Which backpacking tent is best?
Adventuring in the great outdoors offers a wonderful chance to experience nature and disconnect alongside friends and family. A successful trip takes proper planning, and a backpacking tent is a worthy companion when staying overnight outside.
These lightweight tents are ideal for one or two people, but may support a larger group. They’re designed to be comfortably carried, easily set up and dismantled, and can boast a lot of convenient features. Our buying guide highlights all the important details to take into consideration as well as a few quick reviews of our favorites at the end. Our top pick from Alps Mountaineering is packed with features and is easy to set up.
What to know before you buy a backpacking tent
It’s important to take note of the size of the tent both when it’s packed and when it’s set up. Make sure it’s easy enough to store and carry. There likely isn’t too large a size difference when moving up from a one- to two-person tent, though four- or six-person options may be much larger and heavier.
If possible, map out the tent space in a room or yard at home. Consider how you, your companions, and all your belongings will be laid out in order to see what size works best for you. Take note of the logistics of people moving around within as they come and go.
Every pound can make a difference when traveling, especially over long trails. Consider the difference between trail weight, which is the bare minimum tent weight, and packed weight, which includes stakes and other accessories needed to set up. Consider if you’re flying solo or you have others around to share the weight.
Seasonality denotes how well protected you are from the elements once you’re set up and inside your tent. A three-season tent is good for spring, summer, and fall, but not equipped for cold, wintry weather. These are relatively light and are often waterproof. Four-season tents are heavier but also protect you from harsh wind and cold. Consider whether you need a rain fly during wet weather or ventilation when it’s hot and humid.
What to look for in a quality backpacking tent
Some larger tents have an area by the entrance where you can dress and undress, removing gear and storing items when not in use.
Keeping the air fresh in a tent is important, especially with several people staying inside. Mesh panels are a popular feature that allow air to flow in, but not bugs.
Some backpacking tents may come with screens to prevent mosquitoes and other unwelcome guests from getting into the tent through the doorway, while still allowing air to flow during the day.
Some tents may be set up using trekking poles. This can help save space and weight on your journey if you use them along the way. It may be more of a hindrance if you don’t own a pair or don’t intend on using trekking poles.
How much you can expect to spend on a backpacking tent
The majority of suitable backpacking tents are between $90-$180 and offer options in terms of size, weight, and features. Simple, lightweight tents may run as little as $50, while hardcore adventurers may want premium selections that cost hundreds.
Backpacking tents FAQ
Should I purchase a tent with external or internal poles?
A. This often comes down to personal preference. External poles are typically easier and quicker to set up than internal ones and offer more space inside. However, internal poles are generally lighter and offer more structure within.
How much should a backpacking tent weigh?
A. It’s hard to know how much weight one can handle over a long period of hiking or trekking. It’s recommended that a full backpack not exceed 20% of your body weight. While some heavier tents can make the journey tougher, they may provide a more comfortable night’s sleep. Consider the weather and the trip length when deciding on size and weight.
What are the best backpacking tents to buy?
Top backpacking tent
Our take: Light, versatile one-person tent that’s durable and easy to set up.
What we like: Very lightweight. Well-ventilated but durable. Simple to set up.
What we dislike: Low ceiling makes this tricky for taller users.
Where to buy: Sold by Backcountry
Top backpacking tent for the money
Our take: Budget-friendly two-person tent suitable for all seasons.
What we like: Three-pound tent offers ventilation in the heat and protection in the cold. Spacious interior for storage.
What we dislike: Incorporates trekking poles, which some users won’t enjoy.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: Lightweight tent for one or two people to enjoy in most weather.
What we like: Three-season tent weighs just four pounds and features enough room for two people to fit comfortably. Comes with a lifetime warranty.
What we dislike: Some durability issues, particularly with zippers and seams.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Anthony Marcusa writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.