The Best Backpacking Tent: How to Choose the Right One

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The three essentials for any backpacking trip are food, water and shelter. That is why it is so important to take your time when choosing the perfect backpacking tent.

Your tent should have the ability to keep you dry in rainy conditions, enough ventilation to keep you cool and be strong enough to resist rips and tears during use.

Many aspects come into play when creating a tent with these standards and others, and they are slightly different depending on the seasonality of the tent you need. Let’s dive in and I will show you what I mean.

Top 5 Backpacking Tents

Best Backpacking TentBig Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
-Trail Weight 2lbs 12oz.
-Roomy Interior
-Great Pockets
-Large Doors
-Easy to pitch
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Best Backpacking TentMSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent
-Trail Weight 3lbs 8oz
-Double Wall
-3 Season
-Two Doors
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Best Backpacking TentBig Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
-Trail Weight 2lbs 3oz
-Double Walls
-Two Doors
-3 Season
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Best Backpacking TentNemo Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2 Person
-Trail Weight 3lbs 5oz
-3 Season
-Double Wall
-Two Doors
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Best Backpacking TentMarmot Tungsten UL 2P Tent
-Trail Weight 3lbs 4oz
-3 Season
-Double Wall
-Two Door
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Quick Answer- The Best Backpacking Tents For:

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Tent

Backpacking in Greenland

3-Season Tents

There are only 2 main season labels for tents. The first is 3-season and the second is 4-season. 3-season tents tend to be cheaper and lighter making them the most purchased tent on the market.

They are designed to withstand various weather changes that might occur in the Spring and Fall months such as downpours and light snow but falter in more severe conditions like extreme winds and deep snowpack.

These tents are perfect for everything from long-distance hikes to weekend camping trips in the Spring, Summer and Fall.  That being said, not all 3-season tents are created equally. Here are a few things to look into before heading to your local outdoors outlet.


Out of all your gear, your tent will be one of the largest contributing factors to your overall pack weight. That is why it must be considered before purchasing the best backpacking tent for you.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should just go with the lightest tent that you can find. Ultralight tents often must sacrifice space, features and durability in order to achieve their lightweight status.

That is why you should assess what you are willing to sacrifice and what you can’t live without while staying in the ideal weight range of 2.5-3.5lbs.

Although, it is possible to find ultralight tents that are fairly durable and reasonably spacious. These are likely to fall in the premium category which means they also come with premium prices.

Tent camp in Patagonia


The capacity of a tent refers to how many people will be sleeping in it. The majority of 3-season backpacking tents have the ability to hold 1, 2, or 3 people. Anything more than that would make them too heavy to carry over long distances.

Here are some specs about the different capacities:

1-person tent

  • Perfect for solo backpackers
  • Come in a wide variety from minimalist bivy sacks to roomy freestanding tents
  • 1.5 person tent will allow you to house backpack internally
  • Often wider at the head and narrow at the foot

2-person tent

  • Great when hiking as a couple or with a friend
  • Allows you to share the load making a lighter pack for you both
  • Not roomy enough to house your backpack internally

3-person tent

  • Perfect for shorter hikes with 2 or more people
  • Can house backpacks internally if hiking as a couple
  • Can be a bit clumsy and require more to set up


3-season backpacking tents are generally made from ripstop nylon with aluminum poles and mesh ventilation. This allows them to save on weight while providing a fairly durable tent.

Higher-end tents will use nylon with a higher denier especially on the base of the tent to help prevent rips from rocks and other debris, with a lower denier rating for the walls.

MSR Tent camp on Vancouver Island, Canada

4-Season tents

Despite the name, 4-season tents are generally only used in the winter or when backpacking at high elevations. This is because they are much heavier and more costly than your average 3-season tent.

These tents are built with protection in mind. With their heavy-duty materials and sturdy design, they are able to withstand extreme winds, hail, ice and deep snow build up. When you think of backpacking in the Alaskan winter or climbing Mt. Everest, you should be thinking of a 4-season tent.


Weight is one of the areas where 3-season and 4-season tents differ the most. Also, it is why 4-season tents are not often used unless absolutely necessary for protection against the elements.

While recent technology has brought some of the top-end tents down to 5lbs, the average 4-season tent is between 8-16lbs. The added weight comes from the use of more fabric, thicker frames and more poles for stability.

beach camping on Vancouver Island, Canada


Similar to 3-season tents, the capacity for 4-season tents range from 1,2,3 or 4 person. However, it is best not to go off that label alone as different brands give different square footage at each level. For example, a 1-person tent can range from 15-25 square feet and a 2-person tent can range from 25-35 square feet.

Because a 4-season tent is inherently heavier, it is important to evaluate exactly how much space you will really need against how much weight you are willing to carry.

Another crucial factor about capacity is the ability to keep your gear inside the tent. When backpacking in harsher conditions, you will want to make sure you protect your gear from the elements, making even a solo backpacker consider a 2-person tent.

A 4-person 4-season tent is likely more than the average person can carry even if you share the load. This option is best used when setting up a base camp and hiking out during the day and back in the evening.


Unlike the thin ripstop nylon primarily used in 3-season tents, 4-season tents often use a sturdier polyester nylon blend. This allows them to withstand the elements without bowing under heavy rains or snowfall and traps in body heat while blocking out gusty winds.

There is also little to no mesh ventilation in 4-season tents as condensation isn’t much of a problem in colder temperatures. The frame is thicker and more robust but still utilizes aluminum poles primarily.

Camping in Northern Wisconsin

Added Features for Livability in Both Seasons

Livability refers to the added features of a tent that make it more enjoyable to stay in. It is a bit of a catch and can include everything from ease of set-up to wall-shape.

Here we look at a few livability features that can be translated from 3-season to 4-season tents and where they may differ.  


Vestibules are the rain-fly extension that goes over the front of the tent. They offer a space to put your boots and other gear protecting them from rain or snow without having to keep them inside your tent. This space is also perfect when you need to cook in the rain.

3-season vestibules

  • Sit off the ground
  • Allow for maximum airflow
  • Shorter in length

4-season vestibules

  • Extend completely to the ground
  • Flaps that fold inward
  • Longer with more room to sit-in

Beach camping in the Philippines


Ventilation is much more important in 3-season tents than it is in 4-season tents. That is why you will see any 3-season tents with completely mesh tops, and sides. This is to prevent the buildup of condensation within the tent and keep you cool on summer nights.

In contrast, 4-season tents are often built entirely mesh-free to keep out the elements and trap your body heat for added warmth. However, some do have fabric panels that can be opened for when a little ventilation is required, and the weather allows.

Freestanding Design

When a tent can stand on its own simply using the poles without stakes it has a freestanding design. This allows for the tent to be moved easily and cuts weight by not having to pack the extra materials. Great 3-season tents will have a freestanding design with the option of stakes when needed.

Because of the basic purpose of a 4-season tent to protect you from harsh conditions, they are rarely freestanding. The multiple poles will need to be staked into the ground to improve overall stability and protection.

Best Backpacking Tents: 3-Season

Best backpacking Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Big Agnes has made a name for themselves by supplying top of the line ultralight products and exceptional warranties and customer service. They are sturdy enough to protect against rain and winds while light enough to bring on long-distance backpacking trips.


  • Minimum trail weight 2lb 12oz.
  • Sizes: 1P, 2P, 3P & 4P
  • Propriety-patterned ripstop nylon
  • Freestanding design
  • 2 doors and 2 vestibules

Buy your Big Agnes Copper Spur HV Ul2 tent today! 


Best backpacking Tent


REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent

As a leading name in outdoor retail, it only makes sense that REI would make quality products for all of your backpacking needs. The Passage was made with backpackers that are on a tight budget in mind.

It is a simple design that offers great protection but doesn’t break the bank. It offers plenty of ventilation, headroom and strong zippers.


  • Minimum trail weight: 4lbs 13oz
  • Sizes: 1P, 2P, and 3P
  • Durable polyester fabric
  • Freestanding design
  • 2 doors and 2 vestibules

Buy your REI Co-op Passage 2 tent today! 

Best Backpacking Tents: 4-Season


Best backpacking Tent

Hilleberg Jannu

When looking for a 4-season tent you should look no further than the Hilleberg Jannu tent. Over multiple tests, this tent has reigned supreme as the strongest and most resistant to varying weather conditions on the market.

It is not overly heavy, packs down nicely and gives you peace of mind knowing you can tackle any extreme weather that comes your way.


  • Minimum trail weight: 6lbs 2oz
  • Sizes: 2P
  • Kerlon 1200 outer fabric
  • Mesh areas backed with adjustable fabrics
  • Room for 2 people plus gear
  • Single entrance and vestibule

Buy your Hilleberg Jannu tent today! 

Best backpacking Tent

Marmot Tungsten UL 2P Tent

A newly designed tent for the space-conscious among us, the Tungsten blends durability, roominess and intuitive livable designs. In fact, it has more space per ounce than any other of our freestanding ultralight tents.

Constructed with two large D-shaped doors, two vestibules and a no-stretch Rain Shield polyester fly, this little tent gives the feeling of big living in the woods.


  • Trail Weight 3lbs 4oz
  • 3 Season
  • Jingle-Free Nylon Zipper Pulls
  • Interior Pockets for Small Gear Organization
  • Double Wall
  • Two Door
  • Freestanding

Buy your Marmot Tungsten UL 2P tent today! 

Best Ultralight Tents 

Best backpacking Tent

Nemo Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2 Person

Dagger is the quintessential one-tent wonder: light enough for backpacking, yet roomy enough to comfortably wait out a rainstorm inside.

This best-seller has been updated this year (2019) with pre-bent poles to create more headroom, color-coded poles and webbing for intuitive setup, and several additional improvements to increase ventilation, convenience, and durability.

With two doors and two massive trapezoidal vestibules, Dagger has more area and volume for storage than any other tent in its price and weight category. It also has the unique Divvy dual-stage stuff sack, which allows you to split the load with a partner.


  • Trail Weight 3lbs 5oz
  • 3 Season
  • Double Wall
  • No-see-um mesh
  • Gear pockets
  • Overhead light pockets
  • Two Doors
  • Freestanding

Buy your Nemo Dagger tent today! 

Best backpacking Tent

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2

The Tiger Wall UL tents are our lightest two door/two vestibule, technical back-country shelters yet. The two doors make tent life a little easier, and the weight savings is especially nice when out for multi-day trip and gram counting.

Combining simple, yet strong single pole architecture with DAC Featherlite materials, interior storage pockets, and comforts around every corner, these tents are poised to be a backcountry favorite.


  • Trail Weight 2lbs 3oz
  • Double Walls
  • Two Doors
  • Over-sized ceiling pocket
  • Media pockets above sleeping area
  • Double zippers
  • 3 Season
  • Semi-Freestanding
  • Ultralight

Buy your Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 today! 

Best backpacking Tent

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent

Designed for backpackers who need a tent that can do it all while still being compact and lightweight, our bestselling MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent feels as light and efficient to use as it does to carry. From its spacious interior to its quick setup, this tent redefines lightweight livability.

Now it boasts premier durability features, including virtually indestructible Easton Syclone poles and MSR’s long-lasting Xtreme Shield waterproof coating.

Whether you’re setting out to climb the Sawatch Range or circumnavigate Mount Rainier along the Wonderland Trail, the freestanding, 3-season Hubba Hubba NX tent lets you enjoy the full backcountry experience — including time spent in the tent.


  • Trail Weight 3lbs 8oz
  • Double Wall
  • 3 Season
  • Ultralight
  • Side zipper entry
  • Rainfly kickstand vent
  • Two Doors
  • Freestanding

Buy your MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person tent today! 

Best backpacking Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

One of the best-selling, full-featured, ultralight backpacking shelters, the Copper Spur HV UL series is designed with a high volume hub to maximize strength and increase living space without adding weight.

Large dual zipper doors and steep wall architecture make backcountry trips with a smelly partner, or three, more comfortable than you may have thought possible. 


  • Trail Weight 2lbs 12oz.
  • Ultralight
  • Roomy Interior
  • 2 doors
  • Storm Flaps
  • Massive ceiling pocket
  • Media pockets above sleeping area
  • One fly vent
  • Easy to pitch

Buy your Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 today! 

Camping in Africa

Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.

  • Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
  • Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
  • Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.

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The Best Backpacking Tent: How to Choose the Right One


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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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