CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Tent: Staying Dry for the Seasons

Backpacking tent reviews
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

When it comes to backpacking, you don’t always have the means or the funds to stay in a hotel or motel. Sometimes, you just have to camp under the stars, and having a reliable tent on your side can make all the difference in the world. But when you’re backpacking, you want to minimize on space and weight. So how do you go about looking for the best backpacking tent for your needs?

Tents come in a wide variety of sizes, purposes, materials, colors, and seasons. It’s a good idea to get a backpacking tent that will cover a broad spectrum of the various kinds of atmospheres and landscapes you’re going to be setting up your tent in. This article is designed to make note of what the different features are, and what you should look for in finding one that will meet your expectations as well as your budget.

Remember that the more heavy-duty a tent will be, the heavier it is likely to be as well, so it’s a good idea to find a good balance that will keep you safe as well as won’t overburden you with too much weight. The important features to look out for are capacity, weight, seasonality, and livability.

ProductWeightBest UseDimensionsPrice
Hilleberg Anjan 2 Person3 lbs 8 ounces2 person for summer months42-52 x 90 x 42 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL22 lbs 13 ounces2 person for summer months42-52 x 90 x 42 inchesCheck price on Amazon
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person3 lbs 7 ounces2 person for summer months50 x 84 x 39 inchesCheck price on Amazon
The North Face Mica FL 22 lbs 11 ounces2 person for summer months50 x 90 x 38.5 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Black Diamond Mesa (2-Person, 3-Season)4 lbs 9 ounces2 person for 3 seasons58 x 92 x 44 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Mountainsmith Morrison (2-Person, 3-Season)4 lbs 11ounces2 person for 3 seasons56 x 92 x 43 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Big Agness Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO3 lbs 9 ounces2 person for summer months42-52 x 88 x 40 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Nemo Hornet 2P Ultralight2 lbs2 person for summer months43-51 x 85 x 40 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Sierra Designs Lightning 2 FL 2 lbs 13 ounces2 person for summer months46-56 x 86 x 42.5 inchesCheck price on Amazon
Spitfire 12 lbs 12 ounces1 person for summer months42 x 108 x 26 inchesCheck price on Amazon

Features To Consider When Looking For a Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents can be quite daunting to choose and this could sometimes discourage many people from buying that perfect tent. The top backpacking tents are ideal for all purposes and these features are considered to be the most important when it comes to looking for the perfect backpacking tent. These features should ensure that you get great quality and value for your money:

Tent Capacity

All the research you put into getting the best backpacking tent will mean nothing if you don’t get the right size. No one wants to sleep in cramped quarters, and getting the tent to hold the right number of people means that everyone gets a chance to stay warm.

The current models in the market specifically for backpacking range from one- to four-person tents. You won’t have to worry about researching too much into this feature, as the tent you’re interested in will state on the label how many people can fit inside.

Tent Capacity

Still, there is no real standard as for the size of the body that can fit inside, so one two-person tent may be different from another from a different manufacturer. If you or someone else you’re traveling with is an extra-large person, it might be a good idea to get a tent that is one-person capacity higher than the number of people you have with you.

Tent Weight

Technology has definitely improved the structure of the camping tent, as ultra-light materials are just as strong and durable, if not more so than heavy-duty tents.

Finding the best backpacking tent will lighten your overall load and make it easier for you to go much farther than you’d expect, and still do its job at the end of the day when you’re ready to pack it in and get some rest. There are three important specifications on your tent that you should pay attention to minimum trail weight, packaged weight, and packed size.

Tent Weight

Minimum trail weight is the entire weight of the tent body, poles and rainfly combined. It doesn’t include the rest of the gear you may need, such as stakes. Packaged weight is the weight of everything that you’ve purchased, including the tent body, rainfly, stakes, stuff sack, pole sack, and poles.

What you carry with you will be somewhere between this listed weight and your minimum trail weight. Packed size is the amount of space that a tent will take up in a pack, and thereby how easy it is to carry. If you’re traveling with other people, this can be minimized by splitting the gear up between different people.

Tent Seasonality

A tent designed for the summer months is not the same as the one that’s made for winter. They both require very special construction and materials in order to keep you at comfortable temperatures so that you’re not succumbing to the elements.

Backpacking Tent Seasonality

The most common types of season tents are those for three seasons, as they are more lightweight and are designed to handle the varying temperatures from spring to fall. They are capable of withstanding heavy downpours and some light snow, but they’re not the best choice when it comes to heavy snowfall and violent storms.

What makes them so great is that they have mesh panels that allow for a lot of airflows while keeping out insects, more headroom for standing, and using lighter fabrics with fewer poles so that they’re much easier to carry.

The next best option is the extended-season tent that is capable of handling much more than the tame seasons of the year. Not only can they handle the slightly harsher conditions of the spring to fall months, but they’re a good choice for those who make many trips to higher elevations, where winds are much harsher and unforgiving.

In these kinds of models, they only have extra poles for added strength and fewer mesh panels in order to promote heat retention. They do have good amounts of headroom, should you need to stand and get around.

Lastly, there are four-season mountaineering tents. These are capable of withstanding harsh winds and a generous amount of snowfall. Compared to the other models, they use more poles and heavier fabrics, as well as fewer mesh panels in order to promote greater heat retention.

Four-season mountaineering tents

They’re more dome-shaped rather than having vertical walls so that the high winds will pass right over it instead of blowing it over and the snow won’t collect on the roof and weigh it down, but this means substantially smaller amounts of headroom. In warmer weather, this can make your tent feel stifling, so knowing when you’re going to be backpacking and the areas that you’ll be in will help you to make the best decision.

Tent Livability

Backpacking tents were made with space efficiency in mind. They tend to have sloped walls and low headroom in order to reduce the weight and make them easier to carry but that means less comfort. But a lot of other considerations have to be taken in mind when looking for a tent so that you can find the right level of comfort for you, such as the number of doors, ventilation, and covered exterior areas.

Backpacking Tent Livability

The interior volume is the first aspect to look at, as this will tell you just how much room there is inside. The interior volume consists of the floor dimensions, the peak height of the tent, and the shape of the walls (whether they’re vertical or sloped).

To figure out the best dimensions for floor space, give each person about 25 inches width-wise and about 80 inches in length if you want to see how many people can really fit inside. A rainfly that is made of a light color will allow more light in, reducing your need to use flashlights in the earlier hours of the morning.

Inside backpacking tent

The number of doors and where they’re located can make it easier for others to get outside without disturbing their sleeping travel partners. Having more doors can also increase ventilation, especially if there aren’t many mesh panels.

Vestibules are covered exterior areas that allow for the storage of wet and dirty belongings that you don’t want to bring inside but are still kept safe and on hand. Lastly, you want a tent with a few mesh panels in order to allow air inside. Having mesh panels with zippable covers allows you to control the temperature by keeping out unnecessary cold at night as well.

The Best Backpacking Tents on The Market

Now that we’ve discussed all the features to look for, here are just a few of the highest rated tents on the market that can give you a good place to start looking. Don’t worry about going for a cheaper option if many of these are out of your price range, just as long as they have all the features that you’re looking for.

Just be aware that quality is a direct correlation to price, and a cheaper alternative may not be as durable as the ones listed here.

Hilleberg Anjan 2

Price: Approx. $650Hilleberg Anjan 2

Weight: 3 lbs 8 ounces

Dimensions: 43 x 86 x 39 inches

Specific features: One door, durable outer fabric, tunnel construction, very lightweight

Best use: Backpacking, hunting, romantic camping

The Hilleberg Anjan 2 Person Tent is one of the most portable and versatile 2 person tents that you could find on the market today. This tent is super lightweight and it should be ideal for that backpacking in milder weather conditions.

The tent features a decent tunnel design and this should make it perfect in terms of saving space. The durable outer fabrics will not easily tear and there should be no problems when it comes to keeping the rain out and giving you a decent night’s sleep. The curved roof is one of the best parts of this tent and it should allow the wind to easily slide over and keep your tent from blowing away.

The setup of this tent is actually quite easy and there should be no issues when it comes to getting it up. The tent will be perfect for those couples looking to enjoy the outdoors and it will also be ideal for hunters looking to wait and stalk their pray.

PROS:

  • Available in 2 colors
  • Wind and rain resistant design
  • Easy to set up and break down
  • Durable outer surface

CONS:

  • Might need a footprint for best results
  • Quite expensive

Related: To get the best use out of this tent, we would recommend that you do look into buying the Hilleberg Anjan 2 Footprint. This footprint should keep the tent cleaner at the bottom and you should really have more comfort underneath.

Check the price on Amazon

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

Price: Approx. $400Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent

Weight: 2 lbs 13 ounces

Dimensions: 42-52 x 90 x 42 inches

Specific features: Two door design, featherlite NFL pole system, lightweight polyester, and mesh construction, interior storage pockets

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent is one of the lightest tents that you could find on the market today. This tent has been constructed from extremely lightweight materials and they are also very versatile in most areas.

The setup process is quite fast and this should not be a problem for the avid backpacker. The tent also features a more vertical design and this will offer you much more headroom when going to bed. One of the main things that make this tent stand out is the mesh design. You will have great ventilation and heat will not build up inside.

This tent is highly recommended for the avid backpacker and it should also be very easy to carry along. The price is a little expensive, but we still recommend this for the lightweight and easy to carry design. Even women will have no troubles setting up the tent. We would also recommend that you do include a footprint when camping in highly populated areas. Ants might eat through the floor.

PROS:

  • Very lightweight design
  • Easy to set up
  • Small design to carry along with you
  • Provides decent ventilation

CONS:

  • Expensive pricing
  • Lacks durability and protection on the floor

Related: The Big Agnes Spur UL Footprint should be something you could buy with your tent. This footprint will ensure that no ants can get through the bottom and it will ensure that your tent also has more durability.

Check the price on Amazon

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person

Price: Approx. $360MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent

Weight: 3 lbs 7 ounces

Dimensions: 50 x 84 x 39 inches

Specific features: Two doors, large vestibule area, extremely lightweight, built-in rain gutters, cross-ventilating rainfly, very easy to set up

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in the warmer months

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX-2 Person tent is a great and affordable option that you could use for your backpacking endeavors. This tent is very lightweight and the design is also quite durable. The tent also features a non-tapered floor and this floor should be perfect for those looking to have that extra space for storage.

The built-in rain gutters are designed to keep the tent from getting soaked and the rainfly should allow the rain to simply slide off. 2 doors have also been included and these will ensure that the tent can be accessed from both sides. Once the doors are open, you should also have optimal ventilation in the hot summer months.

This tent is highly recommended for 2 people in the summer. The price is also not that expensive and you should easily be able to fit the tent inside your backpack. The tent can also be setup easily and effectively and this should save you some time on your trips.

PROS:

  • Decent durability
  • Should keep the rain away
  • Offers great ventilation
  • Reasonably priced
  • Large vestibule area

CONS:

  • Tough to set up in the rain

Related: The Hubba NX tent Footprint is the perfect combination that can be used with this tent. The footprint is the same color and it will perfectly fit underneath your tent. It can also be used as a rainfly, but this is already included.

Check the price on Amazon

The North Face Mica FL 2

Price: Approx. $270The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent

Weight: 2 lbs 11 ounces

Dimensions: 50 x 90 x 38.5 inches

Specific features: Two vestibule areas, designed for 2 people, featherlite design, twist clips for extremely easy setup

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in warmer climates

The North Face Mica FL2 Tent is one of the lightest tents on the market and it will also easily fit inside your backpack. The tent is still quite large and roomy on the inside and it should be ideal for 2 people. The tent also includes a mesh cover and this should allow air to pass through and keep you ventilated in the hot summer months.

2 doors will offer you easy ingress and should allow you to easily move in and out of the tent without disturbing your loved one. The lightweight design is perfect for those looking for something on their backpacking trips and should make it ideal for anyone who are minimalists.

This tent is really affordable as well and should be perfect for those couples looking for a breakaway weekend. We highly recommend this tent for those backpacking in the summer months and looking for some added storage space. This tent also comes with a tent footprint included.

PROS:

  • Really affordable
  • Offers great ventilation
  • Very easy to set up
  • Includes a tent footprint

CONS:

  • Lacks some durability

Related: The North Face Stormbreak 2 Footprint Castor Grey, is one of the perfect additions to this tent. The footprint will easily fit underneath the tent and it can be used as a rainfly as well. This foortprint is also really durable.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Mesa (2-Person, 3-Season)

Price: Approx. $350Black Diamond Mesa Tent

Weight: 4 lbs 9 ounces

Dimensions: 58 x 92 x 44 inches

Specific features: Two doors for couples, includes polyester rainfly, DAC Featherlite poles included, decent mesh design for ventilation, bright color

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in warmer climates

The Black Diamond Mesa Tent is one of those 2 person tents that can be used in almost any weather condition. The tent might not be ideal for the colder winter climates, but it will keep the rain out when the polyester rainfly is added.

The tent includes 2 doors with integrated vestibules. These will really come in handy on your backpacking adventure. DAC Featherlite poles are included and even though this tent is a little heavy, it should still be quite easy to carry along with you.  The bright color is really stylish and should keep turning the eyes of your friends.

The tent comes in at an affordable price and this will be great for those camping in multiple seasons. The only thing we do not recommend is using it in the winter as the cold might still come in. This tent is a little heavy and might not be ideal for the super minimalist backpackers.

PROS:

  • Decent durability
  • Easy to set up
  • Reasonably priced
  • Offers great ventilation
CONS:

  • Might be a little heavy

Related: Black Diamond Mesa Tent Ground Cloth is a perfect accessory that could help to improve the life of your tent. This cloth can be used as a footprint or as a rainfly and improve the durability.

Check the price on Amazon

Mountainsmith Morrison (2-Person, 3-Season)Mountainsmith Morrison

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 4 lbs 11 ounces

Dimensions: 56 x 92 x 43 inches

Specific features: Two doors, large vestibule area, huge living space, tension cord lock system, reflective guy lines

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in warmer climates

The Mountainsmith Morrison Tent is another 2 person tent that can be used in most seasons and for almost any conditions. This tent is designed from polyester and it features 2 doors that will give you easy access from all directions. The doors can also be used for improved ventilation and this could keep you cool in the summer.

The tent fly has also been included and this will give you some added versatility. At night this rain fly will keep you warmer and it will also keep the rain from getting inside. The one bad thing about this tent is the tent poles and these are a little fragile and they might not hold up with powerful winds and storms.

The tent is one of the cheapest you could possibly find on the market today and we would highly recommend it for those looking to get into the world of backpacking. This tent might be a little heavier, but you will certainly get great value for your money.

PROS:

  • Offers great versatility
  • Designed for three seasons
  • Spacious interior design
  • Easy to set up
  • Really cheap

CONS:

  • Tent poles do lack some durability

Related: The Morrison Tent 2 Footprint is the perfect addition to this tent. The footprint is quite large and this will give you great multifunctional use. The footprint will also improve the durability of the tent floor.

Check the price on Amazon

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO Tent

Price: $280 – $600

Weight: 3 lbs 9 ounces

Dimensions: 42-52 x 88 x 40 inches

Specific features: MtnGLOTM tent light technology with LED lights, two doors, two vestibule areas, interior pockets, reflective guylines, storm flaps on vestibule zippers.

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in warmer climates

The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 MTNGLO Tent is one of the most revolutionary tents that are currently on the market today. This tent will give you light when in the dark and all of this can be powered by a USB. This will really be handy and there should be no need to carry the extra weight of lights.

The tent is quite light to carry around and the setup process shouldn’t take you too long either. The tent is designed with a small interior space and the bathtub shape might not be ideal. The plastic clips are extremely easy to set up and place into their right areas, which will improve the overall setup speed.

The tent ranges in sizes and this will change the price of it. The tent is also quite durable and we would highly recommend it to beginner backpackers. If you are solo backpacking, the tent should easily be able to do the job and give you great comfort.

PROS:

  • Really easy to setup
  • Stylish design
  • Reasonably priced
  • Includes lighting features.

CONS:

  • Space might be limited

Related: The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL Footprint Series is extremely durable and should definitely improve the life of your tent. This footprint is quite large and it will perfectly cover this tent. It can also be used as a rainfly.

Check the price on Amazon

Nemo Hornet 2P UltralightNemo Hornet 2P Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Price: Approx. $370

Weight: 2 lbs

Dimensions: 43-51 x 85 x 40 inches

Specific features: Two doors, two vestibule areas, single-pole setup, DAC featherlite aluminum poles.

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people

The NEMO Company has been designing outdoor tools and equipment for a long time and they have really garnered a top range reputation. The NEMO Hornet 2P Ultralight Backpacking Tent is one of the lightest tents that you will find on the market today. The tent includes really durable and lightweight aluminum tent poles and these will be easy to set up and provide you with stability.

The tent also includes two vestibule area and these will be perfect for those carrying that extra baggage. The tent will also be highly recommended for those looking to pack as light as possible and the price is also quite affordable for those starting out in the world of backpacking. We would highly recommend this tent to backpackers.

PROS:

  • Great durability
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Easy to set up
  • Large living area

CONS:

  • The tent does leak a little bit

Related: The NEMO Hornet Footprint is an extremely durable and lightweight addition that can be added to your tent. This footprint is designed from nylon and it will increase the lifetime of the tent floor.

Check the price on Amazon

Sierra Designs Lightning 2 FL

Price: Approx. $300Sierra Designs Lightning 2 FL Tent

Weight: 2 lbs 13 ounces

Dimensions: 46-56 x 86 x 42.5 inches

Specific features: Two vestibule areas, 1 door, freestanding design, includes a durable rainfly, durable nylon

Best use: Backpacking for 2 people in warmer climates

The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 FL Tent is another really lightweight tent that should be perfect for anyone looking to take their own shelter on their backpacking trip. The tent is quite durable and the nylon materials used will ensure that it stays durable. The tent is also freestanding, but this does make it vulnerable to winds.

The tent also includes a durable rainfly and this will keep you dry when the rain does set in. The mesh covering should be perfect for those looking to camp in the summer months and it should give you decent ventilation.

The tent is also really affordable and this should be ideal for those looking to upgrade. The tent is also quite durable and the stylish design should be perfect for camping or backpacking with your friends.

PROS:

  • Great durability
  • Very lightweight
  • Reasonably prices
  • Offers great versatility

CONS:

  • Might be vulnerable to the wind

Related: The Sierra Designs Nightglow Accessory is one of the lighting options that you could add to your tent. This accessory is quite small and can be easily strapped or hooked to your tent.

Check the price on Amazon

Spitfire 1

Price: Approx. $120Spitfire 1

Weight: 2 lbs 12 ounces

Dimensions: 42 x 108 x 26 inches

Specific features: One door, one vestibule area, DAC featherlite aluminum poles, no-see-um mesh, internal storage pockets.

Best use: Backpacking for one person in warmer climates.

Last but certainly not least, we have the SPITFIRE 1 Tent and this is one of the top tent designs that you could choose if you are solo backpacking. The ten features a unique design that will give you decent resistance and also allow the water to run down the sides.  1 storage pocket has been included and this will ensure that you can have a decent place to pack your flashlights.

DAC aluminum poles are used for the setup and with the clips, this tent will be easy to set up. These poles are also very lightweight and easy to carry along and they should offer you decent durability. This tent is really affordable and we would highly recommend it to anyone looking to go solo backpacking.

PROS:

  • Great durability
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Easy to set up
  • Decent storage space
  • Reasonably priced

CONS:

  • Needs multiple extra stakes in rocky areas

Related: The Eureka Spitfire 1 Footprint is the ideal and perfectly shaped footprint for this tent. The footprint is also really affordable and should easily fit inside your backpack.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Now that we’ve finished discussing the various tents on the market, which one do you feel meets your needs the best? It can be a difficult choice, given how many options and features these tents provide, but no one ever said that finding the best backpacking tent was easy.

Best Backpacking Tent

If there are any tents that have caught your eye, be sure to see them in person at your local sporting goods store to ensure that they’re big enough for you and whoever you’re backpacking with. It’s the best way to see if they’re comfortable and big enough for you and all your things.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Mike Walker

    Black Diamond Mesa is a great tent. It is remarkable easy to set up, even in strong winds. Roomy with great access and vestibules. The central pole hub is a game changer. A great product, by a very reputable company. Highly recommended by someone who has spent a great deal of time in the outdoors and owned a number of tents.

  • Daniel Carraway

    If you’re looking for a roomier and larger variety, check out the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO Tent. It’s built for 2 and I guarantee that you will appreciate its lighting attachments. What’s surprising is how lightweight the tent is.
    For campers, invest in high quality tents that aren’t too heavy to carry. When you’re walking for hours, lugging a boulder-heavy tent is not cool. Take particular note on the materials of the tent so you won’t have any regrets when you’re already camping.

  • Jim Clark

    Got the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO Tent not so long time ago. I have used this tent on 4 different trips and have had exceptional experiences with it. The last trip was in the snake river territory in NE Oregon which has some crazy weather. The first night we had 30-40 mph gusts and the rain fly stayed put although loud. The last night it snowed about 4″ and I was super excited that the tent did not collapse not break the water barrier on any side. It does state it is a 2 person but remember it is a 2 person backpacking tent so it will be tight. Overall this is an excellent tent. I can’t even think of any cons. Definitely would recommend it.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Love this too. Even when the weather’s wicked, you can rest assured that you’ll stay warm and safe inside. Not only is this tent lightweight but it has provisions for LED lighting. I love reading before I sleep this tent takes care of lighting the interior. If you’re going to invest in a very good product, choose the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO tent. My friend and I are largely built but there’s ample room for both of us. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep when you’re camping, right?

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