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We hit the trails to test for durability, ease of setup, and performance in variable weather conditions.
Fact checked by Rich Scherr
Whether venturing into familiar forests, taking a backpacking trip abroad, or camping with family, a quality backpacking tent is an important gear purchase for outdoor adventurers. Tent designs range from minimalist, lightweight models to tougher all-season shelters and everything in between. Beyond that, there are tents for different budgets and occupancy, though we’ve focused primarily on two-person tents for this list.
To determine which backpacking tents rise above the competition, we tested 18 tents in various outdoor conditions. We evaluated ease of setup, ease of use, performance, portability, durability, design, disassembly, and overall value. Our picks below stood out for specific attributes, like weight, longevity, weatherproofing, and spaciousness.
Best Overall: Nemo Dagger Osmo 2P Tent
Why We Love It
It delivers all-around performance, ease of use, and convenient portability for backpacking camping trips.
What to Consider
Assembly instructions didn’t come included, though setup is made simple with color-coded components.
Backcountry camping warrants a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use tent. The Nemo Dagger Osmo Lightweight Backpacking Tent delivers on all these fronts, earning perfect scores in all our testing categories. Clocking in at just over 4 pounds, the Dagger is both light and compact, ensuring backpackers have ample space and leftover weight for other gear and provisions. We found the separate bags for the poles and stakes helped keep the tent pieces organized and readily accessible. When it’s time to set up camp, the Dagger’s lightweight poles are color-coded for quick, intuitive assembly.
The Dagger is made from polyester/nylon ripstop fabric that provides superior water protection when camping off the grid. The fabric is made from certified recycled material that’s PFC- and PFAS-free for a reduced environmental footprint. And if weather takes a turn for the worse, rest easy knowing the Osmo fabric reduces stretch by three times when wet to limit water pooling on the rainfly and provide wind resistance. We found the rainfly offered excellent waterproofing while still allowing a breeze through the tent’s mesh ventilation. The tent features two large doors, covered vestibules for storing gear, and internal pockets for stashing valuables, headlamps, and other essentials. When it’s time to depart, it disassembles in minutes and rolls up easily to travel onward. While the Dagger isn’t the most budget-friendly option, it’s designed to withstand years’ worth of backpacking adventures in tough weather conditions. It also comes with a lifetime warranty from Nemo.
Price at time of publish: $530
The Details: 4.1 pounds packed | 19.5 x 6.5 x 3.5 inches packed | 90 x 50 x 42 inches assembled | 2-person
Most Durable: Hilleberg Allak 2 Tent
Why We Love It
This dome-shaped tent has durable construction for excellent weather protection and use on tough surfaces.
What to Consider
The price and all-season design are a bit overkill for casual campers and balmier climates.
Designed for harsh weather and difficult terrain, the Hilleberg Allak 2-person Tent provides reliable protection while camping in the wilderness. The outer tent fabric is Kerlon 1200, which is made from 30D high-tenacity ripstop nylon and treated with three layers of silicone for UV resistance and weatherproofing. This durable outer layer is complemented by highly breathable, permeable fabric used in the interior to allow moisture out without letting precipitation in, helping dry out clothes and gear after long days on the trail. Meanwhile, the tent floor is constructed from 70D triple-coated polyurethane — a puncture and abrasion-resistant material — that allows the Allak to be set up on rocky and rugged terrain. We were impressed by the tent’s stability amid windy, inclement weather. The dome-style tent is assembled with three poles that are color-coded with corresponding sleeves, plus 12 stakes for a secure setup. The Allak comes with separate stuff sacks for the tent and poles, which we loved for allowing us to divide weight between packs.
Price at time of publish: $1,165
The Details: 7.3 pounds packed | 20 x 7 inches packed | 81 x 47 x 71 inches | 2-person
Easiest Setup: REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ Tent With Footprint
Why We Love It
This budget-friendly freestanding tent is incredibly straightforward to assemble and affords ample space for two campers plus gear.
What to Consider
The spacious dimensions and relatively higher weight make this tent less suitable for solo and long-distance treks.
Having a tent that’s quick and easy to pitch can make all the difference when setting up camp in bad weather or after an arduous trek. We were impressed by how simple it is to set up the REI Half Dome SL 2+, thanks to its freestanding, symmetrical design and hubbed pole system. REI includes setup instructions on the carry bag, though campers will quickly master how to assemble the Half Dome by connecting the color-coded poles, clips, and tabs. The rainfly, which is made from 30D nylon, easily attaches to the tent with buckle clips and uses eight stakes — four for the tent corners and four in line with the points of each vestibule. The Half Dome’s included footprint shortens setup time and prevents water from seeping in. Further weather protection is provided by the pitched vestibule doors and ripstop wall panels. We appreciated the excellent air flow and comfort provided by the ceiling vents while the rainfly is in place.
Price at time of publish: $231
The Details: 4.7 pounds packed | 7 x 20.5 inches packed | 90 x 54 x 42 inches | 2-person
Best Budget: REI Co-op Trailmade 2 Tent With Footprint
Why We Love It
This tent affords durability, solid weatherproof performance, and adequate storage space at an entry-level price point.
What to Consider
The rainfly design doesn’t provide much ventilation compared to other tents on this list.
Whether buying your first tent or replacing a well-worn one, the REI Co-op Trailmade 2 Tent offers strong performance and long-lasting construction at a value. The tent has a symmetrical, rectangular design with nearly 32 square feet, giving ample space for two campers. A set of internal pockets and gear loops help organize belongings and attach a lantern or headlamp. Meanwhile, two stake-out vestibules grant coverage for storing gear or airing out hiking boots and clothing. The Trailmade is equipped with a coated polyester rainfly that attaches over the mesh roof and includes a roll-up door for a view and better ventilation. We appreciated that the tent held up well against high winds and that the rainfly didn’t flap or loosen. We also liked that REI included detailed assembly instructions with illustrations for quick and easy setup.
Price at time of publish: $126
The Details: 5.4 pounds packed | 8.5 x 22 inches packed | 88 x 52 x 39.9 inches | 2-person
Best Ultralight: Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 2 Tent
Why We Love It
The incredibly lightweight design is easy to set up and doesn’t come at the cost of performance or durability.
What to Consider
It only has one door, and the interior is not the most spacious compared to other two-person backpacking tents.
The Mountain Hardwear Nimbus UL 2 Tent is ideal for shedding pack weight on long-distance backpacking trips. Weighing just over 2 pounds, this two-person tent is even light as a solo backpacking tent option. It also boasts some of th most compact dimensions of all the tents we tested, whether stowed in the included stuff sack or rolled up to be divided between two campers. The Nimbus’s floor and sides are made from ripstop nylon, while the canopy uses mesh for improved ventilation and reduced weight. The undyed, translucent rainfly provides eco-friendly weather protection. The fly has a silicone coating and can be staked out for a flared-out silhouette that sheds precipitation. We liked how easy it was to set up the single-pole design and secure the stakes on rockier ground.
Price at time of publish: $315
The Details: 2.3 pounds packed | 6 x 12 inches packed | 86 x 42-52 x 41 inches | 2-person
Best for Beginners: MSR FreeLite 2-Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Why We Love It
Its user-friendly design and durable materials make it a value worth investing in for newbie campers.
What to Consider
Though the floor width is enough to sleep two, the tapered design and lower height make for tighter quarters.
The MSR FreeLite 2-person Ultralight Backpacking Tent caters to beginner campers with its simple assembly, handy features, and quality construction at a mid-tier price. Only two poles are required for assembly, with the larger Y-shaped pole running the spine of the tent and a shorter ridge pole that connects between grommets above the doors for a taut and secure structure. The tent carry bag includes a four-step diagram with illustrations to walk campers through the setup process. The floor and rainfly are made from 15D ripstop nylon with sealed seams and a DuraShield coating to keep out moisture. We liked how much ventilation was afforded by the upper mesh walls of the FreeLite, even with the rainfly in place. The FreeLite also features two doors and two vestibules for easy in-and-out and adequate storage when camping as a duo.
Price at time of publish: $338
The Details: 2.75 pounds packed | 18 x 6 inches packed | 84 x 50 x 38 x inches |2-person
Other Backpacking Tents We Liked
There were three more backpacking tents that we liked during the test, but they didn’t impress us enough in any particular category to earn a spot on our final list.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2: We liked the ultralight and durable construction, but the narrow dimensions for a two-person tent reduced its ease of use score.
Sea to Summit Ikos TR3- 3/3.5 person: We appreciated the versatility of a tent with multiple setup options and configurations, but the lack of clear instructions made it challenging to assemble.
Marmot Tungsten 2P Tent With Footprint: We liked how it performed in inclement weather and its durable design, but the limited guidance on assembly lowered its ease of setup score.
Our Testing Process
The T+L team tested 18 tents on overnight excursions in a variety of outdoor trips to determine the best backpacking tents. We reviewed the tent assembly instructions to see if separate tools were required for setup before embarking on a backpacking trip, where we first assessed portability on the way to the campsite. Then, we assembled the tent according to the manufacturer’s instructions, if provided, to evaluate the ease of setup.
Throughout the camping trip, we spent as much time in the tent as possible to consider the quality of materials, comfort, ventilation, and protection from precipitation and wind. In dry conditions, we poured water on the tent exterior to test how waterproof the tent is, noting if any moisture reached the interior. After an overnight stay, we disassembled the tent, taking stock of any wear and tear, level of difficulty, and time required to pack it away. We'll continue to update this article with long-term insights about each tent that are gathered during subsequent uses.
Tips for Buying a Backpacking Tent
Think carefully about size
Tents generally designate the intended occupancy within their name or product description. That being said, there’s no universal sizing, so one two-person tent can vary in length, width, or height from another two-person model. Ultralight models, for instance, may sacrifice spaciousness for lower carrying weights.
Bill Gamber, Founder and President at Big Agnes, suggests assessing how your camping pads match up with the tent width. “A camping pad is 20-25 inches wide for a single person, so you should be able to get four pads in a four-person tent, for example,” says Gamber.
Pay attention to the weather resistance
Preparing for worst-case weather conditions is recommended when it comes to packing camping gear and apparel. Tents are typically designed as three- or four-season varieties, with the latter usually having sturdier pole systems and weatherproof panels to cover mesh areas to perform in snow and higher altitudes. Three-season tents are designed to endure precipitation and wind, but to varying degrees. Make note of a tent’s waterproof rating (listed in millimeters) before purchasing to ensure it’ll keep out moisture. A tent rainfly with a rating of 3,000 millimeters or higher is recommended to be prepared for downpours. It’s also important to note if the seams are sealed and how the rainfly fits on the tent.
Understand package weight versus trail weight
A tent’s packed weight includes everything you get when you buy it, such as the rainfly, poles, tent body, stakes, guy lines, stuff sack, and repair kit. On the other hand, trail weight refers to the bare minimum components — tent body, rainfly, and poles — you’d need to set up the tent. Manufacturers may list both weights in the product descriptions. When assessing how the tent weight will factor into your backpacking pack, consider erring on the side of caution and go by the packaged weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you pack a backpacking tent?
Backpackers can store the tent in its stuff sack or separate the tent body and poles to share the weight with a fellow camper. If packing without the stuff stack, be sure to tightly roll the tent to save on space and protect fragile components, such as mesh, from snagging on other gear. The rainfly can be stowed in an external or outer pocket if wet. Packing the tent (and other heavier items) in the middle of the backpack, against your back, can help reduce strain and pressure on your shoulders and back.
How much should my backpacking tent weigh?
Keeping backpacking tent weight below 2.5 pounds per person is recommended for comfort. “A very lightweight tent is something you really benefit from when you’re carrying it on the trail,” notes Gamber. If backpacking with multiple people, campers can divide tent components, including the poles, rainfly, and stakes between the group to help distribute the total weight.
Do you need a footprint for a backpacking tent?
A footprint isn’t necessary for a backpacking tent. However, using one can extend the lifespan of your tent by reducing wear and tear on the fabric and its waterproofing.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Kevin Brouillard is a contributing writer at T+L, specializing in outdoor gear and apparel. His work has been published in TripSavvy, Jetsetter, and Oyster, and he served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia for two years. Kevin used his backpacking and camping experience and testing insights conducted by Travel + Leisure testers to curate this list of the best backpacking tents. He also referred to the expertise of Bill Gamber, Founder and President at Big Agnes.
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