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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 240 tents. In this update, we rate and review the top 14 backpacking tents available today. From Nepal to the Sierra, we've covered extensive mileage, putting each one to the test. We rate performance based on a handful of essential metrics, including comfort and weather resistance. Whether you want the best money can buy, a model that will last for the long haul, or something to satisfy a tighter budget, this review has what you need.
Weight: 3 lbs, 1 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 52" x 42"
REASONS TO BUY
Above-average space-to-weight ratio
Comfortable for two people
Massive storage pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Fly and tent doors don't align well
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 strikes a superb balance between competing factors. It is spacious enough for two people to sleep comfortably but remains lightweight and packs down small. As a top overall option in our review, it embodies what many backpackers are looking for in a backpacking tent. It is also resilient in windy conditions, providing crucial protection when the weather turns grey. It has two large side doors and roomy vestibules that convert into useful awnings with a set of trekking poles. This is a versatile option, great for backpacking or car camping.
This model's drawbacks are comparatively minor. If we had to choose something, we would point out that the taper at the foot makes it feel a little on the small side. We also discovered that the fly and tent doors are somewhat oddly aligned, so entry and exit take a little longer. However, on the whole, long-distance hikers and frequent backpackers will get significant utility out of this tent. It takes top honors for the awesome all-around experience it offers.
Weight: 3 lbs, 2 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 50" x 41"
REASONS TO BUY
Exceptional vestibule area
Sturdy in wind
Many storage pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Tapered width is narrow at feet
The NEMO Dragonfly 2 strikes an excellent balance between comfort and weight. Two substantial side doors, two-tone mesh for increased privacy at a busy campsite, and wind-resistant lower sidewalls add to this tent's allure. 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 storage. Its exceptional design means that six-foot-tall sleepers have enough head-to-toe length when lying down and enough vertical headroom for sitting up.
This tent is great, but the interior width of 50" tapering to 45" leaves some foot-end pinching. Though it has an impressive array of storage pockets, they aren't super conveniently located and 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.
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+ is one of the most livable and comfortable backpacking tents in this review. It provides the most bang for the buck of any model in the category. With a spacious interior and thoughtful construction, it is a good choice for taller folks or anyone who opts to bring their pet on the adventure. We love its exceptional comfort, luxurious dimensions, and good ventilation, as well as its wide array of interior storage pockets.
All that interior space comes with additional weight. As one of the heaviest tents in our fleet, it 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 trips, we would look elsewhere. It is best suited for weekend backpacking, canoe trips, and car camping. Overall, this tent is a real rock star that comes at a comparatively affordable price.
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
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 setup that comes with dedicated poles. Its light weight makes it a true competitor in the semi-freestanding subcategory; we found it to be the most comfortable of the sub-three-pound models because of its exceptional headroom and two large side doors. The fabric's solution dye also makes for a more environmentally-friendly production process.
The biggest head-scratcher 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 open and enter, especially in the rain. 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.
Weight: 3 lbs, 13 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 90" x 70" x 43"
REASONS TO BUY
Most versatile three person tent tested
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 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 extra gear storage. Its double side doors and high-volume design provides plenty of headroom. The massive gear storage pockets are a nice perk as well.
We don't think the tapered footprint serves it as well in this larger configuration; it feels like a squeeze for three people. However, we like its flexibility, which allows a group of three to travel light.
Weight: 3 lbs, 11 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 84.5" x 53" x 43.5"
REASONS TO BUY
Three set up 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 guy line to prop it up), this shelter offers exceptional versatility. It has a distinctive pole architecture that creates headroom right where we 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 that snaps into the ceiling. It's a compelling option for hikers who find themselves in different environments doing different activities in different seasons.
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 model's flexibility is second to none.
Weight: 5 lbs, 5 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 52" x 40"
REASONS TO BUY
Double doors open all the way around
Easy to set up
REASONS TO AVOID
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 for those 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 (as opposed to nylon), 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.
Weight: 4 lbs, 11 oz | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86" x 51" x 39"
REASONS TO BUY
Withstands 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 first autumn or winter snowstorm. It has a massive vestibule to protect gear and thoughtful design elements that improve its performance in tough weather, as well as several guy points for stability. The floor is super durable and waterproof.
For everything it offers, expect to pay top dollar for this model. 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, its durable construction makes it a long-term value if you use it frequently.
Our backpacking tent testers have spent hundreds of nights under the stars. Lead reviewer, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, has been testing tents for GearLab for almost five years. He got his start in the outdoor industry, maintaining gear (plenty of 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, pitching plenty of tents along the way. With a decade of professional experience and several 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 make for a cushy shelter. Weight is also a crucial consideration — generally, the lighter, the better. Most backpacking tents are pretty easy to set up, but we look at different connection points between poles, tent body, and fly. Weather resistance tests each fly and floor's abilities to protect sleepers 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.
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 model. Metrics are weighted according to their relative importance.
We don't count value 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, "how many points per dollar do you get with any given model?". If the value is a primary consideration when making your purchase, the Big Agnes Copper Spur (two- and three-person) and NEMO Dragonfly 2 are pricey, but they score highly. The REI Half Dome SL 2+ doesn't perform quite as well, but it is comparatively inexpensive.
Comfort is 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 is climbing over a camping partner in the dark part of the experience? 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 also has four kickstand vents to keep air flowing while keeping the rain out. We love it on stormy days when we plan to spend more time hunkered down at basecamp rather 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 (and consequently, it weighs quite a bit more than the overall top tents).
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 Sea to Summit Telos TR2 has generous lateral space. With steep sidewalls, it's easy for two people to sit up and the same time. The NEMO Dagger 2 also scores well here. Though its living dimensions don't stand out, the other features of the Sea to Summit Telos TR2 do. It is highly adaptable as a double-wall tent, single-wall tarp, or open-air shade cover.
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 from door to door, which increases the lateral peak height of this model. Despite being otherwise well-designed tents, the NEMO Hornet Elite 2 and Tarptent Double Rainbow score lower in this metric, with both models heavily prioritizing weight-savings over interior floor space.
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 and features like ventilation points and fly door configuration, which reduces condensation on the inside.
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. In this case, it offers an advantage over tents that have mesh walls. We also love the Mountain Hardwear AC2. Its double-layer front door and waterproof floor make it an excellent option for cold and windy weather.
Other weather-resistant top scorers are the NEMO Dragonfly 2 and NEMO Dagger 2 for their trapezoidal fly geometry and easy tensioning. They not only do an admirable job of shedding water but are relatively quiet in stiff wind. 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 but can 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.
The REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 is one of the weaker models in our fleet for weather resistance. In reality, it is the wind that undoes it faster than precipitation. We found that an unusual fly geometry makes it challenging to set up and increases its susceptibility to blowing rain.
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 2, and Mountain Hardwear Nimbus 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 Solution Dye, and REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 follow 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. Of course, 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 use our tents long and hard, 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. The Mountain Hardwear AC2 also has burly components. We are also impressed with the durability of the REI Half Dome SL 2+ and the NEMO Dagger 2. The former has heavy, thick fabric, and the latter is 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.
Many of the lighter tents tested here are not designed to endure much abuse. The NEMO Hornet Elite 2 and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye 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 Setup
Ease of setup 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. 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 HV UL2, include special hardware at the tent corners to quickly and securely attach poles while pitching the tent alone. The exception to this simplicity is the Mountain Hardwear AC2. Because of its intended use in rough weather, the pole sleeves are exceptionally stiff (but very durable), making it challenging to slide the poles through.
There are also semi-freestanding tents, such as the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye, NEMO Hornet Elite, and Mountain Hardwear Nimbus 2. They are also very straightforward. These tents have pole segments 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 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 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, which we found makes it trickier to set up.
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 models 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 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 SL 2+, NEMO Dragonfly 2, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, and NEMO Dagger 2.
Packed size strongly correlates with weight. Most of that number will be determined by the type and denier of the tent and fly fabric, but extra features like storage pockets, gear lofts, roomy vestibules, or chunky parts like pole hubs quickly increase the measurement.
We love the materials and compact pole sections of the Mountain Hardwear Nimbus 2, Tarptent Double Rainbow, NEMO Hornet Elite 2, and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye. 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. We also usually leave the stuff sack behind to take full advantage of stuffing the tents around other gear in a pack.
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. Conversely, the REI Half Dome SL 2+ is generally higher-performing but scores lower in this metric because of its thick fabric and beefy hardware.
Though the number of options can be overwhelming when shopping for a new backpacking tent, we hope our expert reviews provide the confidence you need to make your proper purchase. If you love spending nights in nature, there is a tent out there for you. Happy trails!
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