A backpacking tent is generally used to protect you from bad weather, rain, wind and sometimes snow.
So the two main characteristics we will want to concentrate our research on will be the weight and the permeability (SIL/PU - silicone/polyurethane double sided coating).
A hiking tent also offers a comfortable space at the end of the day if the weather does not allow you to stay outside, especially when you leave for several days and you cannot find any other shelter.
Keep in mind though that a tent is not always necessary.
When the climate is dry, even if the temperature is not very high, it is very tolerable, even pleasant to sleep under the stars.
A good sleeping bag is quite sufficient even at 0° C, especially when there is no wind.
Those who have walked in the desert will not contradict me.
Now, one question remains. Will you need a one-person, two-person, three-person or four-person backpacking tent?
To help you choose, we have selected the best 3 for each category of tents, either you will be hiking alone or in a group.
Don't miss our little guide on "Questions to ask yourself before buying your hiking tent" at the end of this article.
Best One-Person Backpacking Tents
Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 1 - For Easy and Quick Setup
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL1 is for minimalist backpackers who want the most effective lightness / protection ratio.
The Ghost UL 1 weighs 2 lb 2.9 oz (989 g) and is very easy to mount.
The nylon ripstop / PU construction protects you from the rain and the tent's shape keeps you sheltered from the wind, keeping in mind that it is designed for 3 seasons use.
It has a large zipped entrance and an apse allowing you to store some of your equipment.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 - The Lightest
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 is an ultra-light, three-season tent designed for solo bivouacs. It has a high ceiling and vertical walls that offer good comfort for hikers.
It has a single arch with a central hub making assembly very easy. This setting lightens the structure of this single-person shelter.
Possibility to mount only the inner chamber or only the double roof (tarp mode "fast and light") but requires the use of the floor mat (footprint sold separately).
The Fly Creek HV UL1 has a D-shaped door and a vestibule that allows you to store your equipment.
Part of the mesh inner tent promotes air circulation and reduces condensation.
MSR Hubba NX Solo - A Classic
The MSR's Hubba NX 1, is a freestanding tent that combines comfort, speed of assembly, versatilityof use and lightweight.
The configuration of Hubba tents allows for a more comfortable interior volume for sitting and moving around.
It is equipped with a large door and a full vestibule to store your bag or do the cooking in bad weather.
It consists of an inner tent and a double roof that can be used separately and completely independently.
The inner tent being made of mesh over its entire upper part can be used as a mosquito net shelter and the double roof as a single shelter with its floor mat sold separately.
The Hubba tent is perfect for camping or bivouacs for your treks, hikes and other excursions over several days.
In the end, the Ghost UL 1 tent is particularly suitable for trekking, where lightness and practicality are de rigueur.Hyper light, simple and quick to assemble, it goes to the point to bivouac without question.Another beautiful product from Mountain Hardwear.
The minimalist design that maximizes the interior living space without weighing down the weight of the tent.Ultralight materials.This 1-person model will appeal to those who enjoy ultralight hiking, mountain biking, and bikepacking.
The Hubba NX tent from MSR deserves the good reputation it has.Hard to find another freestanding tent, which can be mounted in tarp mode, as spacious and light.
Best Two-Person Backpacking Tents
Zpacks Duplex Tent - Can't be More Ultralight
Little known to the general public, the Zpacks brand is, on the other hand, very well known by hikers and is a tremendous success among thru-hikers.
Its primary advantage is obviously its weight, we are talking about a 2-person tent weighing only 19.4 oz (560g).
The tent is a single-wall tent made of Dyneema Composite Fabric, a material that is strong, light and water-repellent at the same time.
It has no frame; it rests on the trekking poles and thanks to the tension of the stakes (not included).
We are therefore dealing with a tent that is not freestanding.
Zpacks offers several colors that correspond to different thicknesses of Dyneema.
The burnt orange, spruce green and dirt version is stronger (but therefore slightly heavier) than the blue, green and white versions.
The Zpacks is well ventilated, which limits condensation, but provides carefree protection from the weather.
It offers enough space for two people, thanks to its vestibules.
Each person has his own access through the two openings.
For a solo use, the size becomes almost luxurious.
Once folded up, the tent is easily compressed and occupies a relatively small volume in the backpack.
Its only weak point is its price.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 - The Comfortable Ultralight 2P Tent
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 trekking tent is designed to be one of the lightest freestanding tents in the world today with only 800g per person for 2 but not to mention comfort with 2 entrances and 2 vestibules.
Very popular for hiking, cycling and raid adventures.
Ripstop floor fabric quite thin.Apart from mounting in the grass, we advise to slip under a suitable footprint sold separately or at least a survival blanket.
Very easy and fast assembly.
6 pegs are largely enough for perfect mounting of the tent in bivouac.
Ideal color to not suffer too much heat in summer.
Well ventilated, it will also be ideal during a trekking in hot countries.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person - Still a decent tent
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 tent is a reference in the world of ultralight, 3 season tents, for 2 person. It weighs only 3 lb 13 oz (1.72 Kg).
It is unanimously recognized for its qualities: designed with a single hubbed pole offering a very fast assembly and a great stability in the wind.
The ventilation system is efficient and limits condensation thanks in particular to the inner micromesh fabric.
Its one-meter-high dome shape combined with the 29 sq. ft (2.7 sq. m) floor surface offers real comfort to the bivouac.
The Hubba Hubba NX is a freestanding tent with 2 rather large vestibules and 2 doors. The sturdy and lightweight fabric is windproof and has truly effective sealed seams.
The double roof can be mounted alone. With the addition of the floor mat, it is possible to turn Hubba Hubba NX into tarp mode, making the whole thing lighter!
The Hubba Hubba NX Msr Tent is a lightweight, versatile and sturdy tent. It is ideal for hikers who care about weight, quality and comfort.
Nemo Dagger 2P - Super ventilated tent
The Dagger 2P from Nemo Equipment is a 2 person, 3 seasons tent with 2 large doors and 2 vestibules.
These 2 vestibules will store your equipment and will help you prepare a meal in rainy weather.
The high position of the hub-poles structure increases the living space giving a height of 42in (107 cm) inside.
The assembly is simplified thanks to clips that allow to fix the fly on the poles.
The mesh fabric interior chamber promotes air circulation and avoids condensation.
In terms of accessories, the Dagger 2P is well thought out:
- Fabric pocket on the top of the room to diffuse light from your front.
- Inside mesh pockets to keep personal items close at hand.
- Reflective connection points for easier mounting at night
The Nemo Dagger 2 P is delivered with dividable stuff sack, 8 aluminum stakes, guy-out cords + a repair kit for fly and poles.
Points to remember: in 4 words: light, spacious, freestanding, stable!
By choosing the Duplex from Zpacks we are certainly choosing the lightest 2-person tent in the world. Built from Dyneema, a new composite fabric with a weight-to-strength ratio 7 times greater than steel, this tent is a revolution in the world of ultralight trekking!
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is ideal for hikers who are concerned about the weight of their equipment. The quality of construction is well proven. However, we will think about investing in a footprint to protect it from the ground and consider the Copper Spur HV UL3 for larger size persons.
The Hubba Hubba NX has been a success for several generations, and that is understandable: beautiful living space, low weight, good finishes. Everything is there to have an ideal tent, not to mention the low price that adds the cherry to the cake! We just recommend to be careful with the floor mat to make it last over time.
The Dagger 2P is a beautiful, spacious and lightweight tent. The ease of assembly and the very correct finishes add to the practical dimension of this Nemo. It's a little gem of lightness, space and resistance.
Best Three-Person Backpacking Tents
Vaude Taurus 3P - The best price for a 3P
The Vaude Taurus II 3P tent is a real bunker against bad weather conditions.
The ease and speed of assembly (a few minutes) and for a very reasonable price are other advantages of this tent.
Vaude declares this tent as a three-person. We think it is more in the category of 2/3 persons.
Its relatively narrow width and the size of its vestibule make it impossible to live comfortably during a multi-day itinerant hike with three well-equipped adults if the weather worsens and it is mandatory to cook indoors.
Under these conditions, for two people it is the ultimate luxury!
The Vaude Taurus 3P should seduce a very large majority of campers and hikers with its really efficient price/quality ratio and who are not looking necessarily for the most technical product.
MSR Elixir 3 - Excellent weight/volume ratio
The MSR Elixir 3 is a very good quality backpacking tent.
It is certainly positioned in the heaviest models of MSR tents, but its volume, versatility, ease of use and assembly, design and quality/price ratios are real assets for this 3-season 3-person tent.
Beware of windy areas as this tent only offers 2 guying points.
The standard floor mat is a plus and allows the tent to be set up in tarp mode to save weight.
This Elixir 3 offers a very interesting weight/price/quality ratio: 3.1 kg for 3 people.
Nemo Galaxi 3P - Ideal for First-Time Backpackers
The Galaxi 3P hiking tent from Nemo Equipment version 2018 is a very practical and easy to set up three-person backpacking tent, offering excellent ventilation in summer and a very good living space.
We also appreciate the included footprint to protect the tent from the ground, the two doors that are very pleasant on a daily basis and at night, the straight zips that are very practical when opening and closing the mosquito net.
The material has a good waterproof ratio (1500/3000mm) for hiking and mountain use in 3 seasons.
With its floor dimensions of 90 x 81in (229 x 206 cm), you can even slide 4 sleeping pads of 20in (51cm) side by side for a bivouac of 4 (i.e. 2 adults + 2 children).
The Vaude Taurus 3P is THE ideal solution for a first investment in a three-season tent, and will be perfect for hiking or camping. It offers almost nothing but advantages: robustness, wind stability, interior space, ease of assembly, very good waterproofing. Excellent ventilation, thanks to the system of openings in the roof.
Self-supporting. Good ventilation. A tent for hikers looking for a shelter with an excellent price/quality ratio. A simple, light and comfortable hiking tent. Supplied with additional floor mat!
A tent designed with durable materials. A versatile model, well thought out for bivouac hiking. The footprint is delivered with the tent. This is again an argument, as it increases the durability of the tent and protects it from dirt, moisture and sharp objects.
Best Four-Person Backpacking Tents
Nemo LOSI 4P - The Award Winning Design
The pole structure of the Nemo Losi™ 4P offers unprecedented strength and almost vertical walls for an even more voluminous and spacious interior.
Thanks to their 2 vestibules, you can easily store your equipment.
Perfect finishes with accessories such as the Light Pockets™ for example or its Roll-up storage bag (which rolls on itself).
Double roof fabrics and thicker floor mats provides more resistance.
We really love the 61in (155cm) ceiling height, the unique ventilation to avoid condensation and the incredibly spacious volume.
A 4-person backpacking tent with a unique living space on the market.
One of the best sellers of the American brand for its great comfort:-)
Exped Gemini IV DLX
The Exped Gemini IV DLX 4-person tent is a beautiful 3-season family tent.
Spacious, well built and well designed, this one will offer beautiful nights of bivouac.
The vestibule is really comfortable both in size and in height.
You still need a nice and wide place to setup up the tent.
Our favorites for this tent are the enormous vestibule and the impressive height of 5.9in (180cm) but also the exploitable place in the tent, the 2 doors and the little gadgets (storage, pocket for the doors...).
The manufacturing quality seems exemplary (DAC poles, quality fabric).
A beautiful tent that is not without its faults.
The weight is not insignificant 11lbs 8oz (5.2 kg) even if it is contained for this large volume.
The overthrow assembly of the fly can be a weak point in bad weather, even if it provides comfort in dry and hot weather because the inner tent is self-supporting and allows you to sleep while admiring the stars.
Resolutely a good choice for those looking for a spacious tent for a family bike trip or hiking with friends.
MSR Papa Hubba NX - The Ultralight 4-person Tent
The Papa Hubba NX is a 4-person 3-season tent that offers a rather comfortable living space.
53 sq. ft (almost 5 m²) for 4 people and a really interesting weight because it barely exceeds 6.6 lbs (3 kg).
The weight/person ratio is therefore excellent and this tent can be considered for multiple itinerant activities for 2, 3 or 4 people!
Too bad, however, that the 2 vestibules are so small (22 sq. ft - 2.04 sq. m).
It allows you to put your gear down but not to cook or create a space for children.
The assembly is carried out quickly with color codes for the 3 DAC poles (one multi-branch and 2 lateral). The side poles allow to create this beautiful room volume.
The tension of the fabric is good except towards the 2 ventilation openings: it is necessary to tighten the sides with the 2 cords in place so that the double roof does not touch the room.
A few guy loops may be missing in case of bad weather.
The well-ventilated self-supporting chamber can be used alone on a sunny day or under an awning or other protection.
A tarp mode is possible if you invest in the dedicated footprint which seems mandatory for long term use anyway because the 30D fabric may be not enough in the long run.
What characterizes the Nemo Losi 4P is its habitability: the structure of the poles creates a comfortable interior space. The upper poles increase the verticality of the side walls, which optimizes the available interior volume.
A real 4-person shelter, this tent is comfortable, versatile and lightweight!
Tent very well finished, good impression of sturdiness, well accessorized, with repair equipment (self-adhesive fabric parts, spare zip pullers). Many small practical details (e. g. the storage bag includes a separate part for the double roof). Easy assembly, especially with colored markers.
The Papa Hubba NX benefits from an exceptional volume/weight ratio and ease of use thanks to design and technological innovations. It provides a comfortable sleeping area for 4 people. Ideal for group trips, and is relatively light despite its volume and very good wind resistance thanks to its crossed poles structure.
Questions to ask yourself before buying your hiking tent:
1- What will be the use of my future tent?
Depending on your bivouac program, ask yourself what type of tent to buy: 2, 3 or 4 seasons?
Tent for a trek, for winter bivouac (4 seasons), for ultra-light hiking or to sleep comfortably at the campsite?
Are you looking for a shelter to face the worst conditions at a base camp, an assault tent for the high mountains, a light tent for your future backpacking trip?
2- What means of transportation will I use to bring my tent to the bivouac?
Bike, canoe/kayak, on foot in a backpack, pulka, car?
Ask yourself the question of the weight and volume (bulk) that you are able to carry.
3- What interior space do I need?
To store bicycle bags, a pulka, several backpacks, to put a dog to sleep, to enjoy space with a child...
This question is closely related to comfort and your need for space.
All the answers to these questions will influence the choice of your tent with regard to the following factors:
- weight (lightness),
- habitability (comfort),
- waterproofing (seasonality) and
- strength (robustness and durability).
After answering these questions, here are 6 criteria to take into account in order to better choose your hiking tent:
1- Number of people:
1, 2, 3 or more people
2- Seasonality :
- 2 seasons: spring/summer use
- 3 seasons: spring/summer/fall use
- 4 seasons: can be used all year round, at all altitudes (difficult conditions, wide temperature variations, etc.).
Weight is an important criterion to be taken into account.
The lighter it is, the less you carry, but don't forget all the other criteria before buying your tent.
Lightness is certainly an interesting criterion because it is synonymous with carrying comfort, but the choice must correspond to your needs.
It depends on the number of place(s), the bivouacs and the climate.
Tunnel tents have a very good resistance to wind, rain and snow.
They offer an excellent habitability (interior space + apse).
Their vertical walls offer a real comfort inside the tent.
Their apses are often very large and functional: they allow you to store all your equipment (ideal for cycling, Nordic raids, expeditions...).
Generally, domed and geodesic tents have a lower habitability than tunnel tents but they have the advantage of being self-supporting.
The apses are generally smaller. Dome tents are mostly lighter than tunnel tents.
Depending on the brands of tents, there are significant price differences.
The prices depend on:
- the quality of the materials used (fabric, poles),
- the technicality and
- the finishes but also on
- other criteria: place of manufacture, reputation of the brand, etc...
6- Technical data
Here are some important features you should focus on:
- With or without a double roof (single wall)?
- If double roof, fabric or mesh interior?
- Self-supporting tent or not?
Depending on the manufacturer, the choice of materials is very different:
- silicone coated fabric or not,
- quality of the aluminum of the poles,
- diameter of the poles,
- impermeability of the fabrics?
If you ask yourself all these questions and take into account all the criteria listed you should find the tent of your dreams!
For even more information of how to choose your backpacking tent here is a detailed guide: "How to Best Choose a Backpacking Tent for Your Next Hike?"
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Josh Koop says
I have to agree that I am in love with the Big Agnes tents and think they are pretty good cost-wise. I wish I could afford ZPACKS but i’m definitely not to that income bracket!!
Lara Sein says
I agree with you Josh. Big Agnes tents are more than acceptable and you must really be an unconditional ultralight hiker to invest into Zpacks.
Wilfred Chong says
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 look decent, properly can fit 2 people(Asian size). But I have a question, what do you mean “Less comfortable”? is it the Big Agnes material or the size of the tent make you uncomfortable?
Lara Sein says
The small vestibule area might be considered as uncomfortable when confined inside due to extended bad weather.
MSR Hubba NX Solo – A Classic and Vaude Taurus 3P – The best price for a 3P seem really perfect to me, will be buying any one of them really soon, thanks for comparing and marking pro’s and cons
Insight Hiking says
Hey Lara Sein,
This is complete guidelines of backpacking tents. Recently, I have started a hiking blog & gathered so much awesome information for your blog. Thanks for sharing.
Lara Sein says
Engi Zeinich says
I bought the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 you mentioned as your top pick.
This tent is sold as a two person, but does not work well for two.
I traded it to someone else and moved to a bigger tent for two.
Lara Sein says
Thanks, Engi, for your feedback.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 is strictly a 1-person Ultralight tent, I don’t know who told you that it was a 2-person tent.
Even on Big Agnes it is categorized as 1-person tent capacity.
Anyway, it’s nice to know that you solved you problem.