Reviews You Can Rely On

10 Best Tents of 2023

We chose the best tents for every occasion from brands like Black Diamond, Marmot, Roofnest, and more
10 Best Tents of 2023
The lampshade pocket help illuminate the tent at night.
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

Our Top Picks

By Abriah Wofford ⋅ Review Editor
Friday December 16, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Are you on the lookout for a great tent? There's nothing quite like falling asleep under the stars with a background lullaby of forest sounds and waking up surrounded by nature. Whether you prefer popular public campgrounds or travel hours on foot until you are the only person around for miles, we have found the best options. We tested products side by side to get unbiased comparisons. After sorting the competition, we gathered the top products across multiple categories to offer this collection of the best tents on the market. Options range from ultralight options that weigh in at just over one pound to rooftop tents that upgrade your car camping experience and everything in between.

If you aren't sure which type of tent to look at, or you are considering multiple types of tents, our comprehensive guide is an excellent place to start. However, if you already know your flavor of outdoor travel, you may want to go directly to our category-specific reviews. Whether you are looking for the best ultralight shelters to keep you light and fast on your feet, the top backpacking tent for your upcoming thru-hike, or your new favorite camping tent, we can help you find the perfect tent. Once you have your shelter, you can take a look at our dream list of camping gear to complete the rest of your setup.

Best Overall Camping Tent

The North Face Wawona 6

Weight: 21.9 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 120" x 102" x 78"
Great use of space
Quality construction
Single entry
Questionable bag storage

The North Face Wawona 6 is one of our favorite tents for family camping trips. The roomy interior has plenty of standing height, easily sleeps a family of 4 and two dogs, and has an adequate number of pockets for storage and organization. We love the extra large outer vestibule and find it very handy for storing larger gear like bikes or a fishing pole and tackle box, so there is more room inside for sleeping. This roomy outer area adds nearly 1/3 to the usable space of the tent. It is great for gear storage, but if you pack light, we enjoy it just as much for hanging out in the shade to take in the view. The sturdy build and well-vented construction keep you comfortable in most types of weather, whether hot, cold, wet, or windy.

While not the biggest beast we've had to tackle, the setup and take-down process for the Wawona 6 is a bit more involved than we'd like. The tent poles fit very snug, and we found getting the last one into its proper slot challenging. The rain fly attaches via a ring and pin system that holds the fly securely to the tent but seems disproportionately challenging to operate. Lastly, we weren't impressed with the storage bag, which has a drawstring opening that never fully closes. Although these things make setup and take-down a bit more complicated than other tents, it's not enough to prevent us from loving this tent. The Wawona's high-quality build and materials make this a sturdy option that will last through years of family camp trips.

Read more: The North Face Wawona 6 review

best overall camping tent
Both vestibule doors open on the Wawona allows for a great view while still getting coverage from the sun.
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

Best Feature Packed Camping Tent

Marmot Torreya 6

Weight: 22.3 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 132.5" x 106.5" x 80"
Spacious and inviting design
Pockets and gear loops galore
Guylines need extra setup time

If you are on the lookout for a "best of the best" tent that has all the details to elevate your camping experience, the Marmot Torreya 6 is where it's at. The Torreya 6 is one of the highest quality tents we have had the pleasure of sleeping in and is the king of space and comfort. You get excellent ventilation without sacrificing too much privacy with enormous doors on either end of the tent and opaque mesh. The abundance of gear loops and practical pockets help keep everything tidy and organized. Although the vestibule is small, the tent has awning poles that lift the front wall into a shade cover and extend the livable space. Color-coded poles, backpacking-style stakes, and an easy clip-on rain fly make pitching this tent a breeze, and we were usually able to get it up and running in less than ten minutes.

As mentioned above, the vestibule is pretty small when it is staked down, and there is not much room for additional gear storage without bringing things into the tent with you. While we generally had very little trouble setting up this tent, it was annoying that the included guylines weren't pre-tied to the rainfly. Tying them to the six different points on the fly almost doubled our initial setup time; luckily, it only needs to be done once. This tent comes with a sturdy carry case, but it is still a large and heavy folded package. Overall, we love the Marmot Torreya 6, but the last consideration that may deter some families is the price. The complete package of quality and convenience comes with a hefty price tag, but if you can stomach the cost, this tent will surely serve you well.

Read more: Marmot Torreya 6 review

best feature packed camping tent
The Torreya 6 has an array of features that make it feel welcoming and homey.
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

Best Tent for Camping on a Budget

Kelty Wireless 6

Weight: 17.2 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 118" x 106" x 76"
Durable material
Dual entry
Roomy interior
Lower quality poles
Minimal storage
Poor ventilation in the rainfly

When it comes to cost vs. quality, the Kelty Wireless 6 strikes an outstanding balance. Our recorded setup time with two people takes just over 6 minutes, and it is one of the easier tents to set up with just one person, thanks to the unique poll sleeves found on each corner of the tent that keep poles in place better than your traditional pin or slot. When set up without the rain fly on, the entire upper half of the dome is airy mesh, while the opaque bottom half of the walls provides the perfect amount of privacy. We love the dual entry design, and small vestibules on each side of the tent offer a little more storage.

However, the vestibules are quite small and not optimally sized for people, so don't expect to have afternoon hangouts there. They are better suited for pets or extra backpacks. Inside the tent, there are only a few pockets, and we are a bit suspicious of the sturdiness of the mesh. As mentioned above, the Wireless 6 has excellent ventilation, but only when the rainfly is left off. If it is necessary to attach the fly (which is likely in many cases), ventilation is cut significantly, and you may find it a bit stuffy inside. However, the Kelty Wireless may be the perfect tent for you and your family if you are fair-weather campers.

Read more: Kelty Wireless 6 review

best tent for camping on a budget
The view from above showcases the spacious and open footprint of the Kelty Wireless 6.
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

Best Backpacking Tent

NEMO Dragonfly 2

Weight: 3.16 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 50" x 41"
Great features
Great 3-season weather protection
Ample storage
Could be better ventilated
Heavier weight

The NEMO Dragonfly 2 strikes the ideal balance between helpful features and a reasonable weight. The interior is roomy enough to comfortably fit two people without feeling crowded, and there are enough pockets to store all your odds and ends. A decent-sized gear loft can fit any larger items you don't want on the floor with you. We especially love the size and shape of the dual vestibules; located on the long sides of the tent, they offer more useable space than average. Color-coded webbing and poles make setup a breeze, and reflective stakes help to keep them highly visible even late at night.

As is typical for most types of gear, tents included, all the great features of the Dragonfly 2 come at the cost of weight. However, this is a trade we are happy to make, as we feel the Dragonfly finds a happy medium. The rain fly offers excellent weather protection; however, we think it could benefit from better ventilation. The zippered openings in the vestibules help some, but they don't stretch wide enough to prevent condensation. We have few other complaints about this tent and would happily carry the NEMO Dragonfly 2 into the backcountry for almost any multiday adventure.

Read more: NEMO Dragonfly 2 review

best backpacking tent
We wouldn't hesitate to take this tent out with us on our next adventure.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Budget Backpacking Tent

REI Co-op Passage 2

Weight: 5.23 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88" x 52" x 40"
Easy to pitch
Included footprint
Bulky components
Less sturdy

The REI Co-op Passage 2 is one of our favorite affordable backpacking tents. Specs such as a roomy interior and wide opening D-shaped doors on both sides make it a very comfortable space and allow campers to move more independently in and out of the tent. The privacy walls are our ideal height while still offering a nice size mesh upper if you want to sleep with a view of the stars. We love how easy it is to set up the Passage 2. The simple criss-cross pole design goes up in minutes, and the fly is symmetrical, so as long as you get the zippers lined up, it is almost impossible to put it on backward. The high durability and extra footprint that comes with the tent add to an already great value.

Unfortunately, the Passage 2's interior only has two pockets, and there is no overhead storage at all. While the pockets are large enough to hold most items, we still wish there was a better variety of storage options. Also, the x-shaped pole design is held together with only a hook at the top, and the structure can sometimes feel a bit flimsy. However, using the velcro pole wraps on the rainfly's underside helps add stability and rigidity. This tent's biggest drawbacks are its heavier weight and bulkier packed size. However, this is a tradeoff we expect for a tent in this price range, and we feel that it is still a quality product. The REI Passage 2 is a great option for those who want a budget tent and don't mind carrying an extra pound or two.

Read more: REI Passage 2 review

best budget backpacking tent
The Passage 2 tent treated us well on trail.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Rooftop Tent

Roofnest Sparrow EYE

Weight: 130 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 83" x 49" x 44"
Incredibly easy conversion
Good interior and exterior storage
Bulky shape to lift
Significant investment

The Roofnest Sparrow EYE is one of our favorite rooftop tents of all time. The ease with which it can go from travel mode to camping mode and back again is mind-blowingly quick, and the process is almost as simple as lifting the hatchback on the back of your car. The initial rooftop install is nearly as easy; there is no assembly required for the tent itself; just lift the entire box onto your roof rack and tighten down the bolts. An overhead cargo net and two side pouches provide storage and organization for the interior of the tent, and in case you need even more storage, the hard shell top can accommodate up to 50lbs of gear. Even when in travel mode, there is still enough room inside the closed tent to leave pillows, sleeping bags, and other bedding inside, further simplifying the setup process when you arrive at your campsite.

We are impressed with how spacious and comfortable the EYE feels for a two-person model, but it still does not compare with the other three-person models we tested. It also lost a few points for durability due to the lightweight 320G polyurethane-coated polyester/cotton blend that makes up the tent canopy. Other tents use a more robust 600D ripstop material that is inherently more durable. Our only complaint with the installation of this tent is that the bulky box may be too much for two people to lift on their own, and you may find it more manageable with 3-4 sets of hands. Otherwise, the Roofnest Sparrow EYE provides a luxurious rooftop camping experience that is hard to find anywhere else.

Read more: Roofnest Sparrow EYE review

best rooftop tent
The Sparrow EYE is our favorite hardshell model and one of our favorite RTTs of all time.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best Budget Rooftop Tent

Smittybilt Overlander

Weight: 144 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 56" x 96" x 51"
Spacious and comfortable
Good quality
Durable canopy material
Longer setup time
Inconvenient travel cover

If you want a rooftop tent but don't have a ton of money to drop on one, check out the Smittybilt Overlander. This is one of the most spacious and comfortable tents we have used, with enough overhead space to allow campers to easily change clothes or comfortably sit up and enjoy the view from one of its many windows. Included perks like an LED light strip and hanging boot bag on the outside of the tent make it more livable and pleasant to use for longer trips. The ladder is extra wide and feels sturdy when bringing gear, kids, or pets up to roof level for the night. And don't let the lower price tag fool you into questioning the quality of this tent. The Overlander is built with durable 600D polyurethane material to weather gnarly storms.

The Smittybilt's lower price tag is likely due to its DIY assembly. The initial installation is more complicated than average. The tent itself is pretty heavy, and it only comes with a very basic tool kit. Most of the components come unassembled, and the whole thing just takes more time to complete. Once you have the tent properly mounted, converting it from travel mode to camping mode also takes longer than average, although luckily, it is not too difficult. Our final gripe with this tent is that there is no convenient place to store the travel cover. It removes completely from the tent, which means you must find a place to fold and store it instead of rolling it up and letting it hang from the side of the tent as in other models. However, if you're prepared to devote a little more time to set up and tear down on each trip, the Smittybilt Overlander is an excellent way to adventure on a tighter budget.

Read more: Smittybilt Overlander review

best budget rooftop tent
The Overlander competes well with the top-tier of rooftop tents, despite costing significantly less.
Credit: Ross Patton

Best Four Season Tent

Black Diamond Eldorado

Weight: 4.5 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 87" x 51" x 43"
Versatile design
Bomber weather resistance
High-performing ToddTex ePTFE fabric
Tricky setup
Poor ventilation

After comparing dozens of 4-season tents, we found the Black Diamond Eldorado to be one of the best models on the market. It strikes the perfect balance of being lightweight and compact while still maintaining awesome durability and weatherproofing. It is surprisingly spacious and comfortable for a two-pole design. The long and narrow profile holds up well in strong winds, steep sidewalls shed snow easily, and the interior setup method helps distribute forces evenly along the poles. The ToddTex ePTFE fabric found on this tent (and other Black Diamond models) is one of its most valuable features. It helps minimize condensation by wicking moisture through thousands of tiny micro hairs in the fabric, and it is incredibly durable and tear-resistant to boot.

The BD Eldorado pitches from the inside, and if you are picturing a struggle, you're probably right, at least for the first few times. It takes more practice to get the hang of than other designs, and during winter months, you must take extra care to avoid getting snow inside the tent during setup. The Eldorado has a single-walled design, small zippered vents, and a tiny awning that leaves much to be desired in terms of ventilation, although the wicking fabric helps compensate somewhat. This 4-season tent is about average in weight but is heavier than many other two-pole models. Still, the tradeoff is extra space, better durability, and greater weather resistance, all of which make this a great jack-of-all-trades tent, in our opinion. Perfect for someone who wants an excellent all-around performer.

Read more: Black Diamond Eldorado review

best four season tent
Despite being a two-pole design, the Eldorado is stormworthy and has proven as such during hundreds of the world's most demanding ascents over the years. The internal poles are supported by the body of the exceptionally durable fly with six guy points for additional support. Photo: Camped out while climbing the North Face of Mt. Shuksan with Mt. Baker looming behind, North Cascades WA.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Best Four Season Tent on a Budget

MSR Access 2

Weight: 3.80 lbs| Dimensions (L x W x H): 84 x 50" x 42"
Excellent versatility
Easy to set up
Double vestibules
Not great for heavy winter weather
Less durable

The MSR Access 2 is marketed as a more affordable 4-season tent, and we found it to be one of the most versatile options we tested. It has an easy and intuitive setup that utilizes sturdy plastic clips rather than pole sleeves, which makes it even easier to pitch in windy conditions. The double-walled design is excellent at preventing condensation, making up for its limited ventilation. This feature, alongside its lighter-weight interior wall, makes it one of our top choices for damp and rainy settings. The lighter weight fabric also helps shave off a few ounces, and this tent is impressively lightweight for a double-walled model, coming in at nearly half the weight of some other options out there. The large footprint makes this tent feels very livable, and large dual-sided vestibules improve this even further.

The Access 2's biggest drawback is its limited weather resistance. While it fares very well as a 3-season mountaineering tent, it is not our first pick for more extreme expeditions. The lightweight fabric is thinner and less weather resistant than other models, and we fear it would not weather winter storms as well. When all is said and done, the Access 2 is geared more towards being light and packable rather than extremely sturdy, and the comfort-to-weight ratio is a big selling point. It provides very livable 3-season protection for most campers. It may handle shoulder season camping and the occasional mid-winter expedition in milder settings (i.e., below treeline) with ease, and it comes at a price that is hard to turn down.

Read more: MSR Access 2 review

best four season tent on a budget
The Access 2 is one of our go-to choices for multi-season camping.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Best Ultralight Tent

ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade

Weight: 1.80 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 45" x 90" x 48"
Good weather resistance
Included comfort features
More involved setup
Less adaptable
Average weight

The ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade is an A-frame tarp-style tent with a few features that set it apart from similar models. Added perks such as a durable bathtub-style floor and sewn-in bug netting make a complete package, and the mesh walls provide excellent ventilation for a completely enclosed structure. A large footprint and comfortable head height make this tent feel much most spacious than other ultralight options we slept in, and it feels very livable, even for two people. Double doors and large vestibules on either side of the tent make it easier to manage two people and their gear. The Duplex tent is more weather resistant than comparable models. Extended sidewalls and a 6-inch high bathtub floor protect against rain and resulting muddy conditions, and we feel stable in high winds, although it can still get a bit drafty at times.

The weight of this tent falls in the middle of the pack, which may be surprising for a top ultralight tent. However, including the bathtub floor and bug netting are convenient features that we think are worth the extra ounces, and many campers end up packing anyway. It is worth considering that other models with lighter listed weights do not have this type of protection. It is also not a freestanding tent, which means you can't get away with leaving stakes and guylines at home, and it also limits the terrain in which you can set up. The fixed design reduces the tent's adaptability, requiring either two trekking poles or two additional flex poles, which you must purchase separately, but again, we feel it is worth it. Our take? Although expensive, we think the ZPacks Duplex is worth it for its high overall performance and convenient added features.

Read more: ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade review

best ultralight tent
The Duplex Flex Upgrade in all its glory.
Credit: Matt Bento

Best Budget Ultralight Tent

Durston X-Mid 1P

Weight: 1.90 lbs | Dimensions (L x W x H): 87" x 28" x 46"
Quality build
Good weather protection
Versatile use
On the heavier side
Less adaptable

We love the Durston X-Mid 1P for its simple design and noticeable quality; the wallet-friendly price tag is just an added perk. We appreciate the offset placement of the poles that creatively maximize the usable space inside the tent. Although it is not the lightest option in the group, you can use it in various configurations that push the weight as low as 21 oz. The inner part of the tent is removable, and we would argue that the fly could be used as a standalone tarp-style shelter if you really want to drop some weight. However, you may not want to skip the inner liner because the mesh bug netting and a bathtub-style floor offer better protection from the elements. If you choose to use both, we love that having two separate pieces allows you to pack away the inner and all your gear while still being sheltered under the outer fly. This tent is almost impossible to set up incorrectly, thanks to its symmetrical rectangular design.

The X-Mid prioritizes durability and quality over weight, which could be a pro or a con depending on your preferences. Whichever side you fall on, there is no getting around the heavier-than-average weight, which could deter some hikers. The tent also requires two trekking poles to set up and is a fixed design. This fact earned it a slightly lower adaptability score, but we feel it is still relatively versatile thanks to the removable inner liner. Overall, the Durston X-Mid 1P is one of our favorite ultralight options, and it comes at a price that will fit within even the tightest of budgets.

Read more: Durston X-Mid 1P review

tent - the bug netting and waterproof bathtub floor of the durston x-mid 1p...
The bug netting and waterproof bathtub floor of the Durston X-Mid 1P protect you and your gear from the elements.
Credit: Chris Greer

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team consists of people who love to be outdoors, so much so that they don't want to go home at the end of the day. That may mean carrying a tent into the most remote corners of the Alaska Range, piling everything but the kitchen sink into the back of the car for a family weekend on the lake, and everything in between. To test and evaluate such a wide range of outdoor shelters, we sought out multiple experts with unique knowledge in their own fields. Our lead tent testers include a collective of outdoor junkies, all of whom have spent countless nights under the stars.

Ross Patton is an avid snowboarder and all-around thrill seeker whose adventures often take him far into the backcountry. He grew up camping around the western U.S. and spearheaded our rooftop tent review. Ross spent multiple summers researching and evaluating rooftop tents and using them in day-to-day life on camping trips around Southern Utah and California in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and across the Great Basin. Ian Nicholson is certified through the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) as an Alpine, Rock, and Ski guide. With nearly 2,000 nights spent in a tent over the past ten years, Ian Nicholson has an immense amount of knowledge of what it takes to sleep outdoors in any season and leads our 4 season tent review. Ben Applebaum-Bauch has completed thru-hikes of many of the most famous trails in the U.S. and has spent countless weekends in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. His insight informs our ultralight and backpacking tent testing. Rob Gaedtke is a seasoned outdoorsman who has dipped his toe in a wide variety of escapades. He has set up base camps in locations all across the world, and as a husband and father of two, he has insight into how well a camping tent functions for a family of four.

The Stormbreak 2 is one of our favorites for roomy camping.
The Stormbreak 2 is one of our favorites for roomy camping.
Stakes aren't included, but this shelter comes in at a little over a...
Stakes aren't included, but this shelter comes in at a little over a pound.
There is enough interior space to lie down, but the door opening is...
There is enough interior space to lie down, but the door opening is low, even with the vestibule rolled back.

The most important metrics we look at when evaluating tents include livable space, comfort, weight, durability, and weather resistance. All of these factors are weighted differently depending on the category. We consider some category-specific evaluations, such as the adaptability of an ultralight tent or the ease of converting a rooftop tent from travel mode to camping mode. We use every tent in various climates and locations to test its ability to handle various weather conditions. We set up, tear down, zip zippers, and spend multiple nights in each model to ensure we know the ins and outs and can fairly compare them.

tent - three of our top preforming tents enjoying a evening under the stars
Three of our top preforming tents enjoying a evening under the stars
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

How to Choose a Tent

We've listed the best options above, but how do you know which one is right for you? Your camping style, setup times, prices, and comfort levels are all factors worth looking at. There are many different types of tents, all tailored towards a specific kind of camping. Knowing the differences between each style can help you determine which one will serve you best.

Types of Tents

When looking for a tent, the options are endless and different models a geared toward different activities. So it is essential first to decide where you want to go with your tent. If you are setting up a basecamp so you can easily make climbing trips to nearby crags, you will want a larger tent with better gear storage options and more liveable space. If you are fastpacking or doing overnights on your long-distance run, you will want to carry as little as possible and will probably appreciate an ultralight model. Pick your flavor of outdoor activity, and it will help you narrow down the style of tent that makes the most sense for you.

tent - doors open, coffee in hand, a great way to start the morning.
Doors open, coffee in hand, a great way to start the morning.
Credit: Rob Gaedtke

Car Camping Tents

This type of tent is a feature-heavy shelter with a spacious interior that is usually tall enough for an adult to stand inside. A great camping tent is perfect when you can drive to your destination and plan to stay for a while. They can comfortably accommodate multiple adults, children, pets, or large amounts of gear, sometimes all of the above. Some of the vestibules are even large enough to set up your ideal camp kitchen right outside the door. The most significant tradeoff for all of this space and convenience is a higher weight and larger packed size. A car camping tent is not something you want to carry for long distances and may not fit in a typical pack.

tent - the nemo dagger osmo is a great multi-purpose tent that provides...
The Nemo Dagger Osmo is a great multi-purpose tent that provides lots of space and comfort.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents are built with long thru-hikes and overnight backpacking trips in mind. They often compromise between keeping the load light and offering a few creature comforts while out on the trail. Out of necessity, backpacking tents should be easily packable in your favorite backpacking backpack, adequately weatherproof, and durable enough to withstand days of use in the backcountry. Even among the top backpacking tents, there is a wide variety of styles. Factors such as location, climate, and the length and frequency of your trips make a difference in which type is best suited to your level of activity and how much you should invest in your tent.

tent - it's amazing how fast you can set up camp with a hardshell rooftop...
It's amazing how fast you can set up camp with a hardshell rooftop tent.
Credit: Ross Patton

Rooftop Tents

Imagine the brainchild of a popup camper and a car camping tent, then set it 6 feet above the ground and make it portable; the resulting contraption is a rooftop camping tent. Our favorite rooftop tents are feature-heavy and bring many luxuries to your camping experience that you may otherwise leave at home. Because they sit perched on top of your vehicle, they are more portable than their traditional counterparts, and because weight is less of an issue, rooftop tents can offer more homey touches and luxurious components than regular camping tents. After the initial installation, they can be (but are not always) easier and faster to set up for the night. They include cushy memory foam mattresses, and some models offer additional gear storage and interior lighting options. They come in hardshell and softshell varieties, and configurations, square footage, and components differ from model to model.

However, these tents mount semi-permanently to the roof of your car or truck and can only go as far as your vehicle can take them. They are very heavy, and you must have a specific rack system on your vehicle that properly distributes the tent's weight and the people and items that will be inside during use. It is also important to remember that you must climb on and around your vehicle to install, set up, convert, and use these tents. They may not be ideal for those with disabilities, small children, large pets, or those who feel unsafe climbing a ladder for any reason. They can be pretty expensive, and you will want to seriously consider the pros and cons of this type of camping tent before making a purchase. Despite all this, a rooftop tent can feel like your home away from home and is a great option for those who like to tackle long, gnarly 4x4 trails and spend their nights in comfort.

tent - while not strong enough for trips to places like denali, aconcagua...
While not strong enough for trips to places like Denali, Aconcagua or Antarctica; we found this model perfect for summertime mountaineering trips and multiday ski tours in places like the Cascades, Sierra, Tetons, or the Canadian Rockies.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Four Season Tents

If you don't like to let the weather hold you back, all you need is one of the warmest sleeping bags and a a sturdy 4-season tent. As advertised, these tents can technically be used any time of year, but they are often geared towards cold weather camping. More robust materials and fewer ventilation options make them better suited to rugged, windy, and snowy conditions than fair-weather camping. This description may bring to mind typical winter weather, but 4-season tents are also great for shoulder season camping at high altitudes (above treeline) or in the extreme north or south. These tents vary in their sturdiness and measured weight, so it is essential to closely examine the specs and capabilities of each model before choosing one for your adventure of choice. You can get a double-walled 5-pole model that provides more space, warmth, and wind resistance for expeditions into extreme alpine environments. Alternatively, a single-walled 2-pole bivy-style tent is a good choice for fast and light travel but is better suited to milder weather. There are many options that combine different features depending on how you would like to prioritize weight savings and camp comfort.

tent - this ultralight tent is appropriate for two campers who don't mind...
This ultralight tent is appropriate for two campers who don't mind sleeping really, really close to each other.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ultralight Shelters

Ultralight shelters are not for the faint of heart. This type of tent is for fast-moving minimalists that are prepared to head out into the backcountry with less protection than a traditional tent. However, if shaving ounces off your pack weight is the top priority, ultralight is the way to go, as the top ultralight tents often weigh as little as 2 lbs. As in other tent categories, you can find an ultralight shelter that best suits your camping style, and the tradeoff is typically weight vs. comfort and protection. Some models include simply a tarp and guylines and rely on a great pair of trekking poles to complete the structure. Others have bathtub-style floors that help protect you and your gear against bad weather. Many of the tents in this category can be customized with aftermarket purchases, such as mesh bug netting or extra poles. In this way, you can tailor your tent to fit your exact preferences and you can have more flexibility regarding how much you want to spend. Our favorite models are more versatile and can be set up in various configurations and be used in unconventional ways, potentially multitasking to eliminate the need for packing other gear items. Because of the technical weight-saving materials used in the construction of these tents, they can be pretty pricey, but they don't have to be. A lower price may come at the cost of added weight, but even with budget models, it's likely that your pack will still be a couple of pounds lighter than if you carry a traditional backpacking tent.

tent - the cvt bachelor is designed for two people but we wouldn't exactly...
The CVT Bachelor is designed for two people but we wouldn't exactly call it roomy.
Credit: Ross Patton

Other Things to Consider

Now that you are familiar with your options, here are a few considerations that may make it easier for you to narrow them down:
  • Camping Style - Does a weekend camp trip involve packing up the whole family; with bikes, your favorite fishing pole, and pillows included? Or do you prefer to enjoy nature in solitude, taking only what you can carry? Some tents can do a little of both, depending on how big your family is and how much you are willing to carry on your back. However, figuring out your primary camping style is the biggest guide as to which tent you should buy.
  • Does it make sense to own more than one tent? - You can take one tent on different camp trips, but you will likely make some sacrifices. For example, if you split your time between backpacking and car camping, you can probably get away with owning just a backpacking tent. However, you will either sacrifice the comfort and space of a bigger tent when car camping or pack more weight than is necessary when doing overnights on the trail. If you want to truly get the best use out of your tent and the best experience out of your trip, it is worth considering owning different tents for different occasions.
  • Ease of Setup - How much time and energy are you willing to put into pitching your tent? Some of us (you know who you are) are in the habit of arriving at a site after dark and setting up camp by the light of a trusty headlamp. If you fall into this category, ease of setup is paramount and is something you will want to look at closely when making a purchase. More punctual campers may not have this problem and can prioritize other features in their tent.
  • How much should I spend? - The frequency of your trips should dictate how much you invest in your shelter. Almost any tent will get you through 1-2 summer camp trips every year, and if this is as much as you plan to use your tent, you'll have a great time in a budget tent that covers all the necessary bases but won't break the bank. However, if you find yourself sleeping outdoors almost every weekend, rain or shine, you may want to stay in a tent with better features and durability. After all, you will spend a lot of time inside, and we think investing in your comfort is worthwhile.

Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch


Whether you are just beginning your journey into nights spent closer to nature or are an outdoor enthusiast and would like to dip your toes into the wonderful world of ultralight, the tent market has expanded to include suitable options for every type of camper. Ultimately, every tent on this list has earned its place, and they are all great choices. It really comes down to how you choose to enjoy the outdoors; your gear is simply a tool to help get you there.

Abriah Wofford

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