But, I also want to help you overcome this one common pitfall that so many backpackers experience.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, right?
It’s the dreaded bad night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging when you’re roughing it out in the wilderness. If you’ve traveled, you know all about the importance of eight solid hours. That’s why you need to find a good tent for your trips.
Another thing you need to get used to is setting up and taking your tent down. Every single day you need to pack it up, carry it for all those miles, and set it up again before crawling into it to sleep.
Now, imagine if it was just a little too small for you, if it didn’t have enough space to cover all your gear, if it weighed you down, or if it was too complicated to set up. All of these things will annoy you and waste your time. And you know what? I don’t want to waste your time. Backpacking is meant to be fun.
You’re probably thinking, what makes a backpacking tent truly great? I’ve designed this list of tents to make sure you find one that fits your lifestyle. From the ultra-lightweight minimalist designs, to the beefier, fortress-in-a-bag-style tents, I’ve got you covered.
If you’re looking to travel far for a long-trip—in either duration or mileage—those ounces of pack weight start to add up fast. Depending on the length of your trip, you’re already carrying a lot. You have your food, survival tools, waterproof gear, water purification, and much more. Put it all together and you could have a back-breaking heavy pack before you know it.
But there’s an easy solution the problem.
In this list, I’m going to show you a few lightweight tents that I really like. While they may not be the lightest tents on the market, I chose them because they are lighter than most. These tents won’t weigh you down and they’ll still keep you protected from the unpredictable elements.
While they aren’t as spacious as larger tents, they get the job done, help you get a good sleep, and can be set up and disassembled in no time.
Most two-person ultralight (UL) tents weight less than 3 pounds, while some single sleepers weigh less than two pounds.
Maybe weight isn’t something that matters as much to you. Whether you are going on a shorter trip, or want some extra space to stretch your legs, there are some great options available. Weighing more than three pounds, most of these tents are made of rugged materials and offer more than enough space.
I’ve picked five of the top backpacking tents in this area that I feel offer you more space, extra features, and more comfort than a typical minimalist tent.
You never want to find yourself in a position where your tent breaks. Tents are made from a wide variety of materials—some are durable, others not so much. You want a tent with a floor, fly, and canopy that are made of durable materials like nylon or polyester. Because if you’re going to pay a little extra for a reliable tent, you want it to last.
Now, if there’s one thing you want, it’s a tent with a good denier.
Den-what? Denier is the standard unit of measurement for individual fiber thickness within the material. Simply put, a 30-denier nylon material will be thinner than a 70-denier nylon material. The more deniers you have, the more durable and potentially waterproof your tent is.
In the world of tents, you will see different denier ratings for the floor, canopy and fly. These ratings differ because not all areas of the tent require the same amount of durability. Tent floors will always have higher ratings, as that’s where the greatest amount of wear usually occurs, while the canopy and fly can be thinner and lighter.
In the ultra-lightweight department, it’s not uncommon to see tent floors in the 20 to 30-denier range. While these work, I wouldn’t include them in a list of the best backpacking tents if they didn’t. I recommend a delicate approach when setting up and storing.
But if you’re looking for something a little more robust, keep an eye out for 50 to 70-denier floors. Remember, a higher denier count is heavier. You need to think about how and where you will use your tent. For softer ground, a lower denier count may work.
Freestanding vs. Semi-Freestanding
A freestanding tent is just like its name sounds. Once the poles are set up, it can stand alone without any stake or additional support. This usually means that the poles attach at the corners of the tent, and the tent is fully supported and at its full size.
A semi-freestanding tent means that additional stakes or support is required for the tent to reach its full size to be stable. In this case, the pole on one end of the tent will attach right in the middle of the edge, not at the corner. This means you’ll need a couple of stakes at the corners in order to pull the tent to its full size.
As you might have guessed, these two styles fall into different weight classes. The semi-freestanding design focuses on trimming weight however possible. While this is effective, setting this tent up can be difficult, especially in poor weather.
The freestanding version is often found in well-rounded tents that prioritize space, durability, and features.
So, which should you get?
That’s going to depend on what you need! Just like durability and weight, you need to determine your priorities, and what the right backpacking tent looks like to you. If you’re not concerned with a little extra setup time, aim for the semi-freestanding option and save yourself some weight.
If you prefer a quick and painless setup process, then I’d recommend going with a freestanding tent.
This is one area that splits the hiking community. Some hikers love having a little extra space, while others like sleeping in their own personal cocoon. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. It really comes down to what you want to get out of your tent.
So, what does your best backpacking tent look like?
There’s no easy way to answer this question. Start by taking a moment to really think about what you need most. Do you want extra space, or do you value portability and would rather trim off a few pounds?
You’ll also want to consider things like your height, shoulders, and the height of the tent. If you’re taller than Big Foot, you may need a bigger tent. Look at each tent’s specs to see if they fit your needs.
It’s the little design features that can launch a tent from obscurity into a list of the best backpacking tents on the market.
One of these features is the bathtub design for tent floors. This lifts the seam where floor and walls meet several inches above the ground, decreasing the chance for leaks and helping to create a more durable platform.
I also like tents that include enough mesh pockets. You can never have enough storage for lights, music, gear, and other items that you like to keep accessible.
A few other features I enjoy are internal access to the fly air vents, symmetrical floor design for more room, vertical sidewalls, and pole designs that are easy to assemble.
Alright, but what am I getting at here?
Take a good hard look at any tents you’re considering, and see which one has the features you want. Don’t let yourself get sold on features you don’t care about. Focus on what matters most, and you’ll find the right tent for your hiking trips.
Packed Weight vs. Minimum Weight
Let’s take a moment to clear up a common tent misconception you’ll see everywhere online. You’ll often see the phrases “minimum weight” and “packed weight” listed for tents, which can be a little confusing when weight is a serious concern that influences the purchasing process.
Packed weight refers to the full kit-you buy, and what comes out of the box. That means it includes the tent body, fly, poles, stakes, guy lines, repair gear, and stuff sacks.
Minimum weight refers to only the essentials that you absolutely need to pitch the tent in the wilderness – namely, the tent body, fly, and poles.
While stakes and guy lines are important – and nearly essential for foul weather –it’s often assumed that they’re not included in minimum weight requirements.
I’ve decided to use packed weight as the standard for this list. The only way to increase the longevity of your tent is to use it as its intended. It’s that simple.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is an all-around winner that takes the cake as my all-time favorite as it doesn’t sacrifice too much space or utility for the sake of weight. MSR really understands how to strike a balance.
The tent weighs three pounds, 13 ounces for the two-person version, and for that, you get enough space to fit two adults comfortably.
The tent also includes the standard two-door and two vestibule design. This makes it easy for two people to enter or exit and store all of their gear.
With an easy setup design and decent ventilation, it’s also a breeze to get into position quickly and remain comfortable once you’re inside.
If you’re looking for even more wiggle room for two adults to fit comfortably, the Hubba Hubba features asymmetrical design, meaning you can sleep head to toe to get a little more shoulder space.
The floor is also constructed of 30-denier ripstop nylon, making it durable enough for the trail, while still keeping it relatively light.
All in all, it’s a well-rounded and accommodating tent. Roomy enough, light enough, and durable enough to suit most folk’s needs on the trail!
REI tent design has bounded forward in the past few years. They’re no longer just a generic store where you buy big brands like Big Agnes, Nemo, and Marmot. Their own brand now makes some of the best backpacking tents you can get, and they have excellent prices too.
If you’re looking for a well-made backpacking tent that fits one person and won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the REI Quarter Dome is for you. They make a 2-person version, as well, which is just as good—just a little larger.
The Quarter Dome clocks in at two pounds, 14 ounces, making it a little heavier than some of the other tents in this class, but don’t let that deter you. The abundance of mesh pockets inside, internal access to the fly vent, and decent space for both you and your pack make it a solid choice for a lightweight backpacking trip.
The fly and tent body are made of comparatively thin 15 and 20-denier ripstop nylon. From my experience, they hold up to the elements reliably.
Thin materials do have their downsides, though—they’re more prone to becoming damaged. You should be careful when setting this tent up near sharp objects like rocks and branches. It’s worth buying a tent footprint to increase the lifespan of your Quarter Dome.
The ultralight Nemo Hornet is another one of the best backpacking tents on the market. Built in one-person and two-person configurations, it weighs one pound, 16 ounces, and two pounds, five ounces respectively. For how light they are, these tents are “sturdy little shelters.”
The Hornet offers full bug and weather protection while remaining one of the lightest freestanding tents (you don’t need to use trekking poles) you can buy on the market.
The two-person version even offers a two-door design, which is an excellent perk for such a lightweight tent. Both the one-person and two-person versions also include good air circulation that limits annoying condensation buildup on the inside of the fly.
Throw in the minimalist seam construction (known as tub-design), and internal pockets to store a little gear, and you have a well-rounded, lightweight backpacking tent.
The Hornet accomplishes these features by truly living up to its label as “a sturdy little shelter.” The company sacrificed size to lower this tent’s weight., This is something you’ll notice when you try and share the two-person with another adult.
If the occasional elbow in your space is the price you’re willing to pay to increase your range for a phenomenal hike, then the Hornet may be the tent for you.
If you’re a solo hiker that likes a little more breathing room, I’d recommend going for the two-person and enjoying that extra space.
But if you really need to cut weight, and still want a tent instead of a bivvy bag, then the one-person will keep you snug and protected.
If you and a friend are looking for an all-around solid, ultra-light two-person tent, then the Tiger Wall by Big Agnes is definitely worth checking out. This tent is exceptionally easy to haul for long trips as it only weighs two pounds, eight ounces. It achieves this low weight because of its semi-freestanding design and thin material.
This semi-freestanding setup means the tent pole connects part-way on one side of the tent, and stakes are required to pull the tent out to its full size.
While this setup may not be as easy as fully-freestanding designs, it does cut down on the overall weight.
The tent also features a full mesh wall, instead of the standard part-mesh and part-nylon design. This produces noticeably improved ventilation, while the generous fly design provides enough space for pack storage for two people.
This tent is roomy enough that you won’t feel claustrophobic as you try to sleep. I’m not suggesting this tent’s a palace, but it isn’t the smallest tent on the market either. It splits space right down the middle and passes the savings on to you. This means it’s an excellent middle-of-the-road design.
Where the Quarter Dome trims and nit-picks features to reduce weight, the REI Half Dome Plus maximizes your space and comfort and doesn’t shy away from that fact.
With vertical side walls to improve headroom, mesh pockets nearly everywhere you look, and enough interior space to make you feel like the king of the castle, these tents have everything you need—and they’re really reasonably priced (for tents, anyway).
But, a large tent at a low price point does come with its disadvantages—and in this case, that disadvantage is its weight. The one-person tent is a hefty four pounds, two ounces, and the two-person tent is four pounds, 15 ounces.
A lot of that weight is coming from the 70-denier nylon floor fabric—but that’s not entirely bad. The extra thickness significantly improves the overall durability of the tent. Combine this with generous storage under the 40-denier nylon fly and impeccable waterproofing, and you’ve got yourself your own wilderness fortress.
The extra weight is well worth the unparalleled comfort this tent offers. If you’re looking for something middle-of-the-road between the Half Dome and the previous ultra-light options, I have a few more options for you.
Big Agnes clearly understands the balance between functionality, ultra-lightweight design, and comfort. The Copper Spur is another Big Agnes tent that comes in at almost exactly three pounds for a two-person tent, which is an impressive feat.
This tent manages to offer just a little bit more headroom, floor space, and vestibule space than its little brother the Tiger Wall. The additional space isn’t much, but maybe that’s the tipping point that makes this tent big enough for you. The Copper Spur is fully free-standing, and setup is easy.
As you might expect, the low weight of this tent makes it less durable than some of its peers. Like the Tiger Wall, the Copper Spur uses a proprietary double ripstop nylon. You really need to think about what you need your tent to do. If you’re roughing it off the beaten path, this ten’t durability may be an issue.
Despite its questionable durability, the Copper Spur is a fantastic tent midway between its lighter counterpart the Tiger Wall and the beefier/heavier tents such as the REI Half Dome and Marmot Tungsten.
Whereas the aforementioned Hornet is lightweight and portable, the Nemo Dagger focuses on durability and spaciousness.
At three pounds, 12 ounces for the two-person version, the Dagger is often compared to the MSR Hubba Hubba in terms of comfort and durability.
Like the Hubba Hubba, the Nemo Dagger also features a symmetrical design instead of tapered walls. This design choice helps to maximize the usable space for two people.
The Dagger offers lots of storage space thanks to its high-ceilinged fly cover vestibule space. This high ceiling is also evident inside the tent with a 42-inch height for some nice space to sit up.
This tent also features a 30-denier nylon floor, along with 15-denier fly and canopy fabric. This fabric is sufficient for serious backpacking.
Still, you’ll want to be careful when setting this tent up. The denier count isn’t as high as other tents, so it can get damaged from sharp objects. I recommend you purchase a tent footprint if you want to increase the lifespan of your tent.
The REI Half Dome isn’t the only ruggedly-built backpacking tent out there. The Marmot Tungsten hits the sweet spot as one of the best tents for backpacking. It has a durable and lasting design that comes with a very budget-friendly price tag.
Even better? It has a 68-denier polyester fly and floor fabric, and equally as strong mesh and canopy. This means that the tent will hold up against whatever the trail throws at you. The ample amount of mesh on the tent body also allows for decent ventilation.
There are a few drawbacks to this tent, however. The noticeable increase in weight counterbalances the durable construction. The two-person version weighs in at just an ounce lighter than the REI Half Dome. But, it offers significantly less space inside. This is at least in part due to the tapered construction of the tent body. If you like a lot of space, this tent may not be for you. You cannot sleep head to toe in it.
The lower price of the tent makes up for many of its shortcomings. If you’re looking for an affordable and reliable tent, or just getting started with backpacking, this is a great choice. And for those who want a durable tent that will stick with them over the long haul, consider the Tungsten UL version.
Hilleberg is known by many as one of the top tent makers in the world. And it shows with their Jannu design. This tent is built for extreme mountaineering. It’s for the rugged backpacker that wants to brave the elements and needs a reliable tent that can survive it all. The distinctive aerodynamic shape and strong pole design allow this tent to stand up to the worst weather.
As for setting this tent up? It’s a breeze. The intersecting pole design only requires the single vestibule to be staked. Talk about smart design!
The double-wall also allows for impressive ventilation, while the tent floor area is ideal for two hikers. Despite its comparatively heavy weight, this tent also functions well for a single hiker. You can sprawl out in it with a fair amount of gear, making it a reliable choice for lengthier, or more arduous trips.
The extreme quality and ruggedness of this tent come at a steep price. At almost $1,000, this is the most expensive tent on the list. But when it comes to high-intensity trips, this is the backpacking tent you want by your side. If you plan to try some riskier hikes, this tent is worth every penny.
If weight and durability are something you value, this is the right tent for you. I’m talking to you hardcore PCT and ATers.
Your hikes are already intense enough as it is. That’s why you need to shave every single ounce you can, and you’re are willing to pay for this luxury.
If that sounds like you, check out the ZPacks Plexamid (one-person) and Duplex Flex (two-person). They’re easily two of the best options in terms of weight.
These tents are ridiculously lightweight. I’m talking so light that you won’t believe it. They take up minimal space at just 14.8 ounces, and one pound, 3.2 ounces for the one-person and two-person respectively. This tent’s portability is something that separates it from the rest.
These tents are constructed out of Dyneema, a material that’s renowned for its strength to weight ratio and commonly used in boat sails. Zpack’s decision to use Dyneema in their tent design makes this tent incredibly weather resistant and as durable as they come.
You’d think a tent on a diet would be cramped. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. These tents are surprisingly roomy given their low weights. I’m not talking get up and walk around in them big, but these tents also won’t make you feel like you’re sleeping in a coffin.
Still, these tents aren’t perfect.
It’s time I address the elephant in the room, and by that, I mean the price. This tent is extremely pricey. Coming in at over $549 for the Plexamid, and $725 for the Duplex Flex, you need to be a diehard backpacker before you consider these prices.
The Zpacks tents also take a little bit more work to set up than most standard tents. This may not be the best option if you want a tent you can pitch and sleep in quickly.
The base designs of the one-person and two-person tents come without poles. Instead, you use your trekking poles. I recommend you practice setting this tent up before using it. Unless, of course, your idea of fun is trying to pitch a tent in the pouring rain.
Note: There is an option to buy the tent with poles, which means upgrading your order to the Duplex flex, or adding poles to your Plexamid order.
And there you have it, folks! My complete list of the best backpacking tents for hikers and adventure seekers of all types. Whether you prefer a lightweight design, or a fortress in a pack, you now know what to choose.
Get out there, stake your poles, and conquer the wilderness.