The 5 Best Backpacking Tents for Your Next Adventure

Published on 02/17/2024 · 10 min readGear up for the trails: Discover the best backpacking tents, designed for lightweight carrying, durability, and protection in the great outdoors.
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

Photo by Dudarev Mikhail

Choosing the right tent for backpacking can feel like a much more daunting task compared to choosing a tent for car camping trips. Not only do you need to worry about whether your backpacking tent will be light enough that it won’t weigh your pack down but you also want it to be comfortable and durable enough that you can get a good night's rest in the backcountry. So how do you choose the right backpacking tent? Great question!

Over my 25+ years of camping and backpacking trips, I have had a lot of great nights sleeping under the stars, where I woke up well-rested and ready to continue my backpacking journey. Unfortunately, I’ve also had some rough nights where I did not have the right gear for the situation and did not get enough sleep because of it. I dragged my feet back to the trailhead the next day with my head down, longing to be in dry clothing and my own bed.

Luckily for you, you’re in the right place to ensure you avoid the mistakes I’ve made and choose a backpacking tent that’s going to be the right fit for your camping situation. In this guide, I’ll touch on some of the basics of what to look for in a backpacking tent and recommend my picks of the top five backpacking tents. The right tent will keep you happy throughout your whole trip and have you ready to start planning the next one as soon as you get home! Through the tips in this guide and working with a Curated Hiking and Camping Expert, you can find the perfect tent for your adventures.

What Features Should You Consider in a Backpacking Tent?

Before we get into our list of the best backpacking tents, there are a few things you should know when shopping around for your next tent. Below are the main points to consider before settling on a specific tent.

Weight

Photo by Maridav

The first thing that backpackers are going to want to pay attention to when choosing a tent for their backpacking adventures is the weight of the tent. Since you’ll be carrying all your gear in your pack, you’ll want a tent with a low weight that’s fairly compact when packed in its stuff sack. Between 2-5lbs is an average backpacking tent weight, though larger backpacking tents might weigh a bit more.

(If you’re looking for even lighter tents, check out these ultralight backpacking tents!)

Size and Capacity

Photo by Marek CECH

Next up, you’ll want to consider the size tent you need. Are you sleeping in your tent alone? With one other person? With more than one other person? Most backpacking tents are going to range from a one- to three-person size since these are going to be the most compact and easiest to carry, though there are larger options if you need room for more people.

Weather Resistance and Ventilation

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The third thing you’ll want to consider when buying a backpacking tent is the tent’s weather resistance and ventilation capabilities. Most tents come with a rainfly to provide protection from any storms you might find yourself in, but some rainflies are more water resistant than others. Water resistance is measured in millimeters (mm), with a higher number meaning the material is more waterproof. Generally speaking, a waterproof rating of 1500mm will keep the water out reliably, but if you camp in areas that are more prone to rainy conditions, look for something with a higher rating closer to 2000mm.

Another important piece of moisture mitigation is ensuring your tent has adequate ventilation. This can be in the form of mesh ceilings, vents, or multiple windows, but it’s important that your tent has some form of ventilation capabilities. Without proper venting, the moisture from breathing overnight will build up as condensation on the walls of your tent and drip down the walls to soak your gear.

Setup

Photo by Marko Aliaksandr

Ease of setup is a great feature in any type of tents, but it’s especially valuable in backpacking tents. Oftentimes on backpacking trips, you’re setting up camp after a tiring day of hiking, possibly in the dark, and you’re likely setting up and taking down your tent much more often than you would be if you were car camping. Getting a tent with easy setup features can save you time and frustration and overall make your experience all that much better. Some features to look for would be color-coded poles, pre-attached poles, or easy clip-on attachments.

Durability

Durability is especially important if you have a clawed, 4 legged friend accompanying you! Photo by dezy

Lastly, pay attention to the durability of the tent. Some backpacking tents, particularly ultralight tents, are made with lighter materials that can be more prone to rips and tears. Suffering damage to your tent while you’re in the backcountry can be a real downer and a possible safety issue, so make sure the material your tent is made out of is built to withstand the wear and tear of heavy outdoor use.

Best Backpacking Tents

Now that we have the basics covered, let’s jump into our list of the top backpacking tents!

1. Best Low-Weight Backpacking Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3

Starting with arguably the most popular backpacking tent on the market, the Big Agnes Copper Spur has been a big name in the backpacking world over the last several years. The Copper Spur comes in several different models but the HV (high volume) UL (ultralight) is designed to be roomy enough inside while still maintaining the lowest possible weight. It also comes with several bells and whistles to make your trip all that much better, including two doors with awnings outside of either door, gear storage pockets inside, and color-coded easy setup clips on the body of the tent that can quickly attach to the poles.

The Copper Spur has two doors with a vestibule outside of each that can be set up by attaching your trekking poles, allowing you to shave some ounces off the total weight of the packed tent by leaving a few of the tent poles at home. Though there isn’t a ton of extra floor space on the inside of the tent, there is plenty of vestibule space to store your gear while ensuring it’s protected from the rain, so with your gear outside the tent there is plenty of room inside for three campers. It is on the pricier side, so not the best option for campers looking to save a few bucks, but it’s totally worth the investment for campers who want the best of the best and are looking for gear that will last a lifetime. This tent also comes in a smaller size, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 which is equally as excellent, just sized for two people instead of three).

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2. Best Dual Car Camping and Backpacking Tent: Nemo Aurora 2

The Nemo Aurora is large enough to pass as a comfortable car camping tent but still light enough to join you on backpacking trips — really the best of both worlds! It has steep, near-vertical walls to give you a ton of interior space and extra vents on the fly to ensure you get enough airflow inside the tent. There are gear lofts and pockets inside to keep all your belongings organized, and one of the interior pockets is Nemo’s special “Light Pocket” that allows you to put your headlamp or lantern inside and provide a more diffused, ambient light inside the tent as opposed to the regular spotlight you get when you hang your headlamp from a loop inside.

It comes with a footprint to give the floor of the tent some extra protection, and it’s compatible with Nemo’s “PawPrint liner,” which is a special, extra-durable liner that can snap into the floor and protects the tent floor from the sharp claws of your four-legged camping buddies. Though this is one of the heavier tents on this list at 5lbs 7oz, it’s still totally manageable and light enough to use as a backpacking tent and is ideal for campers who don't want to skimp on comfort and want more headroom inside the tent.

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3. Best for Rainy Conditions: MSR FreeLite 2

Though technically a two-person tent, the MSR Freelite 2 is a better choice for solo backpackers or backpackers looking to just share a tent with their pup. It’s a bit cramped for two people, but if you don’t mind being a bit close or are looking for a solo backpacking tent, this is a good fit.

It’s incredibly lightweight and is designed with extra features to add extra weather protection (so a great option for backpackers who regularly encounter rainy conditions!) It has rainfly gutters over each of the two doors, to funnel any rain or pooled water to drain down the edges of the tent instead of soaking you when you’re trying to get in and out of your tent. It also has a bathtub-style floor with double-taped seams to keep the water from soaking in through the bottom of your tent even in a torrential downpour.

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4. Best Family Backpacking Tent: Kelty Grand Mesa 4

All the tents on this list so far have been a bit on the smaller side, but if you’re looking for a larger backpacking tent to accommodate four campers, look no further. The Kelty Grand Mesa 4 is reliable and durable, and it won't drain your bank account! It’s quick to set up thanks to its pre-bent poles and color-coded poles and corners, so you can spend less time fussing with your tent setup and more time exploring the wilderness around you.

Though it is a bit heavier, weighing in at a little over 6lbs, the fact that it can accommodate four campers makes it easy to spread the weight out over a few backpacking bags: one hiker carries the poles, another carries the tent stakes, a third person carries the rainfly, and the last person carries the tent itself. Overall it’s one of the most affordable options on this list, and Kelty has a reputation for making durable gear that lasts through the wear and tear of heavy outdoor use.

5. Best for Longer Trips and High Winds: NEMO Dragonfly Osmo 2

Another great backpacking tent from NEMO, the Dragonfly OSMO 2 is a spacious and easy-to-use backpacking tent for two campers looking for something with enough space so that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic inside. It has a ton of storage inside, making it great for longer backpacking trips, and has two separate stuff sacks, making it easy to split the load of the tent over two backpacks as opposed to just having one person carry it all.

One of the most unique things about this tent in particular is the design of the rainfly. It’s shaped a bit differently than other rainflies with a pole on the top section and two stake-out points on either side. The design of this rainfly prevents it from flapping around in windy conditions, which can be annoying when you’re trying to get a good night's rest for a full day of adventuring the next morning. Though it is on the pricey side, thanks to the OSMO fabric of the tent body being more high-tech and durable, it’s well worth the investment, particularly if you do a lot of longer camping trips or are a light sleeper who's experienced restless nights of sleeping as your tent flaps around outside.

Chat With an Expert

Hopefully this list has given you some insight as to how to choose the right backpacking tent for your needs. Backpacking tents are tricky because you don’t want to get something that’s too cramped and uncomfy, but you also don’t want anything too heavy that’ll be hard to carry. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but there are plenty of tents out there that can do both, giving you enough room inside your tent without weighing your pack down.

If you still have questions or aren’t sure which backpacking tent is the right option for you, reach out to a Curated Camping and Hiking Expert. We are happy to give you advice on gear and answer any questions you may have, and it’s totally free to chat with us. Happy camping!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Shop Camping & Hiking on Curated

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Written by:
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
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Hunter Reed
Camping Expert
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