How to Choose a Backpacking Tent? | Buyers Guide 2019
Backpacking and hiking are some of the top outdoor activities that are closely tied with camping. They can even be done with your dog. However they aren’t the same, they are similar but require vastly different gear.
As you’re on the move constantly with backpacking, you need something that’s going to support your journey, not tie you down.
We will explain what exactly a backpacking tent represents, the sought after features and the purpose of its use.
What is a Backpacking Tent?
It’s a tent or some form of shelter that you carry with you while on a backpacking trip. Bringing some sort of tent or tarp shelter with you is important to protect you from the weather.
Generally, they are compact, small and lightweight. Backpacking tents come in all forms of shapes and sizes. They are made of different water resistant cloth materials and are supported with collapsible poles.
Backpacking tents are generally lighter and made with minimal material compared to standard camping tents. Manufacturers who design backpacking tents put more emphasis into different design features but a light weight is usually a common denominator.
While backpacking and accessing remote areas, weight is generally the most important factor to consider. It is also important to think about how many people you will share the tent with.
Tents of all kinds are usually rated with the amount of adults that they can comfortably fit. For backpacking specific tents, that usually ranges from 1-4 people.
If more than 4 people are going on a trip together than it is more common to bring more than one tent.
Backpacking tents also vary in level of comfort. Usually, normal tents that are more comfortable, offer larger areas of covered space both inside and outside the tent (a wide flagged tarp wouldn’t have this problem, just saying). This includes the ground that you are laying on.
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There are two common tent designs that include either a double wall tent or a single wall tent. The double wall tent has a body and a rainfly. The body is comprised of a mesh material to allow for air ventilation but keeps the bugs out and can stand alone. A rainfly goes over the body of the tent to protect from the rain and wind. On hot summer days it is nice to leave it off the tent to keep the tent cooler.
A single wall design is usually made with a robust waterproof material such as Gore-Tex or other breathable laminates. The single wall tents may also be a tepee design with a single pole in the middle to support the tent. These tents are often the lightest option but do not allow for the same level of comfort.
If you have never backpacked before, I would suggest buying a double wall tent and a tent that offers more covered space. A nice feature of many tents is a vestibule which is an area of the tent which is only covered by the rainfly but allows you to store your shoes or back underneath it.
How to Choose a Backpacking Tent?
There are many things to consider when trying to choose a backpacking tent. Be sure to check out the tent basics page for basic information on tents and the REI advice page. To start, it is important to decide on a 3 season or 4 season tent. Are you going to be camping in harsh weather environments? Is there the potential to experience heavy rain, wind, or snow? If so, then I would limit your search to 4 season tents as they are more sturdy and robust. The downside is that they will generally be heavier.
Do you plan to go on trips in areas that are more temperate in weather? Are you going backpacking in a rain forest or a desert? Make sure you do research about the area that you are going to hike through to see what type of weather usually occurs. If the weather tends to be more temperate during the time of year that you are hiking than a 3 season tent will be sufficient.
Number of People
How many people are you going camping with? Are you on a solo mission? A group of friends? Regardless, you will need to make sure that the size of your tent is accommodating for the amount of people that will be sleeping in it. Do you need extra space? Do you want to store your pack and clothes inside your tent? These are important questions that you need to ask yourself.
Some tents feature a large rain fly so that you can keep your pack and hiking shoes outside the body of your tent but under the rainfly. Some tents are smaller or do not feature one, so you are left to produce an additional shelter.
Number of Entrances
All tents will have at least one entrance but depending on the amount of people sleeping in a tent, it can be really nice to have more entrances. By having more entrances, your tent mate does not have to crawl over you and your things to get to their mate. This can be especially helpful when you have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Tent ventilation is important for many reasons which include keeping the tent comfortable, smelling good, and not accumulating moisture inside the tent. Most tents feature mesh walls that allow for airflow. It is important that your tent has mesh walls or windows to allow for sufficient air flow.
These are used to secure your tent to the ground and ensure that your tent is set-up properly. 4 season tents are going to have more attachment points on the body of the tent because they are designed to withstand high winds and harsh elements. If you are camping in a friendly weather environment than guy lines are not necessary.
Zipper durability is important in the longevity of your tent. Smaller zippers are not as robust and break easier. Although zippers can be replaced, purchasing tents that already have larger zippers will add the total lifespan of your tent.
When backpacking, weight is an important factor to consider. The size of your tent can take up a lot of space in your pack and can be heavy as well. The weight of the tent will vary based on its size, features, and overall space capacity. It is optimal to try and reduce the tent weight as much as possible. If you are backpacking by yourself try and aim for 2-3 lbs. larger tents can range in weight from 3-6 lbs. If you are sharing a tent, it is optimal to have a shared weight of 2 lbs. per person.
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The cost of the tent will vary based on the variables mentioned throughout this article. Additionally, the brand and features of the tent will have a big impact. Do not assume that a more expensive tent will be better than a less expensive tent. Although. Pricier tents are usually made with better materials that are not as heavy.
There are many variables to evaluate when choosing a tent and oftentimes you can have a different tent depending on the season or the amount of people that you are backpacking with. When choosing the best tent, pick the tent that fits your needs and that one that you are comfortable sleeping in.
With all these features and criteria taken into account, additionally our personal experience. We believe the MSR Hubba Bubba or the Elixir models are perfect matches the criteria. Performing well among hikers, backpackers and receiving numerous positive reviews. Equally the Big Agnes Fly Creek models are not to be sniffed at, equaling in quality at competitive price to boot.
We hope this helped in choosing a tent for your next trip on the trail, or to give you some bearing for your first adventure.
See you again next time,