By Michael Lanza
A good backpacking tent not only makes your trips more comfortable by keeping you warm and dry in foul weather—it’s critical safety gear and one of the heaviest and most expensive items you’ll carry. You’ll want to find the right tent for your style of backpacking. But how do you choose from the many models out there, which come in a huge range of designs, weights, and prices? Whether you’re shopping for your first backpacking shelter or looking to replace an old one, this article will help make that choice easy for you.
I’ve tested scores of backpacking tents over more than a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—including the 10 years I spent as Backpacker magazine’s lead gear reviewer and even longer running this blog. This article covers my picks for the 10 top-performing, three-season backpacking tents available today—eight two-person models, one ultralight solo tent, and a modular shelter that variability serves one to two people—with links to my complete review of each one. I think you’ll find at least one tent here that’s perfect for you.
Each of these tents is different enough from the others to give you clear choices, and they range from midweight 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 below offers a quick look at specs and features that distinguish these tents from one another and offers an overall rating based on specific criteria that are detailed in a ratings chart at the bottom of each tent’s complete review.
Spend your money smartly when picking out the right tent for your adventures: Start with my “5 Expert Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent” and “Ultralight Backpacking Tents: How to Choose One.” (Both of those stories require a subscription to read in full.)
Grab one of these tents and your days on the trail—with a lighter pack—will improve as much as your nights in camp.
Please share your thoughts and questions about these tents or others you like in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.
The 10 Best Backpacking Tents
|Model||Score (1-5)||Price||Weight||Floor Area||Peak Height||Doors||Features|
|Slingfin SplitWing Shelter Bundle||4.2||$335||1 lb. 5 oz.||27-37.8 sq. ft.||39-51 ins.||1||* Modular components
* Variable space-to-weight ratio and headroom.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
* Good stability, ventilation.
|Gossamer Gear The One||4||$299||1 lb. 6 oz.||19.6 sq. ft.||46 ins.||1||* Single-wall with good ventilation.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
* Excellent space-to-weight ratio.
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2||4||$825||1 lb. 2 oz.||63 sq. ft.||64 ins.||1||* Superior space-to-weight ratio, headroom, durability, stability.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
* Good ventilation.
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye||4.5||$450||2 lbs. 3 oz.||28 sq. ft.||39 ins.||2||* A two-door, double-wall tent barely over 2 lbs.
* Good space-to-weight ratio, headroom, ventilation, stability.
* Easy to pitch.
|Slingfin 2Lite Trek||4.6||$329||2 lbs. 6 oz.||28.5 sq. ft.||41 ins.||2||* Good space-to-weight ratio.
* Very stable for an ultralight.
* Pitches with trekking poles.
* Spacious vestibules.
|Sea to Summit Alto TR2||4.4||$499||2 lbs. 9 oz.||27 sq. ft.||42.5 ins.||2||* Good balance of low weight and livability.
* Good headroom.
* Functional design details.
* Good ventilation, stability.
|Nemo Dragonfly 2P||4.8||$450||2 lbs. 10 oz.||29 sq. ft.||41 ins.||2||* Very good space-to-weight ratio and headroom.
* Well-featured for sub-3 lbs.
* Easy to pitch.
* Spacious vestibules.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||4.7||$500||2 lbs. 11 oz.||29 sq. ft.||40 ins.||2||* Very good space-to-weight ratio and headroom.
* Very well-featured for sub-3 lbs.
* Easy to pitch.
* Awning rainfly doors.
|Marmot Tungsten UL 2P||4.3||$379||3 lbs. 4 oz.||32 sq. ft.||42 ins.||2||* Exceptional value.
* Spacious interior, good headroom for its weight.
* Good stability.
|MSR Zoic 2||4.6||$350||4 lbs. 6 oz.||33 sq. ft.||39 ins.||2||* Spacious interior.
* Easy to pitch.
* Good ventilation, stability, durability.
From September in Yosemite to early March in the Canyonlands Maze District, in gusts up to 30 mph and rain showers, the SplitWing demonstrated its weather creds. But the story is the three-component SplitWing’s modularity and crazy-low weight that make it one of the lightest and most versatile backpacking shelters available today. Pitching with trekking poles, the SplitWing UL Tarp alone can shelter two backpackers while weighing an almost absurd four ounces per person—with its peak height adjustable from 100cm/39 inches to 130cm/51 inches. Add the removable, 6.8-square-foot vestibule and 24.8-square-foot Mesh Body and it becomes a bug-proof, spacious, 21-ounce solo shelter or tight but (maybe) doable for two. Despite some shortcomings, Slingfin’s SplitWing Shelter has virtually no rivals for minimalist weight, packability, versatility, and affordability.
See my complete review of the Slingfin SplitWing Shelter Bundle and components.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Slingfin SplitWing Shelter Bundle at slingfin.com or any individual components of it: the Slingfin SplitWing UL Tarp at slingfin.com, the Slingfin SplitWing Mesh Body at slingfin.com, the Slingfin SplitWing Vestibule at slingfin.com, or the Slingfin SplitWing Carbon Poles at slingfin.com.
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Strong nighttime gusts on a six-day, 94-mile traverse of Glacier National Park on the Continental Divide Trail never rattled The One—affirming my impression that it is quite possibly the best solo ultralight tent on the market today. A single-wall, non-freestanding A-frame that pitches using two adjustable trekking poles, with an interior tent featuring mesh bug netting and a bathtub floor, The One’s stability compares with many of the best freestanding, three-season tents. With a tall profile and enough length and width to spread out and store stuff inside, living space is palatial for a solo shelter. Cross-ventilation minimizes condensation and the vestibule shelters a pack and boots.
Read my complete review of the Gossamer Gear The One.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking this affiliate link to purchase a Gossamer Gear The One at gossamergear.com.
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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Insert with DCF11 Floor
$499, 1 lb. 4.5 oz.
Through nights of steady, cold rain and wind, my 20-year-old son and I enjoyed the cavernous interior of HMG’s Ultamid 2 pyramid-style tarp-tent and Ultamid 2 Insert. Pitching with two trekking poles and weighing two ounces over a pound, this two-person, single-door, well-ventilated, waterproof and highly durable, single-wall shelter sports 63 square feet of floor space and a peak height over five feet—that’s approximately twice the space and half or less the weight of every heavier tent in this review. The separate Ultamid 2 Insert adds a tough bathtub floor and mesh walls while keeping total weight under 2.5 pounds. Although not without shortcomings, it has virtually no competitors for space-to-weight ratio, stability in almost any weather, and durability.
Read my complete review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 and Ultamid 2 Insert with DCF11 Floor.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 at backcountry.com or hyperlitemountaingear.com, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Insert at backcountry.com or hyperlitemountaingear.com, any of the various insert or floor options for the Ultamid 2 at hyperlitemountaingear.com, the Ultamid 4 at hyperlitemountaingear.com, and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid Pole Straps at hyperlitemountaingear.com.
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The redesigned Tiger Wall UL2 features solution-dyed fabric, made using 80 percent less energy and 50 percent less water. At barely over two pounds, it’s almost in a class all its own among two-door, ultralight tents. Sleeping in it with my wife for four nights backpacking in the Wind River Range, I found the semi-freestanding, hubbed, and color-coded DAC Featherlite pole assembles in seconds and the tent pitches quickly and intuitively. While its biggest tradeoff is space, the 28 square feet and 39-inch peak height compare with two-door tents that weigh several ounces more. Excellent ventilation, design features like dual zippers on the doors and spacious interior pockets make it a leader in this tiny category.
Read my complete review of the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or rei.com, or another version of the Tiger Wall Solution Dye tent at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or rei.com.
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Among the various small companies manufacturing ultralight tents with unique designs, few offer the appealing balance of livability, strength, and two doors found in the 2Lite Trek from Slingfin (founded by a former Mountain Hardwear designer). 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—thanks to a tensioned pole sleeve over the tent’s peak and unique internal guylines. With a 28.5-square-foot interior, a 41-inch peak height, and dual 10.7-square-foot vestibules, the 2Lite Trek offers more space and features than typically found in tents under 2.5 pounds. Plus, the price is hard to beat.
Read my complete review of the Slingfin 2Lite Trek.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking this affiliate link to buy a Slingfin 2Lite Trek at slingfin.com.
Planning your next big adventure? See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips”
and “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.”
The semi-freestanding, two-door, double-wall Alto TR2 weighs barely more than two-and-a-half pounds, but on a five-day hike in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness it proved far more livable than its 27 square feet of floor space suggests. The recipe is vertical walls, a generous 42.5-inch peak height—and most uniquely, a bridge pole with arms that swing upward, boosting headroom. It kept two of us dry in rain, ventilates very well, stood up to moderate wind, and has smart design details like high-low ventilation and two-way zippers on both the interior and vestibule doors. Pitching it requires a little practice and time, but that’s a minor tradeoff for this nice balance of low weight with stability and comfort.
Read my complete review of the Sea to Summit Alto TR2.
Looking for a three-person tent? Take a look at the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 ($659, 4 lbs. 4 oz., fly and footprint pitch 3 lbs. 6 oz., at backcountry.com or seatosummitusa.com), which has a floor area of 39.5 square feet and a cavernous peak height of over 52 inches; or the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 Plus ($699, 4 lbs. 9 oz., fly and footprint pitch 3 lbs. 6 oz., at backcountry.com or seatosummitusa.com), built for pushing your adventures into wintry conditions.
You deserve a better backpack. See “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs”
and the best ultralight backpacks.
There are exactly two fully freestanding, two-person tents on this list 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. With 29 square feet of floor space, a 41-inch peak height and beaucoup headroom, and spacious vestibules, the Dragonfly’s space-to-weight ratio this shelter in an elite class with the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (below). But more importantly, it’s very appealing to backpackers who want to reduce their pack weight without reducing the amount of sleep they get in the backcountry. Besides some nice details, the Dragonfly 2P is also an ounce lighter and 50 bucks cheaper than its main competitor.
Read my complete review of the Nemo Dragonfly 2P.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog , at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a Nemo Dragonfly 2P, 3P, or 1P at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or nemoequipment.com.
Sporting features—including two awning-style doors that can be rolled up for maximum ventilation and stargazing, better buckles, and abundant interior pockets—the Copper Spur HV UL2 remains one of the leading choices for backpackers seeking an ultralight tent that doesn’t compromise on sturdiness or livability. DAC Featherlite hubbed poles create steep walls that make the tent feel roomier than its 29 square feet, 40-inch peak height, and 88-inch length. It pitches easily, the vestibules are spacious, ventilation excellent, and the Copper Spur keeps the weather on the outside. If you’re looking for a freestanding, two-door, ultralight tent that doesn’t feel like a two-person coffin, you have very few options, and this tent remains one of the best.
Read my complete review of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com or another version of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL series at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
Lighten up with my expert tips in “Ultralight Backpacking Tents: How to Choose One.”
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. With an interior footpring of 32 square feet and a 42-inch peak height, the Tungsten UL 2P offers abundant square footage compared to other freestanding, three-season, two-person tents weighing just ounces over three pounds—and costs less than many competitors of comparable size and weight. It pitches easily and has good ventilation. I’ve used it many times, including on a 41-mile hike in the Wind River Range, and although I have some nitpicks, it’s a sturdy tent and a good value.
Read my complete review of the Marmot Tungsten UL 2P.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a Marmot Tungsten UL 2P tent at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com, or other versions of the Tungsten UL at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
The thing about ultralight gear is that you must live with its tradeoffs, too. The freestanding Zoic 2 takes a more comfortable approach to backpacking. It pitches quickly and demonstrated superior ventilation and good stability and weather performance on a 90-mile hike through Glacier National Park and a four-day family backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. But most of all, has excellent livability. Its 33 square feet of interior space and width for two 25-inch-wide air mattresses, plus two roomy vestibules, beat what you’ll find in many backpacking tents. And it’s more durable than many lighter models. All that and it’s still only a few ounces over two pounds per person and an excellent value.
Read my complete review of the MSR Zoic 2.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase an MSR Zoic 2 at Moosejaw.com or backcountry.com, a Zoic 1 at moosejaw.com or backcountry.com, or a Zoic 3 at moosejaw.com or backcountry.com.
And don’t miss my picks for “The Best Backpacking Gear” of the year.
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Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”
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 my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.