Finding the best backpacking tent can be a challenge with so much information out there. But having spent more than a decade camping in the wilderness, we’re here to make your choice easier with our top recommended products and the best idea of what to look for when buying a tent for backpacking.
Some of the best backcountry views on the planet are miles from the nearest parking lot and hotel. Trust us, we know. It’s been our life’s mission to find them.
That’s why we never leave home for any adventure, whether it’s close to home or overseas, without packing a backpacking tent.
And seeing as you’re reading this post, we feel like you’re the same and are looking for an awesome tent that fits your particular needs.
Not all hiking tents are created equal though, which we’ve found out through years of personal experience.
Unfortunately, when you’re backpacking, you’ll have to carry every piece of essential gear with you every step of the way, which eliminates most traditional tents from consideration.
Backpacking tents are a whole new breed. These aren’t flimsy bits of nylon you pick up from any old department store.
They represent some of the most expensive pieces of camping equipment on the market, but their higher price is for a good reason.
These tools must delicately walk the line between comfort and performance, striking a perfect blend of lightweight materials, weather-resistant outer layers, and durable floorings, all while staying comfortable and roomy enough for you to grab a great night’s rest after a long day’s walk.
Plus they need to be compact enough to pack away inside your travel backpack and still leave room for food, clothes and technical camping equipment.
We all know how easy it can be to fall asleep after hiking all day. But there is nothing that can ruin a backpacking trip like a night spent shivering in the rain or waking up dripping in your own condensation.
*Cue our soggy memories of a 48-hour rain-drenched weekend we had camping in Mongolia*
The best backpacking tents must be uniquely capable of bringing weather protection for at least three seasons of whatever mother nature has to offer at both 15 feet and 15,000 feet above sea level.
All this versatility is not easy to come by. There are hundreds of backpacking tents out there, and they’ll set you back anywhere from $100 to $1000.
A market this packed means there is a tent out there perfect for everyone. But it also means there are loads of tents that simply aren’t up to the task.
Before you find yourself up the creek without a shelter, this ultimate buying guide will highlight some of the best tents this crowded industry has to offer.
No tent brings climate control and wifi to the backcountry, but there are plenty of tents that can make the difference between a great night’s sleep in the woods or ending the trip a few days early.
Your backpacking tent will take you to sweeping vistas and new surroundings, so choose wisely. A high-quality shelter should last a decade and allow plenty of room for growth as you push yourself to new heights.
Follow along with this buying guide, and you’ll be one step closer to your perfect backcountry partner.
Read on to find out what makes this tent special and learn more about the rest of the competition.
The Best Backpacking Tent
After a long day’s walk through the woods, any backpacking tent worthy of your adventure will set up in a hurry, keep you protected through three seasons of weather, and stay light enough for you to get to camp before sunset.
Very few tents on the market check off all three of these boxes, and even fewer tents fill out the rest of the requirements to qualify for our list.
These are the few, the proud, the best backpacking tents on the market.
Big Agnes Copper Spur
Although we’d never say a product is perfect, the Copper Spur HV UL2 is the closest thing on the market to a sure thing. This sleek tent is built for the backcountry, shedding weight at every corner to make sure you make it to the mountaintop with your back intact.
A lightweight backpacking tent has to bring protection deep into the woods, and the copper spur makes it look easy, providing a luscious interior spacious in an incredibly light package.
Fair-weather excursions can shed weight even further by travelling with just the rain fly and a footprint for a 2 lb shelter.
If 2 pounds is still too heavy, the Copper Spur HV UL2 can be easily divided into two packs, so each adventurer will travel with a light tent that weighs less than a water bottle.
All this power packed into a freestanding tent only comes with one flaw; durability. While Big Agnes is known for weather protection and pumping out ultralight tents, their offerings aren’t the most beginner-friendly.
Treat this tent with care, and it will help you sleep comfortably for years to come.
With a weight this low, you might expect a cramped interior, but the Big Agnes Copper Spur doesn’t just want you to reach the summit, it wants to hang out and enjoy the mountains no matter the weather.
Large interior pockets and plenty of gear storage helps you make the most out of your interior space and rounds out this incredible backpacking tent that performs highly across every metric.
- Incredibly lightweight and still provides 2 doors
- 29 square feet of interior floor space
- Trekking poles cna double as tent stakes and open up more vestibule space
- Does not provide beginner-friendly durabilty
- One of the more expensive tent options
MSR Mutha Hubba
MSR’s Hubba Hubba series might just be the most well-rounded piece of outdoor gear on the planet. In fact, we’ve had ours for 5 years and it’s still going strong!
While the tent doesn’t quite have the packed weight to rank as our best overall backpacking tent, you’ll have a tough time finding a tent body that can fit into more situations than this contender.
As one of the larger tents in the series, the Mutha Hubba semi-freestanding tent is one of the few backpacking tents on our list that can legitimately work as a three-person tent but truly excels for two hikers and their gear.
Other tents get stoked about reaching 25 square feet of interior room, but the Mutha Hubba packs almost 40 square feet of rolling room inside a durable backpacking tent body with loads of weather protection.
Floor space is never free, which means the Mutha Hubba won’t be able to provide the minimum trail weight required for ultralight backpacking gear lists.
While every ounce counts at mile 30, most backpacking tents won’t offer a better combination of durable weather protection and luxurious interior space that turn casual backcountry adventures into glamping in a bag.
The only reason the Mutha Hubba doesn’t run away with the competition is that this buying guide is emphasising backpacking tents.
Shoppers who only want to own one tent will find these lightweight tents equally capable of international travel, backpacking, and car camping.
- 3-person tent that truly packs space for 3 to sleep
- Vertical walls and 2 vestibular doors increase livability
- Hubbed tent poles increase wind resistance
- Slightly heavy for an ultralight backpacking tent
- Not completely freestanding
Most popular backpacking tents try to delicately toe the line between comfort and lightweight convenience, but not Nemo.
This beast provides one of the lowest packaged weights of any tent on our list, and Nemo optimised every inch of their signature offering to focus on being the best ultralight tent on the market.
Built for backpacking trips of more than a week, these easy-to-pitch freestanding tents are perfect on warm nights and cold, rainy afternoons.
It stops short of a true four-season tent, but the Hornet has sacrificed interior space and luxury in favour of high-performance protection.
While it’s not the roomiest tent on our list, the Hornet is more than a glorified bivvy. Fly bar tent stakes and pole clips bring enough headroom to get changed inside the two-person tent, and two separate doors mean you won’t have to climb over anyone for a midnight trip to the loo.
That’s about all the comfort features you’ll find in this super technical offering. Nemo isn’t known for churning out car camping hits, and this robust backpacking tent is no exception. It’s closer to one person and a dog than a true two-person backpacking tent.
Still, any hiking tandems or adventure where every ounce is a premium will enjoy just enough interior space to get by, as long as you don’t expect much room for gear storage.
- One of the lightest packed weight options in the market
- Flybar tent poles make the most out of limited headspace
- Affordable for such a technically advanced ultralight tent
- Cramped quarters compared to other 2-person tents
- Doesn’t include many interior pockets
North Face Storm Break 2
The StormBreak 2 is practically the exact opposite of the Nemo Hornet. hikers can have both of these midrange backpacking tents for less than $200, but that’s where the similarities stop.
The North Face may have made their name providing technical gear capable of talking the most technically advanced terrain on earth, but they know as well as anyone that not every piece of outdoor gear in your closet has to sacrifice comfort for performance.
The StormBreak is one of the heavier tents on our list, but it’s chock full of interior space, headroom, and comfort features that allow most casual adventurers to sleep in style without breaking your back.
Not every one of the best backpacking tents needs to break weight records. The StormBreak emphasises the floor space and provides a wide rain fly that helps campers stretch out after a long day in the woods.
This system isn’t just comfortable; it’s also durable as all get out. You can completely customise the weather protection on these semi freestanding tents to bring in extra ventilation, wind resistance, and enough interior space to play cards through a rainy afternoon.
You can certainly find a lighter tent out there, but if tent weight isn’t your biggest concern, this cosy budget tent with a bathtub floor is a perfect car camping tent or weekend warrior.
- Incredibly roomy headspace and interior
- Plenty of rain fly adjustments and ventilation options
- Most affordable tent on our list
- Slightly too heavy for a long-distance backpacking trip
- Needs a larger vestibule space
You’ll find plenty of lighter tents built for two, and maybe a few more ultralight tents, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another entire tent package that performs as well as the Tungsten at such an affordable price.
Our pick for the best budget backpacking tent comes with a footprint and plenty of interior space, all wrapped up by classic X-shaped tent poles for an affordable backpacking tent that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.
The Tungsten is the complete package, making it a great option for burgeoning adventurers’ first tent or a safe gift to encourage a life outside.
Most of the backpacking tents on our list are chock full of special features and quirky designs that travellers will either love or hate, but not the Tungsten. This lightweight tent body takes up a rectangular shape and provides an unassuming shelter that’s tough to find things to complain about.
In fact, if you were asked to imagine a backpacking tent, chances are you’d conjure up an image similar to this classic semi freestanding design. Two doors take up most of the tent body, and an unassuming rainfly holds firm through three seasons.
It’s the whole-wheat bread of the tent world. There are many more exciting tents out there, but the Tungsten takes care of all the little things to have a place on any adventure.
- Classic design is incredibly easy to figure out
- Includes a footprint
- 2 doors and plenty of vestibule space
- Nothing out of the ordinary to get excited about
- Too heavy for a through-hike
REI Co Op Half Dome 2
Representing the largest outdoor company on the planet, the REI Half Dome SL has big shoes to fill as this outdoor behemoth’s signature tent.
This tent well represents REI’s brand by providing middle-of-the-road value for every adventure at an affordable price. No, the Half Dome is not going to break lightweight or performance records.
Instead, expect this tent to check off every category and fill in every corner with quality, all at an incredibly affordable price.
There is no safer choice in the industry than an REI tent. That’s not just because of the company’s impressive track record or their national dominance, it’s also thanks to their insane return policy.
Try out the REI Co Op Half Dome SL 2 risk-free for six months, and even if you don’t find anything wrong with your tent you can still return it with no questions asked.
This policy wouldn’t be around long if the REI co-op didn’t trust in the Half Dome SL 2 to exceed your expectations. It’s no ultralight tent, and you can certainly find lighter trail weight options, but that’s not what this middle-class tent is built for.
This tent is built to help intrepid explorers fall in love with the great outdoors.
An entirely mesh interior wall helps accomplish just that. Clear out the rain fly on the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2 and you’ll fall asleep under the stars. On worse nights, the rain fly extends out above the two-door set-up to keep your gear, and your head, cosy and dry.
The Half Dome is an ideal definition of three-season tents, providing a durable tent floor space, comfortable headspace, and an affordable price point to serve as one of the safest bets in the industry.
- Plenty of ventilation makes this one of the best fair weather backpackign tents on the market
- The user-friendly design will have you setting this tent up in seconds
- The half dome is quite literal, with a beautiful roll-back mesh exterior on warm nights
- Things start to get shaky in strong wind
- Not even trying to be a lightweight tent
Big Agnes Tiger Wall
Big Agnes can’t squeeze into many of the market’s tiniest tents, so they set out to make a backpacking tent that has some room to stretch out.
A unique crossbar pole stretches out the interior space across this rugged tent floor and allows two backpackers to sit up comfortably.
The Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is an ultralight tent designed for long-distance backpackers who want to carry a splash of extra comfort into the backcountry without adding on excess weight.
The difference between good and the best backpacking tents on the market is not often more than a few inches here or a few ounces there, and Big Agnes got creative to provide an ultralight tent unlike anything else on the market.
A splash of an extra living room is excellent, but it means nothing if it’s not surrounded by a high-quality tent design and durable structure. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 doesn’t just try to be different, it also takes care of the details, like keeping two separate doors and throwing in loads of extra storage pockets.
Colour-coded tent poles and DAC feather-light technology will have this tent set up in minutes, rain or shine, all coming from a miniature size and packaged weight that let the tiger wall hang with any of the best ultralight tents on the market.
- Big Agnes’ most roomy lightweight backpacking tent
- Durable tent floor
- Ultralight and still packs in 2 doors
- Very loose definition of free-standing
- Not the most durable tent floor
Sea To Summit Telos TR 2
The Tiger Wall provides a crossbar that opens up headroom, but the Telos TR 2 smashes it out of the park, providing a reverse curved crossbar that brings more interior space than any other 2-person backpacking tent on the market.
A reversed head pole and two large canopy doorway openings allow this tent to open up to levels far beyond its weight class and will enable you to carry a uniquely luxurious backpacking tent with you deep into the backcountry.
Sea to Summit is one of the only tent manufacturers on the market that figured out how to bring on extra living space without adding extra weight. Their unique use of tent poles and rain flies are well on their way to revolutionising the market, but there are still a few kinks to work out.
The current iteration won’t quite hold up to extreme downpours as the reverse bar structure is known to pool a bit of water.
That inability to function in a cascade brings this tent down a few notches, but we love to see what Sea to Summit is trying to accomplish, and you probably shouldn’t be camping through a hurricane anyways.
As long as you don’t get poured on, you’ll relish the precious few extra inches this tent provides the next time you and your partner have to get changed inside your backpacking tent.
- Best in class headroom
- Easy to split between 2 hikers
- Huge doors stretch out the living space
- Water can sometimes pool on the reverse head pole
REI Co-op Flash air 2
Most big chain stores have their own line of products that are more affordable than the competition but are not near as technically advanced, but REI isn’t just any corporation.
The Flash Air 2 is the company’s largest foray into the ultralight backpacking tent industry yet, and the insanely light packaged weight on this bad boy proves REI can hang with any of the best backpacking tent options on the market.
If you’re looking for a luxuriously comfortable tent, look elsewhere. The Flash Air two is all about shedding weight.
This backpacking tent provides 30 square feet of tent floor space at less than 2.5 pounds, which is a ridiculous combination of size and weight. It still feels a bit cramped for two or more adventurers, but what ultralight backpacking tents won’t?
Two side doors and two raised staked ends help add on a bit of breathing room, but the stakes are set upright in the middle of the doorway, making it a bit cumbersome to manoeuvre at night.
You can set up these single-wall tents with the included stakes or your own trekking poles to help you cut out a few extra ounces, but make sure you’ve got your guylines set up properly before any rainstorms. Single wall tents are known to pool a bit of water through a heavy downpour.
This tent is a surprising niche pick from a brand that has a little something for every adventure. It’s not a great choice for a novice outdoorsman, but anyone looking for something lightweight and compatible with their trekking poles will love this unique shelter.
- Competes with the Nemo Hornet to rank as one of lightest affordable tents
- You can set up this tent with the included stakes or your trekking poles
- One of the more durable ultralight backpacking tents
- Single wall design is prone to leaking
- 2 people cannot sit upright comfortably inside
North Face Wawona 6
As every backpacker’s favourite anti-hero (allegedly) scrawled before he died in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, happiness is only real if it’s shared.
Bring along a friend or two and enjoy plenty of space to wait out a few rainy afternoons with this backpacking tent.
The North Face has made it easier than ever to backpack with the whole family, or your whole crew, with this incredibly roomy backpacking tent.
Any tent capable of sleeping six isn’t going to qualify as an ultralight but once the Wawona is set up you’ll be glad you brought along the extra packed weight.
This two-room townhouse has unparalleled floor space in a backpacking tent, largely thanks to the nearly 50 square feet of vestibule space.
A wide-open canopy style living area provides a shelter for the whole team’s gear or a lovely spot of shade while the family gathers around the breakfast table.
You might think a tent this large will crumble at the first strong gust, but the updated tent carries with it DAC MX poles that reinforce your shelter without adding to its packed weight.
There’s no denying that this tent is a bit of a bear to haul with you through the backcountry. Solo and even duo backpackers have no business carrying something this heavy with them on long adventures.
But any family of outdoorsmen or car campers who want to bring their friends with them on their next adventure won’t find a tent that feels more like home than the Wawona.
- Provides a porch big enough for a table and 4 chairs
- Enough sleeping room for full-sized and twin mattresses to fit inside together
- All this space and it still holds up against high winds and rains
- Weighs over 20 lbs
- Not an easy tent to pitch
Choosing the Best Backpacking Tent
Now that we’ve seen the best backpacking options on the market, let’s get personal. As you can see from our list, there is no one size that fits all in the backpacking industry.
We’ll walk through a few key components that make up the industry’s most popular tent so you can have a better idea of what you want out of your gear.
Choosing the best backpacking tent for your adventure involves some tough questions. The most ultralight tent on Earth may not be the best backpacking tent for your needs.
Each one of these factors helps define the differences in industry-leading tents and will help you narrow down the playing field and find your perfect companion.
There are various types of backpacking tents, some more suitable to actual adventure activities than others. The biggest criteria to look for in the type of tent you’re shopping for is its tent body and layout structure.
Most of the tents we have recommended would fit in the freestanding tent category, meaning they have a good internal structure to hold up to their own weight when set up without requiring the tension of stakes to hold them up.
Freestanding tents are by far the most popular and common for most backpacking trips.
Best Freestanding Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
On the other end of the spectrum, non-freestanding tents require staking to give them shape and form.
These are typically not the most durable backpacking tent to use, particularly in inclement weather. But they will be the most lightweight due to minimal reliance on tent poles.
And in between, semi freestanding tents may require some staking, but will primarily hold their form internally without exterior assistance.
Best Semi Freestanding Tent: REI Co-Op Flash Air 2
When you’re talking about backpacking tents, the weight will always come first. The difference between a three and four-pound tent may not sound like much, but every ounce quickly adds up, especially when your adventure hits day four.
There are a few varying weight classes that make up modern backpacking tents:
- Ultralight – 1-2 lbs per person
- Lightweight – 2-3 lbs per person
- Standard – 5-7 lbs
Ultralight tents reach their featherweights by using best in class technology across the tent poles and body. This tech isn’t cheap, and some companies will ignore durability in favour of shaving off a few ounces.
On the flip side, there is definitely such thing as too much tent, especially if you plan on walking a few miles to camp. Anything above 7 pounds is too heavy to be carried for any considerable distances unless you’re bringing the whole family.
But I wouldn’t walk more than a mile with anything heavier than 5 lbs in my pack.
It is important to remember that while weight should be the deciding factor in choosing a backpacking tent, there is no need to overdo it.
Unless you plan on walking 15 miles a day for the next three weeks, you can probably afford to carry a slightly heavier tent in the name of interior comfort.
The lightweight class generally provides a great balance of weight and comfort, and the standard class will be a few hundred dollars cheaper than any other option.
Best Lightweight Tent: Nemo Hornet
Weather Resistance & Seasonality
Without weather resistance, what’s the point of carrying a tent? Obviously, you’ll want your tent to protect you from a surprise downpour, but there are varying degrees of weather resistance even amongst the best backpacking tents on the market.
The best choice for your adventure will depend on what conditions you expect to travel through.
Every tent on our list is rated as a three-season tent, which means it should hold strong through wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour, temperatures at or above freezing, and rain showers. The taller and more roomy your tent’s interior, the less weather resistance it will provide.
Backpackers who plan on sleeping in extreme conditions should look towards four-season tents, which by nature are rarely considered lightweight.
That is because these tents use extra insulation across the tent body and reinforced poles to help keep the heat inside on below-freezing nights and hold firm through snowstorms.
You should only carry a four-season tent with you if you expect to sleep through a snowstorm or two.
The best backpacking tents on the market are all lightweight first, but that doesn’t mean you have to live a spartan life in the woods.
Some of our favourite backpacking tents, like the MSR Mutha Hubba and REI’s Half Dome, leave just enough room to stretch out after a long day’s hike.
Other tent options can feel more like bivvies with hardly enough room for one person to sit up inside.
Every backpacking tent on the market wants to fit as much into as light a space as possible. This means companies can sometimes get a bit creative when defining their interior space.
A great rule of thumb when shopping for your next backpacking tent is to take manufacturers’ sleeping definitions with a grain of salt.
A three-person tent is more realistically suited for two people and their gear, and a four-person tent is best for three people, etc.
Sure, you can technically squeeze two people into the Nemo Hornet, but you had better know each other pretty well. Interior space is not a huge concern for weekend trips, as we all want to spend as much time outside as possible.
Anyone shopping for an extended trip or who plans on spending a week at a time in their tent will eventually run on some foul weather, and every extra inch of interior space will become incredibly valuable on your first rainy afternoon.
You don’t have to go overboard and pack a ten-pound tent in your bag for a bit of extra breathing room, but unless you’re planning on walking hundreds of miles, give your trip enough space for a sleeping bag tag.
Best tent for interior space: MSR Mutha Hubba
Weather resistance doesn’t stop when there is a break in the clouds. Ventilation should be one of your chief weather concerns when shopping for a tent, as fair-weathered nights are when we all love to spend more time outside.
Modern tents with completely mesh interiors and flexible rain flies that roll up on hot nights can be the only thing preventing you from sweating through your tent floor.
Ventilation is the silent killer. Everyone frets about their trip being rained out, but a lack of tent ventilation will turn your home in a bag into a hot box.
Campers who plan on backpacking through sticky tropical climates should make sure their tent has two doors and shouldn’t rely on single-wall tent designs to get the job done.
Instead, look towards tents with at least two air vents near the roof, or something like the REI Half Dome SL 2’s completely mesh top half.
A tent with a removable rain fly like the half dome will allow you to sleep under the stars and bring much-needed relief on hot, windless nights.
Best tent for ventilation: REI Half Dome SL 2
Ease of Setup & Breakdown
When you’ve been hiking all day the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or more fumbling through parts of your tent trying to piece it together in freezing cold howling wind!
So you want to have a backpacking tent that you feel comfortable setting up and breaking down quickly and efficiently. Typically these will be our freestanding tent recommendations.
Easiest Tent to Setup: Big Agnes Tiger Wall
Like all great hiking gear, sometimes the best overall backpacking tent options are not the most affordable ones.
And the best budget backpacking tents may be good in ideal circumstances but will leave you wet and cold during torrential rain or snowfall.
So finding a great budget backpacking tent that ticks off most of the criteria that matter the most to you and your hiking preferences is going to involve some trade-offs.
We’re not going to try and sell you on the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 just because we like it. It may be a bit outside your price range and maybe a bit more than what you need for where you plan to hike.
Make a list of what is most important for you in terms of what you want in a backpacking tent and see which one on our list fits your budget best.
Best Budget Backpacking Tent: Marmot Tungsten
Now that we’ve explored everything there is to know about the industry’s best backpacking tent options, all that’s left to do is set up camp and start exploring!
Our editor’s choice, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2, has made its name by providing an incredible mix of lightweight packed size, interior comfort, and powerful weather resistance to serve as a worthy addition to any backpacking trip.
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