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The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024

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 2024.
Are you going solo, with a partner, ultralight, comfort-oriented? Lots to consider when choosing the best backpacking tent for your adventure; (photo/Honey McNaughton)
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From PCT hikers spending six months on the trail to nascent hikers spending six days on their first solo backpacking trip, a good tent is the cornerstone of outdoor preparedness. The right tent can shelter from the elements and critters. In the wild, it’s a home away from home.

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 on a long hike. Other times, you want a burly winter abode capable of standing up to gale-force winds and heavy snow. Maybe you want that tent that can do a little of everything.

We considered six factors while evaluating the best backpacking tents: ease of setting up, durability and materials, weight and packed size, interior space, weather resistance, and value.

Floor space and packed weight were the most important factors to our panel, while extra features such as pouches and pockets weighed less heavily in our evaluation.

Each tent excels in one or more of these aspects, and we have awarded outstanding models “Best of Rating” corresponding to their outstanding qualities. So whether you are pinching pennies, are ready to splurge on the tent of your dreams, or just want to replace your tattered gear, we have found a tent that can fit your budget and needs.

Our team of testers have spent hundreds of nights in tents in weather conditions that run the gamut from excruciating desert heat to frigid winter nights at high elevations to bring you our selection of the best backpacking tents this year.

Senior Editor Chris Carter has put over 10 different backpacking tents to the test in the past year alone. He pitched them all over the world to determine their worth, from snow-blasted alpine ridges in the San Juans to wind-whipped dusty sandflats in the African bush. No stone was left unturned in an effort to narrow in on the most deserving models on the market.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide, comparison chart, and FAQ section.

Editor’s Note: We refreshed this article on May 14, 2024, to reflect recent price changes and include additional links to related guides and our extensive How To Choose the Best Tent for Camping or Backpacking article.

The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024

Best Overall Backpacking Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2


  • Weight 3 lbs., 2 oz.
  • Height 40 in.
  • Floor space 29 sq. ft.
  • Materials Nylon, aluminum, and composite
  • Vestibule area 18 sq. ft.
Product Badge The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Light
  • Stable
  • Roomier than expected
  • Excellent storage and vestibule design


  • Expensive
  • Struggles in high winds (above 40 mph)
  • Somewhat fragile
Best Budget Backpacking Tent

REI Co-op Trail Hut 2


  • Weight 5 lbs., 15 oz.
  • Height 40 in.
  • Floor space 31.7 sq. ft.
  • Materials Polyester, aluminum, and coated nylon taffeta
  • Vestibule area 19 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Affordable
  • Fully featured
  • Durable design


  • Bulky
  • Heavy
Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Zpacks Plex Solo


  • Weight 13.9 oz. (for the blue color scheme)
  • Height 52 in.
  • Floor space 20.6 sq. ft.
  • Materials Dyneema (0.75 oz./sq. yd.)
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Extremely ultralight
  • Well-ventilated
  • Unique system of dealing with condensation buildup
  • Only uses one trekking pole instead of two


  • Expensive
  • Somewhat annoying not having a zipper on the vestibule
Best Budget Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Gossamer Gear The Two


  • Weight 23.5 oz.
  • Height 43 in.
  • Floor dimensions (LxWxH) 84 x 48/42 (head slightly wider) x 43 in.
  • Materials Custom 10D nylon ripstop SIL/PU fabric
  • Vestibule area 10 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Super spacious
  • Ultralight
  • Affordable


  • Condensation tends to build up pretty easily
  • Internal mesh pockets are placed a little awkwardly
Best Minimalist Backpacking Tent

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2 Dyneema Tent


  • Weight 1 lb., 2 oz.
  • Height 64 in.
  • Floor space 50 sq. ft.
  • Materials Cuben fiber, your trekking poles
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Very strong


  • Expensive
  • Trekking pole tents aren’t for everyone
  • Need space to set up guy lines
Best of the Rest

NEMO Hornet Elite OSMO 2P


  • Weight 2 lbs., 1 oz.
  • Height 37 in.
  • Floor space 27.3 sq. ft.
  • Materials OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric
  • Vestibule area 12.4 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Packs small
  • Withstands weather


  • Expensive
  • Fragile for car camping or sharp rocks

Zpacks Duplex


  • Weight 1 lb., 3.4 oz.
  • Height 48 in.
  • Floor space 28.1 sq. ft.
  • Materials Dyneema (0.55 oz./sq. yd.)
  • Vestibule area 11 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Durable


  • Expensive
  • Hard to set up
  • Requires large area, stakes, and guylines

REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 Backpacking Tent


  • Weight 6 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Height 43 in.
  • Floor space 32.9 sq. ft.
  • Materials Nylon and aluminum
  • Vestibule area 8.7 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Value
  • Storm-ready
  • Lightweight for a four-season tent


  • Single door
  • Heavy

Sea to Summit Telos TR2


  • Packed weight 3 lbs., 10.7 oz.
  • Height 43.5 in.
  • Floor space 23 sq. ft.
  • Materials Polyester and aluminum
  • Vestibule area 19.5 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Light but fairly durable
  • Accommodating for people over 6 feet tall
  • Steep walls


  • Expensive
  • Storage system overly complicated

NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 2P


  • Packed weight 3 lbs., 2 oz.
  • Height 41 in.
  • Floor space 29.0 sq. ft.
  • Materials OSMO ripstop/nylon blend, aluminum
  • Vestibule area 10.0 sq. ft. x 2
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Quick, simple setup
  • Lightweight but durable
  • Thoughtful storage design


  • Narrow floor plan
  • Expensive

Durston X-Mid 1


  • Weight 1 lb., 14.4 oz.
  • Height 46 in.
  • Floor space 46.5 sq. ft. (fly), 20 sq. ft. (insert)
  • Materials 20-denier polyester with 2,500mm sil/PEU coating
  • Vestibule area 20 sq. ft. (10 sq. ft. x 2)
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Durable construction
  • Unique, double-wall design
  • Simple, four-stake pitch
  • Affordable


  • On the heavy side for an ultralight tent
  • Small internal storage pockets
  • Guy lines are a bit difficult to adjust

Kelty Late Start 2


  • Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Height 40 in.
  • Floor space 29.5 sq. ft.
  • Materials Polyester and aluminum
  • Vestibule area 7.85 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Good value
  • Easy setup
  • Quality construction


  • Heavier
  • Not built for extreme weather conditions

REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent


  • Packed weight 2 lbs., 13.7 oz.
  • Height 46.85 in.
  • Floor space 49.9 sq. ft.
  • Materials Nylon, mesh, aluminum
  • Vestibule area 28.7 sq. ft.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Light
  • 2 vestibules
  • Can be supported with trekking poles


  • Setup takes practice
  • Not freestanding

Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle


  • Weight 2 lbs., 2 oz.
  • Height 45 in.
  • Floor space 38 sq. ft.
  • Materials Nylon
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Packs down small
  • Can function as a tarp alone at just 17 oz.


  • The 30-denier fabric is somewhat fragile
  • Requires hiking poles (or a pole kit, purchased separately for $30-80) to set up

MSR Hubba Hubba 2


  • Weight 2 lbs. 14 oz. (10 oz. reduction from previous model)
  • Floor space 29 sq. ft.
  • Height 40 in.
  • Materials 20D ripstop nylon & DWR (canopy fabric), 20D ripstop nylon 1200mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR (floor fabric)
  • Packed Size 19 x 4.5 in.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Spacious
  • No-curve door zippers
  • Rain gutters on the fly


  • Pretty expensive
  • Rainfly somewhat difficult to set up

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P


  • Packed weight 1 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Height 48 in.
  • Floor space 28 sq. ft.
  • Materials DCF5, DCF8, No-See-Um Mesh
  • Vestibule area N/A
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Time-tested, simple design
  • Stable in high wind
  • Comparatively roomy


  • Pricey
  • Hot when in direct sun
  • Waterproof zippers a bit difficult to close

Backpacking Tent Comparison Chart

TentPriceWeightHeightFloor SpaceMaterialsVestibule Area
Big Agnes Copper Spur$5303 lbs., 2 oz.40 in.29 sq. ft.Nylon, aluminum, and composite18 sq. ft.
REI Co-op Trail Hut 2$2295 lbs., 15 oz.40 in.31.7 sq. ft.Polyester, aluminum, and coated nylon taffeta19 sq. ft.
Zpacks Plex Solo$59913.9 oz.52 in.20.6 sq. ft.Dyneema (0.75 oz./sq. yd.)N/A
Gossamer Gear The Two$32023.5 oz.43 in.84 x 48/42 (head slightly wider) x 43 in.Custom 10D Nylon Ripstop SIL/PU fabric10 sq. ft.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2$6991 lb., 2 oz.64 in.50 sq. ft.Cuben fiber, your trekking polesN/A
NEMO Hornet Elite Osmo 2P$6502 lbs., 1 oz.37 in.27.3 sq. ft.OSMO poly-nylon ripstop fabric12.4 sq. ft.
Zpacks Duplex$6991 lb., 3.4 oz.48 in.28.1 sq. ft.Dyneema (0.55 oz./sq. yd.)11 sq. ft.
REI Co-op Arete ASL 2$4496 lbs., 5 oz.43 in.32.9 sq. ft.Nylon and aluminum8.7 sq. ft.
Sea to Summit Telos TR2$4493 lbs., 10.7 oz.43.5 in. 23 sq. ft. Polyester and aluminum19.5 sq. ft.
NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 2P$5003 lbs., 2 oz.41 in.29 sq. ft. OSMO Ripstop/Nylon blend, aluminum 10 sq. ft. x 2
Durston X-Mid 1$23030.8 oz.46 in.46.5 sq. ft. (fly), 20 sq. ft. (insert)20 denier polyester with 2500 mm sil/PEU coating20 sq. ft. (10 sq. ft. x 2)
Kelty Late Start 2$1604 lbs., 8 oz.40 in.29.5 sq. ft. Polyester and aluminum7.85 sq. ft. 
REI Co-op Flash Air 2 $3292 lbs. 13.7 oz.46.85 in.49.9 sq. ft.Nylon, mesh, Aluminum28.7 sq. ft.
Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle$3752 lbs., 2 oz.45 in.38 sq. ft.NylonN/A
MSR Hubba Hubba 2$5502 lbs. 14 oz.40 in29 sq. ft.20D ripstop nylon
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P$6991 lb., 8 oz.48 in.28 sq. ft.DCF5, DCF8, No-See-Um MeshN/A
A solid backpacking tent can make or break a long trip; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

How We Tested Backpacking Tents

It’s no exaggeration to say that the GearJunkie squad has spent thousands of nights under the stars in these lightweight shelters. We’ve schlepped backpacking tents to just about every corner of the globe, and have weathered the gnarliest conditions cocooned within their thin walls. A good shelter is your first line of defense for escaping life-threatening elements in the backcountry — and as such, we don’t take our testing lightly. If you see a model in this guide, you know it’s been vetted by our stone-cold pros and proven to be worthy.

Editorial Director Sean McCoy, a seasoned backcountry hunter, hiker, and all-around outdoorsman, led the charge with this guide back in June 2020, amassing our initial selection of 11 top-shelf tents. Sean is intimately familiar with the necessity of a dependable shelter in the wild and has battled through enough tempestuous nights to know that not all tents are created equal.

Senior Editor Chris Carter took over this guide in August 2022 and has been lurking in online backpacking forums, bugging the seasoned pros, and religiously scouring the interwebs to bring you the current, deserving selection of 16 tents you see today.

Chris has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in the United States: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He’s spent so much time in flimsy backpacking tents that he almost sleeps better in them than under a solid roof. He’s frustratingly fastidious about the shelters he depends on during lightweight missions and allowed only the best of the best to squirm their way into this guide. He believes every adventure requires the right tool for the job, and a good night’s sleep in a capable tent is essential for success in the backcountry.

Finally, we realize the fight for the backpacking tent podium is a vicious, ever-evolving landscape of Dyneema blends, futuristic pole designs, and otherworldly geometric shapes. We work hard to stay on top of current trends as they surface, and get our grubby paws on the newest and greatest out there. Rest assured, the selection above represents the crème de la crème of these portable homes.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

ATP00575 2 2
Each of the backpacking tents in this guide has been put through rigorous, real-world testing; (photo/Chris Carter)

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. If you’re not exactly sure, our handy How to Choose the Best Tent for Camping or Backpacking article could be a great place to start.

The Zpacks Plex Solo may work for some users who want to go as light and minimalist as possible. On the other hand, the REI Co-op Trail Hut, while heavier, provides a budget option for those who don’t plan to hike as far and want a little more room. Using the six factors we listed at the start of this article as a guide, finding the best backpacking tent can be a simple errand of choosing which qualities are most important to you.

ATP04017 (1)
Choosing the best backpacking tent for your adventure can be overwhelming, but as your home away from home, it’s an important investment; (photo/Chris Carter)

Ease of Setup

This is your first moment with your brand-new tent and maybe you can intuitively figure out where everything goes, or maybe you need to reference the manual every step of the way. Some tents make setup easy with color-coded poles or poles that are all the same length.

Single-walled winter tents are notorious for barely making room for poles in the material to hold a taut exterior. Still, other tents need numerous guy lines to hold in place and aren’t freestanding without them. Some tout complicated geometric designs with multiple crisscrossing poles, while others are simply held up by one or two trekking poles.

Whatever the case may be, our preference is that the easier a tent is to set up, the better. Of course, domes for alpine basecamps are going to be more difficult than a two-person bug net but will be able to weather much more gnarly terrain compared to a trekking pole-style ultralight option.

The Sea to Summit Telos has many hubs connecting different-length poles, so it pays to try and set this type of tent up in advance. However, the Hyperlite UltaMid simply calls for two trekking poles lashed together in the center with equalized guy lines. Preference is king and no matter what design suits your experience level, always practice setting it up at home before you go.

Some tents are faster and more intuitive to set up than others, so make sure you’re familiar with yours before heading into the hills; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Freestanding and Non-Freestanding Backpacking Tents

Many manufacturers have opted to shave ounces by structuring their tents around the trekking poles hikers are already lugging around, simplifying the setup and greatly reducing pack size. These designs are often found in ultralight tents, such as Gossamer Gear’s The Two, and Durston’s X-Mid. They usually require a minimum of four stakes in the ground for them to stand up. Some non-freestanding tents, such as REI’s Flash Air 2, come with lightweight vertical support poles that can be used in lieu of trekking poles, for those who tend to hike without them.

Non-freestanding tents use the tension provided by stakes firmly planted around the trekking or support pole to hold the poles in an upright position. The stakes should consequently be on the longer side and driven into the ground at an angle or reinforced with large stones. Short stakes placed in loose or sandy soil can be easily plucked out by a strong gust of wind, causing your nylon home to fold in around you at three in the morning.

These non-freestanding models are often lighter but are not the best choice for every environment. Ensuring you have adequate ground for stakes can be frustrating for some, and sporting a simple freestanding tent, like Nemo’s Dragonfly, could be a game changer for easy camp setup. Frantically poking around in rocky earth to pitch your tent as a surprise storm sweeps in is a deflating experience.

Freestanding tents tend to, in general, boast higher durability in inclement weather than their non-freestanding siblings. Introducing trekking poles to the equation eliminates some of the integrity in its structure, making them less ideal in truly heinous storms or driving wind. Ultralight trekking pole tents can hold their own — don’t get us wrong — but a freestanding tent will almost always prove the more stable shelter.

Non-freestanding tents, like the Zpacks Plex Solo, often require trekking poles to set up, and aren’t quite as stable compared to freestanding options; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Durability and Materials

Most tents for backpacking are made from nylon fabrics, Dyneema Composite fiber, or polyester. Each of these materials has its unique benefits, from lower cost to tougher weather resistance or ripstop qualities.

Cuben fiber has proven to be an excellent material that is very lightweight and extremely weather-resistant. It also resists tearing — but it is expensive. Unfortunately, it can puncture relatively easily, but crosshatched reinforcement prevents further tearing.

Nylon is a less costly material but is also less durable. Often it is reinforced against the elements with polyurethane, silicone, or acrylic coating. This makes it more water-resistant but less breathable. Polyester is heavier than nylon and also not particularly breathable.

The thickness of the material is measured in denier units, which are basically the density of fibers measured in grams over meters. The lower the denier count, the lighter the material. Lower deniers are great for reducing pack weight but require more care to prevent rips and tears.

Always check to make sure your tent site is clear of sharp rocks and sticks. These hazards can shred even the toughest tents; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Lightweight tents will usually have 15-20-denier fly and floors. And a heavy car camping or winter tent will have a rating as high as 75 or more.

Then there are the poles. As mentioned above, some tents, such as the Zpacks Duplex or Hyperlite UltaMid, forgo their own poles and instead rely on trekking poles to provide structural support. Always be sure to check that your trekking poles are compatible with your tent.

Tent-specific poles are composed of carbon fiber, aluminum, composite, or a combination. Aluminum is light but not nearly as light as carbon fiber or some of the proprietary composites offered today. Aluminum poles are usually found in more affordable models and can withstand rougher handling.

For durability, we like to use a footprint, which usually has to be bought separately. You can always fashion a custom footprint by cutting a piece of Tyvek, which is available at most hardware stores but lacks the grommets and fastening points of a manufactured footprint.

Buying from the manufacturer ensures a proper fit and usually will snap, click, or tie in to integrate with the tent. A lot of ultralight backpackers are going with a crazy light polycryo footprint like this one to shave even more grams.

The Nemo Dragonfly is made with durable but lightweight OSMO poly-nylon fabric, so you still should be mindful of where you are setting it up, and use a footprint if possible; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Tent stakes also come in a variety of materials. Carbon fiber tent stakes, such as those offered by Hyperlite, are light but have a thicker circumference compared to aluminum and are therefore bulkier. Saving weight is an important goal, it all just depends on how much you are willing to spend.

Weight and 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 considerations.

An ultralight tent, such as Gossamer Gear’s The Two or The One, is a great option for backpacking or thru-hiking. 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. The Kelty Late Start 2 is over twice the weight at 4 pounds, 8 ounces, but is significantly cheaper.

So, you need to balance your needs for weight against durability and cost. You may find that some tents, like the Zpacks Duplex, hit the best of both worlds by using ultra-strong, super-light Dyneema (cuben fiber) fabric.

Two backpacking tents set up in the Grand Canyon
Zpacks tents are constructed with lightweight but durable Dyneema fabric; (photo/Chris Carter)

The REI Arete can seem like a backbreaker compared to lighter tents, but it has loads of headroom and luxurious space. If you are splitting a tent between many people, the extra pounds get spread out. If you are planning a solo thru-hike, coughing up the cash for a small, light tent can save you a lot of back pain. It’s also a good idea to make sure your tent fits well in your backpacking backpack and leaves space for the rest of your kit before heading out on an extended trip.

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

There are large books written on shaving weight for backpacking. The uninitiated may balk at tent prices before a trip, only to learn the hard way that every gram really does add up.

Interior Space

Consider your threshold of comfort, and how bulky your sleeping setup is, when looking at the interior space available in backpacking tents; (photo/Chris Carter)

To save weight, you have to be willing to snuggle into a two-person tent and rub shoulders or smell your partner’s feet. Ceiling height is an important consideration as well.

Ultralight tents like the Six Moons Designs Haven or the Hyperlite UltaMid still offer high ceilings, but they often have more roof angles and less overall room compared to freestanding tents.

The UltaMid is one of the roomiest tents, with over 50 square feet of floor space and a 64-inch ceiling. The benefit of a traditional tent like the REI Co-op Arete is that it doesn’t have a pole through the center of it.

Interior space in a tent equals comfort. The main things to consider are floor dimensions, length, and ceiling height. Tents have a stated number of people they sleep, but how roomy or cramped they will be at capacity varies by brand. And remember, a good backpacking sleeping pad is also critical to a good night’s sleep.

If you are only packing the tent for “just in case” or to mostly store gear, you can downsize to a lighter, more cramped model. Pay attention to dimensions in the specs from a manufacturer, as they can give you a good idea of how many sleeping pads will fit in it.

Weather Resistance

IMG_1466 (1)
Despite being ultralight, single-wall shelters held up by trekking poles, Gossamer Gear’s One and Two series hold out the gnarliest weather like a champ; (photo/Chris Carter)

Basic tents handle pleasant weather like a champ and can even manage light rain and wind. But if you plan to camp during rain or snow storms (which often roll in unexpectedly), it’s worth it to save up and buy a sturdier tent.

In the event of a storm or condensation buildup, all tents also need ventilation to adequately remove moisture. The Sea to Summit Telos excels in this category with a rollaway fly that can be left open on a warm day to allow all of your items to dry while you are away.

Anything can happen on an extended backpacking trip, and you need to have a shelter that will protect you in driving rain or hail, brutal heat during summer months, or snowy whiteouts in the winter — all while maintaining a lightweight package that easily fits in your bag.

It’s a tall order. But all of the tents on this list have been tested for durability and quality, and we would feel comfortable battling the elements with them.

Many four-season tents are single-wall models. The benefit of a single-wall design is that there is no gap for wind or precipitation to sneak in. Check out our Winter Tent Review for more insight on this topic.

Testing the waterproofness of the Durston Xmid
One of the authors thoroughly drenched the Durston X-Mid with his roommate cozily sheltered inside. No moisture seeped through; (photo/Emily Malone)

Double-wall designs are far more common for three-season or summer tents. Removable rain flies are a plus if all you need is a barrier from the mosquitos and you want to stargaze.

If you are confident in the forecast, dropping the fly can bring you to what some call “trail weight,” which refers to leaving out the extra parts to achieve the bare minimum weight.

Vestibules are an important feature to have in inclement weather. They act as a miniature mudroom and provide space for gear storage.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur adds a unique design with its awning vestibules. Sealed seams also help buffer against the elements and leakage.

If you plan to use a tent in a wet, rainy, or snowy environment, consider doing this yourself, as seams are a weak point in the waterproof protection of a fly or single-wall tent. Conveniently, Six Moon Designs will seam-seal its tents for an extra fee, but this will likely delay shipping time.

It’s nice to sleep with the fly off for ventilation and stargazing purposes, but make sure you have the fly on hand for surprise midnight storms; (photo/Honey McNaughton)


It is hard to put a price tag on the nights of adventure and comfort that a backpacking tent provides. Cost is directly related to the quality of the materials and the packed weight.

The REI Co-op Trail Hut is a case in point when it comes to value for the budget hiker, as it’s light on the wallet but heavy on the back. A frugal hiker can save money on this piece of gear to spend more on other necessities like a sleeping bag and backpack.

Manufacturers realize that the entry cost of this passion is steep and provide economical options to fit any budget. With proper care and maintenance, the most affordable tent can last many seasons.

ATP00235 2
Having a cozy, dependable tent to unwind in at the end of a long day is vital; (photo/Chris Carter)

The Kelty Late Start 2 is an example of an entry-level tent that provides great features for a fraction of the cost of something like the Hyperlite UltaMid. On the other hand, the UltaMid gives the savvy, dedicated hiker what they have longed for on many arduous miles — a tent that weighs next to nothing and is durable and easy to set up.

The value of a tent is really the ratio of enjoyment versus cost. All of the tents we tested have a high value when paired with the right user. Sit down, and write out a budget that not only includes how much you have in the bank but also indicates how dedicated you are to the sport. Plan to spend about a quarter to a third of your budget on a tent.

The true backcountry addicts — and those who feel the hook sinking in their lip after their first adventure — will almost certainly own more than one tent for their lifetime of outdoor adventuring.

Not all tents can handle every environment perfectly, but are instead tailored to a range of conditions. A good rule for gear is to start within your budget with a versatile option. As your passions grow, your gear will become more specific. Purchasing the best backpacking tent for your needs is no small task, but it is also exciting and will open up many new doors to the natural world.

Few feelings are better than waking up to a brilliant sunrise on a backpacking trip and zipping open your tent to the early morning light; (photo/Chris Carter)


How much does a backpacking tent cost?

Prices of backpacking tents vary considerably. Materials and the weight of the tent cause prices to range from under $200 (such as the Kelty Late Start 2) to over $1,000 out the door.

Specialized ultralight tents such as the Hyperlite UltaMid or burly all-weather mountaineering tents are usually the most expensive and are made from very strong and light materials.

Less expensive tents are priced for the beginning or occasional hiker. Expect to spend a third of your budget on a tent, another third on your sleeping bag, and the rest on your cooking supplies, etc.

The amount you are willing to spend depends on your commitment to the sport. Affordable options are a great place to start, as you can then gauge your willingness to invest.

What should I look for when buying a tent?
No matter which tent you go with, lasting memories will be made in the places they allow you to access; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

When buying a backpacking tent, pay attention to whether it is freestanding, like the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2, or requires trekking poles, like the Zpacks Duplex. Tents that use trekking poles are on average far lighter, but they take guy lines and know-how to set up.

Materials are important to consider as well. The more expensive tents offer light rip-resistant materials like cuben fiber (such as the Hyperlite UltaMid), while more economical models are bulky and heavier (see the REI Co-op Trail Hut). This affects not only weight but also packed size.

Make sure the tent has adequate space for your needs, with floor space, vestibules, and storage. Minimalist tents will be lighter but usually offer less in terms of extra pockets and storage. Tents more suited for car camping will have those amenities but weigh considerably more.

Should I buy an ultralight tent?

Ultralight tents are fragile, expensive shelters exposed to potentially harsh conditions in the wilderness. The major benefit of a tent like the Six Moon Designs Haven comes in very little weight and volume on your pack.

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

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

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The Zpacks Plex Solo is super light, but needs to be cared for a little more than durable free-standing tents; (photo/Honey McNaughton)
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 two-person tent is reasonable.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur weighs in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces, which is very light split between two people, while the Zpacks Duplex is 1 pound, 3 ounces. Both tents are for two people but are made from different materials, and the Duplex depends on your trekking poles to set up.

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 such as the Hyperlite UltaMid or Zpacks Duplex, a footprint is often important to prevent 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, as on the REI Co-op Arete, makes more sense, as you can leave the footprint behind. For car camping, a footprint is always a good idea, as it will increase the life of your tent.

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Gossamer Gear’s The Two overlooking that Sierra goodness; (photo/Chris Carter)

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