Picking a Backpacking Tent

I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That’s a bad place for an argument, because then I tried to walk out and slammed the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zipper it up really quick?

-Mitch Hedberg

Backpacking tents have got a pretty tall order to fill, no hiking tent can please ALL of the hikers ALL of the time, but if you think about it, backpacking tents have to:

  • keep you dry and cozy from the rain
  • provide a little privacy in the big wide spaces of your hiking trail
  • protect you from winds and nasty, flying, buzzy things which don’t respect your privacy at all
  • That’s not so bad . . . I hear you think (I’m clever like that), but you’ve also got to find the right balance between:
  • weight
  • space
  • price

You see, backpacking tents are designed to be carried around . . . all day long . . . in your backpack . . . up mountain trails . . . down valley trails . . . through the wooded trails . . . isn’t hiking just great . . . oh oh, I feel a song coming on!

Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. Now, where was I? Oh yes,

Backpacking Tent
Backpacking Tent

Picking a Backpacking Tent

The thing that you have to decide is, which is the most important to you. Oh, I know that price has to place a bit part in the majority of our larger purchases these days . . . unfortunately . . . but what about the other considerations. Are you willing to carry a little more weight in order to have that little bit more sleeping space? Those backpacks get heavier you know, as you get further along the hiking trail, and by the end of the day you’ll be glad of the rest.

Size of backpacking tent

The size of backpacking tents are categorized by how many people can sleep in them (remember, they are designed to be as small and lightweight as possible, so you might not get as much sleeping room in a hiking tent as you are used to at home in your king-sized bed . . . even though you could be sleeping with fellow hikers who you would never let close to your king-sized bed). If you like your space and you’re a large person, maybe you should plump for a 3 person tent even if there’s only 2 of you . . . it might help you to stay friends. You really don’t want to fall out with your hiking companion after the first night . . . NO you don’t!

Weight of backpacking tent

A one-man (or the “Billy No Mates” as we like to call it . . . Fartburg!!!) Anyway, a solo backpacking tent (a good one) should only weigh around 2 or 3 pounds, twin tents (for two persons, not necessarily twins) weigh in at between 3 and 5 pounds, could be as much as 6 pounds or as little as 2 pounds. Think of this though, if you have a two-person tent only one person will need to carry it, so the other person can carry something else, or you could take turns.

Backpacking tent for all seasons

Some backpacking tents are designed for “fair weather hikers” but the majority of them are what’s known as three-season tents . . . those are the most popular because you never really know what type of weather to expect whilst your hiking. A three-season tent means that it is suitable to withstand moderate weather . . . we’re talking spring, summer and fall, not expeditions to the Arctic circle, if you like cold weather camping and are likely to face some windy, chilly nights, then opt for an extended season tent, and if you are planning a hiking expedition to the Arctic circle you’d better go the whole hog for a mountaineering or 4 season tent.

Do they do this for pleasure? Let’s not beat about the bush . . . they’re bonkers. Now, I love hiking and find nothing more exhilarating than lacing up my hiking boot laces, strapping on my backpack and setting off on a new (or favorite) hiking trail for a few days . . . but hey, there are limits. In those conditions, I’m strictly the sort of person who would prefer a log fire, cozy slippers and a glass of wine before slipping beneath my winter weight bed covers and snuggling down to sleep . . . I’ve gone all tired now.

Backpacking tent headroom

– it might be fun in the camping equipment showroom to crawl in and out of your prospective new backpacking tent like a couple of hunting dogs, but realistically it can get a bit . . . shall we say, tiresome, especially if you’ve got my knees (and if you have got my knees to bring ‘em back sucker)? The headroom in a backpacking tent can actually make a lot of difference if that sort of thing is important to you (or if you’re exceptionally tall).

Backpacking tent pitchability


I love making up words, “pitchability” . . . the spellchecker is going nuts, but you know what I mean don’t you and that’s all that matters? Well, that’s really important when you’re backpacking . . . take a little word of advice from one who knows . . . practice putting your tent up (and down, especially if it’s of the pop-up variety) at home, before you embark on your hiking trip and are pressured by encroaching nightfall or a fast-moving storm. Oh, and as a rule of thumb – the more poles your tent has, the more complicated it could be. Once you’ve successfully pitched your tent a couple of times (and it hasn’t fallen around your ears in the middle of the night) then you’ll wonder what all of the fuss was about. Now, insert pole A into pole B and line up with poles C, D and E. Hey, where’s the rest of the instructions?

I hadn’t thought about needing the headroom for getting dressed . . . do other hikers actually get dressed and undressed during their hiking trips . . . interesting concept, I don’t usually get my kit off from leaving home to driving back up to the front door.