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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Tent Shopping Guide

by: The Backpacker Editors

The Standard:
Three-season hikers who stick to forest campsites should consider a two-person tent with two or three poles, plentiful mesh, and a vestibule that shelters the main entrance. Factory seam taping, a bathtub floor, and a full-coverage rainfly are desirable features, as is a trail weight of 4 to 6 pounds.

Are you or your hiking partner very tall? You might prefer a three-person tent. Do you often hike in nasty weather? Look for a big vestibule (or two) for storage and cooking.

For This
Look For
These Features
Hot Plentiful mesh, a rainfly with vents or a venting system, light colors to reflect solar heat
Wet Mesh walls, a large vestibule, a light-colored rainfly to brighten the interior, ample ceiling height for all-day card games, simple setup
Cold No mesh (unless windows zip closed), dark floor for sunny-day drying, mitten-friendly setup
High-mountain or winter Dome or hoop design, three or more poles for stability, numerous or winter guypoints and ski-ready stake loops, large vestibule, dark floor
Windy Dome or hoop, three or more poles, numerous guypoints, an adjustable rainfly (cinch tight to reduce flapping)
All conditions Sealable mesh windows, pole and/or rainfly options for three-season or winter use

For This Terrain Look For
These Features
Sand Freestanding dome or A-frame to handle poor staking conditions, ultrafine mesh to keep out blowing sand
Snow Freestanding design preferable, floor should be seamless or factory taped

For This Comfort Look For
These Features
Less pack weight Hoop design or tarp, lots of mesh, minimal vestibule and pole structure, tapered floor plan
Fast pitch One-way pole sleeves, quick-clip buckles at corners of rainfly, freestanding design (requires fewer stakes), no separate setup for vestibule
Quick escapes Double doors, hip-high vestibule or entryway, easy-to-reach zipper pulls
Easy living Steep side walls, high ceiling, double doors and vestibules, clear plastic windows in rainfly, sealable windows

Tarp Or Tent?
Tarps and teepees can withstand almost any weather when tautly pitched, providing ample shelter and space for little weight. But you'll need to practice pitching and find sites with secure staking or guying options. For buggy trips, look for mesh sidewalls or a clip-in mesh canopy.

Going Solo?
Bivy sacks generally weigh only about 2 pounds, but offer limited space and ventilation. Single-person tents provide more camp comfort at around twice the weight.

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Reader Rating: -


luis s.
May 11, 2012

wht about hammocks what is your opinions on that?

Sep 03, 2010

Nothing was mentioned about hammocks or hammock tents. The Hennessey Hammock would fit the bill in at least three seasons and most terrain. I'm sure that there are other hamocks that would fit the bill also.

Nov 25, 2009

I have an old style, single wall Zeus tent. I am going backpacking for 2 days in about 30-40 degree weather. Do you think condensation will be a problem?


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