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When it comes to backpacking, you need to strike a balance between tent weight and the tent features you need.
It’s a delicate balance.
So, how much should a backpacking tent weigh? The answer isn’t always lighter is better.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect tent weight, tips to lighten your backpacking load, and we’ll even compare the weights of some popular backpacking tents to help you find the perfect one.
How Heavy Should a Backpacking Tent Be?
A backpacking tent should weigh between 1 and 7 pounds, with weight typically being affected by the type of backpacking tent, the capacity, and any additional features the tent might have.
A good rule of thumb, a tent should weigh around 2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) per person. In other words, if you are solo backpacking, a 1-2 person tent weighing up to 2.5 lbs. should suffice. If two backpackers stay in a 2-3 person backpacking tent, then a tent up to 5 lbs. is ideal.
Tip: When backpacking with multiple people, you can divide the weight by splitting the tent, rainfly, and poles amongst each person.
Of course, this is a general guideline that will vary by camper and their individual needs. A reasonable backpacking tent weight is one that you, and your fellow backpackers, can easily carry along with your other gear.
Just keep in mind, light isn’t always right. Lighter tents will typically be less durable than heavier tents, so if durability is a priority (you tend to camp often in high winds, and/or on rough terrain), you need to find that balance between weight and durability.
When searching for a backpacking tent, you’ll likely encounter terms like ultralight tents, lightweight tents, and just a plain ol’ standard backpacking tent. While there isn’t an industry standard for how much these different types of tents weigh, they typically are as follows:
- An ultralight backpacking tent will weigh between 1 to 2 pounds
- A lightweight backpacking tent will weigh between 3 to 4 pounds
- A standard backpacking tent will weigh between 5 to 7 pounds
You can use that as a general guide when searching for the right backpacking tent for you.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the different types of weights you run into in your search for a backpacking tent. You’ll run into terms like packaged weight, pack weight, minimum weight, and trail weight. These are important terms to understand, so let’s quickly break them down.
Packaged Weight vs. Trail Weight
Packaged weight (or packed weight) refers to how much the tent package weighs at purchase, including tent body, poles, stakes, rainfly, guy lines, and other accessories that come with a tent. The trail weight (or minimum weight) refers to only the weight of the tent body, rainfly (if applicable), and poles.
In other words, the trail weight is the minimum amount of tent gear needed to pitch and use the tent while out camping. While this is closer to the actual weight you’ll be carrying out on the trail, if you plan to take the tent stakes, guy lines, and other accessories, you’ll need to add the weight of those to the trail weight of the tent.
You may also run into terms like base weight, which means the total weight of all your gear minus consumables like food and water. And fast fly weight, which is the weight of just the fly, poles, and footprint (the tent body is not included).
Backpacking Tent Features That Affect Weight
Some important features can have a direct impact on the weight of a backpacking tent.
In fact, these are important considerations when purchasing any type of tent, not just a backpacking tent. But, you should definitely take these into account when trying to balance tent features with overall weight.
Backpacking tents are available in various sizes to suit the number of persons you want to accommodate. A one-person or two-person tent will be your best choice if you are a solo backpacker.
Just keep in mind, a one-person tent will save you weight, but there won’t be much room for your camping gear inside. Choosing a two-person tent will give you the space you desire, although it comes at the cost of weight and is typically a bit pricier.
On the same lines, a three-person tent will fit two hikers comfortably with plenty of space for gear. In this instance, the weight won’t be as much of an issue as you can divide up the tent’s contents, so you’re each only carrying a portion of the total tent weight.
The backpacking tent you plan to purchase should be heavily determined by the season (or, more accurately, weather) you plan on camping in. Seasonality refers to the weather conditions under which a tent is designed for.
You’ll typically find backpacking tents in two seasonal types:
- 3-Season Backpacking Tent: A 3-season tent is a tent that is used in the spring, summer, and fall. These tents are intended to be long-lasting, lightweight, and are built with ventilation in mind. Because of the lighter weight and adequate protection from rain and wind, 3-season tents are usually the tent of choice for backpackers.
- 4-Season Backpacking Tent: 4-season or winter tents are the way to go if you’re planning on trekking mountains through harsh weather conditions. The weight and quality of the materials used to build these tents allow them to better stand up to strong winds, heavy snowfall, and other adverse conditions. Of course, the disadvantage is that they are heavier due to the double-wall design and more durable construction.
If you intend on spending a lot of time in extremely cold, harsh weather conditions, a 4-season tent is a must-have. Otherwise, a 3-season tent should be all that you’ll need.
All camping tents, not just backpacking specific models, come in two main designs: double-wall or single-wall. When it comes to weight, weather resistance, and overall comfort, both have advantages and disadvantages.
- Double-Wall Tents: Feature two layers – a breathable layer and a waterproof layer (also known as a rainfly). Because these tents are generally built with a mesh wall, they provide greater ventilation but less insulation against the cold. They also typically weigh a little more than their single-wall counterparts.
- Single-Wall Tents: Feature a single layer of material that is waterproof. Single-wall tents are typically lighter and more portable than double-wall tents. However, they are susceptible to condensation and poor airflow as a result of their design.
Additional Tent Features
There are additional features you may want to consider when looking for the perfect backpacking tent for you. While there are too many features to list, some of the main features to look out for include:
- Vestibule: A vestibule is a small protected area on the outside of your main tent. This provides a camper with additional outside space for muddy and/or wet gear.
- Footprint: Footprints are designed to protect your tent from wet and rocky terrain. Backpackers might opt to leave their footprint at home to save weight, but it may be worth it depending on the terrain and weather conditions you camp in.
- Warranty: Look for manufacturers who offer at least a 2 to 3-year warranty (lifetime warranty is preferred) on their gear. Be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what the warranty covers (and doesn’t cover).
- Portability: Even if your tent is lightweight, if it doesn’t fold down to a compact, easy-to-carry size, then it can be difficult and awkward to carry around. You’ll also want to make sure you can attach the tent to your backpack easily.
Learn more about what to look for when buying a tent to get the right tent for you and your camping style!
Backpacking Tent Weight Comparison Chart
There are hundreds of models of backpacking tents on the market. We chose a few of the most popular, highest-rated models so you can compare and get a visual idea of the differences between these top tents.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
|2 lb. 6 oz.
|Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 Tent
|5 lb. 13.4 oz.
|5 lb 0.4 oz
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX Lightweight Backpacking Tent
|3 lb. 14 oz.
|3 lb 8 oz.
|GEERTOP Camping 4 Season Waterproof Ultralight Backpacking Tent
|6 lb. 11 oz.
|6 lb 6 oz.
|Clostnature Lightweight Backpacking Tent
|3 lb. 11 oz.
|5 lb 6 oz.
|Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent
|3 lb. 2 oz.
|2 lb 10 oz.
|Featherstone Backpacking Tent Lightweight for 3-Season
|ALPS Mountaineering Tents ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent
|4 lb. 1 oz.
|3 lb. 5 oz.
|Kelty Late Start 1 Person – 3 Season Backpacking Tent
|3 lb. 12 oz.
|3 lb. 5 oz.
Tips to Lighten Your Backpacking Load
While you definitely want a lightweight tent when backpacking, there are other ways to reduce your overall carrying weight without sacrificing tent weight.
Divide the Tent
As mentioned above, you can dramatically cut down on the weight you have to carry if you are backpacking with others by splitting the tent, rainfly, and poles amongst each person.
Consider the Rest of Your Backpacking Gear
When reducing the amount of weight to carry on your backpacking trip, it’s essential to look beyond your tent.
In other words, do you need to bring all the other items with you (backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra clothing, trekking poles, food, etc.)? Or can you leave some of those items at home?
Also, are there lighter versions of the gear that you do need? For example, a sleeping bag can range from just under a pound to over 2 pounds. By opting for a lighter sleeping bag, the weight savings may allow for a heavier, more feature-rich tent.
Other Shelter Options
Do you need a full-blown tent on your hiking adventure? Oftentimes, a simple tarp or rainfly with poles will be enough to shield you from the elements. In some situations, a hammock alone might be enough to get you through the night.
Just remember, you have options, and there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution when backpacking.