A backpacking tent gives you the flexibility and freedom to set up camp anywhere you like rather than having to reach stationary shelters on the beaten path. The main advantage of tents in comparison to other portable shelters is that they are very versatile. Most other shelters can only be used in very specific situations. For example, a bivy sack is not suitable for long trips because it doesn’t offer much space (your backpack has to be left outside) and becomes claustrophobic after days of use and tarps provide very limited protection against precipitation and wind, and are thus only suitable for warm and dry conditions.
Although you can buy cheap tents in a supermarket, they are usually heavy, rarely last long and perform poorly in anything but pleasant weather. A high-quality backpacking tent on the other hand, is designed to be as light as possible and will protect you against precipitation, wind, bugs and groundwater, which will increase your chance of getting a good night’s sleep and waking up ready for new challenges.
In this review we selected and reviewed the best backpacking tents. We listed and reviewed three 3-season backpacking tents and two 4-season backpacking tents to suit everyone’s needs and wishes. We only listed lightweight tents that pack small and provide good protection against weather and insects. All tents in this selection accommodate two persons.
Regardless of where you choose to spend the night, you will probably also need other sleeping equipment. Therefore, also check out our other selections of sleeping gear for backpacking.
1. Buying a Backpacking Tent – What is important?
There are two types of tents: Double-wall tents (three-season tents) and single-wall tents (four-season tents).
Double-wall tents are the most widely used because they are less expensive and provide good weather protection. They consist of a floor, a canopy and a fly. While the floor and the fly are waterproof, the canopy is usually made of a breathable (mesh) fabric to prevent condensation from building up. Many double-wall tents allow you to pitch the canopy without the fly, or the fly without the canopy depending on the weather – which is indeed a good thing (you don’t have to carry everything with you). The main disadvantage of double-wall tents is that they are often heavier and bigger when packed than single-wall tents. They are also not suitable for harsh winter conditions because they can’t be completely sealed (there is always space between the fly and the canopy).
Single-wall tents are great for mountaineering and alpine adventures because they can be completely sealed for good weather protection in harsh winter conditions. These tents consist of a waterproof floor and a canopy made of a waterproof/ breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex, eVent etc. The waterproof canopy eliminates the need for a separate fly and therefore these tents are usually very light and small when packed. An additional benefit of single-wall tents is that they can be pitched faster than double-wall tents. However, single-wall tents also have disadvantages; they are more expensive than double-wall tents and they are more prone to condensation issues – depending on the quality of the fabric. Furthermore, they also provide inferior protection against rain. Every breathable fabric leaks at some point.
Weight and size:
In this selection we only included lightweight tents. All products in this selection weigh less than 4 pounds. Read more about why it is important to use lightweight gear for backpacking in our article Why hike lightweight.
Backpacking, hiking and mountaineering require gear that packs small and fits into or onto a backpack. In this selection we only included tents that pack very small.
Double-wall tents are made of nylon (floor and rainfly) and polyester (canopy). The floor and rainfly are usually also coated with polyurethane or impregnated with silicone for better water resistance.
Single-wall tents are made of waterproof/breathable fabrics (such as Gore-Tex, eVent etc.) which consist of three layers; a liner, a membrane and a DWR-treated face fabric. You will find the same materials in rain jackets.
The condensation resistance depends on the breathability of the fabric – the higher the breathability of the fabric, the less likely it is that the tent will have condensation issues.
Double-wall tents usually do not have problems with condensation as the breathable canopy allows moisture and warm air to escape to the outside.
Single-wall tents are trickier when it comes to condensation as the waterproof/breathable fabric of the canopy, to some extent, prevents the moisture and warm air from escaping to the outside. However, this depends on the quality of the fabric.
If you often have problems with condensation in your tent, check these tips from Sea to Summit and learn what you can do about it.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Backpacking Tents Review
The Best Backpacking Tents – List
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
- Black Diamond Firstlight
- Sea to Summit Telos TR2
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
- Rab Latok Mountain
|Feature/Product||Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2||Black Diamond Firstlight||Sea to Summit Telos TR2||MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2||Rab Latok Mountain|
|Weight Packed||3 lbs. 2 oz.||3 lbs. 5 oz.||3 lbs. 11 oz.||3 lbs. 13 oz.||4 lbs.|
|Weight Packed (Metric)||1417 g||1500 g||1672 g||1720 g||1850 g|
|Packed Size||5.5 x 18 in.||5.9 x 9.1 in.||5 x 19 in.||5.9 x 18 in.||7.1 x 22 in.|
|Packed Size (Metric)||14 x 44.45 cm||15 x 23 cm||12 x 48 cm||15 x 46 cm||18 x 55 cm|
|Floor Area||2.7 m2||2.5 m2||2.6 m2||2.7 m2||2.9 m2|
|Head Height||42 in.||42 in.||43 in.||39 in.||43 in.|
|Head Height (Metric)||107 cm||106 cm||110 cm||100 cm||109 cm|
|Material||Silicon Treated Nylon + Polyester Mesh (Canopy)||Nanoshield||15-denier Nylon Ripstop + 15-denier Nylon Ripstop Mesh (Canopy)||Polyurethane and Silicone Treated Nylon + Nylon Micromesh (Canopy)||3-Layer eVent|
|Number of Doors||2||1||2||2||1|
1. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
Best use: 3-season backpacking
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 backpacking tent provides an outstanding performance for a reasonable price. The tent has a sturdy fly and floor which are made of silicone-treated and polyurethane-coated nylon ripstop fabric. The canopy is made of nylon (lower part) and mesh polyester (upper part) for good ventilation. Even though the materials are very sturdy, the Big Agnes tent (all parts included) weighs merely 3 pounds.
The fly is also equipped with taped seams for increased protection against rain. The poles are made of TH72M material – an innovative material which was created by blending titanium with aluminum and other metals. This material has a great strength-to-weight ratio. The pole system comes only in one piece for easy handling and is equipped with fit connectors and lightweight hubs. The canopy is easily attached to the pole system with convenient twist clips while eight lightweight aluminum J stakes ensure that the tent stays securely in place. The Big Agnes tent is equipped with two side doors which are very useful because they allow each occupant to enter/exit the tent without disturbing the other. Each of the doors has a rain gutter that can be used for storing a backpack and footwear (if the conditions allow). There are also six pockets inside the tent; two media pockets above the sleeping area and four mesh pockets for accessories.
2. Black Diamond Firstlight
- Alpine Climbing
Best use: Winter trips
The Black Diamond Firstlight tent is best for mountaineers and alpinists who need a reliable and durable 4-season tent. However, it is also great for backpacking – especially in winter conditions. The Black Diamond tent has steep walls to prevent snow from piling up. Due to the steep walls, the tent also offers more space – the inner height is 45 inches which is indeed good. The tent’s floor is made of nylon while the body is made of Nanoshield waterproof/breathable fabric.
The Black Diamond tent is equipped with the same poles as the Big Agnes tent – the DAC Featherlite poles – which are made of the very durable but lightweight TH72M material. The poles are placed inside the tent (hook and loop wraps) which is very convenient because it allows you to set up the tent from the inside while being protected against snow, rain and wind. The Black Diamond Firstlight tent is equipped with one door (covered with mesh fabric), a rear window and two interior pockets.
3. Sea to Summit Telos TR2
Best use: 3-season backpacking
The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 tent is despite its low weight (3 lbs. 11 oz.) packed with features. The tent sets itself apart from the competition by providing a lot of space, incredible ventilation and unmatching versatility. It is equipped with tensions ridge (the poles are swept upwards at the middle of the tent) which increases the head and shoulder room and makes the two doors higher for easier entry. The tensions ridge also increases the ventilation and consequently prevents condensation issues. This design makes the tent very comfortable and functional.
The tent packs into 3 stuff sacks so you can split the load with your backpacking buddy. One stuff sack holds the rainfly which is made of silicone-treated 15-denier nylon. The other stuff sack holds the canopy, and the third stuff sack holds the poles. The first two stuff sacks transform into gear storage pockets when the tent is pitched, and the third stuff sack becomes a light bar. You attach it to the top of the tent and put in a headlamp for soft and even illumination. The Sea to Summit Telos TR 2 efficiently combines low weight, comfort and functionality. Therefore, it’s a great option for various outdoor activities.
4. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
Best use: 3-season backpacking
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 backpacking tent offers great functionality for the price. This tent can be used with just a fly (no canopy) or just a canopy (no fly) depending on the conditions. The fly and the floor are made of 20-denier ripstop nylon which is treated with silicone and coated with polyurethane. The canopy is also made of 20-denier nylon and features an upper part made of micromesh fabric for condensation resistance.
The MSR tent uses the same poles as the Big Agnes and Black Diamond tents; the DAC featherlite poles which come in only one piece so that they allow you to easily pitch the tent. Furthermore, the tent is equipped with adjustable stake-out loops for faster setup. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 tent has two side doors which allow both occupants to easily enter and exit the tent individually. The doors are protected with roll-up vestibules.
5. Rab Latok Mountain
- Alpine Climbing
Best use: Winter trips
The Rab Latok Mountain is, like the Black Diamond Firstlight, a single-wall tent. Therefore, it is best for mountaineers and alpinists who need a reliable shelter for demanding trips. The tent has a waterproof floor which is made of 70-denier polyurethane-coated nylon. The canopy is made of a 3-layer eVent fabric. The eVent fabric is very breathable and thus condensation is rarely an issue with this tent. For better ventilation, the Rab Latok Mountain also has a rear tunnel vent with a drawcord closure. The vent and the door don’t have a mosquito net because this tent is primarily designed for winter use. It comes with DAC Featherlite NSL poles which are inserted inside the tent and secured with Velcro loops. Therefore, the tent is very easy to set up – no matter the conditions.
- Great breathability for a single-wall tent
- Great condensation resistance for a single-wall tent
- Easy setup
- No mosquito net
Where to buy?
3. Questions and Answers
How heavy should be a tent for backpacking?
The lighter the tent, the better. Lightweight gear puts less strain on your body and muscles than heavy gear, and thus allows you to hiker faster. For backpacking we recommend purchasing a two-person tent that weighs less than 4 pounds (2 kg).
How much does an ultralight tent weigh?
Top-quality ultralight two-person backpacking tents weigh as little as 3 pounds. If you want an even lighter version of a shelter, check out bivy sacks. Bivy sacks are super lightweight, but they do provide very little space.
What are good tent brands?
Some outdoor brands make very good tents. Our favorite tent brands are Big Agnes, MSR, Black Diamond, Rab and Mountain Hardwear. Tents from these brands are not inexpensive but they are a good investment due to their functionality and durability.