Important Considerations for Backpacking Tents
Value – When you are venturing out into the backcountry wilderness and you’re possibly miles from the nearest shelter or your car, it is not the time to have saved money by buying a cheaply built backpacking tent. It could very seriously be life and death if your tent fails in a backpacking situation, especially when extreme weather rolls in. We feel that our top pick, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL, is the best combination of comfort and safety. Our other options should be considered based on your specific needs and how much money you are willing to spend to meet those requirements.
Comfort – If you are looking at backpacking tents, you are most likely considering only lightweight or ultralight backpacking tents. Besides weight, your comfort is going to be important at the end of a long day of hiking or if bad weather ruins your day. Most backpacking tents are sized to how many standard adults the tent will fit, not including gear and certainly not taking into account extra space for taller or larger-bodied backpackers. If you want extra space, choose a tent with an extra 1 person capacity. Also consider the number of vestibules and their size to store all your gear outside of the tent while still being protected from the elements.
Durability – Durability goes hand in hand with value and quality. All of our best backpacking tents are manufactured by companies who stand behind their products. They provide quality lightweight backpacking tents built to last. Ultralight backpacking tents are most definitely going to have thinner and lighter materials, but even then, choosing the right tent to match camping conditions and where you camp are extremely important to the life of the tent. In addition, using proper footprints and understanding that basic tears and holes are easier than ever to repair, will go a long way to extend tent lifespans.
Airflow and Ventilation – You’ll know it when you wake up inside a poorly ventilated tent. Condensation will collect overnight and you’ll wake up to damp and soggy sleeping bags and clothing. Not a nice way to begin the day. When you exhale while sleeping, your breath is giving off about 1 liter of water. For every other person you are dealing with extra liters of water each night. That water vapor needs to go somewhere otherwise it stays trapped inside the tent and can soak gear. Ventilation is an important aspect of a good quality tent so all of the tents on our list provide excellent ventilation. Airflow is more important when facing hot and humid temperatures. Again, we have only picked tents with good quality materials to provide maximum airflow so the tents can be used in a variety of temperature conditions. If it cools down at night, the tents we chose have full cover breathable rain flys that provide warmth and a wind block when covering the tent.
Weight – Your tent is going to be one of, if not the heaviest item in your backpack. All of the options on our list are true backpacking tents and save on weight. Keeping weight down is critical to comfort and enjoyment while you backpack. With double wall backpacking tents now coming close to, even matching, minimalist shelters in weight, our ultralight choice, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL, maximizes comfort and space for every ounce of weight. For all the benefits tents bring, we recommend them over tarp and single wall shelters.
Weather Performance – All of the best backpacking tents on our list were designed to perform well in most weather conditions, keeping you safe, dry and warm. They provide protection against rain, wind and blowing dust, provide airflow in hot weather, and will do quite well when night time temperatures get colder. If you are considering a backpacking tent for winter backpacking, you could consider expedition tents, but we feel the Hilleberg Nallo GT is versatile enough for most backpackers considering taking on all 4 seasons.