When it comes to backpacking, packing light is the key. Gear, clothing and food — all need to be as light as they can be for a trip that lets you take in the scenery without feeling the pull of gravity on your back. That packing list includes your tent, too: Your standard camping tent, happily transported in your car, won’t translate well to the foot-powered travel mode of backpacking. Luckily, thanks to advances in technology that have yielded lighter metals and materials, backpacking tents are lighter, more durable and roomier than ever.
A good rule of thumb when looking for a backpacking tent is to get one that's less than five pounds (one-person tents clock in below two pounds and a two-person tent under three pounds). Also, if you are a frequent backpacker, it might be worth splurging on a tent that's extra-durable and will hold up over time. And if you're hitting the trail that much, it's wise to get a tent that's easy to set up, so you can spend more time... relaxing instead of figuring out which poles go where.
Need some buying advice when it comes to picking up a tent? Read on to find our picks for the best backpacking tents to purchase now.
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If you’re prepared to drop some cash on a tent — and will use it frequently — it doesn’t get much better than MSR’s Hubba Hubba line, which includes models for one to three backpackers. It’s light (the two-person model comes in at three pounds, seven ounces), and takes just six minutes to pitch, aided in part by color-coded clips to make setup simple. The interior is roomy, and there’s enough coverage to keep the elements out, plus a little outdoor area for your first-morning glimpse of the great outdoors. The price, yes, is expensive, but you’ll have it for decades to come, thanks to the company’s lifetime warranty.
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Those on a budget should look no further than this durable two-door, polyester tent: The Mountainsmith Morrison delivers at the cost of a standard night’s hotel stay. Two doors and vestibules make getting in and out—and creating some space — easy, while the three-season, bathtub floor construction means you can get the most out of it during the year. At five pounds, nine ounces packed, it’s a heavier option, but still worth a hard look because of it's price.
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Long a favorite among backpackers, the 29-square-foot Big Agnes Copper Spur offers a lot of versatility and space for a three-pound, six-ounce trail weight tent. The ceiling is tall enough to sit up in (a bonus when it comes to changing clothes), while the square footage is plenty for one and enough for two. It’s been sold, and loved, for years now, thanks also to a single-pole system with color-coded grommets. It’s pretty durable, too: If you’re in high winds, the aerodynamic, low ends are strong and keep the tent steady. The only downside? Its fabric is delicate and can tear easily — but it’d not be nearly as light without it.
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Yes, technically it’s a two-person tent — but just two pounds, this pole-dedicated tent still a great fit for those who primarily hike solo but want the flexibility of bringing a friend along on the hike. It’s easy to pitch and get in and out of, and it has an incredibly effective double wall for maximum protection from condensation. Those hitting a spot of rain on the trail shouldn’t worry either: It’s pretty weather-resistant and is more durable than it looks. Another bonus feature? Bug netting, because no one wants to get eaten alive while they sleep.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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This 31-square-foot tent, while on the slim side, is great for tall backpackers as well — measuring 90 inches long when set up, there’s plenty of length for stretching out. (If you’re looking for something a little bigger the model also comes in a three-person size.) One of the things we love is the rain fly, which stays quiet in the wind, and the lower sidewalls are wind-resistant. It’s a bit heavier than some on this list, but still clocks in at 3.75 pounds. Yes, it’s expensive — but still one of the cheaper ones on this list.
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The Hilleberg Anjan is among the heaviest on this list at 4.65 pounds — but if you’re in for some bad weather, you’ll want this in your back. It’s a three-season tent with room for two. The tunnel shape — and its 9mm poles — make for a lightweight, quick-pitching tent that withstands the elements, and the placement of the guy points keeps it stable in high winds. Hikers who want some space can also detach the tent’s two parts for two separate shelters.
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These are having a moment of their own right now in the outdoor world, and for good reason: Who doesn’t love the idea of swaying to sleep under the stars, fresh forest air in their lungs? And aside from the obvious cons — you need trees, they're bad for cold weather, and you should have serious rope-wrangling skills — they’re a great choice for backpackers without the added weight of poles. We like one where the suspension system is included and one with a cover on it (useful for keeping bugs out)— and REI makes a great flat-bottomed hammock fitting the bill. The company’s 3.2-pound Co-Op Quarter Dome Air Hammock is built with a bridge system that keeps the structure — and the sleeper — from getting banana-shaped at night, there’s bug net and rainfly. All in all? Great shelter, reasonable price tag.
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Packing a lot for its price tag, the freestanding Marmot Limelight four-person version is durable for three seasons. Fifty-six square feet gives family members some (perhaps much-needed) space, and two doors are great for those staying up to watch the stars. Setup is as quick as it can be for a tent of this size, thanks partly to color-coded clips, which is especially useful in bad weather; the weatherproof floor and full-cover rainfly to keep everyone dry. Because families pack a lot, there’s a storage loft that clips on to the roof of the tent—giving everyone enough room to spread out. The included lifetime warranty ensures this tent will stay in the family for years to come.
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