Some people go hiking for a few hours, and then it’s back home. Others like to spend several days or longer backpacking, and it is important that they have a good shelter that is lightweight and easy to set up. The problem is, there are so many different tents available that it can be hard to figure out which is going to be best for your particular needs.
We’re going to give you a rundown of the things you should be looking for in the best backpacking tents, as well as five of our favorite tents that are made specifically for backpackers. Let’s get started.
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When you are looking for a new backpacking tent, there are many things to consider, including:
If you’re just backpacking by yourself, you’ll want to stick to lightweight one-man tents, such as the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent.
But, if there are going to be two or more people, you’re going to need something a bit bigger. In the case of backpacking tents, you have the option to choose one that can sleep one to four people – anything bigger, and you’re looking at the family tent category.
It should have a floor area that is large enough to accommodate the appropriate number of people, and be a decent height so you can stand up inside. Finally, it should be small enough when folded to be easily carried and stowed away into your backpack.
The next consideration is weight. Tents are being made more lightweight than ever before, making them ideal for backpacking. Many weigh less than three pounds, but still have enough room for you to be comfortable. When thinking about tent weight, the first thing to look at is the absolute minimum weight. This is the weight of the actual tent, poles, and rainfly, with no extras such as stakes and a footprint. Make sure that you look at the packaged weight, which is the weight of everything that you get in the box.
Next we are going to talk about the various fabrics that tents are made from. Most tents are made from either coated polyester, coated nylon, or cuben fiber. If you want a tent that is durable, coated nylon is your best bet. Look for one that is made with lightweight nylon. The weight of the fabric per square inch is known as the denier (D), and most tents range from 10D to 70D.
Your tent fabric will have a waterproof coating. The most popular is polyurethane (PU), probably because it works, and it is the least expensive way to waterproof a tent. The only problem is that over time, fabrics coated with PU can lose their resistance to water.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more, you can get a backpacking tent that is coated with silicone elastomer (SilNylon), which is on the higher-quality tents. It is more durable than fabrics coated in PU, and it is lighter in weight.
In most cases, the poles that come with your tent will be good quality. Look for a tent that has poles that are lightweight and flexible. The most important feature to look for in the pole is the sections. We recommend that you get a tent with poles that fold into small sections, as they are easier to store in your backpack. Try to avoid stakes that have a hubbed design, because they have weak points at the hubs and tend to break easily.
Most tents don’t come with nearly enough guy line, and it is usually of inferior quality. It is best to buy this separately. In most cases, the stakes tend to be pretty good, but there may not be enough, or you may prefer a different style. Again, different stakes will need to be purchased separately. A good rule of thumb is to have four to six stakes in your pack.
What time of year do you plan to be using your tent? If you are only planning to use it in the warmer summer months, a three-season backpacking tent is all you need. It will be a great, lightweight shelter that is designed for spring, summer, and fall conditions (not recommended for use during heavy storms).
For winter backpacking and tenting, an extended-season or a four-season mountaineer tent is a good option. An extended-season tent can be used in harsher conditions, and will protect you from the snow. A four-season tent is made for the winter, and is made to be able to take a lot of wind and heavy snow.
There are a few more things that you need to consider before making your final decision about which backpacking tent to get. These include:
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent two-person backpacking tent is made with 20D ripstop nylon, and 15D nylon mesh. It weighs just three pounds, and it is fast and easy to set up - the parts are all color-coded, making this tent super-easy to set up and tear down. It also has External Guy Out Loops which help to ensure stability even in windy conditions.
There is plenty of head and elbow room, and there are two large, StayDry doors that have rain gutters built in. The doors are made so you can enter and exit the tent in the rain without getting water inside the tent. However, we’ve heard reports there may be an issue with occasional leaking through the flooring, but a footprint can alleviate this problem.
The DAC FeatherLite SL poles are made from lightweight aluminum, and the hubs are super-light and join the poles to make one pole for the entire tent. There are also two large vestibules on the sides where you can store your gear to keep it out of your way.
The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx is a one-person tent that is ideal for backpacking – it weighs just 3.94 pounds, so it is easy to stuff into your backpack and take anywhere. Plus, while it does come with stakes, the Lynx has a freestanding design, so you don’t always need the stakes and can travel lighter without them.
It has awesome ventilation (the half-mesh walls really help), and it is easy to set up. It has just one door with an easy entry, as well as a vestibule where you can store your gear. This is a good all-weather tent, with a factory-sealed fly and floor seam for protection against water leaks. Its Polyester Fly is resistant to damage from the sun’s UV rays, and it will stay taut and not slacken.
The Big Agnes - Copper Spur Backpacking Tent is made from nylon, and has a single door. The two-person model has a single door and vestibule, and the larger models have double doors and two vestibules.
The inner tent is from a breathable, lightweight mesh made from polyester or nylon (fabric depends on the tent model), which provides you with plenty of ventilation.
It also has a vestibule for gear storage, and there are storm flaps on the vestibule zipper. It has a steep wall construction, so you have more interior space, especially when you want to stand up. There are even media pockets, which are located right over the sleeping area, where you can keep your iPhone and route the ear bud cord through.
The guy line and tent corners are reflective, so you can easily see the tent in the dark if you have to go outside for any reason.
The Kelty TN2 Person Tent has a floor area of 27.5 square feet, and a vestibule area of 10X10 feet. The packaged weight is just under five pounds, making it easy to carry while you are backpacking.
You won’t disturb anyone in the tent if you have to exit, because the zipper is quiet. Plus, you can put this tent together in less than 10 minutes (less than five minutes once you have done it a few times). This is a freestanding design, so there is no need for stakes to hold it down.
It has a Tent Cube storage system, and has taped floor seams with mesh wall panels. Enjoy plenty of ventilation with the mesh wall panels that let just the right amount of air in. There are also internal storage pockets for storing smaller items, and a stargazer fly so you can lay inside and watch what is going on overhead, day or night.
Not only is the Marmot Limelight 2 Person Tent is lightweight, and comes with accessories you don’t always get with other tents, including a gear loft and a footprint. You can set this tent up in just a few minutes, and the fly can be used with the footprint. The DAC poles are study and lightweight, and they are color-coded to make setup quick and easy.
It has a 32 square-foot interior, and a nine-foot vestibule for storing your gear. In addition to the storage vestibule, there are also plenty of storage pockets for smaller items.
The door is D-shaped, and the zippers are not only silent, but they also won’t snag. This tent has waterproof window construction, as well as a waterproof floor and a full coverage fly. Find your tent easily at night thanks to the various parts of the tent that are reflective.
All of these tents are great, but our favorite pick is the MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent. We love how easy it is to set up, and its freestanding design is ideal for all types of backpacking trips – there’s plenty of room for two people to sleep comfortably and lots of space for your gear.
The Hubba Hubba offers all of the features you need for a comfortable camping experience, and well worthy of the title of best backpacking tent for 2018. =ZIP=