Backpacking Camping Tents: One Tent Can Do It All

Backpacking camping tents are a smart choice if you want to save money and simplify your outdoor gear storage. Unfortunately, most tents are not suitable for both uses.

You’ll want a very light (read: small) tent for backpacking.

Camping tents should have plenty of head- and elbow-room; in other words, they should be large.

Can such opposite qualities really be reconciled in a single tent? Yes, they can!

There are a number of backpacking camping tents that reside in the “sweet spot” between light weight and livability.

What To Look For

It helps to think about what you’ll use the tent for most often. Will you be camping most of the time? You’ll want the largest tent with an acceptable weight. Backpacking? You’ll want the lightest tent with an acceptable size.

The third modifier is price. If you have money to burn, you can get a really light and large tent. If you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll have to compromise on both qualities.

One “trick” to getting a larger tent without much added weight is to look for a backpacking tent with a higher capacity than you need. So if you normally hike with one partner, look for a 3 person backpacking tent. You’ll get the extra room you need for camping, plus you have the flexibility to accommodate a third person when backpacking.

Be sure to buy a footprint (or make one yourself) for when you are camping. It will extend the life of your tent. Leave it at home or in the car to save weight when backpacking.

I looked for backpacking camping tents based on the following criteria:

  • Suitable for 2 person use
  • At least 35 square feet of floor space
  • At least 43 inches peak height (headroom)
  • No more than 6 lb. minimum weight

Below are the best ones I found organized by category.

Best Value: Marmot Limelight 3P

Marmot Limelight 3 - Backpacking Camping TentI couldn’t believe my eyes when I picked up the Limelight 3 at my local camping store, looked at the features and then saw the price.

I was so impressed that I came back later and bought it.

Lots of space, generous headroom, steep sidewalls and large vestibules make this tent a castle for two. Great for camping, it’s heavy for backpacking (unless you’re taking three people).

Bonus: A footprint and gear loft are included at no extra charge.

Read my full review of the Marmot Limelight 3

Eureka Apex 2XT - Backpacking Camping Tent

Cheapest: Eureka Apex 2XT

The Eureka Apex 2XT is a great bargain for a backpacking tent, and it has just enough floor space and headroom to be comfortable when camping.

2 doors and 2 vestibules make for convenient entry and gear storage.

REI Quarter Dome - Best Backpacking Tent

Best All-Around: REI Quarter Dome T3

The Quarter Dome T3 won an Editor’s Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine for 2008.

An innovative pole design creates lots of livable space for two with minimal weight.

For what you get, the price can’t be beat.

Lightest And Largest: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3

Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 - Best Backpacking TentThe Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3 also won an Editor’s Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine for 2008.
With an unbelievable space-to-weight ratio, great headroom and steep sidewalls, this is the perfect backpacking camping tent. Unfortunately, perfection comes at a steep price.

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