How to Choose the Best Tent to take Backpacking

tents in the mountains

These are the 5 best backpacking tents for backpackers in 2018! 

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Best OverallBest OverallMSR Hubba Hubba NX2

  • Weight: 3.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 2 person
  • Weight: 3.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 2 person
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Best One Man TentBest One Man TentBig Agnes Fly Creek UL1

  • Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Capacity: 1 person
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Capacity: 1 person
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Best Cheap Backpacking TentBest Cheap Backpacking TentVango Banshee 300

  • Weight: 5.2 lbs
  • Capacity: 3 people
  • Weight: 5.2 lbs
  • Capacity: 3 people
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Best Ultralight Backpacking TentBest Ultralight Backpacking TentNemo Hornet

  • Weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 2 person
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 2 person
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Best Hammock TentBest Hammock TentLawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent

  • Weight: 4.25 lbs
  • Capacity: 1 person
  • Weight: 4.25 lbs
  • Capacity: 1 person
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How do you pick the best backpacking tent for hiking and camping adventures? 

Camping out in the woods, on the beach, or at the foot of some mighty mountain is a truly amazing way to reconnect with nature. I love to camp and have been lucky enough to camp out in over fifty different countries across five continents.

In this in-depth post, we’ll review the best tents for backpacking for all budgets and styles of travel and hiking.

I’ll also point out my top picks for the best overall backpacking tents and the best budget tent to choose if you need to equip yourself on the cheap… Read on, let’s learn about tents!

Quick Answer: Best Backpacking Tents for 2018

 

How to pick the best backpacking tent for you?

Best Backpacking Tent

Ten years ago, I hit the road with almost no money in my pocket, a battered tent and an old camping stove. I hitchhiked my way across Europe, thriving on a shoestring budget and having an incredible adventure. Since then, I’ve personally tried and tested dozens backpacking tents on my travels.

If you’re a long-distance hiker, your needs will be pretty different to a backpacker traveling around the world. Weight is arguably the most important factor to look at when choosing a tent and personally I would never carry a tent that weighs more than 5 pounds – it’s just too heavy. 

Personally, I opt to go for something light and compact, which I can pitch quickly. All of the tents that I’m reviewing weigh under 5 pounds and are quick to set up but some of them are lighter, or faster to set up, than others.

Price is obviously an important factor and if you’re on a budget, your choices are fairly limited.

There are lots of cheap backpacking tents out there but most of them are pretty shit and fall apart or break after a while. Cheap pop-up tents are great for festivals but they are bulky and won’t last the wear and tear of regular use – plus they are hard to repack.

I’ve owned several backpacking tents and I can tell you right now, before you even read the rest of this article, that the best value backpacking tent is the Vango Banshee.

The Vango is not the only good option out there though and if you can afford to spend a little more there are some next-level backpacking tents out there such as the MSR Hubba Hubba NX2 which is the tent I am currently traveling with and is, in my opinion, the best backpacking tent that money can buy. 

If you are hiking then it’s definitely worth splashing out and picking up a lightweight, compact, backpacking tent such as the Nemo Hornet.

Think carefully about what you need this tent for and how many people you envision sleeping in your tent. Most of the time, three-man tents only weigh a little bit more than two man tents so if you will be camping with a buddy, it’s well worth picking a three-man tent rather than a two-man tent.

The view from my tent on the Deosai Plateau

Two man tents can be pretty cramped, especially if you want to roll around a lot 😉

When choosing the best backpacking tent for yourself, here’s what you should consider…

  • Size when packed
  • Size when open
  • Price
  • Weight
  • Pitching time
  • Season
  • Functionality
  • Durability and strength

Having a backpacking tent with you opens up a whole new world of possibilities – you can save a ton of money by camping and if you’re hitchhiking you really MUST have a tent as there is no way of knowing where you’ll end up sleeping! 

best tent for backpacking

An ancient Vango backpacking tent in front of Jomalhari, Bhutan’s second highest peak.

If you are on a long-term budget adventure, having a tent really is a necessity as it will save you so much cash and gives you so many more options. A backpacking tent not only saves you money in the long run but frees you up to stay in a place you otherwise could never have stayed in. Some of my most memorable travel experiences were only possible because I was camping.

Check out the comparison table and detailed tent reviews below so that you can choose the best backpacking tent for your needs.

The 5 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

#1 Overall Best Tent for Backpacking
MSR Hubba Hubba

MSR Hubba Hubba
  • Lightweight livability in a 2-person, 3-season freestanding backpacking and camping tent that packs down small for backcountry adventures
  • Pole geometry maximizes space with 29 sq. feet of floor area, interior peak height of 39 inches, plus 17.5 sq. feet of vestibule area
  • Complete setup weighs 3.8 lbs. and packs down to 18x6 inches; minimalist setup option uses footprint, poles, and rainfly and weighs 3.1 lbs.

MSR Hubba Hubba

Wow! $400…. shit. Never fear amigo, there are some cheaper options on here but I had to start with the MSR Hubba Hubba as this is hands down the best backpacking tent that money can buy. It’s one of the best lightweight tents for backpacking, designed for stormy conditions and is one of the most waterproof backpacking tents around… I’ve waited out many a storm inside this tent.

The MSR Hubba Hubba is great for two people and is really quite spacious for a two person tent; it is shaped to allow you to sit up throughout most of the tent. I’ve traveled with both the two person and the three person MSR Hubba Hubba and loved them both dearly. The two person is one of the best couples backpacking tents – there’s room to roll around.

MSR is one of the most respected brands in the backpacking tent and gear industry and they have seriously decent customer support – when you buy an MSR tent it comes with a lifetime warranty so you can see it as an investment, it’ll be the last tent you ever have to buy!

MSR Hubba Hubba comes in three sizes…

I have not personally tested the MSR Hubba NX one person tent but I do have extensive experience with the NX 2 and NX 3 and they have both performed absolutely fantastically.

The only real drawback is that MSR gear is pricey, so if you don’t think you’ll be using your tent very often it probably isn’t worth the money. However, if you are planning on camping out a lot then I would recommend making the investment as this will be the last tent you ever need to buy.

I tore a whole in my NX 3 (was totally my fault) and sent it back to MSR, they quickly repaired and returned it – free of charge. I am a big fan of MSR and now tend to always recommend them for tents and camping stoves, the two things that they make really, really well.

 

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Key Specs:

Best for: Best ultralight backpacking tent, great storm protection and use of space – voted the world’s most liveable tent.

Key Features: 2 doors, small outdoor space, 3 season, colour coded clips to make pitching easy.

Weight: 3 lb. 7 oz

Dimensions: 84 x 50 x 39 inches

Size when packed: 6 x 18 inches

Pitching time: 6 minutes

Pros

  • Ultra Light Weight
  • Great weight to space ratio
  • Leading material in techonology
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Expensive (but the lifetime warranty makes it worth it!) 

#2 Overall Best Tent for Backpacking
Vango Banshee 300

Vango Banshee 300
17 Reviews
Vango Banshee 300
  • Tunnel style tent provides GREATEST SPACE TO WEIGHT RATIO and is EASY to PITCH.
  • Patented Vango TBS II (Tension Band System) IMPROVES STABILITY in adverse conditions
  • Protex 70D 5000mm HH polyester flysheet is HIGHLY WATERPROOF and DURABLE.

 

Vango Banshee 300

Without a doubt, the best budget backpacking tent is the Vango Banshee 300 – it’s cheap, tough and reliable. 

I used a Vango Banshee for years before eventually upgrading to the MSR Hubba Hubba and I’ll tell you this – I loved my Vango.

Vango makes some quality gear for an affordable price and the Vango Banshee is the best cheap backpacking tent I’ve ever come across. The good news is; this isn’t like most cheap tents. The Banshee is a little heavy and a bit on the small size for a two-man tent but it’s the best compact backpacking tent as it’s tough and seriously durable.

Technically, the Vango Banshee 300 is a three man tent but if you had three people in this tent it would be very cramped – I recommend using this as a spacious two-person tent instead.

For the money you save, the compromises on the Vango Banshee are minimal, this really is the best budget backpacking tent you’re going to get! If you are new to backpacking and don’t want to spend loads on a tent straight away, I strongly recommend picking up a Vango Banshee until you can upgrade to something by MSR. 

The main disadvantage of the Vango Banshee is that it weighs more than other two-man tents and is therefore not the best tent for hikers as you’ll end up resenting the extra weight.

Vango Banshee 300 Key Specs:

Best for: Best cheap tent for backpackers on a budget 

Key Features: 2 doors, small outdoor space, good waterproofing and fire retardant.

Weight: 6.06 pounds

Dimensions: 110 x 87 x 42 inches

Size when packed: 6.3 x 19 in

Pitching time: 6 minutes

Pros

  • Strong and durable
  • Good for two people
  • Great budget option

Cons

  • Not good for 3 people
  • Long-term durability is up for debate
  • No lifetime warranty

#3 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Nemo Hornet

 

Nemo Hornet
28 Reviews
Nemo Hornet
  • THE MASTER OF ULTRALIGHT - One of the lightest tents on the market with time-tested field performance, NEMO's hornet delivers all the durability, packability, and bomber weather protection avid backpackers & thru-hikers demand; 2P minimum weight: 2 lb 0 oz
  • WEATHERTIGHT & RUGGED - True tub floor construction reduces seam construction and seam tape, making for a more durable waterproof floor; 1200mm nylon ripstop fly is carefully shaped for both ventilation and rain coverage
  • 2 DOORS, 2 VESTIBULES - The Hornet 2P is one of the only free-standing tents in the sub-2 lb category with two doors and two large vestibules, a simple expansion that makes a world of difference for easy entry, exit, and access to dry gear storage

Nemo Hornet

Check out our epic full review of the Nemo Hornet here!

The award-winning Nemo Hornet is the best lightweight backpacking tent on the market; not only is it ultralight, leading in material technology and design for quick set up, but it is also acclaimed as one of the best waterproof backpacking tents available.

However, there have been reports of the external section not being optimized for protection of your stuff against the elements and some have even said that the materials are so thin that they are easily pierced by twigs.

These two problems make it very hard to justify such a high price tag, but do note that these could be quite isolated issues. I have tried the Nemo Hornet out whilst hiking in Turkey and if you are on a long multi-day hike, the exceptionally low weight makes the Nemo Hornet stand out as the best ultralight tent. 

Nemo Hornet Key Specs:

Best for: Lightest backpacking tent by far, great for hikers.

Key Features: 2 entrances, 3 season

Weight: 3 pounds, 7 ounces

Dimensions:  86 x 52 x 40 inches

Size when packed:  7 x 18 inches

Pitch time: 4 to 5 minutes

 

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Well designed
  • Two doors

Cons

  • Waterproofing has mixed reviews
  • So does it's strength
  • No lifetime warranty

#4 Best One Man Tent
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1
56 Reviews
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1
  • Single door and vestibule
  • Storm flaps on vestibule zipper
  • Reflective guyline and webbing on tent corners

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 is one of the lightest free-standing tents on the market and if you’re on a solo adventure, this is a solid choice as the best one man tent that money can buy. The exceptional design, coupled with awesome fabrics makes it hard to beat in terms of efficiency.

If you’re looking for a tent with an easy set up, and an overall versatile tent, this one might be for you. The free-standing build makes it easy to pitch almost anywhere. And the guy line locations will ensure that this tent can get you through the gnarliest of storms.

Check out my buddy Mouse’s in-depth review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek here. 

Big Agnes Fly Creek Key Specs:

Best for: Ultralight backpacking from March through September.

Key Features: 1 person, 3 seasons 

Weight: 1 pound 11 ounces

Dimensions: 86 x 28 x 38 inches 

Size when packed: 4 x 19 inches

Pitch Time: 5 minutes

 

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Very durable
  • Packs down very compact

Cons

  • Center seam can tear
  • Pricey

 #5 Best Camping Hammock Tent
Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge

Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge
141 Reviews
Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge
  • RATED #1: By Backpacker, Outside and American Survival Guide. Winner of the prestigious Gear Of The Year Award.
  • HAMMOCK AND A TENT IN ONE: Patented design with a unique arch pole/spreader bar system that allows for use suspended between two objects/trees as a hammock
  • USE ANYWHERE: Most versatile tent hammock in the world. Perfect for all types of camping; car camping, backpacking, bike camping, Scouting, kayak/canoe camping

Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent

Hammock camping tents are awesome… These bad boys are designed to be suspended taught so that they provide you with a flat surface to sleep on, rather than you sinking deep into a caccoon as you tend to do with traditional hammock designs.

Hammock tents are super versatile, well made and can be set up like a normal tent on the ground if needs be – this offers the best of both worlds.

If you are looking for a quality one man tent for backpacking but also want to hang out on the beach in a hammock during the day, the Lawson Hammock Tent offers incredible versatility and best of all these bad boys are tough and you can put them through hell.

This particular hammock tent comes with an integrated mosquito net to keep bugs out and a waterproof rip stop nylon rain fly to keep you dry.

Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent Key Specs:

Best for: Ultralight solo backpacking in hot countries 

Key Features: 1 person, can be used on pretty much any terrain – on the ground or hung from trees

Weight: 4.25 pounds

Dimensions: 90 x 42 inches 

Size when packed: 6 x 22 inches

Pitch Time: 5 minutes

 

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Best of two worlds
  • Seriously cool

Cons

  • Not cheap for a hammock
  • Not everyone likes hammocks

 

Thoughts on Camping Hammocks  

If you just don’t want to take a tent, at least take a hammock! Camping hammocks are compact, light and give you a ton of freedom.

If you’re travelling solo then I would suggest getting a hammock rather than a tent (depending on where you are travelling) or even getting both as a hammock opens up a whole new world of outdoor sleeping… Check out The 10 Best Camping Hammocks to find the best backpacking hammock tent for you or, if you’re feeling lazy – buy this one; it’s the best value camping hammock around (but it can’t be pitched on the ground like the Lawson Blue Ridge). 

the best tent for backpacking


So, what is the best tent for backpacking?

I decided to break down all the information you really need to pick the best tent for backpacking so hopefully you have found this post useful and can now pick out the best tent for your needs.

If I had to pick one overall epic tent for backpacking I would say go for the MSR Hubba Hubba.

But, this is The Broke Backpacker, and I get that this tent is expensive – the best budget tent on the market is hand’s down the Vango banshee and this is what I travelled with for years.

So pick up the best budget solo backpacking tent and head out there! Happy camping amigos!


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Best Backpacking Tent

 

12 Comments

  • annette says:

    Hi,
    can you name the tent on the first picture? The triangle-ish one (doesn’t look like the Vango..?!).

    Thank you
    annette

  • Toby Kroner says:

    Sorry dude, but the vango banshe is a piece of shit… barely no ventillation, not enough screens, useless in a tropical climate and fire retardent, pigs arse, half the fly burnt down on mine I informed vango and they told me bad luck, as I needed another fly, they told me to buy another tent….wankers !!! Also its a pain to put up the way the inner bag attaches to the fly, stupid design. Rant over.

    • Will Hatton says:

      I respectfully disagree dude… I traveled with a Vango for years and it was a trusty workhorse, it ain’t as light or as tough as some of the other tents out there but for what you pay – it’s a great backpacking tent! Probably shouldn’t have been cooking in your tent porch if you didn’t want it to burn 😛

  • Sky says:

    Really useful review!
    Can I ask what your thoughts on the MSR Elixsr – seems similar to the Hubba Hubba, but a little heavier and bigger to pack down, but quite a lot cheaper (£200 vs £360). Or would you say the Vango Banshee is better than the Elixsr? Seems like there’s more livable space and vestibule space with the Elixsr…
    Thanks,
    Sky

    • Will Hatton says:

      The MSR Elixsr is definitely superior to the Vango Banshee but obviously it’s twice the price… I genuinely think that the Vango Banshee is the best value backpacking tent around but if you have more money to spend, and want to splash out on a tent that will last a lifetime, MSR simply make the best tents in the world. Really though it depends on how many people, and how much stuff, you need to get into your tent… The Vango Banshee 300 is good for two people, not the advertised three people that Vango say you can comfortably fit inside.

  • Paul Tarrant says:

    Really useful comments, thanks
    Confused on the name of the 3 man MSR Hubba Hubba. The link takes you to the MSR Mutha Hubba NX. Is it the same thing or am I missing something.

  • aksel says:

    Thank you very for your great review.

    For a travel of several months in Latin America, I would like to take an MSR Hubba NX tent. I will hiking with my tent several times and will volunteer in places where I will have to stay in my tent. I think that MSR Hubba NX tent is good alternative for this travel, but I hesitate between solo or two person tent. Taking into consideration that I will stay a lot of days in the tent, I would like to be able to move a little in the tent (I am 1.80 tall), perhaps to store my backpack, but I am hesitating for the extra weight (1/2 kg) /place that I will have to carry.

    Do you think that it will worth taking the NX2, for the extra room that it will provide? I will not always be in camp and will carry this tent in cities, buses, etc. when I am not using it..

    • Will Hatton says:

      Personally, if I am camping a lot – I always opt for more room, however if I am going to be carrying that over a multi-day trek, I would sacrifice comfort for weight. It’s really a matter of personal preference and what kind of activities you will be doing 🙂

  • Nick says:

    I will choose the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 all the way. It might be expensive but it’s totally worth it!

  • Josh says:

    I love your articles and I’m going to follow your advice for haggling in Vietnam and Thailand in my near future. Just wondering if you’ve ever tried a bivy sack or a sleeping pad/air bed and could you comment on it?

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