The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Backpacking Tent of 2020

This tent served us well  but didn't offer up a whole lot to get really excited about.
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Monday October 26, 2020
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Looking for the right tent for your next adventure? Over the past 9 years, our experts have researched hundreds of models, purchasing and testing over 100 of the best backpacking tents on the market. In this year's review, we've rated and reviewed 14 of the top models of 2020. From Nepal to the Sierra, we've covered some miles to test each tent. We rate performance based on a handful of essential metrics. Whether you want the best money can buy, a model that will last for the long haul, or are sticking to a tighter budget, this review has what you need.

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
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Best Overall Space for the Weight


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2


Editors' Choice Award

$359.06
(20% off)
at Backcountry
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 9
Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 52" x 42"
Above-average space-to-weight ratio
Comfortable for two people
Massive storage pockets
Fly and tent doors don't align well
Tapered foot

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is an excellent tent. A top overall option in our review, it embodies what many backpackers are looking for; it is comfortable, lightweight, and packs down small. It has two side doors, roomy vestibules that convert into useful awnings with a set of trekking poles, and maintains a weight of just over three pounds. It is also resilient in windy conditions, providing crucial protection when the weather turns.

The taper at the foot can make it seem a little on the small side, and the fly and tent doors are somewhat oddly aligned. However, our experts took this tent everywhere, from high alpine climbing to multi-week backpacking trips. Long-distance hikers and frequent backpackers will get significant utility out of this tent (as long as they treat it well). It takes top honors for the super all-around experience it offers.

Read review: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

Best Balance of Features and Weight


NEMO Dragonfly 2


Editors' Choice Award

$299.96
(25% off)
at Backcountry
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Packed Size - 10% 8
Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 50" x 41"
Exceptional vestibule area
Sturdy in wind
Many storage pockets
Tapered width is narrow at feet
Expensive

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 selling out on livability. The fabric is durable, and the trapezoidal rainfly stays taut (and quiet) in the wind, which turns out to be a surprisingly rare feature. 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. Its exceptional design means that six-foot-tall sleepers have enough head-to-toe length and headroom.

If we were forced to come up with some drawbacks, we would point out that the interior width of 50" tapering to 45" leaves some foot end pinching. Though it comes with an impressive array of storage pockets, they do require a long reach from a lying down position. 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


Best Buy Award

$249.00
at REI
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 10
  • Weight - 25% 3
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Packed Size - 10% 4
Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 92" x 56" x 44"
Very spacious
Durable
Tons of interior pockets
Heavy for backpacking
Fly can sag in heavy rain

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus is the most livable and comfortable tent in our review. With a spacious interior and thoughtful construction, it 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 the category. We love it for its exceptional comfort, luxurious dimensions, and great ventilation, as well as its wide array of interior storage pockets.

All that interior space comes with a weight penalty — the primary drawback of this model is that it is a behemoth. Tipping the scales at over five pounds, it's more than double the weight of the lightest models in the category. Over short distances, it may be inconsequential, but for longer trips, we would look elsewhere. It is best suited for weekend adventures and car camping. Overall, this tent is a real rock star that comes at a comparatively affordable price.

Read review: REI Half Dome 2 Plus

Best Lightweight Option


Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2


Top Pick Award

$299.93
(25% off)
at REI
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 6
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 9
Weight: 2 lbs. 9 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86" x 52" x 39"
Two large side doors
Excellent headroom for a tent this size
Lightweight
Strange door and fly zipper configuration
Splashback can hit mesh walls in heavy rain
No tension adjusters at the foot of fly

The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is a great option to consider if you like the idea of going ultralight but can't quite ditch the comfort that typically comes with dedicated poles. Its weight makes it a true competitor in the semi-freestanding subcategory, but it is notably the most comfortable of the sub-three-pound models primarily because the design includes a cross pole at its peak height, which creates a lot of headroom. It also offers two large side doors.

The biggest head-scratcher is the orientation of the zippers on the doors and fly, which makes 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

Best for Weather Resistance


Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT


Hilleberg Anjan GT 2 Person
Top Pick Award

$860 List
List Price
See It

70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 10
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 10
  • Packed Size - 10% 7
Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86" x 51" x 39"
Spacious and durable
High-quality materials
Withstands extreme weather conditions
Poor quality stakes
Expensive
Somewhat heavy

The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT is what our crew reaches for when harsh weather is in the forecast. It performs at its best in the shoulder seasons: the early thaw of spring and the first autumn or winter snowstorm. Whether bike touring or car camping at the local park, this tent provides exceptional weather resistance, comfort, strength, and durability at a manageable weight.

For everything it offers, expect to pay top dollar for this tent. You will also definitely want to practice pitching it once or twice before taking it out for real. Though it is very expensive, its durable construction makes it a long-term value if you use it frequently.

Read review: Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT

Best for a 3-Person Version


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3


Top Pick Award

$398.96
(20% off)
at Backcountry
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 9
Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 90" x 70" x 43"
Most versatile 3-person tent tested
Very light
Good headroom
Tapered footprint makes for a tight fit

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 is designed to accommodate three, but it is also light enough for two people to carry a very reasonable load, with room left over for a canine companion. With its high-volume design, there is plenty of headroom, and the massive gear storage pockets are a nice perk with a full tent.

We don't think that the tapered footprint serves it as well in this larger configuration. It feels like a squeeze for three people; however, we like it because of the flexibility it offers, allowing a group of three to travel light.

Read review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3

Notable for Comfort Camping on a Shoestring Budget


REI Co-op Passage 2


Editors' Choice Award

$159.00
at REI
See It

Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 52" x 40"
Double doors open all the way around
Trapezoidal vestibules
Easy to set up
Lower quality materials

The REI Passage 2 combines space, comfort, and affordability in a way few others do. This tent takes a top spot 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 setup is just about as straightforward as it comes.

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


Best Buy Award

$158.95
at Backcountry
See It

Weight: 5 lbs. 14 oz. | Dimensions (L x W x H): 87" x 50" x 43"
Significant lateral headroom
Double doors
Ample storage pockets
Heavy
Lower quality materials

The North Face Stormbreak 2 offers something that many other far 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. With large storage pockets, there is plenty of room to stash small items that you want to keep close at hand. It also comes with a flexible vestibule configuration so you can balance ventilation and weather protection in a lot of different ways.

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 load. On the other hand, if the 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


The NEMO Hornet Elite scores highly for its low weight and packed size.
The NEMO Hornet Elite scores highly for its low weight and packed size.

Why You Should Trust Us


Our backpacking tent team members have spent their fair share of nights under the stars. Lead reviewer, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, got his start in the outdoor industry maintaining gear (tents included) for guided group backpacking trips. A couple of years later, he became a guide himself, leading multi-week adventures 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. 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 the models in this review with a focus on comfort, weight, and weather resistance with some additional attention on ease of setup, durability, and packed size. For comfort, we look at floor dimensions, but we also assess each model on its livability, asking the question, what can we actually do in this tent? Certain features like double side doors and ample pockets also make for a cushy shelter. Weight is a crucial component as well, and we take these tents for every ounce they are worth. Most tents are pretty easy to set up, but we look at different connection points between poles, tent body, and fly. Weather resistance tests these flies and floors abilities to protect tent dwellers from whipping wind and pouring rain. In terms of durability, we don't intentionally try to break our tents, but sometimes things happen, and we take note of delicate fabrics and brittle clips.

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 setup, weather resistance, durability, weight, and packed size, and report our findings.

Value


If you are not willing to break the bank but still want a product that will last well into the future, you will want to pay special attention to the value of each model. Though it's not part of a product's overall score, it can be essential to quantify value. To do that, we compare the price of each product relative to its overall score to see which ones offer the best bang for the buck. If the value is a primary consideration when making your purchase, the NEMO Dragonfly 2 and the REI Half Dome 2 Plus are a couple of the best.


Comfort


Comfort is the hominess of a tent. Do you have enough space to get a good night's sleep, or will your shoulders be pressed up against a wet wall all night? Can you slip in and out easily, or do you need to climb over your camping partner to go to the bathroom in the dark? We also 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).


The most comfortable two-person backpacking tent we tested is the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, which has a 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 spend more time hunkered down. Other top scorers in comfort include the NEMO Dagger 2, Marmot Tungsten UL2, and Marmot Limelight.

The roomy interior of the Copper Spur HV UL2.
The roomy interior of the Copper Spur HV UL2.

Award-winners like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 and NEMO Dragonfly 2 do a nice job of balancing comfort against other considerations. The former offers a pre-bent pole structure that maximizes interior volume. The REI Half Dome 2 Plus goes all-in on maximizing space and other vital features like double doors, large dual vestibules, and storage pockets (and consequently, it weighs quite a bit more than the very top tents). Single doors (like those found on the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2) at the head of a tent are okay, but they can be awkward to get in and out of, especially in inclement weather.

Unobstructed skyward views are always a big plus when thinking about comfort.
Unobstructed skyward views are always a big plus when thinking about comfort.

Despite being otherwise robust tents, the Hornet Elite 2 and Tarptent Double Rainbow both score lower in this metric, with both models heavily prioritizing weight-savings over interior floor space. Specific tents like the Marmot Limelight do tall sleepers a big favor by including steep (rather than gently inclined) walls at the head and foot, reducing the possibility that the ends of your sleeping bag will end up wet if they are pressed against the tent.

Ease of Set-Up


Ease of set up refers to how quick and intuitive it is to pitch a tent. The models in this review generally come in two slightly different flavors. The majority 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. An increasingly common variation on this is the semi-freestanding tent, which has poles but also requires stakes to maximize its volume. Both types are relatively simple to set up.


A classic X-pole design (two identical poles that cross in the middle) is rarely used anymore in its most straightforward form — it just doesn't offer the stability that tents with additional pole segments do. But many models like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, Marmot Limelight, Kelty Dirt Motel 2, and Marmot Tungsten UL 2 are variations on this basic structure that include an additional cross pole. This modification increases interior volume and structural rigidity. These models are all easy to set up. Some tents, like the Copper Spur HV UL2, include special hardware at the tent corners to quickly and securely attach poles while pitching the tent alone.

The Dagger is relatively easy to set up  but the connected branching poles make getting it under a control a little tricky sometimes.
The Dagger is relatively easy to set up, but the connected branching poles make getting it under a control a little tricky sometimes.

There are also semi-freestanding tents, such as the NEMO Hornet Elite and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. They are also very straightforward. Regardless of the individual pole structure, all of these tents have pole segments that are connected with elastic cord, so the pole structure often snaps itself into place with a few shakes once you take it out of the bag. Almost universally, the ends of the poles click into grommets (or grommet-like hole) at the corners of the tent. The variability largely comes with how the fly is attached, and how many stakes it requires to pitch. The REI Half Dome 2 Plus is an example of a tent with a fly that attaches with clips, whereas the NEMO Hornet Elite relies on guyline to secure the fly. The REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 is an exception in the fleet. It is a non-freestanding tent, that is, it comes with a couple of poles, but relies almost entirely on stakes and guylines to pitch. There is a learning curve with this type of tent if you have never pitched one before.

The Anjan GT was relatively easy to set up  though it did require some previous know how  or for the backpacker to read the directions.
The Anjan GT was relatively easy to set up, though it did require some previous know how, or for the backpacker to read the directions.

A distinct subcategory of tent pole configuration is the tunnel tent. This style comes with hoop-shaped poles. These models usually require more time to pitch because they rely on tension from guylines to take a 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.

Since all of the tents we tested are relatively easy to pitch, this metric assumes a comparatively small percentage of the total score. However, there are times when it's critical to be able to set up camp and dive into your tent 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.

Weather Resistance


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. We are also interested in structural rigidity as well as features like vents and fly door configuration, which reduces condensation on the inside.


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 debris. It also effectively sheds condensation that drips from the roof. In this case, it offers an advantage over tents that have mesh walls.

Looking into Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT backpacking tent from the roomy and comfy vestibule. This tent is ready for any weather that comes its way and earns a high score in the weather resistance metric.
Looking into Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT backpacking tent from the roomy and comfy vestibule. This tent is ready for any weather that comes its way and earns a high score in the weather resistance metric.

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 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 also scores well in this metric, offering above-average protection and an adaptable fly set-up that can be pitched traditionally but can also convert into an overhead awning when propped up with a couple of trekking poles. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is a top contender for semi-freestanding tents.

Many tents  like the REI Flash Air 2  have double zippers on their vestibules that allow for additional venting without having to roll back the fly.
Many tents, like the REI Flash Air 2, have double zippers on their vestibules that allow for additional venting without having to roll back the fly.

The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 and REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 are among the weaker models in our fleet for weather resistance. Perhaps surprisingly, it is the wind that undoes them 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 increases their susceptibility to blowing rain.

On the other hand  it does come with the ability to make an excellent extended vestibule cover (Tarptent Rainbow pictured).
On the other hand, it does come with the ability to make an excellent extended vestibule cover (Tarptent Rainbow pictured).

Durability


This variable is based on our experiences field testing these products and involves 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. We take into account the quality and type of materials, overall design, and results during field testing.


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. Top overall performers like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 still have thin materials but keep an eye toward increasing their strength. We are also impressed with the durability of the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the NEMO Dagger 2. The former has heavy, thick fabric, and the latter is a good compromise between strength and weight.

The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT backpacking tent performs like a veritable tank in windy spring weather.
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT backpacking tent performs like a veritable tank in windy spring weather.

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.

When we think about durability  we also consider all of the hardware and small parts  including stakes. These shovel stakes are prove to be a solid design time and again.
Large zipper pulls increase durability by making it easier to open and close the tent door and decreasing the possibility of zipper failure.
Plastic pole hubs are one of the pieces that we monitor for stress wear since they tend to get torqued in ways that they sometimes shouldn't.

To increase durability, make sure you store your tent properly by cleaning and drying it thoroughly before packing it away in the offseason.

Weight


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.


Ounces count, and there are a handful of tents in this review that are at or around 2 pounds, including the NEMO Hornet Elite 2, Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2, REI Co-Op Flash Air 2, and Marmot Bolt UL2. These models mostly go all-in on reducing weight at the expense of comfort and, to an extent, durability. On the other end of the spectrum, the Marmot Limelight 2 and REI Half Dome 2 Plus are among the heaviest that we tested.

The two pound Hornet Elite 1000 miles into a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The two pound Hornet Elite 1000 miles into a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

If you want to maximize space and reduce weight, we would also strongly suggest looking at a three-person version of a lightweight model. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is under four pounds, and of course, offers tons of space for two people. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 is under three pounds. Of course, its dimensions are a little smaller than the Copper Spur, but it still provides ample space for two people.

Packed Size


Packed size strongly correlates with weight. Most of that number is going to be determined by the type and denier of the tent and fly fabric, but extra features like storage pockets, gear lofts, and roomy vestibules, or chunky parts like pole hubs can quickly increase the measurement.


We love the materials and compact pole sections of the Tarptent Double Rainbow, NEMO Hornet Elite 2, and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. We stuffed and compressed these high-scoring tents into our bags with ease. The REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 also performed well-above average in this metric and could easily be carried by one person, especially if you use trekking poles instead of the included poles. One of the big surprises of this review is the NEMO Firefly, which is slightly heavier, but still packs down as small as the UL models listed above. The Marmot Bolt UL2 also holds its own. On the flip side, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus is one of the generally higher-performing models, but scores lower in this metric because of its thick fabric and beefy hardware.

Some of the smaller and bulkier competitors  side-by-side. (Left to right: NEMO Rocket (previously tested)  NEMO Dragonfly 2  NEMO Dagger 2  Hilleberg Anjan GT 2  Marmot Tungsten UL2).
Some of the smaller and bulkier competitors, side-by-side. (Left to right: NEMO Rocket (previously tested), NEMO Dragonfly 2, NEMO Dagger 2, Hilleberg Anjan GT 2, Marmot Tungsten UL2).

Conclusion


The number of options can be overwhelming when shopping for a new backpacking tent. However, 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. Happy trails!

There is a tent out there for your next backpacking or camping adventure.
There is a tent out there for your next backpacking or camping adventure.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch