Do you want to know what the number one way to increase comfort will be on a backpacking trip out into the wild?
Simple: sleeping in a backpacking tent.
Obviously a tent is not fully necessary for backpacking. You could just sleep directly on the ground if you wanted to (not that it would be all that comfortable). Other backpackers like to just lay out a mat on the ground, rest their sleeping bag over it, and then sleep under the stars. Others like to set up a hammock between two trees and then sleep in that, while others are content with nothing more than a tarp over their heads.
But a tent will truly offer you the most protection and comfort against the natural elements such as the wind and the rain, while also being the most cozy. Think about it: you could plan on sleeping out under the stars under a mat, and you may even check the weather ahead of time to confirm that it wonít be raining. But then it could just as well end up raining anyway, and you would have a pretty miserable (and wet) night to say the least.
Backpacking tents truly are the best kind of shelter that you can bring with you on your backpacking trip. Whatís more, is that backpacking tents are very compact and lightweight so they are easily portable, so they are not as cumbersome to carry as you may think.
In this article, we will cover the very best backpacking tents on the market, and we will also talk about the top considerations you will need to have before buying one.
Backpacking Tent Considerations
You will want to keep each of the following considerations in mind when buying a backpacking tent:
First and foremost, you need to know that it is not necessary to bleed your bank account just to get a backpacking tent. Backpacking tents are available across a wide variety of different price ranges, and itís more than possible to get a quality product on a budget.
As stated above, backpack tents are lighter so they can be more easily carried in your backpack. That being said, this doesnít mean that literally any backpacking tent will be comfortable for you to carry over long distances. Every ounce counts, and a seemingly small difference of around five ounces can actually seem like a lot when youíre hauling the tent in your pack over many miles of rocky and difficult terrain.
If youíre a person of smaller stature especially, investing in a tent thatís an overall smaller size and weight would be wise, even if youíre going to sacrifice a little interior space. Speaking of whichÖ
Space & Capacity
One reason why backpacking tents are lighter is because they already permit significantly less space than most other types of backpacks on the market. Furthermore, they already tend to run small on top of that. For example, a tent backpack that markets itself as having enough room for two people is really only likely to have enough room for one person and their gear and backpack. You could probably fit two people with both of their gear in their, but it would be a tight fit so be aware of that.
As a whole, two person tents are usually the most popular option, because they can typically fit two people into them, or they can also easily fit one person with his or her backpack and gear. Three and four person tents should be avoided, just because they can get extremely crowded with that many people in them and will be much bulkier and heavier to carry.
Another part of capacity and space to consider is headspace. Obviously youíre most likely not going to be standing up in your tent very much (if at all), but you also donít want to feel like youíre trapped in a coffin. Keep in mind if thereís a storm outside, you may be inside your tent for several hours, including during the daytime. Get a tent that is large enough to comfortably lay down in and with several inches above your head.
The best kind of backpacking tent to get will be one with a three season rating. These kinds of tents are good for all times of the year except for winter, and will normally keep water such as rain and condensation out as well. They can even handle a little bit of snow, but are not designed for full winter conditions. If you will be backpacking in the winter, get a four season tent.
Freestanding or Non-Freestanding
There are two kinds of backpacking tents available: freestanding and non-freestanding. Freestanding tents come with poles designed for the tent, and will ensure that it is 100% upright when they are installed. They can be set up anywhere and are incredibly stable. They are also quick and easy to set up, and there are little adjustments you will need to deal with. However, they will be on the larger size for a backpacking tent.
Non-freestanding tents are also known as trekking pole tents, because they usually can be set up usually the trekking poles that you would bring backpacking anyway. Non-freestanding tents are even more compact and lightweight than freestanding tents, and they are usually more affordable as well. However, they will not be quite as durable or stable when set up.
Which type is right for you? Honestly, both freestanding and non-freestanding tents work, and thousands if not millions of backpackers use both of them every single day. If you want the most compact and lightweight option available, non-freestanding tents will be the way to go. But if you want a tent that is faster and easier to set up, and that will be more secure even if you have to contend with it being heavier to carry, freestanding tents are the way to go.
Itís entirely up to you.
Single Wall or Double Wall
Just as you will need to choose between freestanding and non-freestanding tents, and just as there are valid reasons to get either one, so it exists with single wall and double wall tents as well.
Single wall tents are lighter to carry and faster to set up. After all, without an extra wall, itís easy to see how they are lighter.
Double wall tents have an extra wall in order to protect against condensation, which can help keep you and your gear dry. The extra wall comes at the cost of a bulkier and heavier tent to carry.
Again, itís all about weighing the pros and cons and then you can decide for yourself.
A backpacking tent that has a bathtub floor means that there is a tarp-like fabric across the floor and a few inches above the ground, before it connects to the mesh walls. Such a design will be very effective at preventing moisture from getting into the tent, such as heavy rains. As for now, bathtub floors are standard in almost all backpacking tents, and there is good reason why. Thereís little reason to buy one of the few backpacking tents without one.
Doors and Vestibules
The best kind of backpacking tent will have at least two doors and two vestibules, especially if it is a tent designed to accommodate two people. It will simply be more comfortable, both because both of you will have a way to get out separately from the tent, and also because the vestibules can be used to hold all of your tentís gear.
Remember that two person tents can sometimes only comfortably hold one person with his or her backpack and gear, so having the vestibules to hold your gear will be especially important if you are going to fit two people in there.
Mesh for Insect Repellant
You donít want to wake up to mosquitoes and flies crawling over your skin do you? If not, then be sure to buy a backpacking tent that comes with a mesh on the inside part of the tent as an extra layer of protection against insects.
Single wall tents will ditch the mesh in order to save on weight, so youíll need to go with a double wall tent if you want to have this feature. Itís all about what you think will be best for your needs.
Now that you know what to look for in a backpacking tent, letís dive into the very best backpacking tents that you can get on the market today:
An overall excellent option for a backpacking tent, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. Why? Simple: itís lightweight (at only 3 pounds), comfortable, and can pack down into a very compact size. On top of that, when itís set up, it will be very resilient to the winds and provide you with all of the protection that you need.
The Big Agnes has two side doors on it, and is equally at home on a short trip as it is on a longer and more intense trip high ino the alpine mountains. You will have to pay a premium price for this tent, but youíll do so knowing that it can resist everything from rain to winds without hassle to keep yourself fully shielded from the elements.NEMO
The Nemo Dragonfly 2 tent is designed to offer the perfect combination between weight and comfort. The fabric material is constructed primarily out of a 15D ripstop nylon, which is definitely on the lighter side of things but still very durable. It will resist the wind easily, and will not be loud when it flaps.
The tent has two side doors, wind resistant sidewalls, and a mesh system to help keep bugs and mosquitoes out as well. There are also numerous storage pockets installed within the tent so you can empty your pockets out at night without having to put everything on the floor.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent is one of the most spacious backpacking tents on the market, and is also an excellent choice for people who are taller or those with more gear, due to its larger design and more spacious interior. Of course, this means that the Half Dome 2 Plus will also be heavier than most other backpacking tents, as well as heavier.
Granted, in comparison to other tents itís only five pounds, but in comparison to backpacking tents specifically itís massive. In fact, itís more than twice the weight of the lightest backpacking tents, so be prepared for that.
Additional features that the REI comes with includes an excellent ventilation system, a large number of indoor storage pockets, and the fact that despite its larger size and array of features itís available at an affordable price.
The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent is a very lightweight, single wall tent that can be quickly and efficiently set up with just one trekking pole. This tent is very light at under thirty ounces, and is easily one of the lightest and user friendly tents on the market. When you need to ge a tent set up very quickly on your backpacking trip, the Six Moon Designs will be the one for you.
Donít be fooled by the small size either. The Six Moon Designs has plenty of room on the inside with enough room to store your backpack and other gear, in addition to extra storage compartments for holding your items you would normally keep in your pockets.
Another very lightweight tent, only itís designed to fit two people, is the Tarptent Double Rainbow tent. Weighing just forty two ounces, the Tarptent has two vestibules to hold your gear and two side doors. It also only requires one tent pool to set up just like the Six Moon Designs tent. The pole will be inserted into a sleeve that is sewn into the top part of the tent; you can also use trekking poles as an alternative. If you already have poles with you, there wonít be any need to bring the extra weight of the extra pole along with you.
The Tarptent comes with a bathtub floor, which effectively means that rainwater will not be able to enter the tent. There are also roof vents to help prevent internal condensation, meaning you wonít wake up in the morning to drippings over your face.
Itís a bit higher priced than most of the other tents on this list, but the Zpacks Duplex is the very lightest backpacking tent on this list – it weighs only nineteen ounces. Itís designed for one person, although two people could fit in if necessary. There are two side doors and an excellent ventilation system.
As with the Tarptnet, the Zpacks also has a bathtub floor to prevent water from seeping in if it rains at night, or if youíre forced to set up camp over soggy ground. It also has mesh sidewalls to keep insects out. And seam taped seams for additional durability. However, two trekking poles will be required to set up the tent correctly. Finally, the Zpacks is also fully waterproof thanks to the cuben fiber material itís made out of. This, in addition to the bathroom floor, means you wonít have to worry at all about getting wet at night, and is what you pay the extra price for.
If youíre in the market for a new backpacking tent (and you probably are if youíre reading this article), the above tents weíve covered represent your best options. And even if you donít buy one of these tents, you still know what to look for in one based on the information that we went over before.
Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
Revision: 01 November 19, 2019
© 2019 Douglas S. Ritter
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