From car camping to ultralight backpacking, these are the best camping tents of 2019.
A tent is one of the biggest investments you’ll make when getting into the lovely pastimes of camping and backpacking. And while sleeping bags and sleeping pads are arguably as important to a good night’s sleep, nothing gives you a home in the wilds quite like a good tent.
I’ve personally spent hundreds of nights in tents. And when it comes to picking a tent, one truth stands out: No single tent will work well for every situation. Sometimes you want a super-light bivy that just keeps the bugs away. Other times, you want a burly winter abode capable of standing up to gale-force winds and heavy snow.
So picking a tent largely comes down to how you plan to use it. Here’s a rundown of all the tents we tested, including relevant specs.
|Cotopaxi Inti 2||$300||4 lbs 9 oz||31.8 sq ft||45.3″|
|NEMO Hornet Elite||$500||2 lbs 1 oz||27.3 sq ft||37″|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2||$795||1 lb 12 oz||32.5 sq ft||45″|
|Kelty Late Start 2||$160||4 lbs 8 oz||29.5 sq ft||40″|
|REI Kingdom 4||$399||18 lbs 8 oz||69.4 sq ft||75″|
|Hilleberg Allak 3||$1,160||8 lbs 3 oz||40.8 sq ft||43″|
|Black Diamond Distance||$250||1 lb 9 oz||26 sq ft||41″|
|The North Face Homestead Super Dome 4||$350||13 lbs 3 oz||56 sq ft||80″|
|Coleman Carlsbad 4||$152||16 lbs 1 oz||63 sq ft||59″|
|Black Diamond HiLight 2||$400||3 lbs 2 oz||33 sq ft||43″|
|Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2||$600||5 lbs 3 oz||30.6 sq ft||41.5″|
|REI Quarter Dome SL 2||$319||2 lbs 14 oz||28.7 sq ft||38″|
|Big Agnes Manzanares mtnGLO||$350||4 lbs 3 oz||29 sq ft||39″|
|Mountainsmith Vasquez Peak 2||$280||5 lbs 6 oz||29.5 sq ft||42″|
|Sierra Designs Clearwing 2||$230||4 lbs 10 oz||33.3 sq ft||40.5″|
|Mountain Hardwear Aspect 2||$430||3 lbs 6 oz||29.3 sq ft||41″|
Best Tents of 2019
This article gives our best advice on buying a tent now. And while it’s a somewhat personal decision, there are a few considerations our team has gleaned from years spent under the mesh-screened stars. We break those down in a helpful buyer’s guide at the end of the article. So dig in and jump around as needed to make an informed decision when picking up your next camping or backpacking tent.
Best Overall Tent: Cotopaxi Inti 2 – No Longer Available
The Inti 2 is a versatile two-person tent with a secret weapon. At 4 pounds 9 ounces, it’s a light car camping tent that will easily stretch into modest backpacking use.
Inside, the Inti 2 is spacious enough for two people. The 88 x 52-inch floor gives even very tall campers plenty of room to stretch out. And the 45.3-inch peak height is enough for most people to sit up comfortably. Big vestibules provide plenty of room to store packs and other gear and will give your four-legged friend a place to sleep at night, too.
The body of the tent uses ample mesh to vent, even with the rainfly on. But Cotopaxi goes a step further, adding a roof vent to the rainfly. It’s a nice touch that helps with condensation in humid conditions. The mesh meets the bathtub floor well above ground height, and the rainfly overlaps the floor well, eliminating the risk of rain blowing into the mesh or splashing up into the tent. So at this point, we already love it.
But the “secret weapon” we alluded to is the additional Alcove that turns it into a four-person abode! Simply attach the optional Alcove, and the Inti 2 will sleep four adults. This added versatility, for an additional $130, makes the Cotopaxi Inti 2 the most versatile tent on the market.
Given that it’s also a great car camping tent and serviceable backpacking tent, it’s our top choice for 2019.
Weight: 4 pounds 9 ounces
Height: 45.3 inches
Pros: Alcove turns it into a four-person tent, versatile, high-quality
Cons: Heavy for long backpacking trips
Best Backpacking Tent: NEMO Hornet Elite ($500)
Our team has dozens of nights backpacking with the NEMO Hornet under our collective belts, and the consensus is clear: We love this tent! Mostly, we love how much this tent saves both weight and pack space. It’s a marvel of engineering, really. Here’s how it breaks down.
The NEMO Hornet Elite weighs a scant 2 pounds 1 ounce. Ditch some stakes and the stuff sack for a minimum trail weight of 1 pound 11 ounces. For gram-counters, that makes it a contender on weight alone.
But this tent is more than light. It’s also a very legit abode in bad weather. In rainy, stormy nights on the trail, the NEMO Hornet Elite kept our testing team dry and comfortable. Unlike many ultralight options, this is a freestanding tent. It uses a clever three-pole design, mesh interior, and integrated rainfly for a tent that keeps out bugs, rain, and wind.
Inside, a 27.3-square-foot floor gives a small but acceptable space for two adults. This is certainly not a large footprint, and you will be shoulder-to-shoulder with your tentmate. But remember, we’re ultralight backpacking here. So snuggle up.
Fortunately, there is enough room under the two vestibules (serviced by two doors) for a large pack, shoes, and some other gear. We’ve used it many times in the rain, and it’s enough space to keep your kit dry, even in nasty weather.
Setup and takedown are also easy. Once familiar with the tent, my wife and I can usually set it up easily in less than 5 minutes.
Of course, at $500, the Hornet Elite is a significant investment. But we’ve used one for enough nights to be impressed with its durability. That said, this is a superlight sil-nylon tent. That means it won’t hold up to abuse, and we don’t recommend it for car camping, as that would put wear and tear on a very expensive tent.
But for those who want a lightweight tent to carry over big miles, the NEMO Hornet Elite is our favorite ultralight backpacking tent on the market right now.
Weight: 2 pounds 1 ounce
Height: 37 inches
Pros: Ultralight, packs small, withstands weather
Runner-Up Backpacking Tent: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Dyneema Tent ($795)
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Dyneema Tent is incredible, but it’s also super expensive. So while we do love this model for a number of reasons, it comes with a caveat of a $795 price tag.
But for serious hikers, the hefty investment may be worth it. Hyperlite builds the Dirigo 2 with Dyneema fabric, an extraordinarily durable material that withstands tons of abuse yet remains incredibly light. This tent, which uses trekking poles for support, weighs in at just 1.75 pounds. It provides a floor area of 32.5 square feet and vestibule area of 28.2 square feet for plenty of space for two hikers and packs.
While expensive, this is a top tent that will last a very long time. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent that will give you many seasons of use, this one is worth considering. For more, check out our full review of the Dirigo 2.
Weight: 1 pound 12 ounces
Height: 45 inches
Pros: Ultralight, strong
Cons: Expensive, trekking pole tents aren’t for everyone
Best Budget Camping Tent: Kelty Late Start 2 ($160)
If price is your primary concern when buying a tent, but you still want good quality, the Kelty Late Start 2 is the best place to look. At $160, the Late Start 2 is far from the cheapest tent on the market. However, it is a very nice tent that will last for several seasons while hitting a price point that most people won’t balk at.
The Late Start 2 packs down to 16 x 7 x 7 inches. While certainly not tiny, it will work in a backpack. Similarly, at a minimum weight of 4 pounds, it could work for short backpacking excursions.
It sets up super fast with a simple two-pole design. Once up, the bathtub floor offers a slight overlap with the rainfly, so splashback could be an issue in heavy rain and wind. It has small vestibules barely big enough for a single backpack, but they will suffice for hikers on a budget. And two small pockets offer space to stash a couple of important items.
There are better tents out there, but you’ll pay more for them. For $160, this one is a value that should last through lots of happy camping.
Weight: 4 pounds 8 ounces
Height: 40 inches
Pros: Good value, easy setup, quality construction
Cons: Heavier, not built for extreme weather conditions
Best Family Camping Tent: REI Kingdom 4 ($399)
The REI Kingdom 4 is a palace of a camping tent. REI designed it to sleep four adults, and boy, will it ever! And while it does cost a significant chunk of cash ($399), we think it’s a great value at that price.
With nearly vertical walls, a rectangular floor, and 75 inches of peak height, the interior living space on the Kingdom 4 is massive. There’s space to hang out with your family, sit in chairs, lay cots, or whatever a group of four would desire. The interior space is wonderfully livable. It’s the spot you’d want to weather a 2-day rainstorm.
But the Kingdom 4 goes way beyond spacious. REI also nailed ventilation, vestibules, and doors.
While this is a big tent, we found setup and takedown reasonably easy thanks to the hubbed pole assembly, pole clips, and sleeves.
For such a large tent, the Kindom 4 is incredibly sturdy. Shove against the walls hard, and it barely budges.
REI also gives campers the details they expect in a high-quality tent. There are internal pockets and storage everywhere along the steep walls. The zippers are large. The doors are massive. The vestibules have space for four backpacks each. Poles are color-coded for easy setup.
The only negative is, well, the sheer size. It weighs more than 18 pounds and is tall and wide. In high winds, it’s a sail that will fly away if not staked down properly. But if you want a large tent, that’s just how it is. Use it properly, stake it out, and the REI Kingdom 4 will serve you well.
If a four-person tent isn’t big enough, REI also makes the Kingdom in six- and eight-person models. Now we’re talking massive! These are the best car camping tents on the market right now if interior space is a primary consideration.
Weight: 18 pounds 8 ounces
Height: 75 inches
Pros: Spacious, easy setup, interior pockets
Best Premium Camping Tent: Hilleberg Allak 3 ($1,160)
If there was one tent that really stood out in the test it was the Allak 3 from Hilleberg. It is beautiful and will work year-round in good-to-horrible weather. It’s incredibly durable and well-designed. And it is very expensive ($1,160).
Without a doubt, the Allak 3 was the nicest tent in our testing. But the exceptional price will keep it out of the realm of possibility for many campers. That said, those who have the budget and want a tent that some consider an heirloom purchase, this is a strong contender.
The Allak 3 will sleep three people in snug comfort. And for two people, it’s basically palatial. Two large vestibules shade two nice doors with rain gutters (a remarkable touch). Zip open the tough Kerlon 1200 outer tent fabric and revel in an interior space that will both protect from stinging winter winds and vent well on hot summer nights. This is one of the few true four-season tents we’ve used. Most winter tents are just too warm for summer, but the Allak should do both with ease.
For strength, Hilleberg used three 9mm poles in the Allak 3. Multiple crossing points add to the burly nature of the tent, as do heavy clips every 6 inches. Long sleeves give the poles deep pockets at each end to help it withstand any gale.
But the integrated vestibules cover large, fabric-backed mesh doors. Coupled with big roof vents, these give the tent plenty of air movement to keep cool on hot nights. Easily remove the rooftop cover, and mesh opens a central area to nighttime breezes. Open the vestibules for great airflow, or shut them all and batten the hatches for winter storms. Thus, versatility is a major attribute of the Allak 3.
Besides price, the one downside is weight. As with most winter-oriented tents, the Allak 3 is heavy at a minimum weight of 7 pounds 1 ounce. While it’s a three-person model and can be split up among hikers, that’s on the high end for hiking big miles. But when compared with most winter tents, the Allak 3 is on par with most models. Thus, given its versatility, it’s a solid choice that can span the seasons. Just get ready to break out your checkbook.
Weight: 8 pounds 3 ounces
Height: 43 inches
Pros: High-quality, true four-season tent, ventilation
Cons: Expensive, heavy
Best Tent for Solo Hikers: Black Diamond Distance Tent ($250)
Black Diamond created a unique system with the Distance Tent. It uses a specific type of trekking pole for support (or you can add the proper handles to any brand’s trekking pole if you don’t want to buy new ones). The integrated design attaches the poles to a single crossbar at the top of the tent for sturdy setup. It’s a dialed system that creates a strong, useful shelter for one person.
The inside is spacious for one, but you have no vestibule. Vents at the foot and head of the tent should keep condensation at bay. It’s not freestanding and thus relies on good stake-outs.
As a minimal shelter for solo hikers, this is a great, very light option at 1 pound 9 ounces. For those who use trekking poles, the Carbon Z is also a strong option. The tent sells for $250 at REI.
Weight: 1 pound 9 ounces
Height: 41 inches
Pros: Lightweight, reasonably priced
Cons: No vestibules, minimal venting
Best Family Camping Tents
Don’t plan to carry this one far from the car. At 13 pounds 3 ounces, the Homestead Super Dome 4 is a big car camping tent fit for families or a few adults on a weekend at the park. It has a huge door and 13-square-foot vestibule that leads to a tall dome with a 56-square-foot interior.
Six giant pockets, an internal clothesline, big windows, and a mesh ceiling make this an abode worthy of holiday get-togethers. It takes two people and some time to set it up. But even though it looks like a giant sail, it feels extremely robust and should stand up to moderate weather so long as it’s staked down well.
We tested the model as pictured here. It’s big. It’s loud. And we kind of loved it. Just be prepared to make friends at the campsite.
Pick it up for a very reasonable $350 from Backcountry.
Weight: 13 pounds 3 ounces
Height: 80 inches
Pros: Roomy, large vestibule, zip-down windows
Cons: Large, not built to withstand extreme weather
Coleman Carlsbad 4: $152
When a tent manufacturer touts “Dark Room” on its rainfly, I scratch my head. When is “dark” a major consideration for buying a price-point tent? Alaska in the summer? And then it dawned on me — festivals.
So if you’re planning on staying up all night and sleeping off your hangover for a lot of the next day, this one has the benefit of being pitch-dark inside, even during the daylight hours. And while it’s not a particularly high-end tent, the Carlsbad 4 is an OK shelter. The entry vestibule is well-thought-out to avoid tracking in mud or water, and the floor is very heavy for those wearing shoes (and maybe dancing) in the darkened abode. It also has some decent venting, so it should stay reasonably dry even with four partiers passed out in the morning sun.
But flimsy fiberglass poles, tricky setup, and odd/heavy darkened design should exclude this tent from most serious campers’ to-buy list. If you’re looking for a large budget tent that keeps it dark all day long, this one is worth considering at a low price of $152.
Weight: 16 pounds 1 ounce
Height: 59 inches
Pros: Vestibule is great for dogs, sleep in late with blackout lining
Cons: Longer setup, flimsy poles, heavy
Best 4-Season Mountaineering Tents
To be frank, we didn’t award a best winter mountaineering tent because we didn’t have good conditions to test them and only had a couple of models to examine. However, we did really like a few that we gave a close look.
Though we didn’t get to test them in extreme conditions, we did use these mountaineering tents and were impressed with them. Stay tuned, as we will add these to a future article about winter tents when testing conditions are favorable.
Black Diamond HiLight 2: $400
This alpine-oriented, single-wall tent has some good venting for a winter tent. But even with nice roof vents and a design that functions as a tunnel to pull moisture out of the tent, it’ll still be hot for most summer camping in any precipitation. It relies largely on mesh doors for venting, which makes it pretty moist inside during rain. But cool-weather mountaineers will appreciate the mesh doors if camped next to a buggy lake in dry weather.
The HiLight 2 has an optional vestibule add-on that provides massive storage. It’s big enough or two packs plus space for boots, cooking, etc.
Access this tent through a single door. There’s room for two to sleep and sit up, but it’ll be snug.
Weight: 3 pounds 2 ounces
Height: 43 inches
Pros: Weather resistance, optional vestibule
Cons: Can get hot during summer weather
We really loved this tent. And we can’t wait until we can put it to the test in a situation that warrants such a burly winter shelter.
But in our Colorado foothills testing, the Outpost 2 was certainly overkill. This is a burly, double-wall mountaineering tent with minimal venting ready for the extreme. Think the sort of expeditions in the high mountains where serious storms could build.
It uses excellent DAC Featherlight NSL poles and 30- to 40-denier nylon ripstop throughout. But even with such beefy materials, this tent weighs in at just 5 pounds 3.5 ounces. For mountaineers looking for a relatively light two-person tent fit for most everything mother nature will throw at it, the Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2 looks a great choice.
We will update this test once we’ve had a chance to put this $600 shelter to the test.
Weight: 5 pounds 3.5 ounces
Height: 41.5 inches
Pros: Built for extreme mountain weather
Best of the Rest
We tested 16 tents during our recent camp outing, and most performed admirably. They can’t all be winners. However, all the tents listed here are solid choices for various camping uses. I’ll break down the best of the rest.
We didn’t include any tents here that our team wouldn’t feel comfortable camping with. If we wouldn’t buy it ourselves, we wouldn’t endorse it. And yes, we know we didn’t include every good tent — yet. There are hundreds on the market, and we’re working to test as many as possible and will update this article regularly.
REI Quarter Dome SL 2: $319
The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 is a very popular, affordable tent. It’s well-rounded for car camping and backpacking. With a minimum trail weight of 2 pounds 8 ounces for $319 at REI, this tent hits a sweet spot that should appeal to a broad cross-section of hikers and campers.
The freestanding Quarter Dome SL 2 sets up quickly and easily. The main tent body has tons of mesh and a small bathtub floor that extends slightly above the overlapping rainfly. It stays dry in rainstorms but could see a little splash-over from runoff.
Two large doors give each camper easy access to the interior or to vestibules on each side. It’s a snug layout for two, but it should suffice as long as you and your partner don’t mind being cozy.
Four pockets in the mesh provide adequate storage for small items. Overall, it’s a nice design but probably not great for heavy storms. We liked this model, especially at the reasonable price point, as a versatile tent at a very light weight. Given the massive amount of mesh, it should be a strong contender for hot, dry climates where ventilation and protection from insects are top priorities.
Weight: 2 pounds 8 ounces
Height: 38 inches
Pros: Value, lightweight, plenty of ventilation
Cons: Tight fit for two people
This lightweight tent brings a little something extra with built-in interior lights. We originally thought this might be just a pointless gimmick, but the lights quickly became a favorite feature. Give your headlamp a break and enjoy some backcountry mood lighting.
With a minimum trail weight of 3 pounds 11 ounces, it’s not the lightest backpacking tent on the market. But it offers enough features to be worth the extra ounces. The double doors allow for easy in-and-out, without tripping over your tentmate. And the color-coded poles make for easy setup.
One tester called this tent home for more than 200 nights while motorcycle camping across America. It withstood daily setup, easily weathered unexpected gale-force winds, and provided plenty of space for a person, gear, and pup.
Weight: 4 pounds 3 ounces
Height: 39 inches
Pros: Built-in lights, easy setup, roomy interior
Cons: Heavier than some backpacking tents
The Vasquez Peak impressed our team of testers but didn’t quite measure up to the versatility and quality of the Cotopaxi Inti.
Still, this tent was very spacious for its category. As one tester noted, “I feel like two people and my border collie could even squeeze in.”
While understated in looks, we fell in love with Mountainsmith’s utilitarian design. Nice touches included vents on the rainfly, good-quality stakes, great zippers, and four big pockets for stashing small gear.
The mesh doors and ceiling will provide plenty of ventilation. And for rain protection, the fly overlaps the bathtub floor substantially, so rain splash should not be a problem.
Setup is quick: A single pole extends off a hubbed center to form a strong skeleton. The biggest negative on this tent was the build quality, as some of the stitching came loose during our 2-day test.
The Vasquez Peak weighs in at 5 pounds 6 ounces, with a minimum trail weight of 3 pounds 2 ounces. And it costs a reasonable $280.
Weight: 5 pounds 6 ounces
Height: 42 inches
Pros: Easy setup, spacious
Cons: Build quality
With a mostly mesh body and solid three-pole setup, the Clearwing 2 from Sierra Designs is a good little tent with a few small flaws.
While the listed dimensions of this tent are 93 x 51.5 inches, it felt snug for two people. However, two large doors and vestibules do supply sufficient space for packs or gear.
Decent zippers with rope pulls were OK for the doors, but they were a little hard to operate one-handed. The small Velcro closures felt minimally effective. But good rainfly overlap should keep users dry even in heavy rain.
Positives for this tent were extremely easy setup and a great price at $230. With a minimum weight of 3 pounds 15 ounces, the Clearwing 2 gives hikers on a budget a decent choice for the trail.
Weight: 4 pounds 10 ounces
Height: 40.5 inches
Pros: Easy setup, great price
Cons: Snug for two people, zippers
The Aspect two-person tent uses three-pole construction to achieve a fairly sturdy structure. Two large vestibules give hikers plenty of space for packs, and the 29.3-square-foot floor is reasonably spacious for two people. But while this is a nicely designed, light hiking tent (at a minimum weight of just 2 pounds 14.7 ounces), we were disappointed by a catchy zipper and several flaws in the mesh.
For a tent that retails for $430, we don’t like to see potential warranty issues right out of the box. Mountain Hardwear tends to make great products, so we hope we just had a lemon of the batch in our test.
Weight: 3 pounds 6 ounces
Height: 41 inches
Pros: Light, large vestibules
Cons: Catchy zipper, mesh flaws
How to Choose a Camping Tent
A tent is a big investment, so it pays to figure out what you need. Below you’ll find a list of important considerations. But before we get there, take a moment to imagine your camping future.
Do you plan to camp alone or with your family? Are car camping tents your jam, or do you regularly head out for weeks in the backcountry? Are you a strictly summer camper, or do you sleep outside all year long?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but being clear on how you want to camp will make choosing a tent easier.
Space & Capacity
Interior space in a tent equals comfort. The main things to consider are floor dimensions and ceiling height. Tents have a stated number of people they sleep, but how roomy or cramped they will be at capacity varies. By paying attention to floor dimensions, you can get a better idea of how many sleep pads will fit. When backpacking, plan to save weight by being willing to snuggle into a two-person tent. But when family or car camping, we often find subtracting a person or two from the stated capacity maximizes comfort.
Ceiling height may not seem important — until the weather turns and you find yourself hunkered down inside for 6 hours. At that point, you’ll be happy you’re able to at least sit up comfortably and perhaps even stand in the bigger family tents like the REI Kingdom 4.
Weight & Packed Size
If you only plan to car camp, weight and packed size aren’t major concerns. But anyone planning to haul their tent into the backcountry should take a hard look at these factors. A tent like the 2-pound 1-ounce NEMO Hornet Elite is a great option for backpacking. It doesn’t take up a lot of space or weight in your pack, meaning you can justify bringing a favorite flask or a few extra snacks.
And if you’re in the middle ground — mostly car camping, with a few light hike-ins each season — a roomier tent like the Cotopaxi Inti 2 is a winner. It offers a bit more comfort and room while still managing to be light enough to carry.
This is one of the biggest reasons to invest more in a tent. Basic tents handle pleasant weather like a champ and can even manage light rain and wind. But if you plan to camp during storms (which often roll in unexpectedly), it’s worth it to save up and buy a sturdier tent. Premium tents have stronger poles, full rain covers, and sealed seams. And it’s things like this that seem less important — until you find yourself riding out an epic storm from confines of your tent.
The value of a tent investment often has to do with how often you camp. If you camp every weekend, spending $600 on a tent could be worth it. This is especially true if you plan to camp into the colder seasons and need a tent built to withstand weather.
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out or plan only a few nights out each summer, a budget pick like the $160 Kelty Late Start 2 will help you sleep outside without breaking the bank.
Have a favorite tent? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.