Finding the best backpacking tent isn't easy in such a crowded market, but we're here to help. Our guide gathers together the best lightweight tents for adventuring in, and includes options for one or two people, plus tents that'll see you right though to winter. The best tent for general camping is not the same as the best backpacking tent. Here, the key things to keep front of mind are weight, followed by packsize and durability.
Right now, we think the best 2-man backpacking tent is the Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2. An excellent all-rounder, it's great quality, versatile and surprisingly spacious. Alternatively, if you're prioritising weight over space, the best lightweight tent is the Vango F10 Project Hydrogen. A more specialist option, this 1-man tent is stupidly light and small. However, you might want something slightly different, which is why we've included a wide range of options in our best backpacking tent ranking. We'll start with some buying advice before kicking off our list.
What to look for in the best backpacking tent 2021
Weight is paramount while travelling, as you'll find even lightweight tents seem to get heavier and heavier with each extra mile you carry them. Pack size is also important for longer trips, especially in more rugged country. Ideally you'll be able to fit your tent pack (either whole or split it up with your mates) into your hiking backpack, but it's not uncommon for backpackers strap it to the outside. The best backpacking tents should also be waterproof and durable enough to withstand blustery weather, and go up quickly and come down in a jiffy.
While you'll generally want to prioritise weight savings, there's a balance to be had with comfort and features – a little extra internal space could save your sanity on longer trips. Things like mesh windows, pockets for keeping floor space clear, and porches for stashing kit in rainy weather can all help eke out extra room and make things that much more comfortable. When you're spending long days on the trail, a good night’s sleep is important for helping you to rest and recover.
Now you know what you're looking for, let's kick off our list of the best backpacking tents for 2021.
- Keep pack weight down with the best lightweight sleeping bag
- Don't forget one of the best camping mats
The best backpacking tents 2021
The 2021 Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 2 is our best backpacking tent to buy right now – it's also the winner of the coveted T3 Award 2021 in the tent category. We tested out the 2-man version of this tent for our Sierra Designs Meteor Lite review, but there are also '1' and '3' versions available. It's very lightweight when packed (the brand has even shaved off a few grams compared to the previous iteration of this tent), but surprisingly spacious when pitched – it'll fit two people side by side, with room at your feet for two backpacks, and there are also two generous porches which provide extra space for storage. The design is split into two parts: an inner mesh tent and an outer waterproof 'fly'. That means when the weather's warm and dry, you can roll back the outer layer and engage in a spot of stargazing. It's also quick and easy to pitch and pack away, and stands up very well to high winds and rain. Well worth investing in for years of lightweight adventuring.
The Vango F10 Project Hydrogen deserves an inclusion here for two key reasons: technical innovation, and ludicrous lightness. That last metric is pretty essential when carrying tents on your back, and Project Hydrogen's 680gram trail weight is as light as they come – there are plenty of heavier sleeping mats. Although it's not a large tent, there's still a good amount of living space for one person, with a porch for storage and enough room to sit up inside.
This innovative design uses air poles to lower the weight, and they're surprisingly sturdy, even in bad weather. Inflating it, using the included bike pump, is speedy and simple (although we concede that trying to put one up in a gathering storm will undoubtedly be Type II fun at best). Vango hasn't skimped on the details here, serving up a twin-skin build (important to fend off condensation), as well as a Yunan carbon fibre singular pole which sits at the foot-end of the tent. Cotton thread that expands to seal gaps when wet means there's no seam tape here, shaving a few more grams, while a 7D nylon with double silicone flysheet should keep the wet stuff outside in all but the worst weather. Head to our Vango F10 Project Hydrogen review for more info.
The Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 won a T3 Award 2020 for this ingenious package. Fast to pitch thanks to the pitch-as-one inner and outer, minimalist poles (one big, two small) and lightweight come together in a brilliant backpacking tent. Weighing in at well under a kilo per person, and packing down incredibly short, this is a tent for carting serious distances in pretty much any weather (technically rated at three season), while still enjoying the process a little. Good ventilation thanks to huge vents and simple to take down in a hurry (remove poles, roll into bag, thrust in bag), this is a classic-in-the making. There's pretty much no compromise here at all on materials, durability or weight, which is quite an achievement.
We could write for days about the Big Agnes Copper Spur backpacking tent, but if you're even remotely interested in backpacking, you're probably aware of this mythical beast already. It's easily one of the most popular and best backpacking tents in the world, acting as an ultra-light shelter to keep you safe, dry and warm at night… or during the day if there’s a downpour. So yes, the Copper Spur HV UL2 is quick to pitch and break down. This could make all the difference if there's a storm rolling in and you need cover, fast.
Considering its lightweight design, there are plenty of features here to help you feel like you’re chilling in a more spacious tent. These include steep ‘near vertical’ walls and generous headroom, plus large dual zipper doors that you can fling open on sunnier days to let the outdoors in. Couple all that with two decent sized porches, and you have space for two to spread out, plus kit. Big Agnes’ free-standing backpacking tent is made from double rip-stop nylon, so it’ll withstand a bit of rough and ready action on the trail. Every seam has also been taped with waterproof, solvent-free PU tape, so there'll be no nasties running off your tent and into the ground during a rain shower.
There are a lot of good points about the Robens Arrow head, price being a key one, as well as the solid build quality. That solid build does push the official weight up somewhat, but ingenious packing can cut several hundred grams off that. The big selling point here is literally a big one – the internal space is positively palatial for a solo hiker, providing excellent sleeping space even for the tall, full side access and maximum storage space in the offset porch. The low-profile shape means it'll shrug off the most intense winds, up to a pretty epic 154km/h before damage occurs, while the poles are designed to be fast pitching, thanks to single-ended sleeves and a minimalist two-pole setup.
The Alpkit Ordos 2 is another strong contender in our best backpacking tent ranking. Lightweight and with a small pack size (although not quite, as Alpkit claims, the size of a water bottle), this tent is versatile and well-priced – even if you add the extra footprint, which we'd suggest you do. The tried-and-tested semi-geodesic shape is reliably weatherproof and gives enough headroom not to feel claustrophobic, although this is on the small side for two people. It's nice and simple to pitch, with helpful colour-coding making the put-up process even quicker. The mesh inner can can be used alone on hot, dry nights, too. For more info, head to our Alpkit Ordos 2 tent review.
The Terra Nova Laser Compact All Season is pretty badass. Available in one- or two-person variants, this backpacking tent takes two of TN's most famous tents, the Laser (hilariously ultralight but somewhat delicate) and the Quasar (elephant-proof but weighty) and blends them into a light but robust tent. The result is basically the well-proven Lazer single-hoop tunnel tent design, but made of Quasar materials that will stop a tank – or in other words, just what you want for year-round camping with only a small weight penalty. Of course, the Laser is a hardcore classic tent that's completed the Original Mountain Marathon more times than there are hot dinners, so the two man weighs in at 1.8kg for a full-winter tent, which is pretty jolly impressive.
Neat touches abound, from the Dyneema guylines (stronger than steel cables), to the magnetic storm flap closures and the inclusion of a walking pole pocket in the porch so you can brace it out into a larger sheltered area for cooking in a hoolie. There's even a widened central pole sleeve to allow you to double pole the tent 'if conditions are poor', according to TN, in which 'poor' is a euphemism for 'Force 10 winds'. In short, if you want light but tough, dependable and long-lived, this is the two-man tent for you.
The F10 Xenon falls into Vango’s alpine range, designed to be robust yet as light as possible, and with a star-studded spec-list to boot, it’s well worth a look for anyone planning to carry their home on their back for a while. A mere 800g per person, this three-four season tunnel tent provides plenty of space too, with a decent porch area that’s big enough for rucksacks, hiking boots and even for cooking at a push.
'Pitch as one' means this tent will pop up in a trice, and that attention to detail extends throughout – ‘o’-shaped doors for one-handed opening, dyneema-reinforced peg points and an oversized opening in the packing bag to enable faster packing, Yunan SD70 Poles, mini line-lok guyline runners – the list goes on. The Vango F10 Xenon offers high-end features and low weight that you’ll only see on the best backpacking tents, making it very good value for money, and a buy that will continue to be great value for many years. Light enough to carry on treks, strong enough for UK conditions, and roomy enough for a genuine two-person sleeper, the F10 Xenon is a bit of a gem.
Despite the cheeky name, this award-winning MSR backpacking tent is all business. The hub pole design cleverly maximises the usable space inside the tent, including head and elbow room, while ensuring it stays stable. There’s also a breathable mesh canopy offering up unrestricted views of the scenery surrounding you. That combined with a cross-ventilating flysheet works to a) keep condensation at bay and b) boost airflow. That’s ideal for taking the edge off hot, sticky nights during summer backpacking trips. Built-in rain gutters are a godsend during wet weather trips, though in general we’d recommend the Hubba Hubba for warm weather trips.
This two-man backpacking tent is also great for a spot of wild camping, even if it's pouring down and the wind is blowing hard. It's spacious enough to sleep you and a buddy, as well as leaving room for you to keep your kit in the tent with you. Coleman's entry-level backpacking tent is perfect for beginners and casual adventurers who won't subject their tent to heavy, year-round use. The wedged tunnel construction is easy to crawl in and out of, with a wide entry that you can fling your gear into. Best of all, it packs down small so you'll have no issues getting it inside your backpacking backpack.
You won’t have any issues with mistaking your tent for someone else’s when it’s this bright. The MSR Access 2 is a firm favourite among backcountry skiers and splitboarders, as it’s light to carry, easy to pitch, and provides warmth and protection from the cold. Lighter than a mountaineering tent but warmer than one built for backpacking only, MSR has designed the Access 2 with an innovative pole structure that stands proud against the wind, actively ‘shedding’ it to stay upright. It’s strong enough to withstand overnight snow-loading too, so even if there’s a fresh downfall while you sleep, it won’t cause you any trouble come morning. Without question, this is the best backpacking tent for ski touring.
A classic mountain tent for two, the Quasar has been proven over decades of heavy use to be the ultimate shelter for all weathers and all climates. The most recent iteration includes 30 denier nylon ripstop Watershop fabric for the flysheet, designed to reduce the weight of the tent even further. The same basic design has a variety of spin-offs for different extremes, from an ultralight version through to a full-fat polar expedition number with snow valances. We’ve used the waterproof and UV resistant Terra Nova Quasar in all sorts on conditions when hiking, and we’ve noticed it’s a lot quieter inside, even during high winds, than other tunnel-style tents. If you’re looking for bombproof and long lasting, this won’t let you down anytime soon. Pitching is easy too, as the tent comes with colour coded poles that makes it pretty much idiot-proof.
Rounding up our best backpacking tent list is the Snugpak Journey Solo, one of a long heritage of solo bivvies from Snugpak. Although it is a single person tent, the hoops transform it from a real bivvi (which is basically a waterproof bag), into the realms of actual camping. This means that reading a book or checking a map from the comfort of your sleeping bag is a practical option. Essentially a mini tunnel tent, the Journey Solo has two aluminium hoops, a complete mesh inner-first pitch (so you can pitch mesh-only in the summer if you’re feeling brave), and is possibly the most wind-resistant tent available today. A set of broad vents will keep condensation to the bare minimum, while a robust groundsheet and included protective footprint will prevent any nasty spiky surprises on the ground from ruining your snooze. At 2kg there is a penalty to pay for this full-feature list, so it is worth looking at light 2-3 man tents if you need flexibility. For the lone ranger though, this is a veritable tent-palace.
Browse more camping guides on T3: