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
Big Agnes Blacktail 224 lbs 8 ozincluded$240
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. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:

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 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.

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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. Big Agnes Blacktail 2 Tent ($240)

Big Agnes Black Tail 2
The Big Agnes Blacktail 2 has two doors and two vestibules for easy access and gear storage. It has symmetric, color-coded poles for easy setup and side roof vents for enhanced airflow. Abundant mesh provides excellent airflow with highly breathable, wrap-around fabric for enhanced privacy. Media pockets located above the sleeping area enable clean earbud cord routing from phones or other devices, while gear loft loops are included for additional enhancement. The Blacktail 2 has a trail weight of 72 oz and comes with a free tent footprint.

Check out the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Campsaver | Amazon

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. Read our review.

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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. Read our review.

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. 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.

  2. Lawrence H Constantino

    Walmart’s Ozark trails has a one man free standing tent that weighs 3lbs 12oz for about $70 +/-.Its very comfortable well made and has proven to be a good tent for me. True I upgraded to the Sixmoon skyscape (also not given credit among top 10), but only because I wanted to get a shelter under 2lbs (discounted at $180+sealing).

  3. I’ve used a Wally World 2 man tent in the past for budget backpacking. The amount of weight “per person” wasn’t too bad.

    I sectioned hiked a portion of the AT with Lawrence. Even though I usually go by “Grandpa”, he kept introducing me as “Moe”. We had Larry, Moe, and… well… our curly headed friend Jim couldn’t make it. We’d have been three stodgy stooges!

  4. I would suggest taking a good look at the Dan Durston X-Mid. I haven’t received mine yet, but the reviews so far are nothing but outstanding. For 200 bucks you get a 28 oz. double wall trekking pole tent with two huge vestibules that pitches with only four stakes.

    • That X-Mid looks quite interesting. My TT Double Rainbow has been a lightweight 2 person workhorse for over a decade and I haven’t found anything yet that is so superior to it that the price is justified in my mind. For solo hiking, my TT Notch has served very well. Of course, those tents have been paid off for years. If I was looking for a solo shelter right now, I’d probably go with the X-Mid. If I get independently wealthy in the next few months, I’ll buy one.

  5. My first backpacking tent was a Wenzel. I bought it 15 years ago for $35 because it was light and cheap. I seam sealed it, took care of it and I used it for years and years. That tent has seen Yellowstone, canyon lands the bottom of the grand canyon its been all over the rockies and i did hundreds of AT miles with it.

    To be clear, that tent was very flawed. The worst flaw was that the rain fly didn’t fully cover the door, so getting in and out in the rain meant the inside got wet. But I think the larger point is, you don’t need to spend $200+ on a tent to start backpacking. I suggest everyone start cheap because your preferences in tents change with experience.

    I did invest in better tents over the years. I bought an expensive Easton for its weight and vestibule. Then i started backpacking the LT and went to a hammock to get off the mud covered ground. The Wenzel is my “loaner tent”, so it still gets a little use.

  6. Kelty Salida has been around a while, but still a good balance of weight/price.

  7. Obligatory PSA/reminder about tent dimensions – particularly length: it’s usually measured stake-to-stake, not on the interior. Couple that fact with typically inwardly-sloping walls, which make it effectively shorter at toe/head height, and 6-footers will find that an 84″ long tent is too short, unless one curls up in fetal position all night. In my experience, I need a tent of at least (my height + 16″) to lay out fully and not touch the tent walls.

  8. I see the weight of two man tents is creeping up again to that 5 lb mark…. I’ll just keep using my same old 10 year old tents since nothing is really new pr has changed other than higher prices…..

  9. 5lb tents for backpacking? Please, this is basically a light weight car camping tent post.

    • langleybackcountry

      If each person is carrying 2.5 lb that is the same as a Double Rainbow. Not everyone cares about the lightest gear, not everyone wants to pay for it, and plenty of people will trade weight for durability and convenience (e.g., freestanding).

      Hike your own hike.

  10. “It seems like backpacking tents are getting more expensive…”

    The opposite may be true because of increasingly sophisticated contract manufacturing in Asia. One can now find usable “ultra light ” designs available from “no name ” brands at well under $100. Generally these are coated non-breathable shelters that have certain drawbacks regarding condensation, and the buyer is required to carefully seal all seams. Mine, currently is the Wenzel Starlight, a solo tent which can be trimmed down to under two pounds. There are many other comparable products.

  11. Defining “crappy tent,” or “best tent” and etc. requires that parameters be specific to the idiosyncratic preferences of the user. It may be helpful to evaluate those preferences, but often they are mostly arbitrary, and always, they are at least partly subjective.

    Mine are oriented towards lightness and simplicity. Austerity for me is a positive value. Also, I’m loath to spend much money at all on an item that literally gets ground into the mud and gravel in each use.

    But even putting money aside, for a mild summer hike, I’d not for a moment consider swapping my $20, two pound tent for most of the heavier and far more costly alternatives.

  12. 3F Ultralight Gear appears to make truly high-quality knock-offs of a number of U.S. designs at about half their price or less. This opinion is based on viewing multiple, detailed YouTube reviews, rather than direct experience. 3F is not a unique company in this regard.

    One can complain that Chinese manufacturers using these designs should be shunned by US consumers. Perhaps so, but does anybody miss, for example, RCA television sets?

    There’s a separate issue related to gear of a lower quality than that from 3L. Yes there’s stuff out there that’s far cheaper than even 3L. How much “quality” does one require, and to what specific end? Some say gold-plated bathroom fixtures are higher quality than aluminum or steel. In some cases, it’s an arbitrary view. But nothing wrong with it.

    To me, summer camping requires very little in any and all respects. I’ve used an absolute piece of “junk” nylon puptent for periods amounting to many months before the floor became literally transparent and was finally abandoned in the jungles of Central America.

    This article is informative

  13. Another budget tent worth a look is the Marmot Crane Creek 2-Person. Seems to only be available on Amazon. The Marmot site doesn’t list it so I guess its a special budget design.

    I briefly owned one but returned it because at the time the weight was misquoted and I wanted a lighter tent for solo carry. It is currently on sale for ~$175 but I’ve seen the price vary up to $250. I paid $200. The “correct” weight of this tent from the label is Min 3lb 15.4oz 1810g (trail weight) Max 4lb 6.5oz 2000g (packed weight) which is good for a two wall tent at the price. I weighed the one I got and it agreed with its label. It’s a seam sealed polyester tent so shouldn’t stretch in the rain which should make it less exacting to set up.

    There are a couple of odd aspects. The vestibules are different sizes and the doors work in opposite directions…if the two people sleep head to toe I guess that may be an advantage. It is actually rectangular and you can just fit two rectangular 25 inch pads. It only comes with a minimal set of 6 cheap alu stakes for the vestibules and guys. You need a couple more to stake out the end panels in rain, and you have to tie the guy strings to the tent yourself which is a bit “cheap” but I suppose you don’t need then for good weather camping.

    I never actually used the tent outside so this is more to point it out rather than recommend but I did set it up and thought it was quite nice for a budget tent if you don’t mind green and particularly if you can get it for $200 or less.

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