Ask Kristin: How Do I Pick My First Backpacking Tent?

A reader asks: What's the difference between a $100 tent and a $300 one?

Q: I’m shopping for my first backpacking tent. What’s the difference between a $100 model and a $300 one?

A: Tents with wildly different price tags can look similar, especially online. Here are the key differences.

1) Poles: Sub-$100 tents always have fiberglass poles; pricier ones have alumi- num, which is lighter and far more durable. Do not get a tent with fiberglass poles for backpacking.

2) Doors: Cheaper tents typically have just one door and vestibule; more expensive ones have two, which is way more convenient.

3) Weight: Compare the weights and square footage. You usually get a better ratio in more expensive tents.

4) Seam-sealing: Higher-end tents are almost always seam-taped for waterproofness. Cheaper ones require DIY seam- sealing. One of the best deals around? REI’s Half Dome 2 (, which has all the high-end features you want for $199.

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