10 Best Backpacking Tents of 2016

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 that there are A LOT of options out there. Trying to find the best tent to fit your needs can easily become overwhelming.

That’s why I put together this list of the best backpacking tents on the market. I’ve researched and tested hundreds of backpacking tents to narrow them down to the very best of the best. I’ve heavily factored characteristics like weight, cost, interior space, and weather protection into my choices.

I hope this post helps you find that perfect backpacking tent to keep you warm, dry, and protected in the outdoors for many years to come. Enjoy!

CRITICAL TENT CONSIDERATIONS

COST - You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get a great backpacking tent. That’s why I’ve provided an array of solid options in a variety of price ranges. If you backpack a lot, it probably makes sense to spend a little more for a quality product that will get lots of use for many years.

WEIGHT - A few ounces here and there might not seem like a big deal, but keeping pack weight down is critical to enjoying backpacking trips. Lightweight tent options make hiking more fun and that’s what it’s all about. Your tent will be one of the four heaviest items in your backpack (tent, backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), so it’s a great place to keep weight to a minimum.

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

CAPACITY – 2-Person tents tend to be the most popular models, and for good reason. A lightweight 2-person tent can be used for solo hikes or with a partner. 1-Person tents are also a great option for dedicated solo adventurers looking to hike fast and light. Group tents tend to be more crowded and less practical, though they can be a good fit for families. If you're looking for a 3-person or 4-person tent, check out the "related" sections below each recommendation. That's where you'll find my favorite group tents. 

INTERIOR SPACE - Interior tent space is often a tradeoff between comfort and weight, so it’s important to strike a good balance. I specifically chose tents for this list that maximize interior space while keeping weight down. If you’re re like me and you prefer hiking light, stick with a 2-person model to fit two hikers. If you’re willing to carry a little more weight for a roomy interior, consider bumping up a tent size.

SEASON RATING – 3-season shelters are the most popular type of backpacking tent and the style I’ll focus on for this guide. They are built for spring, summer, and fall trips where you’ll need to keep bad weather out while promoting air circulation.

DESIGN ELEMENTS – 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 STYLE - Freestanding tents are generally prefered because they’re easier and quicker to set up. They come with a fixed pole system that can be pitched almost anywhere, even on solid rock. Non-freestanding tents use guy lines, stakes, and trekking poles for setup. They save weight by cutting out lengthy tent poles, but take more time and practice to master setting up. Pitching a non-freestanding tent on hard ground will always take more time and creativity, but it can still be done.

WALL CONSTRUCTION – Double-wall tents come with two separate parts – a tent body and a rainfly. The advantage to this design is that the mesh inner-tent will provide a barrier against any condensation that forms on the inside of the rainfly. Single-wall tents reduce weight by combining the two layers and promoting airflow to keep condensation down. It’s impossible to completely eliminate condensation though, and rubbing up against it sucks. That’s the biggest downside with single-wall shelters. If your goal is to hike fast and light, dealing with interior condensation might be worth it. If you’re looking for comfort and convenience, you’ll probably prefer the full coverage of a double-wall tent.

CONDENSATION CONDITIONS - Condensation will form on the interior of your rainfly when outside temperatures drop and there is moisture in the air. If you usually hike in warm and dry climates (think Utah), you probably won’t have to worry too much about interior condensation. If you tend to hike in lush forests and mountains (think Pacific Northwest), then a double-wall shelter will probably be a better choice for full protection. If you’re using a single-wall shelter to reduce weight, you should try to avoid camping in low-lying areas near water (think river valleys) to help reduce condensation.

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

DURABILITY - Almost all lightweight backpacking gear will be less durable than heavy-duty equipment. That's the tradeoff. Durable and heavy or light and less durable. That said, unless you're really tough on gear, the tents I recommend on this post will last for many years and thousands of trail miles. In my experience hikers tend to worry a little too much about the durability of lightweight backpacking products. True, durability is a very important consideration. But quality lightweight backpacking equipment is still built to last for thousands of trail miles - many more miles than the average backpacker will hike in their entire lifetime. So, I say go for the lightweight gear and take good care of it. Making those miles more enjoyable is well worth it in my opinion.

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 a little extra weight to extend the life of your tent, consider picking up a footprint.

BUYING ONLINE - Check the seller's return policy before you buy, but you can almost always return an unused tent within a certain timeframe after purchasing. I recommend buying your top choice, testing it at home, and returning/exchanging it if it doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve been buying lightweight tents online for years and I’ve yet to have any problems.

10 BEST BACKPACKING TENTS OF 2016

 

BIG AGNES COPPER SPUR UL2

WEIGHT: 2lb 12oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 90in x 52in x 42in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

In my opinion, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 provides the best balance between weight, convenience, interior space, and functionality of any backpacking tent on the market. It’s light enough to disappear in your pack, but roomy enough to wait out a prolonged storm without going stir crazy. This tent has all the features you’ll want to maximize comfort - freestanding, double-wall, near-vertical side walls, two-doors/vestibules, interior pockets - and somehow still achieves a trail weight of under 3lb. For ultralight freestanding tents, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 is my top is my top pick for two-person, freestanding tents. For more of my top picks, check out the CleverHiker Top Picks page.

RELATED: Pick up the Copper Spur UL2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in the Copper Spur UL1 and UL3, and UL4 for those that want more or less interior space.


REI QUARTER DOME 1

WEIGHT: 2lb 2oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 90in x 40in x 33in (longer at head, shorter at foot)

DESIGN FEATURES: 1-Person, 3-Season, Double-Wall, 1 Door/Vestibule, Semi-Freestanding

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

If you’re looking for a solo backpacking tent that maximizes convenience and interior space at an affordable price, the REI Quarter Dome 1 is your jam. This tent’s asymmetric shape provides great liveability while keeping weight to a minimum. The semi-freestanding design of this tent means you’ll need to stake down two corners at the foot of the tent for a perfectly taut pitch, which isn’t preferred, but also isn’t too much trouble. For solo backpackers, this is a fantastic lightweight budget buy.

The REI Quarter Dome 1 is my top is my top pick for one-person, freestanding tents. For more of my top picks, check out the CleverHiker Top Picks page.

RELATED: Pick up the Quarter Dome 1 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in the larger Quarter Dome 2 and Quarter Dome 3 models. If you want a fully freestanding 1-person shelter, check out the BA Copper Spur UL1, which is around the same weight but costs more.


ZPACKS DUPLEX

WEIGHT: 1lb 5oz (without poles)

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 90in x 45in

DESIGN FEATURES: 2-Person, 3-Season, Single-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, 2 Trekking Poles & 6 Stakes Minimum for Setup.

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking

The ZPacks Duplex is a specialized shelter for those looking to go as fast and light as possible. It has a single-wall design that requires trekking poles and stakes for setup, which will make it a poor fit for most casual backpackers. But for the thru-hikers and ultralight trekkers willing to pay it’s sizeable price tag, this tent will be a dream come true. It’s made out of Cuben Fiber, a material that’s crazy-light, completely waterproof, and won’t sag when cold/wet like silnylon. It also has a simple design that makes it surprisingly roomy, especially for shelters in it’s weight class. The main downside to consider with any single-wall shelter is interior condensation (see notes in intro). If your main goal is hiking fast and light, you can probably deal with a little condensation. If you’re looking for complete wetness protection, you should probably go with a double-wall shelter.

The ZPacks Duplex is my top is my top pick for non-freestanding tents. For more of my top picks, check out the CleverHiker Top Picks page.

RELATED: ZPacks offers this tent in three other sizes, the SolplexAltaplex, and Triplex.


REI QUARTER DOME 2

WEIGHT: 3lb 1oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 90in x 54in x 44in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

The REI Quarter Dome 2 is an ultralight freestanding tent that maximizes convenience at a reasonable price. It has a double-wall design with two doors, two vestibules, and a horizontal top bar to increase interior space. It also has a large top vent for air circulation and interior mesh pockets for gear storage. This tent is similar in design to the BA Copper Spur UL2, my top pick, but it comes at a lower cost, which is always nice. If you’re on a budget but still want a tent that strikes a great balance between weight, convenience, and weather protection, the Quarter Dome 2 is a fantastic option.

RELATED: Pick up the Quarter Dome 2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in the smaller Quarter Dome 1 and larger Quarter Dome 3 options.


BIG AGNES FLY CREEK HV UL2

WEIGHT: 1lb 15oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 86in x 52in x 42in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

DESIGN FEATURES: 2-Person, 3-Season, Double-Wall, 1 Door/Vestibule, Semi-Freestanding

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is one of the lightest double-wall, semi-freestanding tents on the market. That makes it a great choice for those that want maximum convenience at a minimum weight. This tent has recently been redesigned to bring its peak height forward towards front door, which is better for sitting headroom. But don’t be fooled by the 2-person capacity rating of this tent. The Fly Creek HV UL2 is best viewed as a 1+ person tent. The slanted walls of this shelter reduce interior space, making it a pretty tight squeeze for two. Also, it’s one door and vestibule makes it a less convenient design for two hikers. That said, if you mostly backpack solo but want room for two in a pinch, this is an excellent ultralight tent.

RELATED: Pick up the Fly Creek HV UL2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in a smaller HV UL1 size and larger HV UL3 size.


NEMO HORNET 2P

WEIGHT: 2lb

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 85in x 51in x 43in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

The NEMO Equipment Hornet 2P is another unbelievably light double-wall semi-freestanding tent. It has a similar design to the BA Fly Creek HV UL2 with slanted walls and limited interior space. So it’s really best viewed as a 1+ person tent that can sleep two in a pinch. The key design upgrade with the Hornet is that it has two doors and two vestibules, which is a nice convenience, even for solo hikers. The downside is that there's less seated headroom by the doors because of the slanted walls. If you’re a backpacker that moves fast and plans to spend as little time as possible in your shelter, but you still want the comfort of a double-wall, semi-freestanding tent, the Hornet 2P is a solid option.

RELATED: Pick up the Hornet 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in a smaller Hornet 1P size.


MSR HUBBA HUBBA NX

WEIGHT: 3lb 7oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 84in x 50in

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

BEST USE: Ultralight Backpacking, General Backpacking, Camping

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX has been a popular model among lightweight backpackers for a long time and it’s easy to see why. The Hubba is designed with nearly vertical side and end walls that help to maximize its interior space. It also has a fully rectangular floor and symmetrical shape, which allows hikers to spread out on opposite sides of the tent. Kickstand vents help to increase airflow and interior pockets add to the Hubba’s convenience. The main downside of the Hubba Hubba NX that’s it’s heavier than some of the other ultralight tents I recommend. But if you’re willing to carry a little extra weight for a convenient design, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX just might be your jam.

RELATED: Pick up the Hubba Hubba NX footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in three different sizes, the Hubba NXMutha Hubba NX, and Papa Hubba NX.


TARPTENT NOTCH

WEIGHT: 1lb 11oz (without poles)

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 84in x 32in

DESIGN FEATURES: 1-Person, 3-Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, 2 Trekking Poles & 4 Stakes Minimum for Setup.

BEST USE: Thru-Hiking, Ultralight Backpacking

The Tarptent Notch is great shelter for solo hikers looking to go fast and light. It has a double-wall design that requires trekking poles and a minimum of four stakes for setup, which will make it an unideal fit for many casual backpackers. But for solo thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers, this tent is a great fit. One of the nicest features of this shelter is it’s flexibility. It can be pitched as a stand-alone tarp on bug-free trips, or set up with it’s interior netting for the full protection of a double-wall shelter. Just make sure to seam seal the Notch (or pay Tarptent to do it) because the base model of this tent will not be fully waterproof.

RELATED: Tarptent offers optional Tyvek footprints for their shelters as well. The Tarptent Moment DW is a tent with a similar design for those that don’t use trekking poles.


KELTY TN2

WEIGHT: 4lb 4oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 83in x 50in x 46in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST USE: Lightweight Backpacking, Camping

The Kelty TN2 strikes a good balance between convenient features and a low price point. This tent is heavier that the backpacking tents I prefer to carry, but it’s still a solid option for those that want to pay a little less and are willing to carry a little more. It has all the convenient features you want in a tent and nothing you don’t - two doors, two vestibules, freestanding design, interior pockets, and good weather protection. This tent is a good budget buy that won’t crush your base weight.

RELATED: Pick up the TN2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in a larger TN3 size.


REI HALF DOME 2 PLUS

WEIGHT: 5lb 1oz

FLOOR DIMENSIONS: 98in x 56in

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

BEST USE: Lightweight Backpacking, Camping

If you’re looking to maximize interior space and minimize cost, look no farther than the REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent. The large overhead crossbar of the Half Dome creates nearly vertical sidewalls and a ton of headroom. This tent was also built with durability in mind, so it’s made with thicker materials than most lightweight tents. The main downside with the REI Half Dome 2 comes in the form of weight. It’s not too bad if you split the weight between two people, but this is one of the heaviest and bulkiest tents I recommend. Still, if durability, convenience, interior space, and affordability are your primary concerns, the Half Dome 2 Plus is pretty tough to beat.

RELATED: Pick up the Half Dome 2 Plus footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in the smaller Half Dome 2 and a larger Half Dome 4 sizes.


HONORABLE MENTION

 

MSR FREELITE & CARBON REFLEX

I absolutely love the direction that MSR is going with their redesigned FreeLite 2 and Carbon Reflex 2 tents. Both these models are ridiculously light (2lb 6oz and 1lb 13oz) and have almost everything you want in a two-person tent - double-wall, full rectangular floor, vertical side walls, two doors, and two vestibules. The problem is that both of these tents have low peak heights (36in and 34in) which reduce useable interior space. They’re also not fully freestanding, which would be preferable. My advice would be to add one more strut to the FreeLite 2 to make it fully freestanding and raises the peak height a few inches. That would only add a couple of ounces and make it one of the lightest and most convenient tents on the market. Still, MSR is definitely on the right track with their new designs. Pick up the FreeLite 2 footprint or Carbon Reflex 2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability with these designs.


NEMO BLAZE 2P

The NEMO Blaze 2P is another incredibly lightweight double-wall tent that’s very close to hitting the mark. The Blaze has a fully rectangular floor, two doors, and two vestibules. And with a minimum trail weight of 2lb, this tent has one of the best weight-to-space ratios of any double-wall tent on the market. The main problem with this design is that two of the Blaze’s main support walls rely on stake tension. This leaves the non-pole supported walls of the Blaze prone to sagging, especially in high winds and when it’s rainy/cold - when silnylon fabric tends to loosen. I absolutely love the weight and size of this tent, but until the support structure is improved, I’ll be waiting and watching. Pick up the Blaze 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability with this design.


HILLEBERG ANJAN 2

Hillenberg makes some of the finest quality tents around. They pay close attention to every detail and their tents are especially good in nasty weather and exposed terrain. The Anjan 2is one of Hillenburg's lightest 2-person tents, but it has some features I’m not wild about. First of all, it comes at a very steep price, which isn’t super sweet. In addition, even though this tent is among Hilleberg’s lightest tents, it still has a minimum weight of 3lb 8oz, which puts it among my heavier recommendations. And lastly, it only has one door and one vestibule, which is an inconvenient design for two backpackers. All that said, if you’re willing to pay a premium for high quality, durable gear, and you’re willing to carry a little extra weight, this tent could be a good fit for you. Pick up the Anjan 2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability with this tent.


SIERRA DESIGNS TENSEGRITY 2 FL

Sierra Designs is a company that’s thinking outside the box when it comes to backpacking equipment, and I absolutely love that. The Tensegrity 2 FL is an incredibly smart and unique design for a tent. It has several features that make it fantastic for backpacking - it’s great for views, ventilation, gear storage, and has a good amount of headroom. And at 2lb 10oz (without poles), it’s pretty light too. The problem is that this tent has two design features most backpackers won’t like. The first is that it’s not freestanding, which isn’t ideal, but is workable. The second is that it’s a single-wall shelter, which makes it susceptible to interior condensation (see my intro notes). Many ultralight backpackers are willing to put up with interior condensation for weight reduction, but I don’t think the average backpacker will enjoy this tent when the dew point hits. Sierra Designs does not currently offer a footprint for this tent. 


TARPTENT STRATOSPIRE 2

The Tarptent StratoSpire 2 is a non-freestanding double-wall ultralight tent (2lb 14oz - without poles) that's big on interior space, flexibility, and protection. It uses trekking poles and pitches with 6-8 stakes to create vertical sidewalls and offsetting ceiling peaks. Setting up the StratoSpire properly will take a little practice and won’t ever be as easy as pitching a freestanding tent, especially on rocky terrain. Also, make sure to seam seal the StratoSpire 2 (or pay Tarptent to do it) because the base model is not fully waterproof. Inconveniences aside, the StratoSpire 2 is a solid option for experienced lightweight backpackers looking for interior space and flexibility. Tarptent offers optional Tyvek footprints for their shelters as well.


BUDGET TENT OPTIONS

If you’re looking to minimize the cost of a backpacking tent, but you still want something reliable for protection in the backcountry, have a look at the tents listed below. These tents are pretty heavy and they’re built with cheaper quality materials. So if you’re in it for the long haul, it might make sense to upgrade to one of my higher quality recommendations listed above. That said, these budget buys still have a lot of good things going for them and they provide an affordable option for price-conscious backpackers.

 

REI PASSAGE 2

The 4lb 14oz REI Passage 2 has a classic rectangular tent design with dual crossing poles. This is my top pick for budget buy tents. This tent doesn’t have a top bar to help make the walls more vertical, so there’s less headroom with this design. That said, it does have two doors, two vestibules, a wide fully-rectangular floor, and interior mesh pockets for good liveability. Pick up the Passage 2 footprint to increase tent floor durability.


MOUNTAINSMITH MORRISON

The 4lb 11oz Mountainsmith Morrison 2 has a similar design to the REI Passage 2 - classic rectangular tent with crossing poles. Again, this tent doesn’t have a top bar to make the walls vertical, so it has less headroom. It also has two doors, two vestibules, a wide fully-rectangular floor, and interior mesh pockets. I prefer the nylon tent body of the Passage 2 over the polyester of the Morrison, but both designs are similar. Pick up the Morrison 2 footprint to increase tent floor durability.


ALPS MOUNTAINEERING CHAOS 2

The 4lb 14oz Alps Mountaineering Chaos 2costs a bit more than the two budget options listed above, but it’s still a good buy. It has a similar shape to the MSR Hubba Hubba NX with more headroom than the two previous options. It also has two doors, two vestibules, a wide fully-rectangular floor, and interior mesh pockets. The biggest downsides with this tent are the heavy materials it’s built with and the lack of good ventilation with the rainfly on. Pick up the Chaos 2 footprint to increase tent floor durability.


WRAP UP

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If you're interested in my other backpacking gear recommendations, check out the following resources:

CLEVERHIKER TOP GEAR PICKS

CLEVERHIKER GEAR GUIDE

 

Disclosure: The trust of my audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s why I only recommend equipment I love from companies I trust. I have not been paid to review any of the products listed above. A couple of items were provided to me for free to review, but I purchased most of this equipment myself. Also, I am under no obligation to give positive reviews to any of the products listed above. This gear just rocks. This page contains affiliate links. Check out my terms page for more info.