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10 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

10 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

What are the best backpacking tents? The majority of backpackers purchase two person tents so they can bring company or enjoy more interior space. Favorite tents include the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, the MSR Hubba Hubba, the REI Quarter Dome, the Tarptent Rainbow, and the NEMO Hornet 2P, among others.

1. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

Best Tents Big Agnes Copper Spur HV Ul2

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 Person Tent ($449) is the most popular backpacking tent purchased today. 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. Tent weight minus stakes is a miserly 2 pounds 12 ounces. Click for specs and customer reviews.

Review: See the SectionHiker review of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 

2. Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2


The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 ($399) is an ultralight double-wall tent that only weighs 2 lbs 4 oz. It has two doors, making it ultra-convenient for couples, or as a palace for one, with dual vestibules for gear storage. But the star of the show on this tent is the all-mesh inner-tent front wall, making it the most highly ventilated tent in Big Agnes’ line of lightweight tents. Click for specs and customer reviews.

Review: See the SectionHiker review of the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2.

3. MSR Hubba Hubba NX

MSR Hubba Hubba
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX ($399) 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 Hubba Hubba NX is lightweight enough for backpacking use when shared by two people, but on the heavy side 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.

Review: 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.

Review: See the SectionHiker review of the REI Quarter Dome 2 Person Tent.

5. REI Half Dome 2 Plus

REI Half Dome 2 PLus
The REI Half Dome Plus 2 Person Tent ($229) is a great crossover tent for car campers who want to start backpacking. At 4 pounds 14 ounces, it is heavier than the REI Quarter Dome 2, but it’s significantly less expensive and has many features only found on high-end tents.

The Half Dome 2 Plus 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 Dyneema Composite Material (formerly 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. 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.

Review: 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.

Review: 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.

Tent Selection Criteria

Here are the most important variables to consider when buying a backpacking or camping tent.

WEIGHT/TRAIL WEIGHT –  The total weight of a tent usually measures the tent and all of its packaging, while the trail weight is the weight of its poles, inner tent, outer rain fly, minus any tent stakes. Why the difference? Most people replace the tent stakes that come with a tent with lighter weight or stronger ones and leave all the extra stuff sacks and packaging at home rather than carry it.

TENT POLES – Tent poles are made using fiberglass, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the most durable of the three, while carbon fiber is normally only used in very high-end tents where the focus is on light weight. Fiberglass poles are the least durable tent poles and break frequently.  So much so, that we recommend avoiding any tent with fiberglass poles. All the ones above have aluminum poles or use trekking poles. Most manufacturers who sell trekking pole tents offer regular tent poles as an add-on purchase.

DURABILITY – The floor of a tent is the part of a tent most likely to be punctured or torn as a result of ground abrasion. While using a footprint on floors that are 20 denier thick or less is always recommended, it’s far less necessary on 30 denier or higher floors, except on highly abrasive or rough terrain.

DOORS – Tents with two side doors are often preferable when purchasing a tent for two because it means each occupant can each get in and out without disturbing one another.

INTERIOR STORAGE – Interior pockets and storage organization is a plus in a multi-person tent. Look for internal pockets and gear loops to hang gear from the ceiling. A gear loft is an added bonus. Vestibule space is always a plus as well, but especially if there are multiple doors, so that gear storage does not block entry and exit.

VENTILATION – All tents experience tent condensation, but good tentsite selection and ventilation are the best ways to avoid it. Look for tents that have lots of mesh netting to facilitate airflow, top vents to release moist air, and door tie-backs to roll up tent doors and keep them open at night.

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19 comments

  1. Friar Rodney Burnap

    Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo…looks like a knock off of the Z packs Hexamid tarp tent…I also own the Zpacks model… Hexamid Plus Tarp…

  2. Hilleberg is really missing … I have tents from Hyperlite Mountain Gear, 2xTarptent, Exped, Spatz, Vaude, Eureka!, MSR … but none can compete with Quality by Hilleberg.

    Would I have to choose only one tent for 1/2 my favorite is Hilleberg Unna. Fullstop.

  3. where would the new Big Agnes Tiger wall UL 2 fall on this list now that you have reviewed it. I am debating between it and the Copper Spur. thanks!

    • Been meaning to go back and update this post, so thanks for the reminder.
      Off the top of my head, it will probably replace the Fly Creek or possibly the Lunar Solo – I have another list I plan to put that one on.

  4. Have older Copper Spur and want to shave a few oz, narrowed down to Tiger Wall or NEMO? What would you pick?

  5. I’ve enjoyed my Copper Spurs (UL1 and UL2) but haven’t used either since purchasing a Zpacks Duplex. The Duplex gets my vote :) There’s just no going back once you have a tent that packs this small and light and offers so much room. You describe it as “translucent.” It’s really not enough to compromise privacy, but it’s enough to let the moonlight through which is beautiful.

  6. Can you work the Six Moon Design using an appropiate size stick instead of a trek pole? Im not a big fan of poles.

  7. Isn’t it curious that Tarptent, the small cottage industry, can make tents cheaper than any of the brand names, and their tents weighs less, too. (41 oz = 2lb, 9oz, to make it easier to compare)

    I made four changes to my Double Rainbow that made a HUGE difference in usability:

    1) I sewed Velcro tabs to the mesh wall beside each door and to the rainfly, so that it holds the mesh away from the living space–a very welcome improvement if you hate mesh in your face.

    2) I sewed loops for stakes in the bathtub floor where each door zips vertically. This way you can zip the door with one hand.

    3) I cut off almost all the Velcro closures on the rainfly openings. They were much too large and a royal pain when trying to open the fly! I don’t have problems with drips along the zippers.

    4) I added pull tabs to all the zippers.

    • I wouldn’t classify Tarptent as a “small” cottage company anymore. It’s the most successful small business from the old UL group and quite a booming little business.
      They can sell for less money because they sell direct to consumers without having to give a cut to retailers.

      • And even then, cost doesn’t seem to be a factor with the folks commenting here. Do they are fish with Leonard cane rods as well? I like White’s boots from days fighting fires but cost has to figure in somewhere.

  8. I pay close attention to how much weight I am carrying. I am not a UL fanatic. I took a ZPacks Hexamid Solo-Plus on my JMT through hike and I love it. I am 6’1″ and I had plenty of room for me and my pack inside the tent and it performed perfectly in high winds (Evolution Lake) and rain (4 nights during our hike). It weighs 17.7 oz and packs very small. The Dyeema Composite fabric is totally waterproof and strong. During clear nights I unclipped the bathtub floor (also Dyeema Composite fabric) and used it as a groundcloth so I could view the stars. The set up is very simple and you can do it quickly all by yourself.

  9. I am just wondering how Big Sky Revolution tent stands up against your lists? I am tossing between Nemo Hornet and Big Sky Revolution tents. I am looking for an ultralight tent (first tent in fact) for bikepacking and hiking.

    • Big sky tents are very difficult to order because they’re website is so poor. If you want a tent for bike packing you’d be well to get one that packs very small and has straight short poles. I’d recommend a tarptent pro lite for bikepacking to be honest. Tarptent sells poles for when you don’t have trekking poles with you.

  10. Is there a big difference between the Kelty Salida and the REI Half Dome 2 Plus other than 1 vs. 2 doors? The REI is on sale right now for closer to the same price as the Kelty normally goes for. I’m seeing a pound difference in weight listed in specifications, but I can’t tell what is causing that. At the moment I’m looking for an inexpensive two person tent for car camping with maybe occasional backpacking.

    • It’s the 2 doors. if you plan to camp with someone else that second door will help you avoid being murdered. The REI is a much nicer tent. Kelty tents are functional, but not really homey.

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