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Recommendation of a tent for multiple uses: car camping and backpacking at higher altitudes.


I need advice on tents; I'm looking for a tent that can cover two different scenarios:

1) Car camping for 2 people.  I have been considering 3-person tents just to have the extra space, although a large 2-person tent should suffice.  

2) Solo camping at higher altitudes.  I would be hauling this up the mountain in my pack, so weight and pack volume is something to consider.  A 3-person tent certainly seems like overkill, but if the tent is rugged, compact, and light weight, no problem.

Is there a good, "general use" tent that would cover both scenarios?  Or would it be more logical to have two tents?




6 Replies

@AndrewW Thanks for reaching out, this is a great question!

While you certainly will have no problem finding two different tents that will meet your needs, depending on the conditions you're planning on facing at altitude there are a few options of tents that could get the job done for you. A few tents to look at:

  1. REI Half Dome 2 plus. A roomy two person tent light enough (~5 lbs) for backpacking. Also comes in a 3-person version as well that adds a pound to the weight. It's strong enough to handle three season mountain weather, although lots of mesh will make it pretty cold at altitude.
  2. REI Co-op Arete 2. Great 3+ season tent for traveling in the alpine and all conditions. You can close all the mesh to seal out the elements, and it can handle snow and wind. All in a package weighing right around 6 pounds. Pretty small for a car camping tent, however.
  3. MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3 tent. Under 5 pounds for three people and three seasons. Again, a good amount of mesh will make it chilly while at altitude but you'll have lots of room.

If you're facing true alpine conditions at altitude (cold, snow, winds) then you're likely going to want to go with a tent like the Arete that is built for that kind of weather. You'll have to sacrifice some room while car camping, however. On the other end of the spectrum you can have lots of room in a lightweight package like the Mutha Hubba, however, you'll want to be wary of extreme weather conditions and cold temps.

If you choose to go with two different tents, then you've got lots more options we'd be happy to discuss with you further.

Hope this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@AndrewW I strongly endorse MSR products. You pay a little more, but it is worth it. They are determined to keep their stuff out of landfills and will talk you into warranty repairs or replacements. 

I have used the HubbaHubba, the two person version of the tent John mentioned, for over ten years of constant summer use. MSR (Cascade Designs) has replaced broken poles, even when I told them on the phone that I thought it was my own fault. They recently talked me into warranty replacement of a rainfly, that had served its time, and that I had already told them I was willing to purchase.

I could go on and tell you about MSR snowshoe repairs and stove repairs. They want their stuff out there getting used - and repaired when needed.

Sorry REI, but you are not there yet; you offer good value in your equipment, and I get it, it's low-price entry point for consumers who want to get into camping, but you don't even offer replacement flies for your tents. Can one even get replacement poles? You could greatly extend the life of a tent by offering replacement of these hard-working components.


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@AndrewW For these vastly different scenarios, you will be much happier with two different tents.

As I started to read your post, I immediately thought of the North Face VE-25, superb at high altitudes, and large enough for car camping, but way too heavy for single use.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

This is true, but I think you could redefine "car camping" and sacrifice space for greater flexibility. We have used our HubbaHubba for car camping. After all, we only sleep in the tent.

I'd get the smaller, lighter tent first, then, when you can afford it, get a dedicated car-camping behemoth.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks - after more research and then some more, it does indeed make the most sense to have two separate tents for these scenarios.  I did check out the VE-25, and it would be too heavy to lug up the mountain just for myself.


@AndrewW When you say "hauling up a mountain"  what do you actually mean? 

Any tent can be used for car camping but backpacking tents need to be lightweight so get a backpacking tent if you can only afford to get one.

Only get a 3P tent if you will always be sharing it backpacking  with 1 or 2 other people so you can share the load

Consider a lightweight 2P tent if you might occasionally go with 1 other person.

Consider a lightweight 2P tent or 1P tent if you will being always going solo.

What backpacking tent to get depends on where you plan to go and what the expected conditions will be.  I use a Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2P for solo carry and it has been along the JMT partly with me and partly loaned to a couple and been used at 11,000 feet and in a snow hole in Desolation Wilderness at around 8,000 feet.  The Big Agnes Copper Spur 2P is also light enough for solo carry and is a bit more robust being a freestanding tent.  I had the gen 1 of these and got the TW to save some weight.  

There are lots of choices.