The backcountry shelter you choose will have a significant impact on your budget as well as your pack weight. This is why it should be one of the essential gear-buying choices. To make matters worse, backpacking tents are available in various styles, from minimalist to extravagant.
The following steps will help you choose the best backpacking tent.
The capacity of a Backpacking Tent
Backpacking tents can be classified by capacity, ranging from one to four-person models. The tent’s name usually includes the capacity number, such as REI Half Dome 2.
Tent interiors are designed to be comfortable and save weight. There is no industry standard for measuring per person. Therefore, a 2-person tent can look different from one brand to the next. Ultralight models will be smaller.
You might consider tents that are one person more extensive than the average person or if you want more space. You can also hunt for tents one to two inches larger or longer than the average. Some tents have clues in their names, such as adding “plus” to the end. If you value more floor space, compare the dimensions of all tents.
Seasonality for Backpacking Tents
You have two main choices: a 3-season or a 4-season tent. A three-season tent is the most popular choice for hikers, particularly those new to the backcountry. Many backpackers choose to have more than one tent because every trip’s worst-case scenario will sometimes differ.
3-Season Backpacking Tents
These tents can balance weight and the ability to handle the many conditions spring, summer, and fall can bring. 3-season tents can withstand heavy snow and downpours if they are correctly pitched. However, they cannot withstand prolonged exposure to severe storms, strong winds, or heavy snow. These are the key features.
Mesh panels with ample mesh to increase airflow and repel insects
For more interior headroom, use higher-quality vertical walls.
To keep weight down, use lighter fabrics and poles.
Extended-Season Backpacking Tents (2-4 or 3+ Seasons)
These tweener tents can be used in summer, but they also work well for spring and fall trips when there is a possibility of snow. These tents are also great for trips to high-elevation, exposed destinations where snow may surprise you. These are the key features (in comparison to 3-season models).
Fabric panels that zip over mesh areas can keep snow from blowing and retain heat.
You may need to add one or two more poles than a 3-season tent for additional strength.
-Season Mountaineering Tents
These tents can withstand strong winds and significant snow loads. However, they must be more ventilated and feel stuffy even in mild conditions. These are the key features (compared with 3-season or extended-season models).
More heavy-duty fabrics and more poles
Round dome designs can withstand winds and eliminate flat roof spaces where snow can accumulate.
You might find fewer mesh panels or zip fabric panels that allow you to cover the mesh panels when necessary.
Rainflies that reach close to the ground
Four-season tents include lightweight single-wall tents with waterproof/breathable walls and no rainfly. A single-wall tent is better for dry, cold conditions, as condensation can build up in humid areas. (For more information on how to deal with a damp tent interior, see How To
Weight of a Backpacking Tent
Your backpacking tent’s weight is an essential part of your overall weight. Tent designers strive to reduce this weight. You must compromise on space, features, and durability to reduce weight. You can find lightweight tents that feel spacious and comfortable if you do your research.
Although tents made from heavy-duty materials are more durable, tents are still robust. If you want a premium ultralight tent, you’ll pay more for ultralight-yet-strong materials. Brands use the term ultralight liberally. If every ounce counts, check the specifications before you buy.
Key Tent Specifics
Minimum Trail Weight: This is the total weight of the tent body, rainfly, and poles. It’s the bare minimum. Although you will likely pack more tent-related gear (e.g., footprint, stakes), this is still the best spec. (Remember that ultralight shelters can function without the use of a tent pole or rainfly, so the minimum trail weights they have will only reflect the essential components.
Packaged Weight: This is the total weight of all components that come with a purchase. It includes the body, rain fly, and poles. This is the weight that you should carry for the trail.
Pack size: The amount of space a tent takes up in the pack will also affect how easy it is to transport. Splitting up components can help reduce the length. For example, let your partner carry the tent body and the poles. This will allow you to save some weight by leaving your tent storage bag home.