Editor’s note on April 19, 2019: Looking ahead to the spring and summer, we took an opportunity to revisit this guide on the co-op’s best backpacking tents. Many of our top picks remain the same, however, the lightweight REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1 and the Marmot Thor 2P Tent have been added to the list.
It can be overwhelming to find the perfect backpacking tent, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether this is the first or fiftieth time you’ve trekked into the wild to set up your tent, your night out should be about rest and relaxation. That’s why we’ve rounded up our top tent picks—from single-person to family-size.
To bring you the best tents of 2019, we relied on our customers. These are among the top-rated tents in each category, rated by verified purchasers. Learn more below.
Best Single-Person Tent
Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
“I love everything about this tent: weight, set up, head space, durability, etc. A couple of days ago while in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a friend and I experienced a severe hailstorm: one inch size hail that lasted well over an hour. My tent held up like a charm without a tear or leak.” —Reno hiker
Does solo adventuring make your heart sing? Are you going fast and light but don’t want to sacrifice space? We are certainly biased, since we built this tent, but we think the Quarter Dome 1 is perfect for the job. To create the tent, REI designers combined tough yet lightweight materials with updated architecture to create a single-person shelter that is just 2 pounds, 14 ounces, easy to set up and roomy. Want to go extra light? Ditch the tent and just use the fly, poles and footprint (sold separately) to create a minimalist shelter.
Features we love:
- Pole architecture increases head and shoulder room by 49 percent over previous model
- New dual-stake vestibule is 46 percent larger than previous model
- Fly/poles/footprint pitch option lets you leave the tent at home
- Reflective stake loops and guylines minimize nighttime trips
- Color-coded pole assembly simplifies setup
Best Ultralight Tent
Weight: 2 lbs. 6 oz.
“This is a truly excellent tent. On my shakedown weekend to prep for and Appalachian Trail thru hike, this tent exceeded my expectations in a wide range of weather conditions, from a thunderstorm with hail to a 40 degree temperature range. I never got wet, stayed cool and warm, and the color coded poles and hooks made the tent quick and easy to set up. Be aware, though, this is truly a 1 man tent; as a 5’ 6” 140 pound woman, there was only enough room for me and my pack.”–sbird27
Features we love:
- Single-door and stakeout vestibule provides extra space for your gear
- Roof vent offers airflow and helps control the buildup of condensation
- Variety of pockets and hang loops make it easy to organize the interior
- Large door on rainfly vestibule makes it easy to enter and exit the tent
Best for Livability
Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz.
“I’ve been backpacking and climbing for about 55 years, and have owned perhaps 20 mountain tents. This is by far the best design I’ve ever had in a lightweight tent. The pole and fly system with color coding make for very easy setup. Keeping in mind that it is incredibly light (it is easy to make a strong, secure tent that is heavy), it does the job admirably.” —Geezerhiker
A roomy backpacking tent? That seems like an anomaly, until you meet this tent. Clocking in at just over 3 pounds, the Copper Spur HV UL 2 offers a surprising amount of room (29 square feet of floor space). We’re talking enough room to actually sit up and change your clothes while in the tent. (Or play cards for hours to escape the rain.) Hence, the HV—high volume—in the name. The two doors help keep you sane and roomy vestibules keep your stuff dry and out of the way. This is a tent for when you actually want to be comfortable in the woods.
- High-volume hub and steep wall architecture offer ample living space (without additional weight)
- Four-way hub design increases stability, strength and livable space
- Roomy ceiling pocket offers great storage space
- All seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape, without PVC or VOCs
Best for Bad Weather
Weight: 10 lbs. 7 oz.
“I have used this tent for 6 years for winter camping and during shoulder season. I have always been dry and comfortable. The tent is spacious for 2 people, which is nice for all the extra gear needed in the winter. It sets up easily and fairly quickly even with single person doing it. I have an older model with a window in the vestibule, which feel out and one of the fly Velcro tie downs also feel off. Easy fixes, but not appreciated when it started raining. Overall a bomb proof tent that has seen multiple days of use and I would recommend it to other winter campers.” —Le Rico
Is mountaineering or snow camping in your future? Are high winds or freezing temperatures around the bend? If so, the Marmot Thor 2P tent should be, too. In reviews, customers rave about how roomy this four-season tent feels, as well as the microclimate it creates to provide warmth in chilly conditions when properly assembled. Multiple reviewers boasted about the tent’s durability and another called it “worth every penny.”
Features we love:
- Guyline system boosts integrity in high winds and heavy snow conditions
- Rainfly is fully seam-sealed, allowing the tent to block weather like rain and snow
- Poled vestibule provides ample space for stashing gear, cooking or lacing boots
- Jiggle-free zipper pulls provide easy access for both occupants
- In a pinch, the tent can be pitched using just the rainfly, poles and footprint (sold separately) to create a minimalist shelter
Best for Families
Weight: 8 lbs. 8 oz.
“Picked this tent up for a 2 week camping trip with my fiancée and two dogs. It was perfect! We fit our exped megamat duo and two dog beds with ease. The vestibules are really roomy. This tent is completely storm proof- we had some really intense thunderstorms roll through a couple nights and we stayed dry and felt completely comfortable despite the high wind. The walls of the tent are vertical toward the bottom and it really makes it feel roomier and makes it easier to avoid rain pooling anywhere on the rainfly. A+” —Benjamin G
Backpacking with the whole family brings up many considerations, but which tent to pick shouldn’t be one of them. We love the Marmot Limelight 4P, which clocks in at eight pounds, eight ounces. It’s big enough for four (plus a dog, if your kiddos in tow are still small) and one of the less expensive options on the market—making it the ideal tent for a family starting out. Best yet? The color-coded clips make setup a breeze, especially when teaching younger backpackers the ins and outs of tent camping.
Features we love:
- Big double door and rear door, and two vestibules allow for easy access and gear storage
- Lampshade pocket lights up your living space with a headlamp
- Color-coded clips and poles makes pitching simple
- Pre-bent poles create vertical interior walls
- Footprint is included!
Choosing the right tent comes down to a few key decisions: capacity, seasonality, weight and livability.
- Capacity: Backpacking tents come in one- to four-person models. There are no industry standards, so make sure to get inside your tent and see if it has the space you need for comfort. Plus-size tent options offer extra length and width.
- Seasonality: Choose from three-season tents, extended-season tents (sometimes called 3–4-season tents) or mountaineering tents (known as 4-season tents), depending upon the conditions you’ll be encountering.
- Weight: Tents have come far over the years, and now you can easily find a tent that weighs under three pounds a person. When checking weight, you should know that minimum trail weight is measured without the footprint and stakes, while packed weight includes stuff sack, instructions and more. Your actual trail weight will be somewhere in between the two.
- Livability: Newer tents manage to open up interiors without adding weight, making for more comfort. Pay attention to the number and location of doors, protected exteriors and ventilation. What makes sense for your needs?