The Best Backpacking Tent Review

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Different types of double wall tents: front entrance, two door, and side entrance.
Credit: Max Neale
What's the best backpacking tent? In a three-year-long backpacking bonanza we tested 26 of the best two-person tents on hiking and camping trips everywhere from Maine to Alaska. With feedback from over a dozen people we compared all types of tents, side-by-side, and ranked each on its weather resistance, livability, adaptability, weight, packed size, and ease of setup. Our awards highlight the best all-purpose tent, the best lightweight tent, the best two-door tent, and the best value tent.

Whether you're new to backpacking or are a seasoned pro, OutdoorGearLab's up-to-date comparative tent reviews aim help you choose the best tent for you needs. The review below includes models that work well for both backpacking and car camping. Our Ultralight Tent Review compares cutting edge shelters that push the performance envelope on ultralight trips. The Four Season Tent Review houses Antarctic-ready tents and our Camping Tent Review compares palatial estates that fit the whole family.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Max Neale ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab January 14, 2013

Top Ranked Backpacking Tents Displaying 1 - 5 of 25 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Hilleberg Anjan 2
Hilleberg Anjan 2
Read the Review
Hilleberg Rogen
Hilleberg Rogen
Read the Review
Tarptent Double Rainbow
Tarptent Double Rainbow
Read the Review
Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
Read the Review
Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum
Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award   
Street Price Varies $595 - $685
Compare at 3 sellers
$750
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$275$440$500
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67% recommend it (2/3)
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100% recommend it (4/4)
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100% recommend it (2/2)
Pros Exceptionally spacious, durable, and weather resistant for its weight; top-tier materials; pitches easily from the outside; spectra guylines with camming adjusters; removable inner tent; reflective points.Best three-season two door tent tested.Incredibly comfortable for its weight, strong in high winds, easiest tent to setup, can be pitched in freestanding mode.Smallest packed size, second lightest tent tested, largest vestibule in class, solid nylon inner walls shed spindrift and condensation droplets, excellent front and rear ventilation, strongest "ultralight" floor and fly fabric.Extremely light, easy to set up, clips separate the inner and outer tents.
Cons 58 ounces can be heavy for backpacking, moderate quality stakes.Very expensive, water can pool on flat roof, only two pockets, below average peak height, large walls catch more wind than single entrance tents, moderate quality stakes.Low condensation resistance, splashback can hit mesh walls in some situations, door and vestibule closures could be better.Elastic guy loops make it harder to tension fly, inner walls do not clip to outer tent (less interior volume), low quality included stakes, cozy for two people.Not strong, not durable, rear walls cave in during high winds, small vestibule, expensive, not adaptable.
Best Uses 3+ season backpacking and camping.Luxurious 3+ season backpacking, car camping, basecamps.Lightweight three-season trips.Lightweight three-season trips.Lightweight three-season trips.
Date Reviewed Feb 09, 2014Jan 16, 2013Feb 09, 2014Dec 22, 2012Jan 12, 2013
Livability - 20%
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Product Specs Hilleberg Anjan 2 Hilleberg Rogen Tarptent Double Rainbow Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum
Type Front Entrance Two Door Two Door Single Wall Front Entrance Front Entrance
Measured Weight oz 58.4 74.5 41.7 32.8 31
Measured Weight lb 3 lb 2 oz 4 lb 13 oz 2 lb 10 oz 2 lb 1 oz 1 lb 15 oz
Measured Weight g 1656 2112 1182 936 879
Packed Size in 4x17 4x20 3.5x21 2.5x16 3x19
Dimensions in 87x52 91 x 51 88 x 50 88x 51/33 86 x 52
Floor Area sq ft 30.1 31.2 30.5 25.7 28
Vestibule Area sq ft 14 23.6 15 9.1 7
Peak Height in 40 38 43 39 38
Space-weight Ratio 0.76 0.74 1.09 1.05 1.13
Number of Doors 1 2 2 1 1
Number of Poles 3 3 1 1 1
Pole Diameter mm 9 9 8.6 16/17 9
Number of Pockets 2 2 2 2 2
Gear Loft Clothesline 5 Hang loops No No Ceiling pocket, optional gear loft
Pole Material DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlite NSL Green Easton aluminum 7075-T9 DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlite NSL Green
Guy Points 17 12 8 14 11
Inner Tent Material Solid Solid Mesh/ optional insert Solid Mesh

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Hilleberg Anjan 2
$570
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REI Half Dome 2
$180
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Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
$440
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Tarptent Double Rainbow
$275
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Hilleberg Rogen
$790
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Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
$370
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Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum
$500
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REI Quarter Dome T2
$270
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Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
$400
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MSR Nook
$399
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Black Diamond Mesa
$320
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MSR Hoop
$399
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GoLite Wolf Creek L2
$199
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Nemo Obi 2
$390
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Nemo Losi 2
$370
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Sierra Designs Flash 2
$339
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Brooks Range Foray
$424
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Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2
$430
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MSR Hubba Hubba
$300
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North Face Tadpole 23
$219
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North Face Minibus 23
$360
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Kelty Salida
$180
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Easton Kilo 2
$399
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MSR Carbon Reflex 2
$499
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Sierra Designs LT Strike 2
$400
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Marmot Limelight 2
$199
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Selecting the Right Product
A quality tent is arguably the single most important component of building a multi-day gear kit. The 26 tents included in this review are all fully enclosed 2-person backpacking tents that pitch with traditional tent poles included with purchase. Our Ultralight Tent Review compares nine cutting edge trekking-pole supported shelters that offer the greatest performance for ultralight backpacking. We separate the tents in this way to make it easier to compare specific types of tents and because ultralight shelters require that you buy into a different, and possibly better, way to backpack. We encourage you to consider both tents and shelters and urge you to look at our Backpacking Tent Buying Advice, which describes the pros and cons of tents and shelters.

Traditional tents, such as those included in this review, with dedicated poles that support the tent, are generally more comfortable than trekking pole supported ultralight tents. The models in this review are ideal for both multi-day human-powered trips — such as bike touring, backpacking, remote basecamps, kayaking, etc. — and for car camping. In that sense, they are an excellent value; one tent may serve all of your three-season needs.

Types of Backpacking Tents
Many of the 2-person tents in this review are also available in 3 or 4-person versions with similar features. As far as 2-person backpacking tents, the number and location of doors is one of the common design variations:
  • Two Door Tents — we found that tents with two doors offer the most comfort, have the most vestibule space, and are the heaviest; they’re best for car camping and luxurious backpacking
  • Single Side Door Tents — typically the cheapest and least comfortable
  • Single Front Door Tents — offer the best balance of low weight and comfort

Criteria For Evaluation
Livability
Here we assessed how close to home we felt in each tent. Two-door tents are by far the most luxurious and tents with a single side door are the least comfortable, because one person has to climb over the other person in order to get in or out. Our ratings consider door and vestibule design, solid or mesh walls, the number and size of pockets, peak height, floor area, and vestibule area. We include other important factors such as: Does the tent get wet from falling rain when someone enters in the rain? Can a six-foot tall person sit up inside or lie down without their feet touching the walls? Does the fly protect the inner tent from splashback and spindrift?

The most livable tent we tested was the North Face Minibus 23, a palatial estate with tons of pockets and two gigantic vestibules. The Easton Kilo 2 was the least livable. Most tents tested here are significantly more comfortable to spend extended amounts of time in than ultralight shelters.

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Two doors and two vestibules, such as the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2's show here, provide lots of space for storing gear.
Credit: Max Neale
Weather Resistance
Here we assess the amount of protection each tent provides against vertically falling and horizontally blown precipitation, and the strength of the pole design, which is important during high winds. We considered pole design, pole diameter, the number of pole intersections, mechanism for attaching the body to the fly, mechanism for attaching the fly to the poles, construction quality, as well as the number and quality of guy points. The North Face Tadpole 23 has the greatest static strength, but the Hilleberg Anjan takes first place for overall weather resistance. The weakest tent was the North Face Minibus 23, followed by the MSR Carbon Reflex 2.

Although several tents tested here are very capable of enduring serious three-season storms, we've found that ultralight tents are stronger and safer in high winds because trekking poles don’t break, cuben fiber is stronger than even the strongest silnylon used in these tents, and shelters can be pitched lower to the ground than tents.

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Sidewall guypoints are often a tent's weakest guypoint. Left to right: Brooks Range Foray, Terra Nova Solar Photon 2, and Big Agnes Fly Creek. We suspect the Foray's is the strongest.
Credit: Max Neale
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Hilleberg Rogen-- one of the strongest and most durable three-season tents tested-- pitched with sticks, trekking poles, and ice axes in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Credit: Max Neale
Ease of Setup
The majority of tents tested here are self-supporting, meaning they stand up, to some degree, by themselves and have components, such as a vestibule, that must be guyed out for a proper pitch. Self-supporting tents are the most idiot-proof type of shelter; an eight-year-old child can easily pitch one in a few minutes. Tunnel tents — those with two hoop-shaped poles — require more skill and experience to pitch because they, like all ultralight shelters, are supported entirely by tension from guylines. The Tarptent Double Rainbow is the fastest tent to pitch; its poles insert into the rainfly from the outside and the inner tent suspends from that. The Hilleberg Anjan and Rogen are the next easiest to pitch. But no tent tested is hard to pitch and we don't believe that ease of setup is an important attribute for a backpacking tent; this variable assumes 5 percent of each tent's total score.

Adaptability
What you require from a tent varies with location and weather conditions. One night you might need protection from vertically falling rain. Another night you might need protection from strong winds and horizontally blown rain. And another night the skies may be clear with no wind…all you need is bug protection. Tents that can adapt to varying conditions, or be used in locations that don't permit a perfect pitch, can save time, money, and energy. In general, double wall tents that pitch with dedicated poles are the least adaptable; they must be pitched in the same way regardless of the campsite or the weather. Ultralight shelters, in contrast, are much more capable of adapting to environmental variation. The Hilleberg Rogen and Anjan are the only tents tested that have some degree of adaptability. Their inner tents can be removed to create a pole-supported floorless tent that is significantly stronger, more comfortable, and lighter than “fast pitching” a tent with a footprint, poles, and fly.

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The Hilleberg Rogen and Anjan (left) are the only tents that pitch in a floorless configuration, which increases versatility and reduces weight, and is much stronger, lighter, and more weather resistant than "fast pitching" (right).
Credit: OutdoorGearLab and MSR
Weight and Packed Size
Our weight variable ranks each tent on its packed weight, which we measured with each tent’s included poles, inner tent, outer tent, and guylines. See individual product reviews for the weight of each component. At 31 ounces the Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum is the lightest tent tested. At 108 ounces, the North Face Minibus 23 is the heaviest tent tested. In comparison, two-person ultralight shelters weigh an average of 16 ounces and as little as 7 ounces. We list space-to-weight ratio (sum of vestibule and floor area / ounces) in our specification table. The average score is 0.77 with a range from 0.40 to 1.23.

Packed size is strongly correlated with weight. However, some tents have lots of features, like pockets and gear lofts, or complicated plastic pole hubs, that add more bulk than weight, or simply don’t collapse well. The Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 is the most compact tent tested here. The North Face Minibus and Nemo Losi are the least compressible.

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Four of the lighter double wall front entrance tents tested. Left to right: Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum, Terra Nova Solar Photon 2, Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL2, Brooks Range Foray. Also note that color matters; yellows and reds are not stealthy.
Credit: Max Neale
Durability
This variable represents our best guess estimate at the long-term durability of each tent. Our ratings in this category are based on our experience field testing and on manufacturer's fabric specifications. In general, nylon is more durable than polyester and silicone coated fabrics are stronger and more durable than polyurethane coated fabrics. (See our Buying Advice Article for more info on fabrics.) Many of the lighter tents tested here are not designed to endure lots of use and abuse. For example, roughly half the models tested skip basic strength enhancing features like clips that relieve stress from vestibule zippers. It's more important to have a stronger and more durable fly material than a stronger and more durable floor material, but some tents, like the Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2, have the opposite. We believe the least durable tent tested is the Big Agnes Fly Creek or the Easton Kilo 2. The Hilleberg Rogen and Anjan have a host of features commonly found on four-season tents and are by far the most durable. We've found that the importance of durability increases with trip duration. Repairs take time and serious damage or failure has larger consequences and costs in more remote areas and on long distance hikes.

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Hilleberg Anjan features: metal friction adjustments and metal stake rings increase strength and durability (left) and the red toggle (right) relieves stress on the vestibule zipper. No other tents come close to matching Hilleberg durability.
Credit: Max Neale
Forget the Footprint
Footprints, or waterproof fabrics cut to match a tent bottom, are overpriced accessories that are completely unnecessary for backpacking. Extensive camping on pointy rocky ground or in the desert, where punctures are possible, might be a reason to consider one. But choosing a good campsite is easier and weighs less. If you choose to experiment with a footprint, we don't recommend purchasing one from a tent manufacturer because they are often overpriced and of moderate to low quality. Instead, consider cutting your own out of Tyvek Home Wrap or polycro plastic. Tyvek is the most durable and puncture resistant footprint material we've used. A typical tent size piece weighs around 7 oz, which is not particularly lightweight. But if you're looking for one footprint primarily for car camping that occasionally joins you on puncture prone backpacking trips, this is our top pick. You can buy Tyvek at hardwear stores or online from ZPacks. Polycro is a lighter and less durable option that ultralight backpackers tend to favor; it may be all you need. Buy it from Gossamer Gear or Mountain Laurel Designs. The weight of a sleeping pad and bag keeps a custom footprint in place- there's no need for grommets.

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Tyvek "Home Wrap" is our favorite footprint for car camping and basecamping because it's waterproof, highly puncture resistant, and exceptionally durable. We prefer clear polycro plastic groundsheets for weight conscious applications.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab
Color Matters
A bright colored tent is ideal for expedition mountaineering and alpine climbing because it allows you to find a tent easier than a less visible color would. An attention grabbing color can also help others find you if you need to get picked up or rescued. For three-season applications like backpacking a bright colored tent is a handicap when you want to camp stealthily or act in accordance with Leave No Trace principles. Dark green or moderate grey colors blend in well in most non-snow covered environments and draw less attention from wildlife and people. Color can become a safety issue when camping near urban areas where you don't want to be noticed by people that might be interested in you and/or all of the expensive gear you're carrying. Moderate green and grey are our preferred colors for three-season tents.

Consider Upgrading Stakes and Guylines
Of all the tents tested here only Hilleberg models come with enough guyline to achieve a proper pitch. Hilleberg is also the only company that includes enough stakes for each guypoint. Pretty lame, right? Easton Full Metal Jacket stakes and Dyneema IronWire cord are very good. Easton Nano Nail stakes and Bluewater 3mm Niteline are a good value.

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Tent stakes,: MSR Cyclone (35g),Toughstake (33g), MSR Snowstake (22g), DAC Y (14g), Easton Nano Nail (9g), DAC V (11g), MSR Mini Groundhog (9g), Hilleberg Tri-peg (8g), Vargo 6.5 Titanium (8g), MSR Carbon Core (5.5g), Easton Full Metal Jacket (5.5g).
Credit: Max Neale
Consider an Ultralight Shelter
If ultralight backpacking is your objective, or may be in your future, we highly recommend using trekking poles (see Ten Reasons for Trekking Poles) to support one of the tents found in our Ultralight Tent Review. Floorless shelters are ideal for pushing the ultralight performance envelope.

Editor’s Choice Award: Hilleberg Anjan 2
Whether you’re 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 exception strength and durability. If we were to have one single tent for all types of three-season multi-day trips, the Anjan would be it. This is also the highest performance light duty winter tent. Our testers used the Anjan on multi-day trips from Maine to Washington State, and they bicycle toured down the Baja peninsula and through India and Nepal. At 58.4 ounces, the Anjan is not the lightest tent available, but what it lacks in low weight it makes up for in comfort and durability. In our ratings, the Anjan ties as the most durable tent tested, which makes it an exceptionally good long-term value.

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Meghan Meo unpacks the Palisade bag on a six-week bike tour down Mexico's Baja Peninsula. With the Anjan 2 tent.
Credit: Mike Meo
Top Pick Award for Ultralight: Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
The 34-ounce Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 emerges as our highest rated tent for trips where weight and packed size are the top concerns. The Solar Photon has several advantages over similar models from Big Agnes, Mountain Hardwear, Easton, and Brooks Range. We found the fly fabric to be stronger; it packs the smallest of all tents tested; it has two vents that reduce condensation; several unique features like a clip at the vestibule zipper and rear guy points increase its strength; its vestibule is 30 percent larger than its closest competitor's; and a solid nylon inner wall helps to block spindrift. All “ultralight” dedicated pole tents sacrifice strength, durability, and comfort for weight savings, but of all the light tents tested we believe the Solar Photon makes the fewest sacrifices. This is the next best thing to an ultralight tent.

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Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 camped on the Big Sur coast, California.
Credit: Max Neale
Top Pick Award for Two-Door Ultralight: Tarptent Double Rainbow
The Tarptent Double Rainbow offers an exceptionally rare combination of low weight, abundant comfort, and affordability. This single-wall tarptent pitches quickly with one pole from the outside, weighs a modest 42 ounces, and boasts two doors and two vestibules. The Double Rainbow performs better than most traditional two-door double wall tents and, at $275, costs far less. This is an exceptional value and a winner for anyone that wants to go light without sacrificing comfort, and without paying top dollar. Other tents. like the Solar Photon 2, weigh ten ounces less, but cost $200 more. The Double Rainbow is easily the best value lightweight tent that we know of.

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The Tarptent Double Rainbow pitches quickly with a single pole from the outside. Two doors and two vestibules make it very comfortable for its weight. The low profile design slices through wind, making it very strong for its weight.
Credit: Max Neale
Best Buy Award: REI Half Dome 2
Where the Double Rainbow excels at providing lightweight value, the $180 REI Half Dome 2 is a champion at providing more comfort for an even lower cost. At 88 ounces, however, we believe this is suitable for occasional, shorter duration backpacking trips and primarily for car camping. It weighs twice as much as the Double Rainbow and nearly three times as much as the Solar Photon. If you’re like most people and are looking for one tent for mostly car camping and occasional backpacking, the Half Dome 2 takes the cake. This is a real rock star of a tent and it's incredibly cheap.

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Poor site selection combined with a rare high desert storm created a large puddle perfect for testing the Half Dome 2's waterproof floor. Near Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
Credit: Max Neale

Best Tents For Specific Applications
People over 6' 3" tall: REI Half Dome 2 Plus and Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2.

Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List
Check out our Dream Backpacking Gear List to see OGL's "dream" backpacking gear items.

Max Neale
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