So, what is the best backpacking tent of 2019? Gadget Review’s #1 Pick/Editor’s Choice for the best rated backpacking tent of 2016 is the Kelty TN2. Awarded Backpackers Magazine’s Editors’ Choice for 2014 and Outside Gear’s Gear of the Year Award in 2016, the TN2 is lightweight, features a fully seamtaped and waterproofed fly (that’s nearly twice the denier of other backpacking tents we measured against), freestanding, easy setup, forty-two inches of head height (more than any other in this class), and comes in at $250 making it the most affordable tent on our list.
So, how did we conclude what is best backpacking tent? Well, to answer that question we first determined the qualities that define a backpacking tent, and then set performance minimums. Here’s what we came up with: The best backpacking tents have a (A) trail weight of less than four and a half pounds, (B) a minimum floor area per person of at least thirteen and a half square feet, (C) a minimum head height of at least thirty-eight inches, and (D) are manufactured with a high-grade, synthetic fabric featuring a respectful denier count in relation to overall weight and anticipated use. Other features considered include component construction, ventilation, usability design, accessibility, cost, and overall consumer ratings.
Best Backpacking Tent
Kelty TN2 MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Hilleberg Anjan 2
Nemo Hornet 2P Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
Rank #1 - Editor's Choice for Best Backpacking Tent #2 - Second Best Backpacking Tent #3 - Best 2-Person Backpacking Tent #4 - Best Lightweight Backpacking Tent #5 - Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Amazon Rating N/A
3-Season Usability Superb Superb Excellent Excellent Excellent
Occupancy 2 2 2 2 2
Weight 4 lbs 4 oz 3 lbs 7 oz 3 lbs 13 oz 2 lbs 1 lbs 15 oz
Price $250 $400 $645 $370 $390
Buy Now Buy Now Buy Now Buy Now Buy Now
How We Choose
We excluded four-season tents from our list since the majority of backpackers aren’t going to have a need for ruggedized, winter hardware – if you need some protection from light snowfall, all of these tents will do the job (just don’t go trekking off to Mount Kilimanjaro with them).
Trail weight was considered the most important factor for initially determining backpacking tents to include in our review. Five pounds being the average weight from our initial list of fifteen, we eliminated tents exceeding four-and-a-half pounds to pull out those on the fringes of the industry average.
Floor area and head height were evaluated next so as to ensure a minimum comfort level for campers. We found that most two-person, three-season backpacking tents offered an average of twenty-eight square feet of floor space and forty inches of height at their peaks. Based on these numbers, we excluded tents with a floor area of less than thirteen-and-a-half square feet per person, and a head height of less than thirty-nine inches.
Critical to our study, the manufacturers’ fabric selection and denier count were carefully compared and weighted based on trail weight and recommended use. It’s important to understand that there’s a fine line manufacturers have to walk in order to develop a tent that’s both lightweight and durable. Too fine of a thread count and durability quickly withers away, too much and weight becomes a concern. Through our comparison, we found that the average fabric employed was a standard ripstop nylon, often silicone-coated for durability and weatherproofing purposes, and the typical roof and fly denier count was twenty (20D). This combination seems to lend itself well to developing a lightweight tent that can take a beating and maintain consumer satisfaction.
Lastly, overall design, inclusive of accessibility and setup difficulty, were inspected to ensure that most consumer expectations had been addressed. These included taped and waterproofed seams, reflective elements for low-light use, mesh selection, ventilation for comfort and condensation prevention, and hardware design.
Why You Should Buy a New Backpacking Tent
Design matters! Every single product on the planet has had a predecessor, it’s what moves innovation forward. Reliability, usability, weight, and even visual appeal all improve as tent makers continue to meet consumer demands and stay competitive with exceptional products.
One reason to make the switch is just that, trading in an older tent might mean reducing your pack weight, getting something that’s a little more durable so you’re not constantly patching holes from the “road,” or finding the right balance between breathability and staying warm on cooler nights. Whatever your reason, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a backpacking tent on our list that doesn’t do the job at least a little bit better than your tent that’s sitting in the garage.
Read: Best All Mountain Skis
If you’re just getting into backpacking, you probably already know how important weight can be when your hiking miles at a time. It used to be recommended that 25% of your body weight was an acceptable number to shoot for on extended trips, but just like everything else, that’s considered an outdated figure. Nowadays, most regular hikers try to shoot for between 14 and 20%. Pack weight though is a relative number. A body builder will likely be more comfortable carrying more than an average gal from the city. Try different weights before hitting the trail to find out what’s just right for you.
Now, on with the show I say! Here are our Best Backpacking Tents of 2019.
#1 Pick Kelty TN2
Price: $250 | Weight: 4 lbs 4 oz | Floor Area: 27.5 sq ft | Height: 42 inches
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Weight, great features, awesome price point.
An award-winning, lightweight, backpacking tent, the Kelty TN2 sets the standard that other tent manufacturers need to follow. While it’s closer to the five pounds than we would like, it makes up for its average weight in this segment in just about every other feature the tent proudly demonstrates. It’s very compact making it less cumbersome than others for stowing, unique clips (Kelty calls them “hug-clips”) are simple to use and show a fair amount of ergonomic design was involved, the roll-up fly is a fantastic feature for stargazing, and windows on the vestibules allow campers a view while tucked safely away in their shelter.
Coming in at a trail weight of 4 lbs 4 oz, the TN2 offers 27.5 square feet of floor space, and 42 inches of head height for that big noggin. The unit’s fly is constructed from 40D count Sil Nylon and the floor is composed of 70D Nylon which is more durable than most others we reviewed. One more thing, the TN2 is the most affordable tent on this list – a happy coincidence – coming in at $250.
Note: Although we haven’t experienced this ourselves, we’ve read reports of the rainfly catching water due to a lack of pitch. We’ve also heard that the windows tend to come unglued from the fly fabric after repeated use. We’re reaching out the manufacturer to get some more information on these reports.
#2 Pick MSR Hubba Hubba NX
Price: $400 | Weight: 3 lbs 7 oz | Floor Area: 29 sq ft | Height: 39 inches
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Top consumer rating, good value, well-made.
Our second best backpacking tent, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a quality built tent that definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s the highest rated tent on Amazon out of our top five, and highlights include two “StayDry” doors with integrated gutters for rain water management, a vestibule with an optional stargazer view port, and color-coded clips for ease of setup.
Trail weight comes to 3 lbs 7 oz, and the Hubba Hubba NX has 29 square feet of livable space with a head height of 39 inches. Both the roof and fly are constructed of 20D Ripstop Nylon, which provides a decent amount of durability, but only ranks as an average metric in our study. Cost is also middle of the road, coming in at just under $400.
Note: Consumers have reported that when the guy line is attached and secured to the ground it keeps the vent open, which could lead to cold air flowing into the tent in moderate to high winds. We’re reaching out the MSR to investigate.
#3 Pick Hilleberg Anjan 2
Price: $645 | Weight: 3 lbs 13 oz | Floor Area: 30 sq ft | Height: 39 inches
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Excellent functional design, durable.
Our favorite 2-person backpacking tent, the Hilleberg Anjan 2 is lightweight and ideal for warmer, snow-free trips. If you’re like me you like going it solo now and then, and this tent makes for a great 1-person with lots of room to move around. Outer tent walls don’t extend all the way down to the ground and mesh areas lack backing fabric which the manufacturer claims to help airflow in hot environments.
It weighs 3 lbs 13 oz when packed, offers 30 square feet of floor area, and 39 inches of head room. Kerlon 1000 is the material used for construction with both the roof and fly counts at 20D – which offers decent durability. Our most expensive featured tent, the Anjan 2 will set you back $645.
Note: Lack of adequate ventilation is a concern of some shoppers. Stay tuned for an independent review of the Anjan 2 for more information.
#4 Pick Nemo Hornet 2P
Price: $370 | Weight: 2 lbs | Floor Area: 28 sq ft | Height: 40 inches
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The best lightweight backpacking tent we could find.
Single pole, semi-freestanding, super lightweight, and proper seam taping make the Nemo Hornet 2P the best lightweight backpacking tent we’ve found. It’s also one of the only freestanding backpacking tents with two doors and two vestibules which still manages to pull off a decent amount of interior space.
The second lightest tent in this review, the two-person Hornet weighs only two pounds when packed, features 28 square feet of livable room, and 40 inches of head height. Ripstop Nylon is used for the canopy and fly, with the canopy weighted at 20D and the fly at 10D. As we mentioned earlier though, keep in mind that as weight goes down so does denier. There’s a compromise that has to be made when it comes to opting for lighter materials. Cost is fair for performance, expect to spend $370 to get your hands on this lightweight MVP.
Note: Some owners have complained that condensation build up on the rain fly has caused them to get wet when going in and out of the tent. We’re reaching out to Nemo for our own model to review and we’ll report back about ventilation and condensation once those tests are complete.
#5 Pick Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
Price: $390 | Weight: 1 lbs 15 oz | Floor Area: 28 sq ft | Height: 40 inches
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Ultralight, livability, and nifty features.
Whoa! Holy ultralight backpacking tent, Batman! The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is the lightest tent we’ve reviewed thus far, using a “featherlite” pole system to support the tent and materials that are fully taped to ensure maximum protection and comfort. Reflective guylines and webbing ensure visibility in low-light environments, and the manufacturer’s clip pole attachments make construction a breeze.
Packed weight comes in at just 1 lb 15 oz, and the tent sports a floor area of 28 square feet with a head room of 40 inches – an awesome combination for such an ultralight tent. As expected, the tent is composed of Ripstop Nylon with weights for the roof and fly of 15D and 10D respectively. We feel as if this is a good compromise between weight and durability, but your wallet is going to be $390 lighter if you want to go backpacking in ultralight style.
- Trail Weight: I’ve been in the Ozarks with a 55-pound pack and can tell you that hiking with more weight than you should isn’t fun – especially if you’re doing it over the course of multiple long hikes. Tent weight is crucial to ensuring your pack is as light as it can get since it usually ends up being one of the largest necessities in your arsenal.
- Material Durability: Quality materials that offer high denier counts are ideal, but you’ll need to consider use before finding a good balance. As denier rises, so does weight. A good count to shoot for is 20D for both roof and fly if you expect heavy use. With slightly heavier tents expect a higher denier for the floor to protect from tears against grade. Ripstop Nylon coated with silicone is a pretty common material for tents in this segment.
- Livability: Space, space, and more space. I don’t enjoy being shoulder to shoulder with my backpacking buddies, usually. Look for tents that offer at a minimum of fourteen-and-a-half square feet per person, coupled with a peak height of about forty inches.
- Taped/Waterproofed Seams: Usually, if a tent is manufactured by a large brand it comes with seams that have already been taped. That said, always check! Nylon and polyester fabrics normally come sealed up, but you’ll need to tape seams yourself on some ultralight backpacking tents made from Sil Nylon and Cuben. Check with the supplier first to ensure you’re ready to hit the outdoors and stay dry while you’re on the trail.
- Reflective Components: It’s the simple things in life that can really make a good situation great. Reflective components and webbing offer greater visibility in low-light or poor conditions. We feel this is a great compliment to an already great product, and takes little effort on the manufacturers part to include.
- No See-Um Mesh: Many backpackers agree that no-see-um netting hinders ventilation. We recommend that when evaluating products which implement no-see-um to also check for adequate ventilation in other areas of the tent. This should ensure a good job has been done to design a shelter that breathes well and doesn’t allow too much condensation build up over time.
- Pole Utility: If you’re an avid hiker you probably have trekking poles. A great feature offered by many lightweight and ultralight tents is the option to stow away support poles and use your trekking poles instead. If weight is critical, look for flys that support the use of trekking poles instead of a classical setup.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t get bogged down in the middle of nowhere. Too many hikers report abandoning gear in the middle of an excursion to reduce weight – and the planet already has enough junk left out of place. Leave no trace. Lightweight gear is critical to regular backpacking and you should avoid tents that are unnecessarily heavy.
Grab a footprint! You’ll most likely have to buy a footprint separately, but these will absolutely pay for themselves when you’re setting up on uneven grade with sticks and stones. Footprints usually don’t add too much more weight, and they’ll protect your tent’s belly from punctures that could wind up causing you to wake up in a puddle.
One more thing: let’s talk about rainflys. No matter what your uses are you never know when a storm might roll in, and for that reason we suggest looking for tents that have full-length flys to better protect from the elements. We’ve found that most leaks tend to come from the ground around the base of the tent, so having a fly that’ll reach all the way down is an added layer of protection from this kind of intrusion.
What Else Should You Think About?
Grabbing the best backpacking tent for your next expedition shouldn’t be the only action item on your to-do list. Make sure you’re packing the right tent for the right job, and check out our Best Camping Tent review for more awesome tents which will serve a wider variety of needs than just those looking for a lightweight alternative – lightweight and ultralight tents don’t always make the best family tents.
Our top pick, the Kelty TN2 should more than accommodate most backpackers. You truly can’t beat the performance and durability for the value. Kelty, you’ve outdone yourself.