Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Backpacking Tents

By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday November 9, 2022

We are continually updating this review and testing new tents. We have traveled and camped all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, India, and Nepal, using these shelters. We have taken tents on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, John Muir Trail, in Alaska's Brooks Range, and many places in between.

We slept through torrential downpours, high winds, snow, sleet, hail the size of nickels, and sandstorms. We hiked ultra-fast and ultralight with some tents, and, with others, we camped from our cars and loaded our gear on horses and mules. Every single tent, we staked them, pitched them, weighed them, and tossed and turned in them.

backpacking tent - we set up and live in each tent.
We set up and live in each tent.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch


Our ratings consider door and vestibule design, wall material, the number and size of storage pockets, peak height and the uniformity of that height across the width of the tent, floor area (including whether or not it tapers from head to toe), and vestibule area, as well as other details specific to each model. We also include other essential, but less apparent factors in our assessment including the maximum person-height the tent can accommodate (you probably don't want your toes touching the bottom in a rainstorm, or your head reaching the top every time you sit up)

backpacking tent - storage pockets and views of the sky always improve comfort.
Storage pockets and views of the sky always improve comfort.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ease of Setup

This primarily involves how much time it takes and how intuitive it is to set up a tent. We time set up for each model fresh out of the bag, noting pole structure, overall symmetry, and any features that make it a faster, simpler process like color-coded clips and poles or 'easy snap' hubs.

backpacking tent - color-coded poles and easy-to-use grommets decrease setup time.
Color-coded poles and easy-to-use grommets decrease setup time.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch


Our ratings take into account any defect, parts that break, or areas that wear faster than the rest of the tent, as well as the manufacturer's fabric specifications.

backpacking tent - the nemo hornet elite scores highly for its low weight and packed...
The NEMO Hornet Elite scores highly for its low weight and packed size.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weather Resistance

We check the quality of the seals on the tent and fly. We consider 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, construction quality, number and quality of guy points, and overall tent and fly geometry.

backpacking tent - features like flaps on the fly zipper are excellent for preventing...
Features like flaps on the fly zipper are excellent for preventing rain from seeping into the tent itself.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weight & Packed Size

We take our measured packed weight, which is essentially the weight of everything that comes in the tent bag. We also look at the manufacturer's packed size as well as our estimation of how well each model stuffs in and around other gear.

backpacking tent - backpacking tents range in size and weight.
Backpacking tents range in size and weight.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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