How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

A backpacking tent is one of the most important items for any backpacker.

It’s important to have the right gear when you’re a backpacker, hiker, or camper. You might need a tent and sleeping bag for camping out in the wilderness.

You’re in the market for a new backpacking tent. You’ve researched extensively but can’t decide which one to buy.

How can you choose the right backpacking tent? How do you know if it will be comfortable and durable enough to use when trekking long distances over difficult terrain?

It seems like all of them are great! Who do you trust? What should you look at when comparing tents? We have some ideas and tips on considering when picking the perfect backpacking tent for your needs.

How do you know what size, shape, weight, or price is best for your needs? This post goes in-depth into how to choose a backpacking tent that will impact your entire backpacking experience.

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent
  • Capacity: A tent’s capacity is often important to consider, as it can determine the comfort level for those insides.
  • Seasonality: A tent’s seasonality is the time of year you will be using it.
  • Weight: The weight of a tent is important to consider as it can make the difference between lugging your shelter around and carrying them.
  • Materials: A tent’s materials dictate a lot of its features and weight capacity.

Backpacking Tents Capacity

Tent -Capacity

A tent’s capacity is the maximum number of people that it will hold.

This includes the weight of any gear or sleeping bags carried into the backpacking tent with you and your fellow backpackers.

The general rule for tents in this category is to have a minimum capacity of two (for one adult) and four (two adults). Some lower-cost, smaller models may only accommodate one person.

You want to make sure that there’s enough room inside the shelter for all those who plan on using it before buying.

If not, you can always purchase multiple shelters if they are small enough not to be overly heavy when taken together on long journeys.

Tent capacity can range from one-person tents up to six-person family camping tents.

How to choose a backpacking tent size?

  • How to choose the right backpacking tent size is largely dependent on your height. If you are taller, you need to find a larger camping tent with more headroom.
  • Taller people need more space to avoid feeling cramped or claustrophobic when they sleep, and this also means that tall people should have wider sleeping pads.
  • For those who are shorter, however, there’s no reason why they can’t still enjoy an easy night of rest as long as their body length won’t drag down the walls of the shelter while trying to lie down inside.

Backpacking Tent Seasonality

Backpacking Tent Seasonality

Most tents are designed to be used in 3 seasons, with a few that can go either way and some that only work during one specific time.

If you’re going on an adventure where the weather changes dramatically throughout the day or even from hour to hour, a three-season tent will be the best option for you.

Some tents are made to withstand winter or summer conditions exclusively. If this is what you’re looking for, it’s important to check and see which seasonality your potential purchase falls under!

3-Season Tents

The majority of backpacking tents are made to be used during the three seasons: spring, summer, and fall.

There is a distinction between what constitutes 3-season vs. 4-season backpacking tents.

Four-season tents must protect in winter conditions, while 3 season shelters cover most other climates (excluding arctic/Antarctica).

How much insulation your tent provides is one factor that sets it apart from a 2 or 3-Season model.

By looking at the number of poles, you can tell if your shelter will protect you from harsh cold weather such as heavy winds, rain, snow, and ice on top of low temperatures.

The more poles there are for both height and widths mean more stability, better protection, and more weight.

Three-season tents offer less insulation than four-season models but are usually lighter in weight (fewer poles).

How much cold weather you’ll encounter will play a factor in determining which is the best choice for your next backpacking trip.

If you’re not sure what the climate will be like for your trip but want an all-purpose tent to take with you on hikes, invest in a three-season backpacking tent.

4-Season Tents

A 4-season backpacking tent is the most optimal choice for a general backpacker who will be out on the trail in all sorts of weather.

4-season tents also come with internal pockets, ventilation, and rainfly that make them warmer than three-season options.

These are generally heavier, bulkier models made from durable fabrics to last through intense wear and tear.

If you know your trip will have lots of precipitation or extreme temperatures (either hot or cold), it’s worth investing in a 4-season option for its durability and added comfort.

If you don’t want to choose between two options and make long trips where the weather can change at any time, consider buying both types!

Examples include The North Face Denali Plex Tent, Kelty Gunnison Tent, and Marmot Limelight Three-Person Tent.

4-Season Mountaineering Tents

In general, mountaineering tents are designed to be used in the worst conditions.

They’re often heavy and expensive, but they can also take a beating with ease. 4-season mountaineering tents will keep you warm at high altitudes during winter storms.

The only downside is that these may not work well for extended or lightweight trips because of their size and weight.

We recommend 4 season backpacking tent if your trip includes mountains or deserts where temperature extremes happen regularly.

However, if you don’t need this level of durability, there’s no point in paying the premium price tag for one of these models when cheaper multi-seasonal options would suit your needs just as well!

Backpacking Tents Weight

Backpacking Tents Weight

The lighter your pack is, the more fun it will be on long trips with lots of miles and elevation gain.

The weight of a backpacking tent can vary drastically depending on how complex its space and features are.

You’ll find different models that weigh anywhere from less than two pounds to as high as 11 or 12 pounds, but all of these numbers represent only individual components within the tent.

The minimum weight should come in at about four pounds per person, including sleeping bag & pad weights taken into account.

For even more experienced backpackers who may be cutting their pack size, you could go with something lighter like the TETON Sports Quick Tent, which weighs just over five pounds, total less than half what most tents do.

  • Minimum trail weight

Minimum trail weight is one of the main considerations for your backpacking tent. How far will you hike each day, and how light do you want your pack to be?

The answer will depend on what type of terrain, climate, weather conditions, and duration of the trip will need.

For example, if a person wants to go hiking in Utah, their minimum trail weight might be lower than someone who wanted to backpack through Alaska.

  • Packed Weight

The weight of a backpacking tent will vary depending on the size, style, and type.

A double-wall tent with a floor is likely to weigh more than a single wall tarp or bivy sack without any additional features.

How much packaged weight you can carry depends largely on your personal preferences and how rugged the terrain and climate will be when you’re out exploring in it.

  • Packed Size

One of the most important considerations for a backpacking tent is packed size.

How big and heavy is it when it comes time to pack up your gear and hit the trail again?

How does this large, bulky item compare the weight to other things you need to carry, like clothes or food rations?

The answer is key because no one likes carrying something extremely heavy around them as they walk through the woods. That’s why packing size matters so much.

How big should my Backpacking tents be?

  • You want your backpacking tent to be large enough so that you can stretch out on the floor without hitting anything with your feet or hands.
  • You also might need a two-person if you’re getting some personal space and three people for more room in the campsite around dinner time.
  • If there is only one of you, go ahead and get something lightweight like an ultralight backpacker’s single size. If someone else will come along, then add another budget category!

Backpacking Tent Materials

  • Poles
Backpacking Tent Poles

The most common types of poles are made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or steel.

Carbon fiber poles have the lightest weight but can be more expensive than their counterparts.

Aluminum poles are more affordable though heavier in weight, while steel is a heavy metal that will last for many years.

Those who prefer not exposure to metals when on long excursions should consider using carbon fiber as an alternative option.

Steel has been used for many decades because it does not bend easily, which means you don’t need much maintenance with this type of pole material.

But if you get rust spots over time, they will require some patience and elbow grease to remove.

  • Tent Fabrics
Backpacking Tent Fabric

The tent fabric protects you from the elements, so your tent must have an adequate denier level, which measures the weight in grams per square meter.

Common tents are made from nylon, polyester, cotton canvas, or mesh.

Nylon is durable but heavy, and polyester is lighter but not as strong in bad weather; cotton canvas is more expensive than those fabrics and stronger against rain and sun damage.

Mesh is the most lightweight of all but also not as durable in extreme weather.

Mesh tents are best for hot, dry climates, while cotton canvas or nylon tents work well for colder and wetter areas.

A polyester is a good option if you’re looking to keep your backpacking tent’s weight down (around three pounds) without sacrificing too much durability.

How to choose backpacking tents based on material?

  • When choosing a backpacking tent is whether you want it to be made out of nylon or polyester. There are many reasons why people might make this choice.
  • For example, some backpackers might like their camping shelter to withstand heavy rain because they don’t have any waterproof materials inside their living space.
  • But these shelters often offer less ventilation which means more condensation than other types of fabric might produce inside the body’s main enclosure area.
  • Other backpackers prefer a tent made out of polyester because the fabric is more durable, lighter weight, and quieter.


If you’re considering a backpacking tent for the first time and are having trouble picking one out, we hope this buying guide has helped.

It is important to ensure that your tent will provide comfort while also being lightweight enough not to become too much of a burden on your trip.

The key points in this article should help you make an informed decision about how to choose the right backpacking tent for yourself or someone else as a gift!

We wish you luck with your purchase and can’t wait to hear all about your experience once it’s over.

Thank you again for reading our blog post, and if there’s anything that we can do to be helpful, please don’t hesitate to reach out!


Q. How often will you be using the tent?

If it is for a few times every year, get an inexpensive one. If backpacking is your new hobby and you plan on doing some pretty rugged excursions, then invest in good-quality gear.

Q. What is a good tent weight for backpacking?

The weight limit on backpacking tents varies from one to another but generally ranges between three and seven pounds (or around two to three kilograms).

Q. Should I get a 2 or 3 person tent?

One-person tents are great for solo backpackers, but a tent with more than one occupant is cheaper and provides more space. It also allows you to split up the weight load between two people when backpacking.

If you’re on a tight budget, it’s better to go with a one-person tent. If you want more space and comfort, buy the bigger version of your preferred style. You’ll be able to fit gear inside and still have room for two people!

Q. How do you know what size tent to buy?

This is the question many new backpackers ask themselves. A few different factors will help you determine what size tent to buy, including time of year, number of people in your group, and whether or not it’s a solo backpacking trip.

If you’re going on an extended winter through summer adventure, you’ll want to purchase a larger tent with insulation to withstand the elements. On the other hand, if you’re backpacking solo in hot weather, then consider buying a smaller lightweight tent that will take up less space on your pack and won’t weigh you down too much when it’s time to move on.

Q. What size tent should I get for two people?

If you’re going to be backpacking with other people, the best tent size for two adults is a three-person tent. If it’s just you and your significant other or friend, then that same three-person tent would work great! Many one-person tents can sleep up to two people as well.