Whether you’re hiking up a mountain or trekking through the forest, getting a good night’s sleep is the key to a successful backpacking trip. In addition to your sleeping bag and favorite pillow, it’s also worth investing in a lightweight backpacking tent, so you can sleep comfortably while being surrounded by nothing but wilderness.
Hiking tents are different than your traditional camping tents since they are lighter, more compact, and created specifically for the adventurous traveler. In this article, we’ll share with you our choice for the best backpacking tent and give you some advice on what to look for when purchasing one.
Why Trust This Guide?
We have both been avid campers from an early age. Growing up, we would travel around the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, and Belgium with our parents, sleeping in various campsites and tents along the way. As we grew older (and eventually met each other), we continued our passion for camping by embarking on numerous trips around the world.
One of our most memorable trips with a road trip through France, where we had nothing more than surfboards on the roof rack and a tent in the trunk. It was on that trip where we fell head over heels in love with wild camping. Although we didn’t have access to toilets or even running water, we still camped outdoors practically every night.
From there, we’ve camped extensively in many other places like Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Eastern Europe, and Australia. We even spent three whole months cycling through Iceland, sleeping in a tent almost every night of the trip.
That’s why we know firsthand how important it is to have an ultra lightweight backpacking tent. We’ve done hours of research and battle-tested different models to find a tent that’s not just lightweight but also easy to set up and easy to carry in a pannier or backpack. And we’re here to share with you the best tents we found!
What is a Lightweight Backpacking Tent?
A lightweight backpacking tent is a portable shelter that you can set up in the mountains, forest, or even at a campsite. They’re generally lighter and more compact than a traditional camping tent so that they can be carried in a backpack for long distances or multi-day hiking trips.
Why You Need a Lightweight Backpacking Tent
From cross-country treks to wilderness hikes, a lightweight backpacking tent is crucial for anyone spending a significant amount of time outdoors. Because you’ll be hauling around your gear on your back, it’s crucial to find a tent that is lightweight, packable, and geared towards longer backpacking or hiking trips.
Different Kinds of Lightweight Tents
While researching different types of lightweight tents, you’ll probably notice three main styles that are available – freestanding, semi-freestanding, and tunnel.
We use a freestanding tent for our camping trips because they can be set up practically anywhere – especially on rough and rugged terrain – as they don’t need any pegs to be able to stand. While truly freestanding tents don’t have to be staked or pegged to the ground, it is always better to do so.
Freestanding tents are constructed by using poles in the outer tent. Then, you can literally hang the inner tent inside the outer tent – normally with loops and hooks. Once set up together, you can also clean up the tent as a whole, so next time it’s quicker and easier to set up the tent. But you can also only use the outer tent as a shelter.
Semi-freestanding hiking tents require poles for the inner tent. Then it needs stakes for the outer tent, to keep both layers away from each other. You can also only set up the inner tent during warm and dry nights, but keep in mind your tent isn’t waterproof then.
Tunnel tents can only stand up if they are pegged and guy-roped to the ground. This makes them ideal tents to camp on grass or softer undergrounds, but it might be a problem to set up your tent properly when the underground is more tough. On the other hand, they also use fewer poles, which makes them light and easy to carry.
What to Look for When You Buy a Backpacking Tent
Before you decide on an ultralight camping tent, it’s important to consider the following factors.
No matter how lightweight or durable your tent may be, it’ll be worthless if you cannot set it up correctly! That’s why we recommend choosing a lightweight tent that can be easily set up and taken down.
Pop-up tents, dome tents, or tents with fewer hubs and poles tend to be relatively easy to set up. You should always practice in your living room before your hike to make sure you know the ins-and-outs of your tent.
If you’re interested in learning more tips about camping, check out our camping guide for beginners.
If you’re hauling around with your equipment on your back, then the weight is one of the most important factors when looking at different backpacking tents. Thankfully, it’s easy to find a lightweight tent that you can take with you, both on long and short-term trips.
The best backpacking tents will fall anywhere between 3 and 5 pounds (1.5 kg and 2.5 kg). However, tents with extra features like hard shells, vestibules, or footprints tend to weigh more.
Stand-Alone vs. Stakes
As we discussed earlier, tents usually come in a freestanding, semi-freestanding, or tunnel style. Freestanding tents can stand-alone, which means you won’t need to stake them to the ground in order to prop them up (although we recommend securing themif possible). Because they don’t require stakes or pegs, these types of tents also work well if you’re camping on rough terrain.
Nobody likes sleeping in a muggy, humid room, which is why proper ventilation is crucial when choosing between different types of tents. Double-walled tents (while warmer) also have less airflow than single-walled ones, so it’s important to have windows or mesh zippers to let moisture and air out.
Campers should also be aware that condensation can occur even in cold climates. When you exhale, your breath creates moisture, and without proper ventilation, that moisture will be trapped inside, which causes your tent to feel colder.
You can check out our other hacks for staying warm on a camping trip here.
Backpacking tents are designed to be small and lightweight, which means they might not have as much space compared to traditional camping or hiking tents. This can be a problem if you’re traveling with a lot of gear since you won’t have much room inside your tent to store all your equipment.
However, some of the best backpacking tents come with vestibules, which are essentially separate storage areas where you can keep your backpack and camping gear. If you think you’ll need more storage space while camping, then it’s crucial to look for a tent with attached vestibule space.
Made to protect against rain, dirt, and damage, a footprint is a valuable item that will prolong the life of your backpacking tent. It’s placed on the ground underneath the base of your tent and acts as a barrier so that nothing pokes, rips, or leaks into it.
Some tents come with a footprint, although you can always purchase one separately if yours does not include one. Remember to look for a footprint that is slightly smaller than the flooring of your tent so that rain does not pool or gather on the bottom.
Let’s face it – lightweight backpacking tents can be very expensive, often costing anywhere from $300 to $500. Although that’s a large chunk of change to cough up, trust us when we say it’s worth every penny. While it may be tempting to want to spend as little as possible, it’s cheaper in the long run to invest in a durable, lightweight tent.
When you’re stuck in a rainstorm up the side of a mountain miles away from the nearest village, you’ll be thankful that you invested in a high-quality, durable hiking tent instead of a cheap and flimsy one.
Top 5 Lightweight Backpacking Tents
With so many different types of tents on the market, it can be hard to choose which model is best for your backpacking trip. However, we want to share five of our favorite lightweight backpacking tents to help make your decisions a tiny bit easier!
1. Helsport Reinsfjell Super Light 2 | Best Lightweight Backpacking Tent for 2 People
The Helspot Reinsfjell Super Light 2 is our top choice for the best backpacking tent. We bought this domed freestanding tent almost 7 years ago and use it for practically every cycling and hiking trip we go on.
It weighs a little over 4 pounds, which may be slightly heavier than other tents on this list. However, it’s a clear winner when it comes to features and durability. The outer tent is made from Helsport’s signature waterproof Rainguard fabric, which is guaranteed to keep you warm and dry throughout the toughest of rainstorms. The bottom layer also has a 3000 mm thick Rainguard floor, so you won’t have to worry about your sleeping back becoming damp.
It has two doors, four vents, and two mesh windows for optimized ventilation and mosquito netting to keep the bugs out when everything is fully unzipped. There are also two attached vestibules, which you can use for extra storage or outdoor cooking.
Price range: $750 – $850
- Extremely durable
- Superb ventilation
- Packs down small
- Easy to set up
- 2 sides additional vestibule
- Heavier than other hiking tents
2. MSR Hubba Hubba Tent | Best Budget Lightweight Backpacking Tent
If you’re looking for a high-performing lightweight backpacking tent that won’t break the bank, then look no further than the MSR Hubba Hubba Tent. When packed, the tent only weighs 3.8 pounds, although you can always opt for the minimalist set-up with just the footprint, poles, and rainfly if you want to bring the weight down to 3 pounds.
It has 29 square feet of interior space and a whopping 39-inches of headroom, which is great for a 2 person tent. With the included vestibules, you’ll also have an additional 17.5 square feet that you can use to store your gear other hiking equipment while you sleep.
In terms of weather resistance, the Hubba Hubba is a 3-season tent that can withstand wet conditions. The waterproof coating on the exterior fabric is 3 times stronger than tents of this price. For the cost, the MSA Hubba Hubba is the best budget backpacking tent for outdoor adventure.
Price range: $350 – $450
- Affordable price point
- Option to use complete or minimalist setup
- Roomy interior
- Footprint not included
- Heavier than some models
3. Big Agnes Copper Sur | Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Clocking in at just 3lbs 2oz, the Big Agnes Copper Sur is one of the lightest tents for campers and hikers. It’s constructed with proprietary ultralight nylon and puncture-resistant fabric that’s built to survive even the harshest of weather conditions (but keep in mind it’s only a 3-season tent). It comes with two zippered doors, two awning vestibules, interior media pockets, ceiling compartments, and a 3D elevated storage bin.
It has a floor area of 29 square feet, which is more than enough space to comfortably sleep two people. It’s easy to put together and packs down small when not in use (19.5 inches x 6 inches), making it an excellent option for long-distance hikes. The Big Agnes Copper Sur may be one of the more expensive tents on this list, but it’s worth every penny if you’re looking for a sturdy, reliable, and comfortable tent for your hiking trip.
Price range: $350 – $450
- Packs down small
- Tons of packets and storage bins
- Stakeout vestibules for extra storage
- Roomy for two people
- Expensive pricepoint
- Footprint not included
4. Husky Extreme Flame 2 | Best Lightweight 4-Season Tent
You can tell by the name – the Husky Extreme Flame 2 is designed specifically for harsh weather and extreme temperature conditions. It works marvelously in colder climates and can even tolerate heavy winds and snowfall, making it the perfect 4-season tent for hikers, cyclers, or campers.
This double-shelled tent has a water-resistant outer layer and a detachable interior cabin for extra protection, as well as a waterproof flysheet and retractable snow collars to help keep you warm and dry all through the night.
The biggest downside to the Extreme Flame 2 is size. It can sleep up to two people, although some people might find it a little tight, especially if you’re storing your gear and backpack inside as well. However, you can also purchase an additional vestibule if you find that space inside the tent is limited.
Price range: $150 – $250
- Great for wind, rain, and snow camping
- Hardshell with detachable nylon tent
- Comes with compression bag and repair kit
- Tight for two people
- Not ideal for tall people
5. Hilleberg Anjan 3 | Best Lightweight Backpacking Tent for 3 People
One of the biggest pain points with most backing tents is that they’re just too small. If you’re camping with more than two people, you’ll need a larger tent that can comfortably sleep everyone inside. That’s where the Hilleberg Anjan 3 tunnel tent comes in.
At just 3.8 pounds, this ultralight camping tent is impressively spacious. There are 34.4 square feet of space, which is considerably larger than many other tents of the same weight. Even if you’re just traveling with one other person, the Anjan 3 is a great choice for those who need a bit more wiggle room.
We love that the inner and outer tents can be used separately, while the attached vestibule is great for keeping your extra gear safe and secure. The mesh door, vent window, and fully roll-up-able rear wall makes it perfect for all three seasons.
Price range: $850 – $950
- Very spacious for 2 or 3 people
- Good ventilation
- Expensive price point