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Best backpacking tent 2022: Lightweight, transportable and easy pitching tents for exploring the great outdoors

Chris Haslam
31 Aug 2022
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Carry your accommodation wherever you go with our choice of the best tents for backpacking

We’re big fans of car camping – where taking everything including the kitchen sink helps create a luxury home away from home – but every now and again we like to get out and explore our nation's green and pleasant land. And what better way to do it than with a backpack, tent, and a decent pair of walking boots?

Whether you’re carrying kit for a multi-day hike or just trying to travel as light as possible, the best backpacking tents need to be small enough to be easily carried, while also being big enough to stash your backpack and boots at the end of the day.

A high-quality backpacking tent will keep the warmth in and the weather out, and let you enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep wherever you pitch up. The best have enough capacity for a couple to camp in comfort, or even a family looking to go beyond back garden adventures.

Not sure what features and specifications you need to look out for? The quick buying guide below will run you through all the factors you’ll want to consider.

READ NEXT: Best family tent


Best backpacking tents: At a glance


How to choose the best backpacking tent for you

How light should my backpacking tent be?

This depends greatly on how far you’re travelling and how many people are sleeping in it, but ultralight tents are generally seen to weigh between 1kg and 3kg for a one or two-person model. You can find lighter designs, but lightweight often means minimal features and the lightest flysheet materials will not be as resistant to tears as a traditional tent.

What type of backpacker are you?

Which tent you choose greatly depends on how long you’re going to be carrying it and the level of comfort you demand. Small and comfortable backpacking tents are great for casual weekends away and even festivals if you’re travelling to them on public transport. The more they weigh, the more features they’ll tend to have – pockets, porches, and plenty of headroom, for instance. If you’re walking along well-trodden paths you’ll be able to carry slighting larger tents, but as soon as you start to cover uneven terrain or embark on multi-day hikes, the smaller and lighter the better, even if the sacrifice means sleeping in something as cosy as a coffin.

Tent Capacity

Typically available for between one to four people. Two-person models are the most popular and are designed to fit two standard-width 50cm wide sleeping mats. A one person will keep weight down, but many solo backpackers still opt for a two person design for a bit of extra space and versatility when not hiking (festivals etc). Three-person tents are good for big couples, small families or those with dogs. There are a few four person designs available, but they’re for shorter hiking distances.

Features to look for:

Easy pitching - Forget about pop-up designs, which are awkward to carry, but being able to pitch a tent quickly, and on your own, is essential. Obviously it’s worth practising in the garden before you go away, but most small tents have one or two pre-bent poles and a handful of pegs and that’s it. No backpacking tent should take more than five minutes to pitch.

Waterproofing - As with any tent, rain proofing is essential, and we suggest a minimum of 1,500mm HH (hydrostatic head) rating. The greater the HH rating the more expensive, but also the longer a flysheet fabric will take before it becomes saturated.

Freestanding or tunnel - A freestanding tent, as the name suggests, stays up on its own, without the need for guide ropes. In general, freestanding tents are easier to use and set up - especially in areas where the surface isn’t ideal - which makes them appealing for many backpackers. If carrying minimal weight is essential though, non freestanding poles are often lighter as there are fewer poles to carry.

Bivvy tents - The classic bivvy bag is simply a waterproof sleeve that covers your sleeping bag, allowing you to sleep out under the stars. Many die-hard wild campers use a bivvy and tarpaulin, but it is an extreme option if you’re staying on a campsite. If pack size is crucial, a poled bivvy, with a tent-like construction around the head, offers a much more enjoyable sleep with only a few grams more weight than a traditional bivvy. These are more popular for wild camping and bikepacking trips.

What’s the difference between backpacking and wild camping?

Generally speaking, the difference between going backpacking and wild camping is access to a flushing toilet! Backpacking generally involves a campsite, while wild camping is a fully off grid adventure, but both typically involve travelling under your own steam to get to your destination.

In terms of tents, there’s not a huge difference between backpacking and wild camping. Both need to be as small and light as possible - but wild camping tents tend to be smaller, and lower profile, to help blend into the surrounding countryside. With some backpacking tents you can share the load between two bags, allowing you to carry a bigger tent for two or three people, and they tend to have taller head heights for added comfort. But essentially, if you can carry it, you can sleep in it.

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The best backpacking tents you can buy in 2022

1. Robens Elk River 1: Best backpacking tent for most people’s needs

Price: £280 | Buy now from Trekitt

This superb 1.5kg one person design from Robens has space inside to sit up (95cm) as well as a separate generously proportioned vestibule (porch) for wet boots and your backpack.

Everything about this tent screams quality, with excellent featherweight DAC alloy poles creating a freestanding exoskeleton shape that’s quick and easy to pitch but remains impervious to strong winds and bad weather. The double zip allows for easy ventilation in the summer without leaving the door flapping, which was appreciated on our sweltering test camp.

Despite the low weight, the Elk River 1 is significantly tougher than many lightweight tents, using 75D polyester for the floor and 30D polyester, with 3,000mm hydrostatic head (waterproofness) on the flysheet.

Key specs – Person size: 1; Standing room: No; Bedrooms: 1; Pitch time: 5 minutes; Weight: 1.5kg; Waterproofing: 3,000mm HH; Packed dimensions: 42 x 11cm

Buy now from Trekitt


2. Alpkit Ordos 2: Best backpacking tent for big packs and larger people

Price: £220 | Buy now from Alpkit

UK brand Alpkit has made a name for itself with a sensibly-priced collection of high performance, sustainable and stylish outdoor gear, and this two-person ultralight tent is a perfect example.

Weighing 1.4kg and packing down to the size of a 1.5 litre bottle, this two person tent is ideal for solo backpacking where you either need a little more space to yourself, or plan on cosying up with a companion. The 105 x 90cm vestibule has enough space for two 50cm-wide sleeping mats and plenty of luggage, and while it is far from palatial, the semi-geodesic design means you won’t feel like you’re trapped in a bivvy either.

Pitching a ridge-line tent like this is super simple. The anodized aluminium poles come with press fit connectors which are hardwearing, while the seams are fully taped, meaning it will take some biblical weather to get you wet. Everything is also colour coded for effortless set up.

It’s by no means the lightest two-person tent on the market, but you’d need to double your budget to gain significant weight savings. Unless you’re needing to save grams off your pack weight, the Ordos 2 offers an almost perfect balance of value, design, comfort and durability.

Key specs – Person size: 2 person; Standing room: No; Bedrooms: 1; Pitch time: 7 minutes; Weight: 1.4kg; Waterproofing: 3,000mm HH; Packed dimensions: ⌀13 x 42 cm

Buy now from Alpkit


3. Nemo Dagger Ridge Porch Tent 3P: The best backpacking tent for sharing the load

Price: £389 | Buy now from Trekitt

Staying protected from the rain and still managing to enjoy yourself is simple when you can take a huge tent and gazebo, but if you’re travelling light, bad weather can often mean sitting hunched up in a tiny tent for hours on end. Thankfully, the Nemo Dagger Ridge Porch Tent features a huge, generous funnel style porch area that has room for a couple of packs, boots and even some camping chairs.

With simple colour-coded construction and pre-bent JAC poles it’s an easy pitching tent that is incredibly sturdy in the wind. The groundsheet is super tough 70D ripstop nylon, the flysheet is made from thin but waterproof 15D ripstop nylon, and there’s plenty of mesh inside for summer time ventilation without bugs spoiling your slumber.

Two zipped entrances make this an ideal couple’s tent, with no need to clamber over kit or partners in the night, and while we wouldn’t generally recommend carrying a three-person tent for multi-day trips, Nemo has included what it calls a "Divvy sack" that enables you and your partner to split the contents of the tent in two, halving the weight on your backs. Brilliant.

Key specs – Person size: 3; Standing room: No; Bedrooms: 1; Pitch time: 10 minutes; Weight: 3.32kg; Waterproofing: 1,200mm HH; Packed dimensions: 53 x 18cm

Buy now from Trekitt


4. Forclaz MT900: Best value backpacking tent

Price: From £139 | Buy now from Decathlon

Available in one, two and three person designs, the MT900 is part of Decathlon’s premium Forclaz collection. But it’s Decathlon, so pound-for-pound this is an exceptionally well designed, impressively robust tent at a bargain price.

We tested the 2.7kg three-person design (£249), which has 60 cm width per person and a decent sit-up height of 119cm. The super light double-Y style aluminium poles create a sturdy dome structure for a freestanding, easy pitching design. But it’s the twin openings and clever winged groundsheet that we really appreciate, giving ample dry storage for backpacks and boots, so nothing muddy (apart from people) needs to come in the tent.

It isn’t ultra light, but packs down nice and small (39 x 12 x 12cm). It is definitely carryable if you’re sharing the load, and many people would prefer a little extra weight during the day for more space at night.

It has impressive maximum waterproofing, too, with 3,000 mm HH, which is more than enough for most people and weather. Decathlon has also tested the tent to withstand 70km/h winds, which is something we were thankful not to experience during our test.

Key specs - Person size: 3; Weight: 2.7kg; Waterproofing: 2,000mm HH flysheet, 3,000mm groundsheet; Packed dimensions: 39 x 12 x 12cm

Buy now from Decathlon


5. Sierra Designs Meteor 3000 4P: Best backpacking tent for families on the move

Price: £324 | Buy now from Wildbounds

An updated version of an American backpacking classic, the Meteor 3000 is a freestanding, semi-geodesic DAC aluminium pole design with a single short pole across the roof that helps to create excellent height, and two large vestibules for all your kit. It’s also huge, with enough space for four sleeping mats, which makes it an ideal choice for young families who love adventures.

The tent is also seriously sustainable, being made from recycled materials that have an Earth friendly PFC free DWR waterproofing layer. And, with 3,000mm HH, it will laugh off any amount of rain.

Weighing in at just under 3kg (the three person design weighs 2.41kg) it is just about light enough to be carried in a backpack, although we suggest maybe sharing the duties if you’re walking for more than a few hours.

But for us, what separates this tent from the rest is the fact that, on a clear dry night, you can roll back the flysheet and stargaze from your sleeping bag. The inner bedroom compartment is around 50 per cent no-see-um bug proof mesh, which means you get a great view without getting bitten by bugs.

Key specs - Person size: 4; Weight: 2.75kg; Waterproofing: 3,000mm HH; Packed dimensions: 48 x 17cm

Buy now from Wildbounds


6. Vango Cobra 2: Best backpacking tent for first timers

Price: £99 | Buy now from Wow Camping

Stylish, well designed, and an absolute bargain. This two-person non-freestanding design is the ideal design for someone heading out on their first backpacking adventure. Spacious enough for two people – just – or generous for one with a big backpack, it weighs a fraction over 2kg, which is more than acceptable given the price and pack size. We’d not suggest going on a multi-day technical hike with it, but you’ll be well served on an overnighter.

With only two pre-bent poles to insert, the Cobra 2 is straightforward to pitch. There’s a porch area for your boots, lots of ventilation, and, crucially, two doors, so you can get out without disturbing your partner or just use the extra space for stashing gear.

The wedged tunnel construction is easy to crawl in and out of (yes, with a maximum head room of 70cm, you’ll not be doing much aside from lying down inside) but once there, the 3,000mm HH polyester flysheet will keep you dry no matter how filthy the weather.

Key specs – Person size: 2; Standing room: No; Bedrooms: none; Pitch time: 8 minutes; Weight: 2.05kg; Waterproofing: 1,200mm HH (3,000mm HH floor); Packed dimensions: 48 x 18 x 15cm

Buy now from Wow Camping


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