What is a Backpacking Tent?
It’s a tent or some form of shelter that you carry with you while on a backpacking trip. Bringing some sort of tent or shelter with you is important to protect you from the weather.
Generally, they are compact, small and lightweight. Backpacking tents come in all forms of shapes and sizes. They are made of different water-resistant cloth materials and are supported with collapsible poles.
Backpacking tents are generally lighter and made with minimal material compared to standard camping tents. Different manufacturers design backpacking tents putting more emphasis on different design features but weight is usually a common denominator.
While backpacking and accessing remote areas, weight is generally the most important factor to consider. It is also important to think about how many people you will share the tent with because that also means that there are more people to help carry it!
Tents of all kinds are usually rated with the amount of adults that they can comfortable fit. For backpacking specific tents, that usually ranges from 1-4 people.
If more than 4 people are going on a trip together than it is more common to bring more than one tent.
Backpacking tents also vary in level of comfort. Usually, normal tents that are more comfortable, offer larger areas of covered space both inside and outside the tent. This includes the ground that you are laying on.
There are two common tent designs that include either a double-wall tent or a single wall tent. The double-wall tent has a body and a rainfly. The body is comprised of a mesh material to allow for air ventilation but keeps the bugs out and can usually stand on its own. A rainfly goes over the body of the tent to protect from the rain and wind. On hot summer days, it is nice to leave the rainfly off the tent to keep the tent cooler.
Single wall design is usually made with a robust waterproof material such as gore-text or other breathable laminates. The single-wall tents may also be a tepee design with a single pole in the middle to support the tent. These tents are often the lightest option but do not allow for the same level of comfort.
If you have never backpacked before, I would suggest buying a double-wall tent and a tent that offers more covered space. A nice feature of many tents is a vestibule which is an area of the tent which is only covered by the rainfly but allows you to store your shoes or back underneath it.
There are many things to consider when trying to choose a backpacking tent. To start, it is important to decide on a 3 season or 4 season tent. Are you going to be camping in harsh weather environments? Is there the potential to experience heavy rain, wind, or snow? If so, then I would limit your search to 4 season tents as they are more sturdy and robust. The downside is that they will generally be more heavy.
Do you plan to go on trips in areas that are more temperate in the weather? Are you going backpacking in a rain forest or a desert? Make sure you do research about the area that you are going to hike through to see what type of weather usually occurs. If the weather tends to be more temperate during the time of year that you are hiking than a 3 season tent will be sufficient.
Number of People
How many people are you backpacking with? Are you on a solo mission? A group of friends? Regardless, you will need to make sure that the size of your tent is accommodating for the amount of people that will be sleeping in it. Do you need extra space? Do you want to store your pack and clothes inside your tent? These are important questions that you need to ask yourself.
Some tents feature a large rain fly so that you can keep your pack and hiking shoes outside the body of your tent but under the rainfly. Some tents are smaller or do not feature a large rainfly so you are left to leave your belonging in the elements.
Different tents are made with many different features depending on the season rating of the tent and brand. The following tent features that are important to mention are as follows:
Number Of Entrances
All tents will have at least one entrance but depending on the amount of people sleeping in a tent, it can be really nice to have more entrances. By having more entrances, your tent mate does not have to crawl over you and your things to get to their mate. This can be especially helpful when you have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Tent ventilation is important for many reasons which include keeping the tent comfortable, smelling good, and not accumulating moisture inside the tent. Most tents feature mesh walls that allow for airflow. It is important that your tent has to mesh walls or windows to allow for sufficient airflow.
Zipper durability is important in the longevity of your tent. Smaller zippers are not as robust and break easier. Although zippers can be replaced, purchasing tents that already have larger zippers will add the total lifespan of your tent.
When backpacking, weight is an important factor to consider. The size of your tent can take up a lot of space in your pack and can be heavy as well. The weight of the tent will vary based on its size, features, and overall space capacity. It is optimal to try and reduce the tent weight as much as possible. If you are backpacking by yourself try and aim for 2-3 lbs. Larger tents can range in weight from 3-6 lbs. If you are sharing a tent, it is optimal to have a shared weight of 2 lbs per person.
The cost of the tent will vary based on the variables mentioned throughout this article. Additionally, the brand and features of the tent will have a big impact. Do not assume that a more expensive tent will be better than a less expensive tent. Although. Pricer tents are usually made with better materials that are not as heavy.
Expensive tents may have an awkward layout or the brand is marketed to be better than less expensive tents because of the posh brand image. The best way is to look at different tents that meet your criteria listed above. Following, compare the tents at different price points and compare the overall features. What tent meets your backpacking needs and is comfortable on your wallet?
There are many variables to evaluate when choosing a tent and oftentimes you can have a different tent depending on the season or the amount of people that you are backpacking with. When choosing what is the best tent, pick the tent that fits your needs and that one that you are comfortable sleeping in.
Why Use Tarp Tents For Backpacking?
Backpacking allows you to get into remote areas that are not easily accessible or inaccessible via other forms of transportation. How much you have to carry depends on the terrain, weather, and how comfortable you like to be while traveling in the wilds. You can go a long distance on two feet and you can go a lot farther by carrying less weight.
Tents have developed over the years to become lighter and therefore more efficient to carry. Traditional backpackers are interested in traveling farther in shorter amounts of time and often rely on their gear to give them an edge in order to accomplish this.
In recent years, backpacking tarp tents have gained popularity because they are lighter than traditional backpacking shelters. Thus, allowing hikers to have lighter packs and be able to walk further distances. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to using them.
Before you decide on what tent you need for a backpacking trip it is important to understand the terrain and potential weather that you may encounter. Although tarp shelters are light and repel water well, they are not as strong in the wind. 3 season and 4 season tents are going to withstand winds far better than a tarp tent. Traditional tents are better in stronger elements because they generally have a pole structure to support the tent and guy lines to secure it to the ground.
It can be difficult to forecast wind conditions but researching an area on a map, talking to other people that have traveled in the same area, and looking at the weather report can be a great resource. If you are looking at a map of the area that you will be traveling through, ask yourself the following questions:
Will I be hiking in high elevations?
Higher elevations tend to have fewer shrubs and smaller trees, therefore offering fewer places to find refuge if you encounter bad weather. If you are hiking in lower elevations, along rivers or streams, or in valleys then you most likely will be hiking through thicker brush. As a general rule, it is good to stay low when bad weather hits.
Are natural features present?
Will you be hiking in mountainous or rocky terrain? Although hiking on rocky terrain can be difficult, large rock features can offer protection from the elements. Plus, smaller rocks can be great anchors for setting up your tent or building small rock wind walls.
How To Choose Backpacking Tents for An Adventure
Tarp Tent Benefits
Obviously, they are going to be lightweight because they are made with less material. Most tarps do not have tent poles and this significantly reduces their overall weight as well. The total weight is the largest benefit of backpacking with a tarp.
They tend to be compact since they are made with a small amount of material. Since there is not a lot of material that is used they are easily packed. This allows more space to be utilized in your pack for other things such as food.
Tarp tents will vary in the level of protection that they have against the rain. Their level of protection is largely determined by the material that they are made with. Gore-tex is a top tier material for rain protection while other tents are made with nylon that has a polyurethane coating.
They can be very spacious depending on how big of a tarp you get. Some tarp tents can be confining if they have a center pole that supports the tent. While tents that do not need any poles can feature a lot more open space. This can be nice because you can have all of your gear inside the tent and protected from the elements.
Tarp Tent Disadvantages
Vulnerable In Windy Conditions-
Although there are many advantages to tarp tents when backpacking, they are weakest when set-up in windy conditions. It can be difficult to secure tarp tents in windy conditions because of their light material and non-existent pole structure.
Difficult To Set-Up-
There are many different tarp designs but I have found it difficult to easily set-up tarp tents. The level of difficulty lowers if you have more people to help you. Tents that have poles make it a lot easier to set-up the body but tarp tents are more difficult because they have to be attached to anchors such as stakes, rocks, or trees.
No Bug Net-
If you are not comfortable with bugs and other creepy crawlers than you may not want to sleep under a tarp. Standardized tarp tents will not have a bug net or enclosure that is normally made of a mesh material. Most other tents will have a body that acts as an enclosure and keep the bugs out of your tent. If things that crawl and slitter do not bother you then this will not be an issue.
Easy To Damage-
As mentioned in other parts of the article, tarp tents are made with lightweight, single-layered material that can tear easily. You can avoid damaging your tarp by keeping it away from fires, avoid cooking inside or around your tent and avoid leaving your tent on the ground or on abrasive terrain such as rocks.
I’m Matt Jacobs and I’ve been getting a charge out of the untamed life and global exploration for whatever period of time that I can remember. I like going outdoors, climbing, and hiking at whatever point I can. What’s more, I appreciate living in the aroma of adventure and seeing the wonders which this world has to offer!