A backpacking tent, your home away from home, is one of the biggest purchases an outdoor aficionado can ever make. Whether you’re walking up Mt. Kilimanjaro or hiking across Azerbaijan on a weekend, your night’s sleep when on an outdoor adventure should be as enjoyable and memorable as your days on it. Unfortunately, that cannot be possible without a perfect backpacking tent but what goes into choosing a backpacking tent?
Your backpacking tent can mean the difference between enjoying your outdoor adventure and undergoing a barrage of various elements, especially at night.
A backpacking tent is literally your superhero out there. It can protect you and your gear from bugs and other natural elements, and so it’s important to know how to choose a backpacking tent.
Key Points To Look For When Choosing A Backpacking Tent
A suitable backpacking tent should be light, dependable, sturdy and easy to carry around.
It should also be easy to set up even in a hurry when the rain is just about to pour down and you want to protect your gear.
It should be foldable and easy to pack.
It should have some little features such as vents, a porch, and mesh windows that can enhance your comfort without necessarily increasing the weight.
Believe it or not, choosing a good backpacking tent is never easy. It’s a complex decision that ultimately requires some level of pre-trip planning.
Again there are various factors that you should take into account before purchasing a backpacking tent.
Worst still, the process can be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t have don’t have any idea how to choose the right tent. Luckily, this guide will give you insights on how to choose a good backpacking tent.
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How Much Should A Backpacking Tent Weight?
There’s no doubt that every pound counts for every backpacker. This is basically why the weight and pack size of the camping tent that you choose should be on top of your priority.
While two pounds per person is a reasonable weight for a backpacking trip, you should go for something lighter if you’re planning to hike for longer distances.
Generally, the weight of your backpacking tent should be about comfort. You definitely do not want to go for a heavy backpacking tent that would significantly increase the weight of your load.
With that in mind, you should go for a camping tent that weighs a maximum of two pounds. You should avoid those huge tents that weigh hundreds of pounds as they will obviously limit your mobility.
Still on matters weight, we should stress on the fact that an ultra-light tent is the best way to go. There are a lot of small and narrow backpacking tents that fit within the above descriptions. In fact, they’re so small that they can act as small pockets to store your valuables when not using the tents.
Weight Terms You May See While Shopping
Some of the weight terms that you may see while shopping for a backpacking tent include:
Packaged Weight – This refers to the total weight of the tent’s components. These components include the tent’s body, poles, rainfly, stakes, pole sack, stuff sack and many more. It’s crucial to go for tents with lightweight components.
Minimum Trail Weight – This refers to the weight of the bare essentials such as the tent’s body and the poles. Although you might need other components, the main weight of the backpacking tent should revolve around these two essentials: the tent’s body and the poles.
Packed Size – This basically refers to the amount of space that the tent can take inside the backpack. A backpacking tent should be easy to carry. The idea here is that a camping tent should come with separable components such as poles and the rainfly. This can help you reduce a few extra ounces by leaving the components that you might not need at home.
What is the Sleeping Capacity of the Tent?
One of the most crucial questions to ask yourself is; how many people will you be camping with? Normally, backpacking tents are categorized in terms of their sleeping capacities, which can range from single-person tents to four-person tents.
When looking at the capacity of a backpacking tent, you should look at the floor space of the tent.
In most cases, backpacking tents offer a floor space ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 square meters per individual.
Going for something that is below this range may mean that you’ll be cramped inside, but it can be great if you want to reduce the weight of your backpack. That being said, a more spacious backpacking tent will obviously be heavier than a cramped one.
Unless you’re very sure that you’ll be all alone out there, it’s advisable to choose a camping tent that can hold two individuals. This will give you some extra room for one person.
What about Seasonality?
Seasonality is a fundamental feature when choosing a backpacking tent. Do you need something that would be appropriate during a summer adventure or something that’s all season? Backpacking tents can also be categorized depending on the number of seasons they can serve. They include:
4 Season Tents
These are the type of camping tents that can perfectly serve you for all four seasons i.e. winter, spring, summer, and autumn. While this is practically impossible, 4 season tents are winter tents.
They do come with a geodesic pole, which is designed with a round dome shape and interweaving poles. This design is crucial in helping the camping tent withstand heavy snow and ferocious wind.
4 season tents are usually structured with solid walls and zip to shut any opening. They also have flysheets that are extended closer to the ground to ensure that there are no openings that can allow wind on the inside.
3 Season Tents
These are the type of tents that are perfect for spring, summer, and autumn. Generally, these tents aren’t made of heavy duty material and have flysheets that can only endure light snow and downpours.
Such tents are lightweight, are easy to set up, and have mesh panels to allow for better ventilation.
When it comes to choosing the right camping tent, it’s vital to know the season you want it for and the location for your adventure.
For example, if you’re going for an adventure in the Himalayas, you should choose a 4 season tent.
If you’re, on the other hand, going to camp in California, a 3 season tent can be the most suitable.
What are the Best Materials for Backpacking Tents?
Backpacking tents should be durable. With that in mind, backpacking tents should be made of materials similar to those used to make parachutes.
The best material used to make camping tents is nylon. They’re generally very strong, durable and lightweight.
Some other materials used to make backpacking tents include cotton canvas, polyester, poly-cotton, PVC, and polyethylene.
What is the Difference between Single and Double Wall Camping Tents?
When choosing the most appropriate backpacking tent, it’s important to know whether it’s a single or double walled tent. Let’s look at the differences.
Double Walled Tents
These are the most common type of tents. Simply put, they are tents with two walls.
The first wall acts at the body of the tent while the outer tent acts as the rainfly. The outer wall should be 100% waterproof and non-breathable while the inner wall is 100% breathable but not waterproof.
Pros of Double Wall Tents
- They have multiple doors
- They have vestibules for dry gear storage
- It’s easy to control condensation
- It will keep you drier than single wall tents
- They’re suitable for rainy conditions
- They’re versatile and allow for enhanced comfort
Cons of Double Wall Tents
- They are heavy
- They’re difficult to set up
Single Wall Tents
These are the type of tents that combine the waterproof fly and the tent body into a single fabric. These tents are popular with mountaineers since they’re lightweight and have small package volume.
Pros of Single Wall Tents
- They’re lighter than double wall tents
- They’re easy to set up
Cons of Single Wall Tents
- They’re not versatile
- They can easily attract condensation on the inside of the walls
- They’re made of non-breathable fabric
- Some aren’t appropriately ventilated
When it comes to choosing a backpacking tent based on the type of tent walls, you should go for a single wall tent if you’re looking for something lightweight. But keep in mind that they are perfect for a moderate climate and mild weather conditions.
You should choose a double wall tent if you’re going out in the middle of winter or heavy downpours. Remember, double wall tents tend to be heavier and you’ll have to deal with the extra ounces.
What Additionally Accessories Should You Expect in Tents?
Some of the additional features you can find in backpacking tents include:
Backpacking tents are made with free-standing or non-free-standing designs. Free-standing tents do not require stakes to stand but may need more poles. On the contrary, non-free-standing tents have fewer poles and can be lighter than free-standing tents.
This is basically the section of the flysheet that spreads past the tent door. An appropriately sized vestibule can act as a storage component for your muddy footwear and other gear.
You can also use it to cook when the condition outside doesn’t permit. It’s, however, crucial to ensure that you do not set the vestibule on fire.
Having a tent with a single door can serve you just fine, but having a tent with two doors is even better, especially if it’s a shared tent.
Needless to say, ventilation is an important feature of any backpacking tent.
The tent will act as your house when you’re out there camping and it should be properly ventilated. This is important for your breathing and also for the circulation of fresh air.
When it comes to the above-mentioned features, you should go for a tent with two doors for easy movement. Additionally, a tent with a large vestibule is perfect as it can be of great help in storing your gear and also for cooking during adverse weather conditions.
Free-standing tents are also much better than non-free-standing tents. The former is much easier to set up even when you’re alone.
How much do backpacking tents cost?
The prices of backpacking tents can vary depending on the features, material used and many other factors. Nonetheless, there are tents that can cost as low as $30 while others can cost on the north of $500.
Learning how to choose an appropriate backpacking tent is ultimately crucial if you are looking for something that will make your outdoor adventure enjoyable and memorable.
There are countless camping tents out there that choosing the best for you can be a daunting task. But using this article as your guide should leave you in a much better position.
Now that you’re ready to find an appropriate backpacking tent, you should go for a tent that you can afford. If you’re on a budget, go for a tent with less additional features.
These tents are quite affordable and will ultimately become your home away from home!
If you just cant decide on a backpacking tent consider a backpacking hammock instead! You can read all about them here!