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 budget tents available if you know what to look for. Here are our recommended picks for the top 10 best budget backpacking tents for $250 or less. All of these two-person tents are lightweight enough to be used for backpacking or camping and provide a great bang for the buck.
Deal Alert: If you’re an REI member, the REI Half Dome SL 2 Plus, normally priced at $329, is on sale for 50% Off at $164.49 thru March 27th. Weighing 3 lbs 15 oz, its a spacious 2+ person tent and a steal at that discounted price.
The REI Trail Hut 2 has a freestanding dome architecture with equal-length poles and pole clips that are 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 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 5 lbs 5 oz.
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 set up 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 lighter-weight budget 2-person backpacking tents available today that is well constructed and reliable.
The Big Agnes C-Bar Two Person Tent is a surprisingly affordable backpacking tent with a trail weight of 3 lbs 9 oz. Fully featured, this double-wall tent is easy to set up and made with durable materials. It has an oversized ceiling pocket which is great for gear stashing and a large front vestibule. If you’re looking for a tent that you can set up quickly in the dark or durable enough to let your kids borrow for a scouting trip, the C-Bar 2 is a great choice. Read the SectionHiker Review.
The Kelty Late Start 2 is a 2 person, freestanding tent with one front door and vestibule. It has a trail weight of 4 lbs, and comes with two pre-bent aluminum poles which slot into external sleeves in the corner, making it easy to set up and providing a strong structure. The freestanding design means you can pitch the tent and then move it around to find the best site. With the exception of the bathtub floor, the walls and ceiling of the inner tent are all mesh proving excellent ventilation. The Late Start 2 is less expensive than comparable 2-person dome tents because it only has one front door and a vestibule which makes it slightly more difficult for occupants to enter and exit without disturbing the other.
The Marmot Tungsten 2P is a freestanding double-wall one-person tent made with low-stretch polyester that helps reduce internal condensation transfer when it gets wet. The tent includes a footprint and has a fully seam-taped rainfly and floor that offer rain protection when the deluge hits. An internal lampshade pocket holds your headlamp to provide ambient light with interior pockets for small gear organization. A shorter folded pole length makes it easy to pack this tent up for backpacking, bikepacking, kayaking, or all three. The Tungsten 2P has a trail weight of 4 lbs 15.7 oz.
The LanShan 2 Tent is a two-person trekking pole tent that’s lightweight, inexpensive, and reasonably well made. It has a mesh inner tent with a bathtub floor and an external rainfly, with two separate doors and spacious vestibules. The tent is factory seam-taped, although you’ll want to do some touch-ups with seam sealer if you plan on camping in rain. Weighing 2 lbs 7 oz, the Lanshan 2 is made with Sil/PU coated ripstop nylon. While this tent is sold by many offshore resellers, we recommend you purchase it on Amazon, where there’s purchaser protection in terms of shipping delays and manufacturer warranties. Read the SectionHiker review.
The REI Trailmade 2 Tent is a two-person freestanding tent with two doors so you can get up at night without disturbing your partner. It has an X-pole configuration makes this tent easy to set up and increases the vertical space at the ends, with a symmetrical rectangular floor plan so you can face each other inside. The rainfly doors roll up over the roof for a clear view of the sky while numerous internal pockets and gear loops help organize your essentials. The Trailmade 2 is made with polyester which resists sagging when it gets wet, so you can have a taut pitch whatever the weather. The tent has a minimum trail weight of 4 lbs 4 oz and a footprint is also included.
The Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout is an inexpensive 40-ounce, one-person, trekking pole-supported tent. Measuring 100″ x 45″, it has a generous floorplan capable of housing the tallest backpackers. It requires two poles to set up, which are slightly offset from the center of the tent providing extra headroom when lying down allowing the Skyscape to be extremely rigid when guyed out, creating a structure capable of riding out the worst storms. The Skyscape is a Hybrid Double Wall tent: over 80% of the canopy is separated from you by a mesh wall while allowing the vestibules to roll back. The tent must be seam-sealed before use. Read the SectionHiker Review.
The Dan Durston X-Mid 1P is a one-person 1 lb 12 oz 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 guy out points for extreme conditions. Read the SectionHiker review.
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 lightweight. 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 require trekking poles, which can be aluminum or carbon fiber, it doesn’t really matter.
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 get in and out without disturbing the other.
Interior pockets and storage organization are 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, 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.
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Just pulled the trigger on a Half Dome SL 2+ based on the Deal Alert – thanks! I do note that several recent reviewers indicated that the rain fly seems to need seam sealant, which isn’t noted in your 2019 review.
That was four years ago…