What Is A Backpacking Tent

How to Choose Backpacking Tents

Because it has such a significant impact on both your budget and your pack weight, the backcountry shelter you pick is one of the most crucial gear purchases you will make throughout your backpacking trip. And, to make matters even more complicated, hiking tents are available in an astonishing range of styles, ranging from minimalist to mansion-like. To make the process of selecting the best backpacking tent more manageable, you may divide it down into the following decision points:

  • Capacity: the estimated number of people that will sleep in the room. Seasonality refers to the timing of tent erection in relation to anticipated weather conditions. The ratio of weight:ounces carried to dollars spent
  • Livability includes features such as well-placed internal space, simplicity of access, and ease of setup, among others.

Backpacking Tents are available for purchase. Read our roundup of the top backpacking tents of the year for a brief overview of the tents that REI Co-op members have rated as the best of the year. Are you looking for family camping tents or base camp tents instead? See our post, Tents for Camping: What to Look for and How to Choose One.

Video: How to Choose Backpacking Tents

Buy Tents for Hiking and Backpacking Read our roundup of the finest backpacking tents of the year for a brief review on the tents that REI Co-op members have deemed the best of the year. Instead, are you looking for family camping tents or base camp tents for your base camp? See our post, How to Choose a Tent for Camping.

Backpacking Tent Seasonality

The most important distinction is between a 3-season tent and a 4-season tent. A three-season tent will be selected by the great majority of hikers, particularly those who are new to the backcountry. Because the worst-case weather circumstances may not be the same for every trip, regular hikers may want to acquire more than one tent for their belongings.

3-Season Backpacking Tents

These tents strike a compromise between the requirement to keep weight down and the need to be able to withstand the vast variety of circumstances that spring, summer, and autumn may throw at you. 3-season tents, when properly set, can endure downpours and light snow, but they are not designed to withstand prolonged exposure to severe storms, powerful winds, or heavy snow. The following are the main characteristics:

  • These tents strike a compromise between the requirement to keep weight down and the need to be able to withstand the vast variety of circumstances that spring, summer, and fall may throw at them. 3-season tents, when properly set, may endure light snow and rain, but they are not designed to withstand prolonged exposure to severe storms, powerful winds, or heavy snow. Features to look out for include the following:

Three-Season Backpacking Tents are available for purchase.

Extended-Season Backpacking Tents (3-4 or 3+ Season)

Although designed for summer usage, these tweener tents are also excellent for treks in the early spring and late fall, when snow may be encountered. Traveling to exposed, high-elevation places where snow might surprise you is also an excellent use for these items. The following are the most important characteristics (when compared to pure 3-season models):

  • Panels of fabric that may be zip-tied over mesh regions to block out blowing snow and to keep in additional warmth
  • One or two more poles (in comparison to a 3-season tent) for added strength

To minimize snow and ice from drifting into the house, fabric panels can be zip-tied over mesh sections to keep in additional heat. Additional strength can be achieved by using one or two extra poles (than a 3-season tent).

4-Season Mountaineering Tents

They are designed to endure strong winds and heavy snow loads; nevertheless, they have limited ventilation and can get stuffy in mild weather conditions. The following are the main differences between 3-season and extended-season models:

  • Increase the number of poles and the number of heavy-duty materials. Designs with rounded domes that can withstand strong winds and avoid flat roof gaps where snow might accumulate
  • There may be fewer mesh panels, or there may be zip fabric panels that allow you to cover the mesh panels as necessary. Rainflies that are near to the earth in their reach

Four-season tents can include lightweight single-wall tents with waterproof/breathable walls but no rainfly, which are ideal for warm weather. Because condensation can build up inside a tent in humid circumstances, a single-wall tent is recommended for cold, dry climates.

In order to deal with a humid tent inside, see How to Prevent Condensation in a Tent for some helpful hints. Tents for Mountaineering in Four Seasons are available for purchase.

Backpacking Tent Weight

Because the weight of your camping tent accounts for a significant portion of your overall burden, tent designers strive to keep weight as low as possible. The most significant drawbacks in order to reduce weight include having less room, fewer features, and poorer durability over the long term. However, if you shop about, you should be able to find a lightweight tent that is both large and comfy for you and your family. While heavy-duty materials make a tent more durable, ultralight tents may be surprisingly resilient when constructed using lightweight materials.

Also, the word “ultralight” is thrown about a lot by businesses; if every ounce counts, make sure to scrutinize the specifications before making a purchase.

Key Tent Specs

  • Only the tent body, rainfly, and poles are considered to be the minimum trail weight
  • Anything else is considered to be excess weight. You will most likely bring additional tent-related equipment (e.g., pegs, footprint), but this is the most accurate specification for comparison. Notice that certain ultralight shelters are designed to work without the need for an additional rainfly or tent poles, therefore the minimal trail weights for those shelters will reflect only the basic components that come with those shelters.
  • Packaging weight: This is the total weight of the components you receive with your order, which includes the body, rainfly and stakes, as well as any other items such as instructions and the stuff bag pole sack and other extras. This is the maximum weight you’ll be carrying on the path, and this is the least weight you’ll be carrying on the trail.
  • Dimensions of the package: The amount of space a tent takes up in a pack has a direct relationship with how simple it is to carry a tent. You may make this space more manageable by dividing up components—for example, have your spouse carry the poles and rainfly while you carry the tent body—and splitting up components. You may also save a few more ounces by leaving the tent storage bag at home when you do this as well.

Minimalist Shelters

The majority of hiking tents are constructed with a double-wall construction that comprises a main tent body (also known as the canopy) as well as an outside rainfly for protection from the elements. If you’re a hiker who is concerned with conserving every ounce of your weight, you have a few extra alternatives. Several double-wall tents are available with an ultralight setup option, in which the footprint (which may be purchased separately), poles, and rainfly can all be pitched together without the main tent canopy present.

The term “hammock tent” refers to a sort of hammock that incorporates, at a bare minimum, a tarp-like rainfly as well as insect netting.

Insect shelters: The majority of bug shelters are made of netting and a few poles with no floor.

Backpacking Tent Livability

“Livability” is a general term that refers to qualities that make the time you spend inside your tent more pleasant and convenient. Whether a tent appears to be spacious or confining depends on how you perceive it. Backpacking tents have typically featured sharply slanted walls, little floor area, and little headroom. This is no longer the case. This helped to keep the weight down, but it came at the expense of comfort. Tents now seem considerably more open and inviting as a result of technological advancements in materials and design.

  1. Then decide which mountain storm you’d want to see: Which one of the following models would you select if you had to sit out a storm for several hours straight?
  2. Because many tents do not have completely rectangular floors, you may find measurements such as 85″ x 51″/43″ (L x W head/foot) in some cases.
  3. Floor area: The entire square footage of floor-level space is represented by this value.
  4. Peak height: No one enjoys bumping their heads while they are getting out of bed in the morning.
  5. It is significantly more accurate to evaluate this using the test pitch (as mentioned above).
  6. The more vertical the walls are, the more open the interior of the tent will appear to be.

Additional Features that Improve Tent Livability

Color of the rainfly: Light, brilliant fly colors transfer more light into the inside, making the interior appear brighter. If you are stranded in your tent for a lengthy period of time due to a storm, this will provide the impression of greater space and make it a more comfortable place to stay. Doors: Tent designers spend a lot of time thinking about the shape of the doors, zippers, and other changes, but the most crucial issue is: how many? It’s convenient to have a door for each sleeper. In contrast, opting for a multiperson tent with a single door reduces both weight and expense.

  1. These rainfly extensions provide a dry and protected storage space for boots and other equipment.
  2. Most tents feature vestibules, and the size of the vestibule is specified in the tent’s specifications.
  3. A tent’s ventilation system must be capable of dealing with the moisture that you breath while sleeping.
  4. In addition, having the ability to roll up rainfly doors or panels helps improve ventilation.

Tent Setup

Practicing setting up a tent a few of times before venturing out into the woods is always a good idea. The following characteristics can help you set up your tent no matter where you put it: Freestanding design: This simply means that the tent can stand on its own without the use of stakes, which speeds up setup and makes it simple to reposition—just raise and transfer the tent to a new location. Since of this, most tents are freestanding; however, non-freestanding tents can be lighter because the pole structure does not need to be as strong as a freestanding tent.

  • The benefit of hubs is that they eliminate the need for guessing throughout the assembling process.
  • Even if there are smaller cross poles that are not connected to the hub, they may be easily detected when the main pole assembly is complete.
  • Using pole clips, poles may be connected to tent canopies in a variety of ways, including sleeves, clips, and a combination of the two.
  • Pole clips are more lightweight and easy to connect to poles.

Using color labeling to rapidly orient each pole tip to the relevant tent corner, as well as to identify which sleeves or clips correspond with certain pole sections, will save you time and effort. Read How to Set Up a Tent for general setup instructions that apply to every tent.

Tent Materials

Poles: Aluminum poles with great strength and low weight are used in backpacking tents. You’ll find the name DAC (Dongah Aluminum Corp.) in a lot of specifications because this business is the world’s leading pole manufacturer. Fabrics and denier ratings for tents: Tents are made of a variety of nylons and polyesters that are specially designed for their purpose. One spec that you may notice from time to time is denier (D), which is the weight (in grams) of a fabric yarn based on a 9,000-meter length of the fabric yarn.

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Unless the textiles are comparable, don’t compare denier since intrinsic changes in fabric qualities have a higher impact on strength than the denier specification.

Strong poles and materials are used in the construction of the strongest tents, which are then combined to form durable design structures.

Related Articles

Tents are one of the most exciting parts of your camping equipment since they serve as your home away from home in the backcountry. However, choosing the proper tent takes a significant amount of study and consideration. Designs in this category range greatly, from low-cost versions for those just getting started to lightweight items designed for major thru-hiking expeditions and all in between. Seasonality, weight, affordability, capacity and usable space, weather protection, durability, and other factors are all discussed in detail below to assist you in making the best backpacking tent choice possible.

1. Seasonality

Finding out when and where you’ll be using your camping tent is the first step in picking your ideal hiking tent. Starting with the fact that the most majority of tents available are of the three-season form, this is due to the fact that the vast majority of hikers adhere to known routes during the summer months. For this group, campsites will normally be adequate, and extended stretches of severe weather will not be a major source of worry. In these conditions, practically any 3-season tent on the market should be adequate, ranging from budget-friendly options to ultralight options, depending on the manufacturer.

Finally, winter explorers and those who camp on snow have a completely other set of needs, and they should search for a tent that is really four-season in design and construction.

But, at the end of the day, 3-season tents are what the majority of people go for since they give enough wind and wet-weather protection in the majority of non-winter situations.

2. Use: Casual or Serious Backpacking

The next step is to plan out the sorts of journeys you’ll be taking with your family. From casual backpacking to longer expeditions on well-traveled trail networks, these experiences often include traveling lesser distances on overnight or weekend trips on well-worn trail networks. The following characteristics are important to look for: a fair price point, a straightforward set-up and take-down method, durable materials, and overall livability. As the travels become longer and more ambitious, variables like as weight and packed size rise to the top of the list of considerations to consider (more on those considerations below).

Try to match the design of your tent to your camping style, no matter what sort of trip you are on.

3. How Important is Weight to You?

When it comes to buying a tent, weight is one of the most essential issues for some trekkers. Here’s what you need to know: most budget-oriented tents are made of less expensive materials that are heavier, resulting in models that weigh 4 to 5 pounds for two people. In the case of the REI Co-op Trail Hut 2, the bundled weight of the entry-level model is 5 pounds 15 ounces (note: that number includes a 7-ounce footprint). The popularMSR Hubba Hubba NX has been made lighter by using thinner materials and weighing only 3 pounds 14 ounces.

  • Lightweight tents, on the other hand, come with a variety of trade-offs in terms of performance.
  • The best option for you should be determined by your budget as well as how you want to utilize your tent.
  • They’re also harder and the weight can be easily distributed between two packs (tent body and rainfly in one, poles and stakes in the other).
  • The extra expenditure may be worthwhile if you do this regularly or travel long distances.

4. Cost

Backpacking tent prices vary widely—from roughly $150 for a budget model from a well-known brand to $700 or more for a high-end one—so it’s important to consider what you receive for your money. Starting at the low end of the spectrum, one of our favorite budget designs is the Trail Hut 2 from REI Co-op, which retails for $199. An all-in weight of around 6 pounds, robust yet heavy materials that do not pack down as tiny as other tents, adequate internal room, and a relatively simple set-up and take-down operation are all advantages of the REI tent.

The $430 Nemo Dagger 2Pa, for example, is comparable in size to the Trail Hut but weights substantially less at 3 pounds 14 ounces, making it an excellent choice for backpacking.

And once prices reach $500, you’ll often find one of two styles: lightweight designs made of premium materials such as Dyneema (such as Zpacks’ $599 Duplex) or tents designed to perform well in very hard situations (such as Hilleberg’s $815 Nallo, which costs $815).

5. Tent Capacity and Livable Space

backpacking tents are available in a variety of sizes, with most accommodating one to four people. The most common variants are two-person ones, which are intended to accommodate two standard-width sleeping mats (20 inches each) placed side by side. Opting for a one-person tent is a good method to reduce weight, while many lone trekkers choose to size up to a two-person tent since it provides a little more interior room and comfort (plus, you have the versatility to bring a partner on trips).

  1. Finally, four-person tents are the least frequent since they are big and unwieldy, but they might be a good alternative for families that want to camp together.
  2. First and foremost, the floor measurements (length x breadth) are provided by the great majority of manufacturers and provide a fair indication of whether or not you will be able to accommodate items such as a broad pad or an extra-long sleeping bag.
  3. Finally, consider the general form of the object.
  4. What shape does the floor have?
  5. Both of these are typical weight-saving tactics that make a tent appear more claustrophobic on the interior of the tent.

6. Number of Doors

Although it is not the most exciting feature, the number of doors on a tent is an essential consideration, particularly for those hiking with a companion. The convenience of having a door on both sides of the tent is a great luxury for journeys with two or more people. Apart from providing more storage space (more on this below), having your own door makes it much easier to get in and out of your home late at night. The weight savings from single doors is marginal at best, and the tradeoff in reduced storage and overall convenience is not always worth it, according to our research (again, solo backpackers are an exception here).

However, in general, we recommend that two travelers search for a tent with two doors unless they are very concerned with weight savings.

7. Weather Protection and Ventilation

Even in the midst of summer, the weather may be very unpredictable in the wilderness, but the good news is that almost every hiking tent produced today can withstand a light summer thunderstorm. Rainflies that are coated and impermeable, elevated bathtub-style flooring, and seam tape are all common characteristics among the great majority of designs, reducing the likelihood of moisture seeping through. Because their materials are more durable and will last for a longer period of time, more expensive versions are often more weather resistant than cheap choices (one notable exception is some ultralight designs that sacrifice weather protection for reduced weight).

The capacity of a tent to ventilate is almost as vital as its ability to provide weather protection.

The use of a double-wall structure, which improves ventilation by having the tent body and rainfly be two different components, is used to counteract this problem by tent manufacturers.

Finally, keep an eye out for deployable vents in the rainfly that may be opened to produce a chimney-like effect, which will help to move air through the structure (you can also close them if the weather turns).

8. Durability

A common rule to keep in mind is that as the weight of a tent decreases, the durability of the tent decreases. Typically, tent makers will specify the denier or “D” rating for the materials used on the tent body and rainfly, which is a measurement of fabric thickness (the higher the number, the thicker it is). Even while it’s a good idea to double-check the denier on all portions of the tent, we’ll concentrate on the floor because it’s the most sensitive to punctures, tears, and general wear and tear over time.

Many popular lightweight versions, such as the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and the Nemo Dagger, are able to bridge the gap between the two (30D for both).

It may be worthwhile to carry a little additional weight in order to boost your hardiness if you want to keep to the more informal side of things.

Many trekkers, both novices and seasoned travelers, fall somewhere in the center, which is why the aforementioned Hubba Hubba and Dagger tents are among the most often encountered tents out on the route.

Even though they are quite lightweight, they should be durable enough to last numerous seasons of camping usage.

9. Storage: Vestibules and Interior Pockets

Even those who are going light will be bringing a significant quantity of goods into the bush, thus storage is a key consideration when choosing a camping tent. Second, vestibules are the section of a rainfly that covers the doors and provides a safe place for your pack or footwear to rest while hiking in inclement weather or while sleeping on the trail. A tent with two doors and vestibules, as we discussed above, is a convenient feature for several trekkers since it reduces clutter and provides for quicker access to one’s belongings from the interior of the tent.

Final point: have a look at what the tents have to offer in terms of inside storage compartments.

10. Freestanding vs. Non-Freestanding Tents

Those looking for ultralight or lightweight tents are likely to have come across both freestanding and non-freestanding choices. Freestanding tents are those that can be supported by the poles and stand erect, but non-freestanding tents must be staked out at the corners in order to maintain their structure and prevent them from flopping around. A freestanding tent is, in general, less difficult to use and set up (particularly in situations where it is difficult to use anchors, such as on rocky terrain), which makes them a tempting option for many travelers.

Another point to mention is that certain tents are termed “semi-freestanding,” meaning that they may stand on their own but must be guyed out in order to optimize the floor space available (these tents usually have poles that connect in the corners on one end but not the other).

11. Packed Size

In most circumstances, the weight of the tent and the size of the tent when packed go hand in hand. An enormous burrito-shaped bag with a top-loading design is commonly included with tents. In theory, thinner tent materials and poles are smaller and more compressible, allowing for the use of lighter tent designs that are easier to slide into a hiking pack. Budget tents with thicker materials and poles, on the other hand, have significantly wider circumferences, which might make it difficult to put them into a small backpack.

When you do this, you free up a significant amount of space and also make it easy to put away the tent in the morning. Because of the variety of ways in which tents may be kept and transported, the measured packed size of a tent is rarely one of our top priorities when purchasing a tent.

12. What About a Footprint?

When selecting a tent, one of the final options to make is whether or not to include a footprint. The majority of manufacturers provide a comparable ground cloth as a means to increase the durability and endurance of a tent’s floor, and they normally cost between $30 and $70 (alternatively, you may save a lot by constructing your own out of textiles like Tyvek or Polycro) (alternatively, you can save a lot by making your own out of fabrics like Tyvek or Polycro). The question of whether or not you really need a footprint is a complicated one (for a complete explanation, check our post on footprints here), but we’ll go over a few of the most important considerations.

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A footprint also adds weight to your pack, so those who are attempting to reduce their weight will be more inclined to leave one at home.

If you’re going to be walking over tough terrain, such as granite, you might wish to bring a footprint.

13. Our Top Backpacking Tent Picks

Now comes the exciting part: deciding on the best camping tent for your specific needs. The finest hiking tents for every situation are covered in detail in our post on the best backpacking tents, however we’ve included below a handful of our favorites split down into important categories: The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is the best all-around backpacking tent. The REI Co-op Trail Hut 2 is the best value in a backpacking tent. The Zpacks Duplex is the best ultralight tent for thru-hiking. Nemo Dagger 2 is a livability and durability test for under 4 pounds.

Take a look at our selection of the best backpacking tents.

Backpacking & Camping Tents: Which is right for you?

While searching for a tent to use for your first backpacking or camping trip, you may have come across the choice of choosing between a camping tent and a backpacking tent. If this is the case, read on to learn more about the differences between the two types of tents. So, what exactly is the distinction? Most backpacking tents are smaller and weigh less than 4 pounds, and some can even weigh as little as one pound, making them perfect for being transported over greater distances than a typical camping trip would demand, such as into a wilderness area.

  1. However, depending on their sleeping capacity, they can weigh up to 10 pounds or more per person.
  2. Some hiking tents are manufactured from lightweight fabrics such as dyneema, however these tents may be quite expensive, costing upwards of $500 for some brand names, and much more for others.
  3. It is possible that this may make the tent stronger, but it will also add weight when compared to backpacking tents that may just utilize a single pole, or in some cases, only use the trekking poles of a hiker, as support.
  4. This is especially true when comparing a 3- or 4-person hiking tent to a camping tent with the same capacity.

Although it is possible to buy backpacking tents that accommodate more than four people, this is not common. I’ve seen several larger hiking tents that are the same weight or even heavier than a similar-sized camping tent, which is concerning.

When should you use a camping tent?

Camping tents are most effective when you can drive to your campground or if you don’t have a long trek to your campsite to begin with. Even though it is not pleasant to tote a 12-pound tent ten kilometers, it has been done. Having said that, bringing a large tent on a camping trip can be beneficial if the tent is built to accommodate numerous campers and fits comfortably in or outside of your backpack, allowing you to save time by not having to bring a tent with you. If such is the case, other hikers should be willing to carry part of your belongings to relieve you of the burden of carrying such a heavy load.

When should you use a backpacking tent?

When you want to hike for several kilometers before camping, a backpacking tent will be the most practical choice. When you carry less weight, it is better for your body and allows you to be more nimble when the situation calls for it. You should leave your camping tent at home unless you are transporting a tent for multiple people to share. Instead, invest on a 1-person backpacking tent or, if you want more room, a 2-person backpacking tent, which will be far lighter than a camping tent. It is possible to use a backpacking tent even if you are not hiking, so unless you want to sleep a large number of people, a backpacking tent may be the best option all-around unless you plan to sleep a large number of people.

What is the cost difference between backpacking and camping tents?

At the end of the day, backpacking tents are more expensive than camping tents because of their smaller size and lower weight. When comparing REI’s 2-person backpacking tents to their 2-person camping tents, you’ll see that the most popular backpacking tents are all above $300, whilst the most popular camping tents are all UNDER $300. Unfortunately, the lighter you want your gear to be, the more money you will have to spend, but you can find some excellent prices on lightweight gear on Amazon.com.

What are some basic styles of tents?

Tents are available in a variety of designs, but we’ll focus on a few of the most popular options.

  • Tents with a dome shape are perhaps the most popular type of tent you’ll encounter while camping or trekking. A-Frame tents are an older form of tent that is fashioned like a “A,” yet they are still popular. Tunnel– A shape that resembles a tunnel or tube. Larger groupings of people are more prevalent
  • Pop-up tents are popular because of their simplicity of assembly, however they are not extremely wind-resistant. Walled– These tents can be of any design, but they often have greater height and are good for extended camping trips. Backpacking tents can be any variant of the types indicated above, although they will often be lighter and/or smaller versions of the styles listed above.

What to look for when buying a backpacking tent

When purchasing a hiking tent, there are a few important aspects to keep in mind. Before making a decision, take the following into consideration.


You want a tent that can accommodate the number of people who will be staying in it on a regular basis; therefore, don’t buy a 4-person tent if you just intend to have 4 people sleep in it once or twice. If this is the case, you can go to an outdoor store like REI and hire a tent. Even though 1-person tents are often large enough for a single person, some can be cramped, thus a compact 2-person tent may be a better alternative in some situations. In addition, check the tent’s measurements, because a 3-person tent may only be large enough to accommodate three individuals of small to medium size.


The material from which a tent is constructed has a significant impact on how long it will last. The most common materials used in hiking tents are nylon and dyneema. Dyneema is extremely strong and lightweight, but it is also extremely costly. Nylon is less robust and heavier than steel, but it is less expensive. The denier rating of a material may be used to evaluate how strong a material is. Tents made of nylon will be labeled as low as 7-denier (7D) and as high as or greater than 1000-denier (depending on the manufacturer).

Most essential, pay attention to the denier of the tent’s floor while purchasing a camping tent.

In order to protect the floor from damage in many trekking tents made of thinner material, a tent footprint will be required. Some will arrive with a footprint already attached, but the most will be available for purchase individually.


Weight is the most significant difference between a backpacking tent and a camping tent, therefore it goes without saying that you should take into consideration how much weight you’ll be carrying while shopping for a backpacking tent. Most will specify their weights, so don’t be alarmed if you see a minimal trail weight listed next to a packed weight listed next to it. The minimum weight of your tent is the weight of the tent itself, excluding any rainfly or other attachments, whereas the packed weight includes the weight of everything, including poles and stakes.

Head Room

Most tents’ measurements may be found in schematics, and they almost always contain the interior height as well. You’ll want a tent with ample head room for you to feel completely comfortable inside. While you shouldn’t expect to be able to stand up in a hiking tent, you should look for one that has enough head room to at the very least allow you to sit up straight.

3-Season or 4-Season

Although the term “three-season tent” often refers to a tent that is intended for usage in the spring, summer, and fall, don’t be fooled into believing that it cannot be used in the winter. And don’t imagine that a 4-season tent is suitable for use all year since, in reality, they are best suited for usage during the winter months because they are intended to withstand snow and ice. As long as you aren’t anticipating a lot of snow or ice, a 3-season tent will suffice for your needs.

What to look for when buying a camping tent

Some camping tents are equipped with nice amenities that make camping a more enjoyable experience. Everything from windows to room dividers, awnings, and screened porches may be found in our showroom. Others provide little more than a spot to sleep away from the bugs and out of the rain, with no further amenities. Of course, additional features typically equate to a higher price tag, but you should camp in whichever manner makes you feel most comfortable.


If you’re planning on purchasing a camping tent for your family, you’ll want to be sure that the tent is large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. Another option is to get a camping tent if you are looking for something special for yourself just. In either case, seek for a tent with a capacity that is appropriate for your requirements. The interior of a 3-person camping tent, having entrances on both the front and back sides.


The same as with backpacking tents, you’ll want a tent that’s built to withstand the weather conditions you’ll be camping in. Again, unless you are anticipating really cold weather, a 3-season tent should be sufficient for most purposes.

Can you go without a tent when camping or backpacking?

When sleeping outside, it is not always necessary to have a tent with you. In fact, there have been thru hikers who have completed the Appalachian Trail without even bringing a tent with them. The following are some suggestions for camping without a tent.

Cowboy camp

Cowboy camping is defined as sleeping outside without a shelter.

It’s just you and your sleeping bag under the stars, with a breathtaking view of the night sky. This is not recommended during colder weather, and it should go without saying that you must be certain that there is no risk of rain in the forecast before proceeding.

Stay in a shelter

Some hikers have completed the whole Appalachian Trail without ever setting up a tent. They accomplish this by trekking from shelter to shelter, however this might be dangerous if you come late and the shelter is already full at the time of your arrival. However, this is an alternative if you have access to a shelter near where you want to camp. If you’re not sure, do some research or just play it safe and carry a tent with you.

Use an alternative shelter

Instead than relying on a tent to keep you protected from the weather, consider other options. Being at a shelter was already discussed, so I am not mentioning it as a “alternative shelter,” but you can try any of the ways listed below.

  • Terra-cotta shelter—Terra-cotta shelters may be constructed from camping tarps or even from the standard blue tarps that can be found at Wal-Mart or any hardware shop. Tarps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they may be assembled and hung in a variety of ways. However, if you do not have some form of netting to keep pests out, you will be exposed to them. The use of hammocks as shelter is not required, however they can be paired with a tarp placed overhead to provide additional protection from the elements if you are in a windy area. Many individuals think that sleeping in a hammock is far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, however this is entirely dependent on you and your tastes. Bivy Sack– Bivy bags are small, lightweight shelters that are just large enough to accommodate your body. It is possible to purchase many types, some of which provide waterproof protection while others are simply screens to keep pests away. Using a tarp over a bivy sack can provide you with additional space to spread your belongings while still keeping it dry
  • Or it can provide you with a bit more privacy when changing clothes
  • Or Although a bushcraft shelter can be constructed from items found in the woods, it is not recommended for backpacking or camping due to the fact that it takes much longer to set up and may be harmful to the environment due to the fact that it may require sawing limbs or disturbing other nearby vegetation.
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The fundamental distinctions between camping tents and backpacking tents should now be clear to you, and you should be able to choose which style of tent is more suited to your requirements. So, what are you waiting for? Get started now! Get out there and start enjoying the great outdoors in your soon-to-be-purchased tent as soon as possible.

Choosing a Tent for Camping & Backpacking

The primary distinctions between camping tents and backpacking tents should now be clear to you, and you should be able to choose which style of tent is most suited to your needs. So what are you waiting for? Get started today! Get out there and begin to appreciate the great outdoors in your soon-to-be-purchased tent as soon as possible!

Car Camping vs. Backpacking Tents

Some of the most important decisions to make when purchasing a tent (which we’ll go over in more detail later) are the same whether you’re planning to use it for car camping or backpacking (which we’ll go over later). There are, however, some significant distinctions between the two. As opposed to hikers, car campers don’t have to be concerned about the size and weight of their tents because they aren’t transporting them over long distances on their shoulders. Additionally, they may scrimp a little more on quality and toughness since they have their automobiles on hand in case the weather turns completely wretched.

If backpackers are forced to spend an extended period of time inside their tents due to inclement weather (days and days of heavy rain, for example, or a prolonged period of socked-in mist that makes trekking hazardous), the livability factor becomes extremely important, as it should be (mountaineers striving for a summit are well accustomed to the reality of interminable days spent tentbound, awaiting a break in the weather).

After that, we’ll go over some general guidelines for selecting a hiking tent, which we’ll return to later in the essay.

How to Buy a Tent For Camping: Understanding Basic Tent QualitiesFeatures

While we go through some of the features to look for when looking for a tent, keep in mind that the best way to get a feel for a specific model is to pitch it before purchasing it, if at all feasible. For a little fee, many outdoor merchants will enable you to set up a tent in the store so that you can see firsthand what it takes to put one together as well as how its relative livability and utility match up with your requirements.

If the worst case scenario occurs, you should absolutely set up your freshly purchased tent in your garden or anywhere else close by before embarking on a more distant camping excursion with it!

Tent SizeCapacity

The capacity of a tent is measured by the number of people who can squat within it, however there is no universally accepted standard. Not only should you pay attention to the rating (one-person, two-person, three-person, four-person tents, and so on), but you should also pay attention to the square footage of the layout. Do you plan on putting up a tent for the adults, as well as for any children, pets, or a large amount of gear or equipment? In such situation, it goes without saying that you’ll need a bigger tent.

Taller campers may require more spacious floor lengths than the standard 80-odd inches in order to feel comfortable.

Consider the peak height of a tent: that is, how tall the inside is at its highest point of clearance.

This dimension is influenced by the overall form of the tent (which we’ll discuss in more detail later).

Tent Shape, DesignFeatures

Tougher tents with straighter walls provide greater clearance than those with more sloping walls, which, in turn, are more effective in shedding precipitation and wind. Using free-standing dome tents, which don’t require the use of stakes or guylines to set up, you’ll have the convenience of being able to move them once they’re fully set up—which comes in handy if your unwisely chosen campsite turns out to be a quagmire in a downpour—and shake them out before they collapse. The sloping walls of dome tents, on the other hand, mean that they have less interior space than cabin-style tents, which have more square or rectangular floorplans and straight (or nearly straight) walls.

  • Multiple doors are obviously useful when sharing a tent with others, since they allow you to go to the bathroom without having to climb over your fellow campers, but they will almost surely add weight and expense.
  • The standard double-wall tent does this by separating an inner tent made of breathable fabric from a waterproof rainfly, with room in between to allow for ventilation and to prevent a wet fly from transmitting moisture into the inner tent during the night.
  • Single-wall tents, on the other hand, can trap moisture inside during hot weather since they are most efficient when the temperature outside the tent is significantly cooler than the temperature within.
  • Such elements, of course, also serve to improve the perspective of the outside world.
  • If possible, use the model-specific footprint if it is available from the manufacturer, since this will ensure that the tent’s floorplan is perfectly replicated.

Groundcloths that are too large will gather rainfall, but groundcloths that are too small will not provide adequate shelter from the elements.


When purchasing for a tent, another important thing to consider is the tent’s season classification. Most popular are three-season tents, which are great for camping vacations from late spring to early fall because of their versatility. There is usually lots of mesh to allow for ventilation on hot summer days (and for protection against winged hordes). Extended-season tents, which are often referred to as “3-4-season” or “3+-season,” are a little heavier-duty than three-season tents, and they typically have a pole or two additional poles and fewer or smaller mesh panels than three-season tents.

Four-season tents are the most durable of the bunch, and they are preferred by serious mountaineers and winter campers.

They are normally constructed up of at least three poles, which are often composed of aluminum or carbon fiber to provide the greatest amount of strength.

When camping in cooler weather, you can use an extended-season tent if you’re willing to spend a little more on your sleeping bag and liner than you would otherwise.

Ease of Setup

When selecting the proper tent, it’s important to consider how simple it is to set up and take down (this, of course, underscores the value of pitching a tent in the store before buying). Maintain your awareness of the fact that you will not always be able to set up camp in the most favorable of conditions (this is a little of understatement). The process of setting up a tent in a gale-force wind is vastly different than the process of doing it in a mild breeze. Many a camping trip does not get off to the start it was supposed to, and at some time you will most likely find yourself faced with the idea of (blearily) constructing your tent in the darkness, which is a terrifying notion.

Free-standing tents, pole clips rather than pole sleeves, color-coded pole segments and clips, and fewer poles in general are all features that make tent setup easier (however, it’s also true that practice makes perfect, and once you’re familiar with your given tent model’s setup process—even if it’s a fussier one—you’ll likely be able to complete it in double-time, unconsciously).


When it comes to tents, it’s often true that you get what you pay for, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a perfectly adequate camping shelter. In the case of a first-time camper, a low-cost tent is preferable to nothing and can serve as an excellent introduction to the activity. The investment in a high-quality tent is absolutely worthwhile if you plan on doing a lot of camping, and especially if you’re interested in colder-weather treks or severe backpacking: It will keep you more comfortable and protected, and it will last far longer as a result.

How to Choose a Tent for Backpacking: Additional Considerations

All of the factors listed above are taken into consideration when selecting a backpacking tent or a car-camping variant. As previously stated, hikers should be considerably more concerned with how much a tent weighs and how much room it takes up in their pack (keep in mind that you’ll also be carrying stuff like food pouches, canteens, insect spray, first aid basics, and other essentials). Heavy tents are normally more durable and waterproof, however lightweight tents may pack a lot of punch (for which you’ll have to pay a premium) these days.

Take into consideration that splitting up larger or heavier tents between members of your hiking group and leaving tent storage bags at home will help you lose weight.

The color of your tent is more than simply a matter of personal preference.

Bright, vivid colors in general make a tent easier to spot in the landscape: this is useful if you’re coming down from a hilltop and get a bit lost on your way back to camp, but it may also be too harsh for other people who prefer more muted hues.

Tent Alternatives

It is possible for backpackers in particular to forego tents entirely in order to save on weight and space. There are a variety of alternatives to tents available, ranging from camping hammocks to bivy sacks to simple tarp-and-groundcloth shelters. That being said, if you’re just getting started with camping, you’ll definitely want to start with a tent and work your way up to one of these more basic choices over time.

Tentin’ Out

When it comes to camping, tents may be a camper’s closest friend, and if they’re well-made, they can last for years or even decades of adventure. We might grow rather attached to our cherished tents, which serve as receptacles for a plethora of happy memories forged in the great outdoors throughout the years. Best of luck with your tent-hunting!

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