10 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

Packing a top-notch tent is one of the best ways to increase comfort, safety, and enjoyment on backcountry trips. But when you’re in the market for a new tent, you’ll quickly find there are A LOT of options out there. Trying to find the best tent to fit your needs can quickly become overwhelming.

That’s why we put together this list of the best backpacking tents on the market. We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and testing to narrow this list down to the very best of the best. We’ve heavily factored characteristics like weight, cost, interior space, durability, and weather protection into our choices. We hope this post helps you find the perfect backpacking tent for keeping warm, dry, and protected in the wilderness for many years to come.

For more of our favorite gear recommendations, have a look through these popular CleverHiker Gear Guide links:

CRITICAL TENT CONSIDERATIONS

PRICE - You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get a great backpacking tent. That’s why this list contains an array solid options in a variety of price ranges. If you backpack a lot, it probably makes sense to spend more for a quality product that will get many years of use. If you're on a limited budget, you may want to check out our budget backpacking tent recommendations, but they do tend to be much heavier. 

WEIGHT - A few ounces here and there might not seem like a big deal, but keeping weight down is critical for enjoying backpacking trips. Lightweight tents make hiking more fun, and that’s what it’s all about. Your tent will be one of the four heaviest items on your back (shelter, backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad), so it’s a great place to keep weight to a minimum. The tents we recommend on this list represent the best blend between weight, comfort, and convenience, but if you're willing to make sacrifices to go even lighter, check out our favorite ultralight tarps and tents

PROTECTION - A backpacking tent that doesn’t protect against the elements is worse than worthless, it’s dangerous. So be careful about extreme budget tents you'll find elsewhere. Every tent on this list will provide excellent storm protection to keep you safe, dry, and warm.

INTERIOR SPACE - Backpacking tents keep weight to a minimum by limiting interior space (and thus, use less material). Most two-person tents have room for two sleepers and a few stuff sacks, with backpacks and extra gear stored in the vestibules. If you want more interior space for camping comfort, you may want to bump up one size in tents (for example, buy a 3-person tent to fit 2 hikers). Just remember, interior tent space is a tradeoff between comfort and weight. If you prefer hiking light and crushing miles, stick with a 2-person model for two hikers. If you’re willing to carry more weight for camping comfort, you may want to bump up one tent size.

CAPACITY - 1-Person tents are great for dedicated solo hikers looking to travel fast and light. 2-Person tents tend to be the most popular, because they strike a good balance between weight and interior space, just don't expect the interior to be palatial. 3 & 4-Person tents tend to get crowded and impractical, though they can be a good fit for 2 or 3 hikers wanting more interior space for gear storage and extended hangouts.

SEASON RATING - 3-season shelters are the most popular backpacking tents and the style we're focusing on in this guide. They're built for spring, summer, and fall trips where you’ll need to keep bad weather out while promoting ventilation, which helps keep interior condensation to a minimum. 3-Season tents can usually handle a little snow, but they’re not made for heavy snow and winter conditions.

DESIGN - A single design flaw can easily ruin an otherwise solid backpacking tent. Great tents keep design elements simple and include multiple doors, adequate vestibule space, lots of headroom, air vents to reduce condensation, and interior pockets for gear storage.

SETUP - Freestanding tents are generally preferable because they’re easier to use and quicker to pitch. They come with a fixed pole system that can be set up almost anywhere, even on solid rock. Non-freestanding tents use stakes, guylines, and trekking poles for pitching. They save weight by cutting out tent poles, but require more time and space to pitch, and will take more practice to master.

WALL CONSTRUCTION - Double-wall tents come with two separate parts - a mesh tent body and a rainfly. The mesh inner-tent acts as a barrier from condensation that forms on the inside of the rainfly. Single-wall tents reduce weight by ditching the mesh inner-tent, but that leaves hikers vulnerable to interior condensation in wet/cold conditions. Rubbing up against a wet tent interior is the pits, so that's why we mostly recommend double-wall tents, unless you usually backpack in arid, dry climates. For ultralight hikers open to the idea of single-wall shelters, have a look at our ultralight tarp and tent recommendations.

DOORS & VESTIBULES - If you plan on sleeping two people in your tent, it's more comfortable to have two doors and two vestibules. Having separate entrances will ensure that you’re not climbing over a tentmate and two sets of gear every time you want to get in or out of your tent. That’s a huge benefit, and it's why almost all of our tent recommendations have two doors and vestibules.

DURABILITY - The main trade-off with lightweight tents is that they're built using thinner materials, which tend to be less durable than heavy-duty shelters. That said, ultralight tents will literally last for thousands of miles if treated with care. It's also important to remember that a sharp stick or rock will puncture just about any kind of tent fabric. If you're tough on gear and don't want to deal with lightweight materials, we recommend choosing one of our heavier recommendations built for durability. For our personal use, we think lightweight tents are well worth the tradeoff.

FOOTPRINT - Most tents don’t come with a footprint these days and many lightweight backpackers view them as unnecessary. The main benefit of a footprint is adding durability to the floor of your tent. A footprint will protect your tent floor from abrasion, so it will last longer and need fewer repairs. If you’re willing to carry some extra weight to extend the life of your tent, consider picking up a footprint sized specifically for your tent.

BUYING ONLINE - Check the seller's return policy, but you can almost always return an unused tent within a certain time frame after purchasing. We recommend buying your top choice, testing it at home, and returning or exchanging if it doesn’t work out. We’ve been buying lightweight tents online for years and we’ve yet to have a single problem.

10 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 2lb 12oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 88 x 52/42 x 40in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, 3P & 4P

BEST FOR: Ultralight Quality, Features & Interior Space

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 has an exceptional blend of weight, interior space, and functionality. It’s light enough to disappear in your pack, but roomy enough to wait out a prolonged storm without going stir crazy. It has great features for maximizing comfort - freestanding, double-wall, near-vertical sidewalls, two large doors/vestibules, interior pockets - and it's still somehow under 3lb. For freestanding tents in this weight class, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option.

MORE: Here’s our full review of the Copper Spur HV UL2. The Copper Spur HV comes UL1, UL2, UL3, and UL4 sizes (links above). We’re partial to the UL2 and UL3 sizes, but the UL1 and UL4 are great as well. Pick up the UL2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 3lb 7oz

DIMENSIONS: (L x W x H): 84 x 50 x 39in

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, 3P & 4P

BEST FOR: Lightweight Livability, Convenience, Durability & Protection

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX has been one of the most popular tents in the backpacking world for many years, and with good reason. It's a well designed, roomy, and durable tent that provides excellent protection in windy, wet weather. The symmetrical layout and near vertical sidewalls on the Hubba Hubba provide a lot of interior space for two hikers to sit up and hang out. Our two main complaints with the Hubba Hubba are that it’s a tad heavier than we would prefer, though not bad when split between two hikers, and the walls feel a bit close to the face while lying down. Overall, the Hubba Hubba ranks squarely among the best backpacking tents for dependable protection and comfort.

MORE: Here's our full review of the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. It comes in 1P, 2P, 3P, and 4P sizes (links above). The 2P Hubba Hubba is our favorite in the family, but all sizes are solid. Pick up the Hubba Hubba footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 1lb 5oz (poles not included)

DIMENSIONS: (L x W x H): 90 x 45 x 48in

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Single-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Non-Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 1P Tall, 2P & 3P

BEST FOR: Ultralight, Long-Distance Thru-Hiking

The ZPacks Duplex is one of our all-time favorite ultralight tents for thru-hiking and serious long-distance adventures. This tent provides a good amount of interior space, livability, and weather protection at a freakishly light weight. The DCF fabric of the Duplex is ridiculously light, fully waterproof, and won’t sag when wet like most silnylon tents. That said, the Duplex does have some downsides. It’s a non-freestanding tent, so it takes longer to set up, requires creativity on rocky terrain, and takes practice to master. Also, it’s a single-wall shelter, so you’ll have to manage interior condensation in cold/wet weather, which can sometimes be a drag. Also, the unique fabric of this tent makes it very expensive, but if you plan on living out of it on a thru-hike, we think it’s totally worth it. All things considered, the ZPacks Duplex is an exceptional choice for serious ultralight backpackers willing to forgo a few camp comforts for an extremely light pack.

MORE: ZPacks offers this tent in 1P, 1P Tall, 2P & 3P sizes (links above). We’re partial to the 2P Duplex, but the 3P Triplex could be a good option for couples wanting a bit more space.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 2lb 3oz

DIMENSIONS: (L x W x H): 86 x 52/42 x 39in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Semi-freestanding

SIZES: 2P & 3P

BEST FOR: Ultralight Interior Space

Big Agnes' new Tiger Wall UL2 delivers a lot of interior space in an ultralight package. The Tiger Wall is a combination of two popular BA tents, with a shape that’s similar to the Copper Spur, but much lighter, and a pole structure that’s similar to the Fly Creek, but with more interior space. One downside with the Tiger Wall is its semi-freestanding design, which requires two stakes at the foot of the tent for a full pitch. This type of design is less convenient on rocky terrain, may sag a bit in cold/wet weather, and won’t hold up quite as well in heavy winds. That said, for a few small drawbacks, the new Tiger Wall UL2 has a lot to love, and we look forward to testing ours more on the trail this year.

MORE: Here's our full review of the Tiger Wall UL2. The Tiger Wall comes in 2P and 3P sizes (links above). Pick up the Tiger Wall UL2 Footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 3lb 5oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 90 x 50 x 42in

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 2P & 3P

BEST FOR: Lightweight Livability, Comfort & Convenience

The NEMO Dagger 2P is big on livability, but doesn't take on too much weight to get there. Like the MSR Hubba Hubba, the Dagger has a rectangular floor and symmetrical ceiling, which increases elbow room and usable interior space. The Dagger also has two huge vestibules with lots of room for gear storage, though two tent stakes are required for each vestibule. Our main qualm with the Dagger is that we wish it had more ventilation for condensation management, but it's not a dealbreaker. So if you’re looking for lightweight livability in a convenient design, the NEMO Dagger 2p is a great choice.

MORE: The Dagger comes in 2P and 3P sizes (links above), and both are solid choices. Pick up the Dagger 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 3lb 5oz

DIMENSIONS: (L x W x H): 88 x 52/42 x 42in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, 3P & Hammock

BEST FOR: Lightweight Budget, Features & Interior Space

The redesigned REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is a feature-loaded lightweight tent that comes at a reasonable price. It has a comparable layout to the best-in-class BA Copper Spur HV UL2, but it's easier on the wallet. In addition, we like that the large top vent can be accessed from inside the tent in nasty weather and the spacious side vestibules have lots of room for gear storage (but require two tent stakes on each side). So if you’re on a budget but you still want an ultralight shelter with all the bells and whistles, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is a solid choice.

MORE: The Quarter Dome comes in 1P, 2P, 3P & Hammock sizes (links above). Pick up the QD 2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 3lb 4oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 88 x 54/46 x 42in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 2P & 3P

BEST FOR: Lightweight Budget & Interior Space

The Marmot Tungsten 2P UL strikes a great balance between weight, cost, and livability. It has a similar floorplan to the Copper Spur HV UL2 and Quarter Dome 2, but comes at a lower cost. We like that its polyester rainfly doesn't sag in wet/cold weather and it’s door zippers open easily with one hand. Our main complaint with the Tungsten is that it’s two side vestibules aren’t symmetrical (one is larger than the other for some reason). Still, for its weight, cost, and interior space, the Marmot Tungsten 2P UL squarely ranks among the best.

MORE: The Tungsten UL comes in 2P and 3P models (links above). Pick up the 2P UL footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 4lb 14oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 92 x 56 x 44in

FEATURES: 2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, 3P, & 4P

BEST FOR: Maximum Space, Minimum Cost

The REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus is a tent that maximizes interior space and durability while minimizing cost. Its generous dimensions and overhead crossbar create a ton of interior space and it's materials are more durable than most lightweight tents. The main downside with the Half Dome 2 Plus comes in the form of weight. It’s not too bad if you split the tent between two hikers, but this is one of the heaviest and bulkiest tents we recommend. Still, if durability, convenience, interior space, and affordability are your primary concerns, the Half Dome 2 Plus is tough to beat.

MORE: The Half Dome comes in 1 Plus, 2 Plus, 3 Plus, and 4 Plus sizes, all of which are solid options depending on your needs. Pick up the HD 2 Plus footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 2lb

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 85 x 51/43 x 40in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 1-2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Semi-Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, Elite 1P, and Elite 2P

BEST FOR: Ultralight Solo Comfort

The NEMO Hornet 2P is an incredibly light double-wall, semi-freestanding tent. It has two doors and vestibules, which is a rare benefit for a tent in its weight class. It's listed as a 2-person tent, but it's better suited for solo backpacking in our opinion. It's slanted walls limit interior space, making it a tight squeeze for two, but a nice setup for one. The Hornet’s main drawback is its semi-freestanding design (it requires two stakes at the foot), which can be inconvenient in rocky terrain. But if you're a solo, ultralight backpacker looking for all the comforts of a traditional tent, the Hornet 2P is a great option.

MORE: The Hornet also comes in “Elite” model sizes (links above), which are slightly lighter but cost more. We think the standard 2P version used as a solo shelter delivers the best value. Pick up the Hornet 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 1lb 15oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 86 x 52/42 x 40in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

FEATURES: 1-2 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Semi-Freestanding

SIZES: 1P, 2P, 3P, 1P Platinum, 2P Platinum

BEST FOR: Ultralight Solo Comfort

The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is among the lightest double-wall, semi-freestanding tents on the market. It has a similar floorplan to the Nemo Hornet 2P (both actually work best as 1-person tents in our opinion), but unlike the Hornet, The Fly Creek only has one door and vestibule, which limits its livability. Also, the addition of Big Agnes’ new Tiger Wall tent leaves the Fly Creek in a precarious place. For only a bit more money and a few extra ounces, the Tiger Wall provides a lot more interior space and two doors/vestibules.

MORE: The Fly Creek HV is available in 1P, 2P, 3P, 1P Platinum, 2P Platinum sizes (links above). In our opinion, the 2P version used as a solo shelter provides the best value. Pick up the HV UL2 Footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability.


HONORABLE MENTION

The following tents didn’t make our final list, but they’ve got a lot of good things going for them. In this section we'll quickly highlight each tent’s main strength and explain why it didn’t make the cut. And you never know, maybe one of these tents will be the right fit for you.

 

REI Co-op Passage 2

The REI Co-op Passage 2 deserves a mention on this list as a solid budget buy. It didn’t make the final cut because it’s a better fit for our best budget backpacking tents list. We personally would choose to spend more for a higher quality tent, but for beginners and budget backpackers, the price and durability of this classic design may just do the trick.


The the Hilleberg Anjan 3 could be a good choice if you commonly camp above treeline in harsh, exposed conditions. Tip: choose the 3-person model over the Anjan 2 for the extra space at a minimal cost/weight increase. This tent does have several key downsides though - only 1 door/vestibule, non-freestanding, no rainfly off option, and a steep price tag.


The Tarptent Double Rainbow has one of the best price to weight ratio of any tent on the market, but it also has some considerable downsides. It’s single-wall (hybrid) design makes it susceptible to interior condensation and it's not freestanding unless paired with trekking poles. It also has minimal space for two and requires seam sealing before it will be fully waterproof.


The MSR Freelite 2 is on the right track with its weight and features, but the final product leaves something to be desired. It’s semi-freestanding design needs to be staked down at the corners of one end, which leads to sagging in cold/wet weather. It also has a low peak height and short length, which limit livability.


MORE INFORMATION

If you enjoyed this review, you'll probably like our other gear lists as well. Here are some popular resources from the CleverHiker Gear Guide:

We hope this guide was helpful for finding backpacking gear you were looking for. If you want to provide feedback or recommend an item we missed, please use our contact form to get in touch.

Thanks for reading and happy trails! 

 

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