Gear Review: The 5 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018
By Michael Lanza
Time for a new backpacking tent? There’s hardly been a better time to get one. Whether you prioritize weight, living space, performance in foul weather, or unique features, tents for backpacking have seen great innovation and variety. In the competitive outdoor industry, designers keep making shelters that are lighter, stronger, and in many ways more livable.
For this article, I’ve updated my picks for the five top-performing backpacking tents available today, with links to my original, complete review of each one. I think you’ll find at least one that’s perfect for you—plus you’ll find some at great sale prices now (and links to those online retailers below).
Each of these five two-person tents is different enough from the others to give you clear choices, and they range in weight categories from lightweight to ultralight—because I believe every ounce should be justified in the gear I carry. The tents are listed from lightest to heaviest. The comparison chart offers a quick look at features that distinguish these tents from one another.
For some guidance on picking out the right tent for your adventures, you may want to first read my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent” and “How to Choose the Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent for You.” Both of those stories require a subscription to read.
Grab one of these tents and your days on the trail—with a lighter pack—will improve as much as your nights in camp.
I’d love to read your thoughts about these tents in the comments section at the bottom of this story, especially if you have experience with any of them or others you like.
Find your next adventure in your Inbox. Sign up for my FREE email newsletter now.
|Model||Price||Weight||Floor Area||Peak Height||Doors||Features|
|MSR FlyLite||$350||1 lb. 9 oz.||29 sq. ft.||44 ins.||1||* Excellent space-to-weight ratio.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
* Hybrid single-, double-wall design.
|Slingfin 2Lite Trek||$329||2 lbs. 6 oz.||28.5 sq. ft.||41 ins.||2||* 2 doors, vestibules.
* Good space, strength for an ultralight.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||$450||2 lbs. 12 oz.||29 sq. ft.||40 ins.||2||* Good space-to-weight ratio and headroom.
* 2 doors, vestibules.
* Quick to pitch.
|Marmot Tungsten UL 2P||$299||3 lbs. 4 oz.||32 sq. ft.||42 ins.||2||* Good space-to-weight ratio and headroom.
* 2 doors, vestibules.
* 88-inch length.
|Sierra Designs Flash 2 FL||$400||3 lbs. 10 oz.||30 sq. ft.||43 ins.||2||* Roomy interior.
* Pitch in rain and keep inside dry.
* Good ventilation.
$350, 1 lb. 9 oz.
The most nontraditional tent on this list, the FlyLite delivers an incredible space-to-weight ratio that renders it big enough for two and legitimately light enough to use solo. It detours from tradition with design sacrifices that seem like minor tradeoffs in light of the gains achieved. Pitching with two trekking poles, it ventilates well enough to avoid the bane of many single-wall shelters: condensation. If low weight is more important to you than having a freestanding tent with traditional poles, it’s hard to find a better choice.
Read my complete review of the MSR FlyLite.
Want a spacious, ultralight solo tent that weighs under a pound and a half? See my review of the Gossamer Gear The One.
Want the best backpack? See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs”
and the best thru-hiking packs.
Slingfin 2Lite Trek
$329, 2 lbs. 6 oz.
Various small companies are manufacturing ultralight tents with unique designs, but few offer the appealing balance of livability, strength, and two doors found in the 2Lite Trek from Slingfin. Pitching with trekking poles or an optional front pole, it stood up to steady winds of 30 mph and gusts around 40 mph from the Grand Canyon to Idaho’s City of Rocks. Its 28.5-square-foot interior, 41-inch peak height, and dual 10.7-square-foot vestibules offer more space than typically found in tents in this category. Plus, the price is very competitive.
Read my complete review of the Slingfin 2Lite Trek.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy a Slingfin 2Lite Trek at slingfin.com.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
$450, 2 lbs. 12 oz.
For starters, there aren’t many freestanding, two-person tents with two doors and vestibules that weigh under three pounds, so if that’s what you’re shopping for, you already have a short list. The new DAC Featherlite NFL hubbed pole structure creates steeper walls that make the tent feel roomier than its 29 square feet, plus it has a 40-inch peak height and 88-inch length. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent that doesn’t feel like a coffin, your search may be over.
Read my complete review of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2.
How would you like a two-door tent that’s barely more than two pounds? Check out my review of the ultralight Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2.
Plan your next great backpacking adventure using my downloadable, expert e-guides.
Click here now to learn more.
Marmot Tungsten UL 2P
$299, 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Sure, weight is important when evaluating a tent. But space—and especially the space-to-weight ratio—merits equal consideration, particularly for taller people, for whom a few extra ounces is a smart tradeoff for more space. The Tungsten UL 2P offers more square footage than virtually any comparable freestanding, three-season, two-person tent, while still weighing in just ounces over three pounds—and costs less than virtually all competitors in its category. I have some nitpicks with it, but it’s a sturdy tent and a super value.
Read my complete review of the Marmot Tungsten UL 2P.
Get my help planning your backpacking, hiking, or family trip and 25% off a one-year subscription. Click here.
Sierra Designs Flash 2 FL
$400, 3 lbs. 10 oz.
A personal favorite of mine for its innovative, hybrid design, the Flash 2 FL marries the benefits of single- and double-wall tents by integrating the interior tent canopy with the rainfly. A partial rainfly and weatherproof side walls block wind and precipitation, and the side doors have both mesh and solid, weatherproof, zippered panels. The design eliminates a step when pitching—so it goes up fast—and keeps the interior dry when erecting the tent in the rain. Its living space, ventilation, and sturdiness in wind are exceptional.
Read my complete review of the Sierra Designs Flash 2 FL.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy a Sierra Designs Flash 2 FL at moosejaw.com.
Lighten up with my expert tips in “How to Choose the Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent for You.”
BONUS FAVORITE TENT Looking for a light, three-person tent? See my review of the ultralight Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL3 ($450, 2 lbs. 15 oz.). You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy a Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL3 at moosejaw.com.
Tell me what you think.
I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
The Big Outside helps you find the best adventures. Subscribe now to read ALL stories and get a free e-guide!
Get My Free Email Newsletter
Enter your email address for updates about new stories, gear reviews, and expert tips!