Ask Kristin

Ask Kristin: $300 tent or a $100 tent?

Sometimes they look the same, but there are several key differences.


I’m looking to purchase my first backpacking tent. What’s the difference in quality between a tent in the $300 range, and one in the under $100 range?

Submitted by – Rebecca – North Stonington, CT


Sometimes they look the same, but there are several key differences.

Poles: Sub-$100 tents almost always have fiberglass poles, while pricier ones have aluminum. Aluminum poles are lighter and far more durable.

Doors: Cheaper tents typically have just one door and vestibule, whereas more expensive ones often have two, making it easier for two people to enter, exit and keep track of their gear.

Weight: Compare the weights and square footage. You often get a better ration in more expensive tents. When looking at weight, be sure to compare apples to apples. For more details on figuring our tent weights, read this:

Bottom line: If you’re just starting out, have serious budget constraints, and or treat your gear nicely, a low-cost option with fiberglass poles might be fine. I know some people who have had and loved theirs for years. But if you’re in this for the long haul, you’ll be much better off paying extra for better poles and more features. Otherwise, you’ll quickly start coveting your neighbors’ tents, and wishing you forked over the extra dough.

By the way, here’s a really awesome tent from L.L. Bean that is only $200 bucks and has it all: aluminum poles, two doors and vestis, great weather protection and a low (sub-4-pound) weight.