An essential item in every camper’s gear collection is a tent. A tent provides shelter from the weather and a safe place to sleep in at night. Tents are a portable home away from home, which provides you with comfort and safety. If you are a backpacker, having a lightweight tent is extremely important. When it comes to carrying your gear, you can cut down on size by investing in a high-quality tent.
A lightweight tent is an excellent choice for a compact tent that doesn’t skimp on durability. While the weight and size of a tent can be extremely important, it doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality. A tent still needs to be durable enough to withstand all weather conditions.
This guide is designed to help you choose a tent that best suits your needs. A well-made tent is a great choice for outdoor explorers who are conscious about every inch of space. Experience nature with our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Tents on the market in 2020!
How To Choose A Backpacking Tent – Buying Guide
Size When Packed
The tent’s size when packed is an important aspect of the design because it tells you how much space you need in your pack to carry your tent. A tent’s size will usually be determined by its capacity. Single person tents are smaller than a two-person tent, and so forth. The number of people you are backpacking with will determine the size of the tent you need which, in turn, will tell you how much space it will occupy once packed into your backpack.
A good rule of thumb is that a single person tent should provide a range of 14-24 square feet of space, while a two-person tent should provide a range of 26-35 square feet of space. If you are traveling in groups larger than four, it may be easier for each pair to divide and carry their own tent. This means there would be two tents in the group, instead of one large tent.
Modern tent designs are usually extremely lightweight and compact due to the materials used in their construction. However, it is important to remember that a tent will have multiple parts that need to be packed.
A tent’s fabric material, when packed, can be easily shoved into a backpack. If it is folded correctly, you can mold it into a manageable size. However, your tent may also come with a separate rainfly, ground cloth, poles, and stakes. All of these parts will need to be packed to enable you to set up your tent at the campsite. Altogether, a tent may take up a lot of space in one pack. If you aren’t traveling solo, it is easier to divide the tent among people’s packs, so everyone can help carry the weight.
Size When Open
A tent’s size when open will determine how much space you have for people once you put it up. Again, this depends on how many people you are traveling with. You want to be certain that you have enough space inside the tent for the people in the group and all your gear. After all, it won’t be helpful to you if you are dry but all your clothes and sleeping bags are wet.
The tent you choose should have enough floor space, as well as vertical space. Many tents are quite spacious inside and should have enough height to be able to stand partially upright. A top-rated tent will provide you with adequate space for you to feel comfortable, while still keeping the tent compact enough to travel around.
Remember that the larger the tent is inside, means the larger the tent will be to carry. As always, larger tents will have more weight and bulk, which will be added to your pack. However, the reason backpacking tents are great is because they make spacious designs compact enough to be carried for miles on the trails.
Backpacking tents should come in a range from less expensive to more expensive. You can find tents for under $100 to over $500. However, you should always be able to find a high-quality design that is still affordable. One way to determine how much you should invest in a tent is to consider how often you will use it and in what conditions.
If you are going to be using your tent often and in harsh conditions, it may be best that you truly invest in a high-quality tent. This could mean spending $500+ on a tent, but it would ensure that your tent is durable enough to withstand frequent use and wear. Also, if you find yourself always going on backpacking trips, the lighter the material is the more expensive it gets. Material that is both lightweight and durable makes the cost of tents go up.
One of the most expensive materials is the ultralight but durable SilNylon. SilNylon is an extremely tough, waterproof, and sturdy material. It is great for campers who want to invest in a tent because they will use it frequently. Ultralight tents will also make it easier to carry all your gear, without being too overwhelmed by weight.
There are many budget and expensive backpacking tents and you shouldn’t choose a tent based on just those words. Some campers may think that they can get away with a budget tent but find that it isn’t holding up on their trip. Other campers may think that they need an expensive tent but, in reality, they could get by without such a large investment in a tent.
The weight of a tent is an important aspect of packing because it determines how much you can comfortably carry in your pack. Every person is different, and some can carry more weight than others. If you are backpacking solo, a tent’s weight can really affect what you pack for your trip. A tent is essential to your trip but finding the correct size and weight is extremely important.
A tent’s weight will be determined by its size. A single person tent will weigh less than a two-person tent. Therefore, it is important that your tent capacity matches the number of people in your group to ensure that you aren’t carrying unnecessary weight.
Most backpacking tents will state they are lightweight based on the materials used, which is most like nylon or polyester. Both materials are lightweight and durable. A top-rated tent design will have extremely lightweight tent stakes and tent poles, possibly made of titanium. When it comes to space in your pack every ounce counts. So, if you find yourself out on the trails often, it’s better to invest in a high-quality tent that can save you a few extra ounces.
One way to help with carrying the weight of your tent is to split the pieces between people. If you are backpacking with three people, each person can carry a different part of the tent on the trail. The tent body and fly can be carried separate, as well as the stakes and poles. This separation can help ease the burden of everyone’s pack.
The amount of time it takes to pitch a tent can greatly affect your efficiency on the trail. If there is inclement bad weather coming in, you want to have a tent that is easy and fast to set up. Nothing is worse than being stuck out in the cold or the rain. It’s also important that all your gear stays dry because wet gear can put you at risk.
The best tents for backpacking on the market will be fast to set up and come with clear instructions. You don’t want to scramble and struggle with the set-up on the trail. You should feel confident that you can successfully set up your tent in the time it states on the product. Most top rated tents for backpacking can be set up in a couple of minutes.
On the flip side, you also want your tent to be easily broken down. It would be frustrating to have a tent design that is easy to set-up, but impossible to pack back down. You have to be able to take your tent down in reasonable time too. The perfect tent designs will ensure that their tent is easily packed. After all, you don’t want to be stranded and wasting time trying to figure out how to fold your tent back into your pack.
You should also be sure that your tent matches your group size because you may not be able to set up a two-person tent if you are traveling solo. You must ensure that you can confidently pitch your tent before you leave on your trip, or you could be stranded without shelter.
Most camping locations in the world have four seasons. The first location that many people think of when camping in the mountains. Mountains certainly experience all four seasons. Therefore, it is important that you consider what seasons you want to camp in. Out of spring, summer, fall, and winter, many campers will only camp in the summertime. Tents that are built for the summer season can only handle warm weather into the very beginning of fall. This means that a summer tent is a 1-2 season tent. If you want to camp in the wintertime, you need a 3-4 season tent.
Most backpackers hike extreme trails on their trip, so having a 3-4 season tent would be best. Even in the summer, higher altitudes can always have unexpected weather that may be cold. A 3-4 season tent will provide the protection you need to ensure you have a shelter, no matter where the trail takes you. Also, 3-4 season tents tend to be thicker and more durable to handle bad weather. If you are absolutely certain you won’t be dealing with high altitude and only camping in summer, you may be able to invest in a 1-2 season tent.
By matching the correct season of your tent to the trip you are taking, you can save yourself money. 3-4 season tents are more expensive than 1-2 season tents. If you are looking for a tent, but want to stay on a budget, it’s best to choose exactly what you need. You would be wasting money if you buy a 3-4 season tent but you only choose to camp in the summertime. Or, you could think that a 1-2 season tent will do for your trip but, in reality, you should have invested in a 3-4 season tent.
It is very important that a backpacker’s tent performs well on their trip. After all, a tent’s job is to function as a temporary shelter. If your tent fails to properly function on the trail, it can lead to stress and a disaster. You should be sure that you have matched your tent’s advertised functionality to your trip.
If you are going out in winter, you need a 3-4 season tent. If you are backpacking with two people, you don’t want to bring a four-person tent. If you are able to find the best backpacking tent for you and your trip, then the tent you choose should function without fail.
The tent’s functionality will be best if you match a tent’s design to your specific needs. The more closely you can match what you want with the actual tent design, the better the tent’s function will serve you. Therefore, take the extra time to really look for design features you know you will use.
Durability and Strength
All tents need to be durable and strong, but some need to take it to an extra level to ensure you have a reliable and safe temporary shelter on your trip. Tents that are 1-2 season are durable enough to handle rain and wind. Tents that are 3-4 season are durable enough to handle rain, wind, and light snow. It is important that you match the season of the tent to the season of your trip because it can give you advantages to extending the durability and strength.
However, you also want to invest in a tent that is made of high-quality materials. You don’t want a tent where the zippers leak. By investing in a top rated tent, you are sure to find a tent that holds up throughout years of use with proper maintenance. Top-level durability and strength mean that you will have a tent to use for numerous trips.
Durable tents have the ability to be used and reused for years if they are properly cared for. Tents can be an expensive investment and you certainly don’t want to have to buy a new one for every trip. Your goal should be to find a tent that is durable and functions for you. The durability of the tent will mostly be affected by the materials used. Using higher quality materials means the tent will be more durable and longer-lasting.
There are many different materials used in the tent design. Generally, a fabric’s denier indicates the strength of the yarn. A lower denier fabric usually indicates a lightweight tent. Tents with a higher denier fabric tend to be heavier and, therefore, more durable. Also, the denier of a fabric can vary between the tent floor, canopy, and rainfly. The three most common fabrics used for backpack tents are Polyurethane (PU) coated fabrics (polyester and nylon), SilNylon, and Dyneema.
Polyurethane (PU) coated fabrics are the least expensive waterproof fabric. However, they are prone to disintegration over time. Specifically, hydrolysis is a chemical process that is known for causing the breakdown of the material. If you don’t want to put a huge investment in a tent and you don’t use the tent extremely often, Polyurethane coated fabrics could be a great choice for you.
SilNylon is nylon that has been coated in silicone elastomer. SilNylon is becoming more and more common in high-quality backpacking tents. SilNylon is a popular choice because it is lighter, stronger, and more durable than the Polyurethane (PU) coated fabrics. Many tents that are made of SilNylon have this material on the outside, with Polyurethane (PU) coated fabric on the inside, so that it can be seam-sealed by hand. However, SilNylon tends to stretch a lot, which can warp the overall shape. SilNylon is normally more expensive than the Polyurethane (PU) coated tents.
Dyneema used to be called Cuben Fiber. Dyneema is the strongest, lightest, and most waterproof fabric available on the market. Unlike SilNylon, Dyneema does not stretch. The material tends to hold its shape better, which is an advantage when it is wet because you won’t have to readjust the guylines as frequently. In addition, Dyneema can be easily repaired with tape. It weighs less than half the weight of SilNylon and gives obvious advantages to backpacking tents. The major drawback is that it is an expensive material. If you are backpacking all the time, Dyneema could be worth the major investment.
No matter the material of your tent, you want to be sure that it will hold up to the job. When it comes to relying on temporary shelter, cheaper is not better. Just keep in mind that you don’t always have to go for the most expensive option either. There are many other affordable options that still make a great tent that will provide function and protection to you while you are on the trail.
There are a lot of different things that can occur on the trail. From weather to animals, you want protection from it all. The tent’s main function is to provide protection when spending time in the great outdoors. A backpack tent needs to be able to withstand wind, rain, and possibly light snow. Depending on your trip and the destination, you may need to invest in durable 3-4 season tents.
You should also understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof, so you find a suitable tent for the weather elements. You shouldn’t invest in a tent just because it has the cheapest price tag. When it comes to your protection, you should find a tent within your budget that will deliver the best protection for your trip.
The interior space of a tent is how much space the occupants and their gear will have inside once the tent is open. You want to ensure that you have plenty of space, not only for people but for your gear as well. It won’t help if you stay dry, but all your clothes get wet. The interior space of a tent should comfortable hold the occupants, their backpacks, and have space to lay out the sleeping bags. The general rule of thumb is that one person needs 14-24 square feet of space to be comfortable.
You should keep in mind that the rainfly can add a bit of storage space too. If the rainfly has a vestibule built into the design, you can store your gear in that space, without losing sleeping space for the occupants. A vestibule is great because it keeps the gear dry and protected from the elements while keeping it outside the main body of the tent. This means that the inside sleeping space of the tent can be reserved for just the essential gear like sleeping bags and sleeping pads, as well as the occupants.
The capacity depends on how many people you are bringing with you on your trip. There are many different tent sizes, from common 4 person tents to some that are 10 person tents, though those are rare for backpacking. However, when you are backpacking, space is precious. Every ounce you can save on weight can help ease the burden of your pack. You should make sure that your tent holds the number of people you want including their gear, and no more.
Don’t use a four-person tent if you are just camping in a pair because you are simply wasting space in your pack. You want a tent that fits the capacity of your group exactly because that can give you the ability to carry a few extra tools or cans of food.
One tip, which may help save on weight, is to carry two tents. If you are backpacking in a group of four, it may be too hard for one person to carry the tent body of a four-person tent. Instead, the group could bring two tents. One tent for each pair. Each pair can then split the pieces of the tent to help each other carry the weight and leave space for other gear in their packs.
For example, one person can carry the tent body, but the other person can carry the rainfly. Then you can also split the stakes and poles between people. By dividing the tent, you are saving weight and helping each other carry the burden.
There is an endless variety of different types of tents. From canvas tents to teepee tents and freestanding tents, you have plenty to choose form. One of the most common designs for lightweight backpacking tents is the dome.
Dome backpacking tents are extremely popular because they are simple, easy to assemble, and provide plenty of space inside once they are constructed. A dome tent has poles that arc from side to side and the tent walls are hung in-between. A rainfly can be easily added to the outside to provide protection from rain or light snow. Even dome tents have different designs.
Some are freestanding and won’t need ropes and guylines to support the structure, and others aren’t. The dome tent’s rounded shape makes them sturdier in higher winds if they are properly staked down. The dome makes the tent aerodynamic as well, which means that it won’t be blown over if the wind direction suddenly changes.
Other shapes are available in backpacking tents too, but they aren’t as popular. One specialized shape is a geodesic shape, which is essentially a large dome tent. The larger the dome, the more support it needs. Geodesic shaped tents use more poles that crisscross to create a stronger structure. These tents are an excellent choice for winter tents because they are stronger and better with wind resistance. One shape that is not common in tent designs is a tunnel tent.
Tunnel tents use 2-3 U-shaped poles to make a tunnel. The tunnel shape needs to be staked down to hold its shape and stand up. These tents are not as popular because they don’t have great wind resistance. Due to the shape, the tunnel is prone to being knocked over in the wind. Therefore, these tents are best used with a natural cover like a hill, to provide a windbreak for the structure.
Another shape that is less common is an A-frame tent. A-frame tents have a pole at either end, which the tarp is placed over to make the A shape. A-frame tents can shed snow well, but they are also prone to being knocked over by the wind, like a tunnel tent.
The dome tent is the best shape because of its versatility and availability. You will find that the majority of the tent designs on the market these days use the dome shape. With the dome tent, you are getting a secure and stable design that can be easily set-up and dismantled. Dome tents offer spacious interiors and keep you warm. Plus, dome tents are still extremely compact and easy to carry on the trails.
Another aspect of tent design is wall construction. There are normally two different styles of wall construction. Tents are commonly classified as single–walled or double–walled. The most common choice for campers is a double-walled tent.
A double-wall tent has an inner layer often made of mesh and a waterproof bottom. The outer waterproof layer, called a rainfly, is optional and can be added to the structure. A double-wall tent is popular because it allows ventilation, which prevents the condensation buildup, while still giving weather protection.
For example, on a warm summer night, you might want to remove the rainfly so you can see the stars. A single-wall tent is made of one waterproof layer that has vents to help the tent breathe, but doesn’t give you a great view.
Double-wall tents are the most common and popular choice. Campers enjoy the ability to choose whether they would like to use the rainfly or not, if it’s a clear night. The rainfly can also be set-up without the inner wall layer, which could save you weight, depending on the conditions of your trip.
In addition, double-wall tents are normally less expensive than single wall tents. Another advantage is that double-wall tents have excellent ventilation because of the mesh layer.
Condensation is an enemy when in the tent. Temperature differences outside and inside can make water condensate on the walls, which can easily drip through the mesh onto you. A double-wall tent has the ventilation to allow moisture to escape while keeping you warm inside.
Doors and Vestibules
As you had the chance to see, tent doors come in many different shapes and sizes. Many tent doors come as a large D-shaped door or a large rectangular shape. Most dome tents will have a D-shaped door that follows the shape of the dome. Some tents have two doors, which means that each person can have their own entrance. Most campers who are in a smaller group choose to use one door as the primary door (if there is more than one).
The rainfly will often have an extension that covers the door providing some extra space outside the tent. This area is great to keep your shoes and gear outside the main body of the tent but still keep them dry form the rain. This mini awning is different from one tent design to another. Smaller tents normally have a door that unzips directly into the main interior space, while some tents have an added vestibule.
A vestibule is like a mini room that is attached to the main body of the tent. The vestibule may be completely sealed from the inner main section of the tent, or it may simply be attached without an inner door. A vestibule is a great space for you to keep your gear without taking up sleeping space. The vestibule will be the main door of your tent and once you pass the small space, it will open up to the main space of the tent inside.
However, as stated above, they are built into the rainfly design. This means that there is no floor, but the top is covered by your rainfly. This will add weight and bulk to the rainfly, but it can be extremely helpful. Tents that have a vestibule in the rainfly may have one for each door. If you have a two-door tent, there may be two vestibules in the rainfly.
You should remember that a vestibule will add more bulk and weight to your tent. If you want to make space for a tent with a vestibule, you may need to cut back on other gear. The added protected storage may be extremely helpful and give you some extra comfort.
Large doors and vestibules can also help you keep your tent cool on summer trips by providing maximum airflow throughout the tent body.
You may be wondering what is a tent footprint? The footprint is also called a ground cloth. It is a piece of fabric that matches the size and shape of the bottom of your tent. A footprint can help keep your tent from flooding in rainy conditions.
Additionally, a footprint keeps the tent floor clean and protected. The tent floor can easily get punctured by a small rock or branch, and a footprint adds a layer of protection. For most tents, a footprint is highly recommended because of the extra layer of protection it provides.
On top of this, a footprint can help keep your tent dry in heavy rain. If your tent floor isn’t properly sealed to keep out all the water, adding a footprint as a layer can reduce the amount of water that may leak through the bottom. If you want to take care of your tent to ensure many uses through the years, a footprint is an excellent accessory that you can add.
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Backpacking And Camping Tent?
The main difference between backpacking and camping tents is the weight. A tent for backpacking will always be lightweight or ultra-lightweight because it will be carried long distances on a person’s back. A camping tent tends to be heavier because it is often carried over short distances and isn’t packed into a backpacking backpack.
In addition, backpacking tents are often more durable than camping tents because they are going to be exposed to a wider variety of weather. Backpacking tents also usually have double-wall construction, while most camping tents have a single wall.
With the purchase of a tent, you will get excellent durability and strength in a lightweight design. Everything in a backpacking tent’s design, from the tent body to the poles and stakes, will be made of lightweight materials. Therefore, backpacking tents are normally more compact. The perfect backpacking tent will be easily folded down to a manageable size so that it can be easily stuffed into a backpack.
Also, most backpacking tents come as 1-2 or 3-4 seasons. This means the tent is rated for use throughout half or all four seasons. Depending on when you’re backpacking, you may need a 3-4 season tent’s durability for your trip.
Overall, the reason that backpacking tents are chosen is that they provide an edge that normal camping tents don’t. Backpacking tents save space in a backpack, so they can be carried for miles on the trails. They also provide a durable and safe shelter. Almost all campers who are not car camping will choose to invest in a backpacker’s tent because of their functional and convenient design.
Q: How Do I Clean My Tent For Backpacking?
This depends on the tent’s individual design. Tents cannot be washed as one solid piece and they definitely should never be placed in a washing machine. The best way to clean your tent is to spot clean the stains after every use. Most tents can be easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water.
It is extremely important that after any time you wet a spot or dampen your tent, you allow it to fully dry out. A moist environment is bad for a tent because it can lead to mold. Your tent should always be stored bone dry.
Also, always shake off any extra dirt or rocks. You don’t want to fold and store your tent full of debris because that can add wear and tear to the fabric, which means your tent will be damaged and possibly unusable on the subsequent trip.
Most companies will provide a user’s manual with their product, which will most likely include cleaning instructions. This is the best place to get information because it will be catered specifically to the type of material used in the tent design. You should always start with the manufacturer’s recommendations before you begin cleaning your tent.
To keep your tent in top shape, you will want to ensure that it’s cleaned after each use. Trails are dirty and there are small rocks or gravel that can stick to the tent floor and walls. You don’t want to pack away a dirty tent because it can make the tent disintegrate faster.
If you clean your tent after every use, allow it to fully dry, and store it properly, the tent should last for years. Also, it ensures that you aren’t frustrated with a dirty tent when you pull it out on the trail. It’s nice to have a clean shelter every time.
Keep in mind that you should also have a backpacking repair kit, so you aren’t stuck with a hole in your tent if you run into any problems. A clean tent that is managed and repaired when needed, will last longer and provide better protection.
Q: What Is The Ideal Weight For A Tent For Backpacking?
A top rated tent for backpacking will always be lightweight or ultra-lightweight (2 to 5 pounds). With backpacking, it’s all about carrying your gear with you on your back. That means that you have limited space and need to pack your gear accordingly. You should find a tent that you know you can manage carrying along with all your gear.
Lighter tents are smaller and have less space inside. On the other hand, larger tents will weigh more and be more spacious. A 3-4 season tent will be the heaviest to pack because they are made of thicker and sturdier material.
You should always feel comfortable carrying your tent, which is why you should match your tent to your specific needs. The better you match a tent, the better chance you have at finding a design that you are confident with using. Backpacking tents are specifically designed to be carried for many miles. To compress your tent even further into backpacking backpacks, you can invest in compression sacks to help manage the bulk.
Luckily, most tent designs are fairly compact. This means that everything included in the tent (from the body to the stakes) is listed to be about 5 pounds. There are numerous tents that range in the 4-5-pound range and the lightest weight available is well under 3 pounds.
It is entirely up to you to decide what weight you can manage carrying in your pack. No matter the tent design, backpacking tents are designed to shed several pounds off what a normal tent might weigh. This means that, by choosing a tent for backpacking, you are already saving weight and space in your backpack.
Q: How To Pack A Tent For Backpacking?
Before you put the tent in your backpack, make sure you roll it properly. First, take out the poles from the tent and put it flat on the ground. Place the pole bag on the side and use it for support as rolling the tent. Roll up the tent with the pole bag in line – this will keep it straight and compact. Finally, put the tent in its bag and then in the backpack.
Depending on the weight, the tent should be placed either on the bottom or in the middle of your backpack. As we’ve said earlier, always make sure the tent is completely dry before packing it. In addition, make sure the tent isn’t too large for your backpack because you’ll also have to carry a lot of other gear.
Q: Should You Fold Or Stuff A Tent?
While folding a tent might look neater, there’s actually evidence that stuffing a tent is better for it in the long run. Instead of folding it in the same spot over and over again, stuffing the tent preserves the structure over a longer period. It’s also quicker to do in the field if you don’t want to use the rolling method and creates some extra space in your backpack.
Q: How Do You Attach A Tent To The Bottom Of A Backpack?
It’s probably best to attach the backpack using closed loops, but you can use other types of secure knots too. These are threaded on both ends and won’t come loose even if your tent slides from its position. If you want to carry the tent on the outside, a backpack with an external frame is the best choice. Also, because it’s going to be exposed, don’t forget to put the backpack in a rain-protective cover.
Q: Is It OK To Put A Tent In A Compression Sack?
Yes, this is perfectly ok. However, it isn’t always necessary. Because tents aren’t made of lofty compressible materials, you won’t be able to save a lot of space compared to stuffing them in their own bag. But, if you think you could use the extra space, go for it. Just remember to take it out of the compression sack when storing.
Globo Surf Overview
No matter which design you prefer, finding the perfect tent will really change your backpacking adventures. A tent should give you safety and comfort on the backwoods trails. It should feel manageable to carry, set-up, and use. As we’ve pointed out in the text, the best overall hiking tent will ensure that you stay dry and protected regardless of the season.
On top of this, getting the best budget hiking tent will give you top-level comfort too. Hopefully, our list and buying guide helped you find a top rated tent for backpacking that really suits your needs. Before you know it, you’ll be off enjoying the wilderness!
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
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- Hiking Socks
- Shoe Glue
- Backpacking Sleeping Bag
- G Shock Watch
- Trekking Poles
- Tactical Boots
- Backpacking Stove
- Backpacking Sleeping Pad
Do you own one of the backpacking tents that made it onto our list? Let us know how it has worked for you in the comments section below.