December 1, 2016

The Best Backpacking Tents

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Find the best tents for your needs. Read this list of top tent reviews by price, size and features.

Best Backpacking Tents
Best Backpacking Tents © CreditDonkey

Camping is one of those activities that seems to be as divisive as politics or religion. Seriously, poll your family and friends – I can guarantee that a significant number hate to camp. Some have endured a bad experience that has forever soured their attitude towards camping.

My wife and I love the outdoors and opted to go camping with family along the Delaware Water Gap for her 21st birthday. We purchased a cheap Coleman tent that was large enough to sleep 5. Not only was the tent difficult to setup, but mild showers penetrated the tent in the middle of the night and we had both leaks and floods. My mother-in-law and sister ended up sleeping in the car, and are now more likely to star in an episode of Man vs. Wild than they are to sleep in a tent. I can confidently say that they will never join us on another family camping trip.

What I learned is that purchasing the right tent, which is especially true for novices, can have a significant impact on your feelings toward camping. In order to buy the best tent, you must be educated on various different factors and cognizant of your camping needs.

Factors to Consider When Shopping for a Tent

There are several things you need to keep in mind when purchasing a tent. CreditDonkey will help bring you up to speed on factors and variables that are critical to the buying process.

  • Size: How many people are planning to sleep in the tent? Do you require standing room?
  • Weather: What environments do you plan to camp in? What is the temperature range?
  • Ease of Setup: How many poles are required for setup? How long will it take?
  • Price: What will you get for your budget?
  • Quality: How will the tent hold up in unfavorable conditions like wind or rain?

If you adequately plan your camping trip and consider these factors, it will greatly improve your odds of buying a solid tent and having a good camping experience. You can start off your camping trip on the right foot with a quick and easy setup, and a sturdy, reliable tent that is equipped to handle inclement weather.

Top Backpacking Tents

Best Backpacking Tents
Best Backpacking Tents © CreditDonkey

Best Under $100

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx

  • Size: 1 person
  • Weather: 3 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: 2 poles and simple clips
  • Quality: Lightweight, but still abrasion- and water-resistant

The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx is a lightweight tent. Weighing less than 4 pounds, this tent is a great option for backpacking and adventure. The Lynx is big enough for one person to sit or lie down, with floor space of just 20 square feet and interior height of 3 feet.

With just two aluminum poles and a simple clip system, users report the Lynx is super easy to setup. Another nice feature is the gear loft and mesh storage pockets that allow campers to free up additional floor space.

The drawbacks to this tent are transparent to consumers. First, the tent is not rated for use in the winter. The second issue is size; this tent will not be feasible for backpackers with a traveling mate.

Best Under $200 - $300

Marmot Tungsten

  • Size: 3 persons
  • Weather: 3 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: 3 press-fit poles with color-coded clips for simplicity
  • Quality: Lifetime warranty

You can get a much larger tent with added features to make camping even more convenient. The Marmot Tungsten is large enough to sleep 3 people, with floor space of 41.3 square feet and interior height of 46 inches. At the same time, it does not sacrifice carrying weight, as the tent is just over 6 pounds.

This tent has a lampshade pocket that allows campers to set up a light within the tent. In addition, it offers two vestibules and small interior pockets to maximize storage. Users report a very easy setup and the tent includes a footprint for fast-pitching. There are also two doors which enable multiple people to move easily in and out of the tent. Most impressive, the Tungsten has a lifetime warranty, meaning the manufacturer is very confident of the durability of its design.

The cost of this tent really minimizes the drawbacks, but some users did report uncomfortable levels of condensation inside the tent. In addition, like the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx, the Tungsten is not rated for winter usage.

Best for 2 Persons

Mountain Hardwear Trango

  • Size: 2 persons
  • Weather: 4 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: 4 featherlite aluminum poles with a 5th pole for the vestibule
  • Quality: Fully taped seams on the fly and floor; high-denier nylon; polyurethane and silicone coatings that make the tent watertight; lifetime warranty

If you are climbing the Himalayan Mountains and facing sub-zero temperatures, the Mountain Hardware Trango is the perfect tent for you. While the tent is advertised for 2 persons, the 40 square feet of floor space says otherwise. In fact, it has more floor space than the North Face Assault 3, which is sized for 3 persons. There are two vestibules, lots of storage space, and interior height of 38 inches. Additionally, there are two mesh doors and a small window.

The price tag on the Trango may turn off some consumers. In addition, many users note that the tent’s trail weight is nearly 9 pounds, which is on the heavier side for long hikes or mountain climbing. Ultimately, this is the price you pay, both financially and physically, for a tent that protects you entirely from even the harshest of weather elements.

Best for 3 Persons

The North Face Assault 3

  • Size: 3 persons
  • Weather: 4 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: Easy-pitch tent with 3 featherlite aluminum poles
  • Quality: DryWall fabric; floor and vestibule reinforced with PU-coated ripstop; lifetime warranty

The North Face Assault 3 is another great option for harsh winds and freezing temperatures. It is a 4-season tent that features an X-design to minimize the ferocity of high winds. The tech spec that lifts the Assault 3 above its competition is a trail weight of less than 6 pounds. Essentially, you get an all-season tent for the weight of a 3-season unit.

The Assault 3 has several other features that will improve your camping experience. In addition to the large front door, there is also a rear escape hatch. There are two vents on the top that help the tent breathe, and plenty of storage via a removable vestibule and hanging tabs. With an interior height of 43 inches, you will not sacrifice comfort by utilizing the hanging tabs.

You get a lot for your money with the Assault 3. However, the price tag is steep, with the tent retailing for over $500. In addition, while the tent is advertised as a 3-person unit, it should be noted that the 37.5 square feet of floor space suggests that may be a stretch. If 3 people are going to squeeze into this tent, you may want to keep those puffy North Face jackets at home to save a few precious inches of floor space.

Best for Tall People

Big Agnes Big House

  • Size: 6 persons
  • Weather: 3 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: Color-coded pole ends make this tent easy to pitch
  • Quality: 1,500mm waterproof polyurethane coating; added polyurethane taping on all seams to reinforce waterproofing; lifetime warranty

The manufacturer designed this tent to be waterproof, easy to pitch, and spacious. The Big House has over 80 feet of floor space and an interior height of 75 inches, which allows for standing room for anyone less than 6 foot 3 inches tall.

The Big House also offers plenty of storage. There are two built-in storage shelves, loft loops for hanging gear, and half a dozen storage pockets in the tent.

For backpacking and camping experts, the technical specifications expose some weaknesses. First, the Big House is only rated for 3 seasons. Second, the trail weight of this tent is 12 ½ pounds, which is twice as much as some of the best tents we presented here. Ultimately, you will sacrifice some of the characteristics that make a tent rated for extreme backpacking and camping in exchange for the horizontal and vertical space.

Best Family Tent

Eureka Silver Canyon 6

  • Size: 6 persons
  • Weather: 3 seasons
  • Ease of Setup: Steel and aluminum poles, plastic tent stakes included
  • Quality: Only 1 year manufacturer’s warranty

Remember my family’s disastrous camping trip? If you buy the Silver Canyon 6, you will be guaranteed to avoid the mistakes that we made. This is a truly family tent. Rain intrusion is eliminated by the fully covered fly. It has 100 square feet of floor space and an interior height of 78 inches. Lastly, there are two doors and two vestibules.

The Silver Canyon 6 includes features designed to enhance the family camping experience. For example, there is a media center that allows your family to watch movies from your tablet or PC. There is a Power Port that allows your children to run a charger from an outside outlet to inside the tent. The tent even has reflective fabric designed to maximize lighting.

There are a few notable drawbacks to this tent. While many tents offer a lifetime warranty, the Silver Canyon 6 only provides one-year protection from the manufacturer. Naturally, this implies that the tent is not built to last.

In addition, this tent is only rated for 3 seasons and has a whopping trail weight of 21.25 pounds. But let’s get real. This is a family tent. The vast majority of families aren’t camping in extreme conditions, nor are they concerned with trail weight. The Big House has what families are looking for: size, easy pitch, and waterproof seams.

Best Hammock Tent

Hammock Bliss Sky Bed

  • Size: 1 person
  • Weather: N/A
  • Ease of Setup: Much easier to install than a traditional tent
  • Quality: Tear-resistant ripstop fabric

The Hammock Bliss Sky Bed gives backpackers and campers the option to enjoy nature and sleep amongst the stars. With dimensions of 142 x 57 inches, even the tallest adventurers will sleep comfortably. It weighs less than 2 pounds, so it is an easy accessory to bring on your trip. Lastly, the included pad is designed to stay in place while you sleep.

As a true accessory, there are no obvious drawbacks for campers who are simply looking to add a hammock to their experience.

Many people use the phrase “roughing it” when it comes to camping. This doesn’t have to apply if you are savvy and purchase the right tent for your specific needs. When shopping for a tent, make sure you consider factors such as the size of your party, the destination weather, ease of installation, and quality. If you do, you will walk away a “happy camper,” instead of waking up in the backseat of a car with a sore back.

Where to Buy Backpacking Tents

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