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10 Best Budget Backpacking Tents under $250

10 Best Budget Backpacking Tents under $250

It seems like backpacking tents are getting more and more expensive, especially ultralight tents made with specialty fabrics. But take heart. There are still plenty of good values and bargain tents available if you know what to look for. Here are our 2019 picks for the top 10 best budget backpacking tents available under $250. All of these tents are lightweight enough to be used for backpacking or camping, and provide a great bang for the buck.

REI Passage 224 lbs 13 ozno$150
MSR Elixr 225 lbsincluded$249
Big Agnes Frying Pan SL 224 lbs 5 ozincluded$250
REI Half Dome Plus 224 lbs 14 ozno$229
The North Face Talus 224 lbs 8 ozincluded$199
Marmot Catalyst 224 lbs 11 ozincluded$169
Eureka Spitfire 224 lbs 3 ozno$180
Big Agnes C-Bar 213 lbs 9 ozno$199
NEMO Galaxi 2P25 lbs 1 ozincluded$200
The North Face Stormbreak 225 lbs 5 ozno$159

1. REI Passage 2 Tent ($159)

REI Passage 2
The REI Passage 2 Tent is a 3-season tent for 2 that sets up easily and features 2 doors, each with its own vestibule. Adjustable ceiling vents help reduce condensation by moving moist air outside. Pole clips, equal-length aluminum poles and color coding make setup easy. The tent has internal mesh pockets, hang loops, a gear loft, and dual vestibules that provide plenty of storage space for you and a friend. The Passage 2 has a trail weight of 77 oz.

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2. MSR Elixir 2 Tent ($250)

MSR Elixr 2
The MSR Elixir 2 balances breathable mesh with a solid canopy fabric to provide ventilation, warmth and privacy. It has 2 large doors and vestibules for easy entry and exit, while a freestanding inner tent and fly has color-coded poles, clips and webbing, plus red vestibules for fast and easy setup. The Elixir’s pole geometry optimizes head and elbow room while a built-in gear loft and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls enhance livability. The Elixr 2 has a trail weight of 80 oz. Price includes a footprint.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

3. Big Agnes Frying Pan SL 2 Tent ($250)

Big Agnes Ftrying Pan SL 2
The Big Agnes Frying Pan SL 2 has two large side doors with two vestibules so you each have your own private entrance and gear storage, with steep walls that provide a generous amount of internal space. The inner tent is freestanding with pole clips to hang the fly, gear loops, three internal pockets, and an over-sized ceiling pocket which provides ample storage space. An added ceiling vent helps reduce internal condensation. The Frying Pan SL 2 has a trail weight of 69 oz and includes a free footprint.

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4. REI Half Dome Plus 2 Tent ($229)

REI Half-Dome Plus 2
REI’s Half Dome 2 Plus is extra long and wide to give you and your partner extra room to stretch out. It has a hubbed color coded pole for easy assembly, two doors, two vestibules, and near vertical side walls for maximum comfort and gear storage. Breathable mesh walls provide excellent air flow, while the rain fly has 4 ceiling vents that help prevent internal condensation buildup. The Half Dome 2 Plus has a trail weight of 78 oz.

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5. The North Face Talus 2 Tent ($199)

The North Face Talus 2
The North Face’s Talus 2 Tent has one hubbed and color coded pole making it fast and easy to set up.  It has a mesh canopy to allow plenty of airflow along with a roll-up fly that lets you increase cross-ventilation in light rain. There’s one front door and a rear hatch that opens up into a separate gear locker, really the rear vestibule. Still this provides access to your gear while leaving the front vestibule free of clutter. The Talus 2 includes a gear loft and footprint. It has a trail weight of 72 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

6. Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent ($169)

Marmot Catalyst 2P
The Marmot Catalyst 2-person tent features a seam-taped catenary cut floor, 2 D-shaped doors and 2 vestibules with plenty of room to stash gear. Color coded poles and a freestanding inner tent make setup fast and easy, while a separate brow pole over the door increases vestibule space and door clearance. Interior pockets provide gear organization while a “lamp shade pocket” holds a headlamp to provide ambient light at night. A footprint is included. The Catalyst 2P has a trail weight of 75 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Sunny Sports

7. Eureka Spitfire 2 Tent ($180)

The Eureka Spitfire 2 is loaded with mesh for great ventilation with ample headroom and interior living space. Two large U-style side doors roll up and out of the way providing easy entry and exit for you and a partner. The tent’s hoop-style aluminum poles fit lock into corner grommets making set up fast and easy while two internal pockets provide gear storage. The Spitfire has a trail weight of 67 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
Amazon | Sunny Sports

8. Big Agnes C-Bar 2 Tent ($199)

Big Agnes C-Bar 2

The Big Agnes C-Bar 2 has a freestanding inner tent that’s designed to be roomy with a single pole architecture which makes set up and take down simple and fast. There’s a single front entry door with a vestibule to store gear, an oversized ceiling pocket, plus three mesh pockets that are great for stashing odds and ends. Velcro tabs connect the fly to the pole structure providing extra stability, with pre-cut reflective guy lines and tensioners. With a trail weight of 57 oz, the C-Bar is a great lightweight backpacking option for couples.

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9. NEMO Galaxi 2P Tent ($200)

NEMO Galaxi 2P Tent
The NEMO Galaxi 2P is a spacious two person tent with 2 doors and 2 vestibules.  It has pre-bent poles which increase interior volume and create near vertical walls for maximum living space. A roll-back fly feature lets you star-gaze through the large mesh canopy, as well as helping to manage condensation and add breathability. The Galaxi 2P has a trail weight of 81 oz and includes a footprint.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

10. The North Face Storm Break 2 Tent ($159)

The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent
The North Face Stormbreak 2 is a two-person, 2 door, and 2 vestibule tent that provides plenty of interior space. The doors are unusual in that they have two zippers each instead of one, so you can open them up like awnings, or roll up the center panel and still have two sidewalls to provide wind or privacy protection. The criss-crossed pole structure makes the Stormbreak a solid and stable shelter in harsh weather conditions, while large interior pockets and ceiling loops improve livability in any weather. The Stormbreak 2 has a trail weight of 85 oz.

Check out the latest price at:

REI | Amazon

Tent Selection Criteria

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

WEIGHT/TRAIL WEIGHT – Budget tents are almost always heavier than ultralight tents because they’re made with heavier, more durable fabrics. 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. Lightweight budget tents are usually in the neighborhood of 4 to 4.5 pounds, which isn’t too bad when split between two people.

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.

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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  1. I feel like the Tarptent MoTrail deserves an honorable mention as a 2-person shelter that only weighs 34oz. It’s unfortunatey $9 over budget at $259, but it’s a dramatically lighter option for folks who don’t mind a front entry, single wall tent. My partner and I love ours!

  2. It’s heavy but the Lunar Duo Explorer at 57oz is a very nice intro tent at $170. From the big manufacturers one tent I looked at heavily for my girlfriend and I when we got into backpacking was the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2. Didn’t really like the one door setup but it seemed to have pretty good features at 4lbs and $199.

  3. I love my Eueka spitfire solo! I swapped out the stakes with titanium, and the weight is competitive with many Uber expensive tents. I also cut up a piece of tyvek for the footprint.
    I am 5′ on a good day, so the solo has plenty of room for both me and my gear. I can also sit up in it. For a little over $100, it’s one of the most economical pieces of gear that icown. Have been using it for years

  4. Aliexpress sells Chinese knockoffs. Seems like no one mentions them because they are Chinese, and mail order. These tents you list are probably made on China. I got one last year that is made by 3F ul gear. A great ultralight 1 person tent. Not freestanding though. It was under 100$, under 2 pounds with everything, (excluding the free silnylon ground tarp) and made of sylnylon. They have another one that looks like a Nemo Hornet knockoff on there, I might get for semi freestanding stuff if I need one. Excellent reviews on these. I will see how that one pans out. They have excellent deals on silnylon tarps too. So you have to wait a month to get them. Big deal. Warranty? Big deal. By 2. There’s your warranty.

    • The biggest difference, besides the theft of intellectual property, is in the quality of the fabrics used. The durability and waterproofing of knock off tents is really not up to international (european or US) standards.

  5. Are these tents for 2 people + 2 backpacks or can they only fit 2 people?

    • It really depends on the size of the people and the size of the backpacks. Most 2 person tents fit at least a small amount of gear (small backpack) with average size people around 5’6-5’9. If there are two six footers in a 2 person tent, you’re unlikely to fit more than a small backpack. Tents with gear shelves and/or gear bags/hangers can come in really handy then, as can a good size, weather resistant vestibule(s). Just make sure you have a ground cloth for the vestibules to keep your gear off the ground. I’d recommend going up to a 3 person tent if you’re going to have 2 large people in the tent and want to keep gear in it too, or if you’re average size but carrying a lot of gear. Personally, I’m 6’4, and on my extended camping trips lasting a month or more, I use every inch of space inside my 2 person tent.

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