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 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.

 DoorsWeightFootprintPrice
REI Passage 224 lbs 2 ozincluded$159
Eureka Midori 224 lbs 13 ozno$170
Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 225 lbs 2.7 ozincluded$250
REI Half Dome Plus 224 lbs 14 ozno$229
Marmot Tungsten 224 lbs 13 ozincluded$214
Marmot Catalyst 224 lbs 11 ozincluded$183
Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 225 lbs 9 ozno$250
REI Trail Hut 224 lbs 14 ozincluded$199
NEMO Aurora 2P24 lbs 9 ozincluded$250
The North Face Stormbreak 225 lbs 5 ozno$159

1. REI Passage 2 Tent ($159)

REI Passage 2 Tent
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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

2. Eureka Midori 2 ($170)

Eureka Midori 2 Tent
The Eureka Midori 2 tent balances breathable mesh with high sidewalls 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 have color-coded poles and clips. The Modori’s pole geometry optimizes head and elbow room while interior pockets provide gear organization and a headlamp pocket offers ambient light. The Midori 2 has a trail weight of 4 lbs 13 oz. It does not include a footprint.

Check out the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Sunny Sports

3. Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 ($250)

Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 Tent
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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Mountain Hardwear 

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 sidewalls for maximum comfort and gear storage. Breathable mesh walls provide excellent airflow, 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. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

5. Marmot Tungsten 2 ($214)

Marmot Tungsten 2
The Marmot Tungsten 2 has a freestanding design with 2 D-shaped doors for easy entry and 2 vestibules. Its pre-bend construction creates vertical interior walls, providing a big sleeping area and extra headroom, while color-coded clips and poles make pitching quick and simple. The Tungsten 2 includes a footprint and has a trail weight of 4 lbs 13 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
REI| Amazon

6. Marmot Catalyst 2 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 “lampshade 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 | OutdoorPlay | Sunny Sports

7. Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 Tent ($250)

Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 Tent
The Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 is a two-person tent with two doors and two vestibules including a massive side vestibule that’s great for storing your bike or extra gear under-cover. We really like the fact that the rear door and vestibule can still be used as an entrance when the front awning is deployed, so you don’t have to crawl in and out of the front. The Blacktail Hotel is also a good alternative to a 3 person tent and a great option if you like to camp with a dog. The inner tent is freestanding with color-coded poles for easy setup, with lots of mesh and roof vents for enhanced airflow. There are lots of pockets in the sleeping area, while gear loft loops are included for additional enhancement. The Blacktail Hotel 2 has a trail weight of 5 lbs 9 oz but does not include a footprint.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | OutdoorPlay | Amazon

8. REI Trail Hut 2 Tent ($199)

REI Trail Hut 2

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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

9. NEMO Aurora 2 Tent ($250)

NEMO Aurora 2P Tent
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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | OutdoorPlay | Amazon

10. The North Face Stormbreak 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-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.

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 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 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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27 comments

  1. The Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 is on sale right now at REI for 187.39, but I already have way more tents than I can use.

  2. Six Moons Designs has several excellent options in this price range, including the award winning 26 oz Lunar Solo and my longtime go to, the Deschutes Plus. None are freestanding, but all are great options for if you already use trekking poles and are looking to save both weight and dollars.

    • This is obviously spam. Who writes “the award-winning Lunar Solo?”

      • I do, ;-) Just love their gear

      • Someday I’ll write an expose article about how easy it is to get these awards. I like the Lunar Solo too, but if you have a PR firm representing you and an advertising budget, you can get all of the awards you want from all of the tradeshows that sell floor space, and major magazines and websites that have advertising staffs to sell banner ads and newsletter placements (we don’t sell either). Plus the “judges” have never actually used the gear.

      • Always been a bit suspect of those awards, though good gear is sometimes chosen. I would love to read that expose. I probably couldn’t resist posting something that looks like spam in the comments there either. BTW, have you heard of my proven method for making $100K a month working from home just 10 hours a week ;-)?

  3. Surprised that no Kelty tents make this list? Were they considered and rejected?

  4. I noticed several REI tents here. While I’ve never used the REI house brands, and they’re too heavy for me now, I’ve often felt that the quality appeared decent, and I wonder if new backpackers, who weren’t sure how long they’d be interested in the sport, could use an article along the lines of “assembling a kit from REI” where you would pick a pack, tent, sleeping bag, pad, and clothing from the REI brand, flesh it out with a budget stove and water filter that REI sells, and come up with a total investment and weight. That could provide a lot of education to new hikers in a small amount of space. Just a thought.

  5. I have to laugh at myself and my own reaction to this list. “The lightest tent on the list is over 4 lbs! Oh, no!”

    When I first starting backpacking with my husband, our tent (REI Trail Dome with separate vestibule) weighed about 7 lbs. Split between us, that is only slightly less than the weight a solo hiker using one of the tents above would be carrying. Back then I carried 35-40 lbs on a 1-night, 2-person weekend trip.

    A couple using one of these tents would be carrying only slightly more than our current Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 (yes, UL3, we like the roominess for two people and gear), which is a bit over 4 lbs.

    While we all want to keep the weight we carry down, it would be a terrible mistake to fail to get started just because you can’t afford the super-light shelters now available. Get some gear and get out there as soon as the pandemic allows, and worry about lightening your load later.

    • The vast majority of people can’t actually afford a $700 tent and then there are some who won’t pay that much on principle. :-)

      • Neither would we. I think our most expensive tent was around $400.

        I have no down puffy jacket because I just can’t decide to pay the current prices.

        The jackets I’m using now are a mix of fleece and synthetics, bought on sale for about $30 each. :-)

      • I’ve had really good luck this spring with an Amazon Essentials Men’s Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Puffer Jacket.
        https://amzn.to/2yA9H32
        Under $40. Avoid the hooded version. The hood is way too large to be useful.

    • Yes, these tents are car camping tents for one person. You must have two persons splitting the weight to qualify for a decent backpacking tent.

  6. I appreciate that these are all two man shelters, and when you make the point about splitting the weight makes a little more sense in considering these tents. A little only though, because that would mean for me I’d have to bunk up with grandpa! (Nothing personal grandpa, we’re still buddies but . . .). Actually section hiking everything for me at my age, I decided that I need to keep each piece of gear to two pounds or less. My 6moon sky trekker with the 5 permanently tied ground hog minis meets that being right at 2lbs. With seasonal discount and factory seam sealed a bit over $200. True you’ll need to learn to fix its zippers (seriously) and sew your own zipper stops but 2 lbs – $200, separate sleeping from your good but insomniac buddies, (smell not a consideration I’m sure I’m far worse, but don’t know because I have no sense of smell :) ), I would think that this product would be worth mentioning. Of course I think that for $300 + you close in on really nice gear like tarptent products or “the one” , that has similar features but with more options like more vestibule space.

    • We’re great hiking buddies but somehow he thinks that having to share 28sf sleeping space with a snoring insomniac who’s compelled to get up and mark his territory a few times during the night makes carrying an extra pound or two a blessing. I just don’t understand it. I thought section hiking was a way to refine techniques and make small sacrifices to save weight for the next portion of the trail.

  7. Availability is cyclical but it’s worth mentioning Dan Durston’s X-Mid 1P; sub-2 lbs. and $200.

  8. What about the MEIR Ultralight 3 season tent on Amazon for $160? Purchased this earlier theis year and very pleased with it.

    • I’m still on the fence about recommending the Meir tent because 1) I don’t trust that the manufacturer guarantees the tent 2) I question the labor practices of the factories that make it in China. Then again, you can probably appeal to Amazon if you never receive the product. And if it’s defective, you can probably get some protection from the fact that it’s been sold on Amazon if you claim a refund fast enough. Amazon tends to have a very short return window in my experience. I have bought a MEIR so I may change my mind once I’ve tested it out. But there are so many people who resell it, you have to be careful who you buy it from. It’s very easy to say you sell one and ship something else.

  9. I have my second REI Half Dome. I had the first from the time of its original debut until it was showing a good bit of wear.(15 years) I went with the plus for times when I need to fit in a grand kid or two, or want to spread out and weight isn’t my primary concern. It has withstood torrential rains, and the new design of the fly form a bit of an awning so it’s easier to enter and exit without rain getting in. If you don’t mind tighter quarters you can shave some weight by going with the standard half dome. If my goal is light and fast, I have a single person tent. Since I can no longer do back packing, due to a femur injury, I use that tent for bikepacking. BTW, when my first Trail Dome leaked, REI sent seam sealer. When the fly developed a tear more than a year after purchase, I expected to buy a new fly. REI sent a new tent!

  10. This is a good list. I have an older half dome that is holding up great and I paid a lot less for my gear than some of my trail companions. I’m not opposed to ‘sleeping with grandpa’ because after a day on the trail I’m tired enough not to worry about it, so splitting the weight of a 4.5 lb tent is well within reason for me.
    For the family and my scouts we picked up a couple of Alps Lynx tents that are close to (just above) the weight of the “The North Face Stormbreak 2′. The price is just right when you find it on sale (<$100). Not saying it is top of the line, but for short weekenders split between some boys it works well.

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