An ideal backpacking tent is lightweight, packs down small, and is tough enough to handle inclement weather. The good news is that tent technology has come a long way even over the past few years, and weights are dropping as thinner yet strong fabrics and lighter poles are employed.
Determining which backpacking tent is the best for your adventures can be a difficult decision that is often influenced by your preferences. Where and when will you camp? How will you camp? The three big items that affect your pack weight are your pack itself, sleeping bag and your shelter. Investing in a lightweight tent can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce total pack weight. This article describes the advantages and disadvantages of different types of tents and materials, and addresses specific features to look for when selecting a tent.
Choosing between what we call backpacking tents (models with dedicated poles) and ultralight tents, (those that pitch with trekking poles or have extremely lightweight materials) comes down to maximizing your comfort. If a tent spends more time on your back than you do inside of it, you will be more comfortable with an ultralight shelter. If you spend more time inside a tent than you do carrying it, you’ll be more comfortable with a larger shelter.
- 1 Best Backpacking Tent Overall – Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
- 2 Best Budget Backpacking Tent – Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 Tent
- 3 Best Weather Resistant Backpacking Tent – Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT
- 4 Best 1-Person Backpacking Tent – Nemo Hornet 1P Tent
- 5 Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent – NEMO Dagger 2
- 6 Best 3-4 Person Backpacking Tent – Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 & UL4
- 7 Best High-End Backpacking Tent – MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent
- 8 Best Spacious Backpacking Tent – Marmot Limelight 2P
Best Backpacking Tent Overall – Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
While 2021 brings many new tent models, a classic sits on the top of our ratings once more. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 still fits most backpacker’s goals for comfort, weight, and quality. It’s a resilient, dependable, comfortable and lightweight tent that offers reliable storm protection. It has a great balance of comfortable features, including two doors, roomy vestibules, and many interior pockets, but weighs just 52.6 oz. Our testers found the Copper Spur UL2 fit for a variety of adventures, from high alpine climbing to long distance backpacking trips. It is not as durable as the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT and we believe it would not stand up to storms as well, but we stayed dry through many blustery rainstorms. It is less weight and less expensive than the Anjan, and therefore an excellent choice for two people who want to go on longer distance backpacking trips. This tent optionally comes with integrated LED lights in the Copper Spur UL2 mtnGLO for an additional $50. Fresh on the market this spring is the Copper Spur HV, boasting 20% more volume than its predecessor.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is a high-performance two-door backpacking tent for people that want more space and comfort than lighter tents like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 or Tarptent Double Rainbow offer. It wins our Editors’ Choice Award because it is the best lightweight and comfortable backpacking tent in our review fleet. It weighs 49 oz. or 3 lb. 1 oz., has two spacious vestibules and has an above average space-to-weight ratio. It does great in harsh weather, keeping its contents dry. The tent features high-quality ultralight fabrics that could be stronger and more durable. It competes closely, and comes out on top, with the NEMO Dagger and REI Half Dome 2 Plus. Our testing determined that it is the most comfortable and easy to use of the three.
The Copper Spur HV UL2 is an outstanding balance of weight savings and comfort, making for a top performing backpacking tent. We love its double doors, storm protection, and ample head room, all for just a tad over three pounds.
This is truly a tent that we could take anywhere, from sea kayaking adventures to peak bagging missions.
Best Budget Backpacking Tent – Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 Tent
The Clip Flashlight 2 offers excellent ventilation and an easy set-up for casual backpacking and camping trips. This updated version of a tried-and-true favorite weighs in at a trail-ready weight of 3 lb. 14 oz. and features a mesh “bug netting” inner tent that clips to two collapsible tent poles. This design ensures excellent ventilation between the inner tent and the fly, minimizing condensation and protecting from any wind. While testing on a drizzly spring weekend, we strongly appreciated the high-walled bathtub floor of the tent, which helped keep pooling water from entering the tent body. While the fabric of the tent fly was thicker than we would like to see for a high-performance backpacking tent, it did keep the rain off and did not wet out in continuous rain. The fabric was moderately loud and “flappy” in brisk wind and we wished it were a bit less crinkly and noise-making.
The Sierra Flashlight 2 tent is designed for the occupant to sleep with their heads at the entrance to the tent, and on mild evenings, this set-up means backpackers can take advantage of the mesh door for star-watching. The tent fly is conveniently designed to roll back for full star-gazing capabilities while still keeping two “wings” deployed for nominal wind protection.
Interior features include deep, roomy side pockets near the head on each side, and we found the tent roomy enough for two adults to lay comfortably while also allowing room for daypack-sized gear storage. The built-in “Night Glow” lantern serves as a light-dispersing pouch for headlamps, illuminating the tent in soft, natural light.
Interior measurements are 52 inches wide by 89 inches long, offering plenty of room for two average-sized hikers and a bit of their gear.
With 30 square feet of interior space, the Clip Flashlight is slightly larger than many of our highest-scoring tents.
Best Weather Resistant Backpacking Tent – Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT
ur testers reach for the Hilleberg Anjan GT when they expect to encounter some harsh weather conditions. This is the best choice if you need a tent that will stretch from the very earliest thaw of Spring to the first Winter squall. Whether backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, bike touring around the world, or car camping at the local park, the Hilleberg Anjan 2 provides the ultimate balance of low weight, complete weather resistance, generous comfort, and exceptional strength and durability.
This is also the highest performance light-duty winter tent we tested. Our testers used the Anjan on multi-day trips from Maine to Washington State, and they carried it along on a bicycle tour down the Baja peninsula and through India and Nepal. At 4 pounds 10 ounces, the Anjan GT is not the lightest tent available but makes up for it in storm protection, comfort, and durability. Although on the expensive side, it’s the most durable tent we tested, which makes it a great long-term value. For more wiggle room, check out the Anjan 3 GT, perfect for waiting out storms in the tent.
Staying ahead of the pack each time, the Anjan 2 GT keeps coming back for an award; this year, we’ve given it our Top Pick Award for Weather Resistance. This is the most storm-worthy backpacking tent we tested and its versatility and durability, along with its weather resistance performance, are unmatched for its 4 lb. 1 oz. weight. Top-tier materials, poles, and a time-tested tunnel design quickly made this tent an all-star choice among our testers.
The impressive 27 sq. ft. vestibule was far and away the largest vestibule space amongst all the tents we tested (the next closest was 20 sq. ft. in the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx, which — despite the roomy vestibule — was the poorest-scoring tent in the review). Thanks to its roomy storage space, the GT 2 is ideal for extended bike trips, backpacking trips, or just any trip where you have some extra baggage. If we were to have a single tent for all three-season trips, including backpacking, car camping, bicycle touring, kayaking, and more, this award winner would be it. So far our testers have used this tent from Maine to Washington State, on bike trips down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, backpacking trips in the Sierra and Montana, and through India and Nepal.
After 40 years of making some of the best winter tents on the planet, Hilleberg jumped into the three-season market, creating a gigantic splash with the Anjan 2 GT. Both tents blow the competition out of the water because of sturdiness. However, Hilleberg is not keeping up in the weight race and this tent is starting to become somewhat heavy when compared to its other competitors. This year, we chose to test the GT version of the Anjan, which includes an extended vestibule and weighs almost a pound less than the regular version of the Anjan.
Best 1-Person Backpacking Tent – Nemo Hornet 1P Tent
The NEMO Equipment Hornet 2P is an incredibly light double-wall semi-freestanding tent. It has two doors and two vestibules, which is a rare benefit for tents in its weight class.
It’s listed as a 2-person tent, but it’s better suited for solo backpacking in my opinion. It’s slanted walls limit interior space, making it a tight squeeze for two, but a luxury setup for one. The Hornet’s only real drawback is its semi-freestanding design (it requires two stakes at the foot), which can be inconvenient in rocky terrain.
So if you’re a solo ultralight backpacker looking for all the comforts of a traditional tent, the Hornet 2P is a fantastic option.
Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent – NEMO Dagger 2
Targeted to the ultralight, feature-loving backpackers seeking both performance and creature comforts in their equipment, the NEMO Dagger does not disappoint.
Pulling the tent from the stuff sack, we were immediately impressed with the durable yet lightweight fabric, and the make-your-life-easier features just kept coming. While the interior width of 50″ was smaller than many of the other tents we reviewed (the REI Half Dome 2 Plus measured a whopping 56″ across) a longer-than-average length of 90″ made up for it. Big doors and airy mesh paired with wind-blocking lower sidewalls made this tent an easy selection for an Editors’ Choice Award.
Weighing in at a trail-ready weight of 3 lb. 12 oz. (including tent body, fly, stakes, line, and stuff sacks), the Dagger 2 offers 31 square feet of interior space, and an added 11.5 square feet of vestibule space. Dimensions of 90″ x 50″ x 42″ meant the tent is a bit narrower — but also a bit longer — than most in this review. The freestanding structure is easy to pick up and holds its shape well for campsite adjustments mid set-up, and feels sturdy in windy conditions. The DAC featherlight NSL poles utilize a sophisticated system to further reduce weight and increase strength at pole connection points.
Best 3-4 Person Backpacking Tent – Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 & UL4
The Big Agnes HV UL3 and HV UL4 tents are incredibly light for the interior space they provide.
The UL3 is an especially appealing option for couples because it has significantly more room than the UL2, but only costs a little more. In addition, the UL3 only weighs 2-3 ounces more than some of the best ultralight 2-person tents.
The UL4 is a solid option for groups because it allows hikers to sleep with their head/feet near the doors. That saves middle sleepers from climbing over tentmates to get in and out during the night.
Best High-End Backpacking Tent – MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent
Discerning backpackers look for a high quality, lightweight, and durable tent. And from our experience with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX, it checks all of those boxes emphatically. In doing so, the Hubba Hubba proves better than any other backpacking tent that ultralight does not have to come with serious sacrifices. Its high-end build is undoubtedly expensive at $400, and it may not be worth it for the casual backpacker, but the extra money gets you a sub-4 pound weight, decently roomy interior and solid performance in most 3-season conditions. Below we break down the Hubba Hubba’s construction, ventilation, durability, and more. To see how the Hubba Hubba stacks up, check out our comparison table and article on the best backpacking tents.
The Hubba Hubba NX is all about balance—a thoughtful design that hides its weight saving measures very well. Despite weighing 3 pounds 13 ounces, the interior is not cramped even with two average sized adults sleeping side-by-side. A symmetrical floor is a big help here: whereas some manufacturers like Big Agnes cut weight with heavily slanted walls or by tapering in at the feet, MSR opted to keep the interior open and spacious. We especially appreciated the design in humid weather, as our down sleeping bags did not come into contact with the moist tent body.
Performance in windy and wet 3-season conditions is aided by a pole design that makes the Hubba Hubba strong for its weight. The pole structure is a single hubbed unit running the spine of the tent before splitting at both ends. At the center is a ridge pole that opens up the interior by creating vertical sidewalls and increases structural rigidity for cross winds. Properly staked and guyed out with the rainfly on, the tent can take on tough conditions, with some folks bringing it into Alaska in the mild weather months. Using it in places ranging from Canyonlands National Park to the North Cascades, we’ve found that it’s not as tough as a Hilleberg, but it’s far more capable of handling true 3-season conditions than our favorite budget option: the REI Half Dome 2.
Best Spacious Backpacking Tent – Marmot Limelight 2P
For those that prioritize space over weight, the Limelight is a great choice. Along with the REI Half Dome above, the Limelight trades a focus on ounce counting for an open interior and durable fabrics at a reasonable price. And if you have dogs or kids in tow or just like a roomier feel, this is a welcome change.
Compared with the REI, the Limelight gets the edge in interior space with a 33 square foot footprint and tall 43-inch peak height (the Half Dome is 31.8 square feet and 40 inches, respectively). As we touched on above, the primary downside of the Limelight is its weight. At 5 pounds 2 ounces, it’s heavy by today’s standards (this wouldn’t have been true a few years ago but it is now).
All things considered, we still give the edge to the 9-ounce lighter Half Dome for backpacking. But the Limelight is the most accommodating option here in terms of space, and at $249 including a footprint, it’s a fantastic value for a dual backpacking and car camping design.