We’re bringing together the best tents we’ve reviewed to give you one absolute list for 2021 so that your next could very well be your last. To capture most of the consumer market, the top five tents we’ve included reflect a wide variety of applications. From family camping excursions to Everest overnights, we’ve got you covered no matter how frightful the weather might be when camping.
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Durability, capacity, and livability were the leading specifications used for comparison and review. Fabric, stitching, coatings, and hardware integration were assessed to define an initial durability rating which was then contrasted against comparable tents in the same class – significant variances between materials and methods of construction were scrutinized in a dead-focused effort to eliminate products with crap components, or sub-par craftsmanship. A variety of sizes are reflected to account for party capacity needs, and as far as general livability goes, we found that fourteen-and-a-half square feet per person was the sweet spot. Head space varies based on tent size, but generally a two to three-person tent should have about thirty-nine inches of vertical clearance, while larger family tents should allow for around five to six feet.
So what are the best tents this year? Our #1 Pick as Editor’s Choice for the best rated tents of 2019 is the Nemo Equipment Losi ($390). It’s lightweight (only 4 lbs 4 oz), has thirty-three square feet of floor space, forty-five inches of interior clearance, and is constructed from silicone-coated ripstop nylon to provide a decent amount of durability without compromising weight. The Losi also made our top spot since we believe its general-purpose appeals to a wider segment of consumers than more specialized tents on this list.
Award: Editor’s Choice for Best Camping Tents 2020
Price: $390 | Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz. | Type: 3-Season Backpacker | Occupancy: 2 Person | Read Full Review: Nemo Equipment Losi Tent
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Superb quality, wide appeal, and low cost of ownership.
Perfect for overnights in the brush, Nemo’s Equipment Losi is an excellent choice that offers a wide appeal to most campers due to its versatility in use. It’s lightweight, durable by comparison to other tents in its class, and has some unique features that show the attention to detail Nemo went through in designing this tent.
Thirty-two square feet of floor space makes it a comfortable two-person sleeper, and forty-six inches of head clearance should allow for most to comfortably sit up without brushing against the tent’s roof. Two doors and a mesh upper body facilitate ventilation and reduction of vapor condensation.
Nemo claims that the Losi “has more [livable] space and superior strength to any other freestanding backpacking tent on the market” due to the company’s pole design and tent architecture, and while we haven’t been able to personally verify that claim, it wouldn’t surprise us.
Let’s talk details. Feet corner anchors help solo backpackers set up the Losi with ease, a small pocket with light-diffusing fabric at the apex of the tent is designed to hold a headlamp for nighttime illumination, and the included stuff sack is well-made and adds a nice final touch to the overall retail product.
Note: As in our Best Camping Tent reviews 2019, we suggest purchasing the footprint and gear loft to make one of our best rated tents truly versatile on the trail.
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Award: Best Backpacking Tent
Price: $250 | Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz. | Type: 3-Season Backpacker | Occupancy: 2 Person | Read Full Review: Kelty TN2 Tent
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Award-winning, lightweight, and cost of ownership.
Our top pick as the best backpacking tent, the Kelty TN2 offers excellent protection and comfort for an awesome price. Kelty has received numerous design awards for this one, and it’s obvious why when you compare it others on the market.
Its compactness and weight make it a breeze to travel with, unpack, breakdown, and repack. Interior floor space is measured at a little less than twenty-seven square feet, vertical clearance is forty-two inches, and the TN2 makes excellent use of its vestibule’s usable area which comes in just above twenty square feet.
The roll-up fly offers stargazers a brilliant view while still providing protection with the no-see-um mesh, and the unit’s unique windows on the vestibules come in handy for peeking out during inclement weather.
Award: Best Family Tent
Price: $700 | Weight: 19 lbs. 14 oz. | Type: 4-Season Base Camp/Family | Occupancy: 8 Person | Read Full Review: Big Agnes Flying Diamond 8
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: It’s a 4-Season monster, what’s not “top pick” about it?
Named after the Flying Diamond Ranch in Routt County, Colorado, the Diamond 8 is an exceptional family tent that does well as a family, car camper, or base camp tent. This isn’t your average family tent either, it’s a 4-season beast rated for the likes of Everest.
A whopping 112 square feet of floor space can be used as one single room, or divided into two separate areas with an included partition wall. Head height in the main room is a comfortable six feet, and even still impressive four-and-a-half feet in the back room.
All the hardware is color-coded making setup a little less of a nightmare, and Big Agnes included reflective elements on the guy line so that accidental self-clotheslining is less of a hazard. One large access door on the front, and a smaller panel off the back work well for ingress and airing out. Mesh pockets line the interior, and the manufacturer sells separate gear lofts for additional storage space.
Award: Best 4-Season Tent
Price: $1,100 | Weight: 8 lbs. 6 oz. | Type: 4-Season | Occupancy: 2 Person | Read Full Review: Hilleberg Tarra Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK:The ultimate 4-Season, versatility, and cost to value.
Diehard trekker with an eye for a great four-season, eh? The Hilleberg Tarra hits the mark when it comes to durability, livability, and cost to own. It’s spacious for its size, and isn’t only good for those January trips to Mount Washington.
Floor area is thirty square feet which leaves a little bit to be desired, but if you’re camping out in -20°F we doubt you’re going to complain about being too close to your camping companion. We really recommend using this as a comfy one-person in heavy snow. Changing clothes in the tent, organizing layers and pack gear, and just stretching out all work out well in the Tarra as a solo tent. Height at the apex is forty-one inches.
Multiple 10mm pole intersections coupled with the structure’s dome design helps to keep this four-season standing strong in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. Think base camping, polar expeditions, and mountaineering. Outer walls extend down to the ground, mesh areas include backing that’s adjustable for insulation, and an apex vent helps keep things well-ventilated when cooking inside. Plus here’s something your grandma’s tent can’t do: the outer and inner shells can be pitched separate from one another…giving you two tents in one.
Award: Best Ultralight Tent
Price: $390 | Weight: 1 lbs. 15 oz. | Type: 3-Season | Occupancy: 2 Person | Read Full Review: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK:It’s the lightest tent we’ve reviewed that meets our minimum performance standards.
An ultra-lightweight backing tent for the hiker that counts every ounce, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is the perfect addition to an arsenal of gear that will surely lighten the load the next time you hit the trail.
It offers a respectable twenty-eight square feet of floor area, forty inches of head room, and its packed weight comes in at just 1 lb 15 oz. Seams are taped with waterproofed (which isn’t common among ultralights) polyurethane tape to provide maximum protection in wet conditions.
Features include webbing and guy lines with a reflective element for easy setup in low-light situations, integrated media pockets allow for easy pass-through of headphone cords from smartphones and media players, three interior mesh pockets, and gear loft loops.
Note: We recommend purchasing the triangle gear loft and footprint to maximize versatility and protection.
It’s difficult to rank tents without grouping them into individual classes, so we’ve put together a list of the highest rated tents from each segment we’ve reviewed. This collection includes the best tents for lightweight backpacking, casual camping, and family tents for sleeping the whole crew. They’re the very best in each of their respective categories based on the data that we’ve analyzed. If you need a tent you can easily transport, compare this to one of the best rooftop tents to find what’s best for you.
A major portion of our research was focused on materials used in manufacturing processes. For us to measure durability concisely we needed to rank build quality in relation to something easily quantifiable, and tent material seemed like an obvious choice. Canvas, polycotton, polyester, and nylon all have advantages and disadvantages to consider. Coatings like acrylic, polyurethane, and silicone were also considered as well as fiber weave (such as rip-stop), and fiber weight (denier).
Weight is another important factor we considered. Backpacking tents for our reviews had to have a packed weight no greater than 5 lbs. Larger tents for family outings, or expedition base camps weren’t rated based on weight as much since these aren’t typically hauled in by 1 person.
Comfort was measured based on a combination of the ratio of floor area to capacity, head height, accessibility features, and ventilation.
Materials are constantly becoming more specialized year in and year out, lending themselves better to specific circumstances that backpackers and extreme hikers encounter during their outdoor excursions. Manufacturers want products that their customers rave about, so incorporating design changes that resolve common complaints in the industry is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction. If you’re buying for the first time, or upgrading, these are some of the things you should consider.
Also, look for brands that actively engage with customers online. Check the manufacturer’s website, and check out how involved they are on social media – are customers generally happy with the customer service they’re getting? Are flaws and defects quickly met with product replacements, or repairs? All of the manufacturers listed in our list below have excellent customer service departments that will happily answer questions.
Don’t settle. Purchasing a new tent is an investment that should pay for itself pretty quickly – even if you’re only using it on those Boy Scout outings. Avoid slick marketing copy that offers little to no explanation of what’s being described – “ultramega enviro flap” doesn’t mean a thing to you, or me, if it isn’t clearly defined and quantified. Tons of customer reviews are available online, so as a first step we recommend reading through buyer reviews to get an idea of performance, quality, and overall satisfaction.
So, you’ve decided on the perfect tent for the job. Two weeks from now you’re headed to Vermont to see if you can hack it on top of Mt. Washington. Okay great, but are you sure the tent you’ve picked is the best one? Head on over to our Best Backpacking Tent and Best Camping Tent reviews to make sure you’ve thoroughly looked through all of the best options.
Our top pick, the Nemo Equipment Losi should more than satisfy most hikers and backpackers – although it’s not going to do you much good on Mt. Washington (seriously, don’t do that).
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