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Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Backpacking Tents-2017

Top 10 Backpacker Backpacking Tents - 2017

What are the best backpacking tents recommended by backpackers? We surveyed 600 backpackers to find out what tents they use and their top picks include the Big Agnes Copper Spur, the Big Agnes Fly Creek, the MSR Hubba Hubba, the REI Quarter Dome, and the REI Half Dome, among others. We found also that the majority of backpackers purchase two person tents so they can bring company or enjoy more interior space, even if their tents weigh more.

1. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2

Big Agnes Copper Spur

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 Person Tent ($429) is the #1 most popular backpacking tent. Lightweight, but fully featured, it boasts an impressive interior space to weight ratio. A hubbed pole architecture and steep walls provide lots of interior space, while two doors and vestibules add convenience when used with a partner. Ample mesh provides circulation to fight condensation build-up, with plenty of interior pockets for personal items. Gear weight minus stakes is a miserly 2 pounds 12 ounces. Click for specs and customer reviews.

Big Agnes also has several new and updated Copper Spur UL 2 models to choose from including: the Copper Spur UL 2 mtnGLOCopper Spur HV UL 2, Copper Spur HV UL 2 mtnGLOCopper Spur 2 Platinum Tent, and the Copper Spur Hotel HV UL2.  

2. Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2

Big Agnes Fly Creek
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 ($349) is a two person tent with a single front door that weighs just 1 pound 15 ounces. It’s often purchased by solo backpackers who want more room than the Fly Creek UL 1, since it only weighs 4 more ounces. The Fly Creek UL 2 comes with a single, three-armed hubbed tent pole making it very fast to pitch. The inner tent connects to the pole using plastic hooks, while the pole ends slot into corner grommets. The inner tent has a mix of mesh and solid panels that provide ventilation and wind protection. Click for specs and customer reviews. 

Big Agnes also has several new and updated Fly Creek UL 2 models to choose from including: the Fly Creek UL 2 mtnGLO, Fly Creek HV UL 2, Fly Creek HV UL 2 mtnGLO, and the Fly Creek HV 2 Platinum.

See the SectionHiker review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2.

3. MSR Hubba Hubba

MSR Hubba Hubba
The MSR Hubba Hubba ($349) is a great tent for two people. It’s incredibly easy to set up, lightweight, and has two doors so you can come and go at night without disturbing your partner. Nearly freestanding, the pole configuration creates an interior space that has near vertical walls, providing excellent interior space and livability.

With a trail weight of 3 pounds and 8 ounces, the updated Hubba Hubba NX is lightweight enough for backpacking use when share by two people, but on the heavy if used by one. Still, MSR has done a fine job designing this tent which is a spacious and comfortable. Click for specs and customer reviews.

See the SectionHiker review of the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.

4. REI Quarter Dome 2

REI Quarter Dome 2
The REI Quarter Dome 2 Person Tent ($349) has two doors and two vestibules, providing better access and gear storage when shared with a partner. A multi-hub pole architecture creates near vertical walls so occupants can both sit up inside the tent at the same time, but the tent pole and spokes can be unwieldy to set up. The inner tent has good airflow with ample mesh, with solid fabric panels that provide privacy and keep wind and dust from blowing into the tent. Convenience features including light hang loops and interior pockets are also provided.

The fly is made with a 15 denier ripstop nylon to minimize weight while the floor and walls are made with a slightly more robust 20 denier ripstop. Gear weight without stakes in 3 pounds, 5 ounces, slightly lower weight than the MSR Hubba Hubba, but the Quarter Dome’s setup is not as straightforward. Click for specs and customer reviews.  

5. REI Half Dome 2

REI Half Dome 2
The REI Half Dome 2 Person Tent ($199) is a great crossover tent for car campers who want to start backpacking. At 4 pounds 9 ounces, it is heavier than the REI Quarter Dome 2, but it’s also close to half the price and has many features only found on more expensive tents.

The Half Dome 2 is very easy to pitch with a hubbed pole assembly that simplifies set up. Two side doors make this a very comfortable tent when shared with a partner, with separate side vestibules for external gear storage. The tent comes with mesh pockets and a gear loft for storing personal effects and features roof vents for enhanced ventilation.More durable fabrics and excellent waterproofing seal the deal. Click for specs and customer reviews.  

6. Zpacks.com Duplex

Zpacks-duplex-top 10 tents
The Zpacks Duplex ($599) is an ultralight trekking pole tent that only weighs 21 ounces. It has ample space for one person plus gear to spread out, but can also fit two people comfortably. It has two doors, so you get good ventilation and vestibule space on both sides of the tent, plus you don’t have to climb over your partner at night to go for a nighttime walk. The Duplex has a full bathtub floor, seam taped seams, and mesh sidewalls for insect protection. Pitching the tent requires two trekking poles, but the dual apex structure is quite wind resistant, provided it’s staked out securely.

The Duplex is made with an ultralight fabric called cuben fiber (see cuben fiber FAQ), which is waterproof and won’t sag at night or when it rains. It is translucent however, which can compromise your privacy when camping in a group. The Duplex is also available in more opaque colors for an extra customization fee. Click for specs and customer reviews.

7. Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

Six Moon Design Lunar Solo
The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is an ultralight style, single walled tent that’s pitched with a single trekking pole. It’s also the only truly one person tent, listed in the top 10 tents purchased and recommended by backpackers in this 600 person survey.

Weighing just 24 ounces, the Lunar Solo is quite lightweight and easy to set up. It has a bathtub style floor to prevent flooding in rain and a side door, making entry easy. The interior is quite roomy, with a pentagon shaped floor, providing room to store your gear in the tent, and plenty of head room to sit up inside. A large vestibule also provides gear storage and room to cook in bad weather. Click for specs and customer reviews.

See the SectionHiker Review of the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo.

8. Tarptent Double Rainbow

Tarptent Double Rainbow
The Tarptent Double Rainbow ($289) is a single walled, two person tent that weighs 41 ounces. It has two side doors and two large vestibules for gear storage. Constructed as a single unit, the tent requires a single tent pole, which is inserted into a long sleeve sewn onto the top of the tent. Trekking poles can also be used in lieu of tent stakes, to stretch out the tent corners, such as on wooden platforms or rock ledge.

The tent has a bathtub floor to prevent rain from entering the tent as well as large mesh sidewalls. Roof vents also help vent moisture and prevent internal condensation. This tent is very popular with ultralight backpackers and provides excellent value for the price. Click for specs.

9. NEMO Hornet 2P

Nemo Hornet 2P
The Nemo Hornet 2P ($369) ultralight double-walled tent weighs just 1 pound 14.3 ounces rivaling many single-walled ultralight tents in terms of weight and cost. Featuring two side doors and a deep bathtub floor, the Hornet 2P is a comfortable tent for two, but lightweight enough for one person who wants more space to use. The inner tent hangs from an exoskeleton style hub and spoke pole using plastic clips. This creates a large air gap between the inner tent and the rain fly, that improves internal airflow and eliminates internal condensation. Mesh side walls improve air circulation while solid side panels provide privacy and wind protection. Click for specs and customer reviews.

See the SectionHiker Review of the NEMO Hornet 2P Tent.

10. Kelty Salida 2

Kelty Salida 2
The Kelty Salida 2 ($149) is a 2 person, side entry backpacking tent with one door and one vestibule, and two shock-corded poles. Weighing 3 pounds 14 ounces, it’s roomy for one and spacious for two, but still lightweight enough for backpacking.

The inner tent is freestanding, making setup easy. Ample vestibule space and high sidewall protection provide privacy. Made with durable materials and aluminum poles, the Salida 2 is a bombproof tent good for beginner backpackers, scouts, and families who want a reliable waterproof tent that’s easy to use.

Click for specs and customer reviews.

About This Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=600 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpacker who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about the popularity of different backpacking tents.

Support SectionHiker.com. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

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40 comments

  1. I think all these tents are good. But, many years ago (maybe ten or so) I made a 3 man tent (49sqft) that weighed about 2#12. Fully enclosed with a floor, it provided a LOT of space. Which is also why I don’t use it much. Manufacturers can do better.

  2. Did you, by any chance, ask how many miles per day peoples hiked? I’d like to see if there is daily mileage tipping point where commercial rents start to fade out and cottage manufacturers take over.

    • I like that question! I’m an economist and it’s exactly the kind of thing an economist might find interesting. Maybe I’ll talk to a graduate student about this as a master’s thesis research project idea!

    • I think many of the mainstream tent makers are becoming more innovative and tent weights for freestanding, double walled, fully featured backpacking tents in the 3lb range and under are more common . Many backpackers are not thru hikers and or don’t carry trekking poles so the newer class of mainstream tents are becoming more the better option.

  3. Philip what is the difference between the BA Fly Creek UL 2 and the BA Seedhouse UL 2 they look very similer other than a few ounces lighter

  4. Thanks Philip I looked at the specs and i was wrong the seedhouse is approx 1 lb heavier

    • Very interesting conversation. So as a thru hiker for many years, I would be concerned about that 1-pound. But as a consumer, driven by the ultimate “best product for the money” , which way do I go? Now PHILLIP, I may disagree with you here. # 1 access , with the internet here all tents of all kinds are available at all times for many prices. #2 And as far as advertising goes…I think true outdoor people and the average consumer are much more informed / smarter these days.(materials, fabric coating, stitch type and count etc) REI does happen to make one of the best tents for the money=value, (in my humble opinion). I have had or utilized all of the above tents except the z pack. I am currently packing the Kelty for my trip around the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) ….if the area ever thaws out!! Keep up the chatter.

      Buddy

      • Having done extensive three-season hiking over the years, and just now getting interested in extending into winter, i spent many hours/days/weeks over the past few months researching winter gear.

        It seems like no matter how long i’ve spent looking, there always seems to be another brand or small cottage business just one click away from discovering. I’m never sure i’ve exhausted the options for whatever particular thing i’m considering.

        Winter tent, for example. I had gone over and over the offerings from all the usual suspects—REI, EMS, Backcountry.com, campsaver, Campmor, Moosejaw, etc., etc. Ordered a couple of that looked good on paper (or computer screen), and sent them back for various deal-breaker issues (for me).

        Not sure exactly how, but i found Tarptent, and ordered a Scarp1 which, with a bit of modification, i’m happy with.

  5. I’ve had the #1 tent and the #8 tent. Double Rainbow any day (with a partner…I tarp/bivy when I solo). It’s a great design and a roomy tent.

  6. Spend retarded amount of money for a heavy tent when you can spend so much less on a custom hammock that is light weight af.

    • And then spend a retarded amount of money on a Dutchware and a cuben fiber tarp. Ha!

    • Nice for when you’re hard pressed to find that footprint of open ground in the Boreal forests of northern MH or Maine, but absolutely useless above treeline or on the desert (can you say Grand Canyon?). Besides, for me, my back can’t take sleeping in the sway of a hammock night after night. But….. HYOH

    • Not everyone likes to sleep in a hammock and since when is a measly 3lbs packed weight heavy af as you say??

    • I love my Hennessey hammock but I’ll take my Kelty tent any day before it when it’s cold. Hammocks end up becoming expensive and heavy after you invest in all the accessories necessary for having a decent warm nights sleep out in the cold.

  7. I would love to see a review of the Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum 2. At 1 lb 10 ounces it seems like the lightest freestanding tent available. Any chance you’re going to get around to reviewing it?

    • It’s not freestanding. That’s all marketing bullshit. You need stakes to pitch it. Just because the “inner” tent is freestanding, doesn’t mean the outer tent is.

      But no – don’t haven’t plans to review it.

      Far as I can tell, the newer HV Fly Creek Variant has been updated, while the FC Platinum 2 is still based on the old mesh and dimensions of the previous generation of Fly Creek tents. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is retired when they sell out.

  8. the #1 tent on this list is a terrible performer. i’ve been on one about 3 times and each time it failed. weather it was failing to keep water out during a storm or collapsing in mild winds. another one to consider is the scarp from tarp tent. this tent has been by far the most versatile and best performing tent i’ve own. While and friend was soaking wet under the biganges copper ul i was completil dry. it takes a small hit on weight but its peace of mind far makes up for it.

    • I think the climate really matters on what tent you select. The Tarptent Scarp 1 is overkill for most places in the US that have forest or tent sites protected by the wind. The “hit” is a 51 ounce tent, so over a pound in increased weight. It is a tent I would take to Alaska or Scotland where the winds and storms are horrendous. But Americans are spoiled by milder weather and these lighter weight tents are fine.

      • Said the dude who’s never camped in New Hampshire in the winter. :)

      • Excuse me? I’ve used a Scarp 1 and other tents in winter in NH plenty. We’re not permitted to camp above treeline in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. That means you’re always in forest. And even then a Scarp 1 is overkill. Comfortable, but the extra wind worthiness is a bit wasted.

      • 51oz isn’t exactly a hit though at 3lbs, 3oz.. that’s the same packed weight as the BA Copper Spur UL2 , granted heavier than a tarp, bivy, hammock, or single walled tent by for a double walled tent that’s just about as light as you can go

      • Actually, that’s not true….
        these are lots of double walled tents under three pounds. Their weights have come way down.

        Nemo Blaze 2P – 32 oz
        Nemo Hornet 2P – 32 oz
        MH Ghost UL 2 – 34 oz
        MSR Freelite 2 – 39 oz
        to name just a few.

        they’re just not as weather worthy as a Tarptent Scarp 1.

      • From Phil’s nearby 5:28 post (there’sno reply button under the post that this passage comes from): [[ We’re not permitted to camp above treeline in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. ]]

        I had always thought this too, but, apparently there’s an exception (unless the rule has changed in the last few years). I’ve read this elsewhere, too, but from AMC White Mountain Guide, 29th edition, page xxv:

        “Stated briefly, the 2011 FPA [Forest Protection Area] rules prohibit camping (except on two or more feet of snow, but not on frozen bodies of water) and wood or charcoal fires above timberline (where trees are less than 8 ft. in height); within 0.25 mi. of any trailhead, hut, shelter, developed tent site, cabin, picnic area, developed day-use site, or campground… These restrictions are now in effect year-round, except that camping is allowed in the alpine zone on 2 or more feet of snow.”

      • It’s true, you can camp on 2 feet of snow above treeline. in the White Mountains But most of the places where this applies are scoured by the wind so there isn’t two feet of snow or they’re so windy (average daily wind speed above treeline is 40-45 mph) that you’re really not going to want to be there unless you have a very strong tent, and probably not even then.

      • Mild shower in california sierras in the fall and my friend was in danger of hypothermia because his Big anges copper UL could not stay dry in 30 mins of showers he ended up sleeping in a .5″ deep puddle of water inside his tent, i was warm and toasty in the scarp, no water got in. Mild winds in Lost coast trail and the Big Anges tent poles broke, that was the second time it happened, he had just gotten it back from the manufacturer to repair the previous time the poles broke. Peace of mind and safety far outweigh the few ounces you would be saving. The added weight can be offset in other areas. My friend swears by the Copperl UL regardless of the Terrible performance. I think that is the mentality that has some of the mass produced tents in the top 5.

  9. Definitely there are but many are semi freestanding and or sacrifice something for that weight, my point was just that 3lbs all things withstanding is still a pretty good UL weight for a 100% freestanding double walled tent .

    • But the Scarp 1 isn’t freestanding or even a freestanding as the Copper Spur UL 2. Just pointing that out.
      I’m personally fine with a 3 pound double walled tent if the conditions require it. I’m waiting on delivery a Hilleberg Niak for hiking in Scotland. 53 oz. Good tent to be in if you’re pinned down by rain and high winds for a day. I almost chose the Scarp 1, but I’ve already owned one and wanted something a bit different.

  10. I love my Big Agnes FlyCreek UL2 but the only thing I don’t like about it is that it isn’t completely free standing. I am a climber and alpine guy so I often find myself in terrain that you can’t peg out easily on. That would be my only complaint and maybe the Copper Spur would have been a better choice.

    • neither are truly freestanding. I can recommend the freestanding Black Diamond Firstlight which I’ve owned for going on 10 years. Just add some seam sealer to make it waterproof, but otherwise its perfect for pitching on rock.
      http://sectionhiker.com/black-diamond-firstlight-tent-long-term-gear-review/

      • Phillip, Can you please clarify. I know the Fly Creek is semi freestanding, but everything I’ve seen on the Copper Spur indicated it is a 100% free standing tent. In fact it is on my short list to buy for that reason. What about the Nemo Dagger 2p?

      • They’re both “semi-freestanding”. This post will clarify.
        http://sectionhiker.com/what-semi-freestanding-tent/
        If it needs stakes to stand up, including the fly, it’s not freestanding.

      • Thanks, I read the post and see what you are saying. I guess I just assumed that as long as the inner tent required no stakes and was freestanding then the advertised term freestanding was accurate. Don’t all rainfly/vestibules require at least one or more stakes to be functional? When I contacted Nemo they verified the Dagger as freestanding but did add that to get the full use of the vestibules they would require one stake so I guess that would seem still be a good choice. Besides the FirstLight, are there any three season double walled tents that meet the bill?

      • Not many. The Tarptent Rainbow comes close. Most of the others are tent like the Firstlight form Big agnes, MSR, etc.

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