Your hiking adventure lies before you, and all that remains is to pick up the best gear. According to the experts, the Top 10 essentials are navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first-aid supplies, fire, repair kits and tools, nutrition, hydration, and last, but certainly, not least, emergency shelter. The gear you choose can be the defining factor for how well you execute and enjoy this experience. Choosing the best backpacking tent is easy when you know how to evaluate the choices.
Evaluation begins with considering a few questions about your intended use and functionality.
- What time of the year is your excursion?
- Generally, tents come in 3 or 4 season models. Adding a winter season, adds the need for insulation, material weight, and wind resistance.
- How much gear will you be packing in addition to your tent?
- You need to be conscious of the volume and weight of the gear you intend to carry with you. Can the load be shared between multiple hikers or will it all need to be contained in your personal pack?
- How many people will be accompanying you on the hike?
- The number of people in your party will determine how the load is shared and how many persons will need shelter in each tent.
- Which tent design best suits the environment you will be hiking?
- There are several types to choose from (A-frame, dome, hoop, pyramid, and wedge, etc.), which are not universally interchangeable in various environments
|Product||Weight||Other Sizes Available||Our Rating||Price|
|Kelty TN 2 Person Tent||4lb 9oz||2 Person|
|Big Agnes - Fly Creek Ul 2 Person Tent Silver/Gold||1lb 15oz||1 Person |
|ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2-Person Tent||4lb 14oz||2 Person|
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent, Red||3 lb. 7 oz||1 Person |
|Nemo Galaxi 2P Backpacking Tent and Footprint (Birch Leaf Green)||4 lbs, 15 oz||2 Person|
What do the Best Backpacking Tents have in common?
When you are out on a long hike, every ounce makes a difference. Excessive weight will drain your energy unnecessarily and add strain to shoulders and backs. The best backpacking tents are light enough to fit inside a durable hiking pack or lashed to the top or bottom of the pack. The best tents are lightweight overall, constructed with durable materials, high quality poles, and small lightweight accessories (such as the rain fly, mesh shelving, etc.).
Your tent purchase is an investment. Durability is key when you are out on the trail. It doesn’t matter how much you paid, if the tent can’t withstand the elements and the harsh conditions of being pitched and stowed multiple times, it’s not worth the money spent. You must review the seams and stitch work, as well as the quality of fabric and materials. Do the seams ravel? Does the fabric run when it is torn or punctured. Is the overall construction weather and wind resistant?
Ease of Use
The best tents will also pitch easily, with quick setups and possibly a freestanding design. The easiest designs will have foldable poles and pole sleeves that do not snag. Additionally, the best designs come down and stow just as quickly.
Size and Dimensions
You will need to know how you plan to use your tent. How many people will be sleeping in the shelter? How tall do you need the peak to be (people over six feet tall will often prefer a taller peak height)? Which sleeping gear will you be using (i.e. sleeping bag, sleeping pads, air mattress, or simply a solar blanket)? The answers to all of these questions will define the dimensions, floor area, and peak height that best suits your needs.
Periodically, the deciding factors can be narrowed down to the features of the tent. Features may vary by tent model and manufacturer. To some, spaciousness and accessibility, including the number and location of the doors, are the most important feature, because they want to rest more comfortably at night. A feature universally desired by hikers is the weather/condensation resistance of the materials and the design of the rain fly, as well as ventilation and air circulation. Features that are of a more personal preference are items like reflective strips for wilderness identification, zipper construction, light penetration, awnings, carry bag, and external ports for cords and quick access.
The manufacturer of the tent should also be a factor when choosing your shelter. You should consider the longevity of the company and their consumer rating. Some manufacturers, such as The North Face and Coleman, have been in business for years and are trusted brands. These companies, as well as many others, stand behind their products with warranties covering defects in materials and workmanship. Be sure to review the warranty on your tent before you purchase.
Price vs. Value
Price is important to every consumer but choosing a product based on price alone will leave you with an inferior product and an unpleasant experience. The best backpacking tents range from higher priced, high quality tents, to moderately priced, quality tents. Value priced shelters do not equate to valuable quality. The last thing a hiker needs is to be miles away from help when your gear fails, whether it is construction, design, durability, or weather resistance. Start by prioritizing your trail needs and your desires and then compare those to the most reasonably priced tent to meet your budget needs.
The Best Backpacking Tent Picks
As you are researching and shopping for hiking gear that you are not already experienced with, you want to utilize the experience and knowledge of others by referring to the customer reviews. Amazon.com makes that process effortless. Each listing allows consumers to rate their purchase and product on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Utilize the customer rating to make solid purchasing decisions and buy with confidence.
Kelty TN 2/3/4
To begin with, the Kelty TN tents are the recipients of two different awards: the first in 2014 as Backpacker Magazine’s Editors Choice. Second, in 2016 it was awarded Gear of the Year by Outside Magazine. One of the biggest draws to these free standing, three season tents is the rainfly which easily folds back and allows you to see the starts! Hike out into the wilderness and fall asleep watching the stars and Milky Way, safe from those pesky bugs. And if it starts raining, no worries; from inside your tent you can easily secure the clips to the poles to keep you dry.
Setting this tent up could not be easier. The two aluminum poles are light weight and even color coded so you wont get confused as to which end goes where. Even if you’re color blind you wont have trouble with this easy to use system.
Once standing, you’ll notice the comfort and spaciousness inside. Two people can comfortably fit inside, and if you’re traveling solo you’ll feel like you’re sleeping in a king sized bed. On both sides you will find doors. So when nature calls in the middle of the night you wont have to crawl over your travel partner and interrupt their precious sleep. An added bonus is the noiseless zipper!
Big Agnes Flycreek UL
If you are a gram counter and very concerned about bulk in your bag then this is the tent for you. Weighing in at only 2 lbs 4 oz, including the foot print, the Flycreek UL is one of the lightest free standing tents on the market. Every function and feature of this tent was designed to keep your bag light and your legs strong, capable of hiking further than the other guys. It even packs up small; think of a 32oz water bottle and you’ve got something to compare it to.
Holding the tent up is a single TH72M aluminum pole created by DAC, a company specializing in tent poles. The mesh body is not only extremely light weight, but it keeps ventilation optimal as well. Big Agnes does not sacrifice quality or function to achieve the size and weight of this tent. The rainfly is tested and truly waterproof, so you do not need to worry about getting your gear wet if the weather changes. The rainfly can even be set up without the tent to support it, all you need are the poles. This could save you even more weight if you’re willing to rough it!
Though you should be aware that this tent is does not cater to those who are after space to stretch out. Those of you around six foot will be able to sleep comfortably in this tent, with room for your backpack under the rainfly, but moving around may prove challenging. There is room to sit up, not much else. All in all this is a pretty fair trade off for the quality of tent Big Agnes has presented to us. Consider buying the bigger sizes of this tent if you want more room, they’re still super light weight.
Alps Mountaineering Chaos 2/3
The Alps Mountaineering Chaos boasts its strengths in… chaotic conditions. Both the floor and rainfly are made from the extremely durable and trusted coated polyester taffeta, guaranteed to keep you dry. There are even two vestibules to store extra gear outside your tent while still out of the weather. The rainfly itself attaches directly to the tent, offering more stability and protection but not allowing you to set up the fly on its own. In many weatherproof tents ventilation is a real issue, but the Chaos uses mesh roofing vents to make sure condensation does not occur.
Not only is will it keep you nice and dry, but it might be one of the easiest tents on the market to set up. This two or three person tent requires only one pole! Each piece has been shock corded into one easy to use and manageable tent pole. It is a completely free standing tent, allowing you to set up with ease wherever you may find yourself.
Use the Chaos 2 as a solo backpacker or buddy up and share the space. Even with two people this tent is spacious; three people also enjoy the luxurious amount of space with the Chaos 3. There are also two doors for easy an easy entry and a quiet exit. The only downside, as a solo traveler, is the size and weight of this tent (5 lbs 6 oz for the Chaos 2 / 6 lbs 10 oz for the Chaos 3). This is far from an issue if you have a partner to travel with and split the weight of other gear.
MSR Hubba Hubba
The Hubba Hubba is a free standing two person tent built with those of you counting every bit of weight in mind. With the rainfly, tent, footprint, poles, and stakes the total weight is only 3 lbs 7 oz, very light compared to most other two person tents which you will currently find on the market. If you’re looking to reduce your weight even more, the Hubba Hubba can be pitched with only the footprint, fly, and poles as well, bringing the total weight to a mere 2 lbs 2 oz! Furthermore, it comes with its own compression sack, making it small, compact, and of manageable size in your bag.
Whether you’re one person looking for space or a pair looking to share, MSR’s design doesn’t sacrifice weight for space. The poles, each of which are color coded for a fast and easy set up, help to keep the walls near vertical.The tent is virtually symmetrical so you can sleep at either end and not worry about your head rubbing. The Hubba Hubba also offers a two door system, with space under the fly to keep your gear out of the elements.
This MSR tent comes in several different sizes but each has the same quality, craft, and key features.
The Nemo brand is a trusted, recognized, and well respected brand in the outdoor world making the Nemo Galaxi line of tents desirable. For those of you looking for an entry level tent, this is your safe bet. It is an all around quality tent that will hold up through the weather and give you the space you need to be comfortable. It is also suitable choice for the experienced backpacker who is not after a tent with all the frills.
As another free standing tent, the NEMO Galaxi offers something the others don’t: Space! Even the tallest campers will find this tent offering a cozy interior. Use it as a solo tent and you will have enough space to live comfortably for a given period of time. As a shared tent, the Galaxi still offers comfort and an area to store your gear safely outside the mesh interior.
Another perk is the durability. While some tents will use the lightest materials, so your bag wont be bogged down with extra weight, the Galaxi uses tough 70D PU Nylon to make sure you can camp anywhere without damaging your tent; its even safe to bring your furry companion along without risking the interior!
Enjoy the Journey
Before taking the first stride on to the trail, ensure that your pack is equipped with the best gear and you have considered the top essentials listed above. Leave the stress behind, knowing that you are prepared and your focus is intently set on the wonders surrounding you as you take each step. Happy trails!