The 10 Best Two-Person Tents of 2021

Stay light and streamlined with a tent that’s just big enough

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Chloe Jeong / TripSavvy

The Rundown

Best Overall: Marmot Tungsten Two-Person Tent at Amazon

“A reasonable weight tent at a reasonable price that’s built to last.”

Best Budget Ultralight: REI Coop Half Dome SL 2+ Tent at REI

“Tried and true ultralight backpacking performance for less from REI’s house brand line.”

 Best Splurge: Big Agnes Tiger Wall Two-Person Tent at REI

“Full Dyneema construction and ultralight everything for a durable tent that weighs in at less than two pounds.”

 Best for Backpacking: Marmot Tungsten UL Two-Person Tent at Backcountry

“A great balance of ultralight yet durable materials with a simple shape that’s easy to set up.”

 Best for Winter: Black Diamond Fitzroy Tent at REI

“A purpose-built fourth-season tent made to withstand anything.”

 Best Rooftop: Smittybilt Overland Rooftop Tent at Amazon

“Comfortable, elevated sleeping for two on most roof racks for less than bigger name brands.”

 Best for High Alpine: Nemo Hornet 2 Tent at REI

“Streamlined design for exposure above treeline and a light weight to make it easier to get there.”

 Best for Car Camping: ALPS Mountaineering Meramac Two-Person Tent at Amazon

“A simple, easy-setup tent for two that favors function over weight savings.”

 Best for Four Seasons: NEMO Kunai 2 Tent at REI

“A four-season capable tent that isn’t so burly as to be overkill come summer.”

 Best for Stargazing: Kelty Dirt Motel 2P Tent at Amazon

“Full mesh overhead for unobstructed viewing plus a rain fly that can be rolled back and ready just in case.”

 Best 2-for-1: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 at REI

“A high-volume tent that pairs a smaller footprint with lots of storage and vestibule space making it great for solo campers.”

Small, two-person tents are some of the most popular on the market due to their lighter weights and convenient size for one or two people. 

As we explain below in more detail, the person capacity of a tent isn’t a standardized rating or a specific minimum dimension, so buyer beware and always read the listed footprint dimensions for a tent. Two-person tents are also popular with backpackers and thru-hikers who prize ultralight gear. The smaller size means manufacturers can push the limits in terms of minimum weights for a functional tent.

While there’s no perfect tent for everyone, we share our picks below across a number of categories to help you find the right tent for you and your camping style and budget.

Best Overall: Marmot Tungsten 2 Tent

Marmot Tungsten 2 Person Camping Tent

Courtesy of Amazon

Marmot has long been an innovator in outdoor gear (they were the first company to use Gore-Tex), but the Tungsten 2 isn’t the latest, greatest, or lightest. What it delivers is a reasonable weight (just over 5 pounds) at a reasonable price (less than $300) and a simple, proven design.

 It’s also roomy at over seven feet long and more than four feet wide, meaning you can stretch out and keep your stuff dry and accessible inside your tent. Ultralight gram-counters may want to keep looking, but the balance of durability, weight, and cost is hard to beat.

Best Splurge: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon Tent

Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon Tent

Courtesy of REI

The latest material in ultralight tents is Dyneema (sometimes called cuben fiber) and with good reason. It’s an incredibly durable material with a very high strength-to-weight ratio perfect for ultralight backpacking where everyone wants gear that’s durable but also weighs next to nothing. The use of Dyneema for the entirety of Big Agnes’ Tiger Wall tent means this entire tent including poles weighs less than two pounds.

Carbon fiber poles are employed to help shave the total down even further. As the product description (to say nothing of the price) clearly states: “These tents are not for everyone.” The downside of the ultralight materials means potential damage in transit and setup are easier and repairs can be more challenging with space-age tech. But if you want the latest and lightest and are willing to buck up for it, the Tiger Wall may scratch that itch.

Best Budget: REI Coop Half-Dome SL 2+ Tent

 REI Coop Half-Dome SL 2+ Tent

Courtesy of REI

REI has long been one of the flagship outdoor retailers and loyal customers/members have learned they can trust their house-brand products such as the long-running Half-Dome tent. The latest edition keeps pace with the push towards ultralight backpacking gear, shaving about a pound off the weight total.

It’s also generous in space despite it’s light weight: around 8 feet long and just shy of 5 feet wide it’s bigger than most 2-person tent footprints. It also has more vertical sidewalls which create more usable interior space and prevent walls from feeling tight or compressing your sleeping bags which can reduce their warmth.

Best for Winter: Black Diamond Fitzroy Tent

Black Diamond Fitzroy Tent

Courtesy of REI

If your camping season doesn’t end when the snow flies, you want an expedition-grade tent such as Black Diamond’s Fitroy expedition-grade tent. This is a fully waterproof, single-wall tent which means it’s purpose-built for winter, not just a beefed-up three-season tent.

This is a mountaineering tent meant to handle anything, so it’s not light at about 7 pounds. Still, it’s lighter than classic expedition tents like The North Face VE 25 which are about 10 pounds, so the Fitzroy is easier to strap onto your pack for long hauls into the high alpine. The proprietary ToddTex fabric is waterproof and windproof, but also breathable so it isn’t a humidity trap like traditional single-wall tents.

Best Rooftop Tent: Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent

Smittybilt Overlander Rooftop Tent

Courtesy of Walmart

Car camping takes on new meaning with the popularity of roof rack-mounted tent platforms such as the Overlander from Smittybilt. While many similar products retail for well over $2000, the Smittybilt gets that cost down to a more manageable $1000 while retaining most of the features and function of pricier models. 

The fold-out platform uses a universal mount to pair with a wide range of vehicle roof racks and comes with a high-density foam mattress built-in so setup is faster than most traditional tents. The 92x55-inch footprint is generous but it also comes in an XL version that sleeps 3-4 people.

Best for High Alpine: Nemo Hornet

NEMO Hornet 2 Tent

Courtesy of REI

Headroom in a tent is great, but sometimes a tall, voluminous tent can be a liability when you’re backpacking and camping above treeline where winds are high and protection is scarce. The Nemo Hornet 2 takes design cues from tunnel-style bivvy tents for a streamlined, low-profile shape that still leaves you some headroom on one end.

It’s also ultralight at just over two pounds total, so you don’t have to worry about it weighing you down at elevation on long treks. The rain fly keeps wind and rain at bay but if you’ve got good weather, the nearly complete mesh overhead means you can enjoy the stars while you rest up.

Best for Car Camping: ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 2 Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 3 Tent

Courtesy of Backcountry

A lot of what you pay for in backpacking tents are the design and ultralight materials. So if you’re primarily camping within a short walk of your car, there’s no much reason to pay premium prices for a decent tent. The Meramac 2 fills this niche nicely with a tent that’s simple in design and durable without being so heavy that you couldn’t take it backpacking a few miles if you wanted to at about 7.5 pounds.

The polyester rain fly resists sagging and the fiberglass poles are shock-corded for easy snap-to set-up. This tent may not last a lifetime if you’re camping several weeks a year, but for the occasional camper who doesn’t want to spend a fortune for ultralight gear they don’t need, it’s more than enough.

Best Four-Season Tent: Nemo Kunai 2 Tent

NEMO Kunai 2 Tent

Courtesy of REI

It’s hard to find a tent that’s equally at home in hot, humid summers and cold, windy summits in winter, but that’s what the Nemo Kunai 2 aspires to. The streamlined tapered shape is meant to deflect wind and shed precipitation with the help of a 15D ripstop nylon that’s coated with silicone and long-lasting water-shedding polyether urethane (PeU).

At 5 pounds, it’s not the lightest tent on the market, but it’s not trying to be, either. The lightest tents have to sacrifice something and it’s often durability and weather-resistance, making them impractical for camping in extreme weather. The Kunai tackles this head-on for folks that want to camp year-round and are looking for one tent for all four seasons.

Best Stargazing Tent: Kelty Dirt Motel Tent

Kelty Dirt Motel Tent

Courtesy of Backcountry

You want a tent to provide weather-protection, but if the forecast is clear, there’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars. If you’re not up for full-on open-air sleeping, the Kelty Dirt Motel offers a full mesh overhead canopy which allows you full view of the night sky.

Helpfully, there’s still a 40D silicone-coated nylon rain fly when you need it and an option to roll it back partially for stargazing while keeping it ready to roll back if the weather rolls in. At less than 5 pounds, it’s light enough to take deep into the backcountry where you’re assured of dark skies and bright stars.

Best for 2-for-1: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

Courtesy of REI

The HV in the name of this Big Agnes tent stands for “high volume” but this tent features a relatively small footprint which helps keep its weight to an ultralight 3 pounds. The narrow foot end of the tent is 42 inches, meaning a tight fit for two full-size sleeping pads. For this reason, we recommend the Copper Spur HV UL2 as a one-person ultralight tent with plenty of storage options.

The oversize 3D vestibule near the feet solves the problem of where to stash loose gear items in your tent and can compensate for the smaller footprint if you do put two people inside.

Final Verdict

Despite the wide variety of highly specialized and extremely light two-person tents available, it’s hard to beat the middle-of-the-road simplicity of the Marmot Tungsten Two-Person tent (view at Backcountry) as an all-around, three-season option that is light enough but still durable for regular abuses in the wilderness. If you’re more of a car camper, consider either our Roof Top pick from Smittybilt (view at Amazon) or the low-cost option from ALPS Mountaineering (view at Backcountry).

What to Look For in a Travel Tent

Materials

Most tents employ either nylon or polyester. Because it sags less when wet, polyester is generally more desirable for its taut look, though nylon is generally more durable and can be less expensive. Both need coatings (see below) to repel water.

Dyneema (sometimes “cuben fiber”) is a newer lightweight material used for it’s lightweight strength, but it is still much more expensive than nylon or polyester. Because it has issues with abrasion and requires careful handling, it’s only of interest to the most ultralight weight-shavers at this point.

Denier

Fabrics are rated by denier which is noted by a number followed by the letter D, as in 10D ripstop nylon. The lower the number, the smoother and more sheer the material. Imagine silk at the low end and canvas at the other. Since denier is also a measure of weight, you can use it to estimate how heavy a material might be.

Footprint

As stated above, the “two-person” designation is self-assigned and non-standardized, so evaluate the dimensions of the footprint. If you have two people and know the widths of your sleeping pads, ensure that there’s enough room for both side by side (ideally with a little extra). Obviously, you also want the length of the tent to exceed the height of the tallest member of your duo by a few inches at least. 

Peak Height

Peak height is another less obvious dimension to consider. Most tents give you enough room to sit up tall in, but not all. Especially if you’re taller, double-check that the peak height offers enough room to sit up and change clothes under shelter.

Packed Size

If you intend to use the tent in its intended packaging, it’s good to check the dimensions of the tent when it’s broken-down and packed-up. Some packed tents are short and squat, while others are long and cylindrical. Depending on the type of pack you use and where you prefer to store your tent in transit, some shapes and size may work better than others. For example, if you prefer to store your tent at the bottom of your frame pack like I do, a long packed tent may not fit between the sides of the pack.

FAQs

What’s the difference between freestanding and non-freestanding?

The classic tent design of a fabric stretched out against a frame of poles is what’s called a freestanding tent because it has its own support system. Non-freestanding tents generally rely on trekking poles, sticks, or some other item for their structure and as a result are usually lighter and appeal to a minimalist camper. Unless you’re an experienced backcountry camper, a freestanding tent is usually recommended since the weight savings are relatively small as freestanding tents continue to get lighter.

What’s the difference between packed weight and minimal weight or trail weight?

Minimal weight or trail weight is broadly the lightest you can get your tent setup while preserving the core functionality. This means ditching repair kits, stuff sacks, stakes, and any non-essential add-ons. Many backpackers carry individual tent items loose in their packs eliminating the need for ties and stuff sacks. Packed weight is simply the full weight of the tent and all components packed in their original storage bags.

How big is a two-person tent?

Because tent sizing isn’t standardized, this is a subjective assessment and should be viewed merely as a guideline. Always check the actual dimensions listed by the manufacturer to understand the true size of a tent. Many smaller “two-person” tents are realistic for use only by solo campers and some extra large “two-person” tents could pack in a third. Also, keep in mind that even if two people can sleep side-by-side inside, that doesn’t mean you’ll have enough room for gear storage. If a tent doesn’t have sheltered vestibule areas outside of the main sleeping footprint, you may need to look at the next size up if you intend to store gear inside.

How light is an ultralight tent?

The constant push for lighter gear means the definition of “ultralight” changes nearly annually. That said, by today’s standards, any two-person tent weighing less than 4 pounds could reasonably be called “ultralight”. The tents that take this to extremes are in the 1 to 2 pound range and likely make some durability sacrifices along the way. 

Why Trust TripSavvy?

Justin Park is a lifelong camper based in Breckenridge, Colorado. He spends several weeks in a tent each year and has camped in snow pits above 14,000 feet and on the beach in the tropics. He prefers to carry a few extra pounds for a more durable tent that he can treat roughly and count on but appreciates what the ultralight revolution has done for his pack weights over the years.

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