The Best Backpacking Tent…and the next best 4

Best backpacking tent Featured ImageIt’s just you, the ground underfoot, the sky overhead, and a long weekend to get lost in the woods. No matter how short, long, or ongoing your journey may be, your basic needs must still be met: food, water, clothing, and shelter. Lets focus on shelter for now and find the best backpacking tent for your needs.

A quick internet search reveals hundreds of different options for ultralight backpacking tents and across a huge range of prices. And at first glance, they all appear to do the same thing.

 

How do you choose?

 

To help make your tent selection process a little easier, we’ve put together a list of the five best backpacking tents on the market today.

 

The tents that made the list are thoughtfully designed and of incredibly high quality. That said, each one offers something a little different and will be better suited for different applications.

 

Before we get into our tent recommendations, let’s go over some tent buying basics to help you narrow down your options even more.

Tent Buying Basics: Narrowing Down Your Options

Are you brand new to backpacking and want to test the waters before going all-in? Are you a seasoned pro with multiple thru-hikes under your belt? Are you looking to do some car camping with a few overnight backpacking trips here and there? Are you a pack-weight-conscious minimalist ever eager for the next wave of lighter, stronger, more technical fabrics to reach the tent world?

 

Every backpacker has their own unique style, preferences, ideals, and desires when it comes to backpacking tents. These stylistic preferences fall under four basic tent-specific parameters: weight, livability, seasonality, and size.

Tent Weight

The total weight of your pack is critical on the trail, and your tent is likely one of the heaviest, bulkiest items on board. Thanks to great advancements in fabric and pole technology, today’s tents are lighter than ever before.

 

But choosing a tent based on weight isn’t just a matter of how heavy the tent feels in your pack — tent weight is often a tradeoff of price and durability. Generally, the lighter the tent, the more it will cost, and the less durable it will be. So, how light does your tent really need to be?

 

If you only go on short, one- or two-day trips, you probably don’t need the lightest tent. If you’re planning to hike the Appalachian Trail, you’re going to want to the lightest tent you can afford, but not so light that it tears through mid-trip.

 

A basic rule is to choose the lightest tent you can afford, but make sure you’re not sacrificing durability just to save a few ounces.

Tent Livability

How much space do you need in your tent to feel comfortable?

 

Tent livability really comes down to design and dimensions, as well as other features like number of doors, vents, and whether or not the tent has vestibules.

 

We’ll go over tent livability in greater depth as it relates to each tent on the list.

Tent Seasonality

What time of year will you do most of your backpacking? What sort of weather conditions will you be backpacking in? The crisp and sometimes rainy spring? The heat of summer? Fall when the temperatures start to drop? Snow-heavy winters?

 

When you look at a tent’s specs, you’ll see that it’s rated for either 2, 3, or 4 seasons.

 

2-season tents are intended for fair weather conditions in spring and summer and often have extra mesh and ventilation for more comfort in warm weather.

 

3-season tents are by far the most versatile and cover the broadest range of weather conditions and temperatures. 3-season tents often have adequate ventilation for use in warmer weather but are also designed to keep you warm in colder temperatures. Most 3-season tents can be used with or without a sturdy rain-fly and are great if you aren’t sure what sort of weather you might encounter.

 

4-season tents can be used in all conditions, but tend to lean towards cold, snowy weather. They have thicker walls and less ventilation in order to keep you warm in cold temperatures, making them less than ideal for warm weather backpacking. They also tend to weigh more than similar 3-season tents.

 

All of the tents on our list are 3-season tents as they cover the broadest range of climates and conditions.

Tent Size/Number of Occupants

Tents are designed for a specific number of people, and most backpacking-specific tents are intended for one or two people, though larger models for three and four people do exist.

 

All of the tents on this list are 2-person tents, but most of the models come in 1-person versions, and some come in 3- and 4-person versions.

 

With tent weight, livability, seasonality, and size in mind, let’s move on to our recommendations.

 

For a more comprehensive guide on choosing the best backpacking tent, check out this awesome in-depth article:

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacking-tent.html

 

The Best Backpacking Tent – All-Purpose: The MSR Hubba Hubba NX

The Best backpacking tent - The MSR Hubba Hubba NXFor those who want a high-quality, lightweight tent that will last for many years and covers a huge range of backpacking scenarios, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX is the best backpacking tent you can buy.

 

At 3 lbs, 13 oz (poles included), the Hubba Hubba is technically an ultralight backpacking tent, though not the lightest in its class. But, with that little bit of extra weight, you get a whole lot more livability. The tent’s unique pole configuration is designed to give you maximum headroom and space to move around, and the symmetrical geometry with the non-tapered floor gives both occupants plenty of sleeping room, plus space to store their gear. Getting in out of the tent is easy for both occupants thanks to two large doors on both sides of the tent, complete with roomy vestibules when the rain-fly is used.

 

The Hubba Hubba is a freestanding tent, which means you can set it up anywhere without stakes, though a set of 6 MSR Groundhog stakes are included to keep the tent anchored. Expanding on the tent’s versatility, it has a “fast & light” setup option which lets you set up only the poles, rainfly, and footprint (sold separately) for a super quick minimalist shelter.

 

Quick Specs:

 

  • Weight: 13 oz
  • Occupants: 2 people
  • Seasons: 3
  • Number of Doors: 2
  • Vestibules: Yes (2)
  • Square footage: 29 sq. ft.
  • Ideal Use: All-purpose backpacking, multi-day trips

The Best Backpacking Tent for Hardcore Weekend Warriors and Extended Expeditions: The Hilleberg Anjan

The Hilleberg AnjanFor those who like to hit the long trail no matter what the weather might do, the Hilleberg Anjan is the premier lightweight backpacking tent of choice.

 

Handmade in Sweden, the Hilleberg Anjan is a highly versatile, yet extremely rugged 2-person tent. Though it is classified as a 3-season tent, it’s more like 3-season-plus and is the tent you want if you have to hunker down in a storm for a week. It’s still incredibly lightweight, weighing only 3 lbs. 15 oz (poles included), but is made with high strength Kerlon 1000 fabric for more durability. The tent only has one door, which may seem like an inconvenience, but the tunnel design creates a huge volume of usable space and gives both occupants equal access to the door and the tent more stability.

 

Keep in mind that the Hilleberg Anjan is for hardcore trekkers, and may be a tad overkill for more casual backpackers. It’s also the most expensive tent on the list, but for those who would prefer to spend most of their time on the trail, it’s worth every cent.

 

Quick Specs:

 

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Occupants: 2 people
  • Seasons: 3 (more like 3+)
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Vestibules: Yes (1)
  • Square footage:1 sq. ft.
  • Ideal Use: Harsh weather, rugged terrain, long treks

 

Best Backpacking Tent – Budget-Friendly: Kelty Salida

Kelty SalidaFor those who want to head out a few times a year, or just want a good lightweight tent for car-camping, the Kelty Salida is a great tent at a wallet-friendly price.

 

At 4 lbs. 9 oz., the Salida is the heaviest tent on the list, but it’s still very lightweight compared to other tents in the price range. Beyond the obvious price advantage, the Salida has just about everything you need in a backpacking tent: high-quality construction, backpack-friendly folding poles, plenty of ventilation, heavy-duty waterproof rainfly with a spacious vestibule, and plenty of room for two occupants and their gear.

 

The one drawback is the tent’s single door, which requires the person on the inside to crawl over the other if they need to exit. Other than that, the Kelty Salida is a solid offering for anyone who wants to get into backpacking for a low price. Plus, if you do eventually upgrade, the Salida makes an awesome backup or loaner tent.

 

Quick Specs:

 

  • Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz. (poles included)
  • Occupants: 2 people
  • Seasons: 3
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Vestibules: Yes (1)
  • Square footage:5 sq. ft.
  • Ideal use: Casual backpacking, short trips, car camping

 

The Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent for Thru-Hikers: Nemo Hornet

Nemo HornetThru-hikers or those who hike long distances from one end of a trail to the other ( i.e. Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail) have different requirements than casual backpackers. Low pack-weight is critical making ultralight tents the standard selection. But, since thru-hikers will be on the trail for months at a time, the tent also needs to be durable and reasonably comfortable. For that, the Nemo Hornet is the best ultralight backpacking tent for thru-hikers.

 

Weighing 2 lbs. 5 oz., the Nemo Hornet is about as light as they come while still being a fully pole-supported, bug-proof tent. The Hornet is great for single hikers who want plenty of space to themselves, or for teams of two who will benefit from the addition of a second entrance and vestibule. The tent is a bit snug for two occupants compared to the other two person tents on the list, but this is to be expected considering the tent’s light weight.

 

The tent uses an innovative single hub pole which allows for extremely fast and easy setup. The entire top half of the tent is mesh, making it a great choice for warm weather, but the durable rainfly offers considerable coverage and protection against the elements.

 

Quick Specs:

 

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz. (poles included)
  • Occupants: 2 people
  • Seasons: 3
  • Number of doors: 2
  • Vestibules: Yes (2)
  • Square footage: 28 sq. ft.
  • Ideal use: Ultralight backpacking, thru-hiking

 

The Best Backpacking Tent – Ultralight: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Ul2

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Ul2Although not a true “minimalist shelter,” the Fly Creek is a great ultralight backpacking tent for anyone wanting the full protection and comfort of a tent, but the weight of a bivy sac.

 

The Fly Creek has all the technical features you need to stay dry and comfortable inside but weighs only 2 lbs. 5 oz. Like the Nemo Hornet, the Fly Creek has a 3-way hub single pole for super fast setup which also creates steeper walls giving you slightly more room inside the tent. Most of the tent body is mesh, but the polyurethane-coated, silicone-treated ripstop rainfly covers the tent just about all the way to the ground, giving you plenty of protection from the elements.

 

Overall, the Fly Creek is comparable to the Nemo Hornet in many ways, but with only one entrance and vestibule, it’s better suited for single hikers. It’s also not quite as stout as the Nemo Hornet but is still a great choice for those in search of a high-quality ultralight backpacking tents.

 

Quick Specs:

 

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz. (poles included)
  • Occupants: 2 people
  • Seasons: 3
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Vestibules: Yes (1)
  • Square footage: 28 sq. ft.
  • Ideal use: Ultralight backpacking

 

So Which Will You Choose?

Backpacking is one of the most freeing ways to experience the outdoors, and if you’re just getting started and need a vote of confidence: go for it! Once you get the essentials — backpack, tent, a good pair of hiking boots, and some cooking gear — you’ll be ready to hop on the trail at a moment’s notice. We hope our recommendations for the best backpacking tent and the best ultralight backpacking tents help you find the right one and lead you one step closer to outdoor freedom.

 

Once you’re the proud owner of a brand new backpacking tent, check out this article to learn how to properly care for it:

http://www.outsideonline.com/2076151/how-do-i-properly-care-my-tent

 

 

 

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