The Difference Between Backpacking and Camping Tent


Nothing beats the experience of spending a night outside, close to nature, and with the nocturnal creatures all around you. You feel one with the earth as you get back to your roots. The warm cozy bed back home doesn’t quite compare.

For those who’ve never had the experience of backpacking or camping, they often get attached the first time they try it and quickly realize that it’s something to be enjoyed as often as possible. One of the most essential pieces of equipment is a tent.

There are tents made for backpacking and tents made for camping. Before you can even head out to the store to buy a tent, it is important to first understand the difference between backpacking vs camping.

What is camping?

Camping usually involves heading out to a national park that has designated camping zones. You will probably be using your car to carry your tent and other camping essentials such as the stove and cooking pan. You will also have access to a toilet, a shower, and probably a sink.

Once you set up camp, you can then walk to scenic places around the campsite and can even head out to the nearby river for some fishing. When it is time to head back, you will go back to your campsite and enjoy a delicious meal as you recall the beautiful scenery that you were so fortunate to enjoy

What is backpacking?

The name tells all. Backpacking requires you to carry all your essentials in your backpack including your tent, clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and stove.

Often backpackers will drive to a trail where they will leave the vehicle behind and continue on the trail on foot. Once you find a suitable spot to rest in the early evening, you set up the tent and all other gear and settle in for the night.

The following morning, the backpacker will have a good breakfast before packing all the gear and essentials and continuing the journey before choosing another location to set up camp and settle for the second evening.

Backpacking requires you to purify your own water and wear the same clothes for several days just to keep things lightweight. You, however, will be able to experience the backcountry uniquely.

Backpacking tents vs camping tents

The main difference between backpacking tents vs camping tents is in the weight. Backpackers need a light tent for easy carry that is also strong enough to withstand harsh weather elements. On the other hand, as campers are likely going to use their vehicles, a larger and heavier tent is preferable.

Backpacking tent guide

Backpacking tents come in a variety of shapes and designs which can make buying one seem like a complicated task. However, choosing this type of tent often boils down to 4 main factors— capacity, livability, weight, and seasonality.


The tent capacity is the first thing that you need to consider when shopping for a backpacking tent. There are models designed for 1 to 4 people. Keep in mind that there are no specifics when choosing the capacity and a 1-person tent from one brand may have different dimensions from a 1-person tent from a different brand.

If you are larger than the average-sized person, then you may want to get a two-person tent for extra space. This however will mean more material and thus more weight.


It refers to the features of the backpacking tent that make spending time in it more pleasant. Such features include the headroom and the available space. The more the better. Choose a tent where you don’t have to strain yourself when inside but also make sure it remains simple to carry.


The weight is a big factor to consider when buying a backpacking tent. Often this is a reflection of the material used to construct the tent. Heavier materials are durable and are better able to withstand harsh elements.

However, you can still find a lightweight tent that is going to hold its own against the weather elements. These will cost more and you need to be willing to spend the extra cash.


Seasonality is another important factor to consider. You want your backpacking tent to be able to provide you with sufficient shelter during the time of year that you plan to go out backpacking.

There are 3 seasons, 3+ seasons, and 4 season tents to choose from.

3 season tents are built to handle moderate rains and winds and are therefore ideal when backpacking in the summer, spring, and fall. They are not suited for snowy weather.

3+ season tents are a bit sturdier than their 3 season counterparts and can handle moderate snow and downpours. They can be used not just in the summer but in the early spring and the late fall when there is some light snowfall.

The 4 season tents are made from tough material and are sturdy enough to withstand heavy downpours and snow. They feature more poles which makes them the heavier of the 3 types of tents.

Camping tent guide


With car camping, the weight of the tent is not a major concern. However, you will still need to consider it based on your individual circumstances. The capacity, tent features, and seasonality are the most important features to consider when buying a camping tent.

Tent features

The height is important for people who prefer to stand up straight when inside the tent. If you are one of these people then choose a camping tent with a high peak.

Other people prefer roomy rents with plenty of floor space. Check the different models available and decide which floor area is best for you.

The style of the door will determine how easy it is to get in and out of the tent. This is especially important if you are camping as a group. Check the shape and orientation of the tent door.

You might need a rain fly if you are camping at a location where you could experience rain. This is a separate material that is placed on top of the tent roof to keep out the rain. You can choose between a full-coverage rainfly that offers maximum protection or a roof only rainfly that allows plenty of light into the tent.

The materials used to make the tent will determine how durable it is. Often the heavier the material the better the tent can handle harsh weather and the more durable it is.

The capacity

Similar to the backpacking tent the capacity of the camping tent is an important factor. Consider the number of people who will be using and sharing the tent when you are out camping and buy one based on this.

Also, you might need extra room for your dog. Even while you are just two people camping, you may still need more room to make the experience comfortable and enjoyable.


As with backpacking tents, you will also need to check the seasonality when choosing your camping tent. There are 3 seasons 3-4 season as well as 4 season tents.

The 3 season tents are ideal for camping in summer, spring, and fall and are usually made from a lighter weight material.

3-4 season tents can withstand moderate downpours and light snow and can be used in late fall and early spring.

4 season tents are built with heavy and dense material and can be set up in the middle of winter.

Globo Surf Overview

There are many differences between a backpacking tent vs a camping tent. Before you set out backpacking ensure that your gear is working as it should. Try setting up a makeshift tent in your backyard. Pack everything in your backpack and find out how heavy it feels.

If you have doubts that you’ll be able to walk long distances with your backpack, try getting rid of some of the things that you might not need.

Pitch your tent not very far from civilization. Often a 3-day trip will provide you with some unique and unforgettable experiences. You can try and backpack for 10 miles and find a good spot to set up camp.

Wake up the following day, trek for a few more miles as you discover the backcountry, and in the evening head back to camp, spend the night and then pack everything on the third day and head back home.

When planning your camping trip, you can carry a comfortable pillow or a larger camping stove since you will have the convenience of your car to carry all that stuff. However, leave behind items such as mp3 players, mobile phones, and tablets as these can take away the whole idea of camping and enjoying the outdoors.

Try and avoid crowded campsites. Sometimes the reason for camping is to escape the hectic lifestyle, to be at one with nature, and be able to relax. A crowded campsite may interfere with the whole idea of camping.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!