Backpacking and comfort are not synonymous. People head out on a backpacking trip to get out of their comfort zone and closer to nature. While that’s a romantic notion, the real challenge is finding the perfect balance of comfort and discomfort.
You spend roughly 33% of your time backpacking inside your tent, so finding a quality tent is one-third of the battle. The perfect backpacking tent is going to be ultralight, pack into a small area, and be durable enough to handle all conditions.
Your tent is your home away from home and taking some extra time to find a tent that meets all the criteria is well worth your time. We have put together a list of the best backpacking tents that cover all the bases.
Table of Contents
- Backpacking tent buying guide
- The Best Backpacking Tents of 2018
Backpacking tent buying guide
There are a large number of factors to take into consideration when purchasing a backpacking tent. What makes a quality backpacking tent doesn’t necessarily make a good camping tent.
What makes a backpacking tent different?
A backpacking tent is going to be your home for weeks or possibly months on end, depending on how long your trip is. It should be ultralight, durable, affordable, spacious, and comfortable.
How much should a backpacking tent weigh?
The weight of the tent is one of the most important factors to consider. With a backpack full of gear on your shoulders for days on end, finding one that weighs as little as possible will make the entire trip more enjoyable.
A couple ounces here or an ounce there may not seem like much, however, every ounce adds up.
- A 1-person tent should weigh 2-3 pounds
- A 2-person tent should weigh 3-4 pounds
Do I need a 1 or 2 person tent?
A good rule of thumb for the solo backpacker is to size your tent up one. In other words, if you’re packing a tent for 1-person then look for a 2-person tent. It will give you more room and with tent fabric and technology you won’t be adding a massive amount of weight.
For the ultralight backpacker, a single person tent or a backpacking hammock is the lightest option. If you are backpacking as a couple and plan on sharing the tent, a 2-person tent will be the most practical option.
Three or four season tent?
Tents typically come in two different seasonal ratings, 3-season or 4-season. We’re going to focus on 3-season tents since they are the most used backpacking tents. 3-season tents are built for fall, spring, summer, and can handle an occasional light dusting of snow.
If you plan on backpacking in snowy conditions, a 4-season tent is required.
What’s the packed size?
The majority of backpacking tents are bulky when packed, so don’t expect to find a tent that packs down into the size of a softball. Backpacking tents vary in size and shape, however, a good rule of thumb is your tent should pack down to around 18 inches in length and 5 to 6 inches in diameter.
The packable size is not just the tent fabric itself, it also includes the length and width of the poles and the size of the stuff sack. Take every piece of tent gear and include it in the packed size.
How easy does it setup?
At the end of a long day hiking, the last thing you want to do is struggle setting up a tent. A freestanding tent is the quickest and easiest to set up. Freestanding tents are a speedy and hassle-free solution.
Tents that are not “freestanding” require more gear to pitch, which equates to more weight on your back. Typically, they take more time and are more challenging to pitch.
How much space do I need?
A backpacking tent is ultralight by design for obvious reasons. The easiest way to limit the overall weight is limiting the fabric used during construction. Most backpacking tents are going to have limited interior space to save precious ounces.
How many doors do I need?
For a one-person tent, one door is the standard. If you plan no sharing your tent with someone else, it’s much easier to have a couple doors for access. Crawling over people on the way to the restroom in the middle of the night is annoying for everyone in the tent.
How tall is the tent?
It’s going to be nearly impossible to find a 1 or 2 person tent that you can stand up in. Smaller tents are shorter by design, so standing up is a luxury that you’re most likely going to have to go without. The majority of tents that are taken on a backpacking trip are tall enough to sit up in and that’s about it.
Extra features to consider
Besides the standard four walls and a floor, there are other options that add luxury and weight. Most of these are personal preference, however, if you are spending a lot of time inside it you might as well make it yours.
- Internal storage pockets
- Storage Hooks
- Clip on tent poles
- Number of zippers
- Door ties
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2018
We put together a list of our picks for the best backpacking tents of 2018.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
- Lightweight livability in a 2-person, 3-season freestanding backpacking and camping tent that packs down small for backcountry adventures
- Pole geometry maximizes space with 29 sq. feet of floor area, interior peak height of 39 inches, plus 17.5 sq. feet of vestibule area
- Complete setup weighs 3.8 lbs. and packs down to 18x6 inches; minimalist setup option uses footprint, poles, and rainfly and weighs 3.1 lbs.
- Tent body has two doors, mesh panels for breathability, and solid panels for warmth and privacy; rollup rainfly for stargazer view
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Backpacking tent is a wildly popular backpacking tent that is consistently used by thru hikers. It has is dome shaped with an intuitive design and takes about 3 minutes to get up and 5 minutes to take down. The tent body has two doors and large mesh openings for increased ventilation.
In terms of holding up in weather this tent can withstand rain, wind, and high heat comfortably. This is a freestanding tent and the tent poles are connected together so no fumbling around and fighting them when pitching your tent.
- Easy setup
- Multiple sizes
- Handles weather
- 3-year warranty
- Issues in heavy wind
- Rare condensation issues
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1
- Single door and vestibule
- Storm flaps on vestibule zipper
- Reflective guyline and webbing on tent corners
- DAC Featherlite NFL pole system with lightweight hubs
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV tents use high volume pole architecture to increase the space inside. It comes with a dry entry vestibule to keep your gear and pack dry in wet conditions. The tent has reflective guylines and webbing on the tent corners for increased visibility.
Every seam on the tent is taped with waterproof polyurethane tape. It comes with 3 interior mesh pockets and includes 11 aluminum stakes. The door has a vertical construction which adds more volume to the interior of the tent.
- Good design
- Packs down small
- Thin floor
- 11 stakes
- Can catch wind
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx
- There's no assembly frustration with our Lynx Tent series; this free-standing, aluminum two-pole design is a breeze to setup
- Polyester tent fly resists water and UV damage while adding one vestibule for extra storage space
- Fully equipped with #8 zippers, storage pockets, gear loft, stakes, guy ropes and one doorway
- The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent is on our best sellers list; it's a must-have for your next adventure
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx is perfect for backpacking the AT, PCT, or Continental Divide. It is lightweight, small, and extremely easy to set up and take down. There isn’t a ton of headroom, however, it does rise to 36″ in the middle of the tent, so a short scoot solves that problem.
This tent is freestanding with a 2-pole aluminum design. The rainfly attaches with four simple buckle-clips, there are no obscure and random pieces to fumble around with. The door and vestibule come equipped with large #8 zippers for increased durability.
- Easy setup
- Simple breakdown
- Easy packing
- Not a lot of headroom
- THE MASTER OF ULTRALIGHT - One of the lightest tents on the market with time-tested field performance, NEMO's hornet delivers all the durability, packability, and bomber weather protection avid backpackers & thru-hikers demand; 2P minimum weight: 2 lb 0 oz
- WEATHERTIGHT & RUGGED - True tub floor construction reduces seam construction and seam tape, making for a more durable waterproof floor; 1200mm nylon ripstop fly is carefully shaped for both ventilation and rain coverage
- 2 DOORS, 2 VESTIBULES - The Hornet 2P is one of the only free-standing tents in the sub-2 lb category with two doors and two large vestibules, a simple expansion that makes a world of difference for easy entry, exit, and access to dry gear storag
- MAX VOLUME - Ultralight meets ultra-livable; Triangulated volumizing guy-outs increase interior space by up to 15%, using included volumizing clips; Single-hubbed pole design makes for a quick and intuitive setup without sacrificing strength
The Nemo Hornet is designed with the ultralight backpacker in mind. Weighing in at just over a pound it manages to be one of the lightest tents around while maintaining all the modern benefits you expect from a tent. It comes with a Tree Tub floor designed to be durable and keep the water out.
The poles come with hubbed intersections which link up to create a single pole for a simple and easy setup. The guyouts are triangular, increasing the maximum space on the interior of the tent. The stuff sack is dual stage, meaning that the tent and poles both pack into their own bag and then it’s placed on a larger stuff sack.
- Simple pole setup
- 16 x 4 inch stuff sack
- Condensation issues
- Annoying door tie-back
- Backpack-friendly compact folding poles, Gearloft loops, Color coded clip and fly attachment. Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
- Roll top cube carry bag, Easy set up, Free standing, Fabric/mesh tent walls
- Kelty hug clip, Easy entry D door, Internal storage pockets, Fully seam taped construction
- Seasons: 3, Number of doors: 1, Number of vestibules: 1, Number of poles: 2, Capacity: 1
The Kelty Salida 1 tent is designed for 1 person, however, they do offer 2 and 4 person tent as well. The 4 person tent is too heavy for backpacking and the 2 person tent works but we’re going to focus on the 1-person tent. The Kelty 1 is proven to work on long distance backpacking trips on nearly any terrain and climate.
The floor is 68D PU coated floor and the walls are taped which makes this tent waterproof from the factory. It is a freestanding tent that comes with backpack friendly folding poles, gearloft loops, and color coded clips. There is ample room to sit up in the tent and it packs down into a manageable space.
- Compact poles
- Durable flooring
- Footprint sold separately
- Rainfly requires stake
- Tent stakes bend easily
Alps Mountaineering Zephyr
- There's no assembly frustration with our Zephyr Tent series; this free-standing, aluminum two-pole design can be setup in no time
- Polyester tent fly resists water and UV damage while adding one vestibule for extra storage
- Great ventilation with two mesh doors and entire mesh walls
- Fully equipped with #8 zippers, mesh storage pockets, gear loft, aluminum stakes and guy ropes
There’s little to no assembly required with ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1-person freestanding tent. The pole design is intuitive and the entire tent can be set up in a matter of minutes, without any instructions. It comes with #8 zippers, mesh storage pockets, aluminum stakes, gear loft, and guy ropes.
The tent is material is durable and thin at the same time. There is room inside the tent for yourself and a few small pieces of gear. The floor can get damp from moisture in the mornings so using a footprint or a tarp is recommended.
- Quality material
- Super simple setup
- On the heavier end
- Floor requires footprint
- Large when packed
- SilNylon(silicone coated nylon)Rain Fly features 8000mm water-resistant finish and excellent UV-resistance;It can shed off snow and rain quickly thanks to its slippery surface;210T polyester breathable inner tent;210T PU coated rip-stop polyester tent floor;210T PU coated polyester footprint(come with the tent)
- This all season tent is especially designed for years¡¯ use;It can hold up well to snow,wind and rain,but still features low weight and venting options for excellent warm weather performance; Freestanding and backpack-friendly design features compact aluminum folding poles and durable fly attachment system;Leave the tent body behind,use the poles,rain fly and footprint?for light camping during nice weather;Setup instructions included in the stuff sack
- 2 DOUBLE LAYER doors to keep warm in winter and provide enough ventilation in warm season ;the Mesh Layer of the doors can be opened ONLY FROM INSIDE,this can stop some naughty "intruder" and offer absolute privacy in wilderness;2 VESTIBULES creates dry entry and roomy storage for gear and can be partially open to maximize airflow;High quality SBS double way smooth zip with storm flaps and noiseless pull;2 QUICK STASH to stow unzipped doors and small items
- 4 REINFORCED PANELS at tent corners can sustain constant tension when in use; REFLECTIVE LOOPS highlight your tent frame at night;All webbing?are made of HIGH DENSITY anti-abrasion nylon,which can endure frequent pulling
The Luxe Tempo Breeze 1 is a solo-backpacking tent made durable and ultralight fabric designed to last multiple seasons. The steep walls are designed to increase space inside without adding any extra weight. It includes to roomy vestibules for easy access and dry gear.
This tent uses state of the art technology in the building material. Silicone coated nylon is both ultralight and extremely durable, you get the best of both worlds. The zippers and welding are both carefully crafted, so flimsy zippers, exposed seams, and weak stitching is a non-issue.
- Quality material
- Super simple setup
- On the heavier end
- Floor requires footprint
- Large when packed