Few outdoor activities allow you to feel free and far away as much as backpacking does. Camping is always great, but camping in the backcountry, miles from the nearest motor vehicle or power line, is overwhelmingly great. Like, it fills your soul and rebirths your humanity great. Like you learn to be reliant on nothing but yourself and the world around you great.
Of course to enjoy it you probably want to make sure you have shelter. While you could use a minimalist tarp or even just a sleeping bag, it’s pretty amazing to throw down your tent in a nice spot for your portable home in the middle of heaven. Then at night you cozy up knowing that you’ve finally figured out what that John Muir was talking about.
Here are our pics for best backpacking tents to get you out there:
Best Backpacking Tents
Klymit was born in the Wasatch more than a decade ago, and their Klymit Maxfield 2 Tent shows how much those Utahns love their backpacking. The Maxfield 2 is an amazing ultralight tent that’s still super beefy despite weighing in at less that 5 pounds. Despite such a low weight, the Maxfield is packing Yunan Aluminum 7001 poles with an Eco-Friendly coating. Plus the 1200mm Nylon Ripstop Fly and the 40D PU 3000mm Nylon Ripstop Floor actually deliver some rain protection. And with its big front vestibule, smaller rear one and a floor area of 29.3 square feet, the Klymit Macfield 2 has plenty of storage but also actually feels super spacious thanks to the dome’s structure.
I love this backpacking tent for its balance of price, weight, and protection. It’s well-centered, making something that can protect you in a summer storm but still isn’t as heavy as a car camping tent. Go light, go fast, go with protection, and go with a company that lives in one of America’s most storied mountain ranges. Go with Klymit’s Maxfield 2.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 8. 0z.
Alright, now we’re really going ultralight with Mountain Hardwear’s Nimbus UL 2. This great two person tent has a packed weight of 2 lbs. 2 oz. That’s right, basically 2 pounds for a 2-person tent. The Nimbus 2 even has aluminum poles, the industry-leading DAC NFL Ultra Hyperspace Poles. It also still has a 20D 1200mm fly and 30D 1500 mm ripstop nylon floor so it’s actually waterproof. While still only 2 pounds? They swing that by innovative design – the tent hits a high point, then narrows as the pole setup looks like a T. It’s basically a large bivy sack, tightening towards the feet. There’s still 28 feet of floor area, though. Amazing weight-to-protection ratio, industry-topping.
The Mountain Hardwear Numbus UL2 Tent even has a vestibule with that cool option to set it up as fully-closed or with only the side walls and a big opening in the middle. It’s pretty snug, though. Again, this is really a big bivy bringing the best of both tent and sack, with little extra.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs.
I fell in love with the MSR Elixir several years ago and it’s still at the top of my rotation. At 6 pounds packed weight, the Elixir 2 Person Tent is certainly heavier than the ultralights. But it’s also got a quick and easy setup and room for days. This tent can handle whatever the 3 seasons can send your way, with 68D fly and a 70D 3000mm polyurethane floor on the tent. The color-coded aluminum poles make it so easy to set up, you’ll get your home in the outdoors up and protecting in a couple minutes, even right out of the box. The Elixir 2 definitely delivers the most space of any tent on this list so far; hell, the vestibule alone is 24 square feet. And the most durability. Which makes it worth an extra pound or two.
The MSR Elixir 2 Tent feels pretty open given the wide space and the structure of the dome on top. This is the biggest of all tents before, easily fitting 3 people and a few dogs in the MSR Elixir 3. Even more, this is a super-bombproof backpacking tent, ready and able to stand up to whatever mother nature might throw at you.
Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs.
Midori is Japanese for green and Eureka’s Midori 2 Tent is perfect for exploring the green eco goodness of the great outdoors. With 30 square feet of floor space, it’s worth the 6 pounds of weight. Plus you’re rocking 68D 185 T 1500 mm polyester taffeta fly and an 1800mm floor. This is obviously spacious and, throwing in the aluminum poles, it’s heavy duty.
But what’s really striking is the price tag. At under $200, it’s one of the most affordable on this list, but doesn’t add too much weight, nor does it sacrifice durability in this small 2 person tent. The Midori rocks a standard square-ish shape with nice, big vestibules. All told, you can’t do much better and keep within your standard budget.
Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
I love ultralight tents, and so do the adventurers in Steamboat who work at Big Agnes as evidenced by their 3-pound Copper Spur UL 2 Tent. One thing I love about this tent is the fact that poles can be used to hold the vestibule corners out and open, making it great for when you’ve got hiking poles or even heading out in (light) snow (it is 3-season, after all). Making it a perfect backpacking tent.
The fly and floor both rock a mixed denier 1200mm nylon and those epic DAC Featherlite poles. Like all the Big Agnes tents, there are hooks and straps specially made for their lighting systems. Plus there’s the option to set up just the fly and floor if you’re out in the halcyon days of summer where you don’t need real walls. The mezzanine delivers more storage by your feet, which Big Agnes even incorporates into their UL1, another large bivy tent you can take solo (with space for a pup). That one clocks in at just barely 2 pounds. Either way, you’re talking a super durable, super light tent with all those special features only the team designing Big Agnes Tents thinks about.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Leave it to Black Diamond to make one of the most unique tents with their Distance Tent. That crazy design delivers a 2-person, 3-season tent that weighs in at around 1 and a half pounds. It packs down to about the size of a Nalgene bottle but still rocks 30D poly fabric and incorporates Distance Carbon FLZ-AR Trekking Poles to keep it up.
The Black Diamond Distance Tent has a big peak with a top pole that these trekking poles prop up to keep the ceiling above you. Of course with this low weight and high durability, there isn’t a ton of room. The roof especially isn’t high but you’re not camping in the backcountry to stay in your tent; you’re staying out there to explore the outdoors, using your tent only to sleep. If you got some big, ambitious treks in your plans, look no further than the Black Diamond Distance for a great ultralight backpacking tent.
Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Here’s another unique design: Six Moon Designs’ Lunar Solo Tent, perfect for your solo trip up the PCT. At 26 ounces, you’d think it was super small but this tent actually drops decent space thanks to its hexagonal shape. We’re talking 26 square feet of space, plus an 8.5 foot vestibule. With the pole in the middle, this ultralight tent can rise above 4 feet at its peak. But that doesn’t mean the Lunar Solo 1 Person Tent delivers less protection.
Like the Black Diamond tent, this one uses trekking poles, though this one actually uses just one, in the middle. There’s still a 20D fly and 40D bathtub floor, with a mesh lining just above it to let in that fresh air. When you add in that center pole, this tent can even handle snow, a real necessity if you’re through-hiking in the mountains where it might even snow up high in the supposedly warm months of summer.
Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lbs. 10 oz.
With its Late Start 1, Kelty delivers a 3 season 1 person tent with some space and the tried and true larger shape of standard dome tents. Its two aluminum poles are pre-bent so you have a little extra room in your backpacking tent. A 68D polyester wraps the tent above and below, with the floor being an 1800mm super waterproof base. That fly, though, it’s color-coded for easier setup, especially compared to others that require you to be hiking with poles.
The Kelty Late Season 1 Tent costs less than $150, making it a no-brainer to add to your tent quiver for a great one person tent. Especially since it has a 20-square-foot floor to give you tons of room, and there’s an extra 6.4 feet of space in the vestibule. Again, the biggest leg up it has over other 1-person tents on the list are Quick Corner pole sleeves and color-coding on the fly to really make it easy, thus the name Late Start. Because if you’re setting up at sunset or in the dark, it really needs to be quick and easy. Kelty understands that and gets it done.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
And then North Face swoops in to steal the thunder with their Stormbreak 1. Also under $150. Also incorporating its quick pitch technology. It also incorporates 68D polyester taffeta 1200mm PU fly, as well as a 68D floor. Plus it all clocks in at about 3 pounds.
But wait, The North Face Strombreak 1 Tent has their own poles able to stand up to torrential downfall. Which the tent also fights with a fully-sealed canopy and floor to keep the wet from sneaking in through the cracks. There’s also its special ventilation in the top. But the most amazing thing is that this tent has enough interior space to fit you, your pack, and even a pup or baby, with a vestibule for more stuff. Yeah, those guys at North Face really know how to dominate a category blending weight, price, and protection in one kinda perfect one-person tent.
Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs. 1.4 oz.
When Hyperlite Ultamid 2, they were basically asking one simple question: How badly do you want to cut down weight? Would you be willing to drop the frills and extras for a waterproof tent that weighs in at a little over a pound? The 100% waterproof Dyneema Composite Fabrics will keep out any storms that might rise along the way (short of gale force winds or hail). You can keep it up with trekking poles or even just hook the top of the tent to a tree if you don’t like that whole trekking pole in the middle of your tent thing.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Tent is floorless, though. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who prefer floorless tents, surprising for winter camping but in the summer it’s a great option as long as you’re not at the risk of flooding. Once you have it all set up, we’re talking 63 square feet of space with a top height of over 5 feet. All at just 1 pound. If you’re going for distance not necessarily comfort, and are good with bivying out in a sleeping bag but want some protection from the elements, the Hyperlite Ultamid 2 is that next level minimalist adventure buddy you’ve been looking for.
Minimum Trail Weight: