The Best Tents for Backpacking

The best tents for backpacking are light and portable, making them ideal for backcountry camping.

By Oliver Harriett | Published Dec 9, 2020 5:14 PM

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The Best Tent for Backpacking Options

Photo: amazon.com

Backpacking tents are distinguished from standard camping tents primarily by their portability. While portability hinges on the tent’s packed size, the most important factor is the tent’s weight. Since backpacking tents are intended for use on prolonged, multi-day trips, they are typically much lighter than comparably sized campsite tents. Backpacking tents usually have better waterproofing than standard tents since backpackers are likely to be in the backcountry for longer periods. Since backpacking tents are lighter, they usually omit features that many standard camping tents have such as a spacious vestibule area, roomy interiors, and room dividers. When choosing the best tent for backpacking, keep these factors in mind:

  • Capacity: Most tents are advertised with a person-rating (2-person, 4-person, etc.), but the easiest way to determine how many people can comfortably sleep in a tent is to know the tent’s exact dimensions. By multiplying the tent’s width by its length, you can calculate its square footage. Working on the principle that every adult sleeper will require roughly 12 to 14 square feet of space, you can then gauge whether or not the tent will be spacious enough.
  • Water-resistance: Tent waterproofing is quantified by an industry-standardized rating known as the hydrostatic head (HH) rating. The HH rating of all outdoor products is tested and determined by applying water pressure to the surface of the fabric and recording the point at which it allows water to leak through. The lowest HH rating required for a tent to be marketed as waterproof is 1,000mm, which can withstand light rain showers. Most backpacking tents have an HH rating of 1,500mm to 2,000mm, and the strongest may be rated up to 3,000mm, which can withstand the heaviest of downpours.
  • Weight: The weight of a tent is the biggest determiner of how portable the tent will be. While backpacking tents are significantly lighter than standard camping tents, there can be a big difference in weight between models of comparable sizes. Most 1-person backpacking tents weigh 1.5 to 3.5 pounds, while a 6-person tent typically weighs 12 to 16 pounds.
  • Ventilation: Condensation and stuffiness inside tents are caused by poor ventilation. This problem can be eliminated or at least mitigated if the tent includes features like a double-walled design, interior mesh panels, ventilation panels in the rainfly, awnings or large storm flaps, and two entrances to permit steady airflow throughout the tent.
  • Setup: The most important features that aid setup include color-coded poles, clips, or grommets, a freestanding design that makes it easier to pitch a tent alone or in windy conditions, and clips that connect the rainfly to the tent body for one-piece pitching.
  • Storage: The number and size of the storage options included on any tent have a direct impact on the tent’s overall livability and practicality. Look for a spacious vestibule for storage, large storage pockets on the interior for off-the-floor storage, a gear loft (a large, hanging storage pocket or shelf located in the tent canopy), and gear loops to hang clothing and headlamps.

Our Top Picks

We considered factors such as material, capacity, waterproofing, weight, and shape to determine the best tents for backpacking.

Best Overall

The Best Tent for Backpacking Option: Featherstone 2 Person Backpacking Tent
Photo: amazon.com

The rugged, lightweight, and tear-resistant fabrics of the Featherstone 2 Person Backpacking Tent are waterproof and the micro-mesh fabric enhances breathability and comfort to reduce condensation. The 75D ripstop polyester rainfly is polyurethane-coated with a hydrostatic rating of 3000mm. Unlike nylon, polyester prevents the rainfly from sagging and lightweight noseeum mesh creates ventilation that reduces condensation. This tent can accommodate up to two people and is built with two doors and two vestibules that provide ample storage space for camping gear. The seam-taped construction creates a barrier against rain and prevents leakage while the bathtub floor design elevates the bottom of the tent to protect it from rain and moisture. The single aluminum pole structure makes the tent easy to set up and pack into a backpack and the freestanding design allows the tent to be moved and relocated without having to be disassembled. This 3-season tent includes aluminum stakes, reflective guy line rope, and a waterproof footprint for added protection and ultralight set up. The pack weight for this tent is 6 pounds and the floor dimensions are 84 by 51 inches with an interior peak height of 43 inches.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Tent for Backpacking Option: Clostnature Lightweight Backpacking Tent
Photo: amazon.com

The Clostnature Lightweight Backpacking Tent is waterproof and durable with a 210T polyester rainfly, groundsheet, and bathtub floor with PU 5000 coating. Weatherproof material with factory-sealed seams keeps the tent dry and comfortable in nearly all seasons. This tent has an interior size of 7 feet 3 inches by 4 feet 11 inches by 3 feet 10 inches and weighs 5.4 pounds. The two lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum poles allow for fast pitching and can be easily set up by one person and the freestanding allows you to move and relocate the tent without having to disassemble it. This backpacking tent has interior mesh walls for ventilation and has two D-shaped doors and two vestibules for extra storage. The tent comes with a carrying bag, flysheet, four ropes, 14 aluminum stakes, and a pole emergency repair kit.

Best Ultralight Tent

The Best Tent for Backpacking Option: MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Backpacking Tent
Photo: amazon.com

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent is a 3-season backpacking tent. The freestanding design features pole geometry and a non-tapered floor that maximizes space with 29 square feet of floor area and a peak interior height of 39 inches. Two vestibules provide an additional 8.75 square feet on each side of the 2-door tent for gear storage. The adjustable, cross-ventilating rainfly features a kickstand vent and rollup vestibule for stargazing. Setup is easy thanks to the unified hub-and-pole system and color-coded clips. For fast and light travel, the body of the tent can be left behind, and a minimalist shelter constructed using a footprint (sold separately), poles, and rainfly. This tent includes poles, rainfly, stakes, guy lines, and a compression stuff sack. This tent has Xtreme Shield waterproof coating with premium Easton Syclone poles and weighs 3.5 pounds with a minimum setup that weighs 3 pounds. The tent packs down to 18 by 6 inches.