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Looking for the right tent for your next adventure? Over the past 12 years, our experts have purchased and tested more than 85 different backpacking-specific tents, with the top 13 in our current lineup. We rate performance based on a handful of essential metrics, including comfort, weather resistance, and weight. Whether you want the best money can buy, a durable model that will last for the long haul, or a high-value tent with a modest price tag, this review has what you need.
Weight: 3 lbs, 4 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x (50/45)" x 41"
REASONS TO BUY
Exceptional vestibule area
Two-tone mesh for visibility and privacy
REASONS TO AVOID
Tapered width is narrow at feet
The Nemo Dragonfly Osmo 2 is a backpacker's dream for lightweight yet comfortable camping. Two substantial side doors ensure that each sleeper can make a quick exit without disturbing their partner. Dual-tone black and white mesh makes for minimally obstructed stargazing while also increasing privacy if at a busy campsite. The fabric is durable, and the trapezoidal rainfly stays taut (and quiet) in the wind, which turns out to be a surprisingly rare feature in a tent. The massive vestibules provide plenty of space for gear, and the interior storage pockets and overhead gear loft are game changers. The exceptional design of the Dragonfly means that six-foot-tall sleepers have enough head-to-toe length and enough vertical headroom for sitting up.
We love the Dragonfly, but it's not the widest model. The interior width of 50 inches tapering to 45 inches makes it feel tight at the foot end. This tent is also a significant investment, so we think it's best for folks who already have a trip planned or know they will get a lot of use out of it. 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.
Weight: 4 lbs, 13 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 92" x 56" x 42"
REASONS TO BUY
Tons of interior pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy for backpacking
Fly can sag in heavy rain
The REI Half Dome SL 2+ has a huge interior, is one of the most comfortable backpacking tents we tested, and is an excellent value option for anyone on a budget. With generous dimensions and thoughtful construction, this is a good choice for taller folks or anyone who wants to bring their pet adventuring. We love the luxurious dimensions, good ventilation, wide array of interior storage pockets, and durability.
All that interior space comes with additional weight. As one of the heaviest tents in our fleet, the Half Dome SL is more than double the weight of the lightest models in the category. It may be inconsequential over short distances, especially split between two people, but for longer adventures, your best bet will be elsewhere. Still, this tent excels on weekend backpacking, canoe trips, and car camping weekends, all for a comparatively affordable price.
Weight: 3 lbs, 2 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 85" x (51/42)" x 44"
REASONS TO BUY
Durable and weather resistant
Many storage pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
The SlingFin Portal 2 manages to maintain a light weight without compromising on other features. It has a built-in second set of zipper pulls on each of its two side doors. It also comes with an interior guy line at the foot that increases stability in the wind and has an out rigging sleeve over each door, meaning that it is compatible with standard trekking poles if you end up needing additional structural reinforcement beyond the traditional setup. In terms of comfort, the super-high 44-inch peak height is one of the best in the category, and the plethora of pockets means you'll never have to go searching under your sleeping pad for a lost hat or socks.
With everything the Portal has going for it, expect to pay top dollar. The only substantive knock against its comfort for us is that it has a below-average total length. It is still long enough for tall sleepers, but the few extra inches are noticeable when you slide down in the night only to end up with the bottom of your bag pressed up against the wall. Having said that, this tent has so many other redeeming features that it is easy to love for a wide range of adventures, hopefully for years and years to come.
Weight: 3 lbs, 13 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 90" x 70" x 43"
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Tapered footprint makes for a tight fit
Like its smaller sibling, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is an excellent backcountry companion. It has the same features as the two-person version but with room for one more. Though this tent is designed to accommodate three, it is also light enough for two people to carry a very reasonable load, with room left for extra gear storage. It has two side doors for relatively easy entry and exit (though the person in the middle would still have to climb over someone), and the high-volume design provides plenty of headroom for sitting up. The massive gear storage pockets are a nice perk as well.
Much like the two-person version, the Spur HV UL3 has a tapered footprint, making it feel tighter than it would otherwise. However, we like its flexibility as a spacious tent for two or one that is truly viable for three sleepers to travel light. If you want the versatility to change the number of folks in your backpacking party, this is a fantastic option.
Weight: 2 lbs, 9 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86" x 52" x 39"
REASONS TO BUY
Two large side doors
Excellent headroom for a tent this size
Incredibly light for a full tent
REASONS TO AVOID
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 Solution Dye is a great option to consider if you like the idea of going ultralight but can't quite bring yourself to ditch the comfort and ease of a traditional tent (as opposed to a tarp). Its light weight makes the Tiger Wall a serious top competitor among semi-freestanding models; we found it to be the most comfortable of the sub-three-pound tents that we've tested because of its exceptional headroom and two large side doors. The fabric's solution dye also makes for a more environmentally-friendly manufacturing process.
The biggest head-scratcher with this tent is the orientation of the zippers on the doors and fly; our testers found that it is just more challenging than it should be to get into and out of the Tiger Wall, especially in the rain. It's also a little pricey, though comparable to its close competitors. If you treat this tent nicely, it should offer you many years of lightweight, comfortable camping.
Weight: 3 lbs, 11 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 84.5" x 53" x 43.5"
REASONS TO BUY
Three setup modes
Variety of features
REASONS TO AVOID
Average weight (for full double-wall setup)
The Sea to Summit Telos TR 2 is in its own category when it comes to adaptability. With three distinct ways to set up this tent, including a traditional double-wall pitch, a single-wall tarp (without the tent body), and a shade shelter (using trekking poles and guyline to prop it up), this model offers exceptional versatility. It has a distinctive pole architecture that creates headroom right where you want it most. It also boasts additional features like stuff sacks that turn into storage pockets and a pole bag that becomes a bar light and snaps into the ceiling. This is a compelling option for hikers doing different activities across seasons in various environments.
Just a couple of qualities keep this model from a top spot. The weight of the full setup is well over three pounds, so fast packers who still want the protection of a double-wall tent will have to look elsewhere. It is also comparatively expensive for a two-person model. Even with those things in mind, this tent's versatility is second to none.
Weight: 4 lbs, 11 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86" x 51" x 39"
REASONS TO BUY
Can withstand extreme weather conditions
REASONS TO AVOID
Difficult to set up
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT is what we reach for when harsh weather is in the forecast. It performs at its best in the shoulder seasons: the early thaw of spring and the year's first snowstorm. It has a massive vestibule to keep gear protected from the elements, and its thoughtful design improves its performance in tough weather. The floor is super durable and waterproof.
For everything the Anjan offers, expect to pay top dollar for this model; this thing is expensive. In addition, it takes significantly longer to pitch than a traditional 3-season tent. Its heft makes it better suited for biking trips or backpacking adventures where gear weight is not a primary consideration. Though it is very expensive, the durable construction makes this tent an excellent long-term value if you use it frequently.
Weight: 3 pounds, 14 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88 x 36.5 x 40 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to pitch
REASONS TO AVOID
Doesn't handle strong wind well
Heavy and bulky
One of the best options for a one-person tent on a tight budget is the REI Co-Op Passage 1. We adore the peak height, which is higher than those of comparable one-person competitors. There is space for both sitting up and moving around. Given its ease of setup, it's not going to let you down on a typical weekend trip. It takes just two identical poles to set up for one person, and its vestibule is big enough for a full-size bag and hiking boots.
The model's heft is what we find to be its major flaw. If you are on the fence about the capacity of your tent, think about going with a larger size because some affordable 2-person choices weigh almost as much as it does overall.
We have been testing backpacking tents since 2011. In that time, we've researched several hundred models and have tested close to a hundred in hands-on, real-world scenarios. We tested the shelters in this review across many key metrics and sub-metrics. For comfort, we don't just look at dimensions. We also assess each model on its livability — does it have two doors? Steep sidewalls? Headroom? Ample storage pockets? All of these features matter. Weight is also a crucial consideration — generally, the lighter, the better. Though most backpacking tents are pretty easy to set up, we time how long it takes to pitch each one and look at different connection points between poles, tent body, and fly. For weather resistance, we tested the ability of each fly and floor to protect sleepers from whipping wind and pouring rain. And in terms of durability, we don't intentionally try to break our tents, but sometimes things happen, and we take note of delicate fabrics, brittle clips, and less-robust seaming.
The six rating metrics our tests are divided across are:
Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Weather Resistance (25% weighting)
Weight (20% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Ease of Set-Up (10% weighting)
Packed Size (10% weighting)
Our testers have spent hundreds of nights under the stars in all sorts of shelters. Lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch has been testing tents for GearLab for six years. He got his start in the outdoor industry maintaining gear (plenty of tents included) for guided trips. A couple of years later, he became a guide himself, leading multiday and multi-week backpacking, cycling, and paddling adventures through Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, pitching plenty of tents along the way. With a decade of professional experience in the outdoor industry and several thru-hikes of some of America's great long trails under his hipbelt, he brings an extensive knowledge of shelters to this review.
Analysis and Test Results
We evaluate dozens of the best options on the market and rigorously test our top picks in the field. The following analysis summarizes our findings, and we point out models that excel in each metric to help you find the right one for you. Metrics are weighted according to their relative importance.
We don't count price as part of a product's overall score, but we recognize that it is at the heart of many people's purchasing decisions, so we do our best to quantify it here. To assess value, we compare the price of each product and its overall score, essentially answering the question, "For each tent, how many performance points do you get per dollar spent?" If value is a primary consideration when purchasing, the Big Agnes Copper Spur (both 2- and 3-person models) and the Nemo Dragonfly Osmo 2 are a bit pricey, but they score highly, and we feel the cost is fair for what you get. The REI Half Dome SL 2+ doesn't perform quite as well, but it will save you a noticeable wad of cash.
Comfort is about the hominess of a backpacking tent. Dimensions are key; is there enough space to get a good night's sleep, or do sleepers end up pressed against a wet wall all night? Is it easy to enter and exit, or do you have to climb over a camping partner in the dark? We also talk about a tent as livable, which refers 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 SL 2+, which has a palatial interior and two large vestibules. The top of the fly has four kickstand vents to keep air flowing while keeping out the rain. We love it on stormy days when we plan to spend more time hunkered down at basecamp than out on the trail. It goes all-in on maximizing space and other vital features like double doors, large dual vestibules, and storage pockets — consequently, it also weighs quite a bit more than the overall top tents.
Award winners like the Nemo Dragonfly Osmo 2 and Slingfin Portal 2 do a nice job of balancing comfort against other considerations like weight. The Dragonfly offers a pre-bent pole structure that maximizes interior volume, and the Portal boasts a tall peak height. Both have myriad pockets for all kinds of storage space.
The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 has generous lateral space, and it's easy for two people to sit up at the same time without bumping shoulders. It is highly adaptable and can be used as a double-wall tent, single-wall tarp, or open-air shade cover. The NEMO Dagger Osmo also scores well here, feeling much roomier than its spec dimensions would suggest. It comes with a unique Landing Zone — a triangular basket of ripstop nylon that hooks onto the vestibule floor. It's a great place to keep items you want outside the tent but not on the ground.
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye takes the cake as far as sub-three-pound tents go. It includes a pole segment that extends horizontally from door to door, which significantly increases the lateral peak height relative to other ultralight models. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is another
For this metric, we assess each tent's protection 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 and features like ventilation points and fly door configuration, which reduces interior condensation.
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT takes first place for overall weather resistance, partly for its reinforced vestibule zippers, a bathtub floor that protects against seepage from soggy soil, and a massive vestibule that allows you to organize and protect gear without storing it in the tent itself. It also effectively sheds condensation that drips from the roof, offering an advantage over tents that have mesh walls.
Other weather-resistant top scorers are the Nemo Dragonfly Osmo 2 and Nemo Dagger Osmo 2 for their trapezoidal fly geometry and easy tensioning. They not only do an admirable job of shedding water but the shape and stability of the vestibules keep the fabric comparatively quiet even in a stiff wind. These Osmo tents also sag noticeably less than other ripstop nylon models, representing a valuable step forward in material technology. The Slingfin Portal 2 has a handful of sneaky weather-resistant features, including adapters that enable you to add trekking poles to the pitch for extra stability, as well as interior guy lines that can be tensioned to reduce wind flap.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 also scores well in this metric, offering above-average protection and an adaptable fly setup that can be pitched traditionally and also convert into an overhead awning when propped up with a couple of trekking poles. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye is a top contender for semi-freestanding backpacking tents, similarly providing more stability than "fly away" models like the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo.
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 fastpitch weight, that is, the footprint (usually sold separately), the fly, and the poles.
A handful of tents in this review are at or around two pounds, including the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo and Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 2 at the top of the list. One person could easily carry these two on a solo adventure or split between two hikers. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 follows closely behind, adding a couple more ounces for a little more interior space. In general, though, these models go all-in on reducing weight, usually at the expense of comfort and, to an extent, durability. We would be pleased to split a three to four-pound tent with our hiking buddy for most typical overnights and backpacking trips. On the other end of the spectrum, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ and the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT are some of the heaviest tents we tested. The former is an excellent option for car camping, and the latter is a specialty, harsh-weather tent.
If you want to maximize space and reduce weight, we strongly suggest looking at a three-person version of a lightweight model. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is under four pounds and offers tons of space for two people. The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 is under three pounds. Its dimensions are slightly smaller than the Copper Spur, but it still provides ample space for two people.
This variable is based on our experiences field testing these products and involves our best estimate of the long-term durability of each tent. Though we put our tents through the wringer, our goal isn't to get them to the point of catastrophic failure. We consider the quality and type of materials, overall design, and results during field testing.
The Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT has many features common to four-season tents, and we found it highly durable. It includes sturdy zippers, tensioners with hefty webbing, and thick floor fabric. We are also impressed with the features of the SlingFin Portal 2, which comes with a second set of zipper pulls on each door in case the main ones break. You can also purchase extra thick poles separately if you know you'll need the added stability.
We also like the REI Half Dome SL 2+, Nemo Dagger Osmo, and Nemo Dragonfly Osmo. The Half Dome has heavy, thick fabric, and the Osmo tents are a good compromise between strength and weight. Other top overall performers like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 still have thin materials but keep an eye on increasing their strength in other strategic ways.
Many of the lighter tents tested here are not designed to endure much abuse. The Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 have thin materials that need to be treated with care. To increase durability, make sure you store your tent properly by cleaning and drying it thoroughly before packing it away in the offseason.
Ease of Set-Up
This metric refers to how quick and intuitive it is to pitch each tent. The models in this review generally come in two slightly different flavors. The majority are self-supported, also known as free-standing. These shelters have a set of dedicated poles that provide a "skeleton" that the tent clips to. An increasingly common variation 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 at the top and attach to the tent body across diagonal corners) is rarely used in higher-end backpacking tents — it just doesn't offer as much stability on its own. But many models like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 and REI Half Dome SL 2+ are variations on this basic structure, including an additional cross pole. This modification increases interior volume and structural rigidity. These types of models are all easy to set up. Some tents, like the Copper Spur, also include special hardware at the tent corners to quickly and securely attach poles while pitching the tent alone.
There are also semi-freestanding tents, such as the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye, Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo, and Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 2. These are all very straightforward as well, with pole segments connected by elastic shock cord, often allowing them to snap into place with a few shakes once you take them out of the bag. Almost universally, the ends of the poles click into grommets (or grommet-like holes) at the four corners of the tent. The variability primarily comes with how the fly is attached and how many stakes it requires to pitch. The REI Half Dome SL 2+ is an example of a tent with a fly that attaches with clips, whereas the Hornet Elite Osmo relies on guyline to secure the fly.
A distinct subcategory of tent pole configuration is the tunnel tent. This style uses poles that bend into semi-circles (resulting in a tent that looks like a caterpillar). These types of tents usually require much 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.
Since all the backpacking tents we tested are relatively easy to pitch, this metric comprises a comparatively small percentage of the total score. That being said, there are times when it's crucial to quickly set up camp and dive into your tent. Higher scorers include the REI Half Dome SL 2+, Nemo Dragonfly Osmo 2, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, and Nemo Dagger Osmo.
Packed size strongly correlates with weight. Most of the packable dimensions are determined by the material type and denier of the tent and fly, but extra features like storage pockets, gear lofts, roomy vestibules, or chunky parts such as pole hubs quickly increase the measurements.
We love the materials and compact pole sections of the Mountain Hardwear Nimbus 2, Tarptent Double Rainbow, Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo, and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. We stuffed and compressed these high-scoring tents into our bags with ease. We also usually left the stuff sack behind to take full advantage of stuffing the tents around other gear in a pack.
Though numerous options can feel daunting when shopping, we hope our expert review gives you the confidence to choose the right backpacking tent for your needs. If you love spending nights under starry skies and basking in nature's embrace, the right tent awaits you. Happy trails!
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.