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Backpacking Tent Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for a backpacking tent is nothing less than purchasing a house. From the construction to the capacity, and the weight you have to look at different aspects to make sure that the particular tent is perfect for your needs.

Yes, a backpacking tent is much more lightweight and portable than other tents, but merely guesswork won't help you choose the best option.

Thus, we are here with a comprehensive buying guide to help you select the top backpacking tent. Go through this guide to look for the factors that impact the choice of a tent.

Why is this Buyer’s Guide Important?

Checking the livable space and weight is just not enough to select the best backpacking tent. There are some crucial parameters like the construction, material, and tent-type that you have to check to make a rewarding choice.

This buyer’s guide contains everything you should know about a backpacking tent. We reviewed some professional backpackers to determine the things they find helpful in their tents.

Let's look at some essential factors to consider when going for a backpacker’s tent.

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Tent

Here is a list of features you should consider before finalizing the tent. Buying a good backpacking ten is crucial as it offers excellent comfort and remains stable even in strong winds.

Types of Tents

These tents are available in 3-4 types, and every type has a specific purpose and benefits. Moreover, the material varies depending on the type, so you should start with choosing the right type and then proceeding to other features.

Three-Season Tents

Three-season tents are the most lightweight tents available under the backpacker's category. Furthermore, the tents are easy to carry, so you don't have to struggle to pack and carry it on your back.

These are designed to withstand mild winds and rains so you can camp during fall, summer, and spring season.

3-4 / Extended Season Tents

These backpacking tents are highly durable as compared to the aforementioned type. If you are planning to visit a place with stronger winds and heavy downpours, 3-4 season tents are an ideal choice.

The build quality of these tents is superb, and that’s why they are ideal for avid hikers.

Trekking Pole Tents

Trekking pole tents eliminate the hassles of carrying the tent poles. You can set up the tent using the hiking pole, which means you have to carry less weight up or down the hill.

These tents are best if you are planning a short trip as the hiking poles can get damaged or bent due to any reasons, so it would be challenging for you to set up a tent.

Four-Season Tents

Four-season backpacking tents are all-weather tents that are made using robust material. The tents are dense enough to protect you from the cold and heat so that you feel comfortable and safe inside it.

If you are a hiking lover, then these tents make an excellent investment. The tents can withstand harsh climatic conditions, including heavy rains and strong wind currents while being stable.

You can even use these tents in areas with heavy snow.

Tent Material

The next important feature is the tent material. The choice of material impacts the performance and weight of the tent. Highly dense materials are highly waterproof, but these are heavy. On the other hand, less dense materials are lightweight, but they are not as durable as the thicker counterparts.

Here are some material types available in backpacking tents.


The reason why the material is known as Silnylon is its composition of nylon and silicone elastomer. Many backpackers choose Silnylon because of its lightweight, flexibility, and durability.

The silicone elastomer makes these tents highly flexible, so the tents don't tear apart easily. You will get a plethora of good options with Silnylon outer, and polyurethane inside. However, the material is expensive due to the immense benefits it offers.


If you are looking for an affordable backpacking tent, polyurethane tents can be a great choice. These tents are a bit heavier than Silnylon due to the density of the material.

The material is waterproof so you can sleep peacefully inside the tent. But there are some disadvantages associated with these tents. PU tents disintegrate over time, and the material is not very durable.

Furthermore, the tent material is not that flexible, so you have to protect it from tearing.


Some backpackers call it the Cuben Fiber, which is a fantastic material when it comes to backpacker tents. Dyneema isn't very flexible, but the fabric won't damage easily, and you can repair it with tape, which is a plus point.

The material holds its shape, and you can bid goodbye to adjust the guy lines multiple times after the tent gets wet. However, Dyneema is expensive as compared to PU and silnylon due to evident reasons.

If you are a keen backpacker with multiple destinations on your bucket list, consider going with Dyneema tents as these are lightweight and highly durable.


Backpacking tents are famous for their compactness and ease of carrying, but not all tents satisfy this criterion. You should check the dimensions of the tent when packed. A tent that's easy to fold and pack is the ideal tent you should get.

Generally, bigger tents that can accommodate more people to acquire more space, and you need a bigger back to shove the tent in it after folding. If you are traveling solo, then choose the tents that are smaller and can accommodate at max two people.

Moreover, if you are traveling with a group, then bigger tents will be better as everyone can divide and carry some weight to transport the tent to the location.

Modern backpacking tents are lightweight, and you can quickly pack it to carry with you. Also, check if the tent is easy to fold so that you don't have to struggle to fold it.


The capacity denotes the total space available inside the tent. Backpacking tents are available in multiple options, including 2-person and 4-person tents. If you are traveling with a group, then a bigger tent makes more sense.

On the other hand, for solo and travelers in a pair, smaller tents are good so that you don't have to carry extra weight. When hiking every ounce matters and putting on some excess weight to your luggage isn't a good idea.

You can choose a tent based on its capacity.

A pro tip from the experts: Backpacking experts suggest that you should go with two or more tents instead of a 4-person or bigger tent to divide the total weight equally among all hikers. Carrying the body of a 4-person or larger tent can be extremely difficult.

Tent Shape

How can we forget the shape of the tent while helping you select the best backpacking tent! There are numerous options available under the shape category, and here are a few popular options explained:


Affordable, easy to assemble, and light these words perfectly specify an a-frame tent. These tents have sloppy walls, so the elbow and headroom will be limited. Furthermore, the tents are suitable for areas with benign wind currents as strong winds can batter the tent frame.


Dome tents have good interior space as compared to a-frame tent. Also, these are more stable in stronger winds and are easy to assemble. The best part about the dome shape is that you can attach a rainfly to the tent to protect it from snow and rains.

There are multiple shapes available under the dome shape category, so choose wisely.

Modified A-Frame

Modified A-frame tents are better due to the curved sidewalls. The tents have a ridgeline pile and hoop hole, so you get ample interior space to move freely. In terms of structural stability and durability, these are better than the a-frame counterparts.

Tunnel/ Hoop

Tunnel or hoop tents have extreme weather resistance and are lightweight. The tents are not freestanding, and you have to create a tunnel using the u-shaped tubes available with the tent. Assembling a tunnel tent requires skills, so these are good for people who know how to do it the right way.


Teepee tents are basically a shelter that comes with a rainfly attached to the center pole. The ratio of weight and space is phenomenal.


Wedge tents have an aerodynamic design to remain stable in the winds. The tents are lower at the bottom and higher in the upper part, thus creating an aerodynamic design. The interior space in these tents isn't that good.

Weight When Packed

No one wants to carry a cumbersome tent to the trail, so you should avoid heavy tents at any cost. The weight of the tent depends on how you are traveling and with how many people. For solo backpackers, lightweight tents are best as you don't have to break your back to carry the tent.

People traveling in groups can go for heavy tents or buy different tents to accommodate all the people while cutting down the total weight carried by one person.

The choice depends on you and your requirements, and how you are traveling to the destination.

Interior Space

So you have selected a 4-person backpacking tent. But does it have sufficient space to accommodate four persons without any troubles? Some large tents come under the 4-person category, but the interior space isn't that good to accommodate four people with their gear and accessories.

Check the interior space and make sure that it can fit your gear and other accessories while your group can sleep without compromising with space. Some tents have good space but lack sufficient headroom.

Pole Material

So you have selected the best material for the tent but what about the poles, which are the core foundation of the tent? Most people forget to check the pole material. As a result, the poles break after some time.

Backpacking tents come with three types of poles that have different durability and sturdiness.

Carbon Fiber Poles

Carbon fiber poles are expensive and super-strong if you need a lightweight tent look for carbon fiber poles. However, there is one problem with these poles, and that is less durability as compared to aluminum poles.

Aluminum Poles

A multitude of backpacking tents come with aluminum poles due to its durability and lightweight. You can quickly get replacement poles as these are commonly available in the market.

Fiberglass Poles

Fiberglass poles are the least durable but highly lightweight poles. If you need a tent to use a few times, go with fiberglass poles as these are comparatively inexpensive.

Wall Construction

Backpacking tents have two options available when it comes to wall construction: single-wall, and double-wall tents.

Single-wall Tents

Single-wall tents are light in weight as there is only one layer you have to carry. Also, the tents are easy to set up, and the pitching time is lesser than double-wall tents. But there are some problems related to these tents like condensation.

It is important to check the availability of vents that can reduce the condensation inside the tent.

Double-wall Tents

Double-wall tents have two layers: the inner and the outer. The outer layer acts as a rainfly and protects the tent from water and snow. On the other hand, the inner layer maintains ventilation, so there will be no condensation issues in the tent.

Double-wall backpacking tents are highly popular among backpackers because these are inexpensive. You can remove the rainfly to enjoy the scenic views of the location in clear weather.

While choosing the wall construction, pay extra attention to the condensation problem as it can make it hard for you to stay inside the tent. If you need a single-wall tent, look for options with vents or windows so that the moisture can escape.

The Door

The only purpose of a tent door is to let you in and out, but its size will decide whether you can get inside the tent easily or not. Smaller doors can make it challenging for you to fit all your gear at once. If you want to fit the gear quickly, look for D-shaped doors that are bigger and easy to open.

Furthermore, bigger doors keep the tent cooler as more air can flow inside the tent.


Do you need a vestibule with a tent to keep your gear? If yes, you should look for backpacking tents that come with an attached vestibule. A vestibule is a small compartment attached to the tent, destined to store your accessories without occupying the sleeping area.

Large vestibules mean that you can keep more stuff inside the tent.

Time Required to Set up/ Pitching Time

The pitching time is the total time required to set up the tent. The time depends on various factors like the size of the tent, its shape, and wall construction. An ideal tent should have less pitching time so that you spend less time setting it up and more time resting inside it.

Most manufacturers offer clearly-stated instructions with the tent to make the assembly process easy for you.

Some prominent manufacturers like Coleman, ALPS Mountaineering, and Hillman offer excellent backpacking tents that are easy to set up.


Risks are inevitable when you are out in the wilds. As an example, any wild animal can knock on your door, or you can encounter harsh climatic conditions. The tent should withstand every condition to ensure safety.

Furthermore, you should know the difference between waterproof and water-resistance as both have different purposes. Check the quality of the tent and pole material to guarantee protection from everything.


Backpacking tents are available at a myriad of prices starting from $50, and the price can go up to $500 for excellent tents. The price depends on the material and type of tent you are going to purchase. Bigger tents made using high-quality material are generally pricy as compared to the smaller options.

You can consider all of these factors to determine the price of the tent. Make sure to go with branded options only as there’s no benefit of choosing a cheap tent that doesn’t even last a season.


Many backpackers ditch using a footprint, and it turns out to be their biggest mistake. A tent footprint seals the bottom and protects the tent from flooding and abrasive items. Sharp objects like rocks and bushes can damage the tent material, and a footprint will keep it safe from these issues.

You should check footprint compatibility with the tent so that you can fit it quickly whenever required.

FAQs about Best backpacking Tents

Q: How to assemble a tent quickly?

A: Assembling a tent requires practice, so you should try setting up at least once before heading to the destination spot. Assemble the tent in your lawn to know about the process. You can even install and pack it multiple times so that it doesn’t take up your enough time when you are out hiking somewhere.

Q: Should I buy a three-person tent for two persons?

A: You can consider buying a three-person backpacking tent if you want more space to accommodate your gear as well. However, upsizing means that you have to carry extra weight. If you are traveling by your vehicle directly to the camping spot, then you can go for a bigger tent.

Q: What color tents remain cool during summers?

A: A general thumb rule says dark colors absorb more heat, so black, violet, orange, yellow tents will be hotter during the summer. There are some other factors that increase the cooling inside the tent like a bigger air pocket.

Go with tents with air vents, or you can choose double-wall tents to feel the airiness while staying safe.

Q: How much should I spend on a tent?

A: Good backpacking tents are available from $40-50, and the price can go up to $500 for the best quality tents. You can consider the right backpacking tent following its features, including the material, size, quality, and seasonality.

Q: How to protect a tent from water?

A: If you buy a waterproof tent, then there's no need to spend more money on waterproofing it. Also, you can buy a tent footprint to protect its bottom from getting flooding. Rainfly is a standard accessory you can get to protect the tent from water.

Q: Can I patch a damaged tent?

A: It depends on the type of tent you have and the size of the damage. If the hole is bigger enough for the patch, then you have to go for a new tent instead of splurging on getting it repaired. There are some materials like polyurethane that are hard to repair, so it would be wise to get a brand new tent.

Q: How to prevent a tent from leaking?

A: You can use the following items to prevent the tent from leaking:

  • Use a rag to clean the damaged area on the seam.
  • Clean it again with rubbing alcohol before applying the seam sealer.
  • Use a seam sealer to seal the seams properly and let the tent dry.
  • Your tent is ready to protect you from the downpours.

If the tent is still not waterproof, then go for a new one to stay dry while camping.


With this complete backpacking tent buyer's guide, you can pick the best tent to fulfill your needs. A good tent will support you in all conditions while protecting you from the weather and predators.

Make sure to go through the entire guide, and compare different options based on these factors to make the best choice. Lastly, assemble your tent at least once in your garden to learn the right way to assemble it quickly. / - © Copyright 2020