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How to Choose a Tent for Backpacking

As a beginner, you get overwhelmed by so many different types of tents out there. Check this guide to learn how to choose a tent for backpacking that will ensure a better camping experience.

By Cody | @Cody

Updated on Dec 20, 2019

There are many different types of shelters that you can choose from. If you are just getting started for backpacking, you may get confused. In this article, I will tell you the main variants to know when choosing a tent for backpacking depending on your practice, season, altitude, size of bags. Hopefully, it will help you choose a tent for backpacking that works best for you.

Choose a Tent for Backpacking

The Weight

The weight gain will be at the expense of the overall volume and resistance of the materials, and therefore comfort. Since you probably will have to carry all your weight on your back, so you want to keep the backpack base weight as light as possible.

Preferably, you can choose a backpacking tent is anything under three pounds. There are some traditional backpacking tents that can weigh around five pounds or even more. Luckily, with the technology today, even if you're on a tight budget you can usually find a tent around three pounds or less without breaking the bank.

Tent Size

If a two-person tent seems the natural choice to shelter two backpackers, especially with its limited weight. In reality, a lot of couples complained that a two-person tent is often "cramped". If you're backpacking alone, choose a two-person tent because usually for a little bit more weight, you get a decent amount of extra room to spread your stuff out or roll around. If you have a companion, you can go with the three-person tent that will allow you to keep your stuff inside, away from moisture.

Tent Vestibule

Generally, you want a tent that has a vestibule because you are able to cook in the vestibule on rainy days and it gives you room if you wanted to put something out there. If you're a couple going backpacking together, I recommend having a tent that has two doors and two vestibules on either side, so you won’t disturb your partner while getting up and going pee in the middle of the night.

Tent Vestibule

Three Seasons or Four?

If you're just starting out, most likely you are not going to be backpacking in the middle of winter so a three-season tent will generally be a better choice for you and will cover you for what you need in the spring, summer, and fall. If you have made up your mind to go backpacking in winter as well, then the four-season tent is your thing.

Single-Wall Or Double-Wall

A double-wall tent has the mesh body of your tent and an extra rain fly over the top of it. If it is not raining, you can take off the rainfly, so you can sleep in the mesh body part and look up at the sky and see the stars while still having protection from bugs.

Besides, the double-wall tents are better ventilated because all the moisture will be collected on the rain fly of the tent and then run down to the ground rather than collecting on the inside of the tent. Another benefit of a double-wall tent is that they are typically a little bit warmer on the inside and keep you more insulated.

Obviously, a single-wall tent tends to be a little lighter than a two-wall tent because there is less material. Without the rainfly, a single-walled tent is easier to set up because you don’t have to take the extra time to pull out the rain fly and throw it over. When camping in the rain, a single-wall tent is easier to set up.

Freestanding or Non-Freestanding

A freestanding tent is a tent that stands alone without attaching to anything and can be picked up and moved around without losing its form. Of course, it could still blow away by heavy wind, but it sets up and basically supports itself with its own designated poles. The advantage of these tents is that you can easily set it up on something like a solid rock or extremely loose sand. However, freestanding tents are generally a little bit heavier because they're more sturdily.

Freestanding Tent

The non-freestanding tent requires rope or cord attached to trekking poles or stake which you must push or pound into the ground. Without them, a non-freestanding tent does not keep their shape. If you prefer using trekking poles, a non-freestanding tent can save a lot of weight. It takes a little more skill to pitch a tent that is non-freestanding but once you get the hang of it it's just as easy as anything else.

Non-Freestanding Tent

The Colour

Light colors are preferred. In case of forced prolonged stay due to bad weather, they will offer you the minimum of light necessary so as not to sink into the deepest depression. To take into account in particular for the tents of Scandinavian brands, which favor dark colors, to be able to sleep during the summer (midnight sun). 

The Accessories

Some tents will be better thought out than others from a practical point of view: more or less large inside pockets to get rid of the contents of your pants, front door with diffusing fabric, spare poles, and sardines, repair kit, GPS tracker, cords on the zips for easier handling with gloves ... But it is clear that the services at this level are relatively close to each other at the various manufacturers.

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