A backpacking tent is a type of camping canopy that is designed to be used outdoors. It is usually made from waterproof and weatherproof material, and it has sturdy legs for support. A backpacking tent can be used in any conditions, but it is best suited for use in the field during hiking, climbing, or other outdoor activities.
The first time I ever set up a tent in the backyard was with my dad’s old Army tent. We had just gotten home from Fort Huachuca, where my uncle had been stationed, and we were both excited about setting up our own shelter. The problem was that the Army tents weren’t very spacious, and they definitely didn’t have enough room for two people. So when you’re looking for a place to spend your night outside, don’t settle for something that small. You need something that will accommodate multiple people and provide plenty of space for gear. To save you time and energy, we’ve picked out some of the best backpacking tents available right here so all you’ll have to do is pack your gear and head to your campsite.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Backpacking Tents
When shopping for a new backpack tent, there are many factors to consider. The following section looks at some of the most important features and functions when selecting the best backpacking tent for your needs.
Tent size is determined by square feet (sq ft), not by weight. A large tent may accommodate a couple and their gear, whilst a tiny one may only accommodate two people at most.
- Small tents tend to range from 2-person tents to 4-person tents, with each increase corresponding to an extra person. These tents typically have a peak height between 16 inches and 18 inches above the floor.
- Standard tents usually accommodate four people but can sleep five if necessary. They have peaks that reach up to 26 inches high.
- Large tents hold more than four people but still fit well within the dimensions of a vehicle. Larger tents may exceed 50 sq ft., though they’re rarer than smaller ones.
Although these tents appear lightweight on paper, it’s crucial to keep in mind that this isn’t generally the case. Weight relies on how well the various components are built and fitted together as well as the materials used to make them. For instance, you should give careful consideration to the strength and weight of the poles in your pack to ensure that they don’t add significantly to the overall weight.
Also, bear in mind that even if a tent seems like it has less material than another option, there’s likely padding or insulation where needed. So while a lighter tent will feel lighter, it won’t actually reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do to get ready for camping.
Backpacking tents come in several different materials, including nylon, polyester, leather, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.
- Nylon and polyester tents are among the least expensive options, but they don’t breathe very well and often trap body heat.
- Leather and fiberglass tents generally cost more, but they’re comfortable, easy to clean, and breathe better. Leather tends to crack easily, however, and fiberglass doesn’t rustle quite as nicely as other materials.
- Carbon fiber is the strongest and heaviest material around, but it costs a fortune. It doesn’t rust either, but it does catch fire readily.
There are a few features that set apart certain types of tents from others.
- Mesh nets over the windows allow plenty of air through but stop any wind from entering the tent. This keeps the interior dryer and warmer.
- Side pockets give you space for water bottles, snacks, and electronics without having to roll out bedding or put them under the seat. Some models also include storage bags to keep things separate.
- Underquilts built into the sleeping area help maintain a warm temperature.
Ease of Setup
One of the biggest perks of owning a quality tent is how easy it is to set up. Unlike a conventional hotel room, which requires setting up beds, lamps, tables, chairs, and other amenities, a good tent takes only a couple of minutes to assemble. Most modern day tents require only a pole ladder and a couple of steps to get started.
The design of the tent itself helps make setup easier. Many manufacturers incorporate special hooks, loops, and straps that quickly attach the entire kit together.
A good tent should last longer than expected and show no signs of wear after being opened and closed numerous times throughout the summer. If a tent starts looking dingy after a season of use, then it probably means it’s time for replacement.
If a tent shows obvious damage right away, such as a rip in the seamstress, then repairs will go much smoother. However, if there are minor cosmetic issues, such as loose stitching or worn zippers, then those problems may go unnoticed until later in the year when the tent is being used regularly.
Types Of Backpacking Tents
Tent types are as diverse as the camping grounds they call home. The key is knowing which type you need for your upcoming trip.
A dome-style tent features a flexible pole that stretches from one end to the other, forming a circular opening in the middle. This creates ample headroom and makes getting into or out of the tent simple. Most have removable rain tarps on top so you can pitch them when necessary. The downside is that these tents aren’t very good at resisting wind. If it’s blowing fiercely before you set up camp, you’ll probably want to bring something along with you to use as a shelter.
A hoop tent has two poles stretched tautly across the campsite, intersecting over the center. These create an X shape when viewed from above. A large central area remains open, allowing plenty of room for you and your gear. Most have removable rain tarps on top so you can pitch them when necessary. These tents tend to be more spacious than their competitors because there’s no overlap between the poles. However, they’re also bulkier and harder to move around due to their larger footprint.
A v-line tent has three poles stretching vertically over the campsite, intersecting over the center. These create a diamond pattern when viewed from above. Some have extra rooms off to the side, like a vestibule, where you can put your backpack or daypack. Most have removable rain tarps on top so you can pitch them when necessary. This style tends to be the most popular choice among campers who don’t mind being hemmed in by their shelters during inclement weather. It’s also the easiest tent to set up if you’ve never done any camping before.
How We Chose Our Top Picks
We started by looking for the top-rated and most well-known companies out there. We limited our search to items created especially for use in a wilderness or backcountry environment. We were able to choose from among more than 30 different tent models by considering the weight, packing size, material composition, and special characteristics. Most of them are multi-seasonal tents, while some are also designed for three seasons. Many also have distinct floor areas, are watertight or water-resistant, and have chairs and sleeping cushions for added comfort.
For those who prefer more specialized camping gear, we included an ultralight one-person tent as well as a two-person tent for when friends join you on your adventures. Both of these tents also come with rain ponchos for weather protection.
Frequently Asked Questions About backpacking tents
How do I set up a tent?
Follow the guidelines. There may be discrepancies even though most tents are made to be put up similarly.
What size tent should I get for my height and weight?
Tent sizing is dependent on space needed as well as how much use you plan to put it into. If you’re just going on a one or two-day hike then don’t worry about capacity. If you’re looking for something that can sleep four people comfortably with room to spare, look at the largest option available.
Can I store a tent in my garage?
Yes, many tents can be stored inside your car when not in use. Make sure you have an adequate storage area though, as they tend to pack quite tightly when collapsed.
Are backpacking tents waterproof?
Most are not actually “waterproof” since this would imply they could withstand long periods of rain. However, most manufacturers advertise their tents as being suitable for light rain (usually less than 30 minutes). This will probably suffice if you know you’re going to encounter heavy downpours. Otherwise, opt for a more expensive tent specifically built for water resistance.
Is a tent too warm in winter?
This depends entirely on what activities you have planned. While some camping trips require you to bundle up in multiple layers just to survive the night, others can be enjoyed comfortably without added clothing. The bottom line is that if you’re traveling during the winter months, you shouldn’t rely solely on a tent for warmth; instead, add another layer or two to your wardrobe.