Best Backpacking Tent: Our Top 12 Picks 

Need a new backpacking tent? Our straight-talking buyer’s guide will help you find the kind of shelter you can count on -- whether you're going away for a weekend or heading on a longer adventure in the wilds.

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Best Tents For Backpacking: Our Top 12

Looking For The Best Lightweight Tent for Backpacking?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Why you need a backpacking tent
    • What you should consider when buying ultralight tents
    • Reviews of our 12 best backpacking tents
    • Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 backpacking tent

Want to make your camping trips in the backcountry as safe, comfortable, and convenient as can be? If so, it’s time to ditch your regular car-camping tent and invest in something that’s custom-made for the rigors and specific demands of life on the open trail.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to 12 awesome tents that fit that description to a ‘T’. We’ll also provide you with all the info you need to choose the best backpacking tent for your future adventures and point out the ideal picks for different types of backpackers.

Whether it’s an ultralight tent for the gram-counting minimalist or a four-season bomb shelter for all-weather warriors, our list has it all!

Best Backpacking Tent by Category

Budget: REI Passage 2, REI Trail Hut 4, REI Half Dome SL 2+
Ultralight: ZPacks Duplex & Triplex, NEMO Hornet 2, REI Quarter Dome, Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
Livability: REI Trail Hut 4, REI Half Dome SL 2+, Nemo Dagger

Editor’s Choice

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Backpacking Tent, 2 Person (Orange)

The Copper Spur HV UL2 is one of the most popular tents for backpacking on the market and it’s not hard to see why. It lies in that sweet spot between livability, weather protection, and low weight, making it perfect for any adventurer who wants a little more comfort while out on their trip!

With 29 square feet of sleeping space and a 39” peak height, it is comparable to its closest rivals the Sea to Summit Telos and the MSR Hubba Hubba. However, it ups the ante by the fact that it weighs only 3 lbs. and 2 oz. This makes it almost nine ounces lighter than the Sea to Summit Telos and 12 ounces lighter than the MSR Hubba Hubba.

With two door vestibules, each with 9 square feet of space, an oversized ceiling pocket, and several other interior pockets and gear loops there’s plenty of room to store your gear.

Bottom line: Roomy, lightweight, trail-worthy, and ideal for everything from weekend trips to multi-day thru-hikes.

Backpacking Tents: Quick Recommendations

  • Editor’s Choice:  Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
    “Hits the sweet spot between weight and performance, making it the most balanced backpacking tent on the market.”
  • Runner Up:  MSR Hubba Hubba 2
    “The Hubba Hubba is a close runner up to the top spot and a great pick if you want a more durable option.”
  • Best Ultralight Tent:  ZPacks Duplex & Triplex
    “The 19-ounce Zpacks Duplex shaves off weight without any significant sacrifice to comfort.”
  • Best Budget Backpacking Tent:  REI Co-op Passage 2
    “If you need a well-made, no-frills backpacking shelter at a great price, then the REI Passage is a top contender.”
  • Best Budget Ultralight:  REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2
    “A semi-freestanding, ultra-lightweight tent that retails at a lower price point than other tents in its performance class (without significantly cutting corners).”
  • Best Value:  REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+
    “A popular, well-made, and spacious tent that won’t break the bank.”
  • Best Ultralight for Livability:  NEMO Hornet 2
    “Ultralight but more spacious than a trekking-pole tent, the NEMO Hornet delivers ample livability to a sub-3-pound tent.”
  • Best Value for Living Space:  NEMO Dagger 2P
    “The most spacious of the premium backpacking tents, the Dagger offers a little more comfort (at the cost of weight) than the Hubba Hubba and Copper Spur.”
  • Most Innovative:  Sea to Summit Telos TR2
    “Great specs across the board and a load of innovative, value-adding design features.”
  • Best 4-Season:  Nemo Kunai 2P
    “If you’re looking for a tent for tougher weather conditions, this is it!”
  • Best Semi-Freestanding:  Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye
    “Lightweight, roomy, and user-friendly, the Tiger Wall is our favorite of the semi-freestanding ultralight tents.”
  • Best for Families:  REI Co-Op Trail Hut 4
    “A roomy, family-friendly shelter that has a wealth of convenience-enhancing features.”

Best Tents for Backpacking: Reviews of Our Top 12 Picks 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Editor’s Choice

Type: Freestanding  ⸱ Floor: 29 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 40” ⸱ Vestibule: 19 sq. ft. ⸱ Packaged Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 9 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm ⸱ Floor: 1200 mm ⸱ Number of doors: 2

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 is one of the most popular backpacking tents on the market and it’s not hard to see why. It is one of the few tents that manage to hit the sweet spot between livability, weather protection, and low weight.

The Copper Spur has a freestanding design with 29 square feet of sleeping space and a peak height of 40 inches. The pre-bent pole design with central hub does a good job of pulling the inner tent outwards to give you more head and shoulder space.

While these stats aren’t overly remarkable, the fact that the Copper Spur weighs only 3 lbs. and 2 ounces, making it 1 to 3 pounds lighter than all of the larger tents reviewed, makes it a standout. Its nearest (and similarly sized) competitors, the Sea to Summit Telos and MSR Hubba Hubba, are respectively 9 and 12 ounces heavier.

The Copper Spur also has a good amount of storage space, featuring two 9-square-foot vestibules outside each of the two doors, an oversized pocket in the ceiling, as well as several interior pockets and loops to attach a gear loft.

The downside to the Copper Spur is the price and the more delicate materials used on the interior. While not unusual for a premium lightweight tent, those concerned about overall durability may want to opt for the heavier but burlier MSR Hubba Hubba. Alternatively, if the price is your main concern, then check out the REI Half Dome SL 2.

Overall, the Copper Spur UL HV strikes the perfect balance between liveable space, overall weight, and features. If you’d like a little more room, be sure to check out the three-person version.

  • PROs

    • Good floor space per ounce
    • Lightweight
    • Decent headroom
    • Easy to pitch
    • Two doors and vestibules
  • CONs

    • Interior materials are delicate
    • Zippers can snag occasionally

Bottom-Line: One of few lightweight tents that manage to strike the perfect balance between weight and functionality.

MSR Hubba Hubba 2

Runner-up

Type: Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 29 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 39” ⸱ Vestibules: 17.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 8.3 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm / 20D ⸱ Floor: 1200 mm / 30D ⸱ Number of doors: 2

The MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is another popular 2-person backpacking tent in the running for our top prize due to its great ventilation and livability. What sets it apart compared to its nearest competitors, the Telos, Hornet, and the Copper Spur, is the use of stronger, more durable fabrics on the rainfly and bathtub floor.

The Hubba Hubba boasts 29 sq. ft. of floor space and a peak height of 39”. The poles are held in place by a hub design, and an added cross pole helps pull the interior mesh outwards, thus providing more headspace and a roomier feel. The overall internal space is similar to the Copper Spur, but it feels a bit smaller than the taller (43”) Telos and the Nemo Hornet (31 sq. ft./42”).

Of all the low-weight 2-person backpacking tents, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 uses the strongest fabrics – a 20D ripstop fly with PU/silicone coating and a 30D ripstop floor, meaning it can take more of a bruising than the Telos, Copper Spur, or Dagger. This ruggedness, however, contributes to it weighing 12 oz more than the Copper Spur and 3 oz more than the S2S Telos.

Ultimately, this extra weight is why we decided to award the crown to the Copper Spur HV UL2, but there is an argument to be made for the Hubba Hubba if you need a more durable option.

  • PROs

    • Great quality of build
    • Brilliant liveability
    • Better durability than the Copper Spur HV
    • Great ventilation
  • CONs

    • Heavier than the Telos and Copper Spur

Bottom-Line: A great two-person backpacking tent that only failed to scoop our top spot on account of having a heavier packed weight than the Copper Spur.

ZPacks Duplex & Triplex

Best Ultralight Tent

Type: Non-Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 30 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 48″ ⸱ Vestibules: 24 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 8 L ⸱ Rainfly: 15,000 mm ⸱ Floor: 15,000 mm ⸱ Number of doors: two

Looking for an ultralight tent that doesn’t compromise much in terms of livability, durability, and protection from the elements? If so, the Zpacks Duplex (or the three-person tent, the Triplex) is the tent for you.

This non-freestanding tent uses super-lightweight Dyneema fabrics, as well as your trekking poles, to create its A-frame shape. The result is a shelter that weighs in at a tiny 19 ounces.

The resulting structure measures 7.5’ by 4.5’, making it wide enough for two sleeping pads and long enough for even the tallest of backpackers. In addition to the 30 square feet of sleeping space, the two doors open out onto two 12 sq. ft. vestibules, one of the largest vestibule areas on our list.

Thanks to the length of your trekking poles, the Duplex has a peak height of 48”. However, the roof does slope away rapidly from the apex, making head and shoulder space limited. It also lacks the livability of tents such as our winner, the BA Copper Spur.

The non-freestanding design, and the use of trekking poles, also makes it susceptible to gusts of wind – you’re well advised to double-check your guys and tent stakes if blustery weather is approaching.

  • PROs

    • Astonishingly lightweight
    • Best interior space per ounce
    • Great in wet weather
    • Rugged for the weight
    • Awesome for backpacking trips
  • CONs

    • More difficult to pitch
    • Condensation can be an issue
    • Expensive
    • Poor wind protection

Bottom-Line: If you’re looking to shave every ounce possible by using a trekking pole tent, then the 19-ounce Zpacks Duplex is the best in the biz.

REI Co-op Passage 2

Best Budget Backpacking Tent

Type: Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 31 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 40” ⸱ Vestibules: 19 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 5 lbs. 10 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 14.7 L ⸱ Number of doors: two doors

With the Passage 2, REI once again demonstrates it has a knack for understanding what makes great outdoor gear and somehow manages to build it cheaper than the competition.

A quick search online will turn up multiple tents from smaller brands at around the same price point. However, few budget ‘backpacking tents’ have anywhere near the quality of tent poles, fabrics, and overall design as the Passage 2, leaving it to compete in a category almost entirely of its own.

The Passage 2 has 31 square feet of floor area and a peak height of 40”, making it one of the larger options. However, the lack of ridge poles does mean the mesh walls do impinge on your headspace a little. While the Hubba Hubba and Copper Spur have a smaller footprint, their near-vertical walls give the structure a roomier feel.

Ultimately, where you pay the price is not with your wallet but with the weight. At 5 lbs. and 10 oz., the Passage 2 is a heavy tent. Even divided up between two occupants, at nearly 3 lbs. per carrier, the Passage 2 is best suited for shorter backpacking trips. If you can afford to spend a little more, then the REI Half Dome SL 2 (4 lbs. 5 oz.) is a better option for heading further afield.

  • PROs

    • Simple/intuitive design
    • Durable
    • Great price
    • Nicely sized vestibules
  • CONs

    • Too heavy for long-distance backpacking?
    • Lack of ridge pole makes it feel more cramped

Bottom-Line: A slightly heavy but cheap option that still uses quality materials and performs admirably in the field.

REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2

Best Budget Ultralight

Type: Semi-Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 28.7 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 38” ⸱ Vestibules: 21.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 12.5 L ⸱ Number of doors: two doors

At less than 3 pounds, the REI Quarter Dome marks REI’s entry into the ultralight tents market with all the typical forethought you would expect from this company.

This semi-freestanding tent weighs in at 2 lbs. 14 oz. and retails at a cheaper price than its closest rivals. You get 28.7 sq. ft. of floor area and a decent amount of storage space in the form of two 10.75 sq. ft. vestibules and a variety of interior storage pockets and hang loops.

Unlike the Passage 2, the Quarter Dome uses ridge poles in its design to help stretch out the mesh walls and create more headroom. This gives it the roomiest feel of the three lightweight non-freestanding lightweight tents on our list.

The large amounts of mesh help reduce the overall weight and also make it one of the better ventilated two-person tents we’ve reviewed, meaning it’s a solid performer in hot and humid conditions.

If we’re nitpicking, then we’d have to say this is not the simplest of tents to pitch (not a major issue) and it does weigh 8 ounces more than the NEMO Hornet.

  • PROs

    • Superb price for an ultralight tent
    • Lots of mesh and roof vents give good ventilation
    • 2 doors
    • Large vestibules free up interior space
  • CONs

    • Not an easy setup
    • Durability issues with the poles

Bottom-Line: If you’re ultralighting on a budget, then the REI Quarter Dome 2 is hard to beat.

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+

Best Value

Type: Freestanding  ⸱ Floor: 33.75 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 42” ⸱ Vestibules: 22.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 4 lbs. 11.5 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 12.8 L

The REI Half Dome is a common sight across the country’s campsites. The REI Half Dome has one of the largest floor areas and its high ceiling gives it a very roomy feel, making it suitable for backpacking and car camping.

In terms of interior space, it is tough to compete with the Half Dome SL 2. The Half Dome has 33.75 square feet of space and a 42” ceiling, combined with the ridge poles, this creates a sizable sleeping area with plenty of headroom. Tacked on to this are two 10.75 sq. ft. vestibules and several interior pockets to store your gear.

Unusually for a backpacking tent, it uses 30/40D materials for its rain fly and tent floor – this is a big step up in terms of durability compared to the other best backpacking tents on our list.

At its price point it is a great value buy, but, unfortunately, this does mean compromises. Mostly in the form of its overall packaged weight standing at 4 lbs. and 11.5 oz., making it over 1.5 pounds heavier than our leader the Copper Spur and a pound heavier than the similar MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2.

We should point out that this is still a pound lighter than REI’s budget tent entry, the Passage. While heavy, it’s still a haulable load over shorter trips, particularly for two people.

  • PROs

    • Largest interior space
    • Length & peak height make a good choice for taller folks
    • Great price
  • CONs

    • Heavy and bulky
    • Susceptible to high winds

Bottom-Line: The Half Dome SL2 is a good quality 2-person backpacking tent that offers the most interior space of any option on our list, and is nearly a pound lighter than the REI Passage.

NEMO Hornet 2

Best Ultralight for Livability

Type: Semi-Freestanding ⸱ Floor area: 27.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 39” ⸱ Vestibules: 14.2 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 6 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 7.5 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm / 10D ⸱ Floor: 1200 mm / 15D

Looking for a lightweight backpacking tent that doesn’t skimp on livability? Thanks to its use of two ridge poles, near-vertical walls, and large vestibule that frees up room inside, the Nemo Hornet 2 is just that kinda tent.

At 2 lbs. and 6 oz., the Hornet is the lightest of the semi-freestanding tents on our list. Nevertheless, it has plenty of great features and is a solid option for backpacking couples or solo backpackers who want a little more space.

One of the cooler, and more thoughtful features we’ve seen is the use of mixed-color mesh. This gives the sidewalls a modicum of privacy (using white mesh), while the black-colored mesh in the ceiling allows less obstructed views of the stars.

While you can fit two regular-sized rectangular sleeping pads in (just), the Hornet can feel a little cramped for two. The floor tapers towards the feet, thus removing the possibility of sleeping top-to-tail with your partner, so broad-shouldered sleepers could quickly become very cozy.

While not hugely larger, the Tiger Wall and the REI Quarter Dome do give you a little more space across the head end of the tent. The slightly larger Tiger Wall also has more storage space for gear.

  • PROs

    • Lightweight tent
    • Great packed size
    • Mixed color mesh for privacy/stargazing
    • Nicely sized vestibules
  • CONs

    • Tight squeeze for two
    • Partial coverage rainfly
    • Thin materials

Bottom-Line: The NEMO Hornet 2 is one of the lightest tents we reviewed and an excellent choice for ultralight backpackers who want a little more headspace than trekking pole tents provide or intend on using it as a one-person tent.

NEMO Dagger 2P

Best Value for Living Space

Type: Freestanding ⸱ Floor area: 31.3 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 42” ⸱ Vestibules: 22.8 sq. ft. ⸱ Packaged weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 10.5 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm / 15D ⸱ Floor: 3000 mm / 30D

The NEMO Dagger is a freestanding tent that offers the most liveable space of any of the two-person tents on our list with the exception of the (heavier) REI Half Dome.

With a floor area of 31.3 square feet, steep walls, and a peak height of 42”, this is one of the best backpacking tents for interior space, boasting a roomier feel than near competitors like the MSR Hubba Hubba, Sea to Summit Telos, and the BA Copper Spur. The only model that is larger in our review is the Half Dome SL 2, but this also weighs nearly a pound more.

The downside to the larger interior space, is, of course, total packaged weight. While roomier than its nearest competitors, the Dagger is 4 ounces heavier than the Telos and 12 ounces heavier than the Copper Spur.

  • PROs

    • Easy to pitch
    • Spacious interior
    • Dual colored mesh for privacy/stargazing
    • Nice peak height
  • CONs

    • Poor ventilation with fly on
    • Fly doesn’t give full coverage

Bottom-Line: The NEMO Dagger is a premium model that offers more liveable space at a lower price than the Hubba Hubba and the Copper Spur UL2.

Sea to Summit Telos TR2

Most Innovative

Type: Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 28 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 43.5” ⸱ Vestibules: 19.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 6.3 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm / 15D ⸱ Floor: 1500 mm / 20D

The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 is a relative newcomer to the market, and Sea to Summit has really put some thought into this one! Using some of the coolest and most innovative features we’ve seen, they have created a backpacking tent with great livability.

Sitting in a crowded field with tents like the Copper Spur, Dagger, and Hubba Hubba, the Telos doesn’t particularly stand out in any one area. It has a comparable liveable area to the Hubba Hubba and Copper Spur, but a taller peak height, and is smaller than the NEMO Dagger. It’s a similar story for storage space, with the Dagger leading the way.

When it comes to packaged weight, it’s some way off the pacesetter, the Copper Spur, weighing half a pound more (3 lbs. 10 oz.). It does, however, have a slightly smaller packed volume than the nearest competitors.

And what about those features? You can transform the Telos into a semi-open communal shelter by using your trekking poles and it also uses unique “Tension Ridge” architecture that helps to boost interior space and increase door height. The floor and roof vents can also be used to oust hot air and condensation, even when it’s raining.

So why include this tent? The Telos is, in our opinion, an exciting option. While it doesn’t win any category outright, it scores highly enough to keep it in the running and make it a good alternative to the niche’s established top dogs.

  • PROs

    • Great ventilation
    • Steep walls and tall apex give lots of headspace
    • Innovative features
    • Converts into semi-open shelter
  • CONs

    • Pricey
    • Heavier than the Copper Spur

Bottom-Line: The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 is an innovative two-person backpacking tent with great liveability and some cool features.

Nemo Kunai 2P

Best 4-Season

Type: Semi-Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 27.6 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 42.2” ⸱ Vestibules: 6.8 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 4 lbs. 5 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 6.4 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm / 15D ⸱ Floor: 3000 mm / 30D

If you’re an all-weather warrior or like to do your backpacking in the cooler months of the year, the Nemo Kunai is a shoo-in for your shortlist.

All of the tents above and below fall into the three-season category, but the Kunai is designed for backpacking trips deep into the shoulder season or in winter. While it’s overkill for summer camping, however, its large mesh windows mean you could get away with using it even in later spring or early fall.

The Nemo is among the most weatherproof tents on our list. It uses a 1500mm fly, 3000mm floor, and boasts an aggressive DAC pole structure that makes it a standout performer in strong winds.

This isn’t the roomiest 2-person tent we reviewed (27.6 sq. ft.) and has only 6.8 sq. ft. of vestibule space. However, it’s worth noting that smaller tents are warmer tents (there’s less space for your body to heat), so its smaller dimensions are more likely to be a blessing than a blight if you’re winter camping.

Because the Kunai weighs significantly more than the REI Quarter Dome, Hubba Hubba, and Copper Spur, and is less livable than all three, we only recommend it if cold-weather camping’s your jam.

  • PROs

    • Ideal for harsh weather conditions
    • Large vestibule for extra gear
    • Very durable
    • Stable in strong winds
  • CONs

    • Quite heavy
    • Expensive
    • Overkill for summer camping
    • Fiddly stuff sack

Bottom-Line: A great backpacking tent for unpredictable weather above the treeline or deep into the shoulder season. The only winter tent on our list.

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye (*ONLY 1 & 3 available)

Best Semi-Freestanding

Type: Semi-Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 28 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 39” ⸱ Vestibules: 16 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz. ⸱ Packed Size: 7 L ⸱ Rainfly: 1200 mm ⸱ Floor: 1200 mm / 15D

In the battle of the ultralight semi-freestanding tents, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL is our favorite due to its sizeable floor area, headspace, and gear storage options.

Going ultralightweight doesn’t necessarily mean being crammed in like a sardine. At 28 square feet of sleeping area and 16 square feet of storage space, the Tiger Wall beats out its nearest rival the Hornet by a few square feet. While this doesn’t sound like much, a 6% increase in space in an ultralight tent can really make the difference in terms of comfort.

At 2 lbs. and 8 ounces, it is one of the lighter tents we reviewed, only bested by the Zpacks Duplex (19 ounces) and the Nemo Hornet (2 lbs. 6 ounces) in our review.

Like most ultralight shelters, the low packaged weight does mean thinner, less durable materials. The designers also went a little overboard on shaving weight from the fly as there is only a little overlap between the fly and the bathtub floor. If the wind is blowing the rain in from the side, then you may find some of the wet stuff entering your tent.

At present, the Tiger Wall 2 is unavailable from most retailers. Until that changes, the Tiger Wall 1 and Tiger Wall 3 are worth checking out.

  • PROs

    • Roomiest sub-3-pound option
    • One of the lighter tents in our review
    • Roomy vestibules
  • CONs

    • Minimal clearance between bathtub floor and rainfly
    • Less durability of thin materials

Bottom-Line: The Tiger Wall UL2 is slightly roomier and offers more storage space than the NEMO Hornet, but it’s also a couple of ounces heavier.

REI Co-Op Trail Hut 4

Best for Families

Type: Freestanding ⸱ Floor: 55 sq. ft. ⸱ Height: 48” ⸱ Vestibules: 15.5 sq. ft. ⸱ Weight: 8 lbs. 1.6 oz.

If you’re a backpacking family, it can be tricky finding a tent that’s light and large enough to accommodate all of your clan on backcountry adventures. Luckily, the REI Trail Hut 4 fits the bill.

The Trail Hut 4 offers 55 sq. ft. of floor space and 15.5 sq. ft. of vestibule space, making it large enough for two adults and two kids, or two adults and three smaller kids at a push.

At 8 lbs. and 1.5 oz., it’s not the lightest four-person tent out there, but it’s far more livable than the closest competition due to a ridge pole that extends headroom, double doors, and those roomy vestibules.

A few features make the Trail Hut more family-friendly than other 4-person tents. The most important of these are its two large, D-shaped doors for easy entry and exit, the ability of the vestibule doors to roll up for sky views, the abundance of internal pockets, and the option of creating awnings by pitching out the fly doors (greaton rainy days!).

  • PROs

    • Big enough for four sleepers
    • Great peak height
    • Two doors
    • Fairly priced
  • CONs

    • Quite heavy

Bottom-Line: One of very few good family backpacking tents – and at a great price, too.

Critical Considerations When Choosing a Backpacking Tent

Weight & Packed Size

As a self-reliant backpacker, you’re going to be carrying your shelter on your back wherever you go. While modern designs are getting lighter and lighter, you shouldn’t instantly opt for the lightest tent within your budget. The reduction in weight often comes at a cost to overall livability, durability, and/or weather resistance, not to mention a higher price tag. 

While we’re all for lightweight tents, you should pick one that matches your own needs, expectations, and preferences. We are backpackers, after all, primarily because we enjoy the experience of backpacking. The bottom line: finding the right balance between weight savings and functionality is critical.

Zpacks Duplex in Sweden
The Zpacks Duplex, seen here adventuring in Sweden, is the lightest tent on our list at an incredible 19 ounces. (Photo by Oskar Karlin / CC BY-SA 2.0)

For the majority of backpackers, the best balance between livability and weight tends to be in the 3 to 4.5-pound window. Some of our favorite tents such as our top pick, the Big Agnes Copper Spur, as well as the MSR Hubba Hubba 2, and the Sea to Summit Telos TR2 all sit in this range.

Above 4.5 pounds you have budget backpacking tents like the REI Passage, the heaviest 2-person tent in our review at 5 lbs. 10 oz., or the REI Half Dome (which is only just above this threshold). These tents are best suited for car campers who also head out on the occasional short backpacking trip.

RELATED: Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag

Above the 4.5 pound mark, there is also a second category, which is the 3.5 to four-season tents like the Nemo Kunai that are designed for tougher weather conditions. These tents are best suited for colder fall or winter weather outings, or trips above the treeline.

Tents under 3 pounds tend to use lighter, less durable fabrics and make compromises on interior space. These tents also tend to be semi- or non-freestanding, making them more of a challenge to pitch. 

We’d highly recommend that first-time backpackers avoid using an ultralight backpacking tent on their first few outings. Once you’ve cut your teeth, however, then choosing an ultralight backpacking tent is one of the largest weight savings you can make.

Backpacking tent pitched in the Alps
An ultralight tent is the biggest weight saving you can make as a backpacker.

Packaged Weight Vs. Minimum Trail Weight

A quick word on packaged weight vs minimum trail weight. Manufacturers like to show both and often boast about the minimum trail weight. 

The minimum weight is defined as the weight of the tent body, rainfly, and poles (no stakes, guylines, or stuff sacks). The packed weight is everything the tent comes with (which may or may not include a tent footprint) or the entire tent package.

While you can switch out the stakes, guylines, and stuff sacks for lighter aftermarket ones, you’re unlikely to go backpacking without all of them so we always list the packaged weight where appropriate.

Interior Space

Tents for backpacking are not known for being spacious and will sacrifice a lot of interior space and liveability to reduce weight, particularly in comparison to heavier car camping tents. 

Sleeping bags inside a two man tent
Interior Space can become a precious commodity in backpacking tents!

However, that doesn’t mean you need to be sandwiched in like a sardine with all your gear. How much room you will need will depend on:

  • Whether you’re camping solo or with a partner
  • How much gear you have
  • Your physical stature
  • Whether you can handle coffin-like confines or you’d prefer a little room to sit up and move around

Floor Dimensions & Floor Space

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that tents are often tighter-fitting than their marketed capacity rating, but how much space does the average backpacker need? 

Knowing that a regular-size backpacking sleeping pad is normally 72″ x 20″ (L x W) equates to around 10 square feet of space helps. However, this doesn’t account for things like the gear you’d want to bring into the tent and little room for some tossing and turning or stretching of your arms.

We personally find anything below 14.5-15 square feet per person things begin to get too cramped. This is particularly true if you intend or need to hunker down in your shelter for hours due to passing rainstorms.

However, we don’t discount tents below this figure – if you travel fast and light with little gear, or only intend to use your shelter for sleep, then the extra “comfort” space may seem an unnecessary luxury.

Backpackers hiking with large backpacks
Is the extra space worth it? Depends how much you and your group are willing to carry.

The bulk of the tents we reviewed fall between the Sea to Summit Alto TR at 27 sq. ft. and the REI Half Dome SL with its ‘palatial’ 33.75 sq. ft. Our top pick, the Big Agnes Copper Spur sits in the middle with a tight, but comfortable 14.5 sq. ft. per person (for the 2-person version of the tent). The main exception is the 4-person REI Trail Hut (55 sq. ft.).

Don’t forget to look at the actual length and width of the structure. Many tents like the NEMO Hornet or the BA Tiger Wall shave off weight by tapering down to 42-43″ wide towards the foot end. For many, this may not be a problem, but if you intend to use one (or more) wide sleeping pads you may find they won’t fit next to each other.

Peak Height and Wall Slope

Also affecting interior space and general liveability are the peak height and the slope of the tent walls. A tent with a smaller floor space may “feel” bigger than a larger option if it is taller and its walls are near-vertical.

Peak height is simply the tallest point or apex of the structure, typically where the poles cross in the middle. There is no “right” peak height, but taller campers may want to opt for a taller structure if they intend to spend time sitting upright. 

A peak height of 39 – 43″ is pretty typical for most backpacking tents, although the Zpacks Duplex is an outlier thanks to the use of two trekking poles to create its frame, and is the tallest in our review at 48″ (just remember and A-frame design loses height away from center). 

Big Agnes Copper Spur tent pitched in a forest
The pole design of the Big Agnes Copper Spur does a good job of pulling the inner mesh outwards, increasing shoulder space. Seen here in Frontenac State Park, Minnesota. (Photo by Tony Webster / CC BY 2.0)

Peak height only tells us one part of the story, if the walls of the tent body slope significantly, then much of the floor space is unusable if you want to sit upright. Many premium designs like the MSR Hubba Hubba NX or the Big Agnes Copper Spur stretch the walls outward and make them near-vertical by using more advanced design features like pre-bent poles and ridge poles.

Ultralight backpacking tents like the Zpacks Duplex, and budget tents like the REI Passage, will often use simplified pole structures that result in a sharper slope and less interior space.

Doors

Often overlooked is the number of doors a tent has. If you’re traveling solo this isn’t much of an issue. However, if you’ve ever partnered up in a two-person tent with only a single door, those nighttime pee breaks can be a pain as you clamber over your sleeping companion and your gear.

If you’re traveling in pairs, then we strongly recommend finding a tent with two doors. The only tent in our review that has a single door is the Nemo Kunai 2. However, this option gets some slack as the door is located at the head of the tent meaning no crawling over your fellow campers to get out.

Weather Protection

Whenever bad weather strikes your rainfly is your first defense, protecting you from precipitation, wind, and cold air. All the rainflys in our backpacking tent reviews have a DWR waterproof coating, are seam-sealed, and can hold up for hours without leaking.

Water beading on material surface due to DWR treatment
A DWR coating on the tent fabric will help water to bead up on the surface rather than soak through.

The water resistance of a rainfly is measured in millimeters of hydrostatic head – basically, the amount of water that can sit on the fabric before the downward pressure forces liquid through. Unless you plan to backpack in very arid conditions we’d never recommend a rainfly with less than a 1000mm rating – the higher the rating the more resistant it’ll be to the wet stuff.

If wet weather is on the cards, we’d always recommend a full-coverage rainfly. Partial rainflys, while great for ventilation, may also allow rain to enter your shelter when the wind happens to be blowing in the right direction. Tents with deeper bathtub tent floors (less mesh), and extra guy-out points are great for wetter or more exposed trips.

A tent’s shape, structure, and pole materials will all greatly influence its capabilities in windy and stormy conditions. Dome-shaped tents like the Hubba Hubba have fewer flat surfaces, making them more aerodynamic. This aerodynamic shape assists in pushing the wind around the structure, helping them handle stronger winds over A-frame tents like the Zpacks Duplex.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX pitched in forest
Dome shaped tents like the MSR Hubba Hubba create less wind resistance. (Photo by Madison Dragna / CC BY 2.0)

When it comes to tent poles, most backpacking tents opt for aluminum poles due to their strength and low weight compared to fiberglass or steel. As most tents use similar types and thickness of aluminum poles, the pole structure will mostly determine the level of weather resistance, with non-freestanding options being less able to weather a storm.

RELATED: Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

Lastly, to a lesser extent, the number of guy-out points and the quality of the tent pegs will play a role – although, we find that buying aftermarket tent stakes for your tent is usually a good (and cheap) investment.

Wall Construction & Ventilation

Ventilation plays a key role in keeping you comfortable in both warm and cold conditions. How well your tent ventilates will depend on whether it’s a single- or double-wall tent, the rainfly design and waterproofing, and the efficiency of its vents. 

Mesh vents in the roof of a tent
Ventilation is key for keeping the dreaded condensation at bay.

In wet and cold conditions, interior condensation is an eternal struggle, particularly when using single-wall tents. While many backpacking tents are double-walled, some budget shelters only use a single-wall design – we’d recommend using double-wall tents unless you backpack in arid, dry climates.

With double-wall tents, the inner body will be composed of a combination of solid nylon and mesh. As a general rule of thumb, the more mesh there is, the better the inner tent will breathe.

The waterproof coatings on a tent rainfly will restrict ventilation, meaning moisture and warm air get trapped inside. To help with air circulation, roof vents in the rainfly will allow warm, moist air to escape. The placement and design of the vent will determine how efficient it is at achieving this.

Pro-Tip: If you expect to do a lot of stargazing during your backpacking trip, choose an inner tent with black mesh – it’s easier to see through than colored mesh.

Tents like the Sea to Summit Telos also feature a low vent to provide better air circulation. Cooler fresh air will be introduced through the ground vent and push the warmer air up and out of the roof vents. 

There is also a case to be made here for tents that have a partial (or cut-away) rainfly – the reduction in coverage should aid with airflow, although be aware that this will also reduce your protection from the weather.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX exoskeleton
MSRs Hubba Hubba getting some mountain fresh air with it’s rain fly off. (Photo by Trailspotter / CC BY 2.0)

On particularly warm days, removing the rainfly will provide the best airflow. Some models such as the REI Passage are designed to allow you to roll back and tie off the rainfly rather than completely removing it. This small design feature will help you to quickly get the fly back on again if a sudden shower strikes.

Durability

When it comes to tent fabrics, the “denier” often listed by the manufacturer is a measurement of the yarn’s weight. While construction and material quality come into play, generally the lower the denier, the thinner the fabric is, and the more susceptible it is to tears and punctures.

Most tents will list the thickness of the tent floor, canopy, and rainfly. Of these, the tent’s floor is the most vulnerable to punctures or tears, which is why we would always recommend checking your campsite for rocks or sharp sticks before you start your pitch. A tent footprint will also provide additional protection.

Woman laying out tent tarp footprint
An additional tent footprint will help protect your tent base from the ground underneath.

Some of the higher-end tents like the Big Agnes Copper Spur have a silicone coating applied to the fabric to add extra strength but without significant weight increase. However, as you may suspect, these treatments do come with a higher price tag.

Overall, the lighter the tent, the less durable or tear-resistant the materials will be. However, with proper care and attention, all of the tents we have reviewed should last for thousands of miles out on the trail.

Ease of Setup

With the evolution of backpacking tents, most modern tents can be assembled in a matter of minutes. Improved design features such as using clips to attach the tent body to the pole structure, color-coded poles, and pole hubs at the apex have resulted in faster (and less frustrating) pitches.

Freestanding tents that will hold their shape once the poles are attached to the tent body are the easiest to set up. Layout your footprint/tent floor, stake out the corners, connect the poles, and fasten the tent body. With freestanding tents, attaching the rainfly is often the trickiest part.

Tent pitched beside a river
Freestanding tents maintain their structure via the pole system attached to the tent fabric.

With fewer pole sections, in order to create a rigid frame, semi-freestanding or non-freestanding tents need to be staked out. This does mean they can be more difficult to set up, requiring some practice to become proficient. Hilleberg tents’ unique designs can make for several frustrating first attempts at pitching.

While a freestanding tent is easier to set up and can be moved once you’ve attached the tent body to the poles, they are heavier compared to non-freestanding or semi-freestanding models.

Whether you choose a non-freestanding or freestanding model, it is always wise to practice setting up the tent at home first. This allows you to not only check you have all the parts but also means you won’t be consulting the manual in a rainstorm during your first pitch in the backcountry.

Gear Storage: Vestibules and Interior Pockets

For most backpackers, storage isn’t a priority when choosing a tent, but it can help sway a tight decision between two similarly matched models. When it comes to storing your gear there are two main types of storage: interior and exterior. 

Interior storage will take the form of either mesh pockets or a gear loft, which are useful for stowing small but useful bits of kit like maps, headlamps, and extra clothing.

Inner stash pockets
Vestibules, gear lofts and inner stash pockets can help store your gear and give you a little more sleeping space. ©My Open Country®

Exterior storage takes the form of either entry door vestibules or gear closets. Without a vestibule, you’re left with the decision to either bring your dirty gear inside with you or leave it outside exposed to the elements. Thankfully, all the tents in our review have vestibules, but the amount of vestibule space can vary significantly. 

The smallest vestibules in our review belong to the NEMO Kunai, which at 6.8 square feet had just enough space for a couple of backpacks and hiking footwear. The Nemo Dagger, REI Half Dome, and Zpacks tents all have over 20 square feet, giving you plenty of room for all that extra gear.

Best Tent for Backpacking: The Verdict

Ready for a quick roundup of our top picks? Let’s do it.

Our favorite backpacking on the market is the Big Agnes Copper Spur, though the MSR Hubba Hubba provided stiff competition. Both are great backpacking tents and perform well across the board, but the Copper Spur just edged it on account of its lower weight. 

If you’re on a tighter budget, you can’t go wrong with the REI Passage 2. While a little heavier than the competition, the Passage 2 ticks every other box and is a steal at the price.

If you liked our article, let us know in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share it with your friends, share away!

Last update on 2022-10-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Brian has been an avid hiker and backpacker since he was a small kid, often being taken out into the wilderness on trips with his father. His dad knew everything about nature and the wilderness (or at least that's how it seemed to a ten year old Brian).

After high school, he went to university to read for both a BS and MS in Geology (primarily so he could spend his time outside rather than in a classroom). He's now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked or mapped on five continents (still need to bag Antarctica) & 30 of the US states.

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