About a month ago I had the unfortunate experience of having to give my ex-girlfriend her tent back. I had really been hoping she’d forgotten she owned it and that I could just slip off into the night with her tent and camp stove. Karma be damned!
But unfortunately, I find myself tentless this fall. And believe me, it’s a sorry state of affairs, having to sleep indoors or squeeze into my car when I’m out camping is not fun.
So I figured it’s time for you and I to do our research. I’ve owned a number of tents over the years and I’ve used more than I can count. But in the last five or six years, tent technology has grown up a lot, and there’s a lot to learn.
At the same time, creative teams at companies like Big Agnes have been developing high tech pole architectures that allow for maximized living space and lightweight, fast frames.
I bought my last tent back in 2012 and the game has thoroughly changed since then.
So forget everything you thought you knew.
Brew a cup of strong coffee and sit down with me as we go over all of the best tents on the shelves this year.
- Backpacking Tent Reviews
- Best 1 Person Tents
- Best 2 Person Tents
- Best 3 & 4 Person Tents
- Best Ultralight Tent
- Best 4 Season Tent
- Best Tarp Tent
- Best Family Tent for Backpacking
- Best Tent for Tall People
- Backpacking Tent Buying Guide: Finding The Best Tent For Hiking
- How To Care for & Maintain Your Tent
- The Bottom Line
Backpacking Tent Reviews
Best 1 Person Tents
|REI Quarter Dome 1 Tent|
Weight: 2lbs. 70z.
Space: 18.9 square feet
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 Person Tent|
Weight: 1 lb. 10oz.
Space: 22 sq. ft.
|ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
Space: 20 sq. ft.
|MSR Hubba NX Solo 1-Person Tent|
Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
Space: 18 sq. ft.
|The North Face Stormbreak 1 Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 1.4 oz.
Space: 18.31 sq. ft.
The Quarter Dome 1 has been redone in 2017 with nearly 50% more space inside and under the rain fly.
If you’re looking for an ultralight single person tent that you can set up just about anywhere, the Quarter Dome is perfect for you.
The new Quarter Dome isn’t just a redesign of the old model. This one person tent was re-imagined from the ground up before hitting the shelves in 2017.
Color coded poles and a buckle-on rain fly are two of the reasons why the Quarter Dome 1 is one of the easiest backpacking tents to set up. That makes a huge difference when you’re racing to set up camp before a storm hits.
The Quarter Dome 1 isn’t just easier to set up, it is also more spacious. REI expanded the foot box and gave you more head and shoulder room by developing a smarter pole architecture.
That means more space, more comfort, and more convenience.
The vestibule is also 46% larger in 2017. There is a small space for dry storage on the back side of the tent in addition to the front vestibule.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2lbs. 70z.
Floor Space: 18.9 square feet
Peak Height: 42 inches
Features: one person, three season, 15D ripstop nylon, one door, side entry, one hubbed pole, freestanding
Best For: Fast and light
Big Agnes designed their Fly Creek line of tents to be some of the lightest weight on the market. They succeeded in making this one of the best options for lightweight backpacking.
The Fly Creek, like many new, lightweight camping tents uses a single three-armed hub pole for fast setup.
The rain fly clips into place and has reflective webbing to make your tent easy to find at night. It might also keep your buddy from tripping over you while you sleep.
The Fly Creek UL 1 is designed for you to sleep with your head by the door. Keeping this in mind, Big Agnes was able to maximize space where you need it. That way your tent doesn’t feel too cramped.
After a long day of hiking, leave your stinky boots and socks in the vestibule. The Fly Creek 1 has 5 square feet of covered space outside the door.
Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lb. 10oz.
Floor Space: 22 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 38 in.
Features: One person, three season, single door, three interior mesh pockets, high volume architecture allows steeper walls and more space.
Best For: Fast and light, small people
ALPS Mountaineering designed the Lynx 1 to be perfect for fast and light backpacking expeditions.
This lightweight tent sports a two pole design which is easy to set up just about anywhere.
The Lynx 1 is built to be a freestanding tent so that you can camp just as easily in the desert as in the forest.
Although it has a top notch rain fly that forms a covered vestibule for gear storage, you may prefer to leave it off on clear nights. Half mesh walls increase ventilation so you can stay cool in hot climates.
This one man tent weighs a little more than it’s counterparts, and it’s because it comes with plenty of convenient extra features. Three mesh storage pockets hang inside the tent.
The upper pocket acts as an overhead gear loft and is removable.
The Lynx 1 has lots of great details that set it apart. However what really makes the Lynx 1 special are the materials from which it’s made.
ALPS Mountaineering takes care to make careful seals and seems, to use well made components, and to select high quality and lightweight materials.
The result of this attention to detail is one of the best all-around one man tents on the market.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
Floor Space: 20 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 3 ft.
Features: Single person, three season, one door, extra large #8 zippers, half mesh walls, two poles, 32″ vestibule.
Best For: Backpacking
The MSR Hubba NX 1 is the smallest of the Hubba family. It is a freestanding, single person tent designed for fast and easy trekking. MSR’s reputation in the outdoor community is well earned.
The Hubba NX1 is another great example of the company’s dedication to innovation.
A single, spoked tent pole crosses the top of the tent with a crossbar on top and forked ends. MSR chose this pole geometry to create nearly vertical walls so that you have lots of space.
This is a side entry tent, which can be a love it or hate it feature. This allows for a wider door and more convenient coming and going. However, some find the design less efficient and effective.
This tent also has adjustable stake loops so that you can change the tension on your tent after set up. Because after all, re-staking sucks.
The Hubba NX 1 is not sold with a footprint. So if you want it, make sure you buy that as well.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
Floor Space: 18 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 3 ft.
Features: Single person, three season, one door, one pole, freestanding, 9 square foot vestibule, 15D, 20D, and 30D nylons for strength and breathability.
Best For: Solo backpacking
The Stormbreak 1 is the perfect lightweight and affordable option for the average adventurer. It weighs in right at 3lbs. and is easy to pack, assemble, and take down.
The North Face has been making quality gear for harsh climates for a long time. They know what it takes to make a durable and intelligent design.
This one man tent uses the tried and true, X-pole design for easy set up and take down. North Face chose this design to create a sturdy, freestanding tent. That means faster, easier setup and more options when you’re picking a campsite.
Although the specs for the tent say there are two vestibules, it is important to note that the back one is very small. The front vestibule has more than enough room for your boots and pack. However, the back vestibule probably wouldn’t.
The Stormbreak 1 stands out not only because it is functional, but it’s also affordable. Although it’s one of the cheapest one man tents, The Stormbreak 1 sacrifices nothing in quality.
Good materials, craftsmanship, and design are what have always set The North Face apart. The Stormbreak 1 is an excellent example of this ethic.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 1.4 oz.
Floor Space: 18.31 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 34 in.
Features: Single door, side entry, one person, three season, two vestibules, two poles, easy pitch design.
Best For: Backpacking, camping.
Best 2 Person Tents
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Space: 29 sq. ft.
|Kelty Salida 2 Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz.
Space: 30.5 sq. ft.
|REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
Space: 28.7 sq. ft.
|Nemo Galaxi 2 Person Tent|
Weight: 4 lbs. 15 oz.
Space: 32 sq. ft.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2|
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Space: 29 sq. ft.
|Marmot Tungsten UL 2P Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Space: 32 sq. ft.
|Eureka Spitfire 2 Tent|
Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
Space: 38.8 sq. ft.
|The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent|
Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz.
Space: 30.56 sq. ft.
The Hubba Hubba is MSR’s two person tent in the Hubba series. It is taller, wider and a little bit longer than the Hubba 1.
The Hubba Hubba also has doors on either side so that you and your partner can come and go as you please. No need to climb over one another.
To match the twin doors, this two man tent also has twin vestibules. That way you can each keep your gear on your side for easy access in the night if need be.
The floor of this tent does not taper like several other two person tents. That gives you more room to wiggle around or store gear in the night.
Just like the Hubba 1, the Hubba Hubba can be packed for a floor-less, fast and light configuration without buying a separate footprint. This is perfect for summer trekking in warm or dry climates.
The Hubba Hubba is well ventilated for warm days. However, it is very weather resistant. When properly set up, the Hubba Hubba is capable of handling strong alpine winds.
MSR also designed the Hubba Hubba so that you can take the tent down underneath the rain fly. That way everything that’s important stays dry while you pack up.
I really can’t explain how awesome this feature is. I’m from a pretty wet part of the world. Staying dry is usually priority number one.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Floor Space: 29 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 39 in.
Features: Two door, two person, one hubbed pole, three season, color coded setup, ultra-compact compression sack, 20D ripstop nylon/ 15D ripstop nylon mesh
Best For: Backpacking, camping
The Salida 2 is a lightweight backpacking tent that keeps it simple. Kelty didn’t complicate things with fancy pole architecture and futuristic features.
This two man tent offers 30 square feet of living space. It’s great for you and a friend, you and a dog, or just you and your gear.
The tent uses the tried and true X-pole design for easy setup and breakdown. The tent attaches to the frame via pole clips.
In case of a rainy day, the Salida 2’s rain fly offers full coverage and is 100% seem taped. So even if you’re headed out in stormy weather, don’t worry.
Kelty knows their way around gear. So when they designed the Salida 2, they kept it simple for two reasons; fast and light.
This tent packs down quickly into a surprisingly light and compact package. So it won’t be taking up half the space in your pack or slowing you down on the trail.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz.
Floor Space: 30.5 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 43 in.
Features: two person, one door, two pole, freestanding, three season, single vestibule.
Best For: Camping
This year, the Quarter Dome 2 received the same makeover as its smaller counterpart. The result is a beautifully designed freestanding tent that’s easy, fast, and of the highest quality.
The genius of this two man tent starts with it’s pole architecture. A single hubbed and color-coded pole creates near vertical walls from head to toe. Not to mention, it’s easy to set up and keep track of.
REI purposefully focused on providing more interior space in this tent. That way, you can live more comfortably on the trail.
The Quarter Dome 2 has an all mesh top for hot summer days and a sturdy rain fly for protection from the elements. This makes the tent more versatile if you find yourself backpacking in different conditions throughout the year.
The ceiling of the tent has a quick access flap that unzips from the inside. This lets you adjust the vents on the fly without getting out of your tent.
If you do need to get out of your tent in the middle of the night though, don’t worry. The Quarter Dome 2 has twin doors and vestibules on either side. No need to crawl over your room mate before you can get to the bathroom.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
Floor Space: 28.7 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 42 in.
Features: Three season, two person, one pole, two doors, twin vestibules, footprint sold separately.
Best For: Camping
The Nemo Galaxi 2 is stylish and smart. It comes loaded with features to make camping easy and comfortable. However, this two person tent won’t break your bank either.
The tent features a single, hubbed pole design that is easy to set up quickly. It is freestanding, the rain fly attaches snugly to the tent body.
The doors feature convenient magnetic tieback anchors. This makes it easy to open your door all or part of the way, even with one hand.
That’s not the only smart and unique feature on the Galaxi 2. There is a light dispersing top pocket for you to store your headlamp in. That way your tent feels a little more like home.
Two doors, two vestibules, and a spacious floor plan make this tent great for two people.
Nemo goes to great lengths to make sure you’re comfortable. The Galaxi 2 has a bathtub style nylon floor. It’s designed to be deeper than most, so you don’t have to worry about wet ground.
Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs. 15 oz.
Floor Space: 32 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 40 in.
Features: Three season, two door, two person, twin vestibule, one pole, magnetic door tie-backs, light defusing ceiling pocket.
Best For: Camping
The Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the lightest and most compact two person tents on the market. This tent is well known among backpackers.
The Copper Spur offers 29 square feet of floor space and an impressively tall 42″ ceiling. So there’s lots of space to sit up and move around. Advanced, lightweight pole architecture creates near vertical walls. No space is wasted.
This ultra light tent weighs in at just 2 pounds, twelve ouncea. Not only that, but it packs down far smaller than other tents of it’s size. Great for anyone who needs to save space in their pack.
The Copper Spur sorts two nine square foot vestibules when the rain fly is up. Although not as large as those on some other two man tents, this is plenty of space for your pack and boots.
Similar to the MSR Hubba Hubba , the Copper Spur sets up with one pole that is hubbed on both ends and has a cross pole in the center. This allows for easy set up, sturdy design, and lots of headroom.
The Copper Spur’s design also makes it completely freestanding. So it’s easy to setup no matter where you are.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Floor Space: 29 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 40 in.
Features: two person, one pole, three season, two doors, twin vestibules, two mesh pockets, one over-sized mesh pocket, footprint sold separately
Best For: Trekking
The Marmot Tungsten UL 2 person tent is all about living space. The fine folks at Marmot don’t want you to have to sacrifice comfort when you’re camping.
That’s why they designed the Tungsten with a simple and effective three pole architecture that maximizes living space. If you’re looking for a good living space to pack weight ratio, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The floor makes up 32 square feet of living space. From 54 inches at the shoulders, the tent tapers down to 48 inches at the feet. That’s plenty of room for two occupants of just about any size.
The Marmot Tungsten uses color coding to make setup fast and easy. With a classic X-pole design and a truss across the top, this tent will feel familiar and simple on setup and take down.
Marmot has the experience to pay attention to the details. They made sure that the rain fly fits perfectly. They put pockets where you need them. Even the seams get extra attention with careful weather proofing.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Floor Space: 32 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 42 in.
Features: Two person, two door, three season, freestanding, three poles, footprint sold separately, color coded ‘easy-pitch’ system.
Best For: Backpacking
It’s easy to break the bank when you’re shopping for camping gear. Fortunately, the Eureka Spitfire 2 won’t do that.
Eureka has been around for over 120 years, and they’ve been making tents since the beginning. So they know what it takes to make a great camping tent.
The Spitfire 2 is among the best two person, three season tents on the market.
Eureka chose to use a pentagonal floor plan to maximize usable space. This creates twin vestibules outside of the two doors and lots of head and leg room indoors.
The floor is made from tough, 40-denier polyester. That way, your tent wont tear on rough ground, even if you have to drag it around a bit.
Although the Spitfire 2 holds heat well in the winter, it is also great for hot summer temps. That’s because of the large no-see-um mesh walls that prevent lots of ventilation.
The only notable downside to this tent is that the vestibules are much smaller than those offered by most other two person tents. That’s because the rain fly hugs the tent walls and does not have a dedicated pole to extend it.
However, Eureka built this tent with backpackers in mind, and all the details are carefully planned to make an extremely lightweight and packable tent.
Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
Floor Space: 38.8 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 43 in.
Features: two door , two person, freestanding, two pole, roof vent access from inside, bathtub style floor.
Best For: Camping
The Stormbreak 2 tent from North Face is an excellent, affordable, two person tent. Although it’s not as light as some tents and not as flashy as others, it’s simple design makes it reliable and effective.
It features two doors so that you and your partner can come and go easily in the night. No need to step over one another.
Each door also sports a vestibule with nearly ten feet of floor space. So you can keep your smelly gear out of the elements, but also out of your tent.
On days where you want protection but also airflow, you can put the rain fly halfway up. This allows air to pass through the large mesh windows on either side of the tent.
The door and vestibule are both fully seam taped. The rain fly is coated in a light polyurethane. By now, you probably don’t need me to tell you that The North Face does some of the best weatherproofing in the industry.
After all, the tent is named Stormbreak, and it lives up to the name.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz.
Floor Space: 30.56 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 43 in.
Features: Two person, two door, twin vestibule, four poles, three season, freestanding.
Best For: Car camping.
Best 3 & 4 Person Tents
|MSR Elixir 3-Person Backpacking Tent|
Weight: 5 lbs.
Space: 39.5 sq.ft.
|ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3-Person Tent|
Weight: 5 lbs. 10 oz.
Space: 40 sq. ft.
|REI Half Dome 4 Tent|
Weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.
Space: 56 sq. ft.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Space: 41 sq. ft.
|Nemo Dagger 3P Tent|
Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz.
Space: 43 sq. ft.
Next time you go backpacking with your friends, you might volunteer to take the tent. That is, you might if you’re packing the MSR Elixir 3.
This tent packs at an easy five pounds, so your buddy might regret carrying the food instead.
However, this three man tent doesn’t sacrifice any of the essentials. Advanced pole architecture allows for maximum head and elbow room.
The Elixir 3 also sports two spacious vestibules. Each one is nearly nine square feet so you can fit the team’s smelly shoes outside.
MSR designed this tent to be simple and effective. A single, hubbed pole means that setup is a breeze, even on those long days when you’re not pitching until past sundown.
Then, when it gets hot the next day, you can peel the rainfly back partway and let the breeze in through large mesh windows.
MSR knows all about high quality materials. We could throw all kinds of denier ratings and hydrostatic head ratings. However, what it all adds up to is that this tent is going to keep you dry. This tent even has gutters to keep rain from dripping over the door.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs.
Floor Space: 39.5 sq.ft.
Peak Height: 41 in.
Features: Three person, three season, two doors, twin vestibules, freestanding, color coded setup, adjustable rainfly.
Best For: Backpacking
If you’re planning on pitching your tent in the warmer parts of the world, you’re going to want to pay attention to this one.
The Zephyr 3 has walls entirely made out of mesh. It’s just enough to keep little buggers out but let all the breeze in on hot days.
If it’s cold, just clip on the 75D 18T polyester fly. It fits the Zephyr’s unique 2 pole architecture like a glove. Twin doors exit from either side of the tent and each has it’s own vestibule.
Now, you should know that I am from the northwest of Washington state where it rains quite a bit. My tent needs to be a safe haven in a storm. The Zephyr 3 falls a little bit short of its competition in that regard.
When the fly doors are open, water easily drips into the edge of the tent at the door. It makes it hard to stay dry and complicated in a storm.
However, that’s not a dealbreaker for me. Sure, in my climate it’s not the perfect tent for all season camping. However, the spacious interior, open-air design, and easy setup make it an ideal candidate for my upcoming trip to the desert states, or for festival season next summer.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs. 10 oz.
Floor Space: 40 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 41 in.
Features: Three person, three season, two pole, freestanding, two doors, twin vestibules, extra large #8 zippers, mesh walls, footprint sold separately.
Best For: warm weather
If camping is a family affair or always part of a larger group expedition, the Halfdome 4 is a great pick. I mean, go big, or go home.
At only about seven pounds, this tent is not hard to carry, especially if divided up between party members.
If you need extra space for buddies or gear, you’ve come to the right place.
This four man tent opens on both sides via big, easy doors. Everyone can get in and out easily.
Whether you’re setting this tent up in darkness or drunkenness, it will never fail you. The three hubbed poles slide together easily. The tent clips into place and then the fly stretches over top perfectly.
Once you’re set up, you can proceed to practice yoga, or do jigsaw puzzles, or ponder how to use all the space you have.
If you need ventilation, leave the fly off. The walls are nearly entirely made of mesh, so you’ll get plenty of airflow. It’s a critical feature for people traveling with wet dogs or smelly feet.
Minimum Trail Weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.
Floor Space: 56 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 48 in.
Features: Four person, three season, two doors, three hubbed poles, twin vestibules, freestanding.
Best For: Group camping or backpacking.
The Copper Spur HV UL3 is one of the most well known tents on the market today. This tent comes highly recommended from nearly everyone who has used it.
This high volume, ultra-light tent is great for long trips on the trail. At just three pounds seven ounces, you might even forget that you’re carrying the tent.
Big Agnes didn’t just focus on upgrading this tent’s livable space and reducing it’s weight though. They also took care to get all the details right.
Two doors, each with their own covered vestibule make it easy to come and go. The doors are equipped with dual zippers so you can easily open the doors part or all of the way if you need a little extra airflow.
There are enormous storage pockets on the ceiling. That way, you can hang up all your personal items in a safe place. There are also smaller pockets designed to be perfect for storing a phone or iPod when you’re falling asleep.
To top it all off, Big Agnes didn’t just make this tent light, they also made it strong. Durable, double rip-stop nylon fabric helps ensure your tent can stand up to even the craziest adventures.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Floor Space: 41 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 43 in.
Features: Three person, three season, two doors, two poles, seam taped, five interior pockets, proprietary random ripstop nylon walls.
Best For: Backpacking
When you’ve been hiking all day and get to camp late, the last thing you want is a hard time setting up your tent. Fortunately, with the Nemo Dagger 3p, you won’t have that problem.
This tent features a smart and simple design. One hubbed pole forms a sturdy and high volume frame. The tent clips on quickly and easily. Then the fly slides over top and buckles into place.
The mesh walls make airflow easy in this three man tent. However, without vent flaps in the fly, condensation can collect inside the tent on cold nights.
The Dagger 3p has lots of great design features. However, what really sets it apart are high-tech, ultralight materials. That means your tent is durable enough to be dragged around in the dirt all summer, but also lightweight and compact.
And this tent is seriously lightweight and compact. At just three pounds, twelve ounces, your group members will be fighting over who gets to carry the tent.
If you’re lucky enough for it to be you, you’ll have no problem making space. This tent arrives in a package that is just 19 by 6 inches. As you stuff it into your bag, you’ll find it packs down even smaller.
So on your next camping trip, you can pack an extra set of clothes, a cool hat, or maybe a fun board game. You might even have room to spare.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz.
Floor Space: 43 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 42 in.
Features: Three person, three season, two doors, twin vestibules, freestanding, footprint sold separately.
Best For: Backpacking
Best Ultralight Tent
If you’re looking for the best ultra-light backpacking tent, look no further than the Nemo Hornet. This technological marvel comes in one and two person varieties. Both models weigh in at two pounds or less on the trail and both pack down to just bigger than your Nalgene bottle.
Nemo knew when they designed this tent, that they had to do everything they could to cut trail weight.
The high tech, NFL aluminum hubbed pole is one of the lightest pole sets sold with a tent today. However, it is sturdy and durable. Keeping the design down to one pole also makes setup and take down a breeze.
The vestibule and door is located on the side of the Nemo Hornet 1 and 2. The Hornet 1 has one side door with a massive vestibule. The Hornet two has twin vestibules, and both are nice and roomy.
Side entry allows this tent to be more compact, yet still conveniently accessible. It also increases the size of the vestibules so that you have plenty of storage space for your gear.
In the top of these tents is Nemo’s signature light-diffusing pocket. Set your headlamp here to illuminate your nightly reading or boardgames, or store some snacks up top for midnight munching.
All in all, the Hornet is an extremely sturdy and well made design. It won’t disappoint you in any of the primary functions of a tent. Set up and take down is painless. Best of all, state of the art materials and high-tech hardware keep this tent lighter, and more compact than almost any other tent on the market.
Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz./ 2 lbs.
Floor Space: 21 sq. ft./ 28 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 40 in.
Features: Large side access door/ double door, single hubbed pole with ball and socket tips, semi-freestanding, one/two person, bathtub style floor reduces number of seams in tent walls, advanced DAC Featherlight NFL aluminum poles are extremely lightweight.
Best For: Ultra light backpacking
Best 4 Season Tent
The Hilleberg Jannu 2 is one of the highest quality tents to ever hit the market. This four season tent isn’t cheap, but it packs just about every feature you could need into your bag.
Capable of withstanding extreme winds, snow, ice, and worse, this tent is the best choice for extreme, alpine conditions. If you intend to be pitching your tent in remote, cold, and snowy locations, the Jannu 2 is for you.
This tent pitches with three poles to create a large and aerodynamic design. Pole sleeves help keep the structure strong. However, if you want more strength, you can use two pole sets with this tent in case you’re planning on waiting out the mother of all storms.
A single large vestibule extends outwards from the single door. The vestibule door can be opened and closed from any point along it’s perimeter using the dual zipper design. This makes a huge difference if you’re trying to get in and out of the tent on snowy or wet ground.
The Jannu 2 has a state of the art ceiling vent that can be kept open even during a heavy storm. This is due to the modular nature of the double walled tent with an optional top cover flap. This is critical to keeping your tent dry on the inside.
We don’t even have space to mention all of the fine features of this tent. From the burliest of fabrics, to adjustable tie off points, this tent is loaded with intelligent features that help you increase strength, stability, and comfort.
This tent does it all, and the price tag reflects the robust nature of the product. If you are looking for a slightly more affordable four season tent, I recommend checking out the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 person tent.
It costs about half as much as the Jannu 2 and will do almost all the same jobs, just not quite as well. The trailweight of both tents is similar and both will withstand average winter weather just fine. The Tasmanian 2p does have two doors and two vestibules which may be a bonus in your book as well.
The Tasmanian 2p certainly isn’t as robust or as ready to tear through the heaviest of storms. However, it will save you a pretty penny if the Jannu 2 is out of your budget.
Minimum Trail Minimum Trail Weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz.
Floor Space: 34.4 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 39 in.
Features: Two person, three pole, one door, single vestibule, semi-freestanding, double walled, optional double-poled pitch capability, weather shielded roof vent, two way zippers on fly door, adjustable stake out points, color coded setup.
Best For: Alpine backpacking and climbing.
Best Tarp Tent
The Black Diamond Beta Light Shelter is one of the most unique tents on the market. It is incredibly affordable, capable of 4 season use, lighter and smaller than just about any other tent, as well as fast, comfortable, and reliable.
The Beta Light is a two person tarp tent that uses two trekking poles (not included) to set up. This makes the Beta Light ideal for those who already carry trekking poles with them on the trail.
This tarp tent packs down into a package smaller than my Nalgene water bottle and weighs only one and a half pounds! It’s so small you have to be careful that you don’t lose it in the bottom of your backpack.
Because of the steep-walled, pyramid shaped design of the Beta Light, it sheds snow easily and can withstand winter storms. Although it does not come with a floor or bug protection, both can be purchased separately. However, this adds several pounds of trail weight and more than doubles the carry size of the tent.
The Beta Light is best used as is, possibly with a lightweight ground tarp. It can be pitched tight to the ground for weather protection or raised with a gap to let air circulate.
There certainly are drawbacks to the Beta Light’s unique design. As with all tarp tents, you have to sacrifice some comfort for less weight and lower pack size. It also doesn’t come seam sealed, and you really do have to do it yourself if you plan to be out in any storms.
All in all, this is one of the highest quality and most affordable tents of any style available today. It is highly recommended by just about everyone who uses it. If fast and light is your style, then it really is a no-brainer.
Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
Floor Space: 34.7 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 43.5 in.
Features: Two trekking pole set up for ultra-lightweight shelter, two person, four season, one door, no vestibule, requires seam sealing.
Best For: Trekking or fastpacking
Best Family Tent for Backpacking
The MSR Papa Hubba NX-4 is the premier in large tent technology. Unique pole geometry gets maximum living space out of minimum pole length to keep weight low and comfort high.
The Papa Hubba is freestanding, and easy to set up using MSR’s color coded system. Two regular poles and one hubbed pole-set form the frame to which you clip the tent body. The 20-D ripstop nylon fly fits snugly over top and clips to the stakeout points.
The tent has two doors with large vestibules and rain gutters to funnel water away from the opening.
Mesh windows and vents, along with fly vents help keep this tent dry. This is a critical consideration when you’re packing three of your smelly friends into one tent. Side entrance vestibules make it easy to leave the tent open different amounts to adjust airflow, all while keeping rain out.
The Papa Hubba can be pitched in a fast and light configuration, just like the rest of the Hubba series. Unfortunately, the footprint for this setup is sold seperately. However, this mode cuts the tent’s trail-weight down to just four pounds eleven ounces. Just over a pound per person.
MSR has worked hard to develop a legacy of quality products for the mountain environment. The Papa Hubba is a perfect example. It is sure to keep your family safe and your friends happy as far out on the trails as you find yourselves this season.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs. 15 oz.
Floor Space: 53 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 44 in.
Features: Four person, three season, two door, twin vestibules, three poles, freestanding, color coded setup, fast and light setup available with optional footprint (sold separately)
Best For: Family or group camping
Best Tent for Tall People
REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Tent
The Half Dome 2 Plus is a tent especially designed for taller backpackers. Since I am 6′ 6″ this category hits close to home. I have always needed a little extra room inside. Besides, to be honest, even if you don’t need the extra inches to wiggle your toes at night, it’s pretty nice to have extra storage space.
The 2 Plus uses three poles with a hubbed design to make set up easy and fast. You can do it in the dark or in the middle of a storm within minutes.
Twin doors and vestibules make this a great tent for two people. Many campers like to buy a two person tent for themselves so they have a bit of extra space. The Half Dome 2 Plus is a great way to achieve the same thing for two.
The fly can roll up in good weather for ventilation and the view. If a storm rolls in, you can quickly roll the walls down and snap them into place.
The inside of this plus sized tent has a headlamp hook and side storage pockets to keep things convenient and organized.
All in all, this tent is perfect for anyone who needs a little extra room to be comfortable. It’s not too expensive, and it will do it’s job with ease for years and years to come.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs. 1 oz.
Floor Space: 38.1 sq. ft.
Peak Height: 42 in.
Features: Two person, three season, two door, three pole, twin vestibules, freestanding, extra long eight foot floor, four fly vents for maximum airflow, pockets and hangloops for organization inside, fast and light option with footprint (sold separately).
Best For: Tall people
Backpacking Tent Buying Guide: Finding The Best Tent For Hiking
What is a backpacking tent?
The name says it all—basically a backpacking tent needs to be small and light enough to carry in your pack while out on the trail hiking or traveling around the world.
Giving that you will be using your tent extensively outdoors in a variety of situations, the tent needs to be durable, light, and withstand stormy weather conditions. Having the right tent can make or break your camping experience—they last thing you want is a leaky tent on the first night of a multiple day backpacking trip in the wilderness.
That said there are always trade-offs. You need to consider the right balance of having a lightweight tent that is easy to carry and pack vs. a heavier, more durable tent that will hold up after the toughest abuse.
Today’s best backpacking tents are easy to pitch, provide a comfortable place to rest, and ultimately allow you to enjoy camping in the backcountry.
Types of Backpacking Tents
Freestanding Vs. Non-Freestanding
Freestanding tents relies solely on it’s fixed pole system for support and can be pitched anywhere. This allows you freedom on the location where you plan to camp since you won’t rely on finding suitable soil or anchors for stakes and guy lines. You can even pitch them on solid rock or pavement. They are quicker and easier to setup—which can be a godsend when setting up a tent at dusk or in inclimate weather.
Non-freestanding tents are some of the lightest options out there, but rely on stakes and guy lines to give the tent it’s support. Some models also use trekking poles for support. These models tend to take more time and coordination to setup. Another drawback of non-freestanding tents is that you’ll need to find a suitable place to setup the tent with enough space to extend and secure guy lines.
3 Season Backpacking Tents: Ideal for Spring, Summer & Autumn
By far the most versatile option for a backpacking tent, 3-season tents are also the most popular choice. These models offer the ideal mix of lightweight and durability—which exactly what you are after when choosing a backpacking shelter.
They are designed to be used in cooler and hot temperatures alike, so you will be comfortable sleeping in one during spring, summer, and fall. The only limitation is that they are not designed to be used during winter and heavy snowfall, but most people don’t plan to go snow camping anyways.
With a rainfly high-quality 3-season tents offer protection against rain, wind and stormy weather. They also feature large mesh panels to increase airflow through the tent when it’s hot outside.
With more vertical walls they are comfortable to move around in with their increased head space, yet they are stable enough in windy conditions (but not extreme storms).
Made from lighter fabrics and innovative pole designs they are also some of the lightest tent models our there, which is the main reason they are a popular choice with outdoor adventures.
3+ and 4 Season Backpacking Tents: Winter & Mountaineering
These tents can be used year-round, but they tend to weight more and may have more limited ventilation than 3-season tents.
They are designed to withstand heavy storms and moderate snowfall. If you plan to go backpacking in high alpine destinations or want to camping during winter months, then a 4-season tent is your best bet.
These tents use a stronger, more extensive pole system for added load bearing strength. Like 3-season tents they also feature upright walls with increased head space.
A major difference from 3-season tents is that they have fewer mesh panels to help retain warmth when camping in cold conditions.
Mountaineering tents feature heavier fabrics and are built to holdup in the strongest winter storms with heavy snowfall. They generally have a rounded dome shape that allows snow to slide off and can withstands strong winds.
Tarp Tents: Ultralite Options
Tarp tents are minimalist tents that are a mix between a tent and tarp shelter. Most do not have integrated floors, so you have to be more picky when finding a place to sleep.
To save weight there design only uses 1-2 poles or a single trekking pole. This makes them some of the most ultra-light backpacking tent options out there.
Car Camping Tents
The major difference between car camping tents and backpacking tents is weight and size. If you are strictly going to be using your tent for car camping where you can pull directly up to your camping site, then you don’t have to be worried about weight. This means it makes more sense to have a heavier, larger, and more durable tent.
However, although these models are comfortable for car camping and general comping purposes, due to their weight and bulky packed size they are not ideal for backpacking.
Why Get a Backpacking Tent?
If you planning on carry your tent longer distances—whether it’s trekking in the backcountry or backpacking around the world—you’ll want a lightweight and easy to pack tent.
Saving weight and space in your pack is always essential. It will keep you from feeling bogged down and feeling fresher at the end of the day.
The best backpacking tents are super lightweight, yet built with durable fabrics to resist tears and rips. This makes them applicable in many situations and with a little care will hold up for years of use.
With their thinner fabrics they also pack down to smaller sizes. Especially when using a compress sack these tents can pack down to the size of roughly a 1-2 liter water bottle.
Understanding Tent Sizing – What Size Tent Do I Need?
One of the most important factors when choosing a backpacking tents is it’s capacity. Tent models are designed and rated to fit 1 to 4 persons. You will find that most tent names include a number which indicates the number of people it is designed to sleep. For instance, the NEMO Dagger 2P.
Something that makes choosing the right size more difficult is that there is no industry standard for tent sizes. This means that sizes will vary between brands and a 2 person tent from one brand may feel much more spacious than a comparable model from another.
Here is a rule of thumb for tent sizing:
- If you want more space or are taller or later than average, go with a tent designed to fit one person more than the number who will be sleeping in it. Thus, if two people are in the group, a three person tent will provide that extra bit of space.
- If you want to keep weight low and travel ultralight, then stick with a tent that is designed to fit the number of people in the group. Thus, a two person tent for two people. You’ll be more snug, but will save weight since the tent uses less fabric, etc.
You can also find plus-size tents that feature longer length and widths than a typical model of the same capacity.
Advantages of a Lightweight Tent
With backpacking and travel gear, going with a lightweight model will save your back and make for much more comfortable carrying over long distances. This is essential for backpacking as the light thing you want to do is carry extra weight on the trail.
A lightweight backpacking tent doesn’t mean you have to compromise on space and quality. The best backpacking tents are have an exceptional design that provides functionality and durability.
The disadvantage of going with a lightweight tent is that in most cases, the lighter weight, the higher the price. That said, I’ve found there are diminishing returns with extreme weight savings at the highest levels. You can get a great lightweight tent that won’t break your budget, but often times when you want the lightest tent out there, you’ll pay a premium.
Apart from the price there is not reason not to go with a lightweight tent that will be easier to carry in your pack.
How Much Do I Need to Spend?
You can find backpacking tents in a wide range of prices, so how much do you need to spend to get a good quality tent for backpacking?
In my opinion the sweetspot for backpack tents is in the $200 to $500 price range. There are many options available in this price range and some of these models are make the best backpacking tents out there.
You can find great backpacking tents under $200 that will do the job, but you may give up some extra features. If you want to save weight you will likely have to spend a little bit more, especially if you want to buy an ultralight model.
On the high-end of the spectrum you’ll find tents that cost upwards of $500+ which are designed for the most experienced users who plan to frequently sleep in their tent in the backcounty. For most these models are not necessary, but they do offer some excellent design features and quality.
How to Pick the Right Backpacking Tent
How do you plan on using you tent—multi-day backpacking trips? Some car camping? What about traveling abroad with camping?
Deciding on how you will primarily use your tent will help you choose the right backpacking tent. If you prefer to travel fast and light, a lightweight tent model may be your best bet. On the other hand, if you will be using the tent for both backpacking and car camping, you may want to go with a heavier, but more spacious model that performs well in both situations.
For international travel packing light and small is almost of utmost importance, especially if you will be backpacking around the world carrying your gear. You will want to look for an ultra-light model that you can easily stow away in your pack.
The biggest factor to consider when selecting the right size backpacking tent is how many people will be sleeping in the tent and how much extra space you’ll need inside.
In general tents are sized to fit 1-4 people, but in real life these capacity ratings are for a very snug fit. Unless you want to hike fast and light I always recommend going with a tent size that is 1 person more than the number of users.
A 2-person tent is great for a single person and will provide enough room to move around and store some extra gear. If you want to save weight and space in your pack a 1-person tent will work, but don’t expect a whole lot of extra interior space.
3 and 4-person tents are ideal for sleeping 2 or 3 people plus giving enough extra space for gear storage.
The bottom line for tent sizing is: go with a larger size (e.g. 2-person tent for a solo camper) if you want extra interior space or will be spending extended periods of time inside your tent. Go with the a smaller size (e.g. 1-person tent for a solo camper) if hiking light and fast is your goal.
When it comes to backpacking, weight is always a top consideration. With backpacking tents it’s important to find a balance between weight and size. Larger size tents require more fabric, which means a heavier tent. On the flip side, ultralight tents may be too small for your needs.
Having lightweight backpacking gear makes it possible to hike quicker and be more comfortable, so it’s often worth saving weight when you can.
For most, a 3-season tent is the perfect combination of weight, funtionality and durability. They perform well in a wide range of temperatures and conditions and are some of the lightest tents available. Beyond that, 3+ and 4-seaons tents tend to have heavier fabric and poles which makes them heavier.
When it comes to backpacking tent durability the most important aspects to consider are the tent material (walls, floor, and mesh vents) and the zipper construction.With this you want to make sure you choose a tent model constructed with high quality fabric, zippers, and mesh to avoid rips and tears.
On the market you’ll find a wide range of specialized nylons and polyesters used in outdoor tents. An important spec to look at is the denier, which is basically the fabrics density. The higher denier, the thicker, stronger and heavier the fabric. Lower denier fabrics are lighter, but generally not as strong as high denier fabrics.
When choosing the right backpacking tent you’ll want to consider how important weight vs. durability is to you. If you plan to use your tent in rugged terrain and are just generally rough on gear, you may want to go with a tougher fabric. Ultralight tents models will need a bit more care ( e.g. making sure you don’t pitch you tent on a sharp rock or stick), but are the perfect option for many who want to save weight when backpacking. Even these models will last for years on the trail will a little precaution.
Doors & Access
Backpacking tents either have one or two doors. Depending on preference and whether you will be sharing you tent with a camping mate, you’ll want to consider if you want more than one access door. It can be a nuisance to crawl over your tent mate in the middle of the night to make a toilet break.
Another aspect to consider is the shape of the tent and the placement of the doors. Are they located
The advantage of a single door tent is that the tent can be made lighter by using less material and zippers. However, two door tents have huge advantages when it comes to comfort and practicability when camping in the tent. That’s why almost all tents, especially multi-person tents will feature at least two doors.
Apart from giving each person their own entry point, the other advantage of having two doors is that it allows more ventilation during hot summer nights. You’ll also want to consider if each door has its own vestibule that provides protected spaces under the rainfly and outside of the interior tent walls. This is ideal for storing gear and smelly shoes outside the tent, which gives you much more space for sleeping inside.
Floor Area & Dimensions
As the total square footage of the tent, the floor area is an important factor to look at, but alone it won’t tell you how pratical the tent’s space is used. A better indicator is the tent’s floor plan with it’s length and width measurements.
Many tents are not perfect rectangles and have wider middle areas than the head and foot of the tent. This allows for more space for sleeping on your side and turning over at night. Many tents are also tapered from the head to the foot. Wider dimensions at the head makes the tent more comfortable to spend time in and is better suited for Likewise, the foot of the tent is often the narrowest dimension of the tent.
Height & Interior Space
Having a tent with a taller peak height allows you to more easily to enter, stand up and change clothes. Having and also something to consider if you prefer to have the open and airiness of a high ceiling.
Backpacking tents are kept lightweight by being small and compact. The trade off of having a more spacious backpacking tent with a higher peak height is that the tent has more material, making it heavier.
A lightweight single person tent may only have a enough room to comfortable fit a single person and a small backpack. I’ve found that a two person tent can be a tight fit for two people and feel that carrying the extra weight of a three person tent is worth the trade off of extra interior space.
If you’re over 6 feet tall or just want extra head or foot space, look for a tent with a floor length over 90 inches or going with a two person tent.
The overall tent shape can be a huge factor in how the tent feels while inside and how spacious it feels for moving around. Having vertical walls makes the tent feel much more open and easier to sit up inside and for changing clothes.
Cabin-style tents generally have near vertical walls and higher peak heights. This give them more vertical livable space making them great for times when you plan on spending more time inside your tent. They are ideal for families or when you are 2 or more people sleeping in one tent.
Dome-style tents are designed to be stronger and withstand higher winds. These tents are much better suited for stormy weather and high winds. The flip side is that a dome style tent is generally lower in height and features sloped walls, which means less livable space. On the market today dome-style tents come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and pole configurations.
You’ll be happy to own a backpacking tent that is easy to setup when racing against stormy weather, dusk setting in, or just after a long day on the trail. Generally freestanding tents are easier and quicker to setup. The fixed pole system quickly snaps together and can be pitched almost anywhere, plus they are easy to move when pitched.
With Non-freestanding tents you have to find suitable ground for anchoring stakes and guy lines, which can sometimes take some searching. These options can be lighter, but you need to consider the ease of use vs. weight saving benefits.
When you first get a new tent it’s always a good idea to practice pitching the tent in your backyard. Knowing the ins and outs of setting up your specific tent can make things easier when out on the trail.
Storage Pockets & Loops
Having organization storage pockets and loops to hang a lantern are features that come in handy. The best backpacking tents include built-in lantern loops at the top-center of the tent’s ceiling and small mesh gear loft near the ceiling that allows you to store small items off the floor in an easy to access place. Some tents may have small storage pockets along the base of the tent wall.
These options help keep your gear organized and allows you to store items, such as flashlights. in an easy to find place when you need them in the middle of the night.
Often overlooked, ventilation is one of the most important factors in your comfort when you’re actually using your tent. Sure, you need it to be big enough, and have good doors and zippers. However, once you’re in your tent and trying to sleep, good ventilation will be the biggest part of a restful night.
That’s because your tent has two jobs at night that are in direct conflict. Your tent needs to keep you warm and protected from the elements. It needs to keep the weather out and the warmth in. But during the night, the heat and moisture from your body and breath creates condensation. Your tent needs good ventilation to let moisture out.
There’s nothing worse than paying hundreds of dollars for a tent to keep the rain out, just to make your own rain inside of it. Wrong kind of ‘making it rain’.
It goes without saying that your tent needs to be able to protect you from a storm. And shelter means different things in different climates and conditions.
High quality materials, quality construction, and careful attention to detail are all essential to good weather proofing.
The fly should fit snugly and not sag under rain. There also shouldn’t be any areas where water could pool.
Fabrics should be waterproofed well. A fabric’s hydrostatic head rating is a measurement of how much water it can hold before leaking through. The higher the rating, the better the waterproofing.
Quality stakes and poles keep your tent stable in a storm. They also keep it from sagging and needing constant adjustments.
Lastly, your tent should be designed smartly. When it’s raining, water should not drip down over the door in a way that gets everything wet. The vestibules should be dry and roomy. That way you can leave wet gear outside and keep your tent clean.
Depending on what time of year you plan to primarily use your tent you’ll want to decide to go with either a 3 season or 4 season tent.
3 Season Tents
Three season tents are designed for use during the summer, spring, and fall. They can withstand wind and rain, and also provide airy ventilation on hot days. However they are not designed to be sturdy enough to withstand snow.
This means they are lighter and usually cheaper. Not to mention simpler to set up in many cases.
4 Season Tents
Four season tents are designed for year-round use. They can be fast and light in the summer or strong and warm in the winter.
In order to withstand snowfall, poles are made stronger,corners stake down tighter, and fabrics are a more serious affair.
Because of the added quality, good four season tents usually cost more than a three.
Vestibules are great for storing gear outside of your tent while still keeping it safe and dry under the rainfly. Ideally each entrance should have a vestibule that extends out under the rainfly. It should be large enough to store smelly shoes, extra packs, and other gear. Yours should also be smartly designed to keep rain from dripping on you as you come and go.
Tent Poles & Stakes
These days, most tents use hubbed poles, advanced geometry, and ultralight materials to keep their tent at the top of the line. It’s no coincidence that all of the best tents are doing it. Poles and steaks provide structural stability and determine just how much storm your tent can stand up to.
However poles and stakes also add the most weight in your pack. A more expensive tent will use high tech materials to reduce the weight of these metal parts. Light weight doesn’t mean you sacrifice sturdiness though. Quality poles, whether hubbed or not will provide a stable structure capable of withstanding strong winds.
A footprint is a necessary accessory when it comes to taking care of your backpacking tent. A tent footprint provides an extra layer of durability between the ground and the floor of your tent. Footprints are built from tough waterproof material to take most of the abuse, such as abrasion, sharp rocks and sticks, and water.
Yes, a tent footprint is added weight and cost to your backpacking gear setup, but they are well worth using to add longevity to the life of your tent. Be sure to buy a footprint that is designed to fit with the floor shape of your tent, most manufactures produce a footprint specifically designed to fit each model.
The color of your tent may not be the first thing that comes to mind when choosing the right model. However, depending on where you plan to pitch your tent you may want to go with a more discrete color to avoid standing out like a sore thumbs, especially if you plant to camp rogue in the wilderness. If you want to blend in you don’t have to go with a full-on camo print, but consider a brown or green color.
A tent with brighter wall and rainfly color will also transmit more light through and make the interior of the tent brighter. This makes it much easier to find items in your tent in low light situations and makes the inside of your tent feel more spacious.
Although tents can come with a mess of features these days, there are some that are really important. There are some that I consider to be downright essential. And then, there are some that are just silly.
Pockets are one of my top priorities when I choose a tent. It’s nice to have your headlamp up high and a place to store small items off the floor. They help keep you organized and efficient. And they’re simple.
Zippers can make or break a tent. They not only need to be durable, they also have to be smartly designed. Good tents have zippers that can open in both directions to allow you more options for ventilation.
Vents in the fly are critical, as we mentioned before. But easy access and use of them is too. The best tents have ways for you to open and close the outer vents from inside of the tent.
After all, no one wants to go outside in the middle of a rainy night to open a vent.
Tips for Backpacking with a Tent
If you’re going to drop a couple hundred dollars on a new tent, it’s worth taking some time to consider how you care for a tent, how you use it to it’s fullest potential, and how you ensure that you get the most life out of it that you can.
When you first get your tent, set it up at home. Read the instructions or watch some Youtube videos. That way you’ll be sure to understand all the features and know just how your tent works.
Not to mention that you’ll figure out how it works before you’re caught in a storm setting it up wrong.
Most companies design a footprint to go with each model of tent. Getting yours will go a long way towards preserving your tent and keeping you comfortable.
Don’t just set up your tent once, practice packing and unpacking it in a couple different ways so you can get familiar with it. This will keep you efficient, fast, and light on the trail.
How To Care for & Maintain Your Tent
How to wash a tent
In order to give your tent the TLC that it needs and deserves, you’re going to need a few things.
- A broom and dustpan
- A bucket of cold water
- A tent-specific soap
- A sponge, rag, or towel
- A good place to pitch your tent
Start by setting your tent up. Make sure the corners are tight and the walls are taught. This will make it easier to scrub down later.
Once it’s setup, get your tent wet, then start rubbing it down with a tent specific soap. You can find all sorts of them on Amazon if you search for tent soap. We recommend using Nikwax.
Be sure to get in all the corners and edges carefully. Give extra attention to anywhere that is developing mold or deterioration.
Next, wash that baby out thoroughly. A hose works well. Then dump out all the water and pat the inside dry with a fresh towel. Hopefully you got started early and there’s still plenty of day left so you can leave it out to dry.
Once it is COMPLETELY dry, take it down and hang it up somewhere so that the bottom can dry as well.
Then, and only then, you can carefully pack it into a large stuff sack or container. Store it in a cool, dry place.
Or just take it right back out into the woods and get it dirty again. Your call.
How to patch a tent
No matter how careful you are, you’r tent is eventually bound to tear, or burn, or puncture. That’s ok. It’s pretty easy to patch a tent and if done correctly can keep your shelter warm and dry for years to come.
Get yourself a roll of Tenacious Tape and a tube of Seam Grip. If you want a full tent repair kit, that’s fine too, it will come with everything you need.
First things first though, you need to trim any loose fibers around the tear. Use a sharp pair of scissors and be careful not to make the problem worse than it is.
If your tent is dirty, you’ll need to wash the area around the tear. Take your time, this is the difference between a patch that lasts two months vs. one that lasts two years.
Then, if you really want a perfect patch job, steam the area you are planning to patch. This will eliminate the micro wrinkles that develop in your tent fabric from constant packing and repacking. A perfectly smooth and clean surface will make for the best patch.
Cut off a piece of Tenacious Tape that is larger than the tear on all sides. If the tear is wider than a single piece of tape, you should take your tent to an expert, or at least to your local REI.
Before you apply the tape, trim the corners so that they are rounded. That way it doesn’t peel off easily. Carefully and slowly apply the tape to the INSIDE of the tent. It can be really helpful to have a buddy for this part. They can help hold the tent tight so you can get a really good seal with no air bubbles, wrinkles, or creases.
Then, on the outside of the tent, apply a thin bead of Seam Grip along the entire length of the tear and extending a couple of inches beyond it on both sides. Use a small brush or rag to paint it over the entire area. Extend the Seam Grip a couple of inches beyond the tear in every direction.
Then leave it there for at least twelve hours. It’s best to give it 24 hours though before packing it back up or using it.
How to waterproof a tent
Eventually, you might want to re-waterproof your tent. Or perhaps you opted to buy a cheaper tent and are planning on leveling it up a bit with a new outer layer.
Either way, you’re in luck because it’s not that hard to do and it’s real cheap.
Use seam sealer to cover all of your fly’s exterior seams. Apply a thin, even coat that extends about an inch to either side of the seam.
For the actual waterproof coating, you have to research your tent’s material to be sure you choose the right method. However, most rainflys are made of polyester or nylon and are coated in a thin layer of polyurethane.
In order to re-waterproof your tent, you just need to apply a new coat of polyurethane. You can buy brush on polyurethane specifically for tents. Just be careful to thoroughly clean your tent before reapplying a waterproofing layer. You may have to scrub away the old layer if it is becoming flaky or peeling.
Best way to pack a tent
Getting your tent to pack as tightly as possible is all about eliminating air space. The best method will depend on the style, size, and design of your tent. However, there are a couple of principles that will always help you save space.
If you’re going to fold your tent up, take your time. Make sure your corners are square and the body of your tent is neatly folded inside of the floor. This will help you to eliminate wasted space and keep your tent tight.
With many models of tents, it’s a better option to roll your tent up. With several models you can fold the tent in half once so that the more fragile body of the tent is contained within the floor. Then, you can use the pole set as a center and roll the tent up around them. Be sure to kneel on the tent as you roll so you continually press extra air out of it.
If you are backpacking with a group, it can be nice to split your tent up between group members. That way, no one member has to carry all the group weight. It can also make it easier to fit in around your other items rather than needing one large space to fit the whole package.
The Bottom Line
All in all, I’m sure it’s clear by now, that your tent will need to match your style of adventure. It needs to match you!
Because everyone is different.
Consider carefully where your adventures are likely to take you in the coming years and what that means your tent will need to do. How many people do you expect it to be sleeping? Will it have to withstand snow, wind, or heavy rain frequently? How much are you prepared to spend?
There are lots of great budget options out there like the Black Diamond Beta Light shelteror the North Face Stormbreak 2. Each offers easy set up, excellent design, and a comfortable price tag that can fit even into a college student’s budget.
If you’re prepared to spend more money, you can get one of the nicest tent’s money can buy. With a tent like the Papa Hubba or the Jannu 2, the possibilities of where you can go become virtually limitless.
All of the tents we’ve reviewed today have unique features and important differences that set them apart from one another. They each specialize in certain areas and fall short for other uses.
However, all of the best tents on the market today share a number of features that you should be sure to look for in any tent you plan to buy.
- The tent is made from high quality materials. Seams are sealed, fabrics are strong and weather resistant, steaks and poles are sturdy and lightweight.
- The design is intelligent and easy to use. The tent pitches easily and quickly. It can be done in the dark and with little instruction. Doors, vents, zippers, and pockets are all made to work well and function as a cohesive whole. The tent makes sense.
- The tent matches it’s price tag. If you are paying more than $250 for your tent, it uses high-quality and lightweight materials. It is sturdy and reliable. It is weatherproofed for lasting protection.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re doing your research right. As you hone in on the tent that’s right for you, keep these three core principles in mind and you are sure to find your perfect home away from home.
Rain or shine, happy trails.