I'm looking for help in deciding on a lightweight tent to purchase. I've only ever done between 1-3 hour hikes, but I'm looking to do my first overnight this spring. My plan is to get a backpacking tent so I can hike in to camp. It'll just be my and my dog so it doesn't need to be big and preferably no more than $300, if at all possible. Any recommendations on brands or certain specs I should be looking at for good use from spring through fall season would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!
Hey @aliciaremer, so excited for you to take your backpacking to overnights! To me, the night sky and the break of dawn are some of the best things about backpacking. Since it's going to be you and the pupperz, I would recommend getting a 2-person tent. There isn't much room to spare in a one-person and the added weight is negligible. I think for space, weight, and price, you cant go wrong with the REI Quarterdome 2SL. That said, Nemo, Big Agnes and MSR also have some great lightweight tents. If you go to REI.com, you can filter backpacking tents by weight (example here). I would try to stay around 3 lbs or less; I look at package weight vs min. weight. As for specs, I usually recommend aluminum poles and at least 1 vestibule (keep your pack and boots here to have more room in the tent for you and the pup). Hope this helps!!
I would recommend renting, or borrowing a tent first before purchasing. At that point yu will have a much better notion of what will work for you and your dog. You are probably looking at a three season tent an you don't want it to weigh more than three pounds if you will use it for any amount of backpacking.
Some prefer a two person tent, even if solo ,for the extra room, but that will mean extra weight or a more expensive purchase.
A tent really shines when you encounter rainy,or snowy, weather. A bath tub floor, in which the floor material extend sup the sides of the tent a few inches is a desirable feature.
Beware of really cheap tents. They are a waste of money.
The easiest tents to set up are freestanding tents. These generally require the fly vestibules to be staked out but otherwise are self supporting. For 2 person backpacking there are light weight options like the MSR Hubba Hubba or Big Agnes Copper Spur 2. but at over 3# they are now considered on the heavier side for solo carry.
The next lighter are semi free standing tents like the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 and REI Quarter Dome 2 SL which generally have a three "feet" instead of four and require the foot end to be stakes out in addition to the vestibules. I use a Tiger Wall 2 for solo carry.
Apart from stretching your budget, a problem for you with this kind of tent as they get lighter the fabrics get thinner and a dogs claws are likely to rip the floors. If you get this kind of tent you might want to make a liner for the inside floor out of tyvek ...this is often used to make in expensive ground cloths/footprints to use under the tent to protect it.
If you are not hiking far then an alternative is to get a heavier tent like the REI Half dome 2 which is made of 40D cloth and fits better with your budget. REI carry a number of budget tents in the 4 to 5 lb weight range that might withstand a dog better.
If you do intend to hike a bit further and/or weight is and issue and you carry a trekking pole you might consider a trekking pole tent. These tents save weight by using using only one or two straight poles or trekking poles. They are not free standing and have to be staked out so you need a bit more skill to erect them and if you normally camp on rock you will have to use rocks or trees to guy to. Usually they are single walled you are not protected from any condensation that builds up on the fly. Carry a microfiber towel and wipe it off before it drips on you. However they do save you some weight. One to consider in particular to share with a dog is the well regarded Six Moons Designs Luna solo which is large enough for 1.5 people and is within your budget. It uses 40D fabric for the floor which should hold up better to dog claws. I may still try to protect it though. If you order one you should probably add seam sealing and if you don't carry a trekking pole you can order a single tent pole to use instead. Unfortunately REI does not carry this tent. If you are tempted I would definitely watch some YouTube reviews so you understand what you are signing up for.
Note: REI have just this year released the Flash Air trekking pole tents and they are currently on sale. I am tempted to try a Flash Air 1. However for your use, the 1 is probably too small and the Flash Air 2 requires 2 trekking poles which may not be practical with a dog unless you carry the provided poles instead which adds weight and is probably a bit more of a pain to set up negating its advantage. I also think the floor fabric on these tents is quite thin (I think I read it was 15D but I may be wrong)
Lastly for trekking with a dog you might checkout the YouTube channel, HomemadeWanderlust (aka Dixie) as she took her dog ( and her mother ) on a fill in trip along the PCT last year
I tried a 6 moons trekking pole tent about 7 yrs ago on my 2nd Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop hike, the only negative I had, was the inside was black and made me feel like I was in a coffin. I followed it up with a Tarp Tent "Notch" which was white on the inside and had a 'luminescence' to it so I never felt 'closed in', made it seem like it had more room than actually had. Am now using a z-packs duplex, incredibly light, but not durable, needs constant micro hole patching and 'all areas' water proofing. ps the 'micro-holes' are on the top sides of the tent, not the floor, grrrrrrrr.
It's a woodland camouflage material, so maybe a squirrel jumped on it, I don't know.
The current Luna Solo is available in a mid/dark green or a light grey sil polyester so you have a choice on brightness. Some people prefer a dark tent because the can't sleep when it is light out. Unlike many other solo tents it has room for gear and/or a dog inside in addition to having a vestibule. It also has mesh all around the bathtub to allow interior condensation to drain off to the outside...a possible problem with the new Flash 1 where the walls and bathtub connect directly. I believe the Zpacks tents use the same arrangement as the Luna Solo. The main issue with it is it needs seam sealing and the vestibule is designed to have a large gap at the base forcing some ventilation so you need to pay a bit more attention to the expected wind direction.