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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 picks for the top 10 best budget backpacking tents available under $250.

1. Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 ($190)

SD Summer Moon 2
The Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 is a fully freestanding tent (both inner tent and fly) making it easy to camp on any surface. Set up is easy with two equal-length poles, pole clips, and corner clips to hold the pole ends in place. The Summer Moon has a large D-shaped front door and a large front vestibule for gear storage, while the uniquely shaped fly acts like an air scoop to ventilate the tent and reduce internal condensation. The Summer Moon 2 has a trail weight of 55 oz making it one of the lightest weight dome style tents available today.

Check out the latest price at:
Campsaver | Amazon

2. Big Agnes C-Bar 2 ($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.

Check out the latest price at:
Campsaver | Amazon

3. Kelty Salida 2 ($150)

Kelty Salida 2
The Kelty Salida 2  is one of the most popular backpacking and camping tents of all time because it’s so well featured, easy to use, and fairly priced. It has a freestanding inner tent with compact, backpack-friendly tent poles, color coded clips, and fly attachments that are fast to set up. The cross-pole architecture is very stable and provides ample vestibule space, with a large D-shaped door that’s easy to enter and exit. High sidewalls provide privacy and wind protection while ample mesh helps cut down internal condensation. The Salida 2 has a trail weight of 62 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

4. Big Agnes Frying Pan SL 2 ($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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI 

5. REI Passage 2 ($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.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

6. MSR Elixir 2 ($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

7. Kelty TN2 ($250)

Kelty TN2
The Kelty TN2 is a two-person tent with 2 side doors for easy access. It features a roll-back tent fly for star-gazing and clear windows so you can check the weather outside without leaving your sleeping bag. The freestanding inner tent is a color-coded clip design that makes set-up easy, with taped floor seams, mesh wall panels, internal storage pockets, and clip-in Jake’s Foot mini pole attachments. The TN2 has a trail weight of 68 oz.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

8. The North Face Talus 2 ($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

9. Marmot Catalyst 2P ($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 | Amazon

10. Eureka Spitfire 2 ($180)

Spitfire
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:
Campsaver | 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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7 comments

  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?

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