What Should I Consider When Buying a Backpacking Tent?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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A backpacking tent is also known as an ultralight tent. Backpacking tents are lightweight and made for carrying rather than for transporting in a vehicle. When buying a backpacking tent, you should consider weight, but also storage capacity, durability and suitability for weather conditions.

When buying a backpacking tent, consider the weather conditions each type of tent is made for and be sure the tent you choose will properly protect you from the elements. A summer quality backpacking tent is ultralight and may have some mesh areas for air flow. Be sure the mesh is small enough to keep even the smallest bugs out of the tent.

A three season backpacking tent is the most common. These tents are made for summer, spring and fall and will usually handle a light snow. Only a four season backpacking tent is rugged enough for heavier snow and more severe weather conditions. Four season backpacking tents often weigh more than the other types and do not usually have any mesh sections, but rather are often all nylon. Consider buying a four season backpacking tent with a sloped roof as you do not want snow to accumulate on the tent roof.


The backpacking tent you buy should be waterproof, not merely water resistant. The seams of the tent should also be waterproof. A detachable rain fly is often a good addition to your tent.

When buying a backpacking tent, make sure the tents you are considering are made by quality manufacturers and are well-constructed. You want to avoid buying a cheap backpacking tent that is barely good enough for a back yard. Instead, look for a durable tent that will protect you well. The nylon dome style of backpacking tent is considered by many backpackers to be the best choice for both durability and totable capability since nylon has lightweight strength.

It is a good idea to see the tent set up so you can check how strong the tent is when it is put together. Freestanding backpacking tents are usually stronger than the type with stakes. Backpacking tents are available in sleeve-style or clip-style tent pole construction. Sleeve-style constructions are usually stronger, but can be more difficult to set up than a clip-style backpacking tent.

Size is definitely an issue when choosing a backpacking tent because of the need for lighter weight, but it is a good idea to think ahead about your storage needs. You will need some storage room for your pack. Also consider the height of your backpacking tent, especially if you want to change clothing with at least some measure of comfort. Dome-styled tents usually offer a decent amount of height as well as floor space.


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