For this year’s list of the top backpacking tents, our team of testers spent hundreds of nights in tents in all kinds of weather, from scorching desert heat to freezing winter nights at high elevations. One thing is clear when choosing a tent: no single tent will work well in every situation.
On a long hike, you might want a very light bivy that keeps the bugs away. Sometimes you want a substantial winter home that can withstand strong winds and lots of snow. You might want that tent that does a little bit of everything.
Freestanding vs trekking pole
Don’t bring tents or hammocks that stand on their own if you want to go ultralight. Hammocks have to be strong because they have to hold the weight of a full-size person, and the poles that arrive with freestanding tents add weight and bulk to your pack that you don’t need. “Ultralight” freestanding tents are usually small and crowded, while tarps and trekking pole tents have more significant footprints and more room to move around. Freestanding ultralight options also tend to use thin, delicate fabrics. So, they might not survive as long as in tarp tents or tents with trekking poles.
Most ultralight backpackers who want to go as light as possible should use a trekking pole tent or a simple tarp as top backpacking tents.
Double vs single wall
The mesh part inside a double-wall tent is separate from the waterproof rainfly. This setup is excellent for reducing condensation in the living space, but all that extra mesh makes it heavier. Single-wall tents have only one waterproof layer between you and the outside, except for a mesh wall usually found under the vestibule. They are lighter, but you have to be more careful about where you camp to avoid condensation, and you might have to wipe some moisture off your sleeping bag some mornings.
One person vs two person
The lightest tent for one person will be lighter than the most lightweight tent for two people. Individual hikers sometimes buy a two-person tent, even though it’s a little heavier because it gives them more space to live in. The top backpacking tents on this list are for one person, but we’ve also included some popular two-person tents like the Zpacks Duplex and Big Agnes Fly Creek.
The Top Backpacking Tents Of 2023
- Top Backpacking Tents Overall: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
- Top Backpacking Tents Budget: Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent
- Top Backpacking Tents Ultralight: NEMO Hornet Elite
- Top Backpacking Tents Value Ultralight: REI Co-op Flash Air 2
- Top Backpacking Tents Minimalist: Zpacks Duplex
- Top Backpacking Tents of the Rest: ASL 2 Backpacking Tent
Top Backpacking Tents Overall: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
This tent overlooks the bathtub floor and the rainfly, keeping you dry all night. Above the floor material, good mesh creates an airy space and is easy to breathe in, which should keep condensation to a minimum.
With so little weight, you get a comfortable place to stay on the trail. It has two doors, two foyers, 29 square feet of floor space, and 18 square feet of space in the foyers. With trekking poles, the vestibules can be turned into awnings to cook under or let air in.
In a storm, you can quickly set up your tent because the corners where the fly goes have buckles that are easy to use. We also liked the pockets at the feet and head where we could put electronics, snacks, or extra layers. Also, the pocket at the top of the head has cord-routing for electronics and bags for media devices in case you get stuck in bad weather.
Remember that you need to be careful when setting up so that you don’t tear or break the poles. Before bending bars, you should always check to ensure they are in the right place.
Also, be careful when you put small tents in your pack. If you take good care of and fix these tents, they can last long.
There are lighter tents for hikers who want to carry as little as possible and more substantial tents for those who will be close to a car. Overall, this tent is excellent for backpacking, summer camping, and any multiday trip where you want to find a good balance between comfort and weight.
- Weight: 3 lbs., 2 oz.
- Height: 40 in.
- Floor space: 29 sq. ft.
- Materials: Nylon, aluminium, and composite
- Vestibule area: 18 sq. ft.
- Roomier than expected
- Excellent storage and vestibule design
- Struggles in high winds (above 40 mph)
- Somewhat fragile
Top Backpacking Tents Budget: Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent
At the lowest trail weight of 4 pounds and 11 ounces, it’s on the heavy side, but it will do the job and packs down small enough to fit in a backpack. It also has a lot of space, with a floor area of 32.5 square feet.
We love that the poles are color-coded, so they are easy to set up. Most campers say that even first-time campers can do it. It also has two D-shaped exits with vestibules that it can use to store gear.
The only bad thing about this tent is its heavy and oversized size. If you are in a hurry, the different lengths of the poles can be a bit confusing. It can cut setup time down by practising your setup ahead of time, which is always a good idea.
The Catalyst weighs 5 pounds, 3 ounces and has a packed size of 21 by 7.5 inches. This is pretty heavy for a tent for two people, and it’s not easy to carry up a steep pass.
Split the tent between you and your hiking partner, and then go out and see what you can find. It is one of the best backpacking tents for the price because you won’t likely have buyer’s remorse if you’re not sure how much backpacking you’ll do.
- Weight: 4 lbs., 11 oz.
- Height: 44 in.
- Floor space: 32.5 sq. ft.
- Materials: Polyester and aluminium
- Vestibule space: 11 sq. ft., 6.5 sq. ft.
- Excellent value
- Color-coded poles make it simple to set up.
- Heavier than other backpacking tents
- Bulky when packed
- Different pole lengths
Top Backpacking Tents Ultralight: NEMO Hornet Elite
The NEMO Hornet Elite-only weighs 2 lbs. 1 oz. And you can get rid of some stakes and the stuff sack to get the weight down to 1 pound, 11 ounces or less. For people who count grams, that alone makes it a contender.
This tent isn’t just lightweight. It’s also an excellent place to stay when the weather is terrible. The NEMO Hornet Elite 2 saved our testing team dry and comfortable on wet, stormy nights on the trail.
This tent doesn’t need trekking poles as many ultralight options do. Instead, it stands on its own. It has an intelligent three-pole design, a mesh inside, and a rainfly built to keep bugs, rain, and wind out.
Inside, a 27.3-square-foot floor gives two adults a small but delicate space. This is not an enormous footprint; you and your tentmate will be next. Don’t forget that we’re doing ultralight backpacking, so make sure to get cosy.
Under the two vestibules, which are served by two doors, there is enough space for a large pack, shoes and other gear. We’ve used it a lot in the rain, and there’s enough room for your bag to stay dry, even when the weather is terrible.
Easy to set up and take down. Once our testers knew how the tent worked, it took them less than 5 minutes to set it up.
The NEMO Hornet Elite is our best ultralight hiking tent on the market right now for those looking for a lightweight tent to carry across long distances. If you like our suggestions, look at The Best Folding Tables for Camping Outdoor.
- Weight: 2 lbs., 1 oz.
- Height: 37 in.
- Floor space: 27.3 sq. ft.
- Materials: Nylon and composite
- Vestibule area: 12.4 sq. ft.
- Packs small
- Withstands weather
- Brittle for automobile camping or sharp rocks
Top Backpacking Tents Value Ultralight: REI Co-op Flash Air 2
This tent weighs just over two pounds yet is packed with amenities. It includes two doors, each with a tiny vestibule and various pockets for storing gear, allowing you to quickly locate your light at night. Its poles let you replace the included vertical support poles with your trekking poles to save even more weight.
The Flash Air 2 is not a freestanding tent, so you’ll need to stake it out at six pinpoints to keep it from falling over. This isn’t hard for an experienced camper in a forest or meadow with soft ground. In the high desert near Gunnison, Colorado, our team of professional testers had to work hard to place this tent on top of a rock slab in solid winds, where they needed more cordage to use boulders as anchors. In short, if you want to sell the Flash Air 2, it helps a lot to practice and plan.
This tent is an excellent option if you’re an experienced traveller looking to go ultralight without ultra-cheap.
- Packed weight: 2 lbs., 8 oz.
- Height: 42 in.
- Floor space: 28.7 sq. ft.
- Materials: Nylon, mesh, Aluminum
- Vestibule area: 16.8 sq. ft.
- two vestibules
- It may use trekking poles to help
- Setting up requires practice.
- Not self-contained
Top Backpacking Tents Minimalist: Zpacks Duplex
The tent is made of Dyneema Composite, much lighter than top backpacking tents‘ nylon. It weighs only 1 pound, 3.4 ounces. But the unique fabric holds up well even when it gets wet and doesn’t tend to sag.
The Duplex is a good place for two backpackers to live in general. It has a peak height of 48 inches, two side doors with vestibules, and a rectangular floor that is the same on both sides.
What do you lose when you build something very light? For one thing, it’s much harder to set up than a standard backpacking tent with poles. To set up all the guylines, you’ll need a pretty big area, and it takes a lot of practice to get an even pitch.
At night, condensation can be a problem, especially along the top of the canopy. This model is made with a single wall (and no mesh insert). Lastly, the mesh sidewalls let in a lot of wind and rain when the weather was particularly rough.
This tent is perfect for someone who cuts their toothbrush in half and is proud of the overall weight of their base. The Duplex is an excellent choice for serious hikers who plan to cover many miles and don’t mind paying more for high-quality ultralight materials.
- Weight: 1 lb., 3.4 oz.
- Height: 48 in.
- Floor space: 28.1 sq. ft.
- Materials: Dyneema
- Vestibule area: 11 sq. ft.
- It isn’t easy to set up.
- A big area, stakes, and guylines are required.
Top Backpacking Tents of the Rest: REI Arete ASL 2 Backpacking Tent
The four-pole setup was quick and easy for us because the colors made sense. There is enough space in the vestibule for two packs and hiking shoes. The hang loops and corner pockets make it easy to get what you need. We recommend adding the footprint, sold separately, for more durability and comfort.
We don’t like that the tent only has one door, but at least the door is big and easy to get to from either side. Previous versions of this tent had problems with the seam sealant on the rainfly, but it looks like REI has fixed that with this update.
Overall, the Arete ASL 2 is a sturdy tent that can be used in any season and costs about half as much as other four-season tents. This tent is excellent for winter campers who don’t want to spend much money on a specialized winter tent, but most backpackers who go camping in the summer will find it too heavy.
- Weight: 6 lbs., 5 oz.
- Height: 43 in.
- Floor space: 32.9 sq. ft.
- Materials: Nylon and aluminium
- Vestibule area: 8.7 sq. ft.
- For a four-season tent, it is lightweight.
- Single door
There are excellent backpacking tents available for every budget and backpacking style nowadays. The introduction of ultralight tents to the market has resulted in weight savings and an engineering revolution from which today’s backpackers can benefit. However, first-time backpackers should shop cautiously, as many of the lightest tents on the market require special handling and have a shorter lifespan. Choose the top backpacking tents for your planned excursions rather than the newest and greatest.
Read Next: Best Insulated Tents For Winter Camping
Q. How heavy should a backpacking tents be?
A. A tent should weigh roughly 2.5 pounds per person, on average. When hiking with numerous people, remember that you may divide the weight by separating the tent, rain fly, and poles.
Q. What should I spend on a hiking tent?
A. A tent’s price range should be between $40 and $50. Anything less than $50 puts you below the normal entry-level tent price range.
Q. How long will an ultralight tent last?
A. Unfortunately, there is no official answer on the lifespan of hiking tents since hundreds of tent companies manufacture backpacking tents. However, according to people who use backpacking tents, this tent type lasts anywhere from 2 to 12 years on average.