A good tent can make or break any overnight outdoor adventure. We've researched hundreds of models, purchasing the best 18 of 2019 to put through our extensive testing process. Our most recent round of testing revealed some new, innovative designs and award winners. We've also confirmed that our reliable go-to favorites are still the cream of the crop. From the Sierra to Mexico to Nepal, we've put each one through the wringer, evaluating a series of metrics. Whether you are a budget shopper, a luxury car camper, or you want the highest performing ultralight model, there is a tent in this review for you.
The Best Backpacking Tents of 2019
|Price||$449.95 at Backcountry|
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|$389.95 at Amazon||$499.95 at Backcountry|
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|$399.95 at REI||$499.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Two large double doors, good headroom, excellent balance of space and weight||Excellent balance between weight and features, many storage pockets, large vestibules||Lightweight, good lateral headroom, large side doors, large overhead pocket||Generous dimensions, large vestibules, good balance between weight and durability||Superior weight for a dedicated pole tent, easy to pitch, easy entry and exit|
|Cons||Delicate fabrics require special treatment, expensive||Tapered foot, pockets are high up||small vestibules, tapered footprint reduces interior space||Small doors, expensive, zippers don't always open smoothly||Expensive, tight for two people, mediocre ventilation|
|Bottom Line||Our favorite tent for all your backpacking needs.||A superior tent that balances light weight with excellent features.||A comfortable, lightweight tent great for a weekend or a week.||A high-quality tent that strikes a solid balance between weight and comfort features.||A great choice for backpackers looking to minimize weight without sacrificing the conveniences of a double wall tent.|
|Rating Categories||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||NEMO Dragonfly 2||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3||NEMO Dagger 2||NEMO Hornet Elite|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (10%)|
|Packed Size (10%)|
|Specs||Big Agnes Copper...||NEMO Dragonfly 2||Big Agnes Copper...||NEMO Dagger 2||NEMO Hornet Elite|
|Packaged Weight||3.06 lbs||3.16 lbs||3.81 lbs||3.76 lbs||2.00 lbs|
|Floor Area||29 sq ft||29 sq ft||41 sq ft||31 sq ft||28 sq ft|
|Packed Size||19.5 x 4 in||19.5 x 4.5 in||20 x 4.5 in||19.5 x 6.5 in||19 x 5 in|
|Dimensions||88" x 52" x 42 in||88" x 50" x 41"||90" x 70" x 43"||90" x 50" x 42"||85" x 51" x 37"|
|Vestibule Area (Total)||18 sq ft||20 sq ft||18 sq ft||22.8 sq ft||12.4 sq ft|
|Peak Height||42 in||41 in||43 in||42 in||37 in|
|Number of Doors||2||2||2||2||2|
|Number of Poles||2||3||3||2||1|
|Pole Diameter||8.7 mm||8.7 mm||8.7mm||8.5/9/9.6 millimeters||8.7 mm|
|Number of Pockets||2||3||5||2||3|
|Gear Loft||Sold separately||No||Sold separately||Sold separately||No|
|Pole Material||DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL||DAC Featherlite NFL||Aluminum||DAC featherlight NSL||DAC Featherlite NFL|
|Rain Fly Material||Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof polyurethane coating||20D Nylon Ripstop||proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating||15D Sil / PU Nylon Ripstop (1200mm)||7D Sil/PU Nylon (1200 mm)|
|Inner Tent Material||[Body] Patterned double ripstop nylon/polyester mesh
[Floor] Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof polyurethane coating
|15D Nylon Ripstop||proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating||[Body] 15D Nylon Ripstop / No see um mesh
[Floor] 30D PU Nylon Ripstop (3000mm)
|10D Sil / PU Nylon Ripstop (1200mm)|
|Type||Two Door||Two Door freestanding||Two Door||Two Door freestanding||Two Door|
Best Overall — Excellent Space for the Weight
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is one terrific tent. A top overall option in our review, it embodies what many backpackers are looking for; it's comfortable, lightweight, and packs down small. It's resilient in windy conditions, providing crucial protection when the clouds roll in. It has two side doors and roomy vestibules while maintaining a weight of just over three pounds.
In torrential downpours, it's not as hearty as the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT, but we would be hard-pressed to find a tent that is. Our experts took this tent everywhere, from high alpine climbing to multi-week backpacking trips. Long-distance hikers and frequent backpackers will get big utility out of this tent. It takes top honors for the all-around stellar experience it offers.
Read review: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
Best Overall — Balance of Features and Weight
NEMO Dragonfly 2
The NEMO Dragonfly 2 strikes a prime balance between comfort and weight. It performs beautifully in a variety of situations, but we recommend it for those who want to travel on the lighter side without sacrificing the creature comforts that a larger footprint provides. The fabric is durable, and the 15D ripstop nylon rain fly stays taut (and quiet) in the wind, which turns out to be a surprisingly rare feature. Its exceptional design means that 6-foot tall sleepers have plenty of head-to-toe length and headroom. Two ample side doors, two-tone mesh, and wind-resistant lower sidewalls add to this tent's allure, while the massive vestibules provide enough space for cooking and gear storage.
If we were forced to come up with some drawbacks, we would point out that the interior width of 50" tapering to 45" puts it in the middle of the pack. And though it comes with an awesome array of storage pockets, they do require a long reach from lying down. All things considered, this tent is exceptional for its balance of performance and weight — a combination that we would take with us on almost any adventure.
Read review: NEMO Dragonfly 2
Best for Luxury Car Camping on a Budget
REI Half Dome 2 Plus
The most livable and comfortable tent in our review, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus has an extra spacious interior and thoughtful construction, and is a good choice for taller folks or anyone with pets or a lot of gear. It provides the most bang for the buck of any tent in this review, beating out other spacious models like the NEMO Galaxi 2. The Half Dome 2 Plus earns our Best Buy Award for its exceptional comfort, luxurious dimensions, great ventilation, and a wide array of interior storage pockets.
The primary drawback of the Half Dome 2 Plus is that it is a behemoth. Tipping the scales at over five pounds, it's more than double the weight of the NEMO Hornet Elite. Over short distances, it may be inconsequential, but for longer trips, we would look elsewhere. It's best suited for weekend adventures and car camping. Overall, it's a real rock star that REI continues to upgrade, and it comes at a comparatively affordable price.
Read review: REI Half Dome 2 Plus
Best Lightweight Option
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
If you like the idea of going ultralight, but can't quite ditch the comfort that typically comes with dedicated poles, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 could be for you. Its weight makes it a true competitor to the original NEMO Hornet, but it is notably more comfortable. It also offers two large side doors and is configured to have a significant amount of headroom for a tent of its size.
The biggest head-scratcher is the orientation of the zippers on the doors and fly, which make the tent more challenging than we feel it should be to open and enter. It's a little pricey but comparable to its close competitors. If you treat it nicely, it should offer you many years of lightweight, comfortable camping.
Read review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
Top Pick for Weather Resistance
Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT
Our testers tote the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT when they know harsh weather could be in the forecast. This is the best option if you need a tent that will do the job from the very earliest thaw of spring to the first winter squall. Whether bike touring around the world or car camping at the local park, the Anjan 2 GT provides exceptional weather resistance, comfort, strength, and durability at a manageable weight. We used it on multi-day trips from Maine to Washington state, carried it along on a bicycle tour down the Baja peninsula, and took it through India and Nepal.
Expect to pay top dollar for this tent. Though it is very expensive, its durable construction makes it a long-term value if you use it frequently. For more wiggle room, check out the Hilleberg Anjan 3 GT, which provides a little more space for waiting out storms.
Read review: Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT
Top Pick for a 3-Person Version
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3
Much like its smaller sibling, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is an award winner. It maintains the same features, but with room for one more. It can accommodate three, but it's also light enough for two people to carry a very reasonable load while providing ample space for a canine companion. With its high-volume design, there is plenty of headroom, and the large gear storage pockets are a nice perk with a full tent.
We don't think that the tapered footprint serves it quite as well as in this larger configuration — it certainly feels like a squeeze for three people. However, we like it because of the flexibility it offers to adventure light in either a pair or triplet.
Read review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3
Notable for Comfort Camping on a Shoestring Budget
REI Co-op Passage 2
The REI Passage 2 combines space, comfort, and affordability in a way few others do. This tent earns our Editors' Choice Award in the Budget Backpacking Tent category, and we think for those who are looking to get outside on the cheap, it is worth a strong look. We love its double doors, and its two-pole set up is just about as straightforward as it comes. It is also one of the few budget tents that executes well on its fly geometry, making it easy to get it taut.
Its primary drawback is that its price point limits the quality of the materials that can go into it. It's a great value, but it is worth noting that much of the body of the tent, as well as the fly, is coated polyester, which makes for a heavy carry. However, if you are new to camping or just want a simple and solid tent that will offer you a good night's sleep, this model is a true contender.
Read review: REI Passage 2
Notable for Superior Headroom
The North Face Stormbreak 2
The North Face Stormbreak 2 offers something that many other way more expensive backpacking tents don't: headroom. Its structure includes cross poles that expand the area at peak height, meaning that two adults can easily sit up comfortably at the same time. It also comes with flexible vestibule configurations so you can balance ventilation and coverage in a lot of different ways. With large storage pockets, there is plenty of room to stash small items that you want to keep close at hand.
The bummer with this tent is that you sort of get what you pay for. It's sturdy, but its polyurethane coated polyester fly and floor make for a hefty tent. On the other hand, if weight doesn't matter so much for your adventures, then we would strongly recommend this one for the folks who like to sit up and live in their tent.
Read review: The North Face Stormbreak 2
Why You Should Trust Us
A good tent is the bread and butter of any outdoor adventure, and we think it is safe to say that we know the outdoors. Our lead reviewer, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, got his start in the outdoor industry maintaining gear (tents included) for over 200 adventure trip participants. His passion for the classic Eureka A-frame only spiraled from there. A couple of years later, he became a guide himself, leading multi-week backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail, cycling through Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and paddling down the Androscoggin and Magalloway rivers, deepening his understanding of what does (and doesn't) make for a good night's sleep in a tent on trail. With a decade of professional experience and many thru-hikes of some of America's great long trails behind him, he sleeps easy knowing that the world is filled with exceptional tents.
We tested these tents with a verve for Zs. For comfort, in addition to floor dimensions, we assessed space at different levels of each tent, including shoulder and head height. Certain features like double side doors and ample pockets also make for a cushy shelter. Tents by and large are pretty easy to set up, but we look at different points of connection between poles, tent body, and fly. Weather resistance requires these flies and floors to get soaked and whipped around by the wind. We never intentionally try to break our tents, but sometimes things happen, and we take note of delicate fabrics and brittle clips. Weight is a crucial component as well, and we take these tents for every ounce they are worth.
Related: How We Tested Backpacking Tents
Analysis and Test Results
Over the years, we have used the same tried-and-true process in our backpacking tent review; we evaluate dozens of the best options on the market and rigorously test our top picks in the field. We rate each model on a handful of metrics: comfort, ease of set up, weather resistance, durability, and weight/packed size.
Finding the right tent is about tradeoffs: for example, interior space versus total weight or ease of setup versus weather resistance. Sometimes it's about what you pay for versus what you get for your money. At OutdoorGearLab, we strive to find tents that match the varying needs of outdoor enthusiasts. If you are not willing to break the bank, but still want a product that will last well into the future, we still have you covered. Though not officially part of our rating criteria, we still think it is important to try to quantify value. We compare the price of each product relative to its overall score to see which models offer the best bang for the buck. If value is a primary consideration for you when making your purchase, the NEMO Dragonfly 2 and the REI Half Dome 2 Plus are a couple of the best.
We assess how comfortable we feel in each tent. You may also see us talk about a tent as livable, which refers specifically to the ability to do things other than sleep (e.g., sit up to eat dinner or spread out and read a book). Tents like the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the NEMO Galaxi 2 are considered luxurious because of their double side-door designs and spacious dimensions. Tents with a single side door like the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 tend to be the least comfortable because one person has to climb over another to get in or out. Single doors (like those found on the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2) at the head of a tent are ok; they can be a little awkward to get in and out of. Another drawback to the single door design is that it can restrict campsite views, which is a bummer when you want to take in the sunrise on a frosty morning from the comfort of your sleeping bag.
Many of the luxury models have some nice extra features, like pockets for storing the door when it's open, or magnetic clasps to tie back flaps with one hand. We love lots of storage options and pockets, especially when the product is still fairly lightweight, as in the case of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 and NEMO Dragonfly 2.
The most comfortable two-person backpacking tent we tested was the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, which earns a perfect 10 out of 10 in this category for its palatial interior and two large vestibules. The top of the fly also has four kick-stand vents to keep air flowing while keeping the rain out. We love it on stormy days when we tend to spend more time indoors. Other top scorers in comfort include the NEMO Dagger 2, Marmot Tungsten UL2, Marmot Limelight, and **NEMO Galaxi 2.
Despite being otherwise solid tents, the Hornet Elite 2 and Tarptent Double Rainbow both score low in the comfort category, with both models heavily prioritizing weight-savings over interior floor space.
Ease of Set Up
The majority of the backpacking tents we tested here are self-supported, also known as free-standing. When most people envision a tent, they are thinking of a free-standing model. These shelters have a set of dedicated poles that provide a "skeleton" that the tent clips to, and are typically the fastest and most intuitive to set up.
There is the classic two-pole 'X' design, with many tents offering versions of this configuration that increase interior volume by adding in a cross pole at the peak height. There are also semi-free-standing tents, such as the NEMO Hornet Elite, and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2, which require a couple of stakes to stand on their own at maximum volume. The benefit of these tents with this design is that fewer pole segments mean less overall weight. Another subcategory is tunnel tents — those with two hoop-shaped poles. These require more skill and experience to pitch because they rely on tension from guylines to take any livable form.
An example of a tunnel tent is the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT. Though this tent requires some pitching practice, we don't think it is excessively challenging to set up.
All of the tents we tested are relatively easy to set up — save for models like the NEMO Rocket, which proved to be somewhat of a challenge for one person to secure by themselves. Even though this metric assumes a small percentage of each tent's total score, there are times when it's critical to be able to pitch it and dive in in a hurry. Higher scorers include the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, NEMO Dragonfly 2, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, and NEMO Dagger 2.
For this metric, we assess the protection that each tent provides against precipitation and wind. We are interested in any design features that impact a tent's ability to resist sagging and keep water from dripping through zippers and vents, as well as wind and ventilation.
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT takes first place for overall weather resistance, in part for its reinforced vestibule zippers, a bathtub floor that protects from splashback and spindrift, and an inner tent made primarily of solid nylon that blocks blowing sand and snow. It also effectively sheds condensation that drips from the roof. In this case, it offers an advantage over tents that have mesh walls.
Other weather-resistant top scorers are the NEMO Dragonfly 2 and NEMO Dagger 2 for their trapezoidal fly geometry, guy points, and easy tensioning. The NEMO Galaxi 2, and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 also score well in this metric, offering superior protection. Also noteworthy is the NEMO Hornet Elite 2, which scores above average for weather resistance, and well above our expectations, given that it weighs in at a scant two pounds.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2, Marmot Tungsten UL2, and NEMO Rocket 2 are among the weaker models in our fleet for weather resistance. Perhaps surprisingly, it is the wind that undoes these models faster than precipitation. However, we also found in the case of the first two that unusual fly geometry makes them a challenge to set up and increasing susceptibility to blowing rain.
This variable is based on our experiences field testing these products and our best estimate at the long-term durability of each tent. Though we use our tents long and hard, our goal isn't to get them to the point of catastrophic failure. In general, silicon-coated fabrics are stronger and more durable than polyurethane-coated ones.
Many of the lighter tents tested here are not designed to endure a ton of abuse. The NEMO Hornet Elite 2 and Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 have thin materials that need to be treated with care. The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT has a host of features common to four-season tents and is by far the most durable. The importance of durability increases with trip duration. Repairs take time, and severe damage or failure both have more significant consequences in more remote areas and on long-distance hikes.
We were also impressed with the durability of the NEMO Galaxi 2, REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the NEMO Dagger 2.
To increase durability, make sure you store your tent properly by cleaning and drying it completely before packing it away in the offseason.
Our weight metric ranks each tent on its measured packed weight, which includes poles, tent body, fly, stakes, and guylines — basically, everything that comes with a tent when you pull it off the shelf. Many manufacturers will also include a trail weight in their product specifications; this typically refers to the weight of the minimum pieces required for setup — usually tent, fly, and poles. Models that include the feature also refer to a fast pitch weight, that is, the footprint, which is usually sold separately, the fly, and the poles.
At a measured packed weight of under 1.5 pounds, the Dyneema (cuben fiber) wonder Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Carbon is the lightest dedicated pole tent that we have ever tested. The NEMO Hornet Elite and NEMO Rocket are close behind, also sneaking in under two pounds. These are followed by the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 and Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2. The Fly Creek Carbon and Hornet Elite 2 are lighter than some ultralight tarps that require a more elaborate setup with trekking poles and often lack bug protection. The NEMO Rocket really could be considered a tent that approximates an ultralight shelter because it happens to come with a few poles.
The NEMO Galaxi 2, Marmot Limelight and REI Half Dome 2 Plus are among the heaviest that we tested. For comparison, two-person ultralight shelters typically weigh around 16 ounces and as little as seven ounces.
Packed size strongly correlates with weight. However, some tents have lots of features like pockets, gear lofts, and vestibules, or chunky parts such as pole hubs, which add more bulk than weight. We consider the dimensions of the stuff sack when assessing a tent's packed size. Most of our testers ditch the bag when they hit the trail. Besides being a practical way to maximize space in our backpacks, this means we can gauge how compressible the materials are.
We love the materials and compact pole sections of the Tarptent Double Rainbow, NEMO Hornet Elite, and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. We stuffed and compressed these high-scoring tents into our bags with ease. The NEMO Rocket scores highly because it is just so small, but misses out on a perfect score because you have to be careful with the very thin carbon fiber struts.
The NEMO Galaxi 2 and REI Half Dome 2 Plus are some of the generally higher performing but low packed size scorers.
Other Considerations for a Backpacking Tent
What you will require from a tent varies with climate and weather conditions. In the desert or on warm, windless, clear nights, you need a well-ventilated tent and bug protection — that is, something with a lot of mesh. In the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast United States, heavy precipitation, including thunderstorms, can throw down heavy rain and hail in the summertime. We think it is important to consider not only the environmental conditions that you will be using the tent in the most but its versatility as well.
Another consideration is how comfortable the tent can be on uneven terrain. The reality of most campsites is that the ground is uneven, lumpy, and covered with debris. 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 adaptable.
Forget the Footprint
Custom footprints — waterproof, durable fabrics cut to match a tent bottom — are accessories that are often unnecessary and overpriced. Exceptions are if you have a tent that can pitch in 'fast fly mode' and you plan to use that feature regularly, or if you know that your go-to campsites have coarse gravel or rocks.
If you don't care for fast fly mode, and don't need the custom footprint that matches your tent, consider cutting your own out of Tyvek Home Wrap or polycryo plastic. The weight of a sleeping pad and bag keeps a custom footprint in place — there's no need for grommets. Tyvek is a highly durable and puncture-resistant plastic sheet. A typical tent-sized piece weighs around seven ounces. It's not particularly lightweight, but if you're looking for a single, inexpensive footprint that will do the trick for both car camping and backpacking trips, this is our top pick. You can buy Tyvek siding wrap at hardware stores or online. Polycryo is a lighter and less durable option that ultralight backpackers favor.
A brightly colored tent is ideal for expedition mountaineering and alpine climbing because it allows you to locate it more easily. An attention-grabbing color can also help others find you if you need to get picked up or rescued. For three-season applications, a brightly colored tent tends to be a disadvantage when you want to camp stealthily or adhere more stringently to Leave No Trace principles. Dark green or moderate gray colors blend in well in most snow-free forest 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 gear you are carrying. The NEMO Galaxi 2 and Tarptent Double Rainbow both come in fairly neutral colors, and the pale orange tent and gray fly of the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 also proved to be inconspicuous. Conversely, if you're camping anywhere hunters might also be, a brightly colored tent like the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 or the yellow fly of the NEMO Hornet Elite can be a crucial safety precaution. The REI Half Dome 2 Plus now comes in four different color schemes, giving you the flexibility to match your style.
Making the Most of Your Tent
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT is one of the only models to come with enough guyline to achieve a proper pitch in inclement weather. Most companies will include 6-10 stakes with a tent, depending on its configuration. With enough use, even the best tent will show signs of wear and tear. Most tents come with a pole splint — a metal tube that is slightly larger in diameter than the poles, which can be a quick fix on the trail if one of them snaps on you. Just slide the splint over the break and secure with duct tape. Some tents will also come with an adhesive fabric patch or two for small rips or tears to the tent or fly.
The choices can be overwhelming when shopping for a new backpacking tent. If you are carrying yours over long distances, weight and packed size are critical considerations. In that case, we like the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2, NEMO Hornet Elite 2, and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, which are the best for lightweight. The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Carbon is almost as light as an ultralight shelter, but we would only recommend it for one person. If you're most concerned about durability and weather resistance, consider the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT. If you want a luxurious, comfortable model for your family and all of your stuff, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus tops our list. If you love spending nights in nature, there is a tent out there for you. We hope our testing and reviews provide the confidence you need to make your right purchase.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch