The Best Backpacking Tents of 2022: Tested

From ultralight solo shelters to spacious four-person hideaways, there’s a perfect tent for every backpacker.

Ryan Wichelns | Updated September 28, 2022

44 reviews with an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars
Two people at a campsite in the desert

Take the long way home with the year’s best backpacking tents. These eight dependable shelters prove that you don’t need to sacrifice quality in order to create the perfect backcountry living space.

Our 15 member-testers spent the last two years evaluating the best backpacking tents sold at REI. (Read more about the process here.) They hiked to remote deserts, wind-whipped summits and far-flung alpine lakes, considering everything from a tent’s aerodynamics to how neatly it stows into its stuff sack. After a couple seasons of tough love, they reported back. We’ve distilled their feedback into this guide.

Whether you’re backpacking with your family, a partner, your pup or by yourself, you’re sure to find a shelter that suits you. 

 

Test Results

For quick recommendations, check out the results of our round-robin here, or scroll down for in-depth reviews.

Other Top Performers

 

Best All-Around Backpacking Tent & REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Award Winner

Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

Score 95

Design type Freestanding

Floor area 20 sq. ft. (1P); 29 sq. ft. (2P); 41 sq. ft. (3P); 57 sq. ft. (4P)

Vestibule area 9 sq. ft. (1P); 9 sq. ft. each (2P); 9 sq. ft. each (3P); 14 sq. ft. each (4P)

Peak height 38 in. (1P); 40 in. (2P); 43 (3P); 50 in. (4P)

Number of doors 1 (1P); 2 (all others)

Packaged weight 2 lbs. 6 oz. (1P); 3 lbs. 2 oz. (2P); 3 lbs. 14 oz. (3P); 5 lbs. 11 oz. (4P)

Test results: Bigger tents come in bigger packages—a real bummer if you’re planning on shouldering your shelter for a backcountry adventure. So rub your eyes and look again: The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL lineup is spacious and light across the board, an impressive balance that earned it an REI Editors' Choice Award. The two-person variety tips the scales at just over 3 pounds, while the three- and four-person versions shave even more weight at 3 lbs. 14 oz. and 5 lbs. 11 oz., respectively (or less than a pound and a half per person if you split up components).

For a barely there tent like this, you might expect confined quarters or a lack of features, but the Copper Spur makes for a remarkably comfortable backcountry hangout. It has a whopping 14 feet of floor space (ish) per sleeper in all capacities—plenty of room to spread out after a day of hiking. Our testers appreciated the tent’s high-volume architecture, crediting its steep walls and tall peak height. Another nice touch? Dual vestibules (with the exception of the one-person tent) that are positioned on either side for easier entry and exit. And an additional zipper allows you to prop up the fly over trekking poles to create a veranda (pictured). 

Even durability isn’t a trade-off. Our testers returned one Copper Spur from a month in Washington’s Cascades with nary a snag, even after camping in alpine zones with barnacle-like rocks. The Copper Spur HV UL line also features a Long version (in two- and three-person capacities), which has all the same features but brings an additional 3 to 4 inches of length, depending on capacity, and is more comfortable for testers over 6 feet tall without adding noticeable weight. (The long version still only weighs 3 lbs. 3 oz., only an ounce more than the regular size.) And the line's bikepacking-friendly version (in one-, two- and three-person capacities) features shorter poles, perfect for stashing in handlebar rolls, as well as a couple other bike-specific features. Buy here.

 

 

Bottom Line: Don’t sacrifice comfort in this surprisingly lightweight tent—the roomy, feature-packed Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL is as much a joy to sleep in as it is to carry.

 

Testing stats:

  • Nights out: 52
  • Testing states: California, Colorado, New York, Utah, Washington
  • Best testing story: “There are few places I’ve ever felt so far from the rest of humanity,” one tester says of his trip down a random slot canyon along the Escalante River in Utah. “Since it was a moonless night, we pulled the fly off the Copper Spur and got a serious star show.”

 

Test results: A backpacking tent, among other things, needs to be reliable. That’s why we love the NEMO Dagger OSMO 2, the most consistent performer in our round-robin. One tester was camped out near Washington’s Mount Rainier when the skies unloaded a nightlong downpour. “Not a drop snuck in,” he recalls. “I hardly woke up.” Credit the design of the Dagger OSMO 2 for its supreme weather protection: It has very few seams (failure points where water can creep inside) and a tall, bathtub-style floor to keep sleepers dry. The fly fastens over the body more snugly than most, preventing sagging and loose edges. And the fly and body are now made from a new 100% recycled nylon and polyester, which not only gives a boost to sustainability, but also drying time and shape-retention (so it won’t stretch when it gets wet). Plus it's free of fire-retardant chemical additives. 

The floor space is plenty big for two, and double trapezoidal vestibules are deep enough that each camper can store their gear without impeding their door. A couple of our testers deemed the Dagger OSMO 2 large enough for hanging out away from the 'skeeters on a particularly buggy night in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park; because the roof mesh is black, you can ditch the fly on clear nights and pick out constellations. Overhead light pockets and gear pockets on each corner maximize storage space if you’re tent-bound. Buy here.

Other capacities: Three-person
 

Bottom Line: For a couple of backpackers, there may be no more reliable shelter than the NEMO Dagger 2.

 

Testing stats:

  • Nights out: 30
  • Testing states: Idaho, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming
  • Best testing story: This tent was one tester’s daily driver for a monthlong road trip from New York to the Pacific Northwest, including nights on barren summits and snowy volcanoes. His most memorable night? “I was camped on a bluff overlooking Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota when a bison rumbled through my camp,” he says. “It didn’t pay me any attention, but that was the most heart-pounding point of the whole trip.”

 

Test results: Whether you prefer hiking alone or sleeping alone, you owe it to yourself to invest in a quality tent built for one. For such occasions, testers like our very own Quarter Dome SL 1, a single-person shelter that checks every box.

One of the lightest tents in our test, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1 can easily find a home in a backpacker’s trail kit, but it’s surprisingly spacious, offering up more floor area than each sleeper typically scores in a group tent. One of our taller testers even deemed it perfect for his epic solo mission through California’s Ansel Adams Wilderness. Good forecast ahead? You can leave the tent body at home and pitch the Quarter Dome SL 1 with just the fly, poles and footprint ($54.95, sold separately), a setup that weighs just a pound and a half.

But just because it’s designed for the trail doesn’t mean you can’t use it car camping. “An essential purchase for any introvert,” proclaims one editor. “There’s enough room for me to change, stretch and generally savor blessed alone time on group trips.” Buy here.

Other capacities: Two-person

 

 

Bottom Line: The lightest semifreestanding tent in our test, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1 can take you far from the trailhead—but it’s got enough shoulder room for a comfy night out.

 

Testing stats:

  • Nights out: 8
  • Testing states: California, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
  • Best testing story: One tester’s partner doesn’t allow the dog inside the tent (“he’s a Vestibule Dog,” the significant other says matter-of-factly). But when our tester headed out for some solo-shelter testing in Colorado’s Indian Peaks range, it was Dog’s Big Day. “The Quarter Dome SL 1 sleeps one human and one medium-size dog perfectly,” she says. “Don’t tell my husband, and keep me anonymous.”

 

Test results: Four’s a party. But in the ultra-spacious Tungsten, that many stinky backpackers was hardly a problem. During a winter trip out to the Utah desert, the tent’s generous 93- by 82-inch floor handled a quartet of puffier shoulder season sleeping bags (and their four occupants) with ease. On one gray morning, more than 4 feet of peak height and vertical interior walls offered enough room for everyone to sip coffee without anything getting knocked around. Two giant doors make getting in and out easier without anyone being stepped on and the vestibules offer plenty of room for gear storage, keeping it out of the sleeping area. 

The Tungsten held condensation to a minimum—a rarity for high-capacity tents like this—thanks to big vents on top of the fly. Two lampshade pockets in the eaves held a light for some after-dark poker, too. Weight is always a ding with tents this large and the Tungsten is no exception, but divvied up among the tent’s inhabitants, the tent’s under-9-pound weight was far from back-breaking. Buy here.

Other capacities: One-persontwo-person, three-person

Bottom Line: When you’re bringing a crew and need elbow room, the spacious Tungsten is hard to beat. 

 

Testing Stats:

  • Nights out: 3
  • Testing states: Utah
  • Best testing story: Setting up the Tungsten is a breeze, even when the pressure is on. “When we got to camp, the wind was really starting to blow,” our tester says. “The whole tent is just two cross poles and two brow poles—It felt like we had it up and staked down in 30 seconds.”

 

Other Top Performers

Test results: Clearly, the designers at Sea to Summit are aliens who have never seen a tent before, tasked to make a lightweight backpacking shelter… and the out-of-the-box design they came up with is genius. During a winter of desert backpacking trips, our tester fell hard for the Telos’ myriad of tiny innovations. The first stroke of brilliance comes from the upside-down looking brow pole across the top, which pulls the top corners of mesh way up and out. The result: You and your partner can both sit up and get dressed without your shoulders or heads so much as brushing the tent material (plus, you get taller, easier-to-enter doors). A full-width vent along the very top of the tent kept things breezy during a warmer-than-usual spring trip to Moab, Utah. And three stuff sacks (for the body, fly and poles) separate easily to split up the load (and double as a light bar or storage), then reconnect for stashing. And on top of all that, the body of the tent easily clips to the poles even when the fly is already on: Our testers could set up the fly first in a rainstorm to keep the body dry, roll the fly back halfway on clear nights and set the fly up as a sun shelter big enough for three camp chairs. Buy here.

 

Test results: A brand-new pair of performance backpacking boots cost more than this tent—not bad for backcountry digs. On a trip to the Wind River Range, our testers lauded the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+’s ample space and plethora of pockets, all without realizing it was the most budget-friendly shelter in our test. The trade-off for the value is weight (the Half Dome SL 2+ is about a pound and a half heavier than the NEMO Dagger OSMO 2), though our testers still deemed it big-mile-ready, especially when divided between packs. And livability is top-notch: A generous, rectangular floor plan and steep sidewalls left enough room for two adult hikers and a small dog to wait out a squall in general comfort. Buy here.

Other capacities: Three-person

 

 

Test results: Thinking of pushing your tent into winter use? The REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 is a three-season tent that can pinch-hit in four seasons. When one pair of testers took it into Washington’s remote Picket Range, 30 mph winds hardly ruffled their roomy mountain chalet, thanks to a beefy pole structure (two cross poles and two brow poles create a sturdy dome) and guyout points at every intersection. Nice touch: The stake-out points can accommodate skis, ice axes or ski poles, if you’re camping in snow. The same bombproof architecture led a pair of co-op editors to declare the Arete "earthquake-ready" after a magnitude 4.6 shaker barely stirred our sleepers. ("That was an eventful camping trip," one said after the fact.) Inside the Arete, adjustable vents keep condensation to a minimum, and a large window on the top of the tent body keeps airflow churning (and becomes a giant skylight in good weather). Buy here.

 

 

Test results: For specific light-and-fast or long-distance journeys like a solo backpacking trip in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, a superlight and packable tent like the Big Agnes Tiger Wall is exactly the right shelter. The Tiger Wall is double-walled, which sets it apart from other ultralight tents (doubling weather protection without sacrificing breathability) and uses a single hubbed pole to support the front and length, only needing two stakes to pull out the foot corners. The body and fly pack down to the size of a small loaf of bread and weigh only 2 pounds (though you probably want to treat this tent a little more carefully than others). The vestibule is just big enough for a small pack and your boots, and while the inside is definitely snug, it proved plenty of room for our tester to get dressed and hang out in bad weather. Plus a lot of gear storage over your feet keeps things from getting too crowded down below. Buy here.

Other capacities: Two-person, three-person

 

Shop All Backpacking Tents 

 

Buying Advice

A tent with mountains in the background

Unlike with car-camping tents, weight matters when you're planning to shoulder your tent in your pack. That means that finding the right backpacking tent is an exercise in juggling how much features, size, seasonality and livability matter to you because even one of those things adds ounces to the equation. (Just remember this old thru-hiking adage: Ounces make pounds, and pounds make pain.)

Capacity

How many people will be sharing the sleeping space? The number in the name of the tent is the brand’s honest assessment of how many sleepers can fit shoulder to shoulder. Keep in mind that backpacking tents are cozier than their car-camping counterparts, so you can expect snug quarters if you max out the capacity.

Capacity of each tent in this guide:

That said, many models come in different capacities, which we’ve listed in the specs within each review. Pick a capacity that will work for the number of backpackers you typically plan to have in your tent. If you crave extra space and are willing to carry a heavier tent, you can also go larger (say, buying a three-person shelter for two sleepers).

Livability

Tents can come with all kinds of features that will make it more enjoyable to spend time inside, and one of the most important is roominess (or lack thereof). Pay attention to the specified floor space and peak height to get an idea of how comfortable the tent will feel. Specs alone won’t tell you if a tent feels livable, though; it’s important to know what the tent looks like pitched. More vertical walls that don’t angle in steeply will usually add weight but feel less claustrophobic when sitting up. And while it won’t actually add square footage to your space, a bright fly color will transmit more light inside the tent, making the interior feel more spacious.

If you’re moving fast or only planning to sleep in your tent, tight quarters may not matter. If weather is going to sideline you inside your tent or you’re planning on using your tent to basecamp, perhaps more livability will serve you best. 

Tent Seasonality

Most backpacking tents are classified as 3-season (designed for spring, summer and fall) or 4-season (also designed for winter). Most users only need a 3-season tent; 4-season tents, while more durable and more livable, tend to be heavier than 3-season shelters. That can make them worth it for alpine and winter adventures but overkill for summer trips. Every tent in this lineup is a 3-season tent, with the exception of the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2, which is something like a 3.5-season tent: great for occasional snowy weather, not expeditions.

Weight and Size

You’ll often see several specs related to weight and size in a tent’s description, all of which will tell you just how much brands mean it when they say they’re “ultralight” (a term they can use pretty liberally). 

Key tent specs:

  • Minimum trail weight: This is the best spec to use when comparing your options. It’s the weight of the bare essentials: the tent body, rainfly and poles.
  • Packaged weight: This is the weight of everything that comes with the tent when you buy it: body, rainfly, poles, stakes, stuff sack, pole sack, instructions and more. Obviously, you won’t be bringing all of this on the trail, so the actual weight you’ll pack will likely be somewhere between this number and the minimum trail weight. 
  • Packed size: This is the amount of space the tent takes up in a pack, which you can reduce by splitting up components with a partner. 

Reducing weight and packed size will usually result in trade-offs with space, livability and durability, though you can also pay a premium for ultralight-yet-strong materials. Consider whether you could do without features like a second door or vestibules big enough to hang out in. One feature that is worth a few extra ounces: ventilation like mesh windows and adjustable rainfly vents to prevent condensation buildup

Ease of Setup

Tents offer a range of features to help make the pitching process easier and faster: 

Freestanding design: Most tents are freestanding, which means that they can stand without the use of stakes, making them easier to set up and lift to move to a new spot. Non-freestanding tents may be lighter because the pole structure doesn’t have to be as robust. 

Pole hubs: These junction points for side and roof poles help take the guesswork out of assembly, and they create a more spacious interior by allowing tent walls to be more vertical. 

Pole clips: Do you slip poles through sleeves, connect them to tent canopies with clips, or both? Sleeves provide more fabric tension and a stronger pitch, but slipping poles through them during setup can be tricky. Clips attach to poles easily and allow more airflow underneath the rainfly, which is good for reducing condensation. 

Color coding: Many tents will color match, say, pole tips with tent corners so you know at a glance how to orient your setup—an especially handy trick if your tent is wider or taller at one end.

Note that, even if your tent has a lot of features that make setup easier, you should still do a practice run at home before setting up a tent in the wilderness. It’s a lot harder to get the hang of it if your first pitch is in the dark or in a rainstorm (or both). At home is also a better time to discover if any pieces are missing. 

Durability

Tents designed to be ultralight, bordering on minimalistic, trade off some degree of durability in the materials. One fabric spec you occasionally see is denier (D), which is the weight in grams of a 9,000-meter length of the yarns that make up that fabric. A higher denier number signals a more rugged fabric, while lower denier numbers are found in more lightweight but less durable fabrics. However, it won’t be an apples-to-apples comparison unless you’re comparing identical fabrics.

Weather Resistance

Features like a robust pole architecture, bathtub-style floor, ceiling vents and windows, and guyout points are great if you plan to camp in wet, windy or exposed areas. Rounded dome designs eliminate flat roof spaces where snow and rain can collect. And, partly because they’re often built with those specific features, 4-season tents will almost always be stronger than 3-season tents. If you’re only planning on backpacking in milder climes, picking a tent with large mesh window, door or ceiling panels will provide great stargazing when sleeping without the fly. 

Should You Get a Footprint?

Available for many tents, a footprint is a custom-cut ground cloth accessory that’s specifically designed to match the tent’s floor shape. Using a footprint helps protect the floor from abrasion and makes packing up cleaner. Some campers choose to bring a generic ground cloth or tarp, but because those will generally extend beyond the perimeter of the tent floor, they can collect rainwater.

Some tents also offer an ultralight setup option where the (separately sold) footprint, poles and rainfly can be pitched together without the main tent, which is a great option if you’re camping in temperate climes and going minimalist with weight. 

 

Methodology

A smiling woman sitting in a sleeping bag in her tent

Starting in the summer of 2019, we began sending the best new backpacking tents sold at REI into the field with a team of expert gear testers doing everything from family backpacking trips to light-and-fast thru-hikes to mountaineering. After a season or two of use for each individual tent, we asked testers to grade their home away from home on its weight and packability, spaciousness and comfort, weather protection, durability, features and price. We also regularly test updated models to make sure their capabilities, statistics, reviews and scores as a whole stayed true. 

All said and done, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL, NEMO Dagger OSMO 2, REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1 and Marmot Tungsten scored high in all categories. We tested the two-, three- and four-person versions of the Copper Spur, as well as the Long version. The Sea to Summit Telos TR2, REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 1 scored high in most categories, carving out respectable niches for specific users.

 

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