How Do You Pick a Tent for Backpacking?

Tents form the cornerstone of your campsite, providing shelter from rain and wind. But how can you select one suitable for backpacking?

Size matters when shopping for tents; be aware that many backpacking tents tend to feel smaller than their capacity ratings suggest.


Considerations should be given when selecting a tent for backpacking trips is size. Manufacturers will often tout its capacity rating; however, you should pay more attention to actual dimensions such as floorplan. Taller hikers may need tents with more generous per-person ratings.

Peak height should also be taken into account, which refers to how tall a tent stands at its highest point. For backpackers this is an essential consideration as it dictates whether you can comfortably sit or crouch inside it for extended periods. Some hikers don’t mind waiting out weather fronts by sitting low; others may prefer standing up and changing clothes comfortably inside their tent.

While you compare tent sizes, keep in mind that there is no industry standard for how these measurements should be measured and this can make comparison difficult. Some manufacturers will give an overall length number, and another for width; other brands list floor measurements separately by head-to-foot measurement or side-by-side.

Noting the size and amount of storage space for gear and bedding will play an important role in how comfortable your camping experience will be. Since you will likely carry extra gear in addition to your sleeping bag, having ample space allows for you to store everything away before going to sleep or when weather turns foul.

One nice feature that many backpacking tents include are vestibules – sections of the rainfly that cover doors and provide shelter during inclement weather – to store gear during inclement conditions. Vestibules can help reduce clutter and make finding items easier when packing up to leave for your hike or adventure. Also, practice setting up and packing up your tent prior to leaving on an adventure so you know exactly how to put it together before getting it back into its stuff sack when your journey is complete.


Every ounce counts when carrying your tent on your back; one that weighs too much will quickly add extra pounds and sap your energy that could otherwise be spent enjoying other adventures. Therefore, for optimal livability on the trail a tent should be both lightweight and compact in its design.

Tent manufacturers often overstate the capacity of their models, so subtracting two people from an advertised occupancy rating can provide an accurate depiction of its roominess. Looking at floor dimensions and tapered shapes provides more of an accurate sense of how spacious a tent actually is than reading square footage numbers alone.

Tapered tents with steep sidewalls help minimize their footprint and maximize interior space usability, as well as accommodating wide sleeping pads comfortably. When considering 2-person backpacking tents for camping trips, be wary if they cannot comfortably fit two standard rectangular sleeping pads side-by-side – in such instances consider upgrading to a 3-person tent like Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 or finding one with extra width to accommodate wide pads like REI Half Dome 2 Plus as this may help.

Packed weight is another crucial consideration when shopping for backpacking tents. This figure includes everything that comes with your tent: stuff sack, rainfly and poles. To save space even further in your backpack, consider investing in a compression sack that can reduce size while keeping everything organized inside it.

Keep an eye out for the denier rating of any tent you consider buying; this measure of strength and thickness provides insight into its strength and lightness. Fabrics with higher deniers tend to be stronger yet lighter options compared to lower deniers; however, higher-denier fabric may cost more.

Before purchasing a tent, the best way to assess its quality is by giving it a test run at home. Set it up at home and lie inside to gain an idea of its layout and comfort level compared to what your needs may require. Be sure to also test its zippers, vestibule coverage, door placement and zipper pulls prior to making any definitive decisions.

Weather Resistance

Your tent serves as your protector in harsh backcountry environments. It must be durable enough to withstand elements like heavy winds, rain and snow while remaining lightweight enough for you to carry easily over rough terrain and into less-than-ideal campsites. Furthermore, ventilation must be sufficient enough to limit condensation to ensure you remain warm and dry even on cold and wet trips.

Discovering a tent that fulfills all of these criteria requires understanding what features to look for and their interactions. Begin by considering who will be sleeping inside as well as any storage needs or waiting out foul weather that needs to be considered – this will allow you to choose an adequate floor dimension that offers everyone room to sleep comfortably; tall people or those camping with pets should prioritize tents that provide more headroom.

Structure type and double or single wall construction should also be carefully considered when purchasing a tent. Aim for a freestanding tent without needing guylines or stakes to maintain its pitch, as well as one featuring single-wall panels with clips into pole tabs for increased stability in high winds or precipitation conditions.

if durability is of primary importance, choose fabric with a higher denier rating than that found in lighter or less-rugged fabrics; just be wary not to confuse this denier number with strength as different materials and weaves have their own specific advantages and disadvantages.

Other features to keep in mind when choosing a tent include its livability, ventilation, and ease of setup. To provide shelter from inclement weather conditions comfortably, look for tents with taller roofs for increased headroom. Mesh walls and windows help promote air flow while decreasing condensation; and when test-pitting prospective tents make sure you sleep in them to gain a feel for their size and comfort level.


Tents that provide adequate ventilation are ideal, as this will prevent moisture build-up that could lead to mildew and discomfort. A comfortable shelter makes all the difference whether camping for one night or embarking on a lengthy thru-hike.

Space in a tent is also an important consideration; depending on how many occupants and their gear will use it, you may require either more or less floor space in a tent. Furthermore, taking into account weight and ease of carrying when considering solo backpacking trips is especially essential.

Tents come in various shapes, sizes and designs. You may be familiar with geodesic tents; others might be tube or tunnel-shaped tents or A-frame or wedge designs. When selecting one for backpacking trips, pay particular attention to structural integrity as well as how much sleeping space the shape provides.

To determine livability, it’s essential to consider floor space as well as factors like vestibules, tent height, storage and vestibules. Sleeping in a tent before making your purchase will give you a much clearer picture of how comfortable and spacious or cramped living there can be.

Another aspect to take into account when building is the number and slope of pole crossings and sidewall slope. A higher number of crossings will lead to a stronger structure while steeper walls allow people to sit closer without feeling constrained by them.

If you plan on backpacking through wet environments, a waterproof rainfly will be essential. In addition, it would be wise to bring along electrical tape (for fixing electrical wires) as an emergency repair method in case any repairs become necessary while backpacking.

Purchase of an appropriate tent for backpacking isn’t always simple, but once you find one you love you’ll be ready to hit the backcountry with confidence. Weight and packed size should always be top priorities but must also take into account features that provide shelter against harsh elements such as shape and features that provide protection.