A backpacking tent needs to balance shelter and protection from the elements with the weight constrictions that backpacking brings. Ultralight materials are often pricier, but buying exactly what you need and no more can also help you find more affordable options for your backpacking tent.
Most backpackers prefer 3- and 4-season tents. If you’re not planning to hike through the winter and snowy conditions, a 3- or 3+ season tent is likely the best fit for you. A 4-season tent will give added insulation and storm protection, but will also be heavier to carry and may provide too much insulation for warmer weather.
Spring, summer, and fall
Provide water protection, basic wind protection, mesh panel ventilation
Fewest poles and lightest fabric (lightest weight option)
3+ season tent
Early spring through late fall
Harsher winds/rains and light snows
More poles for sturdier build
Includes insulation for cold, snow, and heavy winds
More poles and tougher fabric
Tents are usually branded to sleep a certain number of people—but these numbers are for tight sleeping quarters. That means that if a tent says it can sleep two people, it really means two people side by side with very little room between them.
If you’re backpacking with a friend, you may need to weigh your priorities. A smaller tent will weigh less, but you may prefer a larger tent that sleeps both of you if you can split up the poles and material between your packs, rather than each carrying your own tent.
Make sure to check your specific product for the square footage of your tent. However, this chart will give you an idea of what you can expect from a backpacking tent.
15-20 sq ft.
3'-3.5” at widest part
30-35 sq ft.
5-6’ at widest part
40-45 sq ft.
7’ at widest part
For backpackers, there are few things as important as the weight of your gear. There are excellent ultralight options that give you durable material without the extra ounces—but these are usually higher-end and less affordable.
Decide how much weight you are able to carry, what you expect your other gear to weigh, and how much you are willing and able to spend on your tent. Check the specifications on your specific product, but this chart will give you an idea of what to expect from different materials.