7 Best Backpacking Tents of 2017

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!

Author: Dave Collins
Last Updated: March 2017

CRITICAL TENT CONSIDERATIONS

PRICE - 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 tents 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 great for dedicated solo adventurers looking to hike fast and light. 3 & 4-Person tents tend to get more crowded and less practical, though they can be a good fit for duos wanting more interior space.

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 prefer hiking light, stick with a 2-person model to fit two hikers. If you’re willing to carry more weight for camping comfort, 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 as much about 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 avoid camping in low-lying areas near water to 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 will ensure that you’re not climbing over your tentmate and two sets of gear every time you want to get in or out of your tent. That’s a huge bonus, and it's why almost every tent on this list has two doors.

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. Also, I'm a huge fan of Amazon Prime, where you can get unlimited free two-day shipping. 

1-PERSON TENTS

1-Person tents are an excellent choice for dedicated solo backpackers looking to keep weight and cost to a minimum. If you sometimes hike with a partner or prefer more interior space, it may make sense to choose an ultralight 2-person tent that can serve both purposes.

 

NEMO HORNET 2P

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

BEST FOR: Roomy Ultralight Solo Comfort

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

MORE: Pick up the Hornet 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent is also available in Hornet 1P, Elite 1P, and Elite 2P sizes, but the 2P model is by far my favorite.


REI Co-op Quarter Dome 1

WEIGHT: 2lb 7oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 88 x 35/27 x 42in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST FOR: Spacious Ultralight Solo Budget

The redesigned REI Co-op Quarter Dome 1 is a fantastic budget option for solo backpackers. The new QD 1 is fully freestanding, easy to pitch, and has plenty of interior space without sacrificing much weight. It's also loaded with convenient features like a large roof vent, spacious vestibule, and a variety of pockets/hang loops. So if you're a lightweight solo backpacker on a budget, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 1 just may be your jam.

MORE: Pick up the QD 1 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in 2-person, 3-person, and hammock models.  


2-PERSON TENTS

2-Person tents are the most popular choice among backpackers. They offer the best balance for hikers looking to minimize weight without sacrificing too much comfort. A 2-person tent will allow you and your hiking partner to enjoy the trail as much as your campsite, but don't expect it to be a palace. If you want interior space for gear storage and extended camp hangouts, you'll probably want to bump up to a 3-person tent. Just remember that the ounces add up.

 

BIG AGNES COPPER SPUR HV UL2

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

BEST FOR: Ultralight Quality, Features & Interior Space

The redesigned 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 all the features for maximizing comfort - freestanding, double-wall, near-vertical side walls, 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: Pick up the UL2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in UL1, UL3, and UL4 sizes.


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

BEST FOR: Ultralight Livability, Comfort & Convenience

The NEMO Dagger 2P is big on livability, but doesn't take on extra weight to get there. The Dagger’s key benefit over other tents in its weight class is its rectangular floor and symmetrical ceiling. This greatly increases elbow room and usable interior space. The Dagger also has two huge vestibules with lots of room for gear storage. My main qualm with the Dagger is that I wish it had more ventilation for condensation management, but that's not a dealbreaker. So if you’re looking for ultralight livability in a convenient design, the NEMO Dagger 2p just might be your guy.

MORE: Pick up the Dagger 2P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in a 3-person model.


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

BEST FOR: Ultralight Budget, Features & Interior Space

The redesigned REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is a feature-loaded ultralight 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, I love 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. 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 fantastic choice.

MORE: Pick up the QD 2 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in 1-person, 3-person, and hammock models.  


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

BEST FOR: Ultralight Budget & Interior Space

The new Marmot Tungsten 2P UL strikes a good 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. I like that its polyester rainfly won’t sag as much in wet/cold weather, but I do wish it had more ventilation for keeping condensation at bay. I also wish it’s two side vestibules were larger and symmetrical (one side is bigger than the other). Still, for it’s weight, cost, and interior space, the Marmot Tungsten 2P UL ranks among the best.

MORE: Pick up the 2P UL footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in a 3-person model.


WEIGHT: 5lb 1oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 96 x 56 x 42in

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

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 I recommend. Still, if durability, convenience, interior space, and affordability are your primary concerns, the Half Dome 2 Plus is pretty tough to beat.

MORE: Pick up the HD 2 Plus footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in smaller Half Dome 2 and larger Half Dome 4 models.


3 & 4-PERSON TENTS

Larger tents like these can be a good option for small groups, but they’re also nice for duos wanting more elbow room. To be honest, I almost never sleep more than two people in one tent because things tend to get claustrophobic. That said, the roominess of a 3-person tent can be a nice upgrade for two hikers if you’re willing to carry the extra weight. I tend to spend more time on the trail than in camp, so I usually forgo the extra comfort to keep my pack as light as possible. But if camping comfort is a priority, a 3 or 4-person tent can be a great way to go.

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 & UL4

WEIGHT: 3lb 7oz & 5lb 3oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 90 x 70/62 x 43in & 96 x 86 x 50in

FEATURES: 3-4 Person, 3 Season, Double-Wall, 2 Doors/Vestibules, Freestanding

BEST FOR: Maximum Space, Minimum Weight

The Big Agnes HV UL3 and HV UL4 tents are incredibly light for the interior space they provide. The UL3 is an especially appealing option for couples because it has significantly more room than the UL2, but only costs a little more. In addition, the UL3 only weighs 2-3 ounces more than some of the best ultralight 2-person tents. The UL4 is a solid option for groups because it allows hikers to sleep with their head/feet near the doors. That saves middle sleepers from climbing over tentmates to get in and out during the night.

MORE: Pick up the HV UL3 footprint or HV UL4 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in UL1 and UL2 models.


WEIGHT: 4lb 1oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 88 x 70/64 x 44in (wider at head, narrower at foot)

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

BEST FOR: Budget Interior Space & Features

The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 3 is another solid upgrade for backpackers wanting more room in their 2-person shelter. Choosing the QD 3 over the QD 2 will only increase price a small amount for a big increase in elbow room. The downside to that exchange is a 12oz increase in weight, but that will be well worth it for those that prioritize camping comfort over maintaining an ultralight pack.

MORE: Pick up the QD 3 footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in 1-person, 2-person, and hammock models.


WEIGHT: 4lb 1oz

DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 90 x 66 x 46in

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

BEST FOR: Lightweight Budget & Interior Space

The Marmot Tungsten 3p UL is another tent that strikes a good balance between weight, cost, and interior space. Unlike the 2P version, this model has a fully rectangular floor, which increases livability. This version also has more vestibule space than the 2P model, which is great, but the vestibules are still asymmetrical (one side is larger than the other), which is a bummer. That said, very few tents can compete in the same weight, cost, and size range as the Tungsten 3P UL.

MORE: Pick up the Tungsten 3P footprint if you want to increase tent floor durability. This tent also comes in a 2-person mode.


HONORABLE MENTION

The following tents didn’t make my final list, but they’ve all got a lot of good things going for them. In this section I’ll try to quickly highlight each tent’s main strength and explain why it didn’t make the final 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 my Best Budget Backpacking Tents List. I would personally prefer to spend more money for a higher quality tent, but for beginners and weekend warriors on a limited budget, the price and durability of this classic design will do the trick.


The ZPacks Duplex is one of my all-time favorite ultralight tents, but it’s a better fit for my Best Ultralight Tents & Tarps List. At only 1lb 5oz (trekking poles required), to say the duplex is ultralight is an understatement, but this really isn’t a tent for the casual backpacker. It’s a non-freestanding, single-wall shelter with a steep price tag, so it’s a good choice for serious ultralight hikers and thru-hikers willing to forgo camp comforts for an extremely light pack.


The MSR Hubba Hubba NX has been one of the most popular tents in the backpacking community for years, and with good reason. It’s a solid, roomy design with great features and durability. Compared to the Nemo Dagger 2P though, it falls short. The Dagger has roomier dimensions, larger vestibules, and weighs slightly less for roughly the same cost and durability.


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 extra space and a minimal cost/weight increase. This tent does have several features that make it a tough sell: 1 door/vestibule, not freestanding, no rainfly off option, and a steep price tag.


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 work best as 1-person tents in my opinion), but unlike the Hornet, The Fly Creek only has one door and vestibule. This severely limits its livability.


The Tarptent Double Rainbow has an excellent price to weight ratio and is built with thicker fabric than some ultralight tents, but it also has some sizable downsides. It’s single-wall (hybrid) design makes it susceptible to condensation in wet conditions. It’s also non-freestanding (unless paired with trekking poles), has minimal headroom for two, and requires seam sealing to become waterproof.


The Nemo Blaze 2P is one of the lightest and roomiest full-featured tents on the market, but its non-freestanding, asymmetrical support system leads to sagging walls in cold/wet/windy conditions. You’ll also have to sleep head-to-toe with your tentmate for headroom.


The MSR Freelite 2 is on the right track with it's 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 greatly limits livability.


WRAP UP

I hope you found this guide useful. If you want to provide feedback or recommend an item, please use my contact form to get in touch. 

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.