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.
- Best OverallNemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking TentSummarySummaryThis backpacking tent is an ultralight tent at only 1.7 pounds with trail weight alone, making it a great choice for adventurers who want to go on long backpacking trips minus the heavy baggage.ProsProsIt is water repellent due to its top-shelf fabrics. Its large doors and vestibules allow ease in getting in and out of the tent, good ventilation, as well as more shelter from the rain. It comes with a Divvy stuff sack that makes the tent body easier to carry around.ConsConsFloor area can be cramped for a two-person tent. The one-person tent option is even smaller. It can also be a bit short for people who are taller than 6'2". It is a bit pricey.
- Best ValueRiver Country Products Trekker Tent 2SummarySummaryThis tent is a two-pound backpacking tent that reaches seven feet long, five feet wide, and 42 inches tall.ProsProsIt’s designed for one but can fit two people. It has a factory-sealed fly and floor to protect against campers from the elements. It also boasts extra-large zippers for convenience and mesh walls for increased ventilation.ConsConsIt does not include trekking poles. The included stakes aren’t the most durable and may bend. A little condensation may leak through the fabric.
- Honorable MentionMSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking TentSummarySummaryOne of the lightest tents around, this backpacking tent is a three-season, two-person tent that is easy to install and durable enough to help calm the nerves of jittery amateur backpackers.ProsProsIt is a lightweight and freestanding tent. Its bathtub-style floor ensures protection from the wind and rain. It is easy to set up due to its hub-and-pole system and color-coded clips.ConsConsFootprint is sold separately. Poles become permanently bent after using it for quite some time which makes this tent better off as a semi-freestanding type. Condensation still manages to find its way inside the tent. Weather protection features get weaker overtime.
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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
Best Overall: Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking Tent
The Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking Tent is a one-person ultra-lightweight backpacking tent. It weighs 1.7 pounds and measures 21 x 6 x 7 inches. For couples or best friends who are planning to go camping or backpacking, this backpacking tent has a two-person option that may not be as spacious as you would expect but is enough to fit two average-sized humans.
For people who want to hike and camp light, this backpacking tent may just be the right choice. Its ultralight quality will allow an easier and more comfortable hike. Despite its cramped living space, this backpacking tent has huge doors for easy access and large vestibules that will keep you well-protected from the rain. Furthermore, its 7-D Nylon Ripstop fly with silicone water repellent can withstand heavy rain, and will not allow even a small amount of condensation to get inside the tent.
If you are a bit taller and stockier, fitting two people inside this backpacking tent can be challenging. Even the two-person tent option does not provide that much extra space for two people to move around freely. Buyers might also find it strange that it does not have a spacious interior. However, looking at this from a different perspective, its durability and reliability can save you more money in the long run. Its ability to keep you comfortable and well-rested after a day's hike will make this pricey backpacking tent a worthwhile purchase.
Best Value: River Country Products Trekker Tent 2
The River Country Trekker Backpacking tent is a compact, three-season tent that is seven feet long, five feet wide, and 42 inches tall. The overall weight of this tent when packed is only two pounds because it is a trekker pole tent, meaning the tent poles are not included and alternatives such as hiking poles or sticks are to be used in order to cut down on weight.
This tent is extremely spacious for its dimensions and price. The tent is made for one person but can also fit another comfortably. The size option can also be upgraded to fit up to three people. Aside from being spacious, the product is compact when folded and is equal to the size of a football. This makes this the perfect tent for a quick picnic or a long hike where you do not want to be weighed down. This tent is lightweight and easy to assemble.
There are no tent poles included with this product. This means that it is up to the hiker to bring their own tools in order to assemble their tent. However, since the advertisements do not overtly say that there are no poles included, a last-minute shopper could easily be at a disadvantage and risk not being prepared. Other drawbacks include the issue of durability. Since there are no poles, it is harder to guarantee security.
Honorable Mention: MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking 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.
- 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 Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking Tent. It might be one of the best ultralight backpacking tents despite its hefty price tag due to the comfort it can provide solo campers and backpackers.
There’s also the River Country Products Trekker Tent 2, which is a cheaper yet large option that is enough to fit two people and light enough to hike through any terrain.