Freestanding tents are the holy grail of backpacking tents because they can be set up quickly just about anywhere, on wooden tent platforms, rock, sand, snow, and even climber’s portaledges, without having to be staked to the ground first. This is particularly useful in poor weather when you need to get out of the weather and can’t search for a protected tent site or dig one out in the snow.
Here are the 10 best freestanding tents for backpacking that we recommend:
Most freestanding tents are wedge or dome-shaped, making them highly weather and wind-resistant. However, freestanding tents tend to be slightly heavier than non-freestanding ones because they have to be self-supporting, with long tent poles that add additional weight. Some two-person models can be cramped, particularly ones designed for mountaineering where comfort is often sacrificed in the name of reduced gear weight. Still, the experience of setting up a freestanding tent is liberating because you can pitch one anywhere there’s flat ground. That kind of flexibility is highly valuable when you need to get out of the weather and into a secure and stable shelter.
1. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is a popular two-person backpack tent and with good reason. This freestanding tent is easy to set up and has two doors so you can get in and out without having to crawl over your companion at night. It has a spacious interior with lots of headroom and vertical sidewalls so you can change clothes and sit up inside without touching the sides. Off-the-floor storage in the form of an oversized ceiling pocket in the head, side pockets, and media pockets provide plenty of space for personal items you want close at hand. Weighing just 2 lbs 11 oz, the Copper Spur is an exceptionally lightweight but fully featured backpacking palace. Read the SectionHiker Copper Spur HV UL2 Review. The freestanding one-person Copper Spur HV UL 1 is also a hiker favorite.
The newly updated MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is a great tent for two people. Now even lighter weight, it’s easy to set up and has two doors so you can come and go at night without disturbing your partner. Freestanding, the pole configuration creates an interior space that has near-vertical walls and a truly rectangular floor plan, enabling the use of wide 25″ sleeping pads. With a trail weight of 2 pounds and 10 ounces, the Hubba Hubba 2 is lightweight enough for backpacking use when shared by two people. Read the SectionHiker review.
The NEMO Dagger OSMO 2P Tent is a spacious freestanding double-wall tent for two people with two doors and two vestibules. Weighing 3 lbs 6 oz, the tent is made with NEMO’s new OSMO polyester/nylon ripstop fabric which reduces rain fly sag when wet and improves waterproofing. The spacious interior and numerous livability accents make the Dagger OSMO 2P a great tent for tall people or couples that want more room to spread out. Read the SectionHiker Dagger OSMO 2 Review.
The Zpacks Duplex is one of the most popular Dyneema trekking pole tents today. Weighing just 19 oz, it can accommodate two adults and has two doors and two vestibules. It can also be turned into a fully freestanding tent with the addition of the 10.2 oz Duplex Freestanding Flex Kit (trekking poles not required.) The kit includes two Easton carbon fiber tent poles and easy-to-install adapters that allow you to set up the Duplex as a freestanding tent so you can set it up on rock ledge, snow, or wooden platforms, where it can be difficult to secure tent stakes. Note: The Duplex + Duplex Freestanding Flex Kit is not the same as Zpacks FreeDuo Tent, which we do not recommend.
The NEMO DragonFly 2 is a lightweight freestanding two-person tent with two doors and two oversized vestibules that provide ample storage for backpacks and wet hiking boots. Weighing 2 lbs 9 0z, its exoskeleton architecture comes with prebent tent poles that maximize head and shoulder space, providing plenty of room inside to change clothes or sit out rainy weather. The large D-shaped doors make it easy to enter and exit the tent and can also be rolled back in hot weather for extra ventilation. Overhead light pockets at both ends use special light-diffusing fabric to cast an even glow throughout the tent while interior gear pockets in the corners offer occupants ample storage for personal items. Read the SectionHiker DragonFly 2 Review.
The NEMO Aurora 2 is a freestanding two-person tent with two doors, two vestibules, and a lot of interior space. Weighing 4 lbs 9 oz, it has steep walls and a floor plan that’s wide enough to accommodate 25″ wide sleeping pads. Built-in gear pockets offer ample storage for personal items, while overhead light pockets use special light-diffusing fabric to cast an even glow throughout the tent. This tent comes with a footprint and includes snaps, so you can snap in an add-on pawprint interior liner to protect the floor from your dog’s paws.
The Mountain Hardwear Aspect 2 is a spacious two-person tent with two doors and two vestibules that weighs just 2 lbs 14.7 oz. Despite its extraordinary lightweight (for a tent of this size), it’s made with durable fabrics including a 40 denier floor ensuring many years of use. The rain fly is coated with silicone on both sides for longevity, waterproof protection, and enhanced resistance to the sun’s harmful rays.
The Slingfin Portal is a lightweight two-person tent that can be used year-round in more extreme weather (Slingfin was founded by Martin Zematis, the guy who started Mountain Hardware). Weighing just 2 lbs 13 oz, it has a unique internal guyline system that adds superb wind resistance without additional weight. Two large vestibules and numerous internal pockets provide best-in-class livability, while its freestanding, dome-shaped exoskeleton makes it easy to set up. Kickstand door vents provide unrestricted cross-tent airflow for excellent condensation management without sacrificing weather protection. Read the SectionHiker SlingFin Portal Review.
The Tarptent Rainbow is available in multiple models: as a one or two-person tent, as a single or double-wall tent, and made with silnylon or Dyneema Composite fabrics. Most of the time, the people stake out the corners and vestibules of the Rainbow when they pitch it on ground that is soft enough to hold tent stakes. But it can also be set up as a completely freestanding tent by connecting the corners to the tops and bottoms of a pair of trekking poles. There’s no add-on kit required. You could set it up that way all the time if you wanted.
The Marmot Tungsten UL 2P is a two-person freestanding tent with two doors and two vestibules. It has a low-stretch polyester rain fly that won’t sag when it’s wet, which is a big plus in keeping the inner tent dry and free from internal condensation transfer. Weighing just under 3 lbs, the Tungsten UL is fully seam-taped and has a ceiling pocket to hold a headlamp for ambient light. Note: This tent is different from the much heavier Marmot Tungsten 2.
When evaluating freestanding tents, it helps to research the climate conditions you expect to use the tent in, as this will inform the degree of tent pole strength and breathability required.
Tents windows, doors, and vents are Important to minimize and reduce internal condensation. This is achieved by keeping the door(s) open when feasible, through peak and side vents, and in some cases through the use of breathable wall fabrics. You can never have too much ventilation in a tent, although the addition of doors and zippers can result in increased weight.
Tent Pole Architecture
Most freestanding tents have two or three crossed poles, anchored inside or outside the tent walls. Exterior poles that are anchored in sleeves are much stronger than poles that connect to an inner tent using clips or velcro tabs. They’re much more wind resistant and capable of withstanding heavier snow loads.
Interior Tent Space
Freestanding tents designed for high alpine mountaineering use are often smaller and more cramped than those designed for four-season use because weight savings are so critical when you have to climb many thousands of feet to reach your destination. When selecting a tent be realistic about your length and width requirements, particularly when choosing a two-person wedge style tent.
Number of Doors
Tents designed to hold two occupants are more comfortable and convenient to use if they have two doors and vestibules because you can come and go without waking your tent partner. Dome-style tents often provide greater covered vestibule storage, which can make a significant difference in livability.
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