LAST UPDATED: October 12, 2019
Best Backpacking Tents: Sleep and Hike in Comfort
Enjoy a trip into the great outdoors with these compact backpacking tents
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PUBLISHED ON October 12, 2019
Backpacking to a campsite is a fun experience, but you want to make sure to travel light for a more comfortable adventure. Finding a backpacking tent is crucial for anyone hiking to their campground. They are lighter and can be packed more compactly to reduce weight and save space. Here are some of the best-rated backpacking tents to consider for your next excursion.
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Benefits of Backpacking Tents
- Camping: When you’re backpacking, you may not know where exactly you’re going to sleep. Plans can change, and lodging is not always available. Camping is always a budget-friendly option, and there are many places that can be turned into a campground. With a backpacking tent, you can easily install it anywhere due to its simple design.
- Sleeping: Sleeping in a tent can help you reset your body clock. This is great for catching up on your sleep, especially when backpacking because adjusting to different time zones can prevent your trip from going smoothly. Having a backpacking tent with you can be quite handy because it is light enough to carry around during your trip. You do not have to worry about sleeping wherever and whenever you feel like doing so.
- Rest: If you need to take a short break from the heat of the sun, a tent is a great way to catch some shade wherever you are. Most backpacking tents are small, compact, and built with a thin, yet weatherproof lining in order to protect you from outside factors such as harsh sun rays, mosquitoes, heavy rain, high winds, and other bad weather conditions.
Types of Backpacking Tents
Aside from being the most basic of all types of backpacking tents, three-season tents are the lightest in terms of weight and are the easiest for backpackers to carry. These tents are made for light camping in sunny and dry weather conditions. They are also ideal for summer, spring, and fall as they are made to withstand light rain and wind.
3-4 Season Tent
3-4 season tents are made from thicker material than standard three-season tents and are designed for further protection and durability. These tents are more weatherproof as they can handle heavier downpours and stronger winds. They are also quite ideal for long hikes and trips that last more than one night. They are great for dryer or more stable areas and weather conditions.
Four-season tents are considered heavy-duty tents. The material of this type of tent is heavy and dense. These tents are designed to hold up and keep you warm through cold winters. These tents are great investments for frequent hikers or for those who are adventurous enough to go trekking through harsh weather conditions, such as scorching heat or heavy snow.
Trekking Pole Tent
Trekking pole tents utilize hiking poles instead of poles made for tents. Hiking poles cut down the weight on your back and allow your poles to double as hiking or walking sticks. Trekking pole tents are widely popular among backpackers. However, their poles are prone to bending or breaking, especially when used a lot for walking. Replacing these poles may also be a bit challenging when you are in a rural area, backcountry, or outside the Continental United States.
Coleman is a widely popular camping brand that was founded in 1900 with the vision of bringing comfort to campers worldwide. Its headquarters are located in Chicago, Kansas, and Texas. It provides a variety of camping gear and outdoor accessories such as grills, tents, and lights. One of its bestsellers is the Coleman Hooligan Backpacking Tent.
ALPS Mountaineering was founded in 1993 and specializes in camping products. It is a brand that promises great performance of its outdoor gear that will exceed all of our expectations. ALPS Mountaineering sells a variety of camping-related gear, including tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags. A top product sold by this brand is the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent.
Big Agnes started out as a small camping goods company in 2000. Since then, its avid users and the company itself have grown as it seeks to carry out its mission of providing a home away from home within every tent design it makes. A widely popular tent from this brand includes the Big Agnes Blacktail Package.
Backpacking Tent Pricing
- Under $100: Backpacking tents within this price range are usually three-season tents or tents intended for light use. These tents are great for spontaneous weekend adventures or for lounging around under the stars in safe and controlled environments.
- $100-$200: More durable backpacking tents are sold within this price range. These backpacking tents are for those people who are planning to go on longer trips in places where there may be weather complications or unpredictable weather conditions.
- $200 and up: Tents within these price range are best for frequent backpackers looking into investing in heavy-duty yet lightweight backpacking tents. Lighter, higher-quality materials come at a higher price and will be found in this price range.
Backpacking tents are meant to be packed in your backpack. These lightweight tents differ from camping tents as that they are meant to be carried everywhere you go and assembled on the spot. The material used to make these tents is often less dense, and there are backpacking tents that do not come with poles in order to save space and cut down on extra weight. So, if you are planning on going backpacking, select one from the lightest tents available.
Backpacking tents should be small when folded. Since they will always be carried in a backpack rather than stored in a car, they should not take up too much space. If a backpacking tent takes up too much space, you will have to make enough space for it. This might force you to get rid of other necessities in order to fit the tent inside your backpack.
Tents should be made of high-quality materials that are durable enough to keep you grounded and dry through the night. Backpacking tents are meant to be small, compact, lightweight, and portable, but that does not mean that these factors for convenience should come at the expense of your comfort or safety. The materials of backpacking tents should still be sturdy enough to keep you dry and protect you from rain and other weather conditions.
- Peak Height: Consider the peak height and the high volume quality of the tent if you will be doing activities such as changing clothes inside it. If you are camping, not all areas have an accessible restroom or changing room nearby. You probably want to change in a secure environment rather than between makeshift curtains. Note your height and how much headroom you want available when you need to stand up.
- Capacity: Backpacking tents can house up to three people. However, keep in mind that the descriptions of the floor space of these tents are not always accurate and are usually generalized. This means that if you know you are taller, shorter, stockier, or more slender than the average person, you should adjust the estimated number of people that you think can fit inside a tent accordingly. Considering the number of walls a tent has can help resolve space issues, so think whether you want to purchase a single-wall tent or a double-wall tent as doing so can affect the flow of air inside a small space.
- Assembly: Not all tents come with everything that is required for assembly or for maintenance. In some cases, backpacking tents do not come with poles because it is assumed that the hiker will use his or her own hiking poles. With that being said, always have your tools prepared and make sure you check your items prior to your trip. It would also help to check on the appropriate pole design for your tent if you need to buy the poles separately.
Best Backpacking Tent Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This four-person backpacking tent is light enough to carry with you. It’s large enough for everyone to sleep in with room for four camp pads inside. The rain fly makes the tent rainproof and creates a vestibule at the entrance of the tent. A pin and ring system locks the corner poles in place.
It’s incredibly easy to set up this tent. You can put it up and take it down in 10 minutes. There are snag-free sleeves that you put the poles through to make setup easier. You’ll also have plenty of ventilation. The entire tent is made of mesh underneath the rainfly.
Unfortunately, to keep the tent light enough for backpacking, Coleman made the poles very thin. This results in a lack of rigidity and structure to the tent. This causes wind and elements to flex the tent and make it difficult to use. The seams and zippers also tend to not be durable and they can burst.
This is a two-person tent that is designed for backpacking. Weighing just 3.5 pounds, it’s lightweight and easy to carry. There are two sizes to choose from: regular and large. The regular-sized tent is 6 feet, 6 inches long, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet, 3 inches high. The large tent size is 7 feet, 3 inches long, 4 feet, 11 inches wide, and 3 feet, 10 inches high.
The compact design of this tent makes it lightweight and easy to carry. The tent is also easy to set up and take down, requiring just minutes for each task.
Unfortunately, this tent is not waterproof. So if you get caught camping in the rain, the tent will leak and you’ll end up wet. It’s also not very long. Even if you’re average height, you may need to sleep diagonally to fit lengthwise in the tent.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent is a three-season, two-person backpacking tent that has a lot of interior space, measuring 29 square feet, which greatly improves livability. It is made of ripstop nylon and polyurethane, which are responsible for its waterproof quality. It also comes with Easton Syclone Poles that can withstand strong winds.
Its hub-and-pole system makes it easier to set up and can be quite useful when you are in great need of shelter from the harsh weather during hiking or camping or when you find yourself in situations that would require you to seek immediate shade. Another key feature of this backpacking tent is its bathtub floor that is efficient in keeping rain splatter and side winds from getting into the tent.
However, the weatherproof features of this MSR backpacking tent are not as flawless as you would expect them to be. A small amount of condensation can still leak through the fabric, especially during extra heavy rainfall. Its poles, which are supposed to be durable and wind-resistant, can bend overtime due to constant struggles with strong winds. It is also such a shame that the tent comes with everything else, such as stakes, guy lines, and rainfly, but not a footprint. You will have to buy it separately if you really want one to protect the outside of your tent floor from wear and tear against the ground. Otherwise, you will have to make do without a footprint in order to save some cash for a backpacking tent that already comes with one.
This ultralight backpacking tent is designed for one person with gear or two people without gear. It fits into a backpack without filling it up and can be used with trekking poles (not included) or sticks that are longer than 42 inches. The tent is 7 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 42 inches tall. It weighs 2.12 pounds and includes stakes and a storage bag.
The tent is made of solid, well-made materials. It's larger than a standard pup tent, and it's easy to set up and take down. The rainfly does a decent job of keeping water out, and the tarp bottom is thick and good-quality. It's very durable, resilient, lightweight, and compact. Also, it's a fraction of the cost of some better-known brands.
However, the stakes are a little heavy, and you may want to replace them with aluminum ones. Also, if you close the doors, condensation can build up on the inside of the tent and your sleeping bag can get wet, but that's not uncommon with tents. There have also been complaints that it is not waterproof.
This waterproof camping tent can accommodate up to four people, depending on what size you purchase. It has a double-layer design to keep water out in most conditions except for hard rain. It's roomy enough to accommodate a queen- or king-size air mattress as well as a backpack, shoes, and more.
This sturdy tent features 8.55mm high-grade fiberglass poles, metal stakes, and nylon ropes to withstand windy conditions. It takes just one person a few seconds to set up, and one of its best features is that you can just undo a few hooks and it becomes a shade canopy. The seals are seamed, it comes with a repair kit, and it's easy to unzip the doors.
One downside is that the stakes are very light, which can be a hassle in rocky areas. Also, it's a little on the heavy side compared to other backpacking tents, and tiny bugs may be able to squeeze through the mesh.
This three-season polyester tent can fit up to four people, depending on which size you choose. It's available in four colors and features two doors, two ventilation skylights, and an awning. You can close the outer layer and use it as a storage area. The tent has a 4000mm waterproof index and features a UV coating to prevent harmful sun rays from penetrating.
One person can easily assemble this tent. It's large for a backpacking tent, yet it's lighter than many more expensive brands. The screen around the tent features a strong mesh material that is unlikely to rip if it makes contact with branches and other objects. The floor of the tent is thin but tough, which is a good thing when it comes to its weight. In addition, the hook on the ceiling is handy for hanging a lantern or fan, and the pockets are useful.
However, the tent does not include the footprint, and the poles to raise the door on the rainfly to create an awning/sun shade are not included. Also, it may be smaller than what's advertised.
This pop-up backpacking tent is designed for one or two people. It's easy to set up: Simply roll the tent out, lock the poles, and pull the drawstring. It comes with a waterproof rainfly and a full mesh top, so you can see the sky.
This sturdy and well-built micro mesh tent is easy to set up and take down, and it's lightweight. It's designed to keep out the cold with the cover on, and you get a 360-degree mesh view of the world when you're inside of it. The biggest benefit with this tent is that you can get away with not using the tent pegs.
One big problem with this tent is the rain fly isn't the best, and you may have to purchase an extended rainfly from TETON, which is an added cost. If you use it without a cot, it doesn't have curved edges to prevent water from coming in if it rains. Also, while it's roomy for one person, it can be a little cramped with two people.
This lightweight backpacking tent can accommodate one or two people, depending on the size you select. It's designed with tear-resistant, micro-mesh fabric that is breathable and minimizes condensation. The two-person tent weighs 5.2 pounds and is 86.6 by 48.4 by 43.5 inches. The interior is 31 square feet.
The seams are taped to prevent leaks and water from intruding. It comes with a full-coverage rainfly and two poles that allow you to set up and take down the tent within two minutes. Since it's freestanding and lightweight, you can move it without disassembling it. The mesh allows you to admire the scenery when you're inside the tent, and there are vents on each side of the rainfly for airflow. It's also easy to put back into the bag for storage.
However, it can be a little small for two tall people. There have also been some complaints that the zipper can fail after a short period of use, and the upper part of the rainfly can easily get caught in the zipper. The stakes may also bend when you put them into the ground.
- Purchase a pair of trekking poles to help set up the tent if it does not come with them. They are also used to help keep your balance in difficult terrain when you’re hiking.
- Set up the tent at your home or somewhere else after you get it to let it air out and allow the fabric to stretch.
- Construct the tent before its first camping trip to make sure nothing is wrong with it. This will also give you the chance to see how long it takes you to properly set it up.
- Purchase a lightweight sleeping bag in addition to the backpacking tent to conserve space and weight.
Q: What do I need to set up a backpacking tent?
A: While a tent will come with poles and a few stakes, you should bring a small and light hammer to drive the stakes into the ground. You may want to purchase extra stakes just in case the ones you are using bend. If you don’t want to pack a hammer, you can use a rock to pound in the stakes as well.
Q: How do I properly maintain a backpacking tent?
A: Always be careful when rolling out the tent. Make sure there are no rocks or sharp sticks that may puncture or tear the fabric. You should always make sure the fabric is dry after packing it away to prevent any mildew or mold from growing on it. Once back home, you can set it up again and let it air dry.
Q: What is the best way to carry a backpacking tent?
A: This depends on the design of the bag or carrying case it comes in. Many feature straps you can wear as an actual backpack, or you can attach the straps to your backpack. You can also find bags specifically designed to carry tents for hiking.
Our top pick for the best backpacking tent is the Coleman Hooligan Backpacking Tent. It can fit up to four people and it sets up quickly.
There’s also the Alvantor Backpacking Tent, which is a cheaper yet large option that is enough to fit two people and light enough to hike through any terrain.