Looking For The Best Backpacking Tent?
What is the best backpacking tent? Ask 10 different backpackers this question, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. It isn’t easy to narrow down the hundreds of models available to the single best one, since so many variables must be taken into account.
It seems to me that weight should be the primary — though not the only — factor in choosing a backpacking tent. Every ounce counts in the backcountry.
Durability and weatherproofing is also very important. What good is a tent if it can’t stand up to the rain, wind, and abrasion of many backpacking trips?
Size, though of lesser concern, certainly comes into play. We don’t expect miracles, but it’s nice to have a little head and elbow room, especially when nasty weather keeps us tent-bound.
What about the price? Ah … forget the price. We’re looking for the best backpacking tent, period. Quality doesn’t come cheap.
However, if you can’t afford the absolute best, you can still get a darn good tent at a reasonable price.
So here are my picks for the best backpacking tents, from 1 person to 4 person. I’ve chosen one best tent for each category, with a couple of worthy runners up: the best ultralight backpacking tent and the best value backpacking tent.
Best One Person Backpacking Tent
Winner: REI Quarter Dome T1
The REI Quarter Dome T1 has a great space-to-weight ratio due to its unique “Tension Truss” pole configuration. It set up easily with color-coded poles, has good headroom and a good-sized vestibule.
It is narrow, though, and not long enough for people over 6 feet tall.
Best One Person Backpacking Tent Runners Up
Best for Ultralight: Big Agnes Fly Creek 1
This tent weighs in at a microscopic 1 pound and 14 ounces. The tent and its floor are made of ultralight silicone treated nylon rip-stop with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating.
All the tent’s seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape. These factors make the Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 not only feather light, but also effectively weatherproof.
Best for Value: Eureka Spitfire 1
This tent is very light, weighing in at just under 4 pounds. It is easy to set up; after setting up once set-up and take-down can happen in around five minutes.
There’s enough room for one person plus gear, and includes a nicely-sized vestibule for extra storage.
Best 2 Person Backpacking Tent
Winner: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2
At a mere 3 lb, 6 oz, you’d expect the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 to be tiny — but you’d be wrong.
It’s plenty spacious for two, with near-vertical walls, dual doors and two large vestibules, and a generous 42 inches of headroom.
Weatherproofing and ventilation are also excellent.
Best Two Person Backpacking Tent Runners Up
Ultralight: Nemo Meta 2P
This two-person tent weighs in at a mere 2 pounds and 14 ounces.
When deconstructed it folds down into a 8″ x 4″ sized tube.
The Nemo Meta 2 features a removable liner and is machine washable.
Value: Mountainsmith Morrison
The Mountainsmith Morrison 2 provides 35 square feet of main floor space and 14 square feet of vestibule space.
It measures 56 in by 43 in by 92 in (W x H x D) when set up. It breaks down to 7.5 in by 18 in packed.
This two-person tent weighs four pounds and 11 ounces.
Best 3 Person Backpacking Tent
Winner: NEMO Losi 3P
The Nemo Losi 3 gives you a luxurious 50 square feet of floor space, with extra elbowroom thanks to 2 crossing poles.
Despite the generous dimensions, it still comes in under 6 pounds.
Stability is rock solid. A smart organizer pocket keeps loose items in order.
Best 3 Person Backpacking Tent Runners Up
Ultralight: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3 weights 4 pounds and 3 ounces.
When packed the tent measures 6.5″ x 21.5″.
This tent is well-constructed and nicely weatherproof. It’s additionally very easy to put up and take down.
Value: Sierra Designs Zeta 3
The Sierra Designs Zeta 3 is roomy, and includes a huge vestibule. It provides 43 square feet of sleeping space and an 18.5 + 8 square foot vestibule area.
This tent weighs 6 pounds and 9 ounces.
It is designed to withstand diverse weather conditions, from rain to heavy winds to some snow.
Best 4 Person Backpacking Tent
Winner: Sierra Designs Lightning XT 4
The Sierra Designs Lightning XT 4 packs an amazing amount of space into a very light package — under 7 pounds. An asymmetrical hubbed pole system maximizes interior space while minimizing weight.
Weatherproofing is impeccable, shedding heavy rain and high winds, while the all mesh body enhances ventilation.
Two doors make entry and exit easy, and two vestibules handle gear storage — although they’re a little small for 4 people’s stuff.
Best 4 Person Backpacking Tent Runner Up
Value: REI Half Dome 4
The runner up for the best backpacking tent for four people is the REI Half Dome 4. It’s a sturdy 3-season tent that’s roomy and easy set-up.
It has a minimum trail weight of 6 pounds and 12 ounces. Its packed size is 9 inches by 24 inches.
These are my picks for the best backpacking tent. If you can afford to, it’s worth spending more for the highest quality and performance. Your investment will pay dividends in outdoor enjoyment for years to come.