CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Tents: Maximizing Your Outdoor Experience

Backpacking tent review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Ultimate camping experiences begin with having a good tent. Choosing a tent is a great ordeal. It can be influenced by many factors such as your camping site and your camping style. This article is going to help you choose the best backpacking tents to maximize your experience whenever you are outdoors.

Every camper has his or her specific camping needs. A camper’s tent must match these needs. There is an astonishing array of options for backpacking tents available. Differences in models, construction and features make it difficult to decide on what to purchase. Learn more about tents and before zeroing in on one and always read the product reviews from reliable sources.

Different Types of Tents

Other than comfort, one of the top things to also consider when buying a tent would be its suitability to your camping style.

Backpacking Tents

There’s a backpacking tent for every season and for every type of camper.

  • Three-season tents – This is probably the most commonly used tent. As the name suggests, three-season tents are designed for use during three seasons: summer, spring and fall. Pitched by two or three poles and a stretched rainfly, the tent allows plenty of ventilation. The tent can withstand a light rain and snow but it is not suitable for violent weather. Made by only a few poles and light fabric, this tent is lightweight.
  • Summer tents – These are used under warm conditions. The tent is made mostly of screen, allowing air movement. In the occurrence of sudden light rainfalls, the tent can keep you dry.
  • Convertibles – This tent can adapt to any climate. A mesh screen is present to allow air movement, thus this can be used during hot summer days. During a downpour, the vent can be closed with a fabric panel to keep out the wind and rain. This extra fabric and panels however, makes the convertible tents a little heavy.
  • Hammock tents – This is a simple tarp-like rainfly that can be tied between trees. Hammock tents are lightweight but they can only be used during fair weather.

Factors to Consider Before Buying A Tent

Purchasing a backpacking tent can be made easier when you consider the capacity, seasonality, livability, weight and price of your desired tent.

Backpacking tents can be categorized according to capacity or the number of sleepers they can accommodate. There is no standard size given per person, thus sizes vary from brand to brand. However, since weight should be minimized, tents usually fit tightly.

Seasonality is a big factor when shopping for a tent. The construction and the material of your desired tent must meet the weather conditions in your camping area.  Three-season tents are the most commonly bought because of their versatility. Mountaineering tents are also very famous because they are lightweight and sturdy; however, they are a bit pricey.

Livability is difficult to achieve in backpacking tents because the weight must be kept light. This is also the most difficult to measure. The width, length and height of the tent cannot tell you how much living space the tent provides.

The floor area can give you an idea of how wide the tent is but it cannot lay out how efficiently utilized the space is. The peak height is measured at the tallest point of the tent. Although it can be used as a comparison between models, the peak height is not a sufficient indicator of livability.

Backpacking tent interior

The geometry or the orientation of the tent is the deciding factor in determining the amount of living space and comfort your tent can offer. Geometry influences the living space of tents; the more vertical the wall, the more efficient the utilization of space. The interior and exterior spaces of your rent must also be looked into. Wider interior spaces are a great advantage, offering additional storage for your camping gears. Ventilation can be determined by the meshes. More mesh screens means greater ventilation, however, mesh screens are prone to snagging and tearing.

In backpacking, lightweight is the right way to go. The problem is, light weight materials are oftentimes less durable as compared to heavier, sturdier materials. In camping, there are several weights to be familiar with.

The packaged weight refers to the total weight of all the tent components during purchase. The trail weight is the weight of the essential parts of the tent, the fly and the poles. There also exist ultra light tents. This tents offer the best weight to space ratio, but they are also more expensive due to the special fabrics used to manufacture them.

Price also often becomes a deciding factor when purchasing tents. One must not settle for a tent simply because it fits the budget. How often will you use the tent and where you will use it should be considered alongside the price. Greater quality is expected from high-end tents but if you seldom use the tent, it’s impractical to invest in an expensive one.

Additional Information on Tents

Prior to your actual camping trip, set up your tent at home or in the store. This will save you the hassle of reading the manual on your trip and it would ensure you have all the parts of the tent. There are two types of tents according to how they are set-up: free standing tents and non-freestanding tents.

Free standing tents can stand without the use of stakes, thus they are easier to set up. Non-free standing tents are less common but they are lighter. A tent pole determines how hard or easy it is to pitch a tent. Even though most tents nowadays are already freestanding, still the tents use stakes, especially in windy areas.

Tents are made from several materials and these materials are the determining factor for the durability and the price of your tent. Floor tiles and flies are made from materials like nylon, polyester and cuben fiber. Nylon and polyester are coated for waterproofing.

Silicon is commonly used as a coating because it provides good water resistant products. Repairing silicon coated products, however, is very difficult. Cuben fiber is commonly used because it is very light and strong. Maintenance and repair is also relatively easy.

Backpacking tent on the field

A rainfly is a roof cover for your tent. It is used whenever there is a downpour. It is also used to trap heat inside the tent, especially in cold and windy camping sites.

Tent doors are important features. If you’re camping with a lot of people, having more doors is an advantage. Having more than one door for a tent would allow campers to enter and exit the tent without disturbing each other. More doors also means more weight, however.

Footprints are important accessories. A footprint does not only add another layer between you and the ground, it also protects your tent from scratches and tears. Some tents come with footprints, others don’t. It is a good idea to invest in quality footprints. Carrying a footprint, however, means adding weight to your baggage.

Wall construction is not always taken into consideration because campers opt for single wall tents over double wall tents. The latter is more versatile and ventilates better however, the former is lighter.

Tents for Every Backpacker

Backpackers come in different sizes and each has a different camping styles and preferences. With so many choices out there, picking out a tent can be a challenging task, especially for first-time campers. Here are some of the most durable, adaptable and budget-friendly options.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent

Packed weight: 3lbs 2 oz

Floor dimensions: 29 square feet

Height: 42”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent is a three season tent that is easy to set up due to its color coded poles, tent, fly and footprint. The fly and floor is made up from nylon coated with silicone and the tent body is made up of nylon and polyester mesh.

This makes the tent lightweight yet durable.  Two vestibules provide adequate space for camping gears.  It also has four mesh pockets for additional storage. The walls are designed to be nearly vertical, making the tent roomy and allowing plenty of ventilation.

Polyutherane tape is placed in all seems for additional waterproofing. This tent is easy to pack and set up, highly recommended for beginners. Double rainbow doors and reflective guylines and webbing are a plus. This tent has a low profile, making it sturdy even in windy areas. This tent is recommended for use in thru-hiking and ultralight backpacking.

Black Diamond Mesa Tent

Black Diamond Mesa Tent

Packed weight: 5lbs 2 oz

Floor dimensions: 32.5 square feet

Height: 58”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: Black Diamond Mesa Tents are designed for avid outdoor enthusiasts. Only the best grade materials are used for the tent to maximize efficiency and reduce packed weight.

This tent is a three season tent specifically designed for climbers and mountaineers. A fast-pitched hub with a double wall, this tent has great wind resistance and waterproofing.

The tent excels at being spacious. At 32.5 square feet, it can accommodate two sleepers and still have enough room for camping equipment.  There are also additional 4 mesh pockets for easy access to flash lights and other important equipment during the night.

The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent

The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent

Packed weight: 3 lbs

Floor dimensions: 339.6 inches

Height: 38”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: The North Face Mica FL 2 Tents is a super lightweight tent that is designed to withstand different weather conditions. This freestanding tent can accommodate 2 persons. This tent has a mesh canopy that enhances airflow.

The material for the canopy also reduces the weight of the tent. Despite of its weight, the mica tent is well-constructed and made of durable materials.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent

MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent

Packed weight: 3.8 lbs

Floor dimensions: 29 square feet

Height: 39”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent is one of the most livable ultra-light tents available. The tent features a unique pole configuration for maximized head space. The fully rectangular floor and symmetrical form provides more space for movement. Setting up this tent is easy because the hub and poles are color coded.

The tent is perfect for three season camping. Due to its ultra-light weight specifications, the tent is mostly used by backpackers and mountain climbers.

The floor fabric and the fly fabric are made of denier nylon. The poles are made of aluminum. The build quality of this tent is awesome; it can be pitched in rock, sand, grass or gravel without any problem. In the instance it rains, the vestibule design and the rain gutter will help to keep the water out.  This tent has a fast pitch mode that does not require a footprint, making it very adaptable.

The Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 1 Tent

The Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 1 Tent

Packed weight: 2 lbs

Floor dimensions: 27 square feet

Height: 36”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 1 sleeper

Why we recommend it: The Mountain Hardware SuperMegaUL 1 tent is a comfortable living space for 1 person. The fabric for the floor area and the fly is made of nylon and the pole is constructed from aluminum.

Although lightweight, the fabric is designed to withstand a rain and wind and produce no condensation. The sides and the top are meshed, allowing adequate air ventilation. This tent is light and small but it has all the functionality a solo packer needs.

The Hilleberg Anjan Tent

The Hilleberg Anjan Tent

Packed weight: 3 lbs 14 oz

Floor dimensions: 86 inches x 51 inches

Height: 30”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: The Hilleberg Anjan Tent is a light weight tent designed for hiking in warm and snow free areas. This enclosed tent is easy to set up. The fly is made of Kerlon 1000 fabric that is waterproof and durable.

The Anjan uses the strongest fabrics for backpacking tents. The interior walls are solid yet breathable, allowing good ventilation despite of its design. This tent is a premium quality gear; light, very detailed and resistant to harsh weather conditions.

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent

Packed weight: 5 lbs 1 oz

Floor dimensions: 98 inches x 56 inches

Height: 42”

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why we recommend it: The Rei half dome plus tent is a freestanding tent designed with durability. It has nearly vertical walls, allowing greater head room.

The interior is extra spacious, specifically made to accommodate tall people or those who carry lots of gear. This tent offers durability, convenience and lots of space at a price that fits your budget!

The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2

The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2

Packed weight: 4 lbs 2 oz

Floor dimensions: 27 square feet

Height: 40 inches

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 sleepers

Why do we recommend this tent: The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 has a DAC pole structure with Pressfit connectors for easy set up. It has 2 doors and 2 vestibules, for convenience and additional storage space. All seams are taped for additional waterproofing.

The tent is great due to its size, weight and its ability to withstand storms. Built in LED lighting will illuminate the inside of your tent and allow you to enjoy the outdoors more!

Tips on Purchasing A Tent

Manufacturers are doing their best to cope up with the demands of campers for lighter yet more durable and adaptable tents that are budget friendly. There are many choices when it comes to tents. Before choosing one, read its reviews.

There are many seasoned campers who have tried out different types of tents and know what they are talking about. You can also find reviews from camping and traveling websites. They usually compare different brands and models to help you decide on a tent.

Other than knowing the dimensions of your tent, it helps to go inside and analyze the interior. Some tents would appear spacious from the outside but end up being crowded on the inside. If you are buying online, estimate the size of the interior, or look up its reviews.

Backpacking tents outdoor

Focus on the details! Some details are more important than others. Visual appearance is of the least priority. A tent must be lightweight, durable and adaptable to different terrains and weather conditions. Little things such as zippers and pockets should be working properly.

Do not immediately decide on a price. Find out what features you want on your tent and then compare prices. The price of the tent is determined by factors such as material, size, weight and special features. If your budget is too tight, you must compromise on some parts, probably on the weight or size. Lightweight tents are more expensive due to the high-quality fabric that they are made of.

Do not forget to take into consideration the purpose of your tent. Do not expect too much from your tent, bear in mind that it is only temporary shelter for whenever you are outdoors. It will only provide a certain degree of comfort and protection, not luxury.

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.

  • Annie McClellan

    We’ve been looking for a tent sturdy enough for any weather yet not heavy. We found the MSR Hubba which is perfect for two people inside yet very lightweight in the backpack. Have two large sleeping pads and it is still spacious in the tent. Bringing in lots of equipment inside with two people would make it a bit squishy, though. But there’s a lot you can do with this tent. It is adjustable in various ways which make it suitable for camping in different areas.

  • Daniel Carraway

    I’ve used the Hubba Hubba and it’s darn lightweight – you’ll forget it’s even inside your backpack! What I love about it is that it’s a good 3 season tent. There are also plenty of headroom and legroom, which are important features for me since I’m a large guy.
    Good choice of tent Annie!

  • Kristina Nunez

    I can’t forgive myself not buying a tent on a sale few years ago. Actually, I can’t even remember now in which store I saw it, I just remember that it cost around $150 on sale, and it had two separate rooms, and an interspace big enough for all the baggage. It looked quite luxurious for someone who always shared one man tent with two more people hahaha 🙂

  • Daniel Carraway

    Do you remember the brand? No worries, we have a lot of tents that fit that description with superior features, to boot. Although I’m not sure it’s on sale, by the way. Happy hunting!

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