Backpacking Tents
Testing backpacking tents in the Arizona desert. Photo credit: Matt Granger.

The Best Backpacking Tents of 2021

Whether you’re looking to spend 100 nights on the trail or want to stick to a tight budget, we’ve found the best backpacking tents of 2021.

A tent is one of the biggest investments you’ll make when getting into backpacking. And although 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 superlight 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. If you need help deciding, check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article. And if you’re looking for something roomier for car camping or family camping, we have a separate review of the best camping tents.

In updating this article for 2021, we tested a half-dozen new tents during a remarkably windy, rainy, and at times sunny spring weekend near Cotopaxi, Colorado.

In this third update of the article, we have kept several of our previous top choices, which have mostly been solidified through long-term testing. You’ll also find some newcomers for 2021.

But our team has tested every one of the tents below, most of them for multiple nights (or weeks) in campsites and on the trail.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Backpacking Tents of 2021

Best Overall Backpacking Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Do you know what’s awesome in rainy weather? Vestibule awnings to cook under. And the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 ($450) has them, plus a lot of other amazing details that set it apart from the crowd of backpacking tents. But let’s start with the basics.

This two-person, freestanding tent tips the scales at 3 pounds 2 ounces — or a trail weight of 2 pounds 11 ounces. That’s light enough to make it a contender even for the gram-counters, although tents definitely get lighter (see below).

But at that weight, you get a really comfortable abode for the trail. It has two doors, two vestibules, 29 square feet of floor space, and 18 square feet of combined vestibule space.

Before we go further, the cons: This is an ultralight tent. It, like other light tents on this list, is quite fragile. You need to be careful of where you pitch it, and even where it rides in your car.

Friction can easily wear a hole in the stuff sack or floor. If you’re rough on your gear or expect it to face really bad weather, wind, or sharp edges, look at one of the heavier, more durable options listed here.

Good with the lightweight caveats? Great — read on!

The good overlap between the bathtub floor and the rainfly ensures a dry night’s sleep. Above the floor material, quality mesh gives a breathable, well-ventilated space that should keep condensation low.

Copper Spur Backpacking Tent Review
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 has excellent rain protection. Photo credit: Eric Phillips.

While the Copper Spur HV UL2 has been a bestseller for Big Agnes for years, it made some big improvements for 2021. Namely, a 3D bin “mezzanine” at the foot provides ample elevated storage. Plus, it has an oversized ceiling pocket at the head and media pockets with cord-routing for electronics.

Other improvements include excellent and easy-to-use TipLok tent buckles on the corners. It also features high-quality DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL poles with a prebent span pole and a four-way, high-volume hub design.

So yes, this tent will keep you protected from the elements when closed. But let’s get back to the nifty new feature many campers will enjoy: the vestibule awning. Using your trekking poles, the Copper Spur HV UL2 allows you to post up the vestibule door into an awning.

In light rain, this gives you a nice open space to cook or sit up out of the weather. It’s also nice for shade on a sunny afternoon. While you probably won’t use it every trip, the added bit of versatility helps set this otherwise great tent apart from the field.

  • Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Height: 40″
Pros:
  • Light
  • Stable
  • Roomier than expected
  • Excellent storage and vestibule design
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Struggles in high winds (above 40 mph)
  • Somewhat fragile

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Runner-Up: MSR Hubba Hubba NX

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

The Hubba Hubba NX ($450) is, from our multiple tests and reviews, the best tent for a lot of people. It’s a big investment and a high-end design that has a lot to desire if you plan to spend plenty of time sleeping under the stars. Let’s dig in.

Mountain Safety Research’s flagship backpacking tent, the Hubba Hubba NX is a lightweight, freestanding, three-season, two-door, two-vestibule backpacking tent. You can get it in one-, two-, three-, and four-person sizes. We tested the two-person model.

The Hubba Hubba NX is heavier than several of the tents on this list. But in testing, we found this MSR tent to be significantly more durable than others. If you don’t mind adding a few ounces to your pack for similar interior space, you may seriously want to consider the Hubba Hubba NX.

The first thing that sets it apart is its poles. It uses Easton Syclone Poles, which are an extremely strong, durable, light composite material. We abused them for more than a year in testing, and they came out in great shape.

Next is the coating material on the fly and floor: MSR Xtreme Shield durable waterproofing. The brand claims it lasts three times longer than standard waterproof coatings. It has performed flawlessly in our tests.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

The two-person model weighs in at 3 pounds 8 ounces, which puts it in the midweight category of backpacking tents. It’s certainly very light to carry but not ultralight by any means.

However, it does pack down well and has one of the best stuff-sack systems we’ve used, making putting it away very easy.

Setup and takedown are simple and intuitive. We easily set it up for the first time in under 5 minutes — no instructions needed. With two doors, smooth YKK zippers, and 17.5 square feet of vestibule space, entry and exit are easy.

You’ll also have plenty of space to store your gear while hiking. The tent has several pockets inside to stash your personal belongings.

And a very cool feature — you can roll back the rainfly for stargazing and excellent ventilation. But if rain starts to fall, it’s quick and easy to close it from this configuration.

Overall, this tent fits the bill for a ton of activities. It’s burly enough for car camping, light enough to carry on a long backpacking trip, and built to last for many years.

The only real flaw is that it doesn’t come seam sealed from the factory. That means that before using it, you really should use the included seam sealer gel and coat all the seams.

For $450, we’d expect it to come from the factory sealed. But it’s not a dealbreaker for us, as the job is easy to complete in a backyard and gives you the chance to do a gear shakedown before using it in the field for the first time.

  • Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz. (3 lbs. 8 oz. minimum trail weight)
  • Height: 39″
Pros:
  • Light enough to backpack
  • Tough enough for car camping
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Must seam seal at home
  • Heavier than ultralight models

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Second Runner-Up: Sea to Summit Telos TR2

Sea to Summit Telos TR2

Sea to Summit launched its first tents, the Telos and Altos ($499), for spring 2021. We tested both models and found that we preferred the free-standing Telos between the two.

And we liked it enough that we scored it as basically a tie with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. It’s very different, but wonderful in other ways.

The Telos is an excellent first attempt from the brand in this crowded market. It definitely stands apart from other tents, with unique architecture that creates very steep sidewalls and a high 43.5-inch peak height. This gives even tall users (like our 6’4″ editor-in-chief) plenty of headroom to lay down or sit upright.

It also proved to have strong architecture. Our test faced very strong winds, pushing 50 miles per hour, and the Sea to Summit Telos did not collapse at all even when receiving heavy gusts.

However, our testers did not love everything about the Telos. The biggest complaints surrounded the tent’s unique storage system.

Sea to Summit opted to use two bags and a “light bar” tube. You stuff the tent body into one bag, the fly into another, and the poles into the tube.

This is all fine and allows users to pick and choose which parts of the tent they want to bring (as you can set up the fly without the body for ultralight use). However, our testers found it unnecessarily confusing. We all agreed that you’d likely end up losing parts this way.

Sea To Summit Tent-13
The Sea to Summit Telos is very breathable and durable. Photo credit: Eric Phillips.

We also agreed that the light bar idea (you stick your headlamp in it in your tent for diffused light) was overly clever and that we would probably never use it. In short, while Sea to Summit really thought through this design, we would prefer a simple stuff sack and pole bag.

All that said, the Telos is an excellent backpacking tent that offers good ventilation, excellent interior space, two doors, and two vestibules. We would not hesitate to buy one primarily as a backpacking tent that could flex into car camping thanks to fairly durable materials and an available footprint.

For those who like versatility in setup, and are good at keeping track of stuff sacks, this is a solid choice.

  • Packed Weight: 3 lbs. 10.7 oz.
  • Height: 43.5″
Pros:
  • Light but fairly durable
  • Good for people over 6 feet tall
  • Steep walls
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Storage system overly complicated

Check Price at REICheck Price at Sea to Summit

Best Three-Person Backpacking Tent: Nemo Dagger 3P

Nemo Dagger 3PA bit of an outlier in our testing, the Nemo Dagger 3P Ultralight Backpacking Tent ($430) is a spacious model that can pivot between backpacking and car camping.

While Nemo calls it a three-person model, our tester thought it would be a little snug for three. However, it certainly will work for three or is extremely spacious for two people plus stuff.

The Dagger, which also comes in a two-person model that is quite comfortable for two occupants, has two doors and two spacious vestibules. The doors are large and easy for entry and exit. The vestibules aren’t huge but have room for backpacks and boots outside, even with three people.

Setup is easy with color-coded tabs and the ball cap connectors and Jake’s feet corners attachments. The plastic is light and seems vulnerable, so if I were going on a long trip, I’d pack replacements.

Inside, the tent has good volume and height thanks to the pre-bent poles giving more vertical walls at the head and foot. I could stand up (bent over) inside to change pants.

Nemo Dagger backpacking tent
We’ve used the Nemo Dagger for years and have been impressed with its longtime durability. Photo credit: Eric Phillips.

The tent has good organization, with gear at the pockets. You can hang a headlamp from the overhead mesh light pockets (one at each end).

The Dagger held up well to strong winds once we fully guyed it out and angled into the wind. It was warm and condensation-free during a rainy night. But on one frosty cold night, it was sagging some at the shaded, windward corner, which was holding the frost and dripping through.

Overall, this is a good choice for two to three people who want to share the load on a traditional backpacking trip. It’s not fragile, so our tester thought he’d also use it for car camping.

  • Packed Weight: 3 lb. 14 oz. (3 lb. 5 oz. minimal)
  • Height: 42″
  • Vestibule Area: 11.4 sq. x 2
Pros
  • Spacious, can sleep three people
  • Relatively light
  • Tough enough for car camping with care
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Drooped after collecting condensation and frost

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Best Budget Backpacking Tent: Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent

marmot catalyst

At $183, the Catalyst two-person tent isn’t exactly cheap. But it’s a very good value for someone looking for a solid backpacking tent that will also fit the bill as a car camping tent.

At a minimum trail weight of 4 pounds 11 ounces, it’s on the heavy side of backpacking tents. But it’ll do the job and packs down small enough to fit comfortably in a backpack.

It’s quite spacious with 32.5 square feet of floor space. Buyers love the color-coded poles for easy setup, which most say is a piece of cake even for new campers.

It has two D-shaped doors with vestibules, adding room for gear storage. For new hikers getting into the game, this is a great place to start. It has a 4.25-star rating with 68 reviews on REI.com.

  • Weight: 4 lbs. 11 oz.
  • Height: 44″
Pros:
  • Great value
  • Spacious
  • Easy setup with color-coded poles
Cons:
  • Heavier than other backpacking tents

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Spacious Two-Person Backpacking Tent: REI Half Dome SL 2+

REI Half Dome SL 2+If weight is not a primary concern, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ ($279) is hard to beat on many fronts. But at a minimum trail weight of 3 pounds 15 ounces and a packaged weight of 4 pounds 13.5 ounces, it is on the heavier end of the spectrum.

That said, it is entirely reasonable as a backpacking tent, especially when two people can split the components. And for those who will spend most of their time car camping, with a few backpacking excursions in between, the Half Dome SL 2+ should be high on the list. Here’s why.

First, while still light enough for backpacking, the Half Dome SL 2+ is both spacious and durable. We weathered a serious wind event during our testing, and the REI Half Dome SL 2+ happened to pull loose from its stakes and roll into a barbed-wire fence.

Remarkably, the sharp fence did almost no damage to the tent thanks to the strong 40-denier ripstop nylon canopy material. Other tents in our test also tangled with the fence, and none faired as well. Sure, that was an extreme situation, but it did shine a light on the excellent durability of this model.

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+
The REI Half Dome SL 2+ is a spacious, affordable tent. Photo credit: Eric Phillips.

Next, the interior space is quite luxurious for backpacking. With a floor area of 35.8 square feet and a vestibule area of 22.5 square feet, this is one of the few tents on this list that won’t force you to rub shoulders with your tentmate.

While still too small to be considered a three-person tent, the “2+” designation really does put this tent in a realm of its own.

The Half Dome SL+ setup and takedown are easy and intuitive, with color-coded poles and clips. REI really nailed it with great ventilation, storage, and steep-walled architecture in this tent.

And as it comes in at well under $300, it’s really hard to beat on every aspect other than weight. So, for those who look at weight as a secondary concern, this one should be a top choice.

  • Weight: 4 lbs. 13.5 oz.
  • Height: 42″
Pros:
  • Very spacious
  • Durable
  • Good for car camping, ok for backpacking
Cons:
  • Heavy

Check Price at REI

Best Four-Season Backpacking Tent: Stone Glacier Skyscraper 2P

Stone Glacier Skyscraper 2P

While relatively unknown to the recreational hiking world, Stone Glacier has rapidly made a name for itself in the world of lightweight hunting. Based in Montana, Stone Glacier caters to hunters who get way off the grid and generally do so with their backs and legs.

And in outfitting this niche of self-reliant backwoods hunters, the brand has built some absolutely fabulous gear.

Take, for instance, the Skyscraper 2P tent ($595). At 4 pounds 12.8 ounces, the Skyscraper 2P weighs in lighter than the REI Half Dome SL 2+. But this is no ordinary backpacking tent. Indeed, the Skyscraper 2P is ready for epic storms, howling winds, and even full-blown winter.

As the only four-season tent on our list, comparing the Skyscraper 2P to other models is somewhat apples-to-oranges. But remarkably, it does stand up versus these much lighter tents.

It has an ample floor area (32 square feet) for two campers to sleep comfortably. And with two vestibules and two doors, the Skyscraper 2P gives an additional 50 cubic feet of storage outside the tent body.

Inside, it offers eight pockets for easy gear organization, internal guylines to reinforce the tent for harsh conditions, and an effective ventilation system.

The Skyscraper 2P further differentiates itself thanks to its modular nature. Users can set up the tent in four different configurations, ranging from the full body and rainfly with an integrated “WebTruss” to a lightweight footprint and fly-only setup to save weight.

In our testing, we put the Skyscraper 2P up against winds approaching 50 miles per hour and it barely budged. We found the siliconized floor and stuff sack materials very strong.

We were impressed with the architecture that allows for a bomber four-season tent to flex into summer with reasonable ventilation.

Stone Glacier Skyscraper 2P
Need a four season tent? The Stone Glacier Skyscraper is a top pick. Photo credit: Eric Phillips.

However, the Skyscraper will hit its limit in hot, buggy weather. Due to limited mesh on the body, this tent won’t be great in hot, muggy conditions, particularly where mosquitos or other bugs are an issue.

But for those who live in cooler, drier conditions that want a tent that can manage snowstorms as well as a summer backpacking trip, this one is worth investigating.

  • Weight: 4 lbs. 12.8 oz.
  • Height: 41″
Pros:
  • Light enough for backpacking, but winter capable
  • The modular design adds versatility
Cons:
  • Heavier than three-season tents
  • Less ventilation
  • Expensive

Check Price at Stone Glacier

Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent: NEMO Hornet Elite

NEMO Hornet Elite

Our team has dozens of nights backpacking with the NEMO Hornet Elite ($500) 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. Here’s how it breaks down.

The NEMO Hornet Elite weighs a scant 2 pounds 1 ounce. And you can 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. On rainy, stormy nights on the trail, the NEMO Hornet Elite 2 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 silnylon 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 lbs. 1 oz.
  • Height: 37″
Pros:
  • Ultralight
  • Packs small
  • Withstands weather
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Fragile for car camping or sharp rocks

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

Top Minimalist Tent for Thru-Hikers: Zpacks Duplex

Zpacks Duplex

For minimalist backpackers and thru-hikers that put weight savings at the top of the list, it’s hard to beat Zpacks’ Duplex ($649). This non-freestanding, trekking pole-supported design has been a long-time favorite on the AT and PCT thanks to its excellent mix of weight, space, and protection.

Featuring a Dyneema Composite construction (rather than nylon or silnylon found on most backpacking models), the tent is legitimately ultralight at just 1 pound 3.4 ounces. But the unique fabric holds up well to rough use and isn’t prone to sagging, even in heavy moisture.

And with a tall peak height of 48 inches, two side doors and vestibules, and a symmetrical floor, the Duplex offers good all-around livability for two backpackers.

What do you give up with the ultralight build? For one, the setup process is much more involved than a typical, pole-supported backpacking tent. You’ll need a fairly large area to stake out all the guylines, and it takes quite a bit of practice to get an even pitch.

Plus, condensation buildup can be an issue at night, especially along the canopy, which utilizes single-wall construction (and no mesh).

Finally, in particularly rough and windy weather, we did find it to be pretty drafty due to the mesh sidewalls. As such, the Duplex likely isn’t the best choice for casual backpackers, four-season adventurers, or those looking for a great value (it costs $649 and that doesn’t include stakes).

But if you cut your toothbrush in half and take pride in your base weight, the Duplex is a standout option.

Pros:
  • Ultralight
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Hard to set up
  • Requires large area, stakes, and guylines

Check Price at ZPacks

Versatile Ultralight Tent System: Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle

six moon designs haven

The cottage brand Six Moon Designs focuses on building very light equipment with long-distance hikers in mind. While quite specialized, the Haven Bundle ($335) is an easy-to-use trekking pole tent that tips the scales at just 2 pounds 2 ounces, including a tarp and interior net.

You can use the tarp alone on the trail, which, for 17 ounces of packed weight, gives you a large 53 square feet of shelter.

Or, if you’re in a buggy locale, add the Mesh Nest inside the tarp for even more protection. The nest is 48 inches wide and 114 inches long, providing plenty of space for two adults. In this configuration, you end up with two large vestibules and two doors.

At $335 for the package, it’s a fairly priced ultralight tent. And thanks to the ability to be set up as a tarp alone, the system packs a lot of versatility and can stretch from fast-and-light missions to more leisurely base camps.

It’s held back mostly by the ultralight fabrics that limit durability. And as with a lot of trekking pole tents, because it’s not freestanding, it’s a little trickier to set up and requires good guyline attachments for stability.

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Height: 45″
Pros:
  • Ultralight
  • Packs small
  • Can function as a tarp alone at just 17 ounces
Cons:
  • The 30-denier fabric is somewhat fragile
  • Requires hiking poles (or a pole kit, purchased separately for $30 to $80) to set up

Check Price at Amazon

Favorite of Serious Backpackers: Tarptent Double Rainbow

tarptent double rainbow

Weighing in at 2 pounds 10 ounces, the Tarpetent Double Rainbow ($299-329) commands a cult-like following among consumers. That’s because this very light tent provides a great amount of usable interior space (88 x 50 inches), two doors, and two vestibules.

Users love the aerodynamic shape that helps it shed wind and rain. Many note that it handles storms better than other lightweight tents.

One unique add-on for the Tarptent Double Rainbow is the clip-in liner. While it adds very little weight, it adds warmth in winter or cooling in summer.

But even better, it protects against condensation droplets getting knocked onto sleeping campers by wind or heavy rain, keeping the inside of the tent drier.

  • Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Height: 40″
Pros:
  • At 7’4″ long, this is an excellent choice for taller campers
Cons:
  • The semi-freestanding design does require stakes to remain upright

See the Tarptent Double Rainbow

The Best of the Rest

REI Arete ASL 2 Backpacking Tent

REI Arete ASL 2 BackpackingTent

The Arete ASL 2 ($399) offers a lot of versatility in a packable, affordable package. With a minimum trail weight of 5 lbs. 10 oz., it’s not ultralight by any stretch. But for a winter-ready, four-season tent, it’s surprisingly light and reasonably priced.

And with plenty of mesh, it does well in the summer, too. We found the four-pole setup quick and easy thanks to intuitive color-coding.

The vestibule provides enough room for two packs and hiking shoes. And the corner pockets and hang loops keep essentials at hand. We recommend adding on the footprint, which is sold separately.

We don’t love the single-door design, but at least the door is large and easy to access from either corner of the tent. Previous models of this tent experienced issues with the rainfly seam sealant, but it appears that REI has fixed that problem with this newest update.

Overall, this is a sturdy, all-season tent, at about half the price as other four-season tents.

  • Weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.
  • Height: 43″
Pros:
  • Value
  • Storm-ready
  • Lightweight for a four-season tent
Cons:
  • Single door

Check Price at REI

Kelty Late Start 2

Kelty Late Start 2

If price is your primary concern when buying a tent, but you still want good quality, the Kelty Late Start 2 is a good place to look. At $160, the Late Start 2 is far from the cheapest tent on the market. However, it’s 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’s not ultralight but works 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 lbs. 8 oz.
  • Height: 40″
Pros:
  • Good value
  • Easy setup
  • Quality construction
Cons:
  • Heavier
  • Not built for extreme weather conditions

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

REI Quarter Dome SL 2

REI Quarter Dome SL 2 tent

The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 ($349) 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, 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 the 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 lbs. 8 oz.
  • Height: 38″
Pros:
  • Value
  • Lightweight
  • Plenty of ventilation
Cons:
  • Tight fit for two people

Check Price at REI

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 Dyneema Tent 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 Dyneema

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 is incredible, but it’s also super expensive. So while we do love this model for several reasons, it comes with a caveat of a $735 price tag, plus another $395 if you want the mesh insert to keep bugs away!

But for serious hikers, the hefty investment may be worth it. Hyperlite builds the UltaMid 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 1.19 pounds for the main tent body. Add 1.3 pounds for a matched mesh insert, and it’s still super light. It provides a floor area of 63 square feet, enough space for two hikers and packs.

hyperlite mountain gear ultamid pyramid 2 tent
The UltaMid 2 – Photo Credit: Andy Cochrane

While expensive, this is a top tent that will last a very long time. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent our tester called a “wonder of engineering” that will give you many seasons of use, this one is worth considering. For more, check out our full review of the UltaMid 2.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
  • Height: 45″
Pros:
  • Ultralight
  • Very strong
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Trekking pole tents aren’t for everyone

Check Price at Hyperlit Mountain GearCheck Price at Backcountry

First Look: Hyperlite Dirigo 2 Is a Rock-Solid, Featherweight Dyneema Tent
First Look: Hyperlite Dirigo 2 Is a Rock-Solid, Featherweight Dyneema Tent

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Dyneema Tent is a surprisingly sturdy trekking-pole-lofted triangle tent. We tested the Dirigo, made for space- and weight-savers who want a step up from cowboy camping. Read more…

SlingFin Portal

SlingFin Portal tent

The SlingFin Portal ($465) is one of the few tents we’ve tested that’s light enough for backpacking (with a trail weight of 2 pounds 13 ounces) but sturdy enough for legitimate winter camping.

And while the brand bills it as a three-season tent, we’re so impressed with the design that we wouldn’t hesitate to pull it out when the snow flies.

Inside, the floor area of 27.45 square feet is sufficient for two adults. But it’s what’s on the walls that sets this tent apart. There, you’ll see internal guylines that reinforce the tent’s strength under higher wind or snow loads.

Other noteworthy features include extra zipper sliders (as a backup in case one gets damaged), 10 guy-out points, and high-quality DAC NFL poles. It also features a pole swivel instead of a hub that keeps the long poles intact, increasing structural integrity and potential lifespan.

Our tester summarized this tent in four simple words: “This tent is killer.” And he meant it in the best possible way. Check out the full SlingFin Portal review.

  • Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz. (trail weight 2 lbs. 13 oz.)
  • Height: 44″
Pros:
  • Most versatile tent on the market
  • Useful for all four seasons
Cons:
  • Expensive

Check Price at SlingFin

Hilleberg Anaris

hilleberg anaris

Hilleberg builds exceptional tents with high-quality materials, and the Anaris ($600) is no exception. However, Hilleberg tents carry high prices and a little more weight than their competitors. That’s not a mistake, as the brand aims to be a literal heirloom that users can pass down generation after generation.

The Anaris is one of the more affordable, and lighter, Hillebergs on the market, and we love both its utility and versatility. At 3 pounds 1 ounce, it’s light enough for backpacking.

It uses trekking poles instead of tent poles for setup. The design is very clever, allowing the user to roll up one or both sides of the rainfly for incredible ventilation on warm nights.

But as temps drop or rains fall, you can extend the rainfly and hunker down. Want a more minimal shelter on some trips? The outer tent alone functions as a tarp with full functionality of rolling away walls and vestibule doors, yet weighs just 1 pound 7 ounces.

It’s a reasonably spacious two-person model at 28 square feet and adds two vestibules with 9 square feet of storage. With durable Kerlon 1000 fabric and a 70-denier floor, this minimalist tent is built to last.

  • Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz.
  • Height: 41″
Pros:
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Excellent ventilation
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Requires trekking poles for setup

Check Price at Hilleberg

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Backpacking 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 strictly a 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 sleeping 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.

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. But due to the light materials, it’s not as durable as heavier tents and requires more care.

So, you need to balance your needs for weight against durability. You may find some tents, like the Zpacks Duplex, that hit the best of both worlds by using ultra-strong, super-light Dyneema fabric. But you will pay a lot extra for Dyneema tents at the cash register!

Regardless of your choice, be honest with yourself in your likely uses. If you expect to do a lot of car camping, it’s smart to give up a little weight in exchange for durability.

Weather Resistance

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. And if you expect a lot of stormy weather or snow, look to one of the four-season models, like the Stone Glacier Skyscraper, above.

Premium tents have stronger name-brand poles, full rainflies, and sealed seams. And it’s things like this that seem less important — until you find yourself riding out an epic storm from the confines of your tent.

Value

Properly cared for, a tent can last you a decade or more. When you start factoring in how many nights you’ll spend in it over that time, investing in a quality tent can make a lot of financial sense.

Just imagine how much you’d spend on hotel rooms! If you camp every weekend, that $450 on a bomber tent is paid off in just 4 or 5 nights. This is even more true if you plan to camp into the colder seasons and need a tent built to withstand harsh weather.

On the other hand, if you’re just starting out or plan to camp only a few nights each summer, a budget pick like the $160 Kelty Late Start 2 will help you sleep outside without breaking the bank. For those who are unsure if they will like camping, a good-quality budget tent is a good way to test the waters.

FAQ

Should I Buy an Ultralight Tent?

Ultralight tents are fragile, expensive shelters exposed to potentially harsh conditions in the wilderness. The major benefit comes in very little weight and volume on your pack.

But having used several ultralight tents, I would say that most backpackers should steer clear of the absolute lightest tents unless they are extremely cautious with their gear.

And by that, I mean they put it away perfectly every time, and even go so far as to load their car and backpack with the care of gear in mind. I’ve had holes worn in ultralight tents from nothing but friction and vibration during a 2-hour drive, so this isn’t an exaggeration.

How Much Should a Backpacking Tent Weigh?

So, if ultralight is too light for you, what is a reasonable weight for a backpacking tent? A well-established guideline is about 2.5 pounds per person, meaning a tent under 5 pounds for a 2-person tent is reasonable.

Keep in mind that you can split the tent weight (or other gear) between members of your party to make pack weight equitable.

What Is a Footprint, and Should I Use a Footprint for My Backpacking Tent?

Many tents offer footprints as an aftermarket add-on. A footprint is a piece of fabric that matches the shape of the tent floor. It often will clip into your tent poles or stake system to integrate with your setup under your tent.

The footprint offers protection against sharp objects on the ground and may increase the lifespan of your tent. However, carrying a footprint adds to the weight of your pack. So, you need to balance the need to protect your tent with the added weight of the footprint.

For ultralight tents, a footprint is often important to preventing damage. That’s somewhat ironic, as the tent is meant to be as light as possible.

For that reason, sometimes a slightly heavier floor build makes more sense as you can leave the footprint behind. For car camping, a footprint is almost always a good idea, as it will increase the life of your tent.


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