Modern advances in materials technology and innovations in design transformed the way people shop for tents. While comparing options, shoppers used to be faced with choosing between heavy tents with lots of features or lightweight, minimalistic tents. Thankfully, those days are quickly fading away as the sea of available varieties grows at a rapid clip.
Today, the latest crop of tents are now lighter than ever and more versatile than any previous generation. To help navigate the crop, we’ve compared the features, benefits, weights, and designs of the market’s top styles, selecting a handful as our ultimate favorites. Whether you’re simply pitching a tent in your backyard or slinging one on your back for a multi-day backpacking trip, these are the very best tents currently available.
Why should you buy this: With a price tag that undercuts most of its competition, the REI Quarter Dome 2 provides ample room for two people and their gear.
Who’s it for: Backpackers looking for a tent that is comfortable on the trail but won’t break the bank.
How much will it cost: $350
Why we picked the REI Quarter Dome 2:
Want a tent that’s roomy, durable, and won’t break the bank? Look no further than the REI Quarter Dome 2. Refreshed for 2017, the latest version of this REI tent has 28 percent more headspace and 14 percent more shoulder room thanks to its innovative new pole system. The poles are longer than previous models and are slightly curved, a configuration that pushed the walls out and provides extra room. For storage, the Quarter Dome 2 also has two 10.8-square-feet vestibules for gear.
Thankfully, REI kept all the features campers loved from previous generations of the Quarter Dome. Setup is also a breeze thanks to its color-coded poles that take the guesswork out of installation. The tent is freestanding (so no rooftop camping) and features a double wall construction with a 15-denier nylon fly. Since it’s removable, users can install the fly for protection from the elements or stash it in a backpack and sleep under the stars, protected by mesh.
Perhaps one downside is the fact it’s not the lightest option on the market, packing down to 3 pounds and 5 ounces. If you want to travel lightweight, you can save a pound by taking advantage of the minimalist pitch option that allows you to ditch the tent body and use only the fly, poles, and a footprint as a lightweight shelter.
The best for car camping
Why should you buy this: Big, boxy and beautiful is how we could describe the Eureka Copper Canyon 6, a combination of features that make it perfect for camping out of your car.
Who’s it for: Car campers looking for a quality tent with ample room for people, gear and more.
How much will it cost: $240
Why we picked the Eureka Copper Canyon 6:
You don’t need ultralight fabrics or minimalist designs when you only have to walk a few hundred feet to your campsite. What you do need is a spacious tent that’s comfortable for sleeping and has extra space to store clothing, sleeping bags, and anything else you want in your tent. With a 10 by 10-foot floor and a 7-foot ceiling, the Eureka Copper delivers the roominess. The square floor and straight walls maximize the space available for sleeping and relaxing.
Its simple design also makes the tent extremely easy to set up — there are two top poles and four side poles that take approximately 15 minutes to slide through their sleeves and clip to the tent. Though many hands make the work easier, one person can easily set it up and break it down.
Not only roomy, the Cooper Canyon 6 brings several creature comfort features including a gear loft to keep essentials nearby and a zippered. There’s also a powered port that lets you run an electrical power cord safely into the tent to keep devices fully charged. Parents will appreciate the high stash pockets that keep goods out of reach of smaller children. In hot weather, the tent keeps things cool with its three large side windows and large door outfit with a window and mesh top that provides a top-notch view of the stars.
The best single-person tent
Why should you buy this: The Nemo Hornet Elite 2 is ultra-lightweight and roomy — a rare combination in a tent.
Who’s it for: Ounce-conscious backpackers who want the added room in their tents for their dog, gear, and other extras.
How much will it cost: $500
Why we picked the Nemo Hornet Elite 2:
Though advertised as a two-person freestanding backpacking tent, its light weight and size make it perfect for a single person and their gear. You can certainly cram two into the Hornet Elite 2 but you’ll likely regret it in the morning when you crawl out bleary-eyed after a night of elbowing and kneeing your partner.
A single person, however, will enjoy the spaciousness of the Elite 2. With its two doors and two 12-square-foot vestibules, you’ll have plenty of room to store your gear and bring your dog, all with extra room to stretch — something that’s impossible in most single-person tents. Weighing a mere 26 ounces and packing down to the size of a water bottle, the Nemo Hornet Elite 2 is ideal for fast and light trips through the backcountry.
The Hornet Elite 2 does require some degree of gentleness as the lightweight fabric and mesh may not stand up to rough handling. Be careful with the tent and you’ll be treated to a comfortable night’s sleep even when the weather turns wet and windy.
The best two-person tent
Why should you buy this: When cost is a factor yet you still want one of the lightest backpacking tents on the market, the Clip Flashlight 2 is a no-brainer.
Who’s it for: Backpackers who travel in pairs and want a shelter that is light in weight and comfortable for sleeping on multi-day hikes
How much will it cost: $200
Why we picked the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2:
The Clip Flashlight is a classic tent from Sierra Designs, having hit the market more than 30 years ago as an ultralight and affordable shelter for the outdoor enthusiast. The updated version of this highly successful tent, the Clip Flashlight 2, keeps the slim profile and reasonable price tag of its predecessor but makes some key improvements in comfort.
Similar to the original Clip Flashlight, this new iteration is not a freestanding tent and needs to be staked for it to stand. The layout of the tent is improved with two hoop-style poles that provide a higher (42 inches) and wider (52 inches) footprint than the classic version. Ventilation is also improved with an inner mesh tent and a clip-on fly that allows for ample airflow. This double wall design minimizes condensation and protects occupants from the wind. The fly also can pull back for star gazing when the weather is fair. One of the most appreciated features of the Clip Flashlight 2 is the high-walled bathtub floor which helps keep water outside the tent during a rainstorm.
With 30 square feet of interior space, 8.8 square feet of vestibule space, and a weight just under 4 pounds, the Clip Flashlight 2 isn’t terribly heavy or bulky, making it perfect for backcountry adventures and quick car camping trips.
The best three-person tent
Why should you buy this: The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is lightweight and roomy, making it an excellent value for backpackers who bring a friend or two with them on outings.
Who’s it for: Backpackers who travel in a small group and don’t mind sharing accommodations.
How much will it cost: $500
Why we picked the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3:
With a packed weight of 3 pounds 14 ounces, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is one of the lightest freestanding three-person tents on the market. In the oh-so-important weight department, it rivals almost any two-person tent. It’s easy to consider the Copper Spur HV UL3 when you travel as a family or in a group.
Not only is it lightweight, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 is also built to last. The tent withstands rain, wind, and light snow without missing a beat thanks to its proprietary ripstop nylon that increases fabric tear strength by 25 percent. Both the fly and floor are silicone treated and have a 1200-millimeter waterproof polyurethane coating.
The 4-way hub design also contributes to the strength of the tent and makes it 20 percent roomier when compared to previous generations of the Copper Spur tent. You’ll have room to store your gear in the two vestibules, as well as plenty of room to change clothes inside its large interior. Best of all, you can comfortably fit yourself and your friends inside the tent for a bit of relaxation when the weather isn’t favorable for hiking. We even picked its 2-person kin as our favorite piece of sleeping gear in 2017’s Digital Trends Outdoor Awards.
The best tent for gear storage
Why should you buy this: The MSR Hubba Tour 2 is designed for when the weather turns south and you’re stuck inside your tent for a few days.
Who’s it for: Backpackers and bikepackers who want something spacious for bad weather days with enough room to store plenty of gear.
How much will it cost: $650
Why we picked the MSR Hubba Tour 2:
When bad weather strikes and you’re confined to your tent for a few days, there’s nothing more valuable than a spacious vestibule. Whether for stashing gear or cooking meals, the MSR Hubba Tour 2 offers all the space you need with its large exterior storage area that also serves as a convenient transition zone from the outside to the main tent. Plop down and take off your muddy boots without having to dirty your sleeping space, hang up wet clothes, or comfortably cook a meal while shielded from the elements.
The Hubba Tour 2 provides for 32 square feet of inner tent space and 25 additional square feet beneath the vestibule. The interior is spacious and incredibly comfy for two while serving as a luxury palace for solo travelers. MSR’s new Xtreme-Shield waterproof coating provides for complete protection from rain or snow. The exoskeleton frame and unified rainfly are designed so the interior portion of the tent is protected from getting wet during set up in the throes of a rainstorm.
The tent features two easy access entrances, multiple gear storage solutions, and an internal glow-in-the-dark zipper so you’re never left fumbling for it through the darkness. Its 7000-series aluminum poles are a beefy 9.5 millimeters in diameter, ensuring durability and the tent’s packed weight comes to just 5 pounds, 4 ounces — it even packs down into a small carrying size. All told, the Hubba Tour 2 tent is an ideal option for setting out on a long adventure tour during unpredictable weather conditions.
How we test
When possible, our tent recommendations have been field tested across a variety of terrains and weather conditions. We try to test each tent under the conditions which it will be most frequently used.
When testing a tent is not possible, we look at the features of the tent and compare it to existing models in our arsenal of gear. We examine how the tent has changed and what improvements, if any, were made for the current year.
We also comb through product specifications and both manufacturer and retailer videos for insight into any new technology advances that were developed for these latest and greatest tents.
Bonus helpful advice sections
What about four-season tents?
Tents are typically categorized based on seasons with most tents carrying either a three-season or four-season designation. As the name implies, the three-season tent is suitable for spring, summer, and fall, while four-season tents cover you in all seasons, including winter.
So, what makes a tent a four-season variety and why do we exclusively recommend three-season tents in our roundup?
Four-season tents are designed to withstand the high winds and cold temperatures of winter. They’re often constructed with heavy-duty fabrics, reinforced stitching, and steep, angular walls designed to shed snow. You can use a four-season tent in the summer but it’s not ideal as they tend to be heavy and much too hot to sleep in. They also lack the mesh body which provides airflow and a view of the sky that make three-seasons tents so wonderful during warmer seasons. If you’re looking for a four season tent, here’s our latest round-up.
Three-season tents are all-purpose tents that can be covered with a fly in cool or wet weather, or even opened to the air when temperatures climb. They are light in weight making them perfect for long distance hikes and aren’t recommended for use during winter because their design and materials aren’t meant to handle high winds or heavy snow. When temperatures plunge, you don’t want to be stranded without adequate shelter.