backpacking tent reviews

Backpackers watching sunset at a campsite in Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The 9 (Very) Best Backpacking Tents of 2021

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. 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, I’m going to make that choice easy for you.

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Backpackers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2021

By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. The Pasayten Wilderness. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 ultralight pyramid tent with Ultamid 2 Insert.

Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Ultralight Pyramid Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2
$735, 1 lb. 2 oz.
backcountry.com

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Insert with DCF11 Floor
$405, 1 lb. 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
backcountry.com

I’ve encountered every form of mountain weather over more than three decades of backpacking, but rarely conditions like my son and I faced over three days in August in the Wind River Range: hours of daytime hiking through cold rain and wind and long nights of sheltering from that weather. Besides our invaluable time together in the wilderness—and even occasional glimpses of the mountains through a veil of air impersonating gumbo—the trip provided the redeeming benefit of seeing how impressively the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 performed, keeping us comfortable and dry.

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Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent.

Review: Sea to Summit Alto TR2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Sea to Summit Alto TR2
$449, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (rainfly, tent, and poles)
backcountry.com

Backpacking five days in September through some of the northernmost mountains in the Lower 48 in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness—sharing the trails with Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers finishing up their 2,650-mile walk as well as backpackers on shorter journeys—we wanted a shelter that could protect us from the wildest, late-season weather possible. It would also be nice if it wasn’t too heavy, given the rugged terrain there. Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2 fit the bill and demonstrated its cred as an outstanding ultralight tent.

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The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo ultralight backpacking tent in Bechler Canyon, Yellowstone National Park.

Review: Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
$250 ($35 extra for seam sealing), 1 lb. 9 oz. (without the optional, 2-oz. carbon pole)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
sixmoondesigns.com

At around 7,000 feet in Yellowstone in September, the season can turn on a dime—and the last 24 hours of an otherwise beautiful, five-day backpacking trip on Yellowstone’s Bechler River Trail demonstrated that, delivering steady rain and wind all night and on our last day of hiking (which featured a bone-chilling river ford). The trip’s range of weather put a spotlight on the strengths of the classic, ultralight Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent, as well as its one major weakness.

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