Best Tents For Camping – 2018 List

Best Tents of 2016

Your tent is your home away from home.  It will keep you dry on the wettest of nights and feel cozy while the wind is whipping overhead. It is a refuge after a long hike, which can offer you majestic views. But, buying a tent is like buying clothes, everyone has their own taste and need.  Whether you want to use your tent for festivals or trekking across a mountain range, there is an option for you.  The main things to consider are weight, durability, capacity, pack size, season rating and cost. So let’s take a better look at what you should be looking for in 2018. 

Considerations when shopping for a tent

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Weight

Your tent is part of your Big Three pieces of equipment, along with your sleeping bag and backpack. These three items make up most of the weight you will be carrying around, as well as being the most important in terms of your comfort and safety.  For two person tents you can usually split up the tent between you and your partner, but generally you want to stay below three pounds if you are hiking long distances around four is fine for over nighters and car camping.

Capacity

For most casual outdoors activities, size is the most important consideration. Usually when camping you need extra room for backpacks, shoes and other gear, so when considering size opt for the larger tent. For thu-hikers and other long trips, sleeping snugly will save you some weight, but then make sure you have plenty of room in the vestibules to store your gear. Generally tents run smaller than stated, a three person tent is good for two adults with gear, a two person tent for one person with gear.

Season Rating

In general a 3 season tent serves the purpose for most situations.  A three season tent will stand up to most rain and wind conditions, but also offer adequate ventilation in hot weather. Since these are the most versatile, my main focus will be on them for the general user. 


Frame Style

Free standing tents tend to be a bit heavier due to the poles which act as the frame for the tent. The benefit is that you know you can set up your tent almost anywhere easily and they tend to be more resilient in high winds. Non-freestanding tents tend to be lighter, but need soft earth to set the  stakes into, otherwise you have to get creative. Some of these tents will require hiking poles for setup, these are usually ultra-light tents.

Cost

Generally the more expensive a tent, the lighter weight and better materials you get, high end tents are built with the lightest most durable material, cheap tents are flimsy and generally disposable, which are often the ones you’ll find left in the fields after a festival. If you are planning on a multi-day hike in the wilderness, don’t skimp on price, this tent is your shelter, your home. This is the difference between a dry nights sleep and waking up wet. The price point seems to be around $300 for a quality tent, you won’t get cutting edge technology, but it will be enough to keep you safe and dry.   

Design

You want to be conscious of how you plan on getting in and out of your tent.  Two entrances make it easier to get in and out when you are sharing the tent with another person. Vestibules are your storage area, so you want to make sure there is enough space to fit your backpack and any other muddy items.  The vestibule is also helpful for cooking in inclement weather conditions. Even thought tents are just a few millimetres think they can get quite warm and stuffy, air vents are very helpful in keeping your tent cool and the air fresh at night. While not a deal breaker, storage pockets are really helpful for keeping you kit handy and organised, some even include holders for phones if you want to watch movies in the wild outdoors. 

Foot print/Ground sheet

While not a necessity now a days, a foot print is an extra layer to protect the floor of your tent. That said, it adds weight, and if you are checking the ground where you place your tent (which you should always do) then you shouldn’t have too much problem with the floor of your tent wearing out if you use it a couple weeks a year. Usually the manufacturers ground sheet is unnecessary and more expensive than buying a good think piece of thick plastic or some other improvised material.   

Wall Construction

Most tents often come double walled, that is an interior mesh and an exterior waterproof layer known as the rainfly. This helps to reduce condensation from the breath and tend to be slightly warmer.  On a clear night, it is nice to keep the rain fly off for star gazing. Single walled tents are lighter weight for those ultralight hikers, but can get wet at night from condensation.

Maintenance of Tents

As long as you have spent your money wisely on a quality tent, your tent should last you many years. Some tents need to be seam sealed by the consumer, make sure of this before you buy an new tent and head out into the wilds. When you get home, make sure that you hang your tent up in a warm dry place before you pack it up. The easiest way to ruin your investment is though neglect, so always pack it dry and clean. 

best-tents-2016

The Tents

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

Price: $430 

Update: You can currently get the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 for under $350 by clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 2lb 13oz

Packed Size: 6in x 18in

Floor Dimensions 90in x 52in x 42in (narrower towards the feet)

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping, Ultralight

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 has an above average space to weight ratio, which makes it great for longer trips with a partner. It packs down small to give you lots of room in your bag for the other necessities. The pole design has a low profile design and is configured in such a way as to make it quite sturdy in strong winds. At under three pounds this tent it light, which makes a big difference on those long days. 

Tarptent Notch

Price: $285

Weight: 1lb 11oz (without poles)

Packed Size: 16in x 3.5in

Floor Dimentions: 84in x 32in

Design Characteristics: 1-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules,trekking poles need for setup

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking

This is probably one of the best tents for Thru-hikers who want to travel as light as possible. The design allows for a lot of vestibule room for storage or cooking and the trekking poles are not in the living space which give you extra room inside.  The Notch allows the outside to be set up independently of the inner tent, which prevents the interior from getting wet in stormy weather, which is a huge bonus if you are out and moving for extended periods. Tarptent claims a 1 minute pitch, which is definitely possible, but after several practice runs. This tent needs to be seam sealed, so make sure you do that yourself (or pay someone) before you get out there on your first hike. 

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Price: $400 list | $349 – 400 online

Update: You can currently get the MSR Hubba Hubba NX at a discounted rate clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 3lb 8oz

Packed Size: 6in x 18in

Floor Dimensions: 84in x 50in

Design Characteristics:2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping

The Hubba Hubba is a light weight tent with a good amount of ventilation. It can be pitched in a couple different configurations and sets up fast. A huge bonus for some is that it can pitch without the interior making for a much lighter tent if you are certain that the mosquitos aren’t out. It can also be a quick shelter in inclement weather for your lunch break. Similar to the Notch, this feature also keeps your inner tent dry.   

Tarptent Double Rainbow

Price: $289 – A great buy

Weight: 2lb 9oz

Packed Size: 18in x 4in

Floor Dimensions: 88in x 50in

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season/Possible 4th season , single-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, single pole

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Ultralight

One of the highest space to weight ratios out there, and at the same time very livable. It has a single pole which makes it a bit more complicated to get set-up perfectly, however once you get used to it  you should be able to set it up in under five minutes. This tent is very modular and can even be set up using your trekking poles instead of the tent poles. This tent needs to be seam sealed, so make sure you do that yourself (or pay someone) before you get out there on your first hike.

The North Face Mica FL 2

Price: $399

Update: You can currently get the North Face Mica FL 2 by clicking here to check out the product on Amazon.com

Weight: 3lb 7oz

Packed Size: 6in x 19in

Floor Dimensions: 90in x 40.5 -50in narrower towards the feet)

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, single pole design

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping

The Mica Fl is made up of durable materials for those of us who are a bit rougher on our equipment. Having said that, it is still relatively light weight and won’t take up much room on your pack.  It is a non-freestanding tent, which requires an extra element of set up, however the Mica is a stable tent once set up due to the double side door design. It is very stable in windy conditions for a single pole design.

Zpacks Duplex

Price: .51 oz/sqyd – $599, .67 oz/sqyd – $630, .74 oz/sqyd $615

Weight: 1lb 5 oz

Packed Size: 7in x 13in 

Floor Dimensions: 90in x 45in

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, single-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, Trekking poles necessary for setup

Uses:  Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Ultralight

This is one of the lightest tents this year, the lack of tent poles saves a lot of weight, it also means that you need trekking poles to set it up along with several tent stakes. The Duplex comes in three thicknesses of Cuben fiber, .51, .67 and .74oz/sqyd. Cuber Fiber is extremely durable so the thinnest option is definitely durable, but if you want some extra piece of mind you could opt for the thicker versions. This is a great tent for long hikes, but not something you want to necessarily use if you are mainly car camping. Its made of Cuben Fiber a new material superior to many on the market now.  Because it is a single walled tent, you’ll be likely to wake up with condensation on the walls, no problem if you are hardcore, but not the most cozy if you have been partying the night before. 

REI Half Dome 2 Plus

Price: $299

Update: You can currently get the REI Half Dome 2 Plus by clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 5lb 1oz

Packed Size:

Floor Dimensions:98in x 56in

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: General Backpacking, Car Camping

On the heavier side, the Half Dome 2 comes in at a great price and is one of the most durable tents on this list. Dividing the tent up between a couple people mitigates the weight.  That said, it is a roomy tent and the vertical wall design gives plenty of head room for those casual excursions.   

REI Quarter Dome 1

Price: $229

Weight: 2lb 2oz

Packed Size: 6in x 20in

Floor Dimensions: 90in x 40in x 33in (narrower towards the feet)

Design Characteristics: 1-person, 3-season, double-wall, 1-door/vestibule, single pole design (semi-freestanding)

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking

This is a option for that single hiker going long distances at an affordable price.  One of the lighter tents around with it’s single pole design it is a bit finicky to set up in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it it should be pretty quick. Its asymmetrical design makes it quite liveable while keeping the weight down. 

REI Quarter Dome 2

Price: $299

Weight: 3lb 1oz

Packed Size: 7.25in x 20in

Floor Dimensions: 90in x 54in x 44in (narrower towards the feet)

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping

This is a great all around lightweight option if you are hiking with someone else, at 1.5lbs per person. The Quarter Dome is quite liveable and has a lot of interior room due to the near vertical walls.  This allows you to sit up easily, which makes getting dressed just a bit more comfortable. On a clear night, you can do without the rain fly for a great 360 view through the bug mesh. 

Mountainsmith Morrison 2

Price: $180 list

Update: You can currently get the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 at a substanial discount by clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 4lb 11oz

Packed Size: 7.5in x 18in

Floor Dimensions: 92in x 56in

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: General Backpacking, Car Camping

The Morrison 2 is an attractive tent fit for two with loads of space. As a freestanding tent, its relatively easy to set up. The inner-tent has less mesh than most tents, which makes it slightly warmer in cold weather. It is quite a durable tent, however at this price that also means that it is on the heavier side.  This is a good budget option as a do it all tent, great for car camping and short backpacking trips.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2

Price: $350

Update: You can currently get the Big Agnes Fly Creeek HV UL2 for under $280 by clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 2lb 3.4oz

Packed Size: 3.5in x 9in

Floor Dimensions: 86in x 52- 42in (narrower towards the feet)

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 1-door/vestibule, semi-freestanding

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping

Although the Fly Creek HV UL2 is marketed as a two person tent, because of the slope of the walls, it would be a tight fit.  Add to that the single door, it makes a better 1+ tent for a hiker who wants a bit more room and the possibility of sharing with another person rarely.  That said, the new design has more head space toward the entrance making it more comfortable when sitting up. As a semi-freestanding tent, it’s not the easiest to set up.  Of course, the more you set it up the less of a problem that becomes.  This is a great lightweight tent with lots of space for one person

Black Diamond Mesa

Price: $350

Update: You can currently get the Black Diamond Mesa for under $350 by clicking here to automatically apply the discounted rate at Amazon.com

Weight: 4lb 14.6oz

Packed Size: 7in x 19in

Floor Dimensions: 92in x 58in

Design Characteristics: 2-person, 3-season, double-wall, 2-doors/vestibules, freestanding

Uses: Thru-hiking, General Backpacking, Car Camping

The Black Diamond Mesa is an oldie but goodie, they haven’t updated their design since its original release in 2007, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.  It is relatively quick to set up and stronger then a lot of other two door tents.  This tent is a great option for taller people as it lays a bit longer than most of the recommended tents.




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Petter Goldstine
A degree in photography led me around the world and into the homes of many wonderful people. An interest in the outdoors introduced me to organic agriculture and herbal medicine. Now a stay at home dad & freelance writer, I look to other avenues of exploration closer to home.

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