CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Tents: Maximizing Your Outdoors Experience

Backpacking tent review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

The ultimate backpacking experiences begin with being prepared for anything, right? You have your gear, you know where you are going, and you have the right mindset. However, are you completely sure you have everything ready? A lot of times an outdoors experience can be ruined by a factor we tend to overlook: the best backpacking tent you can take with you.

Having a good tent can be a “make or break” point during any trip. That’s why 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 finest backpacking tents to maximize your experience whenever you are outdoors.

Backpacking Tents

There is an astonishing array of options for such tents available. Differences in models, construction and features make it difficult to decide on what to purchase.Luckily, in this article we will help you narrow down these choices by handing you a list of the best available models, as well as walking you through important features to consider and the pros and cons of each of the models we are introducing you. By the end of the read, we hope you will be ready to buy your tent.

Our top picks

Product NameWeightDimensionsCapacityPrice
Big Agnes Copper Spur3.2 lb29 square feet inside, with a height of 42 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon
Black Diamond Mesa5.2 lb32.5 square feet inside, with a height of 58 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon
North Face Mica Fl 23 lb28.3 squared feet inside, with a height of 38 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon
MSR Hubba Hubba NX3.8 lb29 square feet inside, with a height of 39 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon
Mountain HardwearSuperMega Ul2 lb27 square feet inside, with a height of 36 inches1 personCheck price on Amazon
Hillberg Anjan3.2 lb34 square feet inside, with a height of 30 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon
Rei Half Dome 2 Plus5.2 lb36 square feet inside, with a height of 42 inches2 people    Check price on REI    
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL4.2 lb27 square feet inside, with a height of 40 inches2 peopleCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Before you jump into buying a tent, there are a few very important features you should consider. Of course, it depends a lot on what are your plans, where you are going to camp, with whom and for how long. That said, you might also want to look at the shapes of the tents, the floor capacity and the weight, as you will be carrying for a while. The next section will take a deeper look into these features, and hopefully you will get a good idea of what you need.

Seasonality

Tents can be either for one, two, three or four seasons. It depends a lot if you will only go camping during summer, or spring. However, the most common ones are three seasoned ones, as they are built to be used for the most part of the year.

Backpacking tent interior

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.

Capacity

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.

It is important to keep in mind that since size and weight are related, brands don’t want to make super heavy tents, but they want to try and advertise them as bigger than usual. What this means, is that normally they stretch the capacity a little. If it is a three person tent, you will comfortable sleep in two, but the third one, although will fit, it will be very tight. Just something to keep in mind.

Dimensions And Shape

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.

Backpacking tent on the field

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.

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.

Ventilation And Breathability

Wider interior spaces are a great advantage, offering additional storage for your camping gears, but also, offering a better breathability and ventilation. The meshes can determine ventilation. More mesh screens means greater ventilation, however, mesh screens are prone to snagging and tearing.

Breathability, related to ventilation, means how well the tent breaths. It’s not only how much air goes in, but how much goes out. After a long night of sleep, is common for tents to retain some of the air inside of them and create condensation. Don’t panic. However, the best tents retain lesser condensation, as they are more breathable.

Weight

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

Ultra lightweight backpacking tent

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. These 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. The greatest quality is expected from high-end tents, but if you seldom use the tent, it’s impractical to invest in an expensive one.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Backpackers come in different sizes, and each has a different camping style 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.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 TentBig Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent

Price: $400 – $450

Weight: 3.2 lb

Dimensions: 29 square feet inside, with a height of 42 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Thru-hiking, ultralight backpacking

Description: 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 gear.  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 seams 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.

PROS:

  • Spacious enough for two people
  • Very durable
  • Excellent breathability, especially during summer

CONS:

  • Pricey
  • Not exactly suitable for bad weather, very lightweight and might give up easily to strong winds

Related: The Big Agnes Footprint is the ideal item to purchase alongside this tent. Place it under the tent before you set it up, and avoid water to get inside or into your tent’s floor, as the footprint will protect you.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Mesa TentBlack Diamond Mesa Tent

Price: $340 – $370

Weight: 5.2 lb

Dimensions: 32.5 square feet inside, with a height of 58 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Climbing, mountaineering

Description: The Black Diamond Mesa Tent is 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 no exception. For a very good weight of 5.2 lb, it can be easily carried anywhere, especially if you plan on hiking in tougher mountains, or even mountaineering.

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, but still not recommended for very tough conditions.

The tent excels at being spacious. At 32.5 square feet, it can accommodate two sleepers and still have enough room for camping equipment.  Not recommended for three people if you want to sleep comfortably, but two people will sleep perfectly.There are also additional 4 mesh pockets for easy access to flash lights and other important equipment during the night.

PROS:

  • Very spacious
  • Tougher than other models
  • Outstanding quality

CONS:

  • Pricey

Related: The Black Diamond Mesa Ground Cloth is the footprint that goes with this specific tent model. But it and place on the ground and then place on top of it your tent, and you will be sure that your tent’s floor won’t be getting wet, as well as you’ll be extending the lifespan of the whole tent.

Check the price on Amazon

North Face Mica FL 2 TentThe North Face Mica FL 2 Tent

Price: $290 – $320

Weight: 3 lb

Dimensions: 28.3 squared feet inside, with a height of 38 inches

Seasonality: Three seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Hiking, mountaineering

Description: The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent 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, which means that during summer the ventilation will be great even inside the tent. Furthermore, this tent doesn’t suffer of any breathability concerns, as it’s excellent in the area. No matter if you spend eight hours sleeping inside of it, the next day there will barely be any condensation.

The material for the canopy also reduces the weight of the tent, making it one of the lightest models in this list, weighing only 3 lbs, ideal for any sort of hike or trip. Despite of its weight, the Mica tent is well constructed and made of durable materials, hence why it is advertised to withstand 3 seasons. However, keep in mind that in strong winds or very bad weather conditions, this tent will not be the best one to have.

PROS:

  • Great materials and durability
  • Fantastic breathability and ventilation
  • Very lightweight

CONS:

  • Not exactly a 3 season tent, not very suitable in bad autumn conditions

Related: The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress is a very handy item to have with this or any other tent. It will make sure that you sleep comfortably inside your tent, no matter where you are set up.

Check the price on Amazon

MSR Hubba Hubba NX TentMSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent

Price: $340 – $380

Weight: 3.8 lb

Dimensions: 29 square feet inside with a height of 39 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Backpacking, climbing, mountaineering

Description: The MSR HubbaHubba NX 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.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Strong even in autumn and bad weather conditions
  • Can be used on any surface

CONS:

  • Pricey
  • Not very spacious inside

Related: The Hubba Hubba Tent Footprint is the ideal accessory to purchase alongside this tent. It is the footprint for this particular model that will make sure your tent is protected from water and floor damage.

Check the price on Amazon

Mountain Hardware SuperMegaUL 1 TentMountain Hardware SuperMegaUL 1 Tent

Price: $200 – $300

Weight: 2 lb

Dimensions: 27 square feet inside, with a height of 36 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 1 person

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, extreme camping

Description: The Mountain Hardware SuperMegaUL 1 Tent is a comfortable living space for 1 person. The fabric of the floor area and the fly is made of nylon and the pole is constructed from aluminum.The materials are extremely durable, and this tent is likely to last for years if taken care of.

Although lightweight, the fabric is designed to withstand a rain and wind. This is a very strong tent, being for only one person, it holds up very well and it can be pretty much used for tougher camping conditions than others.

It has an excellent breathability, and onceagain, being an only one-person tent, the condensation won’t be much of an issue.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, and weight being one of them, it makes it ideal to be taken into any solo camping trip.

PROS:

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Very strong and durable
  • Great breathability

CONS:

  • Only for one person

Related: The Kelty Gear Loft is a fantastic and small sized item to bring when you go camping. Attach it to the inside of any tent to store valuable items so that you can find them immediately.

Check the price on Amazon

Hilleberg Anjan TentHilleberg Anjan Tent

Price: $640 – $700

Weight: 3.2 lb

Dimensions: 34 square feet inside with a height of 30 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Camping

Description: The Hilleberg Anjan Tent is a lightweight tent designed for hiking in any of the three seasons. The tent has an enclosed design that protects it very well from tough weather conditions such as strong winds. It comes with a fly made of Kerlon 1000 fabric, one of the most water resistant and durable fabrics out there.

Despite being or looking like a complicated setup, the Hilleberg is actually a very easy tent to set up, as it doesn’t include many poles going across or over each other. The tubular design will actually make it easier to set up than a traditional tent.

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, and even though it is expensive, you are paying for quality and durability.

PROS:

  • Excellent quality
  • Resistant against tough weather conditions
  • Very easy to set up

CONS:

  • Very expensive

Related: The Hilleberg Anjan Footprint is the ideal footprint for this specific model. Place the footprint under the tent in order to protect yourself as well as the flooring of the tent.

Check the price on Amazon

Rei Half Dome 2 PlusRei Half Dome 2 Plus

Price: $130 – $200

Weight: 5.2 lb

Dimensions: 36 square feet inside, with a height of 42 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Relaxed camping, backpacking

Description: The Rei Half Dome Plus 2 Tent is a free standing tent designed with durability in mind. It has nearly vertical walls, allowing greater headroom. Such comfort is particularly rearare in the other models showed above, but overall on most tents. 42 inches is a lot of headroom, hence the reason why this tent is ideal for relaxed camping. Instead of being a tent that you take with you into hikes or tough areas, it’s the sort of tent you take on a nice relaxed trip.

The interior is extra spacious, specifically made to accommodate tall people or those who carry lots of gear. If for example you find yourself camping for longer periods of time, this tent is a good companion, as it will allow you to store many things inside of it safely.This tent offers durability, convenience and lots of space at an excellent price that is particularly hard to beat.

PROS:

  • Very affordable price
  • Extremely spacious
  • Excellent headroom

CONS:

  • Not ideal for mountaineering or camping in tougher terrains
  • Durability can be a concern

Related: The Big Agnes Q Core Sleeping Pad is the sort of item that you can purchase with this tent. Being a bigger or more spacious tent, inflatable-sleeping pads will fit perfectly, allowing you to have a better sleep.

Check the price on REI

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 TentBig Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2

Price: $250 – $270

Weight: 4.2 lb

Dimensions: 27 square feet inside with a height of 40 inches

Seasonality: 3 seasons

Capacity: 2 people

Best use: Relaxed camping

Description: 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. This tent is ideal for a relaxed and slower paced camping trip. Instead of using it for tougher conditions or terrains, this tent will deliver when you go to nice areas where you want to be surrounded by nature but not too challenged by it.

The tent is great due to its size, weight and its ability to withstand rough winds and even storms, as it has taped seams that are completely waterproof, plus it includes a very reliable rainfly.A built in LED lighting will illuminate the inside of your tent and allow you to enjoy the outdoors in even more comfort.When it comes to the general durability, that also can’t be questioned, as Big Agnes tends to deliver excellent tents, and this is one of them.

PROS:

  • Excellent quality
  • Very Spacious
  • Built-in LED light to illuminate inside

CONS:

  • A bit heavy
  • Not ideal for more adventurous camping

Related: The Big Agnes Rattlesnake Footprint is the ideal footprint to use with this specific tent. Buy it and make sure you protect the floor of your tent, as well as the inside of it when it starts raining or the floor is humid.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

After reading this article you should have a much better idea of what kind of tent you need, what features to look for, and how to use them depending on where you are planning to go camping. Remember, that features such as the sleeping capacity or the weight will always be a factor no matter where you go or in which season.

Nonetheless, as you must have learnt, there is more to them, and that is on the details.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.

Backpacking tents outdoor

Finally, we hope that you have learnt enough and that your mind is now clearer, you are finally informed and ready to buy. Are you? Have you got in mind any other model that we might have missed? Please let us know your questions, opinions and experiences in the comments section below, we really enjoy hearing what you have to say.

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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