Who doesn’t want a cabin in the woods? Better yet, who doesn’t want a portable cabin in the woods? OK, maybe a tent isn’t quite as luxurious as a cabin. Nevertheless, its spartan nature doesn’t mean it can’t be a safe and comfy place you can call home in the backcountry! Today, we take a look at the top backpacking tents of the year.
We’ve evaluated tents based on price, weight, packability, functionality, versatility, and durability. For its outstanding performance in all those areas, our top pick for 2023’s best backpacking tent goes to the Marmot Tungsten 1 Person Tent.
The Top Backpacking Tents Reviewed
Best Overall Backpacking Tent
Our pick for best all-around backpacking tent this year goes to the Marmot Tungsten 1 Person Tent. This jack-of-all-trades weighs in at a reasonable 3 lbs 8.8 oz. The shorter folded pole length to fit easier into your pack for bikepacking or kayak trips. This means you’ll have plenty of room for your gear without feeling cramped. Best of all, the Tungsten 1 comes with its own footprint included.
So, whether you’re doing a weekend in the Adirondacks or solo thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail, the Marmot Tungsten 1 is a worthy companion.
Want to upsize? Check out the Marmot Tungsten 2 Person Tent which boasts a similar design.
- Not for couples
Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Unless you’re a diehard ultralighter, the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 1 isn’t for you. At just 10 oz, however, it’s an ultralight hiker’s dream. Set-up is fast and easy and requires a set of adjustable trekking poles. Also, the durable, Xtreme Shield floor is waterproof. But, if you do get caught in a downpour, the lack of a fly means a bad time. For that, you can always pair it with the Thru-Hiker 70 or 100 Wing.
Offering the great ventilation and livable space you want when you’re crossing the buggy Oregon sections of the PCT, or the wet & humid lowlands on the Appalachian Trail, this shelter system lets you choose the right combination of weight and protection you need.
- Packs small
- Spacious interior
- Rain cover sold separately
Best Backpacking Tent for Couples
For couples seeking a comfy homestead in the backcountry, the Eureka Summer Pass 2 Person Tent fits the bill. A spacious interior and six pockets ensures plenty of storage and living space.
Double doors make sneaking out for a midnight pee without waking your partner a cinch. Also, the Eco-Duralumin frame is both strong and durable. At 5 lbs, the Summer Pass 2 is on the heavier side. But, for all it has to offer, we don’t mind.
- Spacious and cozy
- Lots of storage
- Double doors
Best Backpacking Tent for Globe-Trotting
This highly functional tent emphasizes interior space and ease of setup, all while remaining lightweight and easy to carry. If you’re planning a trip across the world with friends and don’t want to blow all your funds on accommodation, then The North Face Eco Trail 2P Tent is right up your alley. The no-nonsense design makes for quick and intuitive set-up, while the increased height allows for uncramped and comfortable living.
Two spacious vestibules let you fit backpacks and bulkier items inside the tent, while guylines on the rainfly align with pole architecture to withstand heavy storms.
- Intuitive design
- Increased height
Best Backpacking Tent for Thru-Hiking
If you want a tent that’ll bear witness to the three legs of your Triple Crown, then the MSR Hubba Hubba Tent is an excellent option. At just 2 lbs, this highly packable tent won’t grow heavy on your back. In bad weather, MSR’s DuraShield™ fabric coating and taped seams keep the elements outside where they belong. What’s more, the premium Easton Syclone Poles are lightweight and stand up to powerful winds.
For a one-person tent, the interior is spacious and offers ample height. At the end of the day, this is an outstandingly durable tent that can take as much of a beating as your thru-hiking physique.
- Very durable
- Stands up to bad weather
- No frills
Best Tent for Winter Backpacking
What happens when you combine Mountain Hardwear’s lightweight backpacking tents with their four-season expedition tents? You get the ACI Tent. It is a bastion of comfort and security amidst the unforgiving conditions of the alpine realm.
Tried and tested, Mountain Hardwear has spent 20 years perfecting this tent for your winter adventuring. The ACI Tent is fully snow and watertight and an integrated vestibule provides adjoining storage and food prep area outside of main living space, making it easier that ever to take the security and comfort of home 8,000 meters up. Weight is 7 lbs, which is quite heavy for summer, but impressive for a four-season tent.
The ACI Tent is standard issue for those who aren't afraid of cold weather. It’s perfect for wintry weekend hiking in the woods or a late-fall climbing trip.
- Robust storm-protection
- Waterproof & ventilated
The Copper Spur HV UL is one of Big Agnes' best-selling, full-featured, ultralight backpacking tents. Its high volume design provides ample living space in this freestanding structure. Traditional, media, and 3D bin pockets help to organize your gear without cramping your sleep space or capacity to sit up inside. Plus, awning-style vestibules can be customized to expand living space, great for both drizzle and sun protection.
To simplify tent setup, three functions are combined into one mechanism. The secure pole-tip capture won’t release your pole tip during setup, streamlining the process especially if you are setting up solo. The rainfly attachment and tensioner plus the stakeout loop are included to create a trouble-free setup trifecta!
What to look for when buying a backpacking tent
Typically, backpacking tents have a capacity of one to two people. This is indicated by 1P or 2P, respectively. If you’re tall, make sure to check the dimensional specs, like width, height (for head room), and length.
Three-season tents are most common, as much of the backpacking we do happens in peak season (spring to autumn). A three-season tent also tends to be lighter and less expensive when compared to a four-season or expedition tent.
You’ll occasionally also see one-season and two-season tents. These are pretty much identical and make excellent summer shelters, as they’re both breathable and lightweight. That said, their use case is hopelessly restricted to fine weather.
A four-season tent (such as the Mountain Hardwear ACI Tent) is a good option if you find yourself doing both three-season and winter backpacking and prefer to have just one tent for all your needs.
Most backpacking tents will weigh in the range of one pound and five pounds. While it doesn’t seem like much, it certainly feels like a lot after several dozen miles. When it comes to hiking, if you can live with a few less frills, then a lightweight tent is the way to go.
When it comes to tents, there aren’t many features that you necessarily need. However, standard features like internal storage pockets, a bathtub floor, and dynamic ventilation make a good tent even better.
Still unsure how to pick your camping tent? Check out our main article on the subject.
FAQs for backpacking tents
How heavy should a tent be for backpacking?
First, establish what you want out of your tent. Is it just a humble shelter to catch some z’s? Or do you want a little more comfort? Is it for a thru-hike or just a weekend trip? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can better decide how heavy that tent should be. In general, one pound is on the extremely light side, while five pounds and over is on the heavy spectrum.
What's the difference between a camping tent and a backpacking tent?
Simply put, camping is about staying put while backpacking is about moving around. Hence, camping tents tend to have a few more frills at the expense of weight. Conversely, backpacking tents are more minimalist and lightweight, which usually comes at the cost of certain comforts.
How much should I spend on a tent?
As we’ve seen in the product guide above, tents can range dramatically in price. Similar to the question about weight, it depends on what you’re going to use it for. For instance, with a smaller budget, you can get yourself a high-quality summer tent. But, if you need something that'll keep you safe and comfortable in winter weather, it won’t cut it. Now we’re looking at the ACI Tent, which is more than threefold in price.
Do I need to use a footprint with my tent?
Not always. It largely depends on the terrain and the local climate. Nevertheless, using a footprint is highly suggested. At the very least, it’ll keep the floor of your tent from incurring damage over time and provide an extra layer against wet ground.
This wraps up 2023’s best backpacking tents. Our top-pick for best overall goes to the Marmot Tungsten 1 Person Tent for its balance of durability, comfort, versatility, weight, and price.