The Best Backpacking Tents of 2017

At OutdoorGearLab  we always start our morning with a fresh cup of coffee. The Copper Spur gave us plenty of room to spread out comfortably during the night  earning high scores across the board.
Every year tents change and we head to the backcountry to update our top backpacking picks. Whether you value comfort, lightweight materials, or both, we help you find the best recommendation for you. We looked at over 40 models and then tested 15 side-by-side. The tents keep getting better, lighter and more expensive. We help you find the right option for your backpacking style and budget. See our ultralight tent review for those that want to shave every last ounce. Most of the ultralight options are tarps, but we have a few free-standing recommendations.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 15 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
NEMO Dagger 2P
NEMO Dagger 2
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO
Hilleberg Anjan GT 2 Person
Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT
MSR Hubba Hubba NX
MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award   
Price $399.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$439.00 at Amazon
Compare at 4 sellers
$260.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$745.00 at MooseJaw
Compare at 2 sellers
$399.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score 
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Pros Easy to set up, lightweight, packable, comfortableAbove average space-to-weight ratio, comfortable for two people, guy points, pole configuration and low profile end make it strong in windsEasy set-up, comfortable, mntGLO lights, funExceptionally 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 pointsLightweight, good ventilation, two doors, two different fast and light pitch options, comfortable airy interior
Cons ExpensiveDelicate fabrics require special treatmentModerately expensive, bit heavy65 ounces can be heavy for backpacking, poor quality stakes, expensiveNot very durable, a bit small for two people, not enough guy lines or stakes included, low quality stakes
Comfort - 25%
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Ease Of Set Up - 10%
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Weather Resistance - 20%
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Durability - 10%
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Weight - 25%
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Specs Dagger 2 Copper Spur HV UL2 Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO Anjan 2 GT Hubba Hubba NX
Measured Weight 3.75 lbs 3.06 lbs 4.13 lbs 4.65 lbs 3.81 lbs
Floor Area 31 sqft 29 sq ft 29 sq ft 30.1 sq ft 29 sq ft
Packed Size 5 x 19 in 4 x 19.5 in 6.5 x 21 in 6 x 19 in 6 x 18 in

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Jessica Haist and Jess McGlothlin

Last Updated:
Wednesday
October 25, 2017

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Updated October 2017
We've returned from fall backpacking trips and have a new favorite 3-person tent: the REI Quarter Dome 3. It is roomy, comfortable, and versatile. When the weight is split three ways, it's less than 1.3 pounds per person and less than a pound per person in fast fly mode. It's also just a great value. We updated our roundup of our favorite tents under $200 and also have a new favorite lightweight tent, the Nemo Hornet 2P.

Best Overall Tent


NEMO Dagger 2


NEMO Dagger 2P Editors' Choice Award



Extra-long 90" length
"Divvy Sack" dual-stage drawstring stuff sack
Sturdy in wind
Trapezoidal vestibules
Slim 50" width
18.3 ounces heavier than lightest tent review
If you like packing light without leaving behind useful features, you'll love the Dagger 2 from NEMO. The fabric is lightweight yet durable, bringing some longevity where many low weight tents falter. The 15D nylon ripstop of the rain fly is even relatively quiet in windy conditions. The interior width of 50 inches is not the widest, but the long 90-inch length makes it spacious and comfy. Two large doors, fine-gauge mesh, and wind-resistant lower sidewalls added to this tent's allure. The large vestibules provide abundant space for cooking and gear storage. While the other Editors' Choice Award winner from Big Agnes weighs 11 oz. less, the Dagger is 50 bucks cheaper and comes with two sq. ft. more of floor space. We love the design, features, and utility of this tent, and if you enjoy light done right, this is an excellent choice. For anyone looking for a little more room, check out the Dagger 3P, the 3-person version of this ultralight tent.

Read review: NEMO Dagger 2

Best Overall Tent


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Editors' Choice Award

$439.00
at Amazon
See It


Above average space-to-weight ratio, with increased 20% more volume than original Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
Comfortable for two people
Stable in winds
Delicate fabrics require special treatment
10.9 ounces heavier than lightest tent review
Big Agnes continues improving an incredible product in the Copper Spur HV UL2. A returning champion in our tent review, it embodies what many backpackers want; it's comfortable, low weight and low volume, and high quality. The 2017 makeover of this tent brings an additional 20% volume to the interior compared to its predecessor ("HV" in the name stands for High Volume). Moreover, it's resilient in windy conditions, giving protection and peace of mind as mountain gusts approach. It's not as durable as the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT in torrential downpours, but then again, no tent matches the Anjan's storm protection. It has two doors and roomy vestibules but keeps its weight at 3 lbs 4.6 oz, third lightest in our review. Our experts took this tent everywhere, from high alpine climbing to multi-week backpacking trips. Thru-hikers and frequent backpackers will get the most utility out of this tent. You can get this model equipped with integrated LED lights in the Copper Spur UL2 mtnGLO for an additional $50.

Read review: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

Best On a Tight Budget


Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2


Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 Best Buy Award

$201 List
List Price
See It

Easy to pitch
Inexpensive
Lightweight
Lacks 2-door convenience
Door at head
Looking for a comfortable option for car-camping and something light enough for time in the mountains? The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 brings several features we enjoy in the mountains as well as in the neighborhood park with friends or kids. We fell in love with the high sidewalls on the bathtub floor during a rainy spring night, and the peak height was comfortable for a 5'10" person to sit and move about. Interior storage space was adequate. You can keep the fly's "wings" deployed for excellent ventilation and star gazing on mild nights. Weighing in at 3 lb 14 oz, the Tarptent hit in the middle of our testing pack for weight, and compresses enough we'd easily consider carrying it into the backcountry.

Read review: Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2

Best Bang for the Buck for Comfortable Camping


REI Half Dome 2 Plus


Half Dome 2 Plus Best Buy Award

$219.00
at REI
See It

Lots of room for its weight
Durable
Moderately strong
Great value
Heavy for backpacking
Hard to get the fly vestibules taut
Not enough stakes or guy lines
The most livable and comfortable tent in our review, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus has an extra spacious interior and thoughtful construction for tall individuals and people with pets or extra stuff. It provides the most bang for your buck in this review, even over other luxury models like the NEMO Galaxi 2. Thus, we bestow the Half Dome 2 Plus with our Best Buy Award. This tent is exceptionally comfortable with an excellent space-to-weight ratio, excellent ventilation, and interior storage. At 93 ounces, this tent is best suited for weekend backpacking trips or to be split up among two people's packs. If you're looking for one shelter for both car camping and backpacking, and want to bring that extra item like your dog or a very tall partner, the Half Dome 2 Plus takes the cake. This is a real rock star tent, and it's inexpensive to boot.

Read review: REI Half Dome 2 Plus

Top Pick for Lightweight Backpacking


Nemo Hornet 2P


Nemo Hornet 2P Top Pick Award


One of the lightest free-standing options
Good wind and weather protection
Can be pitched in freestanding mode
Low condensation resistance
Splashback can hit mesh walls in some situations
Door and vestibule closures could be better
Finding a sub-three pound tent with a low price is often as elusive as a unicorn. So we turned to our Ultralight Tent Review to find the best. The Hornet is the tent that strikes the best balance of cost and weight. It's only 2lbs (1-2 lbs lighter than most tents in this review) and yet still relatively inexpensive. To save another 7 ounces with the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum, you have to spend another $200. And the Fly Creek is not as weather resistant.

Read review: Nemo Hornet 2P

Top Pick for Stretching the 3 Seasons and Weather Resistance


Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT


Hilleberg Anjan GT 2 Person Top Pick Award

$745.00
at MooseJaw
See It

Spacious and durable
High-quality materials
Withstands extreme weather conditions
Poor quality stakes
Expensive
Somewhat heavy
Our testers reach for the Hilleberg Anjan GT when they expect to encounter some harsh weather conditions. This is the best choice if you need a tent that will stretch from the very earliest thaw of Spring to the first Winter squall. Whether 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 exceptional strength and durability. This is also the highest performance light-duty winter tent we tested. Our testers used the Anjan on multi-day trips from Maine to Washington State, and they carried it along on a bicycle tour down the Baja peninsula and through India and Nepal. At 4 pounds 10 ounces, the Anjan GT is not the lightest tent available but makes up for it in storm protection, comfort, and durability. Although on the expensive side, it's the most durable tent we tested, which makes it a great long-term value. For more wiggle room, check out the Hilleberg Anjan 3 GT, perfect for waiting out storms in the tent.

Read review: Hilleberg Anjan GT

Favorite 3-Person Option


REI Quarter Dome 3


Quarter Dome 3
$399.00
at REI
See It


Most versatile tent tested
Less than 1lb per person in fast fly mode
Roomy
Tricky to set up
The Quarter Dome 3 is "One tent to do it all". It's roomy enough for 2 people to go on shorter backcountry trips or car camp in luxury. For three grown people, it's still comfortable. If you go with the fast fly set up (fly, poles and footprint), it's an ultralight, free-standing option that weighs less than 1lb per person with the weight divided by three people. At $399 ($40 less with REI dividend), it's a great value. Other 3-person tents that are lighter, are only lighter by a few ounces but cost $100+ more.

Read review: REI Quarter Dome 3

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
83
$400
Editors' Choice Award
Scoring the highest throughout our tests, this lightweight model offers premium performance and comfort.
82
$450
Editors' Choice Award
This tent balances the key aspects of a backpacking tent better than all other models.
80
$350
A well-balanced option for backpackers who like to light up the night.
78
$745
Top Pick Award
This beast is tough enough to push your backpacking trips into harsh conditions and winter months.
76
$400
A solid choice that covers all the bases well as a tent for two.
76
$350
When the weather is questionable, you'll be glad you packed this model.
73
$219
Best Buy Award
Camp in supreme, spacious comfort in this affordable model.
71
$289
Top Pick Award
Lightweight but not light on comfort, this is an excellent choice for two traveling fast and light.
70
$250
It's big and heavy, but for short backpacking trips and car camping, it's a palace.
68
$201
Best Buy Award
An inexpensive model with a unique design that meets the needs of casual backpacking trips.
64
$169
For car campers and short backpacking adventures, this heavy tent is only light on your wallet.
61
$160
Affordable and covering all the basics, this tent is a great choice for budding backpackers.
60
$390
An impressive choice when low weight trumps the need for space and comfort.
51
$150
It can't compete with top-tier tents, yet its low price provides a bargain to outdoor overnighters who avoid adverse weather conditions.
46
$160
This budget-friendly model is roomy but also heavy and lacks some features we like.

Analysis and Test Results


We started with dozens of popular tent models, before narrowing down to the 15 best tents which we purchased and put through extensive testing over a two month period. We rated each tent on the most important factors for finding a quality backpacking tent: comfort, weather resistance, weight and packed size, ease of setup, and durability. The cumulative score of these metrics provided us with each tent's overall performance score, which is shown in descending order in the rating table above.

The NEMO Dagger and Big Agnes Copper Spur were two contenders that scored high for comfort  earning a 9 and 7  respectively. The Dagger's high sidewalls and open ceiling provided optimal comfort  while the Copper Spur provided plenty of space.
The NEMO Dagger and Big Agnes Copper Spur were two contenders that scored high for comfort, earning a 9 and 7, respectively. The Dagger's high sidewalls and open ceiling provided optimal comfort, while the Copper Spur provided plenty of space.

Comfort


For this metric, we assessed how comfortable we felt in each tent. Two-door tents like the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the NEMO Galaxi 2 are by far the most luxurious, because each person has an entry and exit. Tents with a single side door are the least comfortable because one person has to climb over the other person 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 also include other essential factors in our assessment, such as does the tent get wet from falling rain when someone enters? 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? Many of the models tending towards luxury on the spectrum have little extra features like pockets for storing door when open or fancy magnet clasps to tie back flaps. We love lots of storage options and pockets in our luxury models — weight savings is usually not a consideration in these tents although we love the generous pockets of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 for such a lightweight backpacking tent.

The Half Dome 2 Plus scored the highest score for the comfort metric - the only perfect 10 out of 10. With a roomy interior  two small side pockets  two large roof pockets  and two large vestibules  you'll find that you have an extra 20.4 square feet of space.
The Half Dome 2 Plus scored the highest score for the comfort metric - the only perfect 10 out of 10. With a roomy interior, two small side pockets, two large roof pockets, and two large vestibules, you'll find that you have an extra 20.4 square feet of space.

The most comfortable tent we tested was the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, a roomy palace with a large floor area and two gigantic vestibules, which earned a perfect 10 out of 10. The Plus version features an extra 10 inches in length and four inches in width over the standard REI Half Dome 2, and it makes for a more spacious and comfortable tent. It also has four kick-stand vents in the top of the fly to keep air flowing inside but keep the rain out. We loved it for rainy days when we were spending more time indoors — especially with the camp dogs!

The Hilleberg Anjan GT afforded us a decent amount of space  providing us with above average comfort - 8/10  with plenty of living and storage space.
The Hilleberg Anjan GT afforded us a decent amount of space, providing us with above average comfort - 8/10, with plenty of living and storage space.

The Tarptent Double Rainbow scored the lowest in the comfort category, sacrificing creature comforts for little weight (the tent comes in at an impressively minimal weight of 2 lb. 15 oz. It felt small and cramped, with a single front door and vestibule. While several other tents boasted lower interior square footage, the Tarptent Double Rainbow performed poorly in wind and wet weather, making it one of least favorite tents in the review.

We tested the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 on stick-laden ground  and put a big dog inside the tent to see how the floor held up. The Copper Spur took home a 7 out of 10 for comfort.
We tested the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 on stick-laden ground, and put a big dog inside the tent to see how the floor held up. The Copper Spur took home a 7 out of 10 for comfort.

Other top scorers in the comfort metric include the NEMO Dagger 2, Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, The North Face Triarch 2, and the NEMO Galaxi 2, which all scored near perfect scores of 9 out of 10 for their abilities to bring comfort to the table.

The Rattlesnake scored well in the comfort metric (9/10)  providing optimal space when sitting up.
The Rattlesnake scored well in the comfort metric (9/10), providing optimal space when sitting up.

Trailing closely behind and earning 8 out of 10s, you'll find the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT, Alps Lynx, and the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.

The NEMO Galaxi earned high scores for comfort  providing a spacious environment that felt luxurious while backpacking  providing us with enough space to spread out and get comfy.
The NEMO Galaxi earned high scores for comfort, providing a spacious environment that felt luxurious while backpacking, providing us with enough space to spread out and get comfy.

Weather Resistance


For this metric, 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 factors such as pole design, pole diameter, the number of pole intersections, the mechanism for attaching the body to the fly, the mechanism for attaching the fly to the poles, and construction quality, as well as the number and quality of guy points.


The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT takes first place for overall weather resistance with details such as reinforced vestibule zippers, a bathtub floor that protects from splashback and spindrift, and an inner tent made primarily of a solid nylon that blocks blowing sand and snow and better sheds condensation that drips from the roof — a significant advantage over tents that have mesh inner tent walls like the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.

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 earned a perfect 10 out of 10 in the weather resistance metric - the only tent to do so.
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 earned a perfect 10 out of 10 in the weather resistance metric - the only tent to do so.

Our testing determined that the Tarptent Double Rainbow and the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 were among the weakest in our fleet, both earning bottom of the totem pole scores. Both have tall peak heights that don't do well in winds and relatively cheap, small diameter poles in which weak spots were indicated. The Big Agnes Copper Spur, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, and NEMO Dagger 2 scored well in this metric, offering superior

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV  REI Half Dome 2 Plus  and the NEMO Dagger 2 are out for a girl's weekend backpacking trip. While are three are coveted for offering a fair amount of weather resistance protection  we found that not only did we feel protected  but we were beyond comfortable.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, and the NEMO Dagger 2 are out for a girl's weekend backpacking trip. While are three are coveted for offering a fair amount of weather resistance protection, we found that not only did we feel protected, but we were beyond comfortable.

Although several tents tested here are capable of enduring serious three-season storms, many ultralight tents are stronger and safer in high winds because trekking poles don't break, Cuban Fiber is stronger than even the strongest Silnylon used in these tents, and shelters can be pitched lower to the ground - but many of them are floor-less, which makes campsite selection very important.

Other weather-resistant top scorers include the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, for its geometry, guy points, and fly material, and the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO.

The Big Agnes Rattlesnake mtnGLO held up beautifully to a windy  snowy day in Montana. Our testers (and accompanying dogs) felt snug in this tent  joined by the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2  and the NEMO Dagger 2P.
The Big Agnes Rattlesnake mtnGLO held up beautifully to a windy, snowy day in Montana. Our testers (and accompanying dogs) felt snug in this tent, joined by the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 and the NEMO Dagger 2P.

Weight


Our weight variable ranks each tent on its packed weight, which we measured with each tent's included poles, inner tent, outer tent, stakes, and guylines. See the chart for the overall score (a higher number is better and indicates a lower weight) or the individual review for each tent's weight.


At 2 pounds 15 ounces, the Tarptent Double Rainbow is one of the lightest tents we tested, along with the Big Agnes Fly Creek which weighed in at 2 pounds 5.6 ounces.

At 2 lbs 15 ozs  the Double Rainbow wins our Top Pick award for its low price tag and livability. Its light weight earned it one of the only 9 out of 10s in the weight metric.
At 2 lbs 15 ozs, the Double Rainbow wins our Top Pick award for its low price tag and livability. Its light weight earned it one of the only 9 out of 10s in the weight metric.

At 5 lbs 13 oz, the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 is the heaviest tent tested, along with the REI Half Dome 2 Plus (5 lbs 7 oz) and NEMO Galaxi 2 (5 lbs 8 oz). For comparison, two-person ultralight shelters weigh an average of 16 ounces and as little as seven ounces.

The Tarptent remains one of the lightest tents in our fleet.
The Tarptent remains one of the lightest tents in our fleet.

If you go on a trip with one other person and you both split up the tent and poles, the tent's weight is then cut in half, making a heavier tent suddenly more manageable.

The Sierra Designs Flashlight weighs 3 pounds 14 ounces  earning an 8 out of 10 in the weight metric and a 7 out of 10 in the packed size metric.
The Sierra Designs Flashlight weighs 3 pounds 14 ounces, earning an 8 out of 10 in the weight metric and a 7 out of 10 in the packed size metric.

For those weight weenies out there, other top scorers include the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (3 lbs 1 oz), NEMO Dagger 2 (3 lbs 12 oz), The North Face Triarch 2 (3 lbs 12 oz), MSR Hubba Hubba NX (3 lbs 13 oz), and the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 (3 lbs 14 oz). If you're keen on saving even more weight for your next adventure, perhaps an ultralight tent is your best bet.

The Hubba Hubba NX from MSR earned an 8 out of 10 in the weight metric  weighing in at 3 pounds 13 ounces.
The Hubba Hubba NX from MSR earned an 8 out of 10 in the weight metric, weighing in at 3 pounds 13 ounces.

Packed Size


Packed size strongly correlates 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. Remember, tents don't necessarily have to be packed in their stuff sacks. We also considered how compressible versus bulky the materials are and if we could easily squeeze or stuff them into our backpacks around other gear.



We like the compressible materials and compact pole sections of the Hilleberg Anjan GT, NEMO Dagger 2 and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 with the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 being the most compact of the three.

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus  NEMO Dagger  Sierra Designs Flashlight  Big Agnes Copper Spur  Tarptent Double Rainbow  and Hilleberg Anjan GT - the award-winning line-up.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus, NEMO Dagger, Sierra Designs Flashlight, Big Agnes Copper Spur, Tarptent Double Rainbow, and Hilleberg Anjan GT - the award-winning line-up.

We stuffed and compressed these tents into our bag with ease, thus earning a 7, 8, and 8 out of 10, as shown in the chart above.

The REI Half Dome 2 Plus  HIlleberg Anjan  Big Agnes Copper Spur  NEMO Dagger  Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight  and Tarptent Double Rainbow - the award winning line-up.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus, HIlleberg Anjan, Big Agnes Copper Spur, NEMO Dagger, Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, and Tarptent Double Rainbow - the award winning line-up.

Our testing determined that the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2, NEMO Galaxi 2, MSR Hubba Hubba NX, and Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO were able to compress down to respectable sizes.

All of our contenders. From left to right: NEMO Galaxi  Alps Lynx  REI Half Dome 2 Plus  Eureka Midori  Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight  Big Agnes Copper Spur HV  Hilleberg Anjan  NEMO Dagger  Tarptent Double Rainbow  Kelty Salida 2  and Marmot Catalyst.
All of our contenders. From left to right: NEMO Galaxi, Alps Lynx, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, Eureka Midori, Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV, Hilleberg Anjan, NEMO Dagger, Tarptent Double Rainbow, Kelty Salida 2, and Marmot Catalyst.

The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 , Kelty Salida 2, and Marmot Catalyst 2 are the least compressible, earning a 3, 3, and 4 out of 10, respectively.

Ease of Set-Up


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 dummy-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 Dagger  one of our Editors' Choice winners  scored well in ease of set up. The single  hubbed pole design allowed us to set this tent up in under four minutes - at a casual pace.
The Dagger, one of our Editors' Choice winners, scored well in ease of set up. The single, hubbed pole design allowed us to set this tent up in under four minutes - at a casual pace.

An example of a tunnel tent is the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT. Though this tent requires some knowledge to set up, we don't think it is particularly difficult to pitch, thus earning a 7 out of 10.

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  thus earning a 7 out of 10.
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, thus earning a 7 out of 10.

The NEMO Galaxi, Eureka Midori 2, and other two-pole designed tents are the simplest and easiest to pitch. At first, the Tarptent Double Rainbow seems to be incredibly easy to pitch with its one-pole design, but we soon discovered that it takes a lot more attention to detail to make sure this shelter is weatherproof.

One of the testers  putting the finishing touches on the Eureka Midori  which scored above average for ease of setup.
One of the testers, putting the finishing touches on the Eureka Midori, which scored above average for ease of setup.

No tent tested is incredibly hard to pitch, and we don't believe that ease of setup is the most important attribute for a backpacking tent. This variable assumes a small percent of each tent's total score. Higher scorers for this metric include the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, taking the cake with a near perfect 9 out of 10, along with the NEMO Galaxi 2, Eureka Midori 2 , MSR Hubba Hubba NX, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, and NEMO Dagger 2.

Here one tester is looking out from the NEMO Dagger  over at the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV. We found the REI Half Dome 2 Plus easy to assemble  even for one person working alone in windy conditions. This tent  though heavy  scored highly across all categories except for weight.
Here one tester is looking out from the NEMO Dagger, over at the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV. We found the REI Half Dome 2 Plus easy to assemble, even for one person working alone in windy conditions. This tent, though heavy, scored highly across all categories except for weight.

Durability


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 have used these tents long and hard, we have yet to use all of the tents to complete failure. Our ratings in this category take into account any defects or broken parts we encountered as well as the manufacturer's fabric specifications. In general, we've determined that 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. We believe the least durable tent tested is the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 — 75D 185T polyester, though heavy underhand, showed wear and tear in one day of foul-weather camping with a large dog. The tent can withstand a serious storm, but it scores a lower durability score than some of the other competitors in our fleet. The Hilleberg Anjan has a host of features common to four-season tents and is by far the most durable, earning a 9 out of 10. 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.

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.

We were impressed with the durability of the NEMO Galaxi 2 — even though it weighed in heavy at 5 lbs. 8 oz., with the 68D PU Polyester Ripstop rainfly, it was a tent we'd trust in harsh, abrasive conditions and still feel confident we'd get a good night's sleep. The Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO also scored a 9 for durability; the overall quality of the tent was exceptional, and this is one purchase we expect (with proper care) to last for years to come.

OutdoorGearLab tests the Copper Spur HV alongside the NEMO Dagger 2. Both earned 8 out of 10s for their remarkable durability in Montana and the Sierras.
OutdoorGearLab tests the Copper Spur HV alongside the NEMO Dagger 2. Both earned 8 out of 10s for their remarkable durability in Montana and the Sierras.

Other top competitors in this category include the NEMO Dagger 2, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, and Marmot Catalyst 2P. Again, these scores are our best estimate, as we have not tested these tents to the point of failure. It is important to note that our scores are comparisons of all products included in our fleet and thus are scored accordingly.

Other Considerations for a Backpacking Tent


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 can 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, but proper campsite selection is very important for these shelters.

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX and Hilleberg Anjan are the only tents tested in this review that have noticeable adaptability. Their inner tents can be removed to create a pole-supported floorless shelter that is significantly stronger, more comfortable, and lighter than fast-pitching a tent with a footprint, poles, and fly. We like these adaptable features of both of these tents, which lets you bring only part of the tent with you and thus save weight if you know the weather will be good on your trip.

The Hilleberg Anjan (left) and the Hubba Hubba NX (right) 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" with a footprint.
The Hilleberg Anjan (left) and the Hubba Hubba NX (right) 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" with a footprint.

Forget the Footprint


Footprints, or waterproof fabrics cut to match a tent bottom, are overpriced accessories that often unnecessary unless you plan to use the tent in fast fly mode. Choosing a good campsite is an easier option that weighs nothing. Extensive camping on pointy, rocky ground or in the desert where punctures are possible might be reasons to consider one.

The Galaxi comes with lots of little extras and is a comfortable  yet heavy tent.
The Galaxi comes with lots of little extras and is a comfortable, yet heavy tent.

If you don't care for fast fly mode, and don't need the custome footprint that matches your tent, consider cutting your own out of Tyvek Home Wrap or polypro plastic. The weight of a sleeping pad and bag keeps a custom footprint in place- there's no need for grommets. Tyvek is the most durable and puncture resistant footprint material we've used. A typical tent-sized piece weighs around seven 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 hardware stores or online. 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.

Color Matters


A brightly colored tent is ideal for expedition mountaineering and alpine climbing because it allows you to find your 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 brightly colored tent is a handicap when you want to camp stealthily or act in accordance with Leave No Trace principles. Dark green or moderate gray colors blend in well in most non-snow covered environments and draw less attention from wildlife and people.

The NEMO Galaxi is a neutral color that blends in with its surroundings.
The NEMO Galaxi is a neutral color that blends in with its surroundings.

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 gray are our preferred colors for three-season tents, such as the colors of the NEMO Galaxi. Conversely, if you're camping in a zone affected by hunting season, you may want to choose a bright colored tent, or if you want a tent with a cheery interior to brighten your mood you may want something like the Half Dome's new red color or the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.

We think the Hubba Hubba NX's grey color can be as stealthy as the Anjan's green color in the granite filled High Sierra.
We think the Hubba Hubba NX's grey color can be as stealthy as the Anjan's green color in the granite filled High Sierra.

Consider Upgrading Stakes and Guylines


Of all the tents tested here, only the Hilleberg model comes with enough guyline to achieve a proper pitch. Hilleberg and Big Agnes are also the only companies that include enough stakes for each guy point. Pretty lame, right? MSR Groundhog Stakes and Kelty TripTease LightLine are very good accessories you may need to purchase. If you're on a budget, get the Kungix Tent Stakes which are 10 for $10.

Tent pole repair - Poles can break, and when they do it is a good idea to have a repair kit handy. Many of the tents we tested this year come with included pole splints.

Conclusion


The NEMO Dagger took the cake - one of out Editors' Choice spots - for best overall backpacking tent.
The NEMO Dagger took the cake - one of out Editors' Choice spots - for best overall backpacking tent.

The world is your oyster when shopping for a new backpacking tent. If you plan to travel long distances with your tent on your back, the weight and packed size metric will become the most important one to you. We like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 and the Tarptent Double Rainbow, which are the best in the weight category. If you're most concerned about durability and weather resistance, consider the Hilleberg Anjan GT. If you want a luxurious, comfortable model for your family and all of your stuff, the REI Half Dome 2 Plus absolutely tops our list. There is a tent out there for all of you, and you can find it in one of the models we've tested.
Jessica Haist and Jess McGlothlin

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