When you’re on the trail a good tent can be one of the most important items in (or sometimes on) your pack. Your tent provides you shelter from in-climate weather, privacy from other hikers and protection from bugs and (some) other critters out on the trail. Knowing how to choose a backpacking tent is a good thing for backpackers to know as they’re gearing up to take to the trail.
So how do you pick the right backpacking tent for you?
First things first, you have to consider the season or seasons in which you’ll be using the tent. Knowing the climate of the area you’ll be setting up camp is important as well. In most places, if you don’t plan on camping through the winter months, you can probably get away with a three season tent, where as if you plan on camping in the winter, you’ll want a thicker, four season tent.
Three season tents are mostly designed for the spring-summer-fall months of the year. These tents are typically lighter and not made to hold up against the weight of snow and wind. Their four season counterparts are usually made up of sturdier materials and have extra poles to help do just that. They do tend to be a bit heavier, though, so you probably wouldn’t want one for desert backpacking in July. Keep in mind that, depending on where you’re planning to camp, the typical spring-summer-fall months could find you setting up your tent in a couple inches (or more) of snow so take that into account when you’re picking your tent.
As with everything in backpacking, the weight of your gear is always a big deal. You can typically find solo tents between 2 and 3 pounds. They can get a bit heavier as you add more people to your sleeping arrangements – two person tents can go anywhere from 2 pounds (on the ultralight backpacking side) to up to 6 pounds. I’ve even seen two person backpacking tents go higher than that. A good rule of thumb is to keep your per person weight at 2 to 3 pounds per person. Just keep in mind that lower weight tents typically come with a more snug fit.
I’m 6 foot 4 inches tall. A lot of backpacking tents are far too small for me. I can fit in them, sure, but the comfort factor is a whole different story. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit more space, even on the trail. Some backpacking tents are upwards of 8 feet long, offering plenty of space for taller hikers. That said, keep in mind your need for space – whether it be length or width. The last thing you want on the trail is to feel like you’re sleeping on top of your tent companion.
Keep in mind as you’re looking around that there are plenty of factors that go into how to choose a backpacking tent so don’t forget to connect discuss your options with an outfitter or someone who’s been through the process before while you’re deciding on yours.