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 across a range of price points and weights:
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 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 REI Trailmade 2 is a budget-friendly two-person freestanding tent that’s lightweight enough for backpacking and camping. With a minimum trail weight of 4 lbs 4 oz, its X-pole configuration makes it an easy tent to set up and increases the vertical space at the ends. Its two stake-out vestibules provide separate entrances for each occupant ad large covered areas for gear storage with rainfly doors roll up over the roof for a clear view of the sky while also improving venting and reducing condensation. Inside, the symmetrical, rectangular floor provides an efficient, comfortable layout with internal pockets and gear loops to help organize your essentials. An optional footprint is included along with stakes and stuff sacks, providing tremendous value.
The Zpacks Duplex is one of the most popular Dyneema trekking pole tents today. Weighing just 18.5 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.
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 10 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 tent’s 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, while 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 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 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 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 MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is a great tent for two people. 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.
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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Love my Copper Spur but use the 3 person for those trips when I’m sharing a tent. A few ounces heavier but even at that not so heavy that it’s necessary to split the weight unless you really want to.
It really is a nice tent in any size. You have good taste.
In the past, I divided up the tent but now when I’m leading a group backpacking, I generally even out the loads by apportioning other gear rather than breaking the tent into smaller parts. That’s what has worked for me.
If you had to pick one of those to fit the following criteria what would you pick? ~5-6 nights total a year, NH mtns, Summer and Fall (but maybe/hopefully a winter night if it works). 1 person (6’1)… I know I want a freestanding tent for the ease of use. I am struggling between 1 or 2P because I feel like the extra room would be nice to keep everything inside if I so choose. Seems like the Big Agnes is probably the ‘safest’ choice. However, I also lean towards a Nemo as they are very local to me (support local business?). But it seems like a lot of reviews say Nemos are sometimes not as easy to setup. But totally open to any brand that ‘fits’. I did sell an REI quarter dome 1P as it felt small. That said, I don’t know what I don’t know, total rookie overnighter….
I think it’s a toss up between the Copper Spur and the Dragonfly. If I were you, I’d go with the 2 person copper spur. You just can’t go wrong with that tent and it’s very easy to set up. Very roomy and comfortable.
Perfect. Per usual, your reviews/site/input is hands down the best resource out there… Thank you!
No Hilleberg? Particularly the Niak?
I considered adding the Niak but its very hard to get in the USA and super expensive. That’s why I opted for the REI tent instead. Incidentally, the top photo is one with me holding the Niak in the air because it’s freestanding.
The Rainbow can be set up in the rain without getting the inner tent wet. Do any of the other tents on this list share that advantage?
The Zpacks Duplex.
I am surprised that the Nordisk Telemark 2 LW is not on the list @ 960grams i have used min at – 6C in snow. Also my friend has the Hilleberg Enan @950grams this is also a four season.
Why are these not on the list
I’d say the BA Seedhouse or Saltcreek offer better room/storage—both sub 4 lbs, and gobs of room—than the Copper.
But more glaring an omission is the Sierra Designs sub 4, freestanding Meteor 2. Nearly 30 sq ft plus 10 sq ft of vestibule, it’s a bargain in durability, packability and roominess.
I have all three.
The min weight on the Meteor 2 is 63 oz. Just barely sub 4. Good suggestion though $250.