backpacking tent reviews

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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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. 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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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail overlooking the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best …

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A backpacker on the Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

Why and When to Spend More on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

You need a new backpack, backpacking tent, rain jacket, boots, or a sleeping bag. You’ve read reviews. You’ve winnowed your short list to a handful of possible choices—with a significant difference in prices. That’s when you struggle with the question that pushes the frugality button in all of us: Why should I spend more?

This story will explain why some gear is more expensive and give you specific advice on buying five big-ticket items: packs, tents, rain jackets, shoes and boots, and sleeping bags.

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