August 12, 2020

Top-Rated Buyer’s Guide: Best Tents for Backpacking

August 12, 2020

Top-Rated Buyer’s Guide: Best Tents for Backpacking

The best backpacking tent is an all-rounder for outdoor fanatics. With this tent, you are virtually free to explore any mountains and terrains of your choosing. 

Your next off-the-grid journey deserves to have an ergonomic, weight-restricted, and durable tent. For that reason, I made a list of the most exceptional backpacking tents that you can get today. 

Best Backpacking Tent Reviews

1. Marmot Limelight 2P Tent with Footprint - Editor's Pick

Marmot Limelight 2P Tent with Footprint
  • Large double door and rear D-shaped door lead to 2 vestibules to keep your gear dry in wet weather.
  • DAC Press-Fit poles with a Velocity aluminum 7000 ridge pole; Body Zone pre-bends create vertical walls for a more spacious living area
  • Color-coded Easy Pitch clips and poles; strategic clip placement provides larger interior volume
  • Seam-taped, full-coverage fly with vents
  • Seam-taped, catenary cut floor

As a 3-season tent, the Marmot Limelight 2P Tent is definitely an excellent choice for various backpacking activities. 

It has striking near-vertical walls that maximize its interior space and headroom. The tent also features a large double-door on its front and D-shaped door on its back for optimal accessibility. Each of the doors has vestibules where you can place your outdoor gears. 

The poles used on the Marmot Limelight are superb and ergonomically tailored for durability and function. They are far from being flimsy and generate ample stability to the tent. 

Moreover, the poles and clips are color-coded for a hassle-free setup. The placement of the clips is also strategic so that their internal space will have enhanced volume. 

Both the fly and the catenary cut floor have taped seams. Expect that water and moisture won't be able to pass through the stitching holes and vents. 

For backpacking purposes, this tent is designed to be rugged and lightweight. It has a packaged weight of approximately 5 pounds and can be carried conveniently. 

Pros:

  • Constructed from highly rugged, weatherproof materials
  • Seams are fully taped to prevent water entry
  • Pole architecture enables more interior space
  • Includes a footprint  
  • Comes with a myriad of interior pockets

Cons:

  • The poles are oddly long when folded

2. Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent  - Runner-Up


Another impressive backpacking tent that should suit your needs is the Kelty Salida. Interestingly, it is one of the highly-rated mid-level backpacking tents because of its remarkable design and streamlined performance. 

This tent features superb wall construction. It features the 68D polyester fabric and 40D no-see-um mesh for superb ruggedness and ventilation. Meanwhile, its floor is tailored from a 68D nylon. 

As a 3-season tent, you can expect that this model can hold various conditions, including moderate rain and light snow. It also comes with backpacking-oriented folding poles for quicker setup. Given that the tent is a freestanding tent, you can pitch it anytime and anywhere without problems. 

Single but large doors enable quick entry to the tent. In front of the door is a vestibule that you can use as external storage for various outdoor amenities. 

There are various loops and pockets inside the tent for item storage and organization. The floor space is ample for up to two individuals. You don't have to worry about its water defense as the stitching seams were taped already.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and backpack-friendly construction
  • Freestanding design for quicker setup and repositioning
  • Features color-coded attachments and clips
  • Comes with a single large wall
  • Includes a rugged rainfly

Cons:

  • Internal space is limited as compared to other backpacking tents

3. TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent - Budget-Friendly Pick

The TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent presents as a cost-efficient option for a backpacking tent. It features multiple ergonomics and qualities that any backpackers want for their tents. 

This tent can guarantee that you remain dry while you are inside it. It comes with a seamless, rugged rainfly with a 360-degree ventilation system to assure that it can still provide sufficient airflow. 

If the skies are clear, you can take out the rainfly and enjoy the scenery with its unobstructed roof. The top of this tent is made from ultra-rugged mesh that enables hinder-free sight-seeing. 

The setup of this tent is undoubtedly hassle-free. Aside from its streamlined weight, the Sports Mountain can be folded compactly. It is one of the reasons why it is an ideal shelter for hiking, backpacking, and lightweight pursuits. 

Pros:

  • Sufficiently compact; easy to stash in your backpacks
  • Meshed top enables uninterrupted sight-seeing
  • Includes a full-coverage rainfly 
  • Ventilation system is highly useful in warm conditions
  • Available in different sizes

Cons:

  • Floor construction is not the most durable

4. REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent - Premium Pick

REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent
  • Dome architecture is designed to be highly stable while maximizing interior livability
  • Wide-mouth door orientation gives all sleepers equal access to the 2 doors—no need to crawl over a tent mate to get in and out
  • Large doors have solid fabric for privacy and mesh for ventilation; doors tuck into roof pockets
  • 2 roof vents plus a low side vent create "chimney effect" ventilation, helping control condensation; zippered access allows campers to adjust the vents from inside the tent
  • Color coding on poles and sleeves for simple setup

One of the most suitable choices for mountaineering is the REI Co-op Base Camp. It is a 4-person tent that strikes the perfect balance between weight management and durability.

This one features a geodesic-dome structure for enhanced roominess. When packed, the tent weighs around 16 pounds, which is already decent for a 4-person tent. 

The tent itself is technically stable without sacrificing its internal livability. It has two doors that have a wide-mouth architecture that enables easy access to its users. There's no need to crawl before you can leave and enter the tent. 

The doors are also covered with solid fabric. However, this doesn't mean that the tent gets hot; it comes with mesh so that ventilation will never be a problem. 

Meanwhile, the vents on its roof generate a "chimney effect" that regulates the internal condensation. These vents are also adjustable within the tent. 

Setup is pretty decent when it comes to this REI tent. The poles and sleeves are color-coded so that you will no longer have to deal with a lot of guessing. 

Pros:

  • Made from coated 150-denier polyester for durability
  • Features two pole-supported vestibules on its front and back
  • Surprisingly light for a 4-person tent
  • Can be used as a 3-season or 4-season tent
  • Interior pockets and loops enable optimal item organization

Cons:

  • The Velcro-style loops for its rainfly are tricky to attach

5. Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent

Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent (Citron Green)
  • Two door / Two vestibule layout
  • Two person layout
  • Three season, fre standing tent
  • Tent fly ventilation windows
  • Bathtub floor construction

The Mountainsmith Morrison is a personal choice for being a rugged backpacking tent. I have tried this tent a couple of times on various hiking trips, and it didn't fail me. 

One of the enjoyable features of the tent is its voluminous interior space. Specifically, the living area of this Mountainsmith Morrison is at 35 square feet. It also includes large mesh panels on its walls for optimized ventilation and sight-seeing. 

Interestingly, the tent has a freestanding design that gives it the capability to be pitched quickly. There are only two poles that form this tent; however, they are already durable enough to ensure the tent's stability. 

The tent also features a color-coded fly attachment to enhance its user-friendly setup. 

Meanwhile, the double vestibules of this tent add 14-square feet of storage space. There, you can drop your outdoor gear. You can also lounge there if you want to. 

You also don't have to worry about the weather protection that Morrison tent can give. It comes with a full-coverage rainfly and PU-coated fabrics so that water and external elements won't pass through it. 

Pros:

  • Offers spacious interior
  • Made from durable and coated fabrics
  • Hassle-free and user-friendly setup
  • Fully taped seams and stitches
  • Poles architecture are flexible and durable

Cons:

  • Slightly weighted tent

How To Choose The Best Backpacking Tent

There is a considerable amount of research needed when it comes to buying backpacking tents. Sure enough, you wouldn't want to end up having a bad shelter for backcountry and hiking pursuits.

Of course, there's also a hint of excitement that goes along when choosing tents. After all, they are one of the essential pieces of outdoor equipment that can define your overall experience off the grid. 

If you are a first-timer, you will be surprised that there are dozens of tent options out there. When uninformed, you will be baffled and confused about the number of options and considerations present. 

I am here to simplify the process of selecting.

A Brief Breakdown

For backpacking tents, the following factors can be considered as the cream of the crop. 

  • Capacity - It determines the size of the tents and the number of people it can accommodate. Some tents are for a single person while other models can hold up bigger crowds.
  • Livability - Aside from the capacity, the quality of the tent is also determined by how livable it is. Specifically, this one defines the overall ergonomics that the tent has. Is it accessible? Does it allow item storage? Can you sleep comfortably on them?
  • Seasonality - One of the indicators of a tent's quality is seasonality. Specifically, the construction of the tent will tell you if it can protect from different weather conditions. By the way, not all tents can handle harsh atmospheric conditions. 
  • Weight - Please be mindful of the weight of the tent. Robust tents are heavy. But other applications do not require the service of bulky tents. Try ultralight tents for once!

Now, let me give a little briefer about these aspects that influence the quality of backpacking tents.

Capacity

Keep in mind that our keyword here is "backpacking." Hence, we can already exclude tents that can cater to more than six people. 

The ideal tents for backing are the compact ones. Specifically, you should go with those 1 to 4-person units, since they can provide significant living space without being a burden in the travel. 

Tents that are specified for backpacking applications have cozy interiors. But at the same time, this doesn't mean that all backpacking tents have a similar dimension. For instance, a 2-person tent from Marmot may be bigger or smaller than a 2-person tent from Coleman. 

Of course, if you are going to pick an ultralight tent, you have to deal with its compactness. It is one of the reasons why one tent per person is recommended in a lightweight adventure such as backpacking. 

What if you are a big person? Well, you just need to pick a tent that is a space bigger than you. For example, a bulky backpacker should get a 2-person tent even if he or she is going to camp alone.

Livability

The best backpacking tents are often the most livable. And take note, that's not just a marketing phrase manufacturers love to float around. 

Livability is essential for outdoor adventures. It is difficult to have a tent that you cannot feel even an iota of comfort in. 

There are several factors that can identify the livability of a tent. A good example is the interior space. Does the tent feel cramped or roomy? 

Most of the conventional tent styles have restricted floor space, steeply inclined walls, and reduced headroom. Again, such construction is intended to reduce the weight of the tent. However, it can compromise the comfort factor, and that's not a good thing. 

Fortunately, modern designs were able to go over this problem. The newest commercial backpacking tents are accessible, spacious, and downright comfortable. 

  • Floor Plan - It is easy to grasp the floor size of a tent by looking at its width and length measurements. However, keep in mind that not all tents have rectangular floor construction. So it is quite normal to see irregular measurements. 

Also, you need to know that tapered floors are actually efficient if providing room for your arms and shoulders. It helps in cutting the weight of the tent by narrowing its foot. 

  • Peak Height - A tent that has enough headroom is quite pleasurable. It allows people to stand inside without bumping anything. 

However, when it comes to backpacking tents, the peak height is always limited. Of course, these tents are designed to be compact, which makes this restriction quite understandable. 

Also, the peak height is only measured in a single spot of the tent. Specifically, it is on the part where the tent is the tallest. 

  • Wall Shape - The livability of a tent is also affected by the design of its wall. Keep in mind that vertical walls provide more room for the interior space of the tent. But the tradeoff here is that these tents with vertical walls are slightly heavier than those sloped ones. 

If the tent wall is sloping towards the ceiling, then it has minimal interior space but comes with great weight management. 

Other Factors That Influence Livability

  • Ventilation - Whenever you are inside your tent, you exhale moisture. Of course, there's a need for the tent to address this issue. 

Components like mesh panels, windows, and vents are crucial. They enable proper air circulation on the interior to stop condensation from forming. 

  • Vestibules - The vestibule is technically an extension of the rainfly. It functions as a sheltered external space where you can stash your outdoor gears like a muddy pair of boots. 

A colossal tent does not require a vestibule. However, this means that the tent will become heavier, and that's not a good thing for backpacking. Of course, large vestibules have the same effect, too, so you really need to be careful in choosing.

  • Door - A backpacking tent doesn't require too many doors. But it would really be great if the tent comes with at least two doors. Such a setup improves the overall accessibility and livability of a tent. 
  • Freestanding - This term refers to tents that can stand on their own without the need for stakes. They are great for backpacking since they can speed up the pitching and repositioning process. However, these tents are slightly heavy because their pole architecture required to be as rugged as possible. 
  • Tent Fabric - Most tents today are using a spectrum of hybrid polyesters and nylons. But regardless of the material of choice, the term "denier" always appears. 

The denier (D) refers to the weight of yarn (in grams) per 9,000-meter length of the said yarn. A rugged fabric has higher denier measurement, but they tend to be heavy, too. Meanwhile, those that have lower deniers are lightweight but have minimum tensile strength. 

Also, be reminded that you should never compare similar deniers unless their fabrics are the same. Each material has unique properties, which could affect the overall quality of the tent. 

Seasonality 

For backpacking pursuits, your best options are 3-season and 4-season tents. They are the ones that can provide decent conditions against rough conditions. 

3-Season Tents

A 3-season backpacking tent should have a balance between weight management and durability. Specifically, it is a tent that can be used in summer, spring, and fall. The tent must be able to survive any conditions during these seasons.

As long as the tent has been pitched correctly, it can handle downpours and moderate storms. However, it cannot withstand violent thunderstorms and strong gusts of wind.

Here are some of the critical aspects of 3-season tents:

A myriad of mesh panels that enable optimal airflow while deflecting insects

Upright walls for better interior space and headroom

Minimal number of poles

4-Season Tents

A 4-season tent is designed to tackle any weather and atmospheric conditions. It has an architecture that can efficiently handle strong winds and heavy snow. 

The tradeoff of this particular tent is reduced ventilation. If you are going to use them during the summer, things will get hot on your part. Moreover, 4-season tents are heavier than 3-season tents.

Primary components of 4-season backpacking tents:

  • Heavy-duty fabrics coupled with a number of poles
  • Rounded tent design for optima wind negation and water management
  • Minimal mesh panels
  • Full coverage rainfly

Conclusion 

The best backpacking tents are incredibly essential for hikers, backpackers, and rabid mountaineers. These outdoor shelters are tailored to provide shelter and protection to their users without compromises.  

Check the tents I listed here and see which one suits your preferences. You can also see the guide so that you can decide better in choosing your next backpacking tent. 

I hope you learned something. If you have other questions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. 

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