Big Agnes’ 15 x 20D—but there have been several complaints with the latest Hubba Hubba’s durability, including reports of the carbon fiber poles splintering (we didn’t experience this during testing). In the end, the Copper Spur maintains the top spot due to its unparalleled ventilation, livability, and reliability, but the slightly more weather-worthy Hubba Hubba is hot on its heels... Read in-depth review See the MSR Hubba Hubba 2P
8. Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Solution Dye ($500)
If you’re traveling as a pair, a two-person tent is your best bet for streamlining weight and bulk. But if you’ve ever been tent-bound in a storm before, you know: The walls can start closing in quickly. The good news is that with advancements in fabric technology and tent design, it’s possible to bump to a more spacious shelter without dramatically increasing your load. Big Agnes’ Tiger Wall UL3 is one of our favorite three-person tents thanks to its low weight—for under 3 pounds, it’s a very roomy shelter for two, with space still left over for a child, a canine, or gear. If you’re traveling in inclement weather, with a smaller third companion, or just like the idea of some extra room (without a crazy weight penalty), it’s as good an option as any.
The Tiger Wall keeps weight down with a semi-freestanding design, which does come with some disadvantages. We’ve found it particularly difficult to get a taut pitch when camping on rock, and the tent simply isn’t as weather-worthy as a freestanding design like the Copper Spur above. But you do get two doors and two vestibules, and a large ridge pole across the center offers a great boost in headroom. In terms of materials, the Tiger Wall’s silicone-coated nylon is impressively strong (although it’s still thin and requires gentle treatment), and we like that Big Agnes has turned to fade-resistant solution-dyed fabrics in order to reduce their environmental footprint. Finally, keep in mind that you can shave even more weight by opting for the Tiger Wall 2 Platinum ($650, 2 lb. 11 oz.) or Carbon ($2,000, 2 lb. 1 oz.) which feature the same design but with even lighter materials... Read in-depth review See the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Solution Dye
9. Nemo Dagger OSMO 2P ($530)
For weight-conscious backpackers who don’t want to compromise on livability and durability, the Nemo Dagger OSMO is a great option. At 4 pounds 2 ounces for the two-person version, this tent is roomy, relatively lightweight and durable, and packed with features. You get two large doors, two spacious vestibules for storing gear, and a generous interior that’s a few inches longer than most of the competition (and a half-foot longer than the Hubba Hubba above). And like the MSR, the floor of the Dagger OSMO is symmetrical as opposed to tapered toward the feet, making it possible for two people to sleep in opposite directions (head to toe) for more shoulder room.
Revamped last season, the big news with the latest Dagger is the use of Nemo’s OSMO fabric, which is intended to boost water resistance and reduce sagging, all while eliminating the use of harmful chemicals in production. It’s great news in terms of weather protection and sustainability, but with a 4-ounce weight increase, the Dagger OSMO is now considerably heavier than tents like the Copper Spur (3 lb. 2 oz.) and Hubba Hubba (3 lb. 4 oz.). Further, its design falls short in a few other ways: The small openings at the doors don’t dump condensation as well as the MSR’s large vents at each end, and the fly doesn’t extend all the way to the ground at the head and foot. But the Dagger OSMO is unparalleled in terms of interior space, making it especially well-suited for taller hikers or those who want a bit more room... Read in-depth review See the Nemo Dagger OSMO 2P
10. Tarptent Double Rainbow ($319)
Category: Ultralight Packaged weight: 2 lb. 10 oz. Floor dimensions: 88 x 50 in. Capacities: 1P, 2P What we like: A fairly uncompromised design that’s still affordable and lightweight. What we don’t: Not freestanding and seam sealing costs extra.
California-based cottage brand Tarptent isn’t a household name yet, but the company offers an inspiring ultralight lineup at reasonable price points. The Double Rainbow is our favorite model, featuring a unique single-wall design that keeps weight in check while still maintaining impressive livability. For just 2 pounds 10 ounces, you get a 30-denier floor (15D is standard in UL tents), a generous and symmetrical floor plan that easily fits two sleepers (30.6 sq. ft. compared to the Tiger Wall’s 28 sq. ft.), and two doors and vestibules. Priced at just $319, it’s no wonder that the Double Rainbow is one of the most popular cottage designs among ultralighters and thru-hikers this year.
The Tarptent’s hybrid single-wall construction means setup is a breeze: you simply thread the main pole through a sleeve in the rainfly and stake everything out (the “tent body” is made of mesh and hangs from the bottom of the rainfly). This is particularly nice in wet conditions, as there’s no moment during the setup process when the inside of the tent is exposed to rain. It’s important to keep in mind that the Double Rainbow is a non-freestanding design, which means you’ll need soft ground or good anchors to get a good pitch (alternatively, you can convert it to freestanding with trekking poles). Finally, it does not come seam-sealed, but it’s a fairly simple DIY process or you can add it onto your order for $35. And a final note: Tarptent also makes the Double Rainbow Li ($724), a Dyneema version of the tent here that competes with the Zpacks Duplex above... Read in-depth review See the Tarptent Double Rainbow
11. Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO 2P ($650)
For the cream of the crop in ultralight tents, look no further than the Nemo Hornet Elite. At just 2 pounds 1 ounce for the two-person model, this semi-freestanding tent is just about as light as you can go without dipping into the trekking-pole shelter market. And thanks to the use of Nemo’s thin yet durable OSMO material and features like their headroom-increasing “Flybar” pole clip, it’s impressively functional and spacious, too. We love the Hornet Elite’s two-door and two-vestibule design, and creative storage solutions offer organization for you and your tentmate’s headlamps, phones, backpacks, and more. Further, Nemo uses ripstop nylon (rather than mesh) at the head of the tent, which translates to increased protection in windy conditions (some ultralight tent bodies are fully mesh). Ounce for ounce, the Hornet Elite is one of the most livable and premium options in its weight class, making it an ideal choice for serious thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers.
But while the Hornet Elite is arguably the best semi-freestanding tent on the market, its ultralight build still has a host of limitations. Nemo doesn’t list a thickness for the fabric, but we’d place it around 10-denier for the fly and floor, which is undeniably thin. What’s more, the Elite’s tapered and streamlined floor plan is a very snug place for two people, and weather protection is slightly compromised with just a partial rainfly at the head (meant to increase ventilation). But if you choose your campsites wisely (don’t pitch the Hornet Elite on top of sharp rocks or sticks) and aren’t opposed to cozying up with your tentmate, the Nemo is a remarkable 2-pound shelter. For those willing to suffer a slight weight penalty, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 offers a bump in headroom and better weather protection via its full-length fly ($450; 2 lb. 8 oz.). See the Nemo Hornet Elite OSMO 2P
12. Sea to Summit Telos TR 2 ($599)
Australia-based Sea to Summit is a reliable go-to for outdoor gear, but 2021 marked their first foray into backpacking tents. And they entered the competitive market with a bang, unveiling two models: the semi-freestanding Alto TR and the all-around Telos TR featured here (a new, more budget-friendly Ikos TR was released for 2023). The headliner is the unique Tension Ridge, which gently bends the ridge pole upward at each end rather than the more common downward-sloping design (concave vs. convex). It’s a small tweak in construction with a significant effect, resulting in taller doors, increased livable space, and better airflow (the vent naturally remains agape at the apex rather than drooping closed). Tack on a number of creative extras—including a snap-on “Lightbar” headlamp diffuser and a versatile fly that sets up in multiple configurations—and it’s safe to say that Sea to Summit has made one heckuva debut.
The Telos TR2 takes direct aim at the Copper Spur HV UL2 above: both are freestanding tents that feature thin fabrics, tapered footprints, and two doors and vestibules. The Copper Spur is $49 less and gets the edge in terms of weight and floor dimensions, with a half-pound lighter build and 3.5 more inches length. That said, it’s a close call in terms of livability: The Telos’ generous 42.5-inch peak height and ridge-pole design makes for a very spacious interior (the Big Agnes’ peak height is 39 in.). But we should note that the Sea to Summit has a flaw in wet weather: During our testing in a torrential downpour, rain pooled in the concavities of the fly and slowly dripped into the tent through the vent opening. But most tents need to go through a few iterations before reaching perfection, and we really like the direction the Telos is headed... Read in-depth review See the Sea to Summit Telos TR 2
13. Nemo Aurora 2P ($300)
For backpackers who care more about saving money than ounces, Nemo’s Aurora is an interesting addition to the market. And it’s not all pinching pennies here: The Aurora is impressively livable with two oversized doors, near-vertical walls, and a full-coverage fly with built-in vents. The symmetrical design and Nemo’s intuitive hardware make setup easy, and thoughtful internal storage is great for staying organized at camp. All in all, we’ve found that Nemo tents consistently are high quality and offer a nice balance of thoughtful features, and the Aurora falls right in line.
Priced at just $300 (with an included footprint), the Aurora is a strong budget pick and gives the REI Half Dome SL above a run for its money. You save $29 with the Nemo and get more durable materials (68D vs. 40D for the floor), but the REI is over 11 ounces lighter and more spacious with an additional 2 inches in both the length and the width (although the Aurora’s peak height is 2 in. taller). Weight-conscious hikers will likely opt for the Half Dome, but the Aurora is still a durable and affordable choice. And for more space, you can bump up to the Aurora 3P (88 x 72 in.) for $360. See the Nemo Aurora 2P
14. Durston X-Mid 2 ($300)
A lot goes into making a solid tent at a low weight, so ultralight price tags can be fairly steep compared to standard backpacking tents (as evidenced by the Nemo Hornet Elite and Zpacks Duplex above). It’s for this reason that the Durston X-Mid is such a surprising entry. Like many trekking-pole shelters, the X-Mid 2 is well built, stormworthy, roomy, and checks in for less than 2.5 pounds. But at just $300, it’s less than half the price of many tents in its weight class. Importantly, there’s nothing about the X-Mid that is cheap: It features a double-wall build, which does a lot to boost ventilation (a rarity among trekking-pole shelters), polyester fly that doesn’t sag when wet, and innovative parallelogram shape that ensures that the doorways aren’t blocked by poles. If you’re looking to go light on a budget, the X-Mid 2 is a high-quality option.
So how does Durston manage to make the X-Mid at such a low price point? In short: with compromises that will be fairly minor for most, but might add up for serious users. The X-Mid is over a pound heavier than the Duplex above, which could be a deal breaker for thru-hikers set on a low base weight. What’s more, the sil/PEU polyester fly will gradually lose its waterproofing over time, while Dyneema is naturally hydrophobic. And for just $19 (and 2.6 oz.) more, the Tarptent Double Rainbow above offers a more user-friendly setup with standard tent poles, although the Durston is a better ventilated and more spacious design (and once you get the hang of the trekking-pole setup, it’s a breeze). For UL hikers looking for a very high quality budget tent, it’s truly hard to beat. If you venture out solo, you can save even more with the X-Mid 1 ($240). See the Durston X-Mid 2
15. SlingFin Portal 2 ($540)
SlingFin might not be a household name, but don’t be fooled: This company knows how to make a serious tent. Established by the original Mountain Hardwear tent designer (also a former TNF and Sierra Designs designer), SlingFin is employee-owned and self-describes as “small, lean, and scrappy,” specializing in high-quality tents with no constraints. The Portal is their most popular and lightest freestanding design, alleged to handle rough weather with more ease than most 3-season tents. SlingFin accomplishes this feat by way of internal guylines, a plethora of exterior guy-out points, secure connections between the fly and poles, and attachments that allow you to reinforce the structure with trekking poles. And as a nice touch, the Portal also features pre-installed spare zipper sliders on both doors, which quickly extends the life of the tent (and makes in-the-field repairs easy).
We brought the Portal 2 backpacking in Patagonia, thinking the windy environment would be an excellent testing ground for a tent that claims to be between 3- and 4-season categories. Unfortunately, we faced conditions that were unfair for almost any tent, and spent a night with the Portal collapsed on top of us, bivy-sack style (we did not set it up with trekking pole reinforcements, which would certainly have helped). It is worth noting, however, that the SlingFin didn't fare as well as other tents we had with us that night, including the much heavier Sea to Summit Ikos (we suspect some of this is due to the Portal's lighter poles and predominantly mesh upper). In the end, the Portal 2 is a great 3-season tent with a premium fit and finish (it falls in the same category as models like the Copper Spur and Dagger above), but we just can’t get behind SlingFin’s strong claims regarding its weather resistance. See the SlingFin Portal 2
16. Hilleberg Nallo 2 ($855)
Category: All-season Packaged weight: 5 lb. 5 oz. Floor dimensions: 86 x 43 in. Capacities: 2P, 3P, 4P What we like: An absolute tank in high winds. What we don’t: Expensive and overkill for mild conditions.
For hitting the backcountry in winter or even treks in inhospitable places like Nepal or Peru, you’ll most likely want a step up in toughness and warmth from the 3-season tents that dominate this list. Enter Hilleberg’s fantastic Nallo (Hilleberg describes it as “all-season” and they don’t use that designation lightly). With a tunnel-like shape as opposed to a traditional dome layout, the Nallo excels in strong gusts and heavy precipitation. Just face either end of the tent in the direction of the wind, batten down the hatches with the many guylines, and sleep in relative peace. We used the Nallo in some brutal weather above the Arctic Circle and came away extremely impressed with its toughness.
The Achilles' heel of the Nallo is breathability. If you’re backpacking in warm conditions, it struggles to ventilate and can build up serious condensation on the inner walls. It’s for this reason that we’re such big fans of the Nemo Kunai (not listed here due to lack of availability), which has canopy walls that unzip to reveal breathable mesh. Other downsides include the Nallo’s steep price and hefty build, which is over a pound heavier than the MSR Access above. What's more, the Hilleberg features just one door and vestibule—if you want a step up in convenience, check out their Allak 2 instead. There’s no denying that Hilleberg tents are expensive, but their ridiculously high quality and stalwart weather protection make them top choices for guides, avid explorers, and those headed into inclement conditions. See the Hilleberg Nallo 2
17. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Solution Dye ($400)
Fast and light hikers love the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL—the two-person version weighs in at a measly 2 pounds 4 ounces, which is comparable to a decent bivy sack or hammock. This feathery-light weight is accomplished with a single door at the head end, an interior that tapers aggressively towards your feet, and a hubbed pole that runs the length of the tent in a spine-like shape. The tent and rainfly fabrics are also impressively strong despite being so thin they’re semi-see-through, and with a recent update are now solution-dyed, which means they’re less prone to fading (notably, this process also reduces energy and water waste during manufacturing).
It's important to be aware that the Fly Creek won’t offer the same protection from the elements as a sturdier design like the MSR Hubba Hubba above. The rainfly is prone to sagging onto the tent body (guying it out thoroughly will help alleviate this issue), and the fairly simple pole structure means the tent collapses inward during heavy winds. What’s more, the all-mesh body is vulnerable to drafts and does a poor job keeping out flying dirt and sand. In the end, we think the Tiger Wall and Nemo Hornet Elite are the better all-around UL choices for parties of two, both of which utilize two-door-and-vestibule layouts for just a few ounces more... Read in-depth review See the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Solution Dye
18. Marmot Tungsten 2P ($249)
REI’s Trail Hut above isn't the only good values on the market. At a budget-friendly price of $249, the recently updated Marmot Tungsten has a similar three-season build with durable fabrics and all the features that most weekend backpackers need. The tent has two doors and vestibules, weighs in at a respectable 5 pounds 4 ounces, and offers a roomy 32 square feet of floor space. We also like the mix of solid nylon and mesh on the tent body, which provides both good ventilation alongside privacy and weather protection. And whereas the Half Dome SL above has a 40-denier floor and 30-denier fly, the Tungsten ups the ante with 70- and 68-denier fabrics in the floor and fly, respectively.
All things considered, we like the Marmot Tungsten and it makes a nice hybrid backpacking and car camping option. One downside is the tent’s packed size, which is large enough to make it difficult to squeeze into a backpack (it’s much easier to divide up the load between two people). And although it’s more expensive at $329, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ weighs over 8 ounces less than the Tungsten yet offers considerably more floor area and vestibule space. But the Tungsten is nevertheless a solid option for penny pinchers, and we like that the newest version features solution-dyed fabric, which reduces energy and water waste during manufacturing. Marmot also offers the 2-person tent in a lightweight version (the Tungsten UL, for $379), which uses substantially thinner materials to trim away nearly 2 pounds from the standard model. See the Marmot Tungsten 2P
19. The North Face Stormbreak 2 ($185)
The North Face makes a lot of high-performance tents for expedition use, but their casual lineup also has a lot to offer. For just $185 at full retail price, the Stormbreak 2 is a great value in a two-person backpacking tent. All the intangibles are there: The Stormbreak is roomy with a full 50 inches of non-tapered width, offers good weather protection with a full-length fly, and has two large doors and vestibules for storing your gear at night. In terms of durability, the TNF uses a burly 75-denier canopy and 68-denier floor, which means it should last you years to come. All in all, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.
What are the downsides of The North Face’s Stormbreak 2? With a packaged weight of 5 pounds 14 ounces, it’s one of the heaviest two-person tents on this list, although most of the competition is literally hundreds of dollars more expensive. And given the low cost, the fabrics and poles feel cheaper than mid-range and premium models. It’s also important to note that the Stormbreak’s fly does not feature any venting, which means it could overheat quickly in a storm (on a dry night, you can open up your vestibule doors for airflow). The price is right, but we’ll always point you first to REI’s in-house collection for the best value. See The North Face Stormbreak 2
Backpacking Tent Comparison Table
*Editor's Note: "Weight" refers to the packaged weight of each tent, with the exception of trekking pole-supported models.
Backpacking Tent Buying Advice
Backpacking tent categories, backpacking tent weight, interior space, fabric durability (denier), weather protection, ventilation, storage: vestibules and interior pockets, set up and take down, freestanding vs. non-freestanding tents, tent poles and stakes, backpacking tent capacities, do you need a footprint, price and value.
There are as many styles of backpacking tents as there are backpackers, from streamlined thru-hiking-inspired designs to durable and comfortable classics. It follows that when deciding on a tent, you’ll first want to think about what backpacking looks like for you. Are you someone who gets out every weekend of the summer, or just a few days a year? Do you like to travel fast and light or prioritize comfort and durability? How much space do you need? Below we break the field down into four separate categories: all-around, budget, ultralight, and all-season.
All-Around Backpacking tents in our all-around category are the core of the market. These tents offer the best combination of livability and weight-savings, checking in around 3 to 4 pounds (for a 2P model) and featuring complex pole structures that result in steep walls and generous interior space. Their design also translates to impressive stability in high winds and great wet-weather protection. Further, most all-around tents feature two doors and two vestibules, which adds a great deal of convenience and storage. But there are a few caveats: These tents are expensive (our top-ranked Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is $550) and aren't particularly durable, with relatively thin fabrics and zippers. Finally, although all-around tents are very doable for two sleepers, you’ll often find larger floor plans in our budget category. But for class-leading performance, tents in our all-around category are our top choice for most.
Budget If you’re new to backpacking or only get out a few times a year, it’s worth taking a look at a budget tent. Most of these designs have an MSRP of less than $350 and are defined by their thicker fabrics, simple pole structures, and heavier builds. Comfort is high, with spacious floor plans that don't compromise for weight-savings, two doors and two vestibules, and lots of storage. And with considerably more durable fabrics, they can withstand much more use and abuse, which is good news for those who don’t want to spend too much time taking care of their gear. It's true that budget tents lack the fancy architecture and low weights of more expensive tents here, but in our opinion they're all beginners need and nothing they don’t. From our list above, the REI Co-op Trail Hut 2 is our favorite budget tent, and you can bump up to the Half Dome SL 2+ for an impressive mix of price and performance.
Ultralight Weight-conscious thru-hikers have relied on bare-bones shelters for a long time, but only recently has the ultralight craze hit mainstream backpacking. The number one consideration here is keeping weight to a minimum (3 pounds or less), which ultralight tents do by way of thin fabrics and zippers, tapered floor areas, heavily sloped ceilings, fewer doors, smaller vestibules, and simplified pole structures. Further, the majority are non-freestanding and semi-freestanding, meaning they must be staked out in order to hold their shape. Unsurprisingly, there are a fair share of potential tradeoffs with tents in this category: They suffer in terms of weather protection (we’ve had particularly bad luck with the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 in high winds), require a lot of extra care, and can be fairly cramped quarters for two. Further, you'll spend up to drop weight: Most ultralight tents are $400 or more, and Dyneema tents like the 1-pound 2.5-ounce Zpacks Duplex will run you up to $699.
But we’re big believers that ultralight gear can be taken too far, which is what happens (in our opinion) when tent floor fabrics drop below 15 denier (as is the case with the Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum’s 7D floor) or when you wake up with a tent wall stuck to your face (a real life experience we had with the Six Moon Designs’ Lunar Solo). We certainly understand the appeal for thru-hikers and serious backpackers, and in the right environments the compromises can be minimal. But for most recreational backpackers, the weight-savings probably isn’t worth it. Most of the time, you can get a whole lot of comfort and convenience (not to mention, a longer lifespan) by bumping up to a tent that’s just one pound heavier (at just over 3 lb., the Big Agnes Copper Spur is fairly uncompromised). For this reason, we feature a few ultralight tents here and are sure to call out their weaknesses in the write-ups above. For a deeper dive on this topic, see our article: Backpacking Tents: How Light is Too Light?
All-Season We’ve included a few all-season tents on this list to provide a complete view of the backpacking market, including the MSR Access and Hilleberg Nallo. These tents offer more protection than your standard 3-season tent without being quite as bulky or expensive as a 4-season tent . Whereas most 3-season designs are fairly mesh-heavy, all-season tents use mostly nylon walls for better warmth and wind protection. You also get sturdier pole structures, which adds a bit of weight but is worth it when the weather turns. You can expect higher price tags and increased weights in this category, but all-season tents are nevertheless our top pick for backpacking in areas like Peru, Nepal, or Alaska. And if weight isn't your top priority, you can always bump up to a 3-person version for more space.
A backpacking tent is one of the heaviest and bulkiest items you’ll pack for an overnight trip, but the good news is that modern designs are lighter than ever. The 2-person tents on our list range from 1 pound 2.5 ounces for the non-freestanding Zpacks Duplex to 5 pounds 15 ounces for the budget REI Co-op Trail Hut 2, with popular models like the MSR Hubba Hubba and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 settling somewhere in the 3-pound range. In general, you can expect budget tents to be the heaviest, followed by all-season, all-around, and ultralight. As is the case with most outdoor gear, shaving weight from a tent design will result in some tradeoff, often in the form of compromised durability, interior space, weather protection, or ventilation (not to mention a higher price tag). In the end, it helps to be mindful of your priorities when making your tent purchase.
Packaged Weight vs. Trail Weight When researching tent weight, you’ll commonly see manufacturers and retailers list two specs: packaged weight and trail weight (also referred to as "minimum weight"). The former includes everything that comes with the purchase of the tent, including the tent body, rainfly, poles, stakes, guylines, stuff sacks, and footprint (when it’s included with the tent—as is the case with REI Co-op's Trail Hut 2 and Half Dome SL 2+). This is an important factor to consider when comparing models, as a footprint can tack on 7 ounces or more to the total tent weight, not to mention a stuff sack that may be unnecessary while backpacking.
The trail weight, on the other hand, only includes the tent body, rainfly, and poles. We’ve chosen to list packaged weight in the specs above—it’s closer to what most folks realistically bring—but keep in mind that you can trim ounces from there. Depending on the build of the tent components, the difference between packaged weight and minimum weight can be substantial: anywhere from over a pound for the entry-level REI Trail Hut 2 with its heavy aluminum stakes and included footprint to a 7-ounce difference for the Big Agnes Copper Spur .
Floor Dimensions In parsing out how roomy a backpacking tent is, the first thing you’ll want to evaluate is the floor dimensions (L x W), which matter quite a bit when you’re trying to fit two backpackers with their sleeping pads side-by-side. In general, the floor area of a tent tends to go down as weight goes down, and some two-person tents can get pretty cozy with two adults and gear inside (you always can size up to a “plus” or three-person version for more space). It’s also worth mentioning that some tents taper at the foot end, which helps shave weight but also has a negative impact on livability (making it hard to sleep head-to-toe). In these cases, we’ve provided two measurements for the floor width (86 x 52/42, for example). And a final note on floor dimensions: While they’re a good place to start, they certainly don’t tell the whole story about a tent’s interior space. It’s a good rule of thumb to take the tent’s peak height and shape into consideration as well, and in particular the slope of the walls (more on this below).
Peak Height and Slope A tent’s “peak height” refers to its tallest point, and among two-person models varies from 39 inches for a design like the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 up to 48 inches for the Zpacks Duplex and Durston X-Mid 2. But while peak height does make a difference in terms of sitting up and moving around inside your tent, it’s important to also consider the slope of the walls in order to get a true picture of a tent’s livability. To understand this, just picture the difference between a pyramid-shaped tent (a tall peak height at the apex with sharply sloped walls) and a box-shaped tent, which features the same peak height throughout (headroom is the same at the sides as in the middle). Slope is a trickier subject than peak height and cannot be communicated via a simple measurement, but there are a few tell-tale signs to look for.
Most of today’s most premium designs feature pre-bent poles and a ridge pole, both of which help to stretch the walls outward and make them near-vertical. This can go a long way in extending the peak height both length and widthwise, and is seen in popular tents like the REI Half Dome SL and Nemo Dagger. On the other hand, some budget and ultralight tents use simplified pole structures (or even trekking pole setups), resulting in a sharper slope and less interior space (the Nemo Hornet Elite, for example). While a tent like the Nemo Dagger is actually fun to hang out in (two people can sit face-to-face), the Hornet Elite can feel a bit like a coffin. Not everyone will need to prioritize a tent with a generous peak height throughout, but it’s especially worth it for those who anticipate bad weather or spending a lot of time inside.
One of the easiest ways to think about tent durability is to consider the thickness of the fabric, which is measured in terms of denier (technically speaking, the weight of the yarn). The higher the denier—of the floor, canopy, and rainfly—the more durable the tent. Logically, denier lines up with weight: The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 ($500; 2 lb. 15 oz.) has a thin 15-denier floor, while the 5-pound-14-ounce TNF Stormbreak 2 ($185) uses a robust 68-denier fabric. Ultralight gear certainly requires an extra level of care—we typically recommend using a footprint with lightweight tents and checking your campsite for sharp sticks or rocks—but it’s a sacrifice many are willing to accept to reduce their packed weight. Because the area most vulnerable to punctures or tears is the floor, this is the number we list in the specs and comparison table above.
While fabric thickness is a large factor in determining a tent’s durability, it’s not the only one. The quality of the rest of the materials (poles, zippers, etc.) also plays a part, as does the attention to detail. Additionally, premium tents will often add a silicone coating (also referred to as “silnylon”) to their thin fabrics for additional tear strength and longevity, while most budget designs do not. This is an expensive process—there’s a reason Hilleberg tents are $850 or more—but the payoff is incredible toughness even on a tent like the Nallo that uses otherwise thin 30-denier fabric. We’ve learned to trust the build quality of tents from leading manufacturers like REI, Nemo, and MSR, but you’ll want to be a bit more careful with dedicated budget brands like Alps Mountaineering and Eureka, which specialize in the entry-level market.
Your first line of defense in bad weather is the rainfly. As the name indicates, the rainfly covers the exposed tent body for increased resistance from precipitation, wind, and cold. Even ultralight designs have a waterproof coating, are seam-taped (or can be inexpensively), and can withstand hours of downpour without leaking, provided they cover the entire tent body (we’ve found that most leakage actually comes from the ground around the bottom of the tent). We almost always recommend a full-coverage rainfly, although some tents like the Nemo Hornet Elite have impressive weather resistance even with some sections only protected by the tent body.
The next factor in weather resistance is the tent structure. In general, more expensive tents offer increased weather resistance (some ultralight models are exceptions). The poles and pole systems on budget tents are likely to bow during strong winds, while high-end tents like those from MSR and Big Agnes have stronger poles and tons of exterior ties to anchor yourself down during a storm.
A healthy percentage of people get up to the mountains a few weekends a year during the summer months, and encounter moderate conditions in terms of temperature, wind, and precipitation. If you fall into this category, all on our list should perform admirably. We once slept in an older version of the REI Half Dome for six consecutive weeks in Patagonia with only a couple of uncomfortable nights during big storms. That being said, subsequent trips in a Hilleberg did make us appreciate the quality and bombproof feeling you get in a high-end tent.
How well a tent ventilates depends on a couple of factors. First, look at the amount of mesh on the tent itself. A double-wall tent (the tent body and rainfly being two independent pieces) with liberal amounts of mesh should breathe well in mild weather. Leave the rainfly off and the tent will be even more comfortable in hot temperatures so long as the sun isn't hitting you directly. With the rainfly on, things get a little trickier. A standard rainfly has a waterproof coating to help protect the interior from getting wet, which also means the rainfly doesn’t ventilate very well, and moisture from your breath is trapped inside, creating a dewy interior.
So what can you do? Tent manufacturers combat these problems by installing roof vents towards the top of the rainfly that can be deployed even in the rain. The vents are covered from the top by the rainfly fabric, so only in a strong storm with rain coming sideways will there be an issue with raindrops reaching the interior. By creating good airflow out the top of the tent, along with good spacing between the rainfly and tent body at the bottom, problems with moisture collecting on the interior of the tent can be greatly reduced. And some tents like the Sea to Summit Telos TR 2 have convertible-like rainfly designs that roll back fairly easily. You can leave half of the rainfly open for ventilation and stargazing, but if you feel a couple of rain drops during the night, it only takes a few seconds to roll the rainfly back down.
Tent storage can be broken into two categories: vestibules and gear closets outside the tent, and pockets inside the tent body for small items you need close at hand. A traditional vestibule covers the entry door to the tent with enough space for a couple backpacking packs and footwear. Without it, your options are bringing the wet and grimy gear inside the tent or letting it soak outside. Needless to say, we put a priority on some sort of outside gear storage. The amount of vestibule space is measured in square feet and can vary a fair amount. From our top picks above, the smallest vestibules are designs with just one door, like Big Agnes’ Fly Creek (8 sq. ft.). On the other end of the spectrum is the REI Half Dome’s roomy 22.5 square feet divided between two vestibules. For those camping with a partner, the REI’s added space makes staying organized (and sane) much easier.
A tent with excellent interior organization isn’t a top priority, that is, until you get into the tent for the first time and look for a spot to store your headlamp , handheld GPS, or other small items. We’ve found the most helpful area for a pocket is near your head, and a simple mesh drop-in pocket or two is sufficient. Some tents have pockets along the interior of the roof, which make for an easy place to squeeze in a headlamp to light up a game of cards. Should the tent not include pockets along the roof, look to see if it has hang loops instead for securing a light. These extra little details can make your backcountry camping experience all the more enjoyable.
This article covers primarily two-person backpacking tents (the most common capacity), and a quick look at our picks above shows our clear preference for models with two doors. These designs are by far the most convenient if you consistently camp with a partner: Each person has their own door for getting in and out, including vestibule storage space. A few models above use just one door to save weight—the Big Agnes Fly Creek , for example, puts its door on one end. If you’re sharing the tent with a partner, this can be a major downside—you’ll be crawling over your tent mate to get in and out and will be limited to one vestibule for exterior storage. In the end, unless you’re traveling alone or pulling out all the stops to save weight, we recommend a tent with two doors.
The good news for backpackers is that setting up a modern tent has become surprisingly easy. Many of us remember the fabric sleeves of old that were both time consuming and extremely frustrating, but the majority of tents now use simple clips that take a matter of seconds to attach. In addition, tent poles have become streamlined and come together with ease. To set up most tents, you simply lay out your footprint if you have one, stake out the corners, attach the poles, and clip everything together. From there, the rainfly often can be the trickiest part (we’ve put ours on inside or backwards more times than we can count), plus you have those small Velcro attachments on the inside. But the whole process usually takes just a few minutes from start to finish, which is fantastic.
It’s worth noting that some ultralight tent systems can be more finicky to set up and definitely require some practice. When getting acquainted with shelters like the Zpacks Duplex , we've found ourselves initially fumbling a bit to get everything taut and in place. And because Hilleberg tents are designed so uniquely, it can take a few tries to get setup speed where you want it to be. Regardless of your tent choice, it’s always a good idea to set it up at home first. Not only will this help guarantee that you know what you’re doing in the backcountry when the conditions may be more challenging, but it also ensures that you have all of the necessary components.
The term freestanding means that by attaching poles to the tent body, it has a solid structure and can stand completely on its own. Non-freestanding or semi-freestanding tents need to be staked out in some (or all) of the corners to create a rigid frame. The benefit of a freestanding tent is a simple setup that is far easier to move from one area of your campsite to another (or to use on a rocky surface). As a result, most mainstream tents on the market are freestanding. Non-freestanding tents require fewer pole sections, which reduces weight, and are a popular choice for backcountry enthusiasts that are well versed in choosing a good campsite and erecting a tent. Owing to their design, semi- and non-freestanding tents also tend to have more sloped walls (read: less headroom) and less interior space overall. For a deeper dive into the topic, see our article on freestanding vs. non-freestanding tents .
Without getting too into the nitty gritty on tent poles and stakes, there are a few important details to cover. In terms of poles, nearly every quality backpacking tent uses aluminum poles (exceptions to the rule are the Zpacks Duplex Flex, MSR Carbon Reflex, and Big Agnes Fly Creek Carbon, which use carbon-fiber poles). Aluminum is relatively affordable, lightweight, and will flex quite a bit prior to failing. Name brand poles like Easton or DAC are easy to trust, but there are also a number of quality in-house offerings. You’ll find simple pole layouts in budget tents—for example, the criss-crossing structure of the REI Co-op Trailmade 2 —while more premium tents tack on a ridge pole at the apex for stability and headroom. And in 2023, most of our favorite tents feature hubbed poles (meaning that the poles are all attached at a center “hub”), which offer greater rigidity and easier setup.
No matter the tent style or manufacturer, stakes are an integral part of setting up a tent. Most two-person tents will include six: one for each corner and one for each side of the vestibule. That’s all fine and good for setting up in mild conditions, but it’s insufficient for bad weather when you want to use guylines. Thus, you may want to purchase some extra stakes, and it may be worth replacing your stock ones as well. Cheaper hook-style aluminum stakes come with most tents and can be a pain to use because they’re too thick and round to easily sink into the ground, and have a tendency to bend when being hammered in. Thankfully, upgrading isn’t very expensive. We really like the MSR Groundhogs : they are light, tough and easy to put in the ground. And the DAC stakes that come with the Hilleberg Nallo (and other Hilleberg models) are some of the best we've used.
Most of the backpacking tents above are of the two-person variety, with floor plans that can accommodate two 20-inch sleeping pads side-by-side. The two-person tent is the most popular capacity, but many backpacking models also come in one, three, and four-person designs. Solo travelers can save some weight by opting for a one-person option, while families or couples traveling with a dog can bump up to a three- or four-person model. It almost goes without saying that weight and packed size will increase alongside capacity, but it is worth noting that, in general, one four-person tent will be lighter than two two-person models. For example, REI's Trail Hut 4 checks in at 8 pounds 1.6 ounces, while the two-person version weighs 5 pounds 15 ounces.
We’ll start by noting that a footprint is optional—some of the tents above come with an included footprint, while others do not. These simple tarps go beneath your tent (usually attaching to the pole in each corner) to provide an extra layer of protection underneath. They’re a nice added bit of assurance to have when it’s wet (make sure to tuck them under the tent to avoid pooling, as that can have the opposite effect) or when you’re camped on rough surfaces like granite or sharp plants. That said, they do add an additional cost (a $40 footprint would increase the price of a $200 tent by a whopping 20%) and 5 to 10 ounces to your pack.
Here’s our take: A footprint is a good idea if your tent is thin in terms of denier (see the durability section above ) or if you plan on camping on rough surfaces like granite, tend to be careless with your gear, or don’t have the risk tolerance for a torn floor (and the subsequent repair). On the other hand, if you have a durable tent and are camping on dirt, it’s unlikely that your tent will rip.
Cost always is a key consideration and a backpacking tent is a big purchase. Here’s our take: if you are on a budget, only plan on backpacking once or twice a summer, are covering short to moderate distances, or just don’t mind carrying a few extra pounds, we are big fans of entry-level tents like the REI Co-op Trail Hut 2 ($199 with a footprint included) and Half Dome SL 2+ ($329 but a noticeable step up in interior space and features). These tents offer the highest value: Build quality is good, they are durable and roomy, setup is easy with simplified pole structures, and they cost considerably less than lighter-weight models. For casual backpackers on shorter trips, there is no need to spend more.
Continuing up the price ladder, the trend is toward lighter and more packable designs. For those who take multi-day backpacking trips, get out a lot, and prioritize a low pack weight, the investment will be well worth it. Tents that are lightweight yet fairly uncompromised will be some of the most expensive (consider the $550 Big Agnes Copper Spur), while semi-freestanding designs with smaller footprints will come in a bit less (the $400 Big Agnes Fly Creek , for example). Most people may not want to consider anything above $500, but this is where you’ll find the lightest designs and the most expensive materials, such as Dyneema fabrics and carbon fiber poles. These tents (like the $669 Zpacks Duplex and $650 Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum) are a good fit only for extremely weight-conscious backpackers and thru-hikers who spend countless nights outside and need the best tool for the job. However, unless you care a lot about saving weight, they’re often not the best value, with fragile materials and compromised livability and features. Back to Our Top Backpacking Tent Picks Back to Our Backpacking Tent Comparison Table
Learn More About Outdoor Gear
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent Review
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 Tent Review
How to Choose a Backpacking Tent
Nemo Dagger Osmo 2P Tent Review
Best Ultralight Tents of 2023
Does Your Backpacking Tent Need a Footprint?
Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding Backpacking Tents
Best Budget Backpacking Tents of 2023
Backpacking Checklist for 2023
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Home » Gear » best backpacking tent
5 Best Travel Tents (MUST READ! • 2023 Buyer’s Guide)
Do you need to buy a travel tent? With an abundance of hostels, airbnbs and trains to sleep on, you may well be wondering if modern backpackers need to burden themselves by hauling a tent around with them.
But a backpacking tent offers you a home . Anywhere you go, be it parks in the urban sprawl or glorious remote vistas in the wilderness, you’ll have your home with you!
Camping out in the woods, on the beach, or at the foot of some mighty mountain is a truly amazing way to reconnect with nature. I love to camp and have been lucky enough to camp out in over fifty different countries across five continents. I saved a lotta dough on accommodation costs in the process too…
But how do you pick the best backpacking tent for hiking and camping adventures?
In this in-depth post, we’ll review the best tents for backpacking for all budgets and styles of travel – cheap tents, light tents, hiking tents, travel tents. It’s a goddamn tent city and we’re finding you a sweet crib!
Ready to check out the top tents for backpacking? Let’s get this thing going!
Quick Answer: Best Backpacking Tents for 2023
The 5 best backpacking tents of 2023, how to pick the best backpacking tent for you, thoughts on camping hammocks , how and where we tested to find the best backpacking tent, faq about the best backpacking tent, so, what is the best tent for backpacking.
- Overall Best Tent for Backpacking –> MSR Hubba Hubba
- Best One Man Tent –> REI Co-op Trailmade 1 Tent
- Best 3 Person Tent –> MSR Hubba Hubba
- Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent –> Nemo Hornet
- Best Hammock Tent –> Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent
- Best Bivvy Style Tent –> Crua Hybrid
- Jump to –> Backpacking Tent Reviews
MSR Hubba Hubba 2
- Price > $$$$
- Weight > 3.25 lbs.
- Capacity > 2 Person
- Free Standing > Yes
- Price > $$$
- Weight > 2.5 lbs.
- Capacity > 2 person
- Free Standing > No
REI Co-op Trailmade 1
- Weight > 4.6 lbs.
- Capacity > 1 Person
Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock
- Weight > 4.25 lbs.
- Capacity > 1-2 Person
- Weight > 6.6 lbs
- Capacity > 1
#1 Overall Best Tent for Backpacking: MSR Hubba Hubba
- Price: $549.95
- Weight: 3 lb. 4 oz
- Dimensions: 84 x 50 inches
- Size when packed: 4.5 x 19 inches
Wow! $500…. shit. Never fear amigo, there are some cheaper options on here but I had to start with the MSR Hubba Hubba as this is hands down the best backpacking tent that money can buy. It’s one of the best lightweight tents for backpacking, designed for stormy conditions and is one of the most waterproof backpacking tents around… I’ve waited out many storms inside this tent.
The MSR Hubba Hubba is great for two people and is really quite spacious for a two-person tent; it is shaped to allow you to sit up throughout most of the tent. I’ve traveled with both the two-person and the three-person MSR Hubba Hubba and loved them both dearly. The two-person is one of the best couples backpacking tents – there’s room to roll around.
MSR is one of the most respected brands in the backpacking tent and gear industry and they have seriously decent customer support – when you buy an MSR tent it comes with a lifetime warranty so you can see it as an investment, it’ll be the last tent you ever have to buy!
MSR Hubba Hubba comes in three sizes, 1 man, 2 man and 3 man.
I have not personally tested the MSR Hubba one person tent but I do have extensive experience with the Hubba 2 and 3 and they have both performed absolutely fantastically.
The only real drawback is that MSR gear is pricey, so if you don’t think you’ll be using your tent very often it probably isn’t worth the money. However, if you are planning on camping out a lot then I would recommend making the investment as this will be the last tent you ever need to buy.
I tore a hole in my Hubba Hub 3 (which was totally my fault) and sent it back to MSR, they quickly repaired and returned it – free of charge. I am a big fan of MSR and now tend to always recommend them for tents and camping stoves, the two things that they make really, really well.
Of course, our team just loved this tent and pretty much all of them rated it as their best and really couldn’t fault it… other than the price. But the good news is that they felt the price was at least justified and well worth it if you can afford it. They were particularly impressed by just how protected they felt inside this tent. One of the team took it on the Appalachian Trail and their first night consisted of 40mph wind, snow and icy rain! It stood up to the test and kept them dry and warm!
- Ultra Light Weight
- Great weight to space ratio
- Leading material in technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Expensive (but the lifetime warranty makes it worth it!)
REI is one of America’s biggest and most-loved outdoor gear retailers.
Now, for just $30, get a lifetime membership that entitles you to 10% OFF on most items, access to their trade-in scheme and discount rentals .
#2 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Nemo OSMO Hornet
- Price: $429.95
- Weight: 2lbs 8 oz
- Dimensions: 85 x 51 x 43 in
- Size when packed: 7.5 x 12.5 inches
Check out our epic full review of the Nemo Hornet here!
The award-winning Nemo OSMO Hornet is the best lightweight backpacking tent on the market; not only is it ultralight, leading in material technology and design for quick set-up, but it is also acclaimed as one of the best waterproof backpacking tents available.
However, there have been reports of the external section not being optimized for the protection of your stuff against the elements and some have even said that the materials are so thin that they are easily pierced by twigs. But this is the most compact tent on our list so there are always compromises.
These two problems make it very hard to justify such a high price tag, but do note that these could be quite isolated issues. I have tried the Nemo Hornet out whilst hiking in Turkey and if you are on a long multi-day hike, the exceptionally low weight makes the Nemo Hornet stand out as the best ultralight tent.
Our team rated this as their best tent for hiking mostly due to just how darn light this thing is and how easy it felt to carry even for days on end. Other than the fact that this tent is super light they loved that it wasn’t fiddly to put up and down as well as the fact that the vestibule was super roomy.
Check out another great tent comparable to the Nemo Hornet 2 in this North Face Storm Break 2 review .
- Well designed
- Waterproofing has mixed reviews
- So does it’s strength
- No lifetime warranty
#3 Best One-Man Tent: REI Co-op Trailmade 1 Tent
- Price: $159
- Weight: 4 pounds 9 ounces
- Dimensions: 88 x 36.5 inches
- Size when packed: 7.5 x 22.44 inches
Are you a backpacking enthusiast searching for a practical yet sustainable tent? This 1-person, 3-season offering might just be the one. The REI Co-op Trailmade 1 prioritizes usability with eco-friendly construction. REI is a Climate Neutral Certified brand, meaning it’s a great way to look after our planet whilst backpacking.
Weighing in at 4 pounds 9 ounces, this tent won’t slow you down either on the trails or backpacking around a new town. Packing down to an incredibly small 7.5 x 22.44 inches, it’s the perfect compact companion for your next adventure. Where it might be small when packed down, it opens up like a tardis when pitched. With floor dimensions of 88 x 36.5 inches, it offers a spacious 20 square feet of floor area and a height of 41 inches. On top of that, you’ve also got a super useable 9.5 square feet of vestibule area which is perfect for storing your gear.
One of the areas that we really love about this tent is the way in which its construction reduces its carbon impact. REI’s commitment to sustainability can be seen in its use of recycled materials and solution-dyed mesh meaning no harmful chemicals have been used during the process to make it fire retardant.
Need more options? Check out our list of the best one-man tents for some more ideas.
- Pretty durable
- Center seam can tear
- Entry level
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#4 Best Camping Hammock Tent: Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge
- Price: $199
- Weight: 4.25 pounds
- Dimensions: 90 x 42 inches
- Size when packed: 6 x 22 inches
Hammock camping tents are awesome… These bad boys are designed to be suspended taught so that they provide you with a flat surface to sleep on, rather than you sinking deep into a cacoon as you tend to do with traditional hammock designs
Hammock tents are super versatile, well made and can be set up like a normal tent on the ground if needs be – this offers the best of both worlds.
If you are looking for a quality one-man tent for backpacking but also want to hang out on the beach in a hammock during the day, the Lawson Hammock Tent offers incredible versatility and best of all these bad boys are tough and you can put them through hell.
This particular hammock tent comes with an integrated mosquito net to keep bugs out and a waterproof ripstop nylon rain fly to keep you dry.
If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional travel tent then our team loved this option. Is this the best backpacking tent on amazon? Maybe, maybe not, but our team enjoyed giving this one a go and getting to know how it worked in practice. They felt it wasn’t overly complicated to put up despite being a very different design than they were used to. One of the team got caught in a tropical rainstorm and were pleased to report they stayed bone dry throughout and even enjoyed the experience!
Super lightweight Best of two worlds Seriously cool
Not cheap for a hammock Not everyone likes hammocks
#5 Another Great Travel Tent – Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 Solution Dye
- Price: $499.95
- Weight: 1.13kg
Big Anges have really outdone themselves with the Tigerwall UL Solution Dye series. Now being their smallest and lightest tent, it is designed to be the perfect travel companion for 3-season multi-day trips. When this parcel arrived in the post, at first, I thought I had the wrong order; it was way too small for a 2-person tent. How wrong I was. Every tiny detail, from the poles to the pegs have been meticulously thought about to reduce every single gram – yet maintaining that balance of strength and structure. Boasting their solution dye fabric, this tent doesn’t just reduce weight; its fabrication even has a reduced energy and water usage – making it one of the most eco-friendly tents on the market too.
The single pole structure is made with DAC Featherlite NFL aluminum. It comes in a Y-shape with a small, built-in T-bone to add the necessary dimensions, while also creating a super-fast build time. The inner canopy is made of a breathable ripstop nylon/polyester mesh which allows perfect airflow with a bug protector. It has a large built-in pocket for storage. It also has Media pockets above sleeping area. Now when I read online that these were designed with the idea to keep your earbud cords clean, I seriously couldn’t image why anyone would use that, but obviously some people will.
As much as I love the Big Anges Tigerwall, like everything, it comes with its flaws. The footprint is made of the same Silicone-treated ripstop Solution Dye nylon that the raincover is made from. Although this maintains that super ultralightweight design, I can see it ripping in a heartbeat. It feels like a silky plastic carrier bag and any kind of sharp edge will make light work of it. This is the only disappointing part of the design of this tent for me. If you design a tent where a footprint is essential for the function of the tent, improve the built-in footprint…
#6 Best Bivvy Tent for Backpacking: Crua Hybrid
- Price: $299.99
- Weight: 6.6 lbs
- Length of Sleeping Area: 6.1ft
- Size when packed: 29.1 x 13.3 x 13.3 in
If you’re looking to travel light, quickly and lay your head wherever you can, then the Crua Hybrid might just be for you. This tent is probably one of the most versatile on the market at the moment and for backpacking it makes the perfect accompaniment for those on a real adventure.
Whether you choose to use it as a bivvy or hang it off the nearest palm tree as a hammock, you’ll be able to bed down whenever and wherever the need arises. Luckily, the tent is made up of super-strong and durable rip-stop polyester meaning wherever you put it night in night out, it will last the course of your trip!
Make no mistake, this thing is most definitely a one-person tent but that doesn’t mean it isn’t spacious! The interior of the tent is a mummy shape meaning it’s tapered for the wider parts of the body and it features a pretty large vestibule for the style of tent. This area is not only ideal for keeping your gear but it can also be used by those who want a bit more headspace.
Another great feature of this tent is the integrated anti-bug mesh meaning during the warmer months or whilst travelling around tropical areas you can pull the waterproof flysheet off and let the breeze blow through without getting eaten alive. It also makes the tent less claustrophobic than you might imagine for a bivvy-style tent.
The tent is predominantly designed for the summer months but it can be combined with the Crua Culla Solo, an insulation insert built specifically for this tent. This adds not only insulation for the winter months but can also be used to keep out the blazing sun as well as acting as a sound and light barrier for the ultimate night’s sleep. But of course, this is to be purchased extra and does add extra weight to your pack.
We personally loved using this tent whilst motorcycle backpacking around Asia. It packed down super small and easily fit on the back of our bikes and its versatility gave us the ability to pretty much just pull up whenever we’d had enough riding and set up camp at the nearest suitable point whether that be in the air or on the ground.
- Hybrid design can be adapted to different travel styles
- Super durable
- Quick and easy set up
Ten years ago, I hit the road with almost no money in my pocket, a battered tent and an old camping stove. I hitchhiked my way across Europe, thriving on a shoestring budget and having an incredible adventure. Since then, I’ve personally tried and tested dozens of backpacking tents in my travels.
If you’re a long-distance hiker, your needs will be pretty different to a backpacker traveling around the world. Weight is arguably the most important factor to look at when choosing both a travel or hiking tent and personally I would never carry a tent that weighs more than 5 pounds – it’s just too heavy.
Personally, I opt to go for a light and compact tent which I can pitch quickly. All of the tents that I’m reviewing weigh under 5 pounds and are quick to set up but some of them are lighter, or faster to set up, than others.
Price is obviously an important factor and if you’re on a budget, your choices are plentiful! Once upon a time, cheap backpacking tents were dogshit, falling apart and breaking before long. These days, however, many kickass companies have stepped up to the plate and offer some seriously good cheap tents; so much so that we have a roundup of the best budget backpacking tents!
Think carefully about what you need your personal tent for and how many people you envision sleeping in it. Most of the time, three-man backpacking tents only weigh a little bit more than two-man tents so if you will be camping with a buddy, it’s well worth picking a three-manner and taking the extra sleeping space.
Two-man backpacking tents can be pretty cramped, especially if you want to roll around a lot. 😉
Considerations to make about your backpacking tent.
When choosing the best backpacking tent for yourself, here’s what you should consider…
- Size when packed
- Size when open
- Pitching time
- Durability and strength
Having a backpacking tent with you opens up a whole new world of possibilities – you can save a ton of money by camping and if you’re hitchhiking you really MUST have a tent as there is no way of knowing where you’ll end up sleeping!
If you are on a long-term budget adventure, having a tent for camping really is a necessity as it will save you so much cash and gives you so many more options. A backpacking tent not only saves you money in the long run but frees you up to stay in a place you otherwise could never have stayed in. Some of my most memorable travel experiences were only possible because I was camping.
Check out the comparison table and detailed tent reviews below so that you can choose the best backpacking tent for your needs.
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉
If you just don’t want to take a tent, at least take a hammock! Camping hammocks are compact, light and give you a ton of freedom.
If you’re travelling solo then I would suggest getting a hammock rather than a tent (depending on where you are travelling) or even getting both as a hammock opens up a whole new world of outdoor sleeping… Check out The 10 Best Camping Hammocks to find the best backpacking hammock tent for you or, if you’re feeling lazy – buy this one; it’s the best value camping hammock around (but it can’t be pitched on the ground like the Lawson Blue Ridge).
Also, if you ever want to step up your camping game to another level, check out our epic review of the best rooftop tents .
The only way to really test a tent out, to be honest, is to get all up inside it! So in the name of science we took each tent out for a proper few nights camping to give them all a proper old test drive and find you the perfect backpacker tent!
In order to fairly and consistently assess and compare them to one another, our testers applied the following metrics to each of them;
You can go onto a tent manufacturer’s website and find out what the packed weight of a tent is but that KG/Ibs number only really comes into sharp focus once you’re 5 hours into a hike, halfway up a mountain and your shoulders a screaming bloody murder!
The lighter a tent feels when strapped to your back, the better, simple as that! Either way, you’re going to want a compact tent for backpacking.
Packability (Packing and Unpacking!)
One of the most annoying features when it comes to tents is twofold. The first is pitching and unpitching. No one wants to be messing about with an overly complicated tent in gale-force winds and a downpour! Equally, many tents can be a nightmare to pack back into the inhumanly small bags they come in. Again, having to be a master in origami to get the thing back into its bag is no fun for anyone!
Our testers awarded each tent points for being easy to pack and unpack and deducted points for being difficult. Fair enough right?
Warmth, Waterproof and Ventilation
When you spend a night sleeping in a tent, you really get to know it. Nothing brings into reality those temperature ratings until you’re freezing your arse off for hours on end or alternatively spending the night rolling around in what feels like a tropical swamp!
Insulation and ventilation are key components to a good tent and an enjoyable experience! One great way to really get on top of your temperature rating outdoors is a solid insulated tent .
Obviously, when assessing the warmth and ventilation capabilities of a tent our testers took into account the weather and the sleeping bag they were using.
In terms of testing out the waterproofing, if our testers ended up somewhere dry, they just went back to basics and threw a whole heap of water over it! Leaky mofos were sent packing!
Spaciousness and Comfort
Tents are not exactly designed for throwing parties (ok, some are) unfortunately… but I mean, we can try! Either way, you still want to have enough space to sit up and store your gear.
Again, this is something you only really get a feel for after spending a night inside a tent which is exactly what we did.
Build Quality and Durability
All of our testers were instructed to subject tent poles to a good bit of good-natured force, look closely at the seam sewing and take notice of the thickness of the fly sheets.
As a side note, ultralight tents are not as durable as heavier ones so there is always a tradeoff between longevity and packed weight when it comes to this type of tent.
Still have some questions about the best tent for backpacking? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:
What is the overall best backpacking tent?
We think the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 offers the best value, however, the Nemo Hornet is a very strong competitor.
How many people can fit in a backpacking tent?
Backpacking tents are generally smaller than camping tents. Therefore, they can only fit 1-2 people at a time. There are some 3-man backpacking tents on the market as well.
Are backpacking tents durable and waterproof?
Loads of backpacking tents are durable and waterproof, however, they also cost accordingly. Budget tents don’t offer as much quality. The highest value tent is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 .
What do I need to consider when buying a backpacking tent?
Keep therse things in mind: 1. Size and Price 2. Durability, strength and functionality 3. The season you’re backpacking in 4. The weight as you need to carry it
Our GREATEST Travel Secrets…
Pop your email here & get the original Broke Backpacker Bible for FREE.
I decided to break down all the information you really need to pick the best tent for backpacking so hopefully, you have found this post useful and can now pick out the best tent for your needs.
If I had to pick one overall epic tent for backpacking I would say go for the MSR Hubba Hubba .
So pick up the best budget solo backpacking tent and head out there! Happy camping amigos!
Found the right tent? Now check out the best backpacking sleeping bags to put inside!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!
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The Best Backpacking Tents of 2023
Whether you’re looking to spend 100 nights on the trail or want to stick to a tight budget, we’ve found the best backpacking tents of 2023.
From PCT hikers spending 6 months on the trail to the nascent hiker spending 6 days on their first solo backpacking trip, a good tent is the cornerstone of outdoor preparedness . The right tent can be a shelter from the elements and critters. In the wild, it’s a home away from home.
Our team of testers have spent hundreds of nights in tents in weather conditions that run the gamut from excruciating desert heat to frigid winter nights at high elevations to bring you our selection of the best backpacking tents for this year. When it comes to picking a tent, one truth stands out: no single tent will work well for every situation.
Sometimes you want a superlight bivy that just keeps the bugs away on a long hike. Other times, you want a burly winter abode capable of standing up to gale-force winds and heavy snow. Maybe you want that tent that can do a little of everything.
We considered six factors while evaluating the best backpacking tents: ease of setting up, durability and materials, weight and packed size, interior space, weather resistance, and value.
Floor space and packed weight were the most important factors to our panel, while extra features such as pouches and pockets weighed less heavily in our evaluation.
Each tent excels in one or more of these aspects, and we have awarded outstanding models “Best of Rating” corresponding to their outstanding qualities. So whether you are pinching pennies, are ready to splurge on the tent of your dreams, or just want to replace your tattered gear, we have found a tent that can fit your budget and needs.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide , comparison chart , and FAQ section.
- Best Overall Backpacking Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur
- Best Budget Backpacking Tent: REI Co-op Trail Hut 2
- Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Zpacks Plex Solo
- Best Value Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Gossamer Gear The Two
- Best Minimalist Backpacking Tent: Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
- Weight 3 lbs., 2 oz.
- Height 40 in.
- Floor space 29 sq. ft.
- Materials Nylon, aluminum, and composite
- Vestibule area 18 sq. ft.
- Roomier than expected
- Excellent storage and vestibule design
- Struggles in high winds (above 40 mph)
- Somewhat fragile
Looking for a three-season freestanding tent that tips the scales at just 3 pounds, 2 ounces? Enter the Big Agnes Copper Spur ($550). Although you can find lighter tents on the market, this tent is light enough to make it a contender for the best backpacking tent, even for the gram-counters among us.
This tent boasts a good overlap between the bathtub floor and the rainfly, ensuring a dry night’s sleep. Above the floor material, quality mesh provides a breathable, well-ventilated space that should keep condensation low.
With so little weight in your pack, you get a really comfortable abode for the trail. It has two doors, two vestibules, 29 square feet of floor space, and 18 square feet of combined vestibule space. The vestibules transform into awnings with trekking poles to cook under or to allow airflow.
Easy-to-use tent buckles on the corners where the fly attaches make for quick setup in a storm. We also appreciated the storage pockets at the feet and head for electronics, snacks, or layers. Plus, the ceiling pocket at the head has media pockets with cord-routing for electronics if you are stuck in bad weather.
The Copper Spur is a lightweight tent, therefore, the materials are more delicate to save weight. The ripstop floor and fly have 1,200mm polyurethane (PU) coating but are very thin. The poles are a mix of DAC’s NSL and NFL, and are the lightest the brand offers. The four-way hub at the apex where the poles join aids in a speedy setup.
Remember, it is important to exercise caution when setting up to avoid ripping or breaking poles. Always double-check to make sure poles are properly seated before flexing them into position.
Be careful when packing light tents into your pack, too. With conscientious care and maintenance, these tents can last a long time.
This Big Agnes Copper Spur tent is ideal for lightweight backpacking so long as you take good care to protect the materials. Hikers who use electronics more, or who think they may take a rest day or two in the tent, will enjoy the extra features.
There are lighter tents available for ultralight hikers and beefier ones for those who will be within spitting distance of a car. Overall, this tent is great for summer camping, backpacking, and any multiday trip where you’re looking for a balance of comfort and weight.
REI Co-op Trail Hut 2
- Weight 5 lbs., 15 oz.
- Floor space 31.7 sq. ft.
- Materials Polyester, aluminum, and coated nylon taffeta
- Vestibule area 19 sq. ft.
- Fully featured
- Durable design
Fast is slow — and slow is the REI Co-op Trail Hut 2 ($199). You won’t be setting a land speed record with this in your pack, but for durable, consistent functionality in the backcountry, it’s hard to beat this budget bargain. Unabashedly tipping the scales with a chunky six-pound packaged weight, the Trail Hut is for casual trekkers prioritizing comfort and utility over streamlined minimalism. It boasts one of the lowest price tags on this roundup, and given its broad feature set, sturdy construction, and thoughtful design, we think it punches well above its weight.
We’ve pitched, lived in, and wrestled mid-storm with enough tents to know a piece of junk when we see it — and the Trail Hut is anything but. Right out of the box it sets up intuitively, the poles and materials feel premium, and the fly provides comprehensive protection from the elements. Leave it to the REI Co-op to deliver a quality design that won’t break the bank.
While this wouldn’t be our abode of choice for an ultralight foray across the country, for shorter backpacking trips with a partner, we have no qualms about braving inclement weather or burly wind in this fortified shelter. The 66 and 68-denier materials are much tougher (and heavier) than many models on this list, and instill heaps of confidence when Thor’s Hammer charges up. The fly snugs down close to the ground, with generous vestibules and low-profile vents, making this a cozy, well-ventilated escape in wild downpours. In mild weather, the fly can be rolled back almost entirely, opening up the full side of the tent and affording a stellar cross breeze.
A ridge pole lays under the two primary poles, giving the Trail Hut near vertical walls, and greatly boosting the interior living room. This comes at the cost of some significant bulk, but it becomes a manageable package when one person carries the fly and poles, and the other the tent body.
If casual, occasional trips are on the docket, you’ll love this reliable, hard-working beast . Split the weight between the two of you, get after it, and you’ll forget you’re hauling a budget model.
Zpacks Plex Solo
- Weight 13.9 oz. (for the blue color scheme)
- Height 52 in.
- Floor space 20.6 sq. ft.
- Materials Dyneema (0.75 oz./sq. yd.)
- Extremely ultralight
- Unique system of dealing with condensation buildup
- Only uses one trekking pole instead of two
- Somewhat annoying not having a zipper on the vestibule
A sub-14-ounce, fully enclosed tent using only one trekking pole? Yes, please! How Zpacks keeps managing to crank out top-shelf, ridiculously durable gear catered for the gram-conscious backpacking crowd, we’ll never know. But the Plex Solo ($600) carries the torch of their reputation.
When we got this package in the mail, we thought they had literally forgotten to include the tent in the padded envelope. Yes, a shelter you live in for months came in an envelope and was left in our mailbox. This thing is light light.
Retaining the durability and function we have grown accustomed to with Zpack’s flagship models like the Duplex, the Plex Solo shaves ounces by using a single 132 cm trekking pole, and implementing a no-frills, simple design.
They’ve also eliminated a zipper from the storm flap/vestibule, using metal hooks to keep it closed. This system pairs down on weight, but we also found it to be a little less convenient than a zipper, primarily if you are trying to faff around with it late at night to go to the bathroom. Using only one trekking pole, the Plex Solo maximizes space with a series of guylines all around the tent that pull the fabric outwards from the center pole.
One of the things that plague single-wall, ultralight shelters the most is condensation buildup. The Plex Solo addresses this with one of the best designs we’ve seen in the industry, and we’ve been mega thankful for the lack of drips on our sleeping bags in the morning.
There is a screen between the bathtub floor and the tent walls, which can be sloped downward by an elastic cord that keeps the bathtub elevated. This allows the condensation to run down the wall and fall through the sloping screen, as opposed to onto the floor.
As one of the lightest, fully enclosed shelters you can buy for dedicated long-distance backpacking, the Plex Solo is quickly becoming the gold standard for the ultralight and thru-hiking crowd. It’s just so hard to beat 13.9 ounces, with a design that doesn’t skimp on performance or comfort. If you’re staring down the barrel of a multi-month thru-hike, or just want an ultralight shelter for fast forays in the backcountry, look no further.
Gossamer Gear The Two
- Weight 23.5 oz.
- Height 43 in.
- Floor dimensions (LxWxH) 84 x 48/42 (head slightly wider) x 43 in.
- Materials Custom 10D nylon ripstop SIL/PU fabric
- Vestibule area 10 sq. ft.
- Super spacious
- Condensation tends to build up pretty easily
- Internal mesh pockets are placed a little awkwardly
As far as lightweight, spacious, and extremely durable single-wall shelters for two go, it’s hard to find something that compares to the value of Gossamer Gear’s The Two ($320). Simple, affordable, and super easy to set up, The Two gives weight-conscious backpacking couples looking to streamline their kit a solid ultralight option.
At 23.5 ounces and packing down to just over the size of a Nalgene, The Two can easily be carried by one member of the party, or the weight can be shared slightly by one hiker carrying the tent stakes (its poles are your trekking poles). All in all, it’s a no-frills, weatherproof escape from the elements that serious backpackers can rely on to last the distance.
At $320 (a significant drop from last season’s $375 price tag), this is one of the least expensive ultralight shelters that has been thoroughly tested by countless thru-hikers (usually with its smaller sibling, The One ), and weekend warriors alike. Similar single wall, trekking pole style tents such as the Zpacks Duplex will put you out $700 or so, don’t stuff down as small, and aren’t, in our experience, quite as long-lasting.
The Two is constructed with a light nylon and SilNylon combo, a fully waterproof, slightly stretchy material perfect for reducing weight without sacrificing strength and durability. It holds out rain phenomenally, and the catenary cut allows for solid drainage so water doesn’t build up anywhere.
This tent can feel like a castle. With ample headroom and a generous bathtub floor, it offers plenty of space for two tapered 25-inch-wide sleeping pads. The massive double vestibules add even more living room, and are plenty big enough to cook in if the weather turns foul around dinner time. One of our testers was 6’2″, and she was able to easily sit up without hitting her head, and stretch out fully without touching the top and bottom of the tent.
Despite being heavily ventilated, condensation does build up pretty significantly in The Two, but you can greatly reduce this if the weather allows by keeping the two vestibules fully opened on either side. Two internal mesh pockets allow for ample storage but are placed a little awkwardly in the middle of the tent. This makes them harder to access while lying down.
These gripes aside, this is one of the best shelters you can buy for ultralight backpacking with a partner. If a 6-month thru-hike is in your future, or sporadic outings to remote alpine lakes are on the docket, The Two will keep you cozy and dry without weighing you down.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 Dyneema Tent
- Weight 1 lb., 2 oz.
- Height 64 in.
- Floor space 50 sq. ft.
- Materials Cuben fiber, your trekking poles
- Very strong
- Trekking pole tents aren’t for everyone
- Need space to set up guy lines
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 is incredible, but it’s also super expensive. So, while we do love this model for several reasons, it comes with a caveat of a $730 price tag, plus another $399 if you want the mesh insert to keep bugs away. For serious hikers, the hefty investment may be worth it, as it’s definitely one of the best backpacking tents available.
Hyperlite builds the UltaMid 2 with Dyneema fabric, an extraordinarily durable material that withstands tons of abuse yet remains incredibly light. This tent, which uses trekking poles for support, weighs in at just 1.19 pounds for the main tent body.
Add 1.3 pounds for a matched mesh insert, and it’s still super light. It provides a floor area of over 50 square feet, enough space for two hikers and packs.
The only drawbacks are the price and that you must have trekking poles. You also are going to need space to guy out the lines, as it is not freestanding.
While expensive, this is a top-tier tent that will last a very long time. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent our tester called a “wonder of engineering” that will give you many seasons of use, this one is worth considering. For more, check out our full review of the UltaMid 2 .
NEMO Hornet Elite OSMO 2P
- Weight 2 lbs., 1 oz.
- Height 37 in.
- Floor space 27.3 sq. ft.
- Materials OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric
- Vestibule area 12.4 sq. ft.
- Packs small
- Withstands weather
- Fragile for car camping or sharp rocks
With solid upgrades to the already legendary Hornet Elite 2 tent, the NEMO Hornet Elite Osmo 2P ($650) offers greater water resistance and less sag when wet than its predecessor with Nemo’s proprietary Osmo fabric. We absolutely love this tent. Mostly, we love how much this tent saves both weight and pack space. It’s a marvel of engineering and is truly one of the best backpacking tents ever designed.
The Hornet Elite Osmo weighs a scant 2 pounds, 1 ounce. And you can ditch some stakes and the stuff sack for a minimum trail weight of 1 pound, 11 ounces. For gram-counters, that makes it a contender on weight alone.
This tent is more than just light. It’s also a very legit abode in bad weather. On rainy, stormy nights on the trail, the Hornet Elite Osmo kept our team dry and comfortable.
Unlike many ultralight options, which depend on trekking poles, this is a freestanding tent. It uses a clever three-pole design with a small “Flybar” where they all connect to give it that extra bit of volume. It has a mesh interior and utilizes an integrated rainfly to keep out bugs, rain, and wind.
Inside, a 27.3-square-foot floor gives a small but acceptable space for two adults. This is certainly not a large footprint, and you will be shoulder-to-shoulder with your tentmate. Remember, we’re ultralight backpacking here, so snuggle up.
Fortunately, there is enough room under the two vestibules (serviced by two doors) for a large pack, shoes, and some other gear. We’ve used it many times in the rain, and it’s enough space to keep your kit dry, even in nasty weather.
Setup and takedown are also easy. Once familiar with the tent, our testers were able to set it up easily in less than 5 minutes.
Of course, at $650, the Hornet Elite Osmo is a significant investment. But we’ve used it for enough nights to be impressed with its durability. That said, this is a super light OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric tent. That means it won’t hold up to tons of abuse, and we don’t recommend it for car camping, as that would put wear and tear on a very expensive tent.
For those who want a lightweight tent to carry over big miles, the NEMO Hornet Elite Osmo is one of our favorite ultralight backpacking tents on the market right now.
- Weight 1 lb., 3.4 oz.
- Height 48 in.
- Floor space 28.1 sq. ft.
- Materials Dyneema (0.55 oz./sq. yd.)
- Vestibule area 11 sq. ft.
- Hard to set up
- Requires large area, stakes, and guylines
For minimalist backpackers and thru-hikers that put weight savings at the top of the list, it’s hard to beat the Zpacks Duplex ($669). This non-freestanding, trekking pole-supported design has been a long-time favorite on the AT and PCT thanks to its excellent mix of minimal weight, ample space, and protection from the elements.
Featuring a Dyneema Composite construction (rather than nylon or SilNylon found on most backpacking models), the tent is legitimately ultralight at just 1 pound, 3.4 ounces. But the unique fabric holds up well to rough use and isn’t prone to sagging, even in heavy moisture.
The Duplex offers good all-around livability for two backpackers with a peak height of 48 inches, two side doors and vestibules, and a symmetrical rectangular floor.
What do you give up with the ultralight build? For one, the setup process is much more involved than a typical, pole-supported backpacking tent. You’ll need a fairly large area to stake out all the guylines, and it takes quite a bit of practice to get an even pitch.
Also, condensation buildup can be an issue at night, especially along the canopy peak. This model utilizes single-wall construction (and no mesh insert). Finally, in particularly rough and windy weather, we did find it to be pretty drafty due to the mesh sidewalls.
As such, the Duplex likely isn’t the best choice for casual backpackers, four-season adventurers, or those looking for a great value. (It costs $669, and that doesn’t include stakes.)
This tent is ideal for the type of person who cuts their toothbrush in half and takes pride in overall base weight. Overall, the Duplex is a standout option for serious hikers who plan to log a lot of miles and aren’t shy about paying for quality ultralight materials.
REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 Backpacking Tent
- Weight 6 lbs., 5 oz.
- Floor space 32.9 sq. ft.
- Materials Nylon and aluminum
- Vestibule area 8.7 sq. ft.
- Lightweight for a four-season tent
- Single door
The Arete ASL 2 ($449) is a chunker, but offers a ton of versatility and protection from the elements in an affordable package, which earned it a spot on this list. With a minimum trail weight of 5 pounds, 10 ounces, it’s not ultralight by any stretch, but it is surprisingly light and reasonably priced for a winter-ready four-season tent. It does well in the summer too, with plenty of mesh for ventilation.
We found the four-pole setup quick and easy, thanks to the intuitive color coding. The vestibule provides enough room for two packs and hiking shoes. The corner pockets and hang loops keep essentials at hand. For better durability and comfort, we recommend adding on the footprint , which is sold separately.
We don’t love the single-door design, but at least the door is large and easy to access from either corner of the tent. Previous models of this tent experienced issues with the rainfly seam sealant, but it appears that REI has fixed that problem with this newest update.
Overall, the Arete ASL 2 is a sturdy, all-season tent, and comes in at about half the price as other four-season tents. This tent is great for any winter enthusiast not ready to spend a lot of cash on a specialized winter tent, but it’s too heavy for most warm-weather backpackers.
Sea to Summit Telos TR2
- Packed weight 3 lbs., 10.7 oz.
- Height 43.5 in.
- Floor space 23 sq. ft.
- Materials Polyester and aluminum
- Vestibule area 19.5 sq. ft.
- Light but fairly durable
- Accommodating for people over 6 feet tall
- Steep walls
- Storage system overly complicated
Sea to Summit launched its first tents, the Alto and Telos ($599), for spring 2021. We tested both models and found that we preferred the free-standing Telos between the two.
The Telos is an excellent first attempt from the brand in this crowded market. It definitely stands apart from other tents, with unique architecture that creates very steep sidewalls and a high 43.5-inch peak height.
This gives even tall users (like our 6’4″ editor-in-chief) plenty of headroom to lie down or sit upright. It also proved to have strong architecture. Our test faced very strong winds, pushing 50 mph, and the Sea to Summit Telos did not collapse at all, even when receiving heavy gusts.
However, our testers did not love everything about the Telos. The biggest complaints surrounded the tent’s unique storage system. Sea to Summit opted to use two bags and a “light bar” tube (a separate narrow stuff sack for the poles that has a light-diffusing material to create a night light when a headlamp is placed in it).
We agreed that the light bar idea was overly clever and that we would probably never use it. Furthermore, you stuff the tent body into one bag, the fly into another, and the poles into the tube. This allows users to split the load or drop elements of the tent from the trip (as you can set up the fly without the body for ultralight use).
However, our testers found it unnecessary and confusing. We all agreed that you’d likely end up losing parts this way. In short, while Sea to Summit really thought through this design, we would prefer a simple stuff sack and pole bag.
All that said, the Telos is an excellent backpacking tent that offers good ventilation, excellent interior space, two doors, and two vestibules.
We would not hesitate to buy one primarily as a backpacking tent that could flex into car camping, thanks to fairly durable materials and an available footprint. For those who like versatility in setup and are good at keeping track of stuff sacks, this is a solid choice.
Read our full review of the Sea to Summit Telos .
NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 2P
- Packed weight 3 lbs., 2 oz.
- Height 41 in.
- Floor space 29.0 sq. ft.
- Materials OSMO ripstop/nylon blend, aluminum
- Vestibule area 10.0 sq. ft. x 2
- Quick, simple setup
- Lightweight but durable
- Thoughtful storage design
- Narrow floor plan
One of our litmus tests of a solid shelter is how intuitively we can throw the thing up right out of the box. With color-coded “Jake’s Foot” pole clips, hubbed pre-bent poles, and a simple rainfly, the NEMO Dragonfly OSMO ($500) can be deployed in mere minutes.
But the magic definitely doesn’t stop there. There’s been a lot of hype around NEMO’s proprietary OSMO polyester ripstop fabric — and for good reason. Boasting four times better water repellency and three times less stretch than previous iterations, this is a massive upgrade in overall quality and dependability. Like the Hornet Elite Osmo, the lightweight Dragonfly weathers gnarly storms like a champ, and will keep you snug as a bug when mother nature reveals her savage side.
Let’s talk living space. The Dragonfly is, in many respects, the streamlined, lightweight cousin of the wildly popular Dagger OSMO, and shaves weight with a tapered floor plan and sloping roof. This makes the tent feel noticeably more confined compared to the Dragonfly or Copper Spur. Our tester has clocked some serious miles while sharing a tent with partners, and he felt it was a bit too tight of a fit when juggling gear, food, and sleeping systems at night.
We do like the overall design of the tent, and it allows for a smooth camp setup, and efficient transport. The tent’s stuff sack is what NEMO calls a Divvy Cube. This is a rectangular pouch that allows you to easily split the tent’s weight with a partner carrying the poles and stakes, while still packing down efficiently in your pack. We are always dividing up the weight on group trips, so appreciated this simple, unique touch.
An interior gear loft and adequately large gear pockets provide solid storage, and an overhead Nightlight Pocket diffuses a headlamp’s light to illuminate the tent with a soft orange glow. Pretty nifty. We found The Dragonfly to be warm and condensation-free during rainy nights, and the new fabric significantly alleviates our previous complaint about this tent sagging when wet.
Overall, we loved the newest model of this crowd-favorite, and feel it provides stellar weather protection and lightweight durability for long trips in the wild. It’s not the most spacious tent out there, but if that isn’t a deal-breaker for you, it’s hard to go wrong with this lightweight offering from NEMO.
Durston X-Mid 1
- Weight 30.8 oz.
- Height 46 in.
- Floor space 46.5 sq. ft. (fly), 20 sq. ft. (insert)
- Materials 20-denier polyester with 2,500mm sil/PEU coating
- Vestibule area 20 sq. ft. (10 sq. ft. x 2)
- Durable construction
- Unique, double-wall design
- Simple, four-stake pitch
- On the heavy side for an ultralight tent
- Small internal storage pockets
- Guy lines are a bit difficult to adjust
With a unique geometric design, stellar weather resistance, and an approachable price point, the Durston X-Mid 1 ($240) is making a significant splash in the ultralight backpacking community. Our author decided we needed to get our hands on one of these to test after seeing over seven of them pitched in various campsites on a recent overnight trip into the Grand Canyon. These things are blowing up — and for good reason.
We set it up in our front yard soon after receiving it in the mail, and immediately got an idea of why these are flying off the shelves. It’s now one of our favorite ultralight shelters for trips where featherweight minimalism isn’t our biggest concern.
First, it’s extremely intuitive to pitch, requiring under half the time as some other ultralight shelters we’ve tested. The tent can miraculously be pitched with a minimum of four stakes, and requires little to no guesswork on stake location. We aren’t aware of any other shelter using two trekking poles that boasts this ability.
This is due to its rectangular design with offset trekking pole locations between a diagonal sleeping area. Without getting too much into the weeds of this mathematical layout, this effectively maximizes sleeping and vestibule space, utilizing a shape that handles wild wind and snow like a champ.
The X-Mid is also a double-wall shelter. Anyone who’s dealt with the condensation calamities of single-wall tents can appreciate the value of this. The removable mesh inner has a waterproof bathtub floor, and easily clips into the tent, or can be removed to shave weight.
We also love the 2,500 mm sil/PEU coated polyester used as the waterproof fabric, as it doesn’t sag when wet, and holds up longer to UV exposure than other fabrics that are commonly used. This adds some weight, but boosts durability, and our tester was pleased that he didn’t have to worry about tightening up stakeout points mid-rainstorm late at night.
We barely have any complaints about this lightweight phenomenon, but some slight cons stood out. The X-Mid is on the heavy side for an ultralight shelter (30.8 ounces), which is a turnoff for many in the ultralight community. We also found the guy lines to be a bit difficult to tighten, and we wish there were bigger storage pockets in the mesh insert.
These gripes aside, we think the Durston X-Mid is one of the better trekking pole-style backpacking tents you can buy. Its thoughtful design and quality materials make this a reliable, spacious escape from the elements for rugged forays into the backcountry.
Kelty Late Start 2
- Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
- Floor space 29.5 sq. ft.
- Vestibule area 7.85 sq. ft.
- Quality construction
- Not built for extreme weather conditions
If price is your primary concern when buying a tent, but you still want good quality, the Kelty Late Start 2 is a good place to look. At $160, the Late Start 2 is a modestly priced tent. And it has quality construction while hitting a price point that most people won’t balk at.
It sets up super fast with a simple two-pole design. Once up, the bathtub floor offers a slight overlap with the rainfly, so splashback could be an issue in heavy rain and wind.
The tent packs down to 16 x 7 inches. While certainly not tiny, it will work in a backpack. Similarly, at a minimum weight of 4 pounds, it’s not ultralight but works for short backpacking excursions.
The vestibules are barely big enough for a single backpack, but they will suffice for hikers on a budget. Two small pockets offer space to stash a couple of important items.
There are better tents out there, but you’ll pay more for them. For $160, this one is a value that should last through lots of happy camping.
REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent
- Packed weight 2 lbs., 13.7 oz.
- Height 46.85 in.
- Floor space 49.9 sq. ft.
- Materials Nylon, mesh, aluminum
- Vestibule area 28.7 sq. ft.
- 2 vestibules
- Can be supported with trekking poles
- Setup takes practice
- Not freestanding
The REI Flash Air 2 ($399) borrows the popular one-piece design from the Zpacks Duplex and offers up a moderately priced alternative for the backpacker who’s looking to cut weight without parting with too much of their hard-earned dough. While not quite as light or easy to set up as its high-dollar competition, those willing to compromise will enjoy plenty of beautiful nights in the backcountry without breaking their backs to get there.
Weighing in at just over 2 pounds, this tent is light without skimping on features. It has two doors, each with a small vestibule, and several pockets for gear storage so you’ll always know where your headlamp is at night. Its hubbed pole design allows you to swap out the included vertical support poles with your own trekking poles for even more weight savings.
The Flash Air 2 isn’t a freestanding tent, meaning you’ll need to properly stake it out at six points to keep it from falling over. For the experienced camper in a forest or meadow with soft soil, this is a fairly easy task. In the high desert outside of Gunnison, Colo., our team of seasoned testers had to fight hard to pitch this tent in heavy winds on top of a rock slab, where they needed additional cordage to use boulders as anchors. In short, a little practice and planning go a long way when pitching the Flash Air 2 .
This tent employs ripstop nylon (now recycled and Bluesign-approved) which is heavier and less durable than the Dyneema composite material used by the Zpacks Duplex . But the Flash 2 is almost half the price, and with careful campsite selection, you can keep the Flash 2 rip-free and watertight. If you’re an experienced backpacker who wants to go ultralight without going ultra-expensive, this tent is the perfect choice.
Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle
- Weight 2 lbs., 2 oz.
- Height 45 in.
- Floor space 38 sq. ft.
- Materials Nylon
- Packs down small
- Can function as a tarp alone at just 17 oz.
- The 30-denier fabric is somewhat fragile
- Requires hiking poles (or a pole kit, purchased separately for $30-80) to set up
The cottage brand Six Moon Designs focuses on building very light equipment with long-distance hikers in mind. While quite specialized, the Haven Bundle ($375) is an easy-to-use trekking pole tent that tips the scales at just 2 pounds, 2 ounces, including a tarp and interior net.
You can use the tarp alone on the trail, which, for 17 ounces of packed weight, gives you a large 53 square feet of shelter. If you’re in a buggy locale, add the Mesh Nest inside the tarp for even more protection.
The nest is 48 inches wide and 114 inches long, providing 38 square feet of space for two adults. In this configuration, you end up with two large vestibules and two doors. At $335 for the package, it’s a fairly priced ultralight tent.
Thanks to the ability to be set up as a tarp alone, the system packs a lot of versatility and can stretch from fast-and-light missions to more leisurely base camps.
It’s held back mostly by the ultralight 30-denier silicone-coated nylon. This lacks the durability of bulkier fabrics. It’s a little trickier to set up and requires good guyline attachments for stability and ample space because it is not freestanding.
The Haven is the most versatile ultralight system we tested, as it is able to be set up as a simple tarp without the insert. This is especially nice in stormy weather so that you aren’t bringing water and detritus into the sleeping area. This tent is great for any gram counter and is a steal compared to other tents in its class.
MSR Hubba Hubba 2
- Weight 2 lbs. 14 oz. (10 oz. reduction from previous model)
- Materials 20D ripstop nylon & DWR (canopy fabric), 20D ripstop nylon 1200mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR (floor fabric)
- Packed Size 19 x 4.5 in.
- No-curve door zippers
- Rain gutters on the fly
- Pretty expensive
- Rainfly somewhat difficult to set up
Shaving over 10 ounces off the original model (for the two-person model), the new Hubba Hubba ($549) by MSR somehow improves on an already legendary classic. With new technology and added features, this durable, lightweight, and comfortable shelter promises to still be a top pick for die-hard backpackers and casual campers alike.
For 2023, the Hubba Hubba tent is available as a one-person , two-person , and three-person and includes some key improvements.
Some new features included on the Hubba Hubba mirror those that are also on MSR’s new 2022 Freelite version. These updates include easy-open, no-curve door zippers, cable ports in all storage pockets for electronics, and rain gutters on the fly to guide condensation away from the tent when opening the doors.
The tent has a durable floor material made of 20D ripstop nylon and 1,200mm Durashield polyurethane, as well as a DWR treatment. Its symmetrical rectangular shape provides plenty of space for full-size sleeping pads.
The ventilation is ample even when the rainfly is on. There can be some vibration and flapping on the rainfly in the wind. And if you use this tent in the winter, make sure your sleeping bag is warm when it’s cold out.
Launched in 2002, this is MSR’s bestselling tent for a reason. It manages to combine everything you want into one compact package. It’s lightweight, durable, and spacious when set up, and the new upgrades shave off weight and offer more durability, which is a win-win in our book.
Be sure to check out our full review of the new Hubba Hubba for more info.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P
- Packed weight 1 lbs., 8 oz.
- Floor space 28 sq. ft.
- Materials DCF5, DCF8, No-See-Um Mesh
- Vestibule area N/A
- Time-tested, simple design
- Stable in high wind
- Comparatively roomy
- Hot when in direct sun
- Waterproof zippers a bit difficult to close
Ahh, the crinkle of Dyneema in the morning! Rounding out this guide with a bang, a new DCF player on the ultralight field is already impressing the difficult-to-sway thru-hiking crowd on a number of fronts — with the hefty price tag to accompany its fame. Cutting ounces costs, though, and if you simply won’t settle for anything but the best, HMG’s fresh-off-the-press Unbound 2P ($699) should be on your radar.
Dyneema Composite Fabrics are the crème de la crème of lightweight weatherproof materials, and at a scant 0.5 oz/yd 2 , DCF5 stands at the bleeding edge of the most premium ultralight tent fabrics on the market. Its performance-to-weight ratio is next to none. This makes up the bulk of the Unbound’s body, while the slightly heavier 0.8 oz/yd 2 DCF8 is found in its floor, affording a smidge more durability where it counts.
Our tester was definitely giddy to get his hands on this new model. Quite frankly, the pyramid layouts, extra mesh inserts, and single pole designs of other HMG tents could never do it for him. A sturdy two-pole build with a single wall, fully enclosed silhouette, constructed with that top shelf HMG Dyneema magic we’ve grown to cherish — now that he can get behind. This is our tester’s favorite ultralight tent configuration, and the Unbound knocks it out of the park with thoughtful touches and features that aren’t present on similar, cheaper models.
Is it worth $700 though (pre- stake kit ), when you can snag a similar design (GG’s The Two) for nearly half the price? Dyneema vs. SilNylon aside, it boasts noticeably more headspace and living room than The Two with the same weight, and even three more inches of width than its closest competitor, the Zpacks Duplex. Pile on a power concoction of deep vents on the vestibules, 3-D side walls, magnetic door closures, and waterproof zippers — and that’s why it’s tough on the wallet.
The Unbound can’t evade the common complaints of single-wall trekking pole shelters: condensation calamities, difficult setups on hard ground, and large footprint requirements. But these are to be expected, and impact all tents in this category. The DCF5 canopy, fully taped seams, and generous bathtub floor keep all-day rain at bay, and we love the low-profile waterproof zippers. Though we did find them to be a bit difficult to close when the tent is taught.
If the tent isn’t pitched in the shade, we felt like the translucent white DCF lets a lot of light and heat into the tent, making it a toasty oven in desert climates. If you only crawl into it in the evening this isn’t an issue, but it’s not a great refuge from the sun. Also, while the vents help with condensation buildup, we wish they were held open by stays to allow more cross-breeze. Finally, we found it tough to pitch with our trekking poles pre-set to 125 cm. Once placed in the loops at the base of the tent, we were able to extend them to 125, but with some difficulty.
Don’t let these quibbles or the sticker shock dissuade you though. This is undeniably one of the best ultralight tents on the market at the moment, and would be a stellar shelter for pace-pushing thru-hikers or dedicated weekend warriors alike. Its bomber construction, simple setup, and sleek design make this a standard bearer in the backpacking community.
Backpacking Tent Comparison Chart
Why You Should Trust Us
Ryan Baker, one of the authors, lives in the Eastern Sierra with his wife and enjoys hiking, climbing, and skiing every chance he gets. Last summer, he spent over a month backpacking on- and off-trail following the Sierra High route.
He has hundreds of nights spent in the backcountry from humble beginnings of sleeping under a hardware store tarp guyed out with parachute cord to fully kitted-out backcountry ski tours.
After 20 years of experience, he has learned the value of a true tent. He still prefers to travel as light as possible, whether it is with a summer tent that fits in the palm of his hand or his zero-pound all-season tent for ski tours in the dead of winter.
Chris Carter, another author of this guide, has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in the United States: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He’s spent so much time in flimsy backpacking tents that he almost sleeps better in them than under a roof.
We believe every adventure requires the right tool for the job, and a good night’s sleep in a capable tent is essential for success in the backcountry.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Backpacking Tent
Do you plan to camp alone or with your family? Are car camping tents your jam, or do you regularly head out for weeks in the backcountry? Are you strictly a summer camper, or do you sleep outside all year long?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but being clear on how you want to camp will make choosing a tent easier. The Zpacks Plex Solo may work for some users who want to go as light and minimalist as possible.
On the other hand, the REI Co-op Trail Hut , while heavier, provides a budget option for those who don’t plan to hike as far and want a little more room. Using the six factors we listed at the start of this article as a guide, finding the best backpacking tent can be a simple errand of choosing which qualities are most important to you.
Ease of Setup
This is your first moment with your brand-new tent and maybe you can intuitively figure out where everything goes, or maybe you need to reference the manual every step of the way. Some tents make setup easy with color-coded poles or poles that are all the same length.
Single-walled winter tents are notorious for barely making room for poles in the material to hold a taut exterior. Still, other tents need numerous guy lines to hold in place and aren’t freestanding without them.
Whatever the case may be, our preference is that the easier a tent is to set up, the better. Of course, domes for alpine basecamps are going to be more difficult than a two-person bug net.
The Sea to Summit Telos has many hubs connecting different length poles, so it pays to try and set this type of tent up in advance. However, the Hyperlite UltaMid simply calls for two trekking poles lashed together in the center with equalized guy lines. Preference is king and no matter what design suits your experience level, always practice setting it up at home before you go.
Freestanding and Non-Freestanding Backpacking Tents
Many manufacturers have opted to shave ounces by structuring their tents around the trekking poles hikers are already lugging around, simplifying the setup and greatly reducing pack size. These designs are often found in ultralight tents, such as Gossamer Gear’s The Two , and Durston’s X-Mid . They usually require a minimum of four stakes in the ground for them to stand up. Some non-freestanding tents, such as REI’s Flash Air 2 , come with lightweight vertical support poles that can be used in lieu of trekking poles, for those who tend to hike without them.
Non-freestanding tents use the tension provided by stakes firmly planted around the trekking or support pole to hold the poles in an upright position. The stakes should consequently be on the longer side, and driven into the ground at an angle, or reinforced with large stones. Short stakes placed in loose or sandy soil can be easily plucked out by a strong gust of wind, causing your nylon home to fold in around you at three in the morning.
These non-freestanding models are often lighter but are not the best choice for every environment. Ensuring you have adequate ground for stakes can be frustrating for some, and sporting a simple freestanding tent, like Nemo’s Dragonfly , could be a game changer for easy camp setup. Frantically poking around in rocky earth to pitch your tent as a surprise storm sweeps in is a deflating experience.
Freestanding tents tend to, in general, boast higher durability in inclement weather than their non-freestanding siblings. Introducing trekking poles to the equation eliminates some of the integrity in its structure, making them less ideal in truly heinous storms or driving wind. Ultralight trekking pole tents can hold their own — don’t get us wrong — but a freestanding tent will almost always prove the more stable shelter.
Durability and Materials
Most tents for backpacking are made from nylon fabrics, Dyneema Composite fiber, or polyester. Each of these materials has its unique benefits, from lower cost to tougher weather resistance or ripstop qualities.
Cuben fiber has proven to be an excellent material that is very lightweight and extremely weather-resistant. It also resists tearing — but it is expensive. Unfortunately, it can puncture relatively easily, but crosshatched reinforcement prevents further tearing.
Nylon is a less costly material but is also less durable. Often it is reinforced against the elements with polyurethane, silicone, or acrylic coating. This makes it more water-resistant but less breathable. Polyester is heavier than nylon and also not particularly breathable.
The thickness of the material is measured in denier units, which are basically the density of fibers measured in grams over meters. The lower the denier count, the lighter the material. Lower deniers are great for reducing pack weight but require more care to prevent rips and tears.
Lightweight tents will usually have 15-20-denier fly and floors. And a heavy car camping or winter tent will have a rating as high as 75 or more.
Then there are the poles. In an effort to reduce weight, as mentioned above some tents such as the Zpacks Duplex or Hyperlite UltaMid forgo their own poles and instead rely on trekking poles to provide structural support. Always be sure to check that your trekking poles are compatible with your tent.
Tent-specific poles are comprised of carbon fiber, aluminum, composite, or a combination. Aluminum is light but not nearly as light as carbon fiber or some of the proprietary composites offered today. Aluminum poles are usually found in more affordable models and can withstand rougher handling.
For durability, we like to use a footprint, which usually has to be bought separately. You can always fashion a custom footprint by cutting a piece of Tyvek, which is available at most hardware stores but lacks the grommets and fastening points of a manufactured footprint.
Buying from the manufacturer insures a proper fit and usually will snap, click, or tie in to integrate with the tent. A lot of ultralight backpackers are going with a crazy light polycryo footprint like this one to shave even more grams.
Tent stakes also come in a variety of materials. Carbon fiber tent stakes, such as those offered by Hyperlite , are light but have a thicker circumference compared to aluminum and are therefore bulkier. Saving weight is an important goal, it all just depends on how much you are willing to spend.
Weight and Packed Size
If you only plan to car camp, weight and packed size aren’t major concerns. But anyone planning to haul their tent into the backcountry should take a hard look at these considerations.
An ultralight tent, such as Gossamer Gear’s The Two or The One , is a great option for backpacking or thru-hiking. It doesn’t take up a lot of space or weight in your pack, meaning you can justify bringing a favorite flask or a few extra snacks. But due to the light materials, it’s not as durable as heavier tents and requires more care. The Kelty Late Start 2 is over twice the weight at 4 pounds, 8 ounces, but is significantly cheaper.
So, you need to balance your needs for weight against durability and cost. You may find that some tents, like the Zpacks Duplex , hit the best of both worlds by using ultra-strong, super-light Dyneema (cuben fiber) fabric.
The REI Arete can seem a like backbreaker compared to lighter tents, but it has loads of headroom and luxurious space. If you are splitting a tent between many people, the extra pounds get spread out. If you are planning a solo thru-hike, coughing up the cash for a small, light tent can save you a lot of back pain. It’s also a good idea to make sure your tent fits well in your backpacking backpack , and leaves space for the rest of your kit, before heading out on extended trip.
Regardless of your choice, be honest with yourself in considering your likely uses. If you expect to do a lot of car camping, it’s smart to carry a little more weight in exchange for durability.
There are large books written on shaving weight for backpacking. The uninitiated may balk at tent prices before a trip, only to learn the hard way that every gram really does add up.
To save weight, you have to be willing to snuggle into a two-person tent and rub shoulders or smell your partner’s feet. Ceiling height is an important consideration as well.
Ultralight tents like the Six Moons Designs Haven or the Hyperlite UltaMid still offer high ceilings, but they often have more roof angles and less overall room compared to freestanding tents.
The UltaMid is one of the roomiest tents, with over 50 square feet of floor space and a 64-inch ceiling. The benefit of a traditional tent like the REI Co-op Arete is that it doesn’t have a pole through the center of it.
Interior space in a tent equals comfort. The main things to consider are floor dimensions, length, and ceiling height. Tents have a stated number of people they sleep, but how roomy or cramped they will be at capacity varies by brand.
If you are only packing the tent for “just in case” or to mostly store gear, you can downsize to a lighter, more cramped model. Pay attention to dimensions in the specs from a manufacturer, as they can give you a good idea of how many sleeping pads will fit in it.
Basic tents handle pleasant weather like a champ and can even manage light rain and wind. But if you plan to camp during rain or snow storms (which often roll in unexpectedly), it’s worth it to save up and buy a sturdier tent.
In the event of a storm or condensation buildup, all tents also need ventilation to adequately remove moisture. The Sea to Summit Telos excels in this category with a rollaway fly that can be left open on a warm day to allow all of your items to dry while you are away.
Anything can happen on an extended backpacking trip, and you need to have a shelter that will protect you in driving rain or hail, brutal heat during summer months, or snowy whiteouts in the winter — all while maintaining a lightweight package that easily fits in your bag.
It’s a tall order. But all of the tents on this list have been tested for durability and quality, and we would feel comfortable battling the elements with them.
Many four-season tents are single-wall models. The benefit of a single-wall design is that there is no gap for wind or precipitation to sneak in. Check out our Winter Tent Review for more insight on this topic.
Double-wall designs are far more common for three-season or summer tents. Removable rain flies are a plus if all you need is a barrier from the mosquitos and you want to stargaze.
If you are confident in the forecast, dropping the fly can bring you to what some call “trail weight,” which refers to leaving out the extra parts to achieve the bare minimum weight.
Vestibules are an important feature to have in inclement weather. They act as a miniature mudroom and provide space for gear storage.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur adds a unique design with its awning vestibules. Sealed seams also help buffer against the elements and leakage.
If you plan to use a tent in a wet, rainy, or snowy environment, consider doing this yourself, as seams are a weak point in the waterproof protection of a fly or single-wall tent. Conveniently, Six Moon Designs will seam-seal its tents for an extra fee, but this will likely delay shipping time.
It is hard to put a price tag on the nights of adventure and comfort that a backpacking tent provides. Cost is directly related to the quality of the materials and the packed weight.
The REI Co-op Trail Hut is a case in point when it comes to value for the budget hiker, as it’s light on the wallet but heavy on the back. A frugal hiker can save money on this piece of gear to spend more on other necessities like a sleeping bag and backpack.
Manufacturers realize that the entry cost of this passion is steep and provide economical options to fit any budget. With proper care and maintenance, the most affordable tent can last many seasons.
The Kelty Late Start 2 is an example of an entry-level tent that provides great features for a fraction of the cost of something like the Hyperlite UltaMid . On the other hand, the UltaMid gives the savvy, dedicated hiker what they have longed for on many arduous miles — a tent that weighs next to nothing and is durable and easy to set up.
The value of a tent is really the ratio of enjoyment versus cost. All of the tents we tested have a high value when paired with the right user. Sit down, and write out a budget that not only includes how much you have in the bank but also indicates how dedicated you are to the sport. Plan to spend about a quarter to a third of your budget on a tent.
The true backcountry addicts — and those that feel the hook sinking in their lip after their first adventure — will almost certainly own more than one tent for their lifetime of outdoor adventuring.
Not all tents can handle every environment perfectly, but are instead tailored to a range of conditions. A good rule for gear is to start within your budget with a versatile option. As your passions grow, your gear will become more specific. Purchasing the best backpacking tent for your needs is no small task, but it is also exciting and will open up many new doors to the natural world.
Prices of backpacking tents vary considerably. Materials and the weight of the tent cause prices to range from under $200 (such as the Kelty Late Start 2 ) to over $1,000 out the door.
Specialized ultralight tents such as the Hyperlite UltaMid or burly all-weather mountaineering tents are usually the most expensive and are made from very strong and light materials.
Less expensive tents are priced for the beginning or occasional hiker. Expect to spend a third of your budget on a tent, another third on your sleeping bag, and the rest on your cooking supplies, etc.
The amount you are willing to spend depends on your commitment to the sport. Affordable options are a great place to start, as you can then gauge your willingness to invest.
When buying a backpacking tent, pay attention to whether it is freestanding, like the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 , or requires trekking poles, like the Zpacks Duplex . Tents that use trekking poles are on average far lighter, but they take guy lines and know-how to set up.
Materials are important to consider as well. The more expensive tents offer light rip-resistant materials like cuben fiber (such as the Hyperlite UltaMid ), while more economical models are bulky and heavier (see the REI Co-op Trail Hut ). This affects not only weight but also packed size.
Make sure the tent has adequate space for your needs, with floor space, vestibules, and storage. Minimalist tents will be lighter but usually offer less in terms of extra pockets and storage. Tents more suited for car camping will have those amenities but weigh considerably more.
Ultralight tents are fragile, expensive shelters exposed to potentially harsh conditions in the wilderness. The major benefit of a tent like the Six Moon Designs Haven comes in very little weight and volume on your pack.
Having used several ultralight tents, we would say that most backpackers should steer clear of the absolute lightest tents unless they are extremely cautious with their gear.
And by that, we mean they put it away perfectly every time, and even go so far as to load their car and backpack with the care of their gear in mind. We’ve had holes worn in ultralight tents from nothing but friction and vibration during a 2-hour drive, so this isn’t an exaggeration.
So, if ultralight is too light for you, what is a reasonable weight for a backpacking tent? A well-established guideline is about 2.5 pounds per person, meaning a tent under 5 pounds for a two-person tent is reasonable.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur weighs in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces, which is very light split between two people, while the Zpacks Duplex is 1 pound, 3 ounces. Both tents are for two people but are made from different materials, and the Duplex depends on your trekking poles to set up.
Many tents offer footprints as an aftermarket add-on. A footprint is a piece of fabric that matches the shape of the tent floor. It often will clip into your tent poles or stake system to integrate with your setup under your tent.
The footprint offers protection against sharp objects on the ground and may increase the lifespan of your tent. However, carrying a footprint adds to the weight of your pack. So, you need to balance the need to protect your tent with the added weight of the footprint.
For ultralight tents such as the Hyperlite UltaMid or Zpacks Duplex , a footprint is often important to prevent damage. That’s somewhat ironic, as the tent is meant to be as light as possible.
For that reason, sometimes a slightly heavier floor build, as on the REI Co-op Arete , makes more sense, as you can leave the footprint behind. For car camping, a footprint is always a good idea, as it will increase the life of your tent.
The Best Backpacking Backpacks of 2023
Head into the backcountry with the best backpacking backpacks of 2022. From budget-friendly options to ultra-comfortable picks, we’ve got you covered.
The Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2023
A sleeping bag is one of your most important pieces of camping gear. We’ve found the best backpacking sleeping bags for every use and budget.
Sean McCoy is the Editorial Director of GearJunkie, and 5+ other All Gear websites.
He has been writing about hunting, fishing, trail running, camping, skiing, and more for 15+ years.
Prior to GearJunkie, he was the chief photographer for the Virgin Islands Daily News and former Editor In Chief for GearJunkie. Based in Denver, Colorado, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
Based in beautiful Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chris Carter is a Senior Editor for GearJunkie, while squeezing in side gigs as an adventure filmmaker and content creator in the outdoor industry. Drawing from his childhood in Africa, experience as a rock climbing and backpacking guide, ultra-marathon running, and years of extensive thru-hiking, he’s passionate about journalism that gets people into the wild. He has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in America: the Pacific Crest Trail (2018), the Continental Divide Trail (2021), and the Appalachian Trail (2021), and has explored, rock-climbed, and backpacked all over the world. He hopes to spread his love of adventure and travel through his writing, art, and videography.
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The Best Backpacking Tents for Every Budget and Adventure, Tested
We hit the trails to test for durability, ease of setup, and performance in variable weather conditions.
In This Article
Jump to a Section
- Our top picks
- Other Tents We Liked
Our Testing Process
- Tips for Buying
- Why Trust T+L
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .
Travel + Leisure / Marcus Millan
Whether venturing into familiar forests, taking a backpacking trip abroad, or camping with family, a quality backpacking tent is an important gear purchase for outdoor adventurers. Tent designs range from minimalist, lightweight models to tougher all-season shelters and everything in between. Beyond that, there are tents for different budgets and occupancy, though we’ve focused primarily on two-person tents for this list.
To determine which backpacking tents rise above the competition, we tested 18 tents in various outdoor conditions. We evaluated ease of setup, ease of use, performance, portability, durability, design, disassembly, and overall value. Our picks below stood out for specific attributes, like weight, longevity, weatherproofing, and spaciousness.
Nemo dagger osmo 2p tent.
It delivers all-around performance, ease of use, and convenient portability for backpacking camping trips.
Assembly instructions didn’t come included, though setup is made simple with color-coded components.
Backcountry camping warrants a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use tent. The Nemo Dagger Osmo Lightweight Backpacking Tent delivers on all these fronts, earning perfect scores in all our testing categories. Clocking in at just over 4 pounds, the Dagger is both light and compact, ensuring backpackers have ample space and leftover weight for other gear and provisions. We found the separate bags for the poles and stakes helped keep the tent pieces organized and readily accessible. When it’s time to set up camp, the Dagger’s lightweight poles are color-coded for quick, intuitive assembly.
The Dagger is made from polyester/nylon ripstop fabric that provides superior water protection when camping off the grid. The fabric is made from certified recycled material that’s PFC- and PFAS-free for a reduced environmental footprint. And if weather takes a turn for the worse, rest easy knowing the Osmo fabric reduces stretch by three times when wet to limit water pooling on the rainfly and provide wind resistance. We found the rainfly offered excellent waterproofing while still allowing a breeze through the tent’s mesh ventilation. The tent features two large doors, covered vestibules for storing gear, and internal pockets for stashing valuables, headlamps , and other essentials. When it’s time to depart, it disassembles in minutes and rolls up easily to travel onward. While the Dagger isn’t the most budget-friendly option, it’s designed to withstand years’ worth of backpacking adventures in tough weather conditions. It also comes with a lifetime warranty from Nemo.
Price at time of publish: $530
The Details: 4.1 pounds packed | 19.5 x 6.5 x 3.5 inches packed | 90 x 50 x 42 inches assembled | 2-person
Travel + Leisure / Taylor Fox
Hilleberg allak 2 tent.
- Ease of Setup 5 /5
- Ease of Use 5 /5
- Design 5 /5
- Performance 5 /5
- Durability 5 /5
This dome-shaped tent has durable construction for excellent weather protection and use on tough surfaces.
The price and all-season design are a bit overkill for casual campers and balmier climates.
Designed for harsh weather and difficult terrain, the Hilleberg Allak 2-person Tent provides reliable protection while camping in the wilderness . The outer tent fabric is Kerlon 1200, which is made from 30D high-tenacity ripstop nylon and treated with three layers of silicone for UV resistance and weatherproofing. This durable outer layer is complemented by highly breathable, permeable fabric used in the interior to allow moisture out without letting precipitation in, helping dry out clothes and gear after long days on the trail. Meanwhile, the tent floor is constructed from 70D triple-coated polyurethane — a puncture and abrasion-resistant material — that allows the Allak to be set up on rocky and rugged terrain. We were impressed by the tent’s stability amid windy, inclement weather. The dome-style tent is assembled with three poles that are color-coded with corresponding sleeves, plus 12 stakes for a secure setup. The Allak comes with separate stuff sacks for the tent and poles, which we loved for allowing us to divide weight between packs.
Price at time of publish: $1,165
The Details: 7.3 pounds packed | 20 x 7 inches packed | 81 x 47 x 71 inches | 2-person
Travel + Leisure / Michael Weisbaum
Rei co-op half dome sl 2+ tent with footprint.
This budget-friendly freestanding tent is incredibly straightforward to assemble and affords ample space for two campers plus gear.
The spacious dimensions and relatively higher weight make this tent less suitable for solo and long-distance treks.
Having a tent that’s quick and easy to pitch can make all the difference when setting up camp in bad weather or after an arduous trek. We were impressed by how simple it is to set up the REI Half Dome SL 2+, thanks to its freestanding, symmetrical design and hubbed pole system. REI includes setup instructions on the carry bag, though campers will quickly master how to assemble the Half Dome by connecting the color-coded poles, clips, and tabs. The rainfly, which is made from 30D nylon, easily attaches to the tent with buckle clips and uses eight stakes — four for the tent corners and four in line with the points of each vestibule. The Half Dome’s included footprint shortens setup time and prevents water from seeping in. Further weather protection is provided by the pitched vestibule doors and ripstop wall panels. We appreciated the excellent air flow and comfort provided by the ceiling vents while the rainfly is in place.
Price at time of publish: $231
The Details: 4.7 pounds packed | 7 x 20.5 inches packed | 90 x 54 x 42 inches | 2-person
Travel + Leisure / Frances Crouter
Rei co-op trailmade 2 tent with footprint.
- Ease of Use 4 /5
This tent affords durability, solid weatherproof performance, and adequate storage space at an entry-level price point.
The rainfly design doesn’t provide much ventilation compared to other tents on this list.
Whether buying your first tent or replacing a well-worn one, the REI Co-op Trailmade 2 Tent offers strong performance and long-lasting construction at a value. The tent has a symmetrical, rectangular design with nearly 32 square feet, giving ample space for two campers. A set of internal pockets and gear loops help organize belongings and attach a lantern or headlamp. Meanwhile, two stake-out vestibules grant coverage for storing gear or airing out hiking boots and clothing. The Trailmade is equipped with a coated polyester rainfly that attaches over the mesh roof and includes a roll-up door for a view and better ventilation. We appreciated that the tent held up well against high winds and that the rainfly didn’t flap or loosen. We also liked that REI included detailed assembly instructions with illustrations for quick and easy setup.
Price at time of publish: $126
The Details: 5.4 pounds packed | 8.5 x 22 inches packed | 88 x 52 x 39.9 inches | 2-person
- Travel + Leisure/Jessica Christopher
Mountain hardwear nimbus ul 2 tent.
The incredibly lightweight design is easy to set up and doesn’t come at the cost of performance or durability.
It only has one door, and the interior is not the most spacious compared to other two-person backpacking tents.
The Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 2 Tent is ideal for shedding pack weight on long-distance backpacking trips . Weighing just over 2 pounds, this two-person tent is even light as a solo backpacking tent option. It also boasts some of th most compact dimensions of all the tents we tested, whether stowed in the included stuff sack or rolled up to be divided between two campers. The Nimbus’s floor and sides are made from ripstop nylon, while the canopy uses mesh for improved ventilation and reduced weight. The undyed, translucent rainfly provides eco-friendly weather protection. The fly has a silicone coating and can be staked out for a flared-out silhouette that sheds precipitation. We liked how easy it was to set up the single-pole design and secure the stakes on rockier ground.
Price at time of publish: $315
The Details: 2.3 pounds packed | 6 x 12 inches packed | 86 x 42-52 x 41 inches | 2-person
Travel + Leisure / John Somerall
Best for Beginners
Msr freelite 2-person ultralight backpacking tent.
- Performance 4.5 /5
Its user-friendly design and durable materials make it a value worth investing in for newbie campers.
Though the floor width is enough to sleep two, the tapered design and lower height make for tighter quarters.
The MSR FreeLite 2-person Ultralight Backpacking Tent caters to beginner campers with its simple assembly, handy features, and quality construction at a mid-tier price. Only two poles are required for assembly, with the larger Y-shaped pole running the spine of the tent and a shorter ridge pole that connects between grommets above the doors for a taut and secure structure. The tent carry bag includes a four-step diagram with illustrations to walk campers through the setup process. The floor and rainfly are made from 15D ripstop nylon with sealed seams and a DuraShield coating to keep out moisture. We liked how much ventilation was afforded by the upper mesh walls of the FreeLite, even with the rainfly in place. The FreeLite also features two doors and two vestibules for easy in-and-out and adequate storage when camping as a duo.
Price at time of publish: $338
The Details: 2.75 pounds packed | 18 x 6 inches packed | 84 x 50 x 38 x inches |2-person
Travel + Leisure / Morgan Noll
Other Backpacking Tents We Liked
There were three more backpacking tents that we liked during the test, but they didn’t impress us enough in any particular category to earn a spot on our final list.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 : We liked the ultralight and durable construction, but the narrow dimensions for a two-person tent reduced its ease of use score.
Sea to Summit Ikos TR3- 3/3.5 person : We appreciated the versatility of a tent with multiple setup options and configurations, but the lack of clear instructions made it challenging to assemble.
Marmot Tungsten 2P Tent With Footprint: We liked how it performed in inclement weather and its durable design, but the limited guidance on assembly lowered its ease of setup score.
The T+L team tested 18 tents on overnight excursions in a variety of outdoor trips to determine the best backpacking tents. We reviewed the tent assembly instructions to see if separate tools were required for setup before embarking on a backpacking trip, where we first assessed portability on the way to the campsite. Then, we assembled the tent according to the manufacturer’s instructions, if provided, to evaluate the ease of setup.
Throughout the camping trip, we spent as much time in the tent as possible to consider the quality of materials, comfort, ventilation, and protection from precipitation and wind. In dry conditions, we poured water on the tent exterior to test how waterproof the tent is, noting if any moisture reached the interior. After an overnight stay, we disassembled the tent, taking stock of any wear and tear, level of difficulty, and time required to pack it away. We'll continue to update this article with long-term insights about each tent that are gathered during subsequent uses.
Tips for Buying a Backpacking Tent
Think carefully about size.
Tents generally designate the intended occupancy within their name or product description. That being said, there’s no universal sizing, so one two-person tent can vary in length, width, or height from another two-person model. Ultralight models, for instance, may sacrifice spaciousness for lower carrying weights.
Bill Gamber, Founder and President at Big Agnes, suggests assessing how your camping pads match up with the tent width. “A camping pad is 20-25 inches wide for a single person, so you should be able to get four pads in a four-person tent, for example,” says Gamber.
Pay attention to the weather resistance
Preparing for worst-case weather conditions is recommended when it comes to packing camping gear and apparel. Tents are typically designed as three- or four-season varieties, with the latter usually having sturdier pole systems and weatherproof panels to cover mesh areas to perform in snow and higher altitudes. Three-season tents are designed to endure precipitation and wind, but to varying degrees. Make note of a tent’s waterproof rating (listed in millimeters) before purchasing to ensure it’ll keep out moisture. A tent rainfly with a rating of 3,000 millimeters or higher is recommended to be prepared for downpours. It’s also important to note if the seams are sealed and how the rainfly fits on the tent.
Understand package weight versus trail weight
A tent’s packed weight includes everything you get when you buy it, such as the rainfly, poles, tent body, stakes, guy lines, stuff sack, and repair kit. On the other hand, trail weight refers to the bare minimum components — tent body, rainfly, and poles — you’d need to set up the tent. Manufacturers may list both weights in the product descriptions. When assessing how the tent weight will factor into your backpacking pack, consider erring on the side of caution and go by the packaged weight.
Backpackers can store the tent in its stuff sack or separate the tent body and poles to share the weight with a fellow camper. If packing without the stuff stack, be sure to tightly roll the tent to save on space and protect fragile components, such as mesh, from snagging on other gear. The rainfly can be stowed in an external or outer pocket if wet. Packing the tent (and other heavier items) in the middle of the backpack, against your back, can help reduce strain and pressure on your shoulders and back.
Keeping backpacking tent weight below 2.5 pounds per person is recommended for comfort. “A very lightweight tent is something you really benefit from when you’re carrying it on the trail,” notes Gamber. If backpacking with multiple people, campers can divide tent components, including the poles, rainfly, and stakes between the group to help distribute the total weight.
A footprint isn’t necessary for a backpacking tent. However, using one can extend the lifespan of your tent by reducing wear and tear on the fabric and its waterproofing.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Kevin Brouillard is a contributing writer at T+L, specializing in outdoor gear and apparel. His work has been published in TripSavvy, Jetsetter, and Oyster, and he served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia for two years. Kevin used his backpacking and camping experience and testing insights conducted by Travel + Leisure testers to curate this list of the best backpacking tents. He also referred to the expertise of Bill Gamber , Founder and President at Big Agnes.
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Best Backpacking Tents of 2022
Find shelter from the storm with these excellent backpacking tents..
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! >","name":"in-content-cta","type":"link"}}'>Download the app .
Whether you’re headed out for a quick overnight or trekking the Continental Divide for several months, your tent is the first line of defense between you and the elements. From weight to wind resistance, dozens of factors play into finding the right tent for your adventure. To help narrow down the search for this big-ticket piece of gear, we’ve highlighted our best backpacking tents on the market, along with helpful tips for sizing up your potential home away from home.
Best Backpacking Tents At a Glance
- Best All-Around Tent / Best 2 Person Tent: Sea to Summit Telos TR2
- Lightest Freestanding Tent: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum
- The Best Tent for Casual Backpackers: REI Co-op Half Dome SL2+
- Top Space-to-Weight Ratio: Nemo Dragonfly 3P
- Best Budget Tent: Sierra Designs Tabernash 2
- Toughest Protection in Bad Weather: Hilleberg Helags 3
- Best Family Tent: Klymit Maxfield 4
Looking for something more specialized? Check out our favorite ultralight shelters and tarp-tents and our top winter tents .
What to Look For in a Backpacking Tent
As one of the heaviest items you’ll carry on your trip, nothing cuts pack weight like an ultralight shelter. There are inevitably tradeoffs to dropping weight, which typically include a higher price tag, less durable materials, less interior space, and a non-freestanding pitch. A small backpacking tent that can stand up to the elements may be labeled as ultralight. The best ultralight tent for you is one that combines the key features that match your style of camping.
Backcountry tents don’t have to always focus on weight, though. The lightest tent may be too flimsy for harsh weather or camping in rough terrain. An ultralight 2 person tent may be too cramped, for example, so it is reasonable to add a little weight for more interior space.
Yes, you’ll want to buy a tent that fits however many people you plan on hiking with—but there’s so much more to sizing a shelter. Many solo hikers will still bring a two-person tent for the extra space and to keep gear inside. Some tents cut weight by narrowing dimensions, especially at the foot of the shelter, which could be a no-go for your non-cuddly camp-mates. If you are tall or need more space in general, be sure to check length before choosing a tent. If you tend to hike in stormy climes, a generous peak height makes passing time in your shelter that much more pleasant.
Double- or Single-Walled
Most conventional three-season backpacking tents are double-walled—meaning they have a dedicated inner mesh body, pole structure, and external rainfly. They tend to breathe much better than single-walled tents and therefore reduce condensation buildup. The downside? They’re usually heavier than single-walled tents, which use a single waterproof or water-resistant body fabric.
Freestanding tents don’t need to be staked out. That’s an important feature when camping in areas with solid rock ledge or loose sand, where sinking a stake may not be an option. Semi-freestanding tents often require only two stakes on one end, while non-freestanding shelters often require four to six stakes for a proper pitch. Some tents, especially non-freestanding ones, also have a bigger footprint, which means slotting into narrow campsites might be difficult.
Design and material choice will affect how well the best backpacking tents stand up to heavy winds and precipitation. There’s no easy way to divine how well a tent will hold up to the elements on paper, so testing it out on a short shakedown trip is always a good idea. That said, tents with higher profiles tend to be more impacted by wind, and, while they are technically stronger than aluminum poles, carbon poles are more likely to snap under stress rather than bending. Tall bathtub floors and a rainfly that extends all the way to the ground will aid in keeping water from splashing into your tent.
In most nylon and polyester tents, you’ll see a denier specification, which is a measurement of the fabric’s weight and thickness. Lightweight tents tend to use a lighter denier (denoted by a lower number) and are more prone to punctures and tears. Tent floors tend to have a higher denier to protect against ground abrasions, but you might want to invest in a groundsheet regardless if your tent is particularly fragile. Dyneema is an ultra-lightweight alternative to commonly used sil-nylon in tents, but is extremely expensive and still prone to punctures despite its strength.
Types of Backpacking Tents
2 Person Tents
2 person tents work for two people, as designed. They are also nice for the solo backpacker who wants to keep gear in their tent or for the classic backpacking duo of human and dog. Ultralight 2 person tents can get a little tight for taller, larger folks.
3 Person Tents
3 person tents aren’t necessarily condemned to house three people. These spacious tents are a great option for two people who want a little more room for gear or simply to stretch out. Our team also likes using them for two people and up to two medium-sized dogs.
4 Person Tents
4 person tents are ideal for backcountry adventures where a team is willing to share space. Divvied up between team members, 4 person tents can minimize the per-person burden if one carries the poles, another the fly, and another the main tent itself. These tents often serve well for casual backpacking adventures for two people who want to really live it up the backcountry.
Ultralight tents are made of durable-yet-light fabrics. Despite their gossamer appearance, many ultralight tents are quite tough and can stand up to harsh weather. Ultralight tents are often more expensive than standard tents and their weight-saving geometry may result in close quarters, low ceilings, or thin footprints. The weight you save, however, may be worth it, especially on longer camping outings or terrain that may require scrambling or climbing to reach your campsite.
Best All-Around Tent: Sea to Summit Telos TR2
Price: $559 Weight: 3 lbs. 11 oz. Buy Now at Sea to Summit / Buy Now at Backcountry.com
✅ Pros: Strong, weatherproof, excellent interior space ❌ Cons: Heavy, Expensive
If the devil is in the details, then this is the most unholy tent we’ve ever occupied. Nothing, it seems, escaped the attention of legendary tent designer Jake Lah, who collaborated with Sea to Summit for this sturdy, freestanding tent. For most backpackers, this will simply be the best 2-person backpacking tent. Naturally (since Lah is the guy behind DAC poles), it all starts with the structure. The single, multi-hubbed pole has an inverted V-shape top section that creates twin peaks and props up near-vertical walls. The design equates to a ton of livable space inside, while still being tensioned enough to prevent water from pooling atop the sil/PeU fly and strong enough to shrug off 25-mph winds when we camped at treeline in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. — Backpacker Editors
Lightest Freestanding: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Platinum
Price: $600 Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Very lightweight for a freestanding tent, full-featured ❌ Cons: Expensive
When it comes to freestanding tents, designing one to weigh 2 pounds or less is a bit like breaking the four-minute mile. The Tiger Wall 2 Platinum is the first two-person tent we’ve tested to flirt with the 2 pound packaged weight benchmark that doesn’t also have a handful of drawbacks. Some critical attributes? Two doors, two vestibules, double-wall construction, and a hassle-free pitch. The generous 28-square-foot interior left plenty of room for two, while the 8-square-foot vestibules sheltered a pack and boots. While the Tiger Wall needs to be staked out at the foot for a taut pitch, it’s a breeze to move around when selecting a campsite. The tent had excellent breathability thanks to a full mesh body, and a hubbed-pole system held up to 25-mph winds and rain in Nevada’s Lahontan State Recreation Area. Yes, it’s pricey. But for a fully-featured, self-supporting tent that weighs less than many one-person shelters, it’s a worthy splurge. — Eli Bernstein
Looking for more ultralight tents, tarp tents, and shelters? Check out our 6 best ultralight tents
Best for Casual Backpackers: REI Co-op Half Dome SL2+
Price: $279 Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Affordable, spacious, full-featured ❌ Cons: Heavy
The Half Dome SL 2+ is our choice for the best combination of price, spaciousness, ease of setup, and durability. Costing less than $300, it boasts 35.8 square feet of floor space, two 11.3- square-foot vestibules, and a 42-inch peak height. “I’m 5’11” and I had plenty of headroom and space to sprawl out,” one tester said after a weekend in Big Dominguez Canyon, Colorado. “It’s extremely livable for two, and you could even squeak in a dog.” Two closeable ceiling vents and plenty of mesh in the upper tent body keep air moving, and our testers experienced no condensation during 35°F nights in western Colorado. The Half Dome offers ample interior storage for headlamps, phones, and other small items in its six pockets—one at each bottom corner, and two up top. The interior stayed dry during passing storms. — Will McGough
Best Space-to-Weight Ratio: Nemo Dragonfly 3P
Price: $530 Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Lightweight for a 3-person tent, spacious ❌ Cons: Tapered interior can be tight for wide or large sleeping pads
Opulent and ultralight aren’t usually mentioned in the same breath, but with the Dragonfly you can have both. “With an average width of more than 65 inches and near-vertical walls, three won’t be a crowd. But because it’s so light, I often carried it as an extra-roomy two-person tent when camping with my girlfriend,” one tester says. The tent’s 41 square feet of floor space is plenty of room for three to spread out if you do pack it to capacity, and two 10-square-foot vestibules can stash gear for the group. The tent is easy to set up with a single, hubbed pole. — WM
Best Budget: Sierra Designs Tabernash 2
Price: $100 Weight: 6 lbs. 4 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Very affordable ❌ Cons: Very heavy
If you’ve ever been frustrated that “budget-friendly” tents cost around $200, Sierra Designs would like to have a word. Its new double-walled shelter is only $100, and for the price, there’s a lot to like: At 6.2 pounds, the Tabernash is relatively light for a frontcountry tent (it packs to 20 inches by 5 inches, and you could probably push it into easy backcountry duty), and a single large, D-shape mesh door aids in ventilation. The tent’s 48-inch peak height is generous for a shelter of its size, and our testers were able to change clothes and perform camp tasks inside. — WM
Best Protection: Hilleberg Helags 3
Price: $1065 Weight: 5 lbs. 12 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Very weatherproof, spacious ❌Cons: Very expensive, heavy
The price tag on the double-walled Helags 3 will definitely sting. But, its excellent strength-to-weight ratio and ability to withstand weather and the test of time might make the sticker shock easier to swallow, especially for those who regularly camp in nasty weather and unfriendly terrain. This shelter uses Hilleberg’s proprietary silicone-coated material known as Kerlon—one of the strongest tent fabrics on the market—in its fly (the inner is made from DWR-treated, 10-denier ripstop nylon). Once properly staked out (the pitch is bomber, with three DAC poles, six guy-outs, and 16 stakes) the tube-shaped Helags can stand up to the toughest summer storms. “Wind from all directions just rolls over its low-profile shape, and the pitch stood firm in strong, 30-mph gusts in Colorado’s Book Cliffs area,” one tester says. The Helags has a 40-square-foot floor, the end walls are vertical, and its sides are near-vertical, creating comfortable space for three sleepers. Two 14-square-foot vestibules hold gear for a trio. — WM
Best Tent for Families: Klymit Maxfield 4
Price: $500 Weight: 5 lbs. 9 oz. Buy Now
✅ Pros: Very lightweight for a 4 person backpacking tent, easy to pack ❌ Cons: Small interior
The Maxfield is one of the lightest four-person shelters out there, making it great for family trips that tend to be heavy on gear. Its 53-square-foot floor is slightly smaller than average, but still fits four standard sleeping pads (everyone can sleep facing the same direction). Two huge mesh ceiling pockets at the head and foot are ideal for organizing a family’s-worth of stuff. Bonus: “Instead of a standard stuff sack, the Maxfield rolls up fast into a burrito-style bag,” said one tester after a group outing to Colorado’s 10,007-foot Kebler Pass. “Just throw everything on it and roll it up. No stuffing or folding required.” For this reason, it has earned top honors for our best 4 person backpacking tent. — Heather Balogh Rochfort
Exped lyra ii .
Price: $279 Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz.
Pitch the Lyra II wherever you want—credit the multi-hubbed pole and 68-denier polyester fly and floor for the bulletproof design. This double-wall, freestanding shelter kept us dry through bouts of heavy rain, ice, snow, and 25-mph gusts during a storm on New York’s Finger Lakes Trail. — HBR
Marmot Superalloy 2P
Price: $429 Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
The Superalloy achieves an attractive trifecta: livable, lightweight, and affordable (for an ultralight shelter), making it a good pick for minimalist hikers on a budget. Its 28-square-foot floor fit two 6-foot testers thanks to an 87-inch length and nearly vertical walls, and two 6.5-square-foot vestibules each fit a pack apiece. — HBR
Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3
Price: $350 Weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz.
When a tent is an all-around solid performer and has eco cred to match, it’s a keeper. The Mineral King impressed us with its oversize doors, all-mesh walls and rollback fly for stargazing, and balance between weight and price and doesn’t use toxic fire-retardant compounds commonly found in tents. — HBR
Nemo Aurora 2
Price: $250 Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz.
For backpackers who would rather tax their backs than their wallets, the double-wall Aurora is a can’t-miss choice. Its above-average, 32-square-foot floor feels palatial, and vertical walls expand the roominess. The Aurora’s price also includes a footprint (7.8 ounces) for pitches on rough terrain. — HBR
Klymit Cross Canyon 2
Price: $200 Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.
With its combination of breathability, ample storage options, and affordability, the double-walled Cross Canyon is a great pick for car-camping duos who want to occasionally head into the backcountry. — WM
The Best Backpacking Tent For You
Heading out on your first overnight or multi-night trip? Err on the spacious side by bringing a two-person tent rather than a one-person. Having all of your gear inside the tent with you is a huge convenience. You can always slim down to a spartan one-person tent if the extra space isn’t worth the weight penalty.
If you primarily go car camping or only take the occasional, short backpacking trip, choosing a roomy, affordable tent makes plenty of sense, as long as it’s light enough to carry in your pack (less than 5 pounds is a good benchmark for a two-person tent) and protects you from the elements.
Bringing a dog? Up your tent size by a full person or risk becoming a human dog bed. Make sure to choose a tent with a thick, durable floor to avoid punctures from your pup’s claws.
If your regular backpacking destinations are particularly rocky or sandy, consider investing in a freestanding tent—you may not be able to drive stakes into the ground.
Less Critical Backpacking Tent Features to Consider
- Get up to pee a lot? It happens. Consider a 2-door tent if your bladder regularly makes a request to see the stars in the middle of the night. Your tentmate will appreciate it!
- Tent color is generally an arbitrary trait but isn’t entirely insignificant. A majority of tents are blue, green, or yellow, as these are calming colors. If you’re stuck in a rain-soaked tent for days on end, a yellow tent may be a little cheerier than a blue tent. Do you like to sleep in a darker environment? A gray tent fly can help.
- Gear lofts are an option offered by most tents, as are interior side pockets . These organizational features can be extra useful on an early-morning summit day when your brain wakes up three hours after the rest of your body. Organize the night before and grab-n-go!
- Finally, stuff sacks . Some tents are an absolute fight to mash into their specific stuff sacks. Burrito-style bags have become popular because packing can be done with semi-reckless abandon. Splitting up tents and poles with a partner? The person carrying the fly/tent may consider a “third party” compression stuff sack to free up valuable backpack space.
Tent Care and Maintenance
Even the best backpacking tents need regular maintenance to perform at their peak. Most issues can be fixed, including:
- Broken tent poles
- Worn out shock cord in poles
- Minor tears in fabric/mesh
- Broken zippers
- Torn grommets
- Delaminated seams
- Small amounts of mold or mildew
Sometimes, however, a tent in really bad shape will require reordering parts or in the worst-case scenario, it will have to be retired. ( Pro-tip: keep a retired tent around for donor parts! ) This includes:
- Extensive, long-term mold or mildew
- Extensive UV damage to fly or tent body, making it too brittle to use or recoat
- Chewed to bits by wolverines
Tent Care At Home
Tent storage after your adventures and during the off-season is critical in extending your tent’s life. Here are some tips for home care:
- Clean out your tent after every use. This may require light scrubbing with soap and water and shaking out a whole lotta’ dust (and the occasional freeloading insect)
- By sure your tent is totally dry before you pack it away. Mildew is the nemesis of all tents
- If you can spare the space, do not store the tent in its stuff sack. Keep your tent in a covered storage bin, loosely stacked
- If you have to keep your tent in a stuff sack, stuff it in—don’t meticulously fold your tent or fly. This habit can cause creases that evolve into weaknesses over time
Tent Care on the Trail
Spend enough time in the backcountry and something is going to break on your tent. Packing along a tent repair kit is a great idea, especially for trips lasting more than 3 days. These kits usually include patches, tent pole sleeves, duct tape, spare zippers, and seam sealer.
- Tent sleeves are light tubes that can reinforce a cracked pole. They are temporary fixes but will salvage an otherwise fractured pole.
- Floppy shock cord can make your poles too slack, rendering them useless in holding up your tent. Ideally, check your shock cord integrity before you leave. If you are using an older tent, packing in a replacement cord is wise.
- Rips and tears should be patched right away so that they don’t get bigger. Mosquitos only need the tiniest of slits to invade your tent and ruin a good night’s sleep.
- Bad zippers can be the bane of your existence. Pinching them with pliers tight to the track can help somewhat. Replacing zippers in the field is a 50/50 proposition, but sometimes it does the trick. Field-repaired zippers tend not to last, so get your tent to a repair shop when you’re back in the frontcountry (alteration sewing shops can often fix zippers if you don’t have a dedicated outdoor gear repair shop in your area).
Should I Use a Tent Footprint?
Tent footprints are specialized tarps that sit between your tent floor and the ground. They are not necessary but can certainly take some of the wear and tear off of your tent floor. Footprints add weight and can take up space in your backpack, but in certain cases, they are worth the trouble.
- Backcountry camping on abrasive sand or rock
- Camping where rocks, sticks, and other pointy things could pierce the tent floor
- Camping where water can seep through the floor via the ground
- Car camping on gravel
The best conditions for not using a footprint would be in dry, flat, spots with soft dirt or decomposing pine duff.
It’s worth mentioning that yes, a cheap-o tarp can do the trick. The advantage of a dedicated tent footprint is it will be lighter, pack easier, and will be contoured to your specific tent. Footprints are usually only $5 – $10 more than a generic tarp so the upgrade is worth it.
How to Realize the Full Potential of Backpacking Tents
The more time you spend in a tent, the more you’ll begin to appreciate the finer details of what separates an excellent backpacking tent from just an average one. Even the best tents may require modifications based on terrain, distance, and accepted levels of discomfort. Here are some of Backpacker’s best tips on becoming a power user in tent camping.
Most tents come with solid all-around tent stakes that will perform well across various terrains. Upgrading to lighter tent stakes can reduce pack weight, while investing in heavier, larger tent stakes may be the right strategy for camping on snow or in loose sand. Adding sets of stakes to your collection is relatively affordable and can make a huge difference in keeping your tent secure.
- In forest settings with good, compact soil, ultralight stakes made of titanium, aluminum, or carbon fiber are a great choice. These whisper-light pegs have good holding power when set correctly, though you may want to cap them with a rock once they are pounded in for added security.
- In rocky or rooty soil, ultralight stakes have a habit of bending—or in the case of carbon fiber stakes, shattering. Sturdier aluminum stakes—the standard for many stakes that come with tents—or even more robust steel stakes get the job done here. Steel stakes are often too heavy for most backpackers’ taste but have unrivaled durability.
- Specialty twist screws/stakes are made for the extremes of hot and cold: snow and sand. These stakes intentionally increase the total surface area and can be driven in vertically or laid horizontally (a technique known as “deadmanning”). Ultralight stakes are often useless in these environments. In extreme icy situations—usually mountaineering—ice screws may serve double duty as tent stakes.
- Finally, how about the no-stakes-at-all option? Some places offer no possible places to drive stakes, such as camping above treeline in boulder fields. This requires clever use of guy lines (see below) and natural anchors. However, stakes may still help (for example, wedging them in a split between rocks) and are worth carrying. In this case, a reserve supply of ultralight stakes can foster ingenuity when trying to secure your tent.
Bug Proof Your Tent
All it takes is a single, ambitious mosquito to completely ruin a good night’s sleep. In the quiet of the backcountry, mosquitos can hum like lawnmowers as they ungraciously attempt to suck blood from your ears. Always remember to fully zip your tent closed when you aren’t in it. This includes stepping out for those 2 AM bathroom breaks.
Many shelters use mesh material in the tent body so be sure to check for holes before embarking on your adventure. If bugs are a major nuisance, a single-door tent can reduce points of entry.
Vestibules and Interior Pockets
Vestibules are especially valuable when camping in rainy areas. They serve as a place to keep gear dry as well as a sheltered space to put on boots. Conversely, if you’re camping light and have enough room to spare in your tent, you may not bother to stake them out. You may find having a large vestibule to be a worthy investment. Or you may find it a waste of space and added weight. Either way, consider what a vestibule brings to the equation when investing in a new tent.
Interior pockets are nearly ubiquitous on all tents. They bring order to the chaos that inevitably happens on the inside. Some tents are marginally heavier due to having four interior pockets vs. two, but often that extra space for organizing gear is worth it—especially if you’re headed out in the predawn morning for a summit hike and need to quickly account for your gear.
Tents often sell optional gear lofts that hang from the high point of the tent interior. These are ideal for drying out soggy socks or storing headlamps so you’ll know where are when groping about in the darkness.
Tents can become very smelly very fast. Good ventilation minimizes funk, mitigates condensation, and circulates fresh air. Conversely, colder conditions may be cause for holding on to the warmer air you generate—funk and all—by swapping out mesh walls for solid nylon. In 3-season set-ups, it’s usually worth going for a warmer sleeping bag rather than sacrifice ventilation, but if you’re a particularly cold sleeper you may prefer solid walls.
Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding
The majority of backpacking tents are freestanding. Given the advances in technology that have drastically reduced the weight of freestanding tents, the previous advantage of non-freestanding tents has all but evaporated. Non-freestanding tents require the use of poles, trees, or other tensioning devices to stabilize them. They have their place among certain ultralight enthusiasts but the hassle to set them up is not most backpackers’ cup of tea.
Picking a Campsite
One of the best ways to prolong the life of your tent is to develop a savvy eye for picking the perfect backcountry camp spot. Obviously, camping on sharp rocks, roots, and soggy earth is a poor idea, but so is needlessly exposing your tent to excessive rain, sun, or wind. If you’ve pitched your tent on a red ant nest, you have learned the hard way that’s a bad idea.
A good campsite benefits from the shelter of healthy trees. Trees block the wind, provide shade, and serve as anchor points for tying down your tent. A good campsite also has compact soil for tent stakes. It’s worth scouting out for the best possible campsite, even if you’re weary from a long day of hiking. An extra 15 minutes of searching is often all you need to find a site that will help protect your tent and lead to a good night’s sleep.
Many tent manufacturers include a trail weight and “lightest weight” in their specs. The difference is usually marginal but for some backpackers, knocking off an extra pound may be part of the game. For example, if you’re only going out one night and the forecast is crystal clear, you may want to ditch the fly. Or perhaps you don’t plan to stake out vestibules, so leaving two stakes at home is part of a larger weight-saving equation.
“Lighter is better” isn’t a perfect motto, as heavier tents tend to hold up better in tougher conditions (and they tend to be less expensive). You may prefer a roomier 3 person tent for your 2 person party, thus adding more weight. The more time you spend in the backcountry, the easier it will be to prioritize what creature comforts suit your camping style and adapt your tent set up accordingly.
Guy Lines – What Are They & How to Use Them
I’ve seen 15-year-old tents where the owners never even bothered to unfurl their guy lines. Guy lines provide reinforced contact points on your fly (and sometimes on the tent body itself) to add security by attaching these lines to anchors. These anchors can be trees, rocks, or even extra tent stakes brought along for just that purpose.
In general, guy lines should be set up every time the tent is used. A more advanced use of guy lines is to set them up relative to the angle of headwinds to give extra support where it is needed most. Guy lines can also be used to increase ventilation in the space between the tent and the fly. An unintended but inevitable role of guy lines is creating a trap for campers to trip over in the middle of the night. But they also work as impromptu clotheslines as well, so the secondary functions aren’t all bad.
Master the Bombproof Set-Up
Anyone who has taken a NOLS or Outward Bound course knows that learning how to set up a bombproof tent is an essential skill. Getting in the habit of securing your tent to withstand worst-case weather scenarios is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of your shelter. This extra effort includes securing guy lines, putting rocks over stakes, staking out vestibules, and scouting out the best possible camp spot.
Why Invest in a High-End Tent
High-end tents try to solve very specific problems. Some are made to withstand violent weather while others aim to be as light as possible while still being functional shelters. These types of tents cater to specific conditions.
There are also higher-end all-around backpacking tents as well, such as several mentioned in this review. These tend to be made of more durable materials. These features include smoother zippers, lighter and stronger poles, cleverly engineered designs for more space, and more breathable tent flys.
Entry-level tents by reputable brands are fine for most backpackers (and car campers). But if you plan on spending more than 10 nights out a year, you’ll start to appreciate the higher quality functions of a better-designed tent.
With great tent comes great responsibility. Higher-end tents are an investment that can last a decade or more with proper care. Keep your tent clean, store it in a loose container in a closet or other UV-safe environment, and regularly check poles, stakes, and floor for any excessive wear. Replace and repair worn-out parts of the tent ASAP.
What a Backpacker Editor Looks For in a Backpacking Tent
Benjamin Tepler, Assistant Gear Editor
“As someone who’s experienced my fair share of broken poles, torn rainflies, and hole-ridden tent floors, I prize durability above everything else. High-denier material in the body and fly, along with a stable, well-reinforced pole structure, helps me sleep at night.”
Adam Roy, Senior Digital Editor
“These days, I spend a lot of time camping with either my toddler son or my perpetually-anxious Chihuahua, so I gravitate toward budget tents that I don’t have to stress about wearing out. Yeah, they’re a little heavier, but both of my backpacking buddies have little legs, so I can’t hike that fast anyway.”
Eli Bernstein, Senior Gear Editor
“I’m all about space-to-weight ratio, so I seek out roomy tents that don’t weigh too much. This often means that I make concessions to price and durability, but I put those out of my mind as I fall to sleep with plenty of room for me, my hiking partner, and gear inside my palace. If I can, I will usually take a light three-person tent for a two-person trip to maximize headroom.”
James Dziezynski , SEO Editor & Guidebook Author
“When it comes to backcountry adventures, sleep is king. So I tend to lean toward the more luxurious side of backpacking tents. I’ll bring a 3-person tent when it’s just me and my dog. I’ll use my 2-person tent when going solo. Many of my adventures mix in peak bagging, so pushing big miles usually isn’t on my agenda. Give me a tent that is quick to set up, spacious, and weatherproof and I’ll gladly bear the burden of an extra pound or two.”
About our Experts
- Adam Roy is the Executive Editor at Backpacker
- James Dziezynski is the SEO Editor at Backpacker / Outside and is the author of several Colorado mountain hiking guidebooks
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Best backpacking tents 2023: compact and lightweight camping tents for hikers
The best backpacking tents for fast, lightweight and comfortable adventuring in any season
- 1. Best backpacking tent overall
- 2. Best lightweight backpacking tent
- 3. Best fast-pitch backpacking tent
- 4. Best solo backpacking tent
- 5. Best 3-season backpacking tent
- 6. Best ultralight backpacking tent
- 7. Best budget backpacking tent
- 8. Best backpacking tent for summer
Best backpacking tents 2023: Quick links
00. Top 3↴ 01. Best overall : The North Face Trail Lite 2-Person Tent 02. Best lightweight : Sea to Summit Alto TR2 03. Best fast-pitch : Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 04. Best solo : Vango F10 Project Hydrogen 05. Best 3-season : Alpkit Soloist 1-Person Tent 06. Best ultralight : Sierra Designs High Route 1 3000 07. Best budget : Alpkit Ordos 2 08. Best for summer : MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Finding the best backpacking tent isn't easy, but we're here to help. This guide gathers together the best lightweight tents for multiday adventures and includes options for one or two (even three) people, plus tents that'll see you right through winter. No ultralight camping kit is complete without one of the backpacking tents listed below.
The best tents are different from the backpacking tents. The key things to consider are carry weight, pack size, performance and durability. Of course, the cost is always a factor, and the best backpacking tents can be a serious investment (although they're well worth it if you use them regularly). For more featherweight hiking gear options, you might also want to check out T3's best pop-up tents and the best lightweight sleeping bag guides.
For many, camping season is over for the year, but it's all the more reason to keep your eyes peeled for the best Black Friday deals on these lightweight outdoor shelters, as prices now are lower than in season. Plenty of time to shop around before the prices start rising again!
T3's Top 3 backpacking tents
Best backpacking tent overall
The North Face Trail Lite 2-Person Tent is an impressive lightweight backpacking tent. It's easy to assemble and dismantle and also quick to dry. Plus, thanks to the oversized doors and the closed internal unit, you'll never feel stuffy inside, and you don't have to worry about mosquitos, either.
Read more below
Best lightweight backpacking tent
The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent is an amazing backpacking tent. At just 1.3kg, it's almost ultralight, and it comes in three separate stuff sacks, which makes it easy to pack or split between two people. It can be pitched in under 10 minutes and is versatile enough to be set up in a few configurations. A brilliantly designed and well-made tent overall!
Best fast-pitch backpacking tent
The Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 is a lightweight but surprisingly spacious backpacking tent – it'll fit two people side by side, with room at your feet for two backpacks, and there are also two generous porches which provide extra space for storage. It's not the cheapest on the market, but it's worth investing in for years of lightweight adventuring.
Best backpacking tents to buy right now
Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test .
1. the north face trail lite 2-person tent.
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.
The North Face Trail Lite 2-Person Tent is an impressive lightweight backpacking tent. Considering the weight and the packed size, it allows two people to comfortably sit inside, even if you're considerably tall. It's easy to assemble and dismantle and also quick to dry. Plus, thanks to the oversized doors and the closed internal unit, you'll never feel stuffy inside, and you don't even have to worry about the mosquitos.
You could get cheaper pop-up tents , but those are usually own-brand options that significantly vary in quality. You won't have this issue with The North Face Trail Lite 2-Person Tent; it's quality through and through and will last for a long time. If you like the outdoors and prefer to travel light, buying this tent isn't an expense – it's an investment. And a good one at that.
Read our full The North Face Trail Lite 2-Person Tent review .
2. sea to summit alto tr2.
The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent is a brilliant backpacking tent. At just 1.3kg, it's almost, but not quite, ultralight, and it comes in three separate stuff sacks, which makes it easy to pack or split between two people.
It can be pitched in under 10 minutes and is versatile enough to be set up in a few configurations, such as having the inner tent on its own for warm, dry nights or leaving the fly half-off so you can see the stars. It's also brilliantly designed and really well made. Bear in mind it's a little snug for two full-grown adults (although if there's just one of you, it's awesome).
Read our full Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review .
Also consider: The Sea To Summit Telos TR2 boasts several innovative new features, incredible amounts of headroom, and perhaps the best ventilation in its class. Multiple modes allow you to set up the tent to fit both your needs and the conditions outside.
3. sierra designs meteor lite 2.
We tested out the 2-man version of this tent, but there are also different versions for one and three people available. It's very lightweight when packed (the brand has even shaved off a few grams compared to the previous iteration of this tent) but surprisingly spacious when pitched – it'll fit two people side by side, with room at your feet for two backpacks, and there are also two generous porches which provide extra space for storage.
The design is split into two parts: an inner mesh tent and an outer waterproof 'fly'. That means when the weather's warm and dry, you can roll back the outer layer and engage in a spot of stargazing. It's also quick and easy to pitch and pack away and stands up very well to high winds and rain. Well worth investing in for years of lightweight adventuring.
Read our full Sierra Designs Meteor Lite review .
4. Vango F10 Project Hydrogen
The Vango F10 Project Hydrogen deserves inclusion here for two key reasons: technical innovation and ludicrous lightness. That last metric is pretty essential when carrying tents on your back, and Project Hydrogen's 680-gram trail weight is as light as they come – there are plenty of heavier sleeping mats . Although it's not a large tent, there's still a good amount of living space for one person, with a porch for storage and enough room to sit up inside.
This innovative design uses air poles to lower the weight, and they're surprisingly sturdy, even in bad weather. Inflating it using the included bike pump is speedy and simple. Vango hasn't skimped on the details here, serving up a twin-skin build (important to fend off condensation), as well as a Yunan carbon fibre singular pole which sits at the foot-end of the tent. A cotton thread that expands to seal gaps when wet means there's no seam tape here, shaving a few more grams, while a 7D nylon with a double silicone flysheet should keep the wet stuff outside in all but the worst weather.
Read our full Vango F10 Project Hydrogen review .
5. alpkit soloist 1-person backpacking tent.
The Alpkit Soloist is a 1-person, 3-season backpacking tent has, with a semi-geodesic shape, which makes it really sturdy, even in severely wet and windy conditions. Simple and quick to pitch and drop, the Soloist packs away nice and compactly, and it’s light and easy to carry on the trails.
At two metres, the interior length of the standard size is large enough for most people to lie down comfortably, but taller backpackers can opt for the extra-large version. The design incorporates a reasonably generous porch area – it’s not really big enough to cook in during times of driving rain when the outer door would need to be closed, but you can do some food prep, and there’s more than enough room for wet and dirty boots or a damp pack.
There’s a lack of storage pockets on the inside of the tent, which would make organisation easier. The HH rating isn’t as high as some other backpacking tents, but it performed well in heavy weather in Scotland. In warmer months, the Soloist works without a flysheet. And for all the wild campers out there, the flysheet is kelp coloured, which makes it ideal for discreet camping.
Read our full Alpkit Soloist review .
6. sierra designs high route 1 3000.
Need an ultra-lightweight tent for hiking adventures? The Sierra Designs High Route 1 3000 1P tent is made for just that scenario. In fact, thanks to a smart design twist that we're amazed nobody's thought of before, it's only suitable for hikers. To keep it light and packable, this tent doesn't come with poles; instead, you pitch it using your own trekking poles for support.
That's a brilliant idea, frankly, but we should warn you that you'll need decent poles; we tried it with cheap and flimsy ones, and it wouldn't stand up properly, but got much better results with higher-quality poles. Sierra Designs insists that pitching is simple and intuitive, but we'd caution that it takes a bit of practice to get right. Breaking camp is quick and easy, though, and in between, you'll enjoy a roomy and well-specced tent that's versatile in its pitching options.
Read our full Sierra Designs High Route 1 3000 1P review .
7. alpkit ordos 2.
Lightweight and with a small pack size, the Alpkit Ordos 2 tent is versatile and well-priced – even if you add the extra footprint, which we'd suggest you do. The tried-and-tested semi-geodesic shape is reliably weatherproof and gives enough headroom not to feel claustrophobic, although this is on the small side for two people. It's nice and simple to pitch, with helpful colour coding making the put-up process even quicker. The mesh inner can be used alone on hot, dry nights, too.
Read our full Alpkit Ordos 2 tent review
Best for summer
8. msr hubba hubba nx.
Despite the cheeky name, this award-winning MSR backpacking tent is all business. The hub pole design cleverly maximises the usable space inside the tent, including the head and elbow room, while ensuring it stays stable. There’s also a breathable mesh canopy offering up unrestricted views of the scenery surrounding you. That, combined with a cross-ventilating flysheet, works to a) keep condensation at bay and b) boost airflow. That’s ideal for taking the edge off hot, sticky nights during summer backpacking trips. Built-in rain gutters are a godsend during wet weather trips, though in general, we’d recommend the Hubba Hubba for warm weather trips.
How to buy the best backpacking tent for you
Weight is paramount while travelling, as you'll find even lightweight tents seem to get heavier and heavier with each extra mile you carry them. Pack size is also important for longer trips, especially in more rugged countries. Ideally, you'll be able to fit your tent pack (either whole or split it up with your mates) into your hiking backpack , but it's not uncommon for backpackers to strap it to the outside. The best backpacking tents should also be waterproof and durable enough to withstand blustery weather and go up quickly and come down in a jiffy.
While you'll generally want to prioritise weight savings, there's a balance to be had with comfort and features – a little extra internal space could save your sanity on longer trips. Things like mesh windows, pockets for keeping floor space clear, and porches for stashing kit in rainy weather can all help eke out extra room and make things that much more comfortable. When you're spending long days on the trail, a good night’s sleep is important for helping you to rest and recover.
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Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well , and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews ) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.
- Pat Kinsella Editor T3 Outdoors
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The Best Camping Tents
Whether you’re thinking of hitting the road or staying close to home for your next car-camping adventure, you and your loved ones will need a comfortable place to sleep.
After researching nearly 100 tents, talking to tent designers and tent-pole manufacturers, and sleeping in a total of 51 tents on 12 weekend camping trips over seven years, we’ve concluded that the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 Tent is the best car-camping tent for two people, and the Kelty Wireless 6 is the best choice for most families.
Everything we recommend
Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 Tent
The best camping tent for two.
Easy to set up and pack away, the Mineral King 3 is a lightweight, two-door tent with a generous footprint and a sturdy dome shape. It’s the perfect choice for three-season multipurpose camping.
Kelty Wireless 6 Tent
The best camping tent for families.
Spacious and easy to pitch, this dome tent also has other features most families need: two large doors, roomy vestibules, and an affordable price. The tradeoffs: bulky fiberglass poles and flimsy stakes.
Marmot Tungsten 4-Person Tent
Higher price, more space for two.
With nearly 60 square feet of floor space plus two large vestibules, the Tungsten 4 is roomier than our top-pick tent for couples. It also costs more, though, and is less forgiving of a careless set-up.
Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent
A cheap but reliable tent for couples and families.
Great for backyard overnights, this simple dome-style tent is for anyone who doesn't want to spend more than $150 on a tent but also doesn't want to buy another one next year. It has a partial rain fly, but only one door and no vestibule.
The North Face Wawona 6 Tent (2023)
A family tent with a spare room.
This dome-style tent has nearly vertical walls, high ceilings, and a single vestibule the size of an actual mudroom. It’s also straightforward to set up, and it is made with sturdy, light materials. It’s expensive, but you get value for your money.
REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent
A hardier tent for two people.
A full rain cover, two vestibules, and an extra-sturdy pole structure make this the best choice for couples who want to get outside in any weather. It’s pricey, though, and unless the other couples’ tents we recommend, it doesn’t include a footprint.
REI Co-op Base Camp 6 Tent
A hardier tent for families.
A full rain cover, two vestibules, and an extra-sturdy pole structure make this the best choice for families who want to get outside in any weather. It's the most expensive of our picks, though.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 Tent is the best car-camping tent choice for couples. It has everything you need for three-season camping, with the bonus of being light enough to double as an occasional backpacking tent. Although it’s designed to accommodate three people—hence the “3” in its name—we found that at 42.5 square feet, the tent is more comfortable for two, plus gear and maybe a medium-size dog. A classic polyester dome tent, the Mineral King 3 uses two high-quality pre-bent aluminum poles, which maximize head and shoulder space, making this tent feel less cramped than other dome tents we tested. Two large doors provide easy entry and exit, and a vestibule—that’s camping speak for “mudroom”—outside each door adds significant sheltered storage. The Mineral King 3 has a full rain fly, which you can roll up halfway or completely remove for epic stargazing. It also comes with a groundsheet (aka footprint) to protect the tent floor.
The Kelty Wireless 6 is a spacious tent that is easy to pitch, and it offers solid weather protection and durability for a reasonable price. Like the Mineral King 3, it has a simple, dome-style design that maximizes livability and minimize headaches. With 87 square feet of interior space, plus 28 square feet of vestibule space, the polyester tent fits four adults comfortably, or two adults with two or three children, with plenty of room to store gear and muddy boots. (As its name indicates, it’s meant to house six people, but we wouldn’t recommend that.) The Wireless 6 has two large doors and a full rain fly. Like most tents we saw in its price range, the Wireless 6 uses cheaper materials: Its poles (two, plus a “brow” pole that supports the two vestibules) are fiberglass, and its stakes are too light for their size (two bent during testing). Unlike the competition, this tent is functional, durable, and a joy to inhabit in most weather conditions. (We did notice that the fly took longer to dry than others we tested; don’t put it away while it’s still damp, or it’ll mildew.) It packs into a duffle with a handy shoulder strap and weighs about 17 pounds—manageable for most people across short distances. As with most six-person tents we’ve seen, this tent’s footprint is sold separately.
Though the Marmot Tungsten 4-Person Tent lacks the Mineral King 3’s adaptable fly, which makes access and protection from the elements such a breeze, the Tungsten 4 provides more living space and equal protection against the elements. A full rain fly with easy-attach color-coded clips covers the tent body and adds two large vestibules. Like the Mineral King 3, the Tungsten has aluminum poles that are connected at the top (for lightning-quick pitching) and pre-bent, which increases the dome tent’s headroom. With pentagonal doors and a fly scaffolded by two brow poles—as opposed to the Mineral King 3’s single one—this tent provides excellent shielding from multidirectional wind and rain, providing you follow the setup instructions faithfully. The Tungsten 4’s poles are bent at a more acute angle and closer to the ground, which, we discovered, can cause the tent to collapse in windy conditions if you don’t attach the poles to the fly using the Velcro tabs running under the seams. You can also set up the tent without the fly while retaining some privacy, since the tent body has a high polyester wall on one side. Like the Mineral King 3, this tent comes with a footprint.
The best-selling Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent has a footprint larger (100 square feet) than that of our top-pick tent for families, but it felt smaller because it has a lower ceiling, no vestibule, and only one door. Nevertheless, it still comfortably accommodates four people, and it’s a roomy choice for two. This no-nonsense tent is intuitive to set up, has mesh on the top halves of two walls, includes a partial rain fly that’s easy to put on and stake out, and feels cheery inside and out. (We don’t recommend the smaller version of this tent for couples who might actually take it on the road; it was just too flimsy in our tests.) Also note that this tent does not come with its own groundsheet. Coleman says that the tent doesn’t need one, probably because its floor is a crinkly (though tough) tarp-like polyethylene, not a taped-seam polyester as in our other picks.
The North Face Wawona 6 costs $200 more than the Wireless 6, but if you can swing the price, the tent offers a superior combination of livable space, smart design, and durable, high-quality materials (aluminum and heavy-duty polyester and mesh). Its fly extends into a huge front vestibule that can store large items like bikes, or even accommodate a table and chairs. Adults over 6 feet tall will be able to walk upright inside this tent—which has almost-vertical walls that can easily accommodate beds, cribs, and cots—as well as in the vestibule. We also appreciated the tent’s construction, which combines good ventilation (the upper part of the canopy walls are mesh) with campsite privacy (those mesh bits are covered by the fly, which reaches only halfway down the tent on the back and sides). And this tent is easy to set up and pack down, especially considering its size. (It comes with a carrying bag equipped with duffle-style handles.) You’re unlikely to find a similar-sized tent that matches the Wawona’s quality and features for less money—most comparable tents we tested cost much more. As with most six-person tents, the Wawona 6’s footprint is sold separately.
The REI Co-op Base Camp 4 and Base Camp 6 tents have been temporarily phased out for the season. They are set to return in spring 2024.
Car campers who plan to brave miserable weather will appreciate the extra strength and protection of the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent . The main bodies of our other picks are structured with two main poles with added support from smaller brow poles. The Base Camp, by contrast, has four full-size aluminum struts woven throughout it, somewhat like a basket, plus an additional brow pole that frames the front entrance and supports the larger of the two vestibules. The Base Camp also offers more privacy compared with our other picks—with or without the rain fly. Our other favorite features are the tent’s two wide doors, which you can open halfway from either direction or open fully (you can tuck the doors into “roof pockets” to keep them out of the way), turning the tent into a useful beach tent or sun shade.
Families who regularly pitch their tent in rainy locales need a wind-fighting tent with a good-size vestibule for storing wet shoes and gear, as well as a full rain fly for added weather protection. With almost 45 feet of vestibule space and four stability-enhancing criss-crossing poles, the next size up of REI’s Base Camp, the Base Camp 6 Tent , offers the best combination of space and features among the six tents we tested that fit those criteria. A footprint for each model is sold separately.
Why you should trust us, who this is for, how we picked, how (and where) we tested, best camping tent for two people: mountain hardwear mineral king 3 tent, best camping tent for families: kelty wireless 6 person tent, runner-up tent for two people: marmot tungsten 4-person tent, best budget tent: coleman sundome 6-person tent, upgrade tent for families: north face wawona 6 tent, also great for unpredictable weather: rei co-op base camp 4 tent and base camp 6 tent, other good tents, what to look forward to, the competition, care, use, and maintenance.
An avid hiker, camper, and long-haul road-tripper, Claire Wilcox has slept in (and occasionally improvised) tents in 11 states. She covers outdoor gear for Wirecutter and worked on the most recent update of this guide, testing couples’ tents and family tents. She lives on Oahu, Hawaii.
A senior staff writer at Wirecutter, Kit Dillon has written about everything from backpacks and cooking gear to luggage and road-tripping . When he was younger, he worked for five years on oil rigs as an NDT (non-destructive testing) inspector, testing metal and welds for signs of corrosion, rust, and whatever other breakdowns and chaos might happen to the steel in the ocean. It is oddly relevant work for testing aluminum tent poles.
This guide also builds on the work of Kalee Thompson, a senior editor at Wirecutter.
For this guide, we focused on tents that suit the most common terrains you’re likely to encounter when car-camping—grassy lawns or clearings, beaches, dirt campsites, and basic platforms—in spring, summer, and fall. We’re not looking at tents designed for such specialized activities as mountaineering, backpacking, or winter camping, though some of our recommendations have cross-over potential.
Even if you’re not seeking any extreme-weather adventures, you’ll still need something that can withstand whatever the elements throw your way. The tents we discuss here are designed to keep you comfortable in wind, rain, and even light snow. (If you find yourself in a lightning storm, it’s best to seek shelter in your car or abandon the adventure for a motel, especially if you’re camping in an exposed area.)
Finding a small, light tent is the logical approach when you’re backpacking. But with car camping—the industry term for what most people consider just camping—you’ll likely be parking next to your campsite and unloading. If you won’t be carrying your tent more than a couple hundred feet, more space means more comfort (as well as more room for your stuff).
After putting in about 40 hours studying online reviews and company websites, as well as spending time consulting with frequent campers (both with and without kids) and considering our own diverse car-camping experiences, we evaluated the options (about 100, in the course of the past seven years) according to the following criteria:
The right capacity: Tent makers measure tent capacity by how many people can fit in them sardine-style, lying inside mummy bags. That means you can fit six adults in a six-person tent—but you probably wouldn’t want to do that, because those adults would be sleeping hip to hip, with little spare room for gear.
We concluded that the best option for two people is actually a large three-person, or smaller four-person, tent that’s 40 to 60 square feet in size. For families with three to five members, we concluded that the best option is a tent rated for six people that’s between 80 and 100 square feet. Also, the height should be at least six feet, which allows most adults to comfortably stand upright inside. “When you camp with kids, you camp with a lot of gear,” Helen Olsson , author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids , told us. Olsson has three kids, a dog, and a six-foot-two husband. Bigger is better when it comes to car camping, she said: “Look for a base-camp-style tent that is meant for when you pull up in your car and pitch your tent right there.” All of the tents we considered fall into that category.
A dome shape: Usually designed around two- or three-pole arches, dome-style tents tend to be stronger than cabin-style designs, which maximize ceiling height by sacrificing some structural integrity. The dome shape does reduce overall livable space, but it’s better at deflecting winds and shedding rain, something you’re likely to appreciate if an unexpected storm hits. Our picks are all dome-style tents.
Adequate weatherproofing and durability: A good dome-style tent should be able to withstand high winds and driving rain without pitching or collapsing. We assumed that most car campers would likely not be camping in snow, so we focused on three-season models instead. Most of the tents we looked at could handle an unexpected flurry or a coating of frost, but we wouldn’t intentionally take them on a winter-camping trip.
Tent makers generally treat the fabrics with a water-repellent coating described in millimeters; 1,200 mm to 3,000 mm is the typical range found on family tents. That number does not refer to the thickness of the coating or the fabric; instead, it measures a specific test of water pressure , namely, how many millimeters of water can sit on top of the material before water starts leaking through. (As a Coleman product manager told us, “Nothing’s waterproof, not even submarines. Given the right conditions anything will leak.”) A higher number means better water resistance, but such stronger coatings aren’t always necessary: As this MSR blog post explains , “the more coating you add, the heavier and more rigid the fabric becomes, and—after a point—the more susceptible to tearing.” A typical umbrella has a rating of only 420 mm, the company’s experts point out, and it does just fine at keeping you dry.
It’s natural to focus on the quality of a tent’s rain fly—you need that piece to work when the skies open up. But according to our experts, the durability of the floor of your tent is actually more important. Tent designer Bob Howe, who has developed models for nearly every major tent maker, including Easton, Marmot, The North Face, REI, and Sierra Designs, said that when it comes to a tent floor, two lightweight layers are often stronger than one heavy layer; he suggested using a groundsheet or footprint, even with a high-quality tent floor. If the tent you buy doesn’t come with a footprint (two of our recommended tents, the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 and the Marmot Tungsten 4 , do), we recommend purchasing a companion footprint , if one is available. A footprint doesn’t take up much space, is relatively inexpensive, and is much easier to repair or replace than a tent bottom if it tears. A basic tarp can do in a pinch.
The right materials for the job: On most tents, the walls and flies are made of either nylon or polyester . Nylon weighs less but more susceptible to UV damage, which makes it better for backpacking, when a tent spends most of its daylight hours packed up. Car campers generally leave their tents up for much longer periods of time, increasing the material’s UV exposure. As polyester is stiffer and heavier than nylon but not as susceptible to UV damage, Howe told us, and it doesn’t absorb water like nylon does, it’s generally better for car camping. It’s also less expensive.
To compare tent fabrics, you also need to know their overall rip strength. For most fabrics, rip strength is expressed as a measurement of the diameter of the fibers in their thread, or a denier—the higher the denier, the stronger the fabric. We found 40 denier up to 150 denier to be typical for car-camping tents; you can read more about these measurements in gear manufacturer MSR’s blog post and in this Outside article .
As for poles, Howe explained to us that each material has its advantages and drawbacks: Aluminum poles are far lighter and slide together more easily but cost more, while fiberglass-and-steel poles are often trickier to fit together and can leave splinters in your palms. They can, however, be stronger in high winds.
Ease of setup: We looked for dummy-proof tents that were intuitive to set up and that a lone person could erect fairly quickly. If you’ve ever arrived at a campsite after dark with two small kids who have been stewing in the backseat for hours, you know that dealing with a tent is often a one-person job. We’ve also found that a car-camping tent is the kind of item your friends may want to borrow from time to time. Those friends may well be novice campers, so we wanted something that the uninitiated but reasonably intelligent could erect, even if the original instructions had disappeared long ago. (You’re going to lose the instructions. Everyone loses the instructions.)
We also wanted self-standing tents, which can stay up on their own. Even so, you should, ideally, stake down each corner securely; in some crowded campgrounds, however, finding a flat spot with soil soft enough to do that can be difficult. A tent that requires staking to stand up—especially a larger, six-person tent—is unwieldy, and it’ll be impossible to set up on a hard surface such as blacktop or on raised wooden tent decks.
It is also important to consider the way in which the tent poles attach to the tent. Many of our picks use grommet attachments, which are more secure and simple to repair than key attachments if anything should break.
Some of our tent picks also have guy-line systems that secure their outer rain fly—although most people probably won’t need to use those often. Guy-line systems are somewhat unique to each tent, with every model boasting its own specific rope bites and tie-downs. (Kit scoured YouTube tutorials and found this video to be the most informative tutorial on guy lines. With this video and a little practice, you’ll soon be pitching tents like a pro.)
Affordability: Car-camping tents should be relatively inexpensive. They don’t need to be the top of the line or made of the lightest possible materials or the most advanced fabrics (something you’d likely look for in a pure backpacking tent). We decided that the tents for this guide should not be precious items—but they shouldn’t be disposable, either. When we researched couples’ tents in 2022, we found no tents below $150 worth considering; our cap was $400. For our 2023 family tent testing, after completing our research we realized that $500 was now the average price for a good-quality tent. Below this amount, the flaws and tradeoffs started to mount. Still, we felt that $500 was a lot to pay for a family tent, so we looked for options that were more affordable and didn’t sacrifice too much.
Extra features: Stake design, pole strength and arrangements, rain-fly tie-downs, door construction, zipper strength, and gear-loft placements all play a role in the overall comfort and enjoyment of your tent. We also considered privacy, vestibules, extra headroom, and any other bonuses.
Once we had our criteria nailed down, we scoured Amazon reviews of four- and six-person tents, as well as owner reviews on retailer sites such as Backcountry , Cabela’s , Campmor , Dick’s Sporting Goods , Eastern Mountain Sports , L.L.Bean , and REI , plus professional reviews from GearJunkie and GearLab . We perused the lines of outdoor companies like Big Agnes, Marmot, and The North Face. And we studied the offerings of big-box stores including Costco, Sears, Target, and Walmart. We then requested test samples of the models that met our criteria and also had a consistent record of positive reviews.
For earlier incarnations of this guide, we tested tents in Arizona (alongside Lake Mead and just south of the Hualapai reservation , near the Grand Canyon) and southern California (near Joshua Tree National Park; at the Mountain Oak Campground , an hour or so east of Los Angeles; and at Wheeler Gorge Campground , outside Ojai, California).
After our longtime top-pick tent for two people ran into some stock issues in 2021, we researched new models and redesigns, and we assembled a batch of small tents for testing in March 2022, on Oahu. Over two blustery March weekends, we pitched eight tents in an exposed ocean-fronting yard on the northwestern coast of the island by Kaena Point State Park, leaving the tents up for 48 hours to face the salt air, the wind, and the rain while we tested. During this period, winds rose up to 35 to 40 knots, and we experienced passing showers as well as direct sunlight and 80-degree temperatures. To mimic heavier rain and to test the tent’s ability to withstand soggy ground conditions, we also soaked our tents with a garden hose. A few weeks later, we brought the front-runners to a platform in an area that had higher elevation, near the Waianae Mountain Range, and camped out overnight in intermittent but consistent rainfall.
In 2022–2023, we tested 15 six-person tents on Oahu, pitching them once again in both coastal and higher mountain locations, where they encountered the full range of Hawaii’s mercurial winter weather patterns, including winds ranging from 10 to 40 mph, passing squalls, direct sun, and good old fashioned buckets of rain. Temperatures ranged from the 50s at night to the 80s during the day.
To test the tents, we first opened them, splayed out their parts, and tried to put them together without consulting the instructions. We assembled and disassembled the tents on all of our testing sites multiple times. We tried the rain fly for each tent as well, one time rushing to get several of them up during an unexpected rainstorm at night. When heavy trade winds buffeted our Oahu-coast testing site, we pitched each tent in full face of the blast. We then rotated the tents looking for structural weaknesses, and we tested their guy lines and tabs to see which tents had the best and most intuitive design for withstanding wind.
Throughout all our testing, we wanted to know how it felt to be inside the tents for long periods of time. Did we feel claustrophobic or rejuvenated? If we had to spend a day in the tent during a storm, would it be comfortable? After first removing the models that failed the structural tests, we slept, watched the stars, and ate our meals in all of the tents, as well as planned hikes from them.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 Tent was the favorite tent of testers at our Oahu coastal and mountain locations. Through rainy nights and soggy mornings, on windy afternoons, and under an intense midday sun, this tent’s primarily polyester mesh body, two large doors, and adaptable polyester fly kept us dry, well ventilated, and in good spirits.
We were surprised at first to see the Mineral King 3 come out on top because it was the smallest tent in our test group. But all our testers, including our tallest panelists, gravitated toward this tent.
What sets the Mineral King 3 apart is its combination of easy setup, solid weather resistance, and livability in variable conditions. It comes with its own footprint, and is made of high-quality materials that are easy to handle. Simply put, it was the most effective, user-friendly tent in any situation we encountered. It also delivered a little something extra: Not only did the Mineral King 3 keep us sheltered in shifting weather, but key design features—such as a barely-there mesh canopy, generous vestibule space, and a well-placed toggle on top of the rain fly—kept us connected to the environment.
One night during testing, for example, clouds loomed in the distance with clear skies overhead. After we pitched the tent, the Mineral King 3’s adaptable fly let us leave half the mesh dome uncovered. We watched as night fell and the first stars appeared. At the first sign of rain, it took only a few seconds—and a quick hand stuck outside the tent—to unfurl the fly and secure it for a dry night’s sleep. When we awoke, we could roll back one part of the vestibule, make coffee, and watch the sky lighten even though it was still raining.
Despite having the smallest capacity of the tents we tested—42.5 square feet—the Mineral King 3 easily fits two people with a full-size mattress, or two sleeping pads, and gear. Two large vestibules add nearly 40 square feet combined—that is, 18.75 square feet on either side.
Setting up this tent is simple: You stake out the four corners, extend the tent’s two pre-connected poles, and dock them into grommets. The tent’s body attaches to the poles via plastic clips, and a third pole (the “brow”) fits into two grommets sewn into a seam above the tent’s two doors. These now-common clip-style setups are generally intuitive and can be accomplished in minutes. Certainly this was true of the Mineral King 3. Under good conditions one person pitched the tent in under five minutes. In high winds, it took us 10 minutes to pitch and fully secure the tent fly with extra lines and stakes.
All three poles—two main poles and the shorter brow pole—are made of strong, lightweight aluminum and come pre-bent and pre-connected. The bend in the poles has a subtle yet significant affect on the tent’s structure and interior feel: As you clip the tent fabric to the poles to create the dome, bends pull the mesh outward in the head and shoulder area. Where traditional dome tents often feel cramped, the Mineral King 3 offers a little extra space. Only one other couples’ tent we tested had this feature—our runner-up, the Marmot Tungsten 4—and we found it made both tents more livable.
We also appreciated the shepherd’s hook stakes that come with the tent. Most of the tents we tested came with basic L-shaped stakes, which tended to spin around in the soil and slip a line. The shepherd’s hook design, in contrast, held lines secure.
Underneath the fly, the Mineral King 3 has a full mesh dome with a waterproof, tape-seamed bathtub-style polyester floor. The overall feeling inside the tent is airy and comfortable. The tent doors are nearly wall-sized, and after you unzip them, you simply stuff them into pockets, rather than having to roll and toggle-tie the fabric. Another two hanging pockets plus loops for a ceiling hammock provide simple yet effective interior storage.
The Mineral King 3’s fly attaches intuitively with plastic buckles and has well-placed guy tabs. You can secure the fly to the poles with Velcro ties underneath the fly, so that the extra lines anchored the whole tent, not just the thin protective fabric, but we only needed to do so in very windy conditions. When the fly is fully deployed, the tent has two vestibules, which provide additional gear storage and also help ventilate the tent in inclement weather. And in a stroke of design brilliance, a small loop sewn into the top of the fly makes it possible to roll up one half of the fly, exposing the full mesh canopy while still providing shade and privacy.
When the weather permits, it’s fun to omit the fly entirely, but a word to the wise for those planning a fly-less night: Besides providing protection from rain, the fly also helps manage condensation. Though condensation (video) occurs in all conditions, it’s worse when your surroundings are wet and humid, and anytime you have a large temperature difference between the inside and outside of a tent. But if your tent has a breathable inner layer, like the mesh walls of the Mineral King 3, condensation will gather on the fly instead of on the interior of the tent itself.
At $350, the Mineral King 3 isn’t cheap. But it’s one of the least expensive tents we found that had no significant drawbacks and will truly cover your bases for three-season camping. The tent also comes with its own footprint, a groundsheet that protects the tent from abrasion, which we recommend that you have.
Weighing just 7 pounds, the tent is light enough to double for backpacking trips, especially if you divide the pieces among hikers.
Note: The Mineral King 3 was the only tent in our test group free of fire-retardant chemicals. That means it’s less likely to contain potentially hazardous materials, but it is also less fireproof than tents coated in flame retardants. As always, it’s a good idea to pitch your tent far away from any open fires.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Our only quibble with the Mineral King 3 is that it comes with only six stakes. (Our runner-up pick comes with eight.) Six is enough to secure the tent and fly but not to fully secure the tent’s extra lines in very windy conditions. This shouldn’t be an issue in most situations, but if you’re headed into a particularly windy place or simply want some backup, we suggest picking up four extra tent stakes at your local outdoor shop or online. These inexpensive stakes are comparable to the ones that accompany the Mineral King 3; these slightly more expensive stakes will serve you well in any car-camping terrain.
Claimed weight (including fly, tent poles, and carry bag): 7 pounds 1.2 ounces
Claimed packed size: 25 by 7 inches
Number of doors: two
Number of vestibules: two
Maximum interior height: 48 inches
Tent floor area: 42.5 square feet
Footprint included: yes
After researching 30 six-person tents and testing 15 side by side on a total of five trips, we chose the Kelty Wireless 6 as the best entry-level camping tent for most families. It’s spacious, easy to set up, has weather protection, and is durable, all at an affordable price. The Wireless 6 lacks some of the premium materials found in pricier tents, but it features solid workmanship and should provide dependable, comfortable shelter in most three-season camping situations.
Like our couples’ tent pick , the Wireless 6 is a dome-shaped tent with a tried and true two-pole design. It has an interior footprint of 87 square feet, which sleeps four adults on single pads, or two adults and two or three children, and can accommodate a crib. It has two large doors, and a peak height of 6-foot-3. That wasn’t the tallest we encountered—the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 and the Alps Mountaineering Camp Creek 6 each topped out at 7 feet—but it’s enough space for most adults to maneuver standing up. The tent comes with a full rain fly that adds two vestibules for storage (each 14 square feet), totaling 115 square feet of livable space—which is fairly generous yet still practical for most campsites.
The Wireless 6 goes up easily, using the same kind of intuitive pole and clip method as our couples’ pick. The fly is equally simple to attach and orient with color-coded clips. A single person can pitch the tent in 10 to 15 minutes. (Users under 5-foot-5 may need some help fastening the highest clip. At 5-foot-3, Claire managed with a little hop.) Instead of grommets or keys, reinforced fabric sleeves hold the tent-pole ends, a particularly thoughtful feature that suits the tent’s budget fiberglass-and-steel poles. This type of pole tends to be less flexible and bulkier than pricier aluminum, and it can be a pain to handle.
Like most dome-style tents, the Wireless 6 withstands wind like a champ—it fared noticeably better than the Camp Creek 6 in 15-mph gusts. The continuous curve of the dome shape allows for wind to pass over and around it. You can also get a nice cross breeze going by leaving the vestibules open. On sunny days and clear nights, take off the fly and enjoy the sky through the tent’s clear mesh canopy. Some testers, though, thought the tent was stuffy when the fly was fully closed and the sun was out.
The Wireless 6 kept us dry in everything from scattered showers to serious downpours. As always, the vestibule is useful in rain: It gives you extra breathing room and a place to store boots—or tired feet still wearing boots.
The Wireless 6’s drawbacks have mainly to do with material quality. First, it uses fiberglass poles. These can be as strong, or even more so, than aluminum poles (especially cheap ones), but they’re always bulkier, heavier, and not as nice to handle. However, the Wireless 6’s poles were the best fiberglass ones we tested—they left no splinters, unlike those on the Camp Creek 6 or the Copper Canyon LX 6.
Though the Wireless’s fly kept water out of the tent’s interior, it took longer to fully dry once the rain stopped than some others we tested. It uses a 1200mm waterproof coating on 68 denier fabric, which didn’t seem to bead as well as higher-rated fabrics, such as those on the The North Face Wawona 6 or the REI Co-op Base Camp 6 (each of those have 1500mm coatings). If you don’t have time to let the fly dry before you pack the Wireless in its duffle, we recommend laying it out when you get home so it doesn't mildew in storage.
We were not particularly impressed by the quality of the Wireless 6’s stakes: They felt light, and two of the eight bent during our testing. The Wireless 6 also doesn’t come with a footprint, so you’ll have to purchase or make that separately. But to be fair, only one six-person tent we tested comes with a footprint, and that tent costs $950!
Claimed weight (including fly and tent poles): 17 pounds 3 ounces
Claimed packed size: 27 by 8 inches
Maximum interior height: 76 inches
Tent floor area: 86.9 square feet
Footprint included: no
If the Mineral King 3 is out of stock, or if you’d like a slightly larger tent, we recommend the Marmot Tungsten 4 . The Tungsten 4 shares many of the Mineral King 3’s best features, and provides 10 square feet of additional living space as well as excellent weather protection—as long as you set it up properly. Like our top pick, the Tungsten 4 is a sturdy, two-door dome-style tent that can be deployed in about 5 minutes. It uses high-quality materials such as aluminum poles, breathable mesh, and water-resistant polyester fabric, and it comes with a full fly and a footprint. The Tungsten 4’s larger size accounts for the higher price tag (about $40 more), but campers who would like that extra room may find the expense worthwhile.
The Mineral King 3 and the Tungsten 4 have similar shapes, and their pitching process is nearly identical, except that the Tungsten 4 uses two brow poles instead of one. Both tents feature pre-connected poles, and they use the same clipping method to attach the tent body. Marmot provides color-coded buckles to help users orient the Tungsten’s fly, a feature the Mineral King 3 lacks.
Like the Mineral King 3, the Tungsten 4 has a mesh canopy, though the opaque polyester part of its walls go higher, and provide more privacy, than the Mineral King’s. Its tape-seamed bathtub floor and fly had no problem handling rain. The Tungsten’s fly is not adaptable in the same way the Mineral King 3’s is, but it is treated for extra UV protection, which should help lengthen the tent’s lifespan.
In terms of how the two tents feel, the Marmot Tungsten 4 is more geared toward hunkering down and providing stalwart defense against wind, rain, and sun. In contrast to the Mineral King 3’s triangular vestibules, the Tungsten 4’s vestibules are trapezoidal, opening via a central door with protected areas on either side. This design does a better job shielding the tent from incoming—and sideways—wind and rain. The Tungsten’s two brow poles create an especially effective awning over the tent door, so very little water gets in when someone comes or goes.
Marmot uses color coding smartly to help you position the tent as well as set it up. Both of the doors zip open to the side that’s color-coded blue, as opposed to zipping open to opposite sides. This means the vestibules equally protect the doors, rather than providing opposite entries and exits—the latter creates a situation where, in stormy weather, one side of the tent is always more exposed to blustering wind or rain. In other words, one partner—or one partner’s gear—is always going to get a dose of weather when they head out. The Tungsten 4 design equalizes exposure and protection.
In the current version of the Marmot Tungsten 4, we did notice a weakness in the tent’s pole design absent in earlier versions of the tent: The pre-bent joints seem sensitive to the wind. Here's what we observed. Without the fly, the tent’s poles were stable in windy condition. With the added weight of the fly, the poles sometimes twisted, causing the tent to accordion inward and lose its shape wherever it was most exposed. If we Velcroed the fly directly to the poles in these areas—as the directions say to—the tent regained its structural integrity. We suspect that the bends in the current Tungsten’s poles, which are lower to the ground than in the Mineral King 3’s poles, are too acute. (Neither the Mineral King 3 nor any straight-poled dome tent we tested collapsed in this way.) Also, like the Mineral King 3, this tent is short on stakes. Ideally, Marmot would provide another six, in addition to the eight that come with it.
Like our top pick, the Tungsten 4 comes with a footprint. Unlike our top pick, the Tungsten 4 is coated with flame retardants.
Claimed minimum weight (including fly and tent poles): 7 pounds 15 ounces
Claimed packed size: 24.8 by 8.3 inches
Maximum interior height: 52 inches
Tent floor area: 52.7 square feet
The square footprint, ample windows, and functional fly of the Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent make it a good choice for occasional or backyard campers who want an inexpensive tent that is easy to put up, and looks and feels reasonably nice to camp in.
Unlike some cheap tents we’ve tested over the years, the Coleman Sundome has a simple shape and pole design that should be easy for even inexperienced campers to figure out. The base is a square: Two identical fiberglass poles feed through sleeves on the tent roof to form an X. Pegs at the corners of the tent slip into the ends of the poles, and then the dome-shaped tent pops up (video) .
The separate fly, which covers the upper half of the tent, uses a third, shorter “brow” pole to form protective peaks over the door and the back window. In our tests, an experienced camper took only about six minutes on the first try to set up the tent body alone and stake it out. Getting the fly placed and staked properly took about five more minutes. That’s pretty fast.
Measuring 10 by 10 feet, the Sundome covers an area larger than that of our family-tent top pick though its lower roof leaves it with less headroom. (The Sundome’s center height is exactly six feet, while the Wireless 6 and The North Face Wawona 6 each reach six-foot-four.) The Sundome has only one door, which can be inconvenient, especially for someone trying to slip out of the tent without waking anyone.
Like the REI Co-op Base Camp tents , the Sundome combines high polyester walls with mesh higher up to facilitate stargazing, should you use the tent without the fly, without sacrificing privacy (two of the four walls have mesh from about thigh height up to the roof). That mesh also keeps the tent feeling airy and cool in hot climates.
The biggest material difference between the Sundome and our other picks is its crunchy, tarp-like polyethylene floor. The other tents in this guide all have bathtub-style tape-seamed polyester floors, which is the standard among high-quality tents. The Sundome’s tarp is clearly a budget material, but for what it was, we found it user-friendly. It’s easy to mop up after wet paws and spills, and it doesn’t hold moisture. It’s unlikely to be as durable, though, as the softer, stronger polyester found in our other picks.
Coleman makes no dedicated footprints for its tents—the idea being that the polyethylene is tough enough not to need one. (Still, we suggest that you buy a groundsheet.) The tent has two small, internal pockets—fewer than on any of our other picks—and a loop at the ceiling center to hang a small, lightweight light. It also comes with a little doormat. The tent weighs just 16 pounds, less than any other family tent we tested for this guide.
Although our test tent lasted through two moderate showers with no leaking, be aware that a couple of Amazon buyers have experienced leaking in rainstorms and poles breaking in high winds . When it comes to tents, you tend to get pretty close to what you pay for. If you’re likely to be camping in downpours or high winds, don’t rely on a sub-$150 tent.
Claimed weight (including fly and tent poles): 16 pounds
Claimed packed size: 23.89 by 6.22 inches
Number of doors: one
Number of vestibules: none
Maximum interior height: 72 inches
Tent floor area: 100 square feet
If you can afford to spend more on a family tent, we recommend The North Face Wawona 6 . Everyone who tested this tent loved it, and it’s not hard to understand why. With plenty of interior space, near-vertical walls, and a gigantic vestibule that could accommodate a golf cart, the Wawona feels more like a tiny home than a tent.
At $500, this modified dome-style tent isn’t cheap, but it represents substantial value. Many tents with similar profiles—such as the Big Agnes Dog House 6 —either cost more or require you buy the tent body and attachable vestibule separately. The Wawona doesn’t come with a footprint—few tents this size do—but it’s otherwise all-inclusive, and it is compact considering how much livable space you get. The price also reflects the high quality of the materials, such as the four reinforced aluminum poles, which weigh little yet result in a remarkably strong tent.
The Wawona 6 is more complex to set up than a classic dome-style tent like the Wireless 6, but not by much. We recommend doing it with two people, but one person can manage in about 15 minutes. As with any free-standing tent, with this one you stake out the four corners, and then you feed the two main tent poles through the Wawona’s fabric sleeves, which go halfway down the tent’s body. The North Face’s color-coded poles make this process easy to navigate. Orienting the fly took us a minute on our first try. (We were stubborn and didn’t look at the instructions.) Once you identify the front and back, the process is straightforward. The fly goes up and over the tent body, covering only the upper half of the mesh dome, and then forms the glorious vestibule with the aid of a third pole. Use the extra stakes and guy-lines provided to stabilize the vestibule as much as you need.
Once you set up the Wawona 6, you may not want to leave. Adults as tall as 6-foot-3 can move about this tent standing upright. With a 44-square-foot vestibule, and 86 square feet of interior living space, the tent has plenty of room to house beds, cribs, gear, pets, and camping furniture. Zippered doors can enclose the vestibule fully, so it serves as a separate room for the tent, or you can leave one or both open, so the vestibule can act like a porch or mudroom. The main tent body has a giant front door that’s oriented to make entry and exit easy for all the tent’s occupants at night, and a smaller back window that doubles as a second door.
The Wawona 6’s side-walls are high and straight, but the structure stays very stable in wind thanks to a final pole that wraps around the front and sides—and thanks to the absence of any acute angles in the poles. We were skeptical about the vestibule’s ability to handle wind, since it’s big and supported by a single pole, but it stood fast in 30 mph oceanside gusts and 15 mph hilltop winds.
The Wawona did equally well in rain. Its walls are 75-denier polyester fabric (tougher than the Wireless 6 ’s 68-denier polyester and the same as the REI Co-op Base Camp ’s) that extends about two-thirds up the tent’s sides, and then is topped with mesh. The partial fly does a great job of keeping rain out of the upper, mesh areas, and cleverly placed vents maintain airflow so it never feels too stuffy. (You can also roll up the fly on the two sides to expose the mesh and let in more light.) Thanks to the high opaque walls, users have the privacy to change standing upright and plenty of storage options to stash their gear, including ceiling pockets and a three-pocket back window organizer.
The Wawona 6 uses no flame retardants. This is great for avoiding potential exposure to hazardous chemicals, but you should pitch the tent well away from any open flames.
In terms of flaws, there aren’t much to speak of with the Wawona 6, apart from the price. The North Face offers a limited lifetime warranty on the tent, and will repair most flaws and damage at its discretion.
Some campers might find the Wawona 6’s footprint unwieldy in smaller campsites, or they might simply prefer a tent with a more straightforward design. If you want a six-person tent made with high-quality materials but a traditional profile, we recommend the similarly priced Big Agnes Spicer Peak 6, or Nemo’s Aurora Highrise 6 . MSR’s Habitude 6 is also a good tent, but it costs about $200 more. Unfortunately, you have to buy a separate groundsheet for the Wawona 6 and for most other tents its size as well.
Claimed weight (including fly and tent poles): 20 pounds 5 ounces
Claimed packed size: 32 by 10 inches
Number of vestibules: one
Tent floor area: 86.11 square feet
If you’re a more heavy-duty camper heading into an area with unpredictable weather and can afford to spend a bit more, the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent (for two people) and the REI Co-op Base Camp 6 Tent (for families) are both excellent choices. After many hours of testing, we found that the Base Camps’ reinforced four-pole structure and ultra-spacious interior and vestibules made them the most sturdy, flexible, and reliable models in our test group. (Unlike with our top and runner-up picks for couples, however, you do have to purchase a footprint for your Base Camp 4 tent separately, as well as for the Base Camp 6. REI makes dedicated ones for both the Base Camp 4 and the Base Camp 6 . We recommend that you buy one to protect your tent’s floor.)
Superior vestibule space helped both the Base Camp 4 and the Base Camp 6 rise to the top of their respective test groups. On the Base Camp 4, the two vestibules (front and rear) add up to 44 square feet (the area of the tent itself is 60 square feet). That’s the most of any couples’ tents we tested. As for the Base Camp 6, the vestibule area covered by its front fly and rear fly is also 44 square feet (the interior measures 84 square feet). Only one six-person tent we tested had a larger vestibule: the Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 . (The Big Agnes Big House 6 and the REI Co-op Wonderland 6 also have large vestibules, but you must purchase them separately, for an extra $200 and $125, respectively.)
The Base Camp tents include a low side vent and multiple stuff pockets on the walls and ceiling, which are made of 75D polyester treated with 1500mm of polyurethane waterproofing. Note that these tents are strictly meant for car camping; the Base Camp 4 and the Base Camp 6 weigh 16 and 21 pounds, respectively, so you won’t want to carry either one very far. Both come with storage sacks that you sling over one shoulder.
Both Base Camp tents have two doors and lots of mesh in the main tent body. But unlike the Mineral King 3 and the Tungsten 4, the mesh on each Base Camp tent starts high on the walls—more than 4 feet from the ground. This design is a big plus for people who regularly camp in crowded campgrounds and don’t like to get naked in front of strangers. And you can unzip the front door, remove it, and neatly stash it into one of the tent’s internal pockets—a useful feature if you’re feeling sociable.
The geodesic structure of the Base Camp tents is built to withstand wind and rain. It has two main that thread through sleeves, stretching between the four corners of the tent. Generally, we like clip-on designs better, since those are easier to put together, but in the case of the Base Camp models, the sleeves add extra tension and stability throughout the tent fabric. There are also two poles that arch over each doorway and down the sides of the tent to add extra shape and support; these attach to the tent body with clips. The rain fly has an additional tent pole, too, to support the vestibule. Overall, these poles—all of them aluminum—contribute to a particularly sturdy structure, with or without the rain fly. During our testing, our Base Camp shrugged off both a rainstorm and a desert windstorm as if they were nothing. Despite losing some headroom in comparison with the Kelty Wireless 6 and The North Face Wawona 6 , both of which measure six-foot-four in height, the Base Camp 6 offers a substantial six-foot-two.
If anything happens to your Base Camp, REI’s warranty and replacement program has an impressive reputation. Kit lived in the 2013 version of the larger Base Camp 6 for seven months, and it stayed up the entire time, with the tent poles under constant tension—that is, until two of the poles snapped within a week of each other. After a short phone call, REI offered Kit a full replacement. (This was before Kit started reviewing tents for Wirecutter, so REI didn’t know who he was.)
Base Camp 4:
Claimed weight (including fly and tent poles): 16 pounds 14 ounces
Claimed packed size: 20 by 10 inches
Maximum interior height: 60 inches
Tent floor area: 59.7 square feet
Base Camp 6:
Claimed weight (including fly and tent poles): 20 pounds 10 ounces
Claimed packed size: 24 by 11 inches
Maximum interior height: 74 inches
Tent floor area: 84 square feet
Tents for couples (that is, four-person tents)
If you need to save money and don’t need two doors: Try the Kelty Grand Mesa 4 . When we first tested tents in 2016, the Grand Mesa was one of the few tents with a large mesh canopy. As this design became more common, the Kelty tent became less unusual and ultimately couldn’t compete two-door models, which are more convenient for couples and have better ventilation. We think our top pick is a more well-rounded choice, but if you’re looking for a reasonably priced tent that’s just as easy to pitch, and you’re not fussed about having two doors, the Kelty Grand Mesa 4 is a good choice. It comes with a full rain fly but no footprint.
Tents for families (that is, six-person tents)
If the Coleman Sundome 6 is out of stock: Try the Core 6 Person Straight Wall Cabin Tent . Core Equipment is a relatively new company, popular on Amazon, whose products seem designed to compete directly with products from Coleman, an outdoor legacy brand that has been around 1900. We tested Core’s basic six-person dome-style and cabin-style tents, and each performed as well as the Coleman tent did. (The Core 6 Person Dome Tent that we tested has since been replaced by Core’s 6 Person Dome Plus Tent , which we plan to take a look at.) We can’t yet speak for the long-term durability of the tent—or the company—which is why we’re not making it our budget pick, but we’ll continue testing it.
If the Wireless 6 is out of stock or you’re camping in fair weather and prefer more indoor space: Try the Big Agnes Dog House 6 . Although technically a dome tent like the Wireless 6, the Dog House 6 has walls that are more vertical, and more head and shoulder space as well—its peak height is 80 inches, taller than any of our picks. It also was the most affordable family tent we tested to use high-quality aluminum poles. So why is it not our top pick? Well, the Dog House 6 lacks a full fly and has no vestibule space. Instead, it comes with a pre-attached, non-removable cap fly, and short awnings that don’t do much to protect the entry. We weren’t psyched to be in this tent even in light rain or when the wind picked up significantly.
If The North Face Wawona 6 is out of stock: Try the Big Agnes Spicer Peak 6 or the Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 . Both of these tents are well-structured, dome-style tents with high-quality workmanship and design. We preferred the single huge vestibule of the Wawona 6 to the smaller front and back vestibules on these two tents, but either tent would be a good runner-up. Both contain about 83 square feet of space, but the Aurora has more of a bread-loaf shape with two big doors running lengthwise—great for kids who want to run in and out—and a peak height of six-foot-five, while the Spicer Peak has doors at the narrower ends, and a peak height of six-foot-eight.
For longer stays or families with older kids: Try the REI Co-op Wonderland 6 . This is the redesign of REI Co-op’s beloved Kingdom 6 tent, which was a favorite among many family campers, including Wirecutter’s deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset. Like the old Kingdom, the Wonderland is a delightful wagon-shaped tent with two round doors on either end. It has a massive interior, and comes with a room divider for privacy, good for families with older kids. REI Co-op changed the Wonderland’s pole design to increase its stability in wind, a weakness of the old Kingdom. We don’t yet know how well it stands up over time, but it handled 35 mph winds on the North Shore of Oahu without a problem. The tent has a partial fly and lots of interior storage, but no vestibule—and it costs a hefty $600. You can purchase an attachable mudroom for an additional $125; this substantially increases the footprint of an already large tent if you’re headed to a campsite with limited space.
If you want something that goes up instantly: Try the Coleman 6-Person Instant Cabin , which, thanks to telescoping, pre-attached poles, goes up and comes down much faster (in less than two minutes) than any other tent we tested. It also has no standalone fly, instead relying on a solid roof, which helps make setup easier. The drawback here is that this tent offers less protection from the elements and does less to reduce condensation than models with a separate fly. Although we were impressed by the Instant Cabin’s ease of setup, we thought that it was darker and less well ventilated than the Coleman Sundome 6-Person Tent.
The North Face Wawona 4 , which we used to list in our Other Good Tents section, has been redesigned; it's now made of polyester, not nylon. We’ll take another look at it soon.
We’ve tested (and recommended) Eureka tents in past versions of this guide. In October 2023, Eureka’s parent company, Johnson Outdoors, announced that it was discontinuing the Eureka brand . The product line, including its tents, should remain available through the end of 2024.
Alps Mountaineering Meramac 4-Person : Though this tent was sturdy (its poles were much heavier and of better quality than some of the other fiberglass poles we saw), it has no vestibule, and it didn’t offer as good ventilation as our picks when fully closed.
Eureka Kohana 4 Person Tent : The poles were finicky to insert and left the tent looking decidedly off-kilter.
Sierra Designs Tabernash 4 : We had high hopes for this $150 tent, but the pole (once again, a fiberglass-and-steel design) meant to frame the Tabernash’s doorway and vestibule kept jumping out of its grommet, repeatedly collapsing the only point of entry.
Stoic Madrone 4 Tent : Although the Madrone 4 features lots of fun colors, it didn’t quite match similar tents in its price range in the overall quality of its construction and design.
Coleman 4-Person Pop-Up Tent : The Pop-Up Tent is packed into a 3-foot-wide carrying case that, when opened, shoots the tent forth like a snake-in-a-can gag gift. Presto—there’s your tent. The only problem is that it’s not a very good tent—only for backyard duty at best. Also, packing the tent back up is a nightmare.
Big Agnes Big House 4 : This is a cabin-style tent that we tested as a control; we wanted to know whether a dome-style tent was really better than a cabin-style tent for two people. Though this tent offered a little more livable space, the broad, flat walls had some trouble during high winds.
Coleman Sundome 4-Person Tent : We recommend this tent in its six-person design, but the four-person model we tested was too weak to support itself when subjected to even mild wind or rain.
We dismissed several tents because their fiberglass poles were too flimsy to offer support against anything but the lightest breeze: the Amazon Basics Outdoor 4-Person Camping Tent , the Coleman Hooligan 4-Person Backpacking Tent , and the Eureka Tetragon HD 4 (it’s since been replaced by the Tetragon NX , which has similar fiberglass poles).
REI Co-op Skyward 6 Tent: This did perform well overall for a cabin-style tent, but like many of its brethren, it didn’t handle wind well, and we didn’t like how much we had to wrestle its poles to dock them during setup.
ALPS Mountaineering Camp Creek 6 : This spacious cabin-style tent met its downfall the same way almost every other cabin-style tent we tested did—in wind. Its fiberglass-and-steel tent poles also left splinters in our palms.
MSR Habitude 6 : This pricey tent has some of the most impeccable workmanship and nicest materials we encountered, but it has only one door. Its red and turquoise color scheme also absorbs a lot of heat and feels overly intense, at least in warmer climates, and the tent lacked options for ventilation.
Mountain Hardwear Bridger 6 : What is a $950 six-person tent like? Quite nice, unsurprisingly. The Bridger 6 is the only six-person tent we encountered that can actually house six people, it’s made of high-quality polyester, and it has powder-coated aluminum poles and endless storage options. It features a large front-facing porch-style vestibule, which can accommodate a table and multiple chairs without blocking the entry. It was also the only six-person tent we saw that came with a groundsheet. But the tent’s striking sea-foam green walls show every scuff and mark—not in the least practical for camping with kids. When we pitched the tent alongside our upgrade pick, we still gravitated to the Wawona’s more versatile vestibule. Also, $950.
Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 Person Tent : This tent was our family-camping pick for a long time, and served Wirecutter editor Kalee Thompson’s family well during many camping trips in California. It’s a spacious, robust tent for fair-weather camping, but its windows let in wind and rain in less temperate climates.
Eureka Jade Canyon 6 Person Tent: In the severe gusts of a windstorm, one of the Jade Canyon’s aluminum poles bent badly, while a couple of other poles bent slightly but remained functional. (Eureka will replace poles for around $10 each.) We also had an issue with two of the Jade Canyon’s poles sticking together at takedown and making it impossible to get the whole tent back in the already-way-too-snug carrying bag. (The Jade Canyon 6 has since been replaced by the Jade Canyon X6 Person Tent , which has similar poles.)
Big Agnes Big House 6 : Although we liked the look and feel of this brightly colored tent, it costs $600 and the vestibule is a separate purchase ($200), making the full package significantly more pricey than our family-tent picks.
Cabela’s West Wind 6-Person Dome Tent : This tent has a more complicated design than many other six-person models. Our testers struggled for well over half an hour to get it up, eventually attracting the attention of other campers, who came to their rescue.
We found that company representatives are reluctant to estimate the lifespan of their tents. When pushed, most of the reps we talked to estimated five to 10 years, though the actual lifespan will vary widely depending on care and frequency of use (for more advice, read REI’s excellent tips ). In conducting research for this guide, we heard multiple tales of careful campers who had been using the same tent for 15 years or more.
There are several straightforward ways to make any tent last longer:
- Use a groundsheet. A footprint made by the same company that made your tent and that’s sized to match is ideal to prevent pooling water—and to avoid the wrinkles and crumply sound of a cheap, $10 tarp. That said, a cheap tarp will do the job just fine, as long as you buy it or cut it to fit. A tarp that’s too big will collect rainwater off the fly and funnel it right under the tent.
- Clean your campsite. Before you lay out your footprint and tent, make a reasonable effort to remove from the site any small stones, sticks, and briars that could puncture the tent floor.
- Set some ground rules. “Your tent is your sanctuary,” said camping expert Helen Olsson, who would always bring a “play tent” (an old, two-person backpacking tent) for her little kids to use as a daytime play space. When they were in the “real” tent, everyone followed Olsson’s “no shoes in the tent” rule.
- Zip it up. Similarly, keep your tent zipped to keep bugs and critters out, and become a pro zipper user: A thumb placed in the area forward of the direction you’re pulling the zipper will clear the fabric path and help prevent snags.
- Sweep out before packing. Tiny pebbles or sticks packed inside the tent can rub and erode the material over time. Another nice thing about tents that retain their structure without being staked is that a couple of people should be able to team up to lift the tent and shake out detritus before removing the poles and putting the tent away. You could also follow the lead of some campers and carry a small whisk broom and dustpan to keep the tent floor tidy during your trip.
- Dry before storing. “Nothing will destroy a tent faster than mildew,” tent designer Bob Howe told us. “And if it doesn’t destroy it, it just makes it unlivable.” To avoid mildew (and the accompanying stink), never, ever pack away a tent that’s still damp. Line-dry it, hang it up in your basement, or set it up in your garage until any hint of dampness is gone.
This article was edited by Eve O’Neill and Christine Ryan.
Bob Howe, tent designer , phone interview , March 10, 2016
Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids , phone interview , March 10, 2016
Ryan Flynn, salesperson for Johnson Outdoors, parent company of Eureka , phone interview , March 7, 2016
Campmor Tent FAQs , Campmor
MSR Tents Frequently Asked Questions , Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
Tent Fabrics Part 1: Fabric Specs , Mountain Safety Research (MSR) , November 16, 2015
Tent Fabrics Part 2: Waterproof Ratings , Mountain Safety Research (MSR) , November 22, 2015
Compare Camping Tents , GearLab
Meet your guides
Claire Wilcox contributes outdoors coverage to Wirecutter. An avid swimmer, surfer, hiker, and camper, she currently lives on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, where she can be found, as much as possible, in water.
Kit Dillon is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter. He was previously an app developer, oil derrick inspector, public-radio archivist, and sandwich shop owner. He has written for Popular Science, The Awl, and the New York Observer, among others. When called on, he can still make a mean sandwich.
Kalee Thompson is the senior editor heading up the team responsible for health, fitness, sleep, and baby/kid coverage. She has been a writer on the emergency-prep and outdoor beats at Wirecutter and has also covered natural disasters for Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines.
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