Best Backpacking Tents – A Compact Tool For Safer Journey

Last Updated on

Out of all the gear you generally bring along on a backpacking trip, the tent is considered to be among the most important.

Backpacking tents provide a transportable way to bring a sort of mini-shelter with you during your trip, which gives you a temporary home to rest in when you aren’t on your feet.

Backpacking tents are no ordinary tents, however. While standard tents are often large, bulky, and heavy, best backpacking tents are specifically designed to compact down to incredibly small sizes — sometimes as small as the palm of your hand.

This not only saves you space but valuable weight as well. These tents are no-frills in nature, offering only some covered space, and room for one to three people.

You certainly have your options when it comes to picking out a backpacking tent to call your own.

Knowing the key factors to look for can steer you to the right path for choosing the best backpacking tent that is right for your own unique needs and preferences.

Snugpak 1 Person Dome Tent

Snugpak 1 Person Dome Tent Review

The Ionosphere is the perfect tent aimed for lightweight campers and hikers who are ready to compromise on internal space.

The tent is designed especially for outdoor professionals and military personnel who are in need of robust emergency shelters.

The 3-season tent is not designed for winter conditions. While the tent is of a bivy type, it offers sufficient room and a lot of space that can be used productively.

Single person tents are a great option if you are going on outdoor adventures on your own.

Features

  • Side-Type Entrance – The tent features a single side-type entrance. The fly zipper provides extra protection as it is covered by a wide flap that also features Velcro to fix the flap in case it is too windy outside.
  • Made from Inner and Outer Layer – The Snugpak Ionosphere is a proper tent that features an inner and outer layer. The tent features an inner no-see-um mosquito that is fully stitched into the waterproof groundsheet tray and is soft to touch. The design of the mesh covering is such that it maximizes ventilation.
  • Two Small Pockets – The Snugpak Ionosphere features two small pockets on either side of the tent at the waist level. The small pockets come in handy for storing small accessories, such as glasses and watches.
  • Includes a Repair Kit – The tent comes with a handy repair kit that makes it possible for campers to make repairs on the move without making stops on their trip.

Pros

  • Good Ventilation – Despite not having any vents in the fly, the tent offers plenty of airflows and a sufficient amount of ventilation. However, keep in mind the Snugpak Ionosphere 1-Person Tent is not suitable for winters and must be used as a 3-season tent only.
  • Easy Setup – The Snugpak Ionosphere 1-Person Tent offers easy setup and provides customers great value for their money.

Con

  • Not Freestanding – One of the downsides of the Snugpak Ionosphere 1-Person Tent is it is not freestanding. This means campers need to anchor the tent on the ground if they want to pitch. This may become quite problematic when setting up the tent on gravel or on rocky terrains, especially if you are new to hiking.

The Snugpak Ionosphere is a great low profile tent and is suitable for hikers and for backpackers.

The overall weight ratio of the tent is excellent and it is priced reasonably.

However, keep in mind that it is not a freestanding tent, hence this might limit your ability to pitch the tent everywhere.

Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent

Coleman Sundome Tent Review

Whether you’re car camping or backpacking for a few nights in the wilderness, a quality tent can make life a lot easier, especially if conditions aren’t ideal.

Adequate ventilation, protection from wind and rain, and a few strategic features are a few of the main factors that go into ensuring that a tent is worthy of use.

Coleman has long been a trusted name in manufacturing high-level, dependable outdoor gear, and this Sundome tent is a shining example as to why that is.

It has many of the qualities and features you look for in a versatile, multi-use tent — and even has room for a companion.

Features

The Sundome isn’t flashy, but it certainly provides users with some helpful benefits that can help ensure a great outdoor experience regardless of climate and weather conditions.

High Resistance to Rain – Coleman makes it a point to put all of their tents through a rigorous rain test, dumping over 35 gallons of water for 10 minutes, and checking for any moisture afterward. If there is more than 3 tablespoon of water measured inside, the tent fails the test.

The Sundome has been put through this test, so you know it can hold up. The tent’s polyethylene floors are shaped bathtub-style, meaning the sidewalls curve up. Welded seams are used for a better seal as well. This is not only helpful during a rainstorm, but it also helps resist groundwater as well.

Extra Ventilation – Ventilation in a tent is not only just for keeping it cooler in the warmer months but for preventing condensation as well. The Sundome makes great use of ventilation on several parts of the tent, including the ceiling. This helps keep you both comfortable and dry.

An included rainfly can be placed over the dome of the tent, while still allowing enough space in between the roof and rainfly for air circulation.

Unique Advantages

  • Fast Setup – Like all Coleman tents, the Sundome can set up in as little as 5-10 minutes thanks to its strategic design. The instructions are printed on the tent’s bag just in case you need them on the go.
  • 2 Windows – The Sundome has two large windows, which includes a hooded rear window. This not only creates better air circulation, but it can also give you some great views at night when the weather is cooperative.
  • Electrical Access Port – Coleman included a zip-up electrical access port in the tent’s body for those that prefer to bring along some gadgets or recharge their phones and computers when power is available. Simply unzip and run your extension cord inside.

Potential Disadvantages

  • Weight – Coming in at around 7 lbs, the Sundome isn’t heavy by car camping standards, but backpackers might be turned off by the extra weight it presents in their packs.
  • Fragile Tent Pole Cords – There have been a few complaints of the cords inside the tent poles failing after long term storage, especially in below-freezing conditions. While this can be annoying in the moment, the poles are still usable. You may want to invest in some backup poles, or a repair kit just in case.

Verdict

The Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent is a very quality tent option, especially for around $50.

You have plenty of room inside, lots of ventilation, and the assurance that comes from knowing your tent can withstand both rain and high winds. It’s spacious, provides some excellent views when inside, and sets up in a flash.

Although it may be on the heavy side in regards to backpacking use, it is still an acceptable option. Car campers won’t have any complaints with the Sundome however and would be wise to put it at the top of their list.

ALPS Mountaineering 1-Person Tent

ALPS Mountaineering 1-Person Tent Review

Backpacking tents are almost always more demanding than a conventional tent. This is for several reasons, ranging from a need for a lighter tent to the need to provide increased resistance to the elements.

More often than not, a backpacking tent is made for one occupant, helping you save on space and weight in your pack.

These tents tend to be no-frills in their nature, providing you with the bare minimum of some form of a roof over your head.

The characteristics many look for in a backpacking tent are quite simple: easy to set up, lightweight, waterproof, and able to compact to a small size.

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-person tent largely succeeds on all accounts, with just a few minor missteps.

While the low price tag might be enough to draw you in, the level of performance this tent provides will be enough to seal the deal.

Features

The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1 Person Tent doesn’t mess around, placing an emphasis on all the factors that actually matter when you’re out in the wild.

  • Free-Standing, Two-Pole Setup – This tent is about as simple as they come, with a quick and easy setup that comes from using just two intersecting aluminum poles. The result is a free-standing polyester tent with plenty of headroom for the average-sized person, with plenty of sturdiness as well.
  • Weatherproof Rainfly – The tent includes a durable, heavy-duty rainfly that has some added adjustability, giving you the option to position it according to wind gusts. That’s pretty helpful in bad conditions and can also help keep the tent warmer. The fly extends nearly all the way to the ground for optimal coverage.
  • Sealed Seams – Weatherproofing is a big theme with this tent, and that theme is driven home, even more, thanks to the sealed seams inside the tent. This locks out water and moisture and compliments the poly-taffeta floor rather nicely. Don’t expect to be anything but dry with this tent.

Unique Advantages

  • Large Vestibules – Many backpacking tents tend to forgo the idea of actually being able to store some of your favorite items inside. This tent features large vestibules that can hold a good amount of your gear while staying inside, helping to avoid leaving some gear out in the open after unpacking for the night.
  • Half Mesh Walls – Ventilation is always a good thing for many tents unless you are using an actual mountaineering tent (which this one is clearly not, despite the name.) This tent has half-mesh walls all around, which can work in conjunction with the rainfly to keep you dry while letting the tent breathe.

Potential Disadvantages

  • A Bit on The Heavy Side – The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1 Person Tent weighs in at around 4 lbs, which is almost double what many light and ultralight backpacking tents weigh. This in spite of the fact that it’s just a one-person tent. That’s a bit puzzling.
  • Crammed With Vestibule Deployed – The vestibule can be a very convenient feature, but don’t expect to have a lot of room in the tent once it’s deployed. Unpacking inside may drive you a little crazy at first, but there are ways around it.

Verdict

The overall size makes it easy to pitch in rugged areas with little room, and the weatherproofing aspects will certainly come in handy.

Sure, it’s a little cramped and heavy, but the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-person tent has too much going for it for that to be a deal-breaker in any way.

If you’re on a budget but need a quality one-person tent, give this one a long look.

Four Main Factors for Choosing a Backpacking Tent

The main criteria in choosing your tent can be narrowed down to four key factors:

1. Capacity

How many sleepers do you plan on accommodating?

Carrying fewer tents in your group can free up pack space, but that means that your tent will need to be big enough for 2-3 people.

Otherwise, you’ll only need enough space for yourself, resulting in an even smaller and lighter tent.

Regardless of capacity, your tent is still likely to fit snugly, and the ceiling will be low no matter what. This saves space and weight.

2. Seasonality

The tent’s construction and materials in relation to anticipated climate and weather. You may be able to get by during colder outings with a general use tent, but if you’re going to be backpacking in snow, you’ll need a tent specifically made for winter conditions.

On the other hand, if it’s hot where your backpacking trip is taking place, a thinner, more breathable tent is needed. You get the idea.

Seasonality can generally be broken down into three categories.

3-Season

lightweight three season tent

Perhaps the most popular of the three, 3-season tents are lightweight, and suitable for more temperate climates during spring, summer, and fall.

Although not designed for severe weather, 3-season tents can withstand light snow and downpours when used with a rainfly.

Other characteristics of 3-season tents include mesh for airflow and insect protection, higher walls for more headroom, and a smaller amount of poles.

Extended Season

3 to 4-season tent set up

Also known as 3-4 or 3+ season tents, these tents are perfectly fine for summer use, but can also be used in cooler locations that may have snow or higher wind chills at night.

These tents give you a similar look and feel that 3-season tents offer, but with a lower amount of mesh, and slightly thicker material for heat retention when needed.

4-Season (Mountaineering)

four season tent on snow

These tents are made from thicker material and can withstand both high winds and fierce snows.

This does result in a substantial lack of ventilation, so using them in warmer climates can be fairly uncomfortable and stuffy. They are used almost exclusively as winter backpacking tents.

Some other main characteristics of 4-season tents include more tent poles, rounded domes to withstand snow accumulation, and rain flys that extend all the way to the ground.

3. Weight

The overall weight of the tent. Higher quality tents will be incredibly light, without sacrificing durability, sturdiness, and features.

4. Livability

Do you prefer your tent to be a little plusher?

Perhaps you’d like some extra features?

Livability refers to the ratio of comfort and added features that make your tent either a basic shelter or a comfortable and relaxing space that you don’t mind spending some extra time in, while also offering come added versatility.

Here are some of the common features that affect a tent’s livability.

Interior Volume: This refers to the overall space inside. If the roominess of your tent isn’t that important to you, look for tents that have sloped walls, a small floor area, and low peak height. The smaller size will save weight in your backpack.

Rainfly Color: This may seem a little silly, but the rainfly color matters. Lighter colors will transmit more light inside, making the tent appear more spacious and creating a more pleasant environment. That is a welcome feature if you get stuck in the tent during bad weather.

Doors: The more doors, the easier access you have in and out. This is especially helpful if multiple people are sleeping in a tent.

Vestibules: Rainfly extensions can give you sheltered storage for your gear.

Ventilation: Stuffy tents are very uncomfortable, regardless of the climate. Tents with easy access ventilation give you the ability to create circulation. Lighter tents that include lots of mesh provide more natural ventilation.

Variations of Backpacking Tents

Innovation and improved materials have yielded some specialized versions of backpacking tents that offer alternatives and their own unique advantages.

Ultralight Backpacking Tent

light tent

Ultralight backpacking is a backpacking type that places an emphasis on breaking a minimal amount of gear that also weighs the least amount possible.

This enables the backpacker to travel faster while using less energy due to a lighter load.

Tents made for ultralight backpacking are often very small, contain no extra doors or compartments, and are almost always a 1 person backpacking tent, although there is some 2 person backpacking tents available.

Hammock Tent

hammock tent

Backpacking hammock tents are rapidly increasing in popularity. These tents are more hammock than a tent, but they can still be used as a sort of shelter and bed all at once.

Backpacking hammock tents give you a lighter option that also gives you versatility when ground conditions aren’t ideal. These hammocks allow you to sleep off of the ground, sparing you from damp, rocky, or uneven ground.

Some hammock tents include mosquito nets, poles that can pop out and provide a dome over you, and added compartment. Tarps can be set up over them to give you added shelter.