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 2020 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.
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 68 oz. Read our review.
The 3F UL LanShan 2 Pro is a single-wall trekking pole tent that weighs 2 lbs 0.3 oz (32.3 oz). It has two doors and two vestibules that provide plenty of gear storage and ventilation but the tent must be seal-sealed before it can be used in wet conditions. This 20d silnylon tent is available in two versions, a three season-model which has mesh interior sidewalls and a four-season model that has solid, but breathable nylon walls to block the cold wind. 3F UL’s tents have become very popular with US Backpackers because they’re pretty good quality and low-priced. The tent comes with tent stakes, a storage sack. and guylines. A footprint is available but costs extra. A one-person model is also available.
The Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 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 rain fly rolls back and secures halfway for stargazing at night or shade during the day. The rectangular floorplan provides uncompromised space while 5 pockets offer ample interior storage off the floor. The Mineral King 2 2 has a trail weight of 5 lbs 2.7 oz and includes a free footprint.
The Marmot Catalyst 2P is 3-season, 2-person tent that features a seam-taped catenary cut floor, color-coded poles for easy setup, 2 D-shaped doors and 2 vestibules with plenty of room to stash gear. It comes with durable aluminum poles and has interior pockets for small-gear organization, including a lampshade pocket that securely holds your headlamp to provide ambient light so you can read or hang out in the tent before hitting the hay. The Catalyst has a trail weight of 4 lbs 11 oz and comes with a footprint.
The Dan Durston X-Mid 1P is a one-person 27.9-ounce double-wall tent that is exceptionally easy to set up. It has two doors and requires two trekking poles to pitch. All of the seams are taped and the inner tent is optional so you can just use the rainfly if desired. The X-mid can be set up fly first in the rain to keep the inner tent dry and has plenty of interior gear storage space. This mid-style tent is quite stormworthy and includes extra guyout points for extreme conditions. Read our review.
The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is a one-person, single-wall tent that’s pitched with a single trekking pole. Weighing just 26 ounces, the Lunar Solo is quite lightweight and easy to set up. It has a bathtub style floor to prevent flooding in the rain and a side door, making entry easy. The interior is quite roomy, with a hexagon-shaped floor, providing room to store your gear in the tent, and plenty of headroom to sit up inside. A large vestibule also provides gear storage and room to cook in bad weather. The Lunar Solo upper is made with a 20d silicone-coated polyester, reducing fabric stretch and packed volume, while the floor utilizes a more durable 40D weave. Read our review.
The Sierra Designs Full Moon 2 is a freestanding two-person tent with two doors and two vestibules. It has two, equal-length aluminum poles that cross overhead making setup a breeze. A deep bathtub floor provides moisture protection while a 68 denier floor provides long-term durability. The large side vestibules provide plenty of external gear storage, while the 41″ ceiling height provides ample room to sit up inside and relax. With a trail weight of 3 lbs 15.5 oz, it’s one of the lightest weight budget backpacking tents available today that is well constructed and reliable.
The REI Trail Hut 2 has a freestanding dome architecture with equal-length poles and pole clips that is easy to set up. Two large D-shaped doors and large vestibules provide ease of access and covered storage. The rain fly doors roll up over the roof for a clear sky view, plus improved venting and reduced condensation. Integrated door venting reduces weight and bulk, while internal pockets and gear loops are provided organizing essentials. With a trail weight of 4 lbs 14 oz, the Trail Hut is a great backpacking option for couples.
The NEMO Aurora 2 is a spacious two-person tent with 2 doors, 2 vestibules, and steep internal walls that provide a massive amount of interior volume to spread out. Overhead light pockets use special light-diffusing fabric to cast an even glow throughout the tent while gear pockets offer ample storage for personal items.
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-cross 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.
Here are the most important variables to consider when buying a budget backpacking or camping tent.
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 5 pounds, which isn’t too bad when split between two people.
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.
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.
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 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.
All tents experience tent condensation, but good tent site 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.
Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed on SectionHiker.com, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!