How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

Your backpacking tent is important: it protects you from the weather and keeps the bugs away, in addition to providing a place for you to sleep. However, if you choose the wrong one, you could be left with a heavy, overstuffed backpack that's uncomfortable to trek with.

Luckily, tents have come along way in the past two decades. Lightweight, easy-to-pack tents, that are also rugged, are now widely available.

With so many options it can be difficult sorting through the dozens of lightweight tents on the market. Jeremy Dodge, from outdoor gear retailer Mountainsmith, helps cut through the lingo and choices so you can pick the right tent.

More: 7 Tips for Sleeping in a Tent

Weight and Space

"The obvious answer here is that the lighter and smaller the better," Dodge says. "The smaller the load on your back, the faster you will be on your feet."

Extremely light tents range from 2 to 5 pounds, and take up a small amount of space in your pack; they're usually the size of a small sleeping pad. However, many of these don't have a tent floor. Think of these tents as more of a tarp or shelter, rather than a full tent.

This may mean more bugs and less heat insulation, so only use this type of tent in arid desert areas like those in the Southwest, Dodge says.

Plan to add 3 to 8 pounds to your pack for a tent with a floor or rain fly. Remember, you can always decrease the weight by leaving stuff sacks and rain flies at home if there's dry weather in the forecast, Dodge says.

More: How to Clean a Tent

Number of People

Two-person tents are often the best option for backpacking, and if you bring your dog, child or a friend, opt for a three-person tent.

Always consider the space you need in the event of an emergency such as bad weather. In this case, you may also need to store backpacks, boots, and other gear inside the tent, which means you need more room to be comfortable.

Remember, when traveling with other people you can split the weight: one person carries the tent, someone else carries food and gear, and so on.

More: Tips to Pick the Perfect Family Tent

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