How on earth do you pick the best backpacking tent?
I’ve been backpacking around the world for nine years now and I’ve camped out in over fifty countries on my travels. Camping might not be for everybody; pitching and living in a tent can be a pain in the ass especially after a long hike or a hectic day on the road. But… Having a tent with you allows you to sleep in truly stunning untouched wildernesses and when you zip open your tent in the morning and are rewarded with gorgeous views, it’s worth it.
Why get yourself a backpacking tent?
There are so many epic ways to travel, but the moment you equip yourself to get off the beaten track and set off trekking into the wild unknown, you have nailed it. Having a camping tent with you opens up a whole new world of possibilities – you can save a ton of money by camping and if you’re hitchhiking you really MUST have a tent as there is no way of knowing where you’ll end up sleeping!
If you are on a long-term budget adventure, having a tent really is a necessity as it will save you so much cash and gives you so many more options. A travel tent not only saves you money in the long run, but frees you up to stay in a place you otherwise could never have stayed in. Some of my most memorable travel experiences were only possible because I was camping…
There are literally thousands of camping tents available on the market but most of them are far from ideal for backpackers. Cheap pop-up tents are great for festivals but they are bulky and won’t last the wear and tear of regular use – you need something tough. I’ve owned a few backpacking tents in my time and I can tell you right now, before you even read the rest of this article, that the best value backpacking tent is the Vango Banshee.
This is not the only good option out there though and if you can afford to spend a little more there are some next-level backpacking tents out there… I have listed in this article, the BEST backpacking tents you can hope to buy in 2017.
How to pick the best backpacking tent for you?
Depending on how you travel, different backpacking tents have different pros and cons. Personally, I opt to go for something light and compact as I quickly get sick of carrying a heavy tent around. When choosing the best backpacking tent for yourself, here’s what you should consider…
- Size when packed
- Size when open
- Pitching time
- Durability and strength
Here is a list of kickass backpacking tents that will make your adventure-ing much simpler!
MSR Hubba Hubba -$400
Wow! $400…. shit. Never fear amigo, there are some cheaper options on here but I had to start with the MSR Hubba as this is hand’s down the best backpacking tent that money can buy. It’s super lightweight, designed for stormy conditions and is one of the most waterproof backpacking tents around. It’s great for two people and is really quite spacious for a two person tent; it is shaped to allow you to sit up throughout most of the tent. I’ve had both the two person and the three person MSRs and loved them both dearly. The two person is one of the best couples backpacking tents – there’s room to roll around.
MSR is one of the most respected brands in the backpacking tent and gear industry and they have seriously decent customer support – when you buy an MSR tent it comes with a lifetime warranty so you can see it as an investment, it’ll be the last tent you ever have to buy! MSR Hubba comes in three sizes; one person, two person and three person. If you are travelling solo, and aren’t bothered about not having much space, check out the MSR Hubba NX – this is one of the the best solo backpacking tent’s on the market.
Best for: Best ultralight backpacking tent, great storm protection and use of space.
Key Features: 2 doors, small outdoor space, 3 season.
Weight: 1.6 kg
Size: 1, 2 or 3 berth. Compresses for medium is 46cm x15cm
Pitching time: 6 minutes
Pros: Ultra light, outstanding weight to space ratios, leading in material technology, lifetime warranty
Cons: Expensive, but then the lifetime warranty makes it worth it!
Vango Banshee – $120
Without a doubt, the best budget backpacking tent is the Vango Banshee. I used a Vango Banshee for years before eventually upgrading to the MSR Hubba Hubba and I’ll tell you this – I loved my Vango. Vango makes some quality shit and the Vango Banshee is the best cheap backpacking tent I’ve ever come across. The good news is; this isn’t like most cheap tents. The Banshee is a little heavy and a bit on the small size for a two man tent but it’s compact, tough and seriously durable. For the money you save, the compromises are minimal, this really is the best value backpacking tent you’re going to get! If you are new to backpacking and don’t want to spend loads on a tent straight away, this is a solid tent for beginners.
Best for: Best backpacking tent on a budget
Key Features: 2 doors, small outdoor space, good water proofing and fire retardant.
Size: 2 berth, compresses to medium (44cm to 14cm)
Pitching time: 7 minutes
Pros: Best backpacking tent for the money, strong and durable.
Cons: Small for a two man.
Lunar Duo Explorer – $310
The Lunar Duo Explorer is one of best backpacking ultralight tents on the market and weighs in at an impressive 1.19kgs. For the weight, it is impressively spacious. It’s a great tent for couples, but you could use it as a very spacious one man tent for backpacking and enjoy a bit of extra space without extra weight. Another nice feature is that on a clear night you can roll the doors quite far back and enjoy the night sky. Do note that it suffers from condensation issues which is the main downside of single skin tents – personally, I try and steer away from single skin tents.
Best for: Best backpacking ultralight tents available. Hardly adds anything to the weight of your backpack.
Key Feature: 2 entrances, 3 seasons
Weight: 1.19 kgs.
Size: 2 person, pack size: 37.5 x 15cm
Pitch Time: 5 minutes
Pros: Ultralight, spacious and easy to set up.
Cons: It can get quite damp and It really does feel like a con to not include stakes, but at least you can pick these up easily and make sure you get the best tent stakes for backpacking – hint: their metal, not plastic.
Rei Quarter Dome 3 – $300
Rei is one of my favourite outdoor brands and they make good tents – The quarter Dome 3 is one the best brandname backpacking tents. The Quarter Dome is ultralight, and sexy looking. It’s the attention to detail such as the reflective stake loops that put this tent into its own class, it really is one of the best large backpacking tents out there, but you do have to ask you do you need something this big? I wanted to feature one of the best three person backpacking tents on the market for those that may need more space, but really only get this if you have a good reason to go for a 3 man tent.
Best for: Best lightweight 3 person tent for backpacking and it looks cool.
Key Features: 2 entrances, 3 seasons
Weight: 2.07 kg
Size: 3 person, 47cm by 19cm
Pitch Time: 8 minutes
Pros: Ultralight and spacious to sit up in, it is definitely one of best freestanding backpacking tents
Cons: As beautiful as it is white is not an ideal colour and it is bigger than the average backpacker needs.
Nemo Hornet 2P – $409
Nemo Hornet is one of the best backpacking tents on the market; not only is it ultralight, leading in material technology and design for quick set up, but it is acclaimed as one of the best waterproof backpacking tents available. However, there have been reports of the external section not being optimised for protection of your stuff against the elements and some have even said that the materials are so thin, woodland ground has pierced the base. These two things make it very hard to justify a high price tag, but do note that these could be quite isolated issues. I have not tried this tent.
Best for: Lightest backpacking tent by far
Key Features: 2 entrances, 3 season
Weight: 1 kg
Size: 2 person, 48 cm by 12cm
Pitch time: 4 to 5 minutes
Pros: Ultralight and well designed for quick set
Cons: Mixed reviews on the waterproofing design and strength of materials.
Scorpion 2 – $270
The Scorpion 2 is worth considering if you are off on a proper expedition. It is designed with pitching for more than a day at time in mind, so it is one of the taller tents on the market which can be very handy if you are stuck in it a little longer due to bad weather. It is also one of the best 4 season tents available and can handle some serious weather – it is supposedly one of the best waterproof tents around but again, I haven’t tried this tent.
Best for: Space and varying weather conditions. One of the best backpacking tents for travellers who plan to do a lot of camping.
Key Features: 2 person, 4 season
Size: 2 person, but can sit 6 in a survival situation.
Pitch Time: 6 minutes
Pros: Spacious and one of the few 4 season tents the would work well for backpacking in this price range.
Cons: It is a little heavy.
If you just don’t want to take a tent, at least take a hammock! Camping hammocks are compact, light and give you a ton of freedom. If you’re travelling solo then I would suggest getting a hammock rather than a tent (depending on where you are travelling) or even getting both as a hammock opens up a whole new world of outdoor sleeping… Check out The 10 Best Camping Hammocks.
Comparison table to help you find the best backpacking tent
|Product||Price||Key features||Weight||Size||Pitching time|
|MSR Hubba NX||$400||2 doors, small outdoor space, 3 season.||1.6 kg||1, 2 or 3 berth. Compresses for medium is 46cm x15cm||6 minutes|
|Vango Banshee||$120||2 doors, small outdoor space, good water proofing and fire retardant.||2.35kg||2 berth, compresses to medium (44cm to 14cm)||7 minutes|
|Lunar Duo Explorer||$310||2 entrances, 3 seasons||1.19 kgs||2 person, pack size: 37.5 x 15cm||5 minutes|
|Rei Quarter Dome 3||$300||2 entrances, 3 seasons||2.07 kg||3 person, 47cm by 19cm||8 minutes|
|Nemo Hornet 2P||$409||2 entrances, 3 season||1 kg||2 person, 48 cm by 12cm||4 to 5 minutes|
|Scorpion 2||$270||2 person, 4 season||2.6kg||2 person, but can sit 6 in a survival situation||6 minutes|
So what’s the best ever backpacking tent?
Everyone has different needs and budgets when backpacking, so I’ve done my best to break down all the information you really need. If I had to pick one overall epic tent for backpacking I would say go for the MSR Hubba Hubba. But, this is The Broke Backpacker, and I get that this tent is expensive – the best budget tent on the market is hand’s down the Vango banshee and this is what I travelled with for years.
If you are off camping, take a headtorch – it will be endlessly useful.
Hitting the road and unsure what you’ll need – check out the backpacking packing list.
Happy camping amigos!
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Last updated: 20th May, 2017