Best Budget Backpacking Tents of 2020

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When shopping for the best budget backpacking tent for your needs, it can come off as a daunting task. There are copious amounts of information to consider and numerous choices on the market. Saving money without compromising quality is a major factor. You are looking for that balance between cost-effectiveness and performance. Here at Hiking and Fishing, we want to make things clear, concise and uncluttered, so you spend less time online and more time outside.

Introduction | Key Considerations | Best Tents

The top thing to ask yourself first in regards to choosing a budget backpacking tent is: What is my intended use going to be with the tent? Do you plan on crushing big miles each day on a long distance backpacking trip, or are you more into leisurely weekend trips with shorter days of walking and maximum time lounging in your tent? Are you a solo adventurer or are you hiking with a partner, and maybe even your dog?

Knowing your intended use can easily help you narrow down your options, to determine which features will keep you more comfortable both carrying your tent AND making it your home sweet home while in the outdoors.

So let’s start to break it down. First, we’ll look at some key considerations in choosing a budget backpacking tent; this will make it clear what’s important for you and your intended use. Second, we’ll tell you our top picks and why we chose them. With this information combined, you’ll be on your way to making a solid choice on a budget backpacking tent.

Budget Backpacking Tent

Key Considerations For Tents

Weight

Your tent is one of the Big Four when it comes to backpacking (shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack), which means it’s both super important and has the potential to contribute the most weight to your overall gear. This may not be a big deal if you’re only planning to hike a couple miles and then set up luxuriously for a weekend by a stunning mountain lake, or if you like to car camp sometimes. However, if you know you enjoy walking long days in maximum comfort, you may want to lean towards one of our lighter weight choices.

There’s a saying in the thru-hiking community that “Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” If you know a backpack bursting with heavy gear isn’t your jam, keep that in mind when choosing a tent!

Price

The bottom line is that more of a budget deal in price tag often equates to more weight for a tent. Now that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t light options for a good price, yet just remember the budget tents aren’t going to be the lightest ones on the market. You may want to weigh out how often you’re going to use your tent; if it’s a couple times a year, don’t go breaking the bank. But if you’d like backpacking to be a more regular thing, consider it a worthy investment. Check out tents that cost a wee bit more, but weigh a tad bit less.

Interior Space, Roominess and Capacity

Less room equals less weight. Interior space is a trade-off between comfort and weight. Ask yourself how much time you’re actually going to spend in your cozy, fold-up home. If you plan on playing card games and have a lot of stuff you want to keep inside, space and capacity matters to you. Are you tall and enjoy having some headroom so you can sit up in your tent? Even if more weight is involved, it may make a world of difference to you in having that extra roominess to wriggle about and not cramp your style. You may be a solo hiker, yet sometimes bumping up to a 2-person tent is worth it; you decide. Yep, decreased comfort can also equal pain; even ultralight hikers will admit to that!

Roominess Allows For Lounging In Your Tent

Roominess Allows For Lounging In Your Tent

Design

This is where some people really like to geek out, which is fine if that’s your thing. Yet you don’t have to — keeping it simple with these points to reflect on is often enough.

  • One or Two Doors: This is definitely something to think about if there are two of you in there, for ease of entry/exit. Think those late night trips when you have to pee and you get the drift.
  • Vestibule Space: Some tents may have less space inside, but a big vestibule can give you added space for your gear if you don’t mind keeping it outside.
  • Air Vents: These can help cut back on condensation, so give that some thought if you hike in places that are wet, humid or cold (although there can be condensation on cool nights in the desert, too!)
  • Wall Construction:  A double-wall tent comes with two distinct parts – a tent body and a rainfly. The mesh inner-tent performs as a barrier from the dreaded condensation that forms inside the rainfly. A single-wall tent aims to decrease weight by eliminating the mesh inner-tent, as it’s all one piece. Sounds great, but it can mean you’re susceptible to interior condensation in damp and chilly conditions. It is the worst to feel like you’re being rained on inside your tent when condensation forms and drips on your face when sleeping — bleh. Again, lighter weight doesn’t always mean you’ll be more comfortable. Oh, and if you like to stargaze from your tent, you want a double-wall choice so you can leave the rainfly off on nights you know it’s not supposed to rain.
  • Set-Up: Freestanding tents are popular because they can be set up in most all locations. They come with a fixed pole system,  they’re easy to use and fast to set up. Non-freestanding tents use stakes, guylines, and trekking poles. The pro is that they reduce weight in bypassing tent poles, but the con is that they demand more time and space to pitch. If you want to be able to camp on a rocky cliff side, go for a freestanding tent. Yet if you like the idea of saving weight, be sure to practice setting up your non-freestanding tent before you happen to get caught in a thunderstorm and need to set up pronto.

Protection and Durability

As mentioned earlier, your backpacking tent is one of the Big Four, meaning it’s extremely essential. Yes, you want a tent that’s not going to cost you half a month’s rent, but don’t skimp so much to risk your safety from the elements. Think of that tent as your safe haven in offering you protection and durability. If you know you’re going to hike somewhere it rains a lot, be sure the little nest you choose will keep you warm and dry.

Ultralight tents tend to use thinner materials, and often heavier material can be more durable. However, no tent is impervious to a pointy stick or sharp rock, so be aware and treat it with care. Some hikers opt for a footprint for extra ground protection, and some feel they aren’t worth the extra weight. Consider where you hike (think lush forest with soft earth versus rocky terrain) and decide if it’s right for you.

Season Rating

In general, 3-season tents are the most popular to enjoy spring, summer and fall adventures. These can usually handle some snow, yet don’t be taking them out on some hardcore winter expedition. A 3-season tent will do the job of keeping nasty weather out while also encouraging air circulation.

Backpacking In Cooler Weather Conditions

Backpacking In Cooler Weather Conditions

Top Picks for Best Budget Backpacking Tents

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what your intended use is for your backpacking tent and the key criteria to consider, let’s get down with the good stuff: Here are our six top picks and why we chose them.

 

REI Co-Op Passage 2

REI Co-Op Passage 2

REI Co-Op Passage 2

Quick Specs:

  • People: 2
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 2 each
  • Inside dimensions ( L x W x H): 87” x 50 x 43”
  • Floor Area: 31 square feet
  • Double-wall, semi-freestanding (vestibules must be staked)
  • Packaged Weight: 5 lbs 10 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs 2 oz.

COST: $159 (REI)

The REI Passage 2 is the overall best choice for comfort, space, quality and durability. It’s a two-person tent that’s suited well for backpacking trips, base camping and car camping adventures. It’s one of the lighter choices for a budget backpacking tent, if weight is a consideration for you. With two doors and two large vestibules, there’s loads of room for external gear storage.

The best part about this tent is its internal space and roominess, as it can fit two wide sleeping pads with no issue. The Passage has six large interior storage pockets, if you like to organize your stuff. Finally, it also has two condensation-reducing top vents — woohoo! At $159 with footprint included, this tent is a real value.

Buy on REI


 

North Face Stormbreak 2

North Face Stormbreak 2

North Face Stormbreak 2

Quick Specs:

  • People: 2
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 2 each
  • Inside dimensions (L x W x H): 87” x 50 x 43”
  • Double-wall, free standing
  • Floor Area: 30. 6 square feet
  • Packaged Weight:  5 lbs 14 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs 5 oz.

Cost: $159 (REI)

As usual, North Face puts out a solid product with the Stormbreak 2. This tent is a two-door and two-vestibule tent that is a top choice offering ample interior space and headroom. The doors are unique in how they have two zippers each, so you can open them like awnings, or roll up the middle panel and still have two sidewalls to provide protection from wind or privacy.

The Stormbreak is a durable, stable shelter enhanced by the cross-cross pole structure meant to endure harsh weather. Large interior pockets and ceiling loops are also a perk. It may not be the lightest option, but its comfort factor and price point make it a winner.

Buy on REI | Buy On Amazon


 

Big Agnes C Bar 2

Big Agnes C Bar 2

Big Agnes C Bar 2

Quick Specs:

  • People: 2
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 1 each
  • Inside dimensions (L x W x H): 86” x (52 x 42) x 41”
  • Double-wall, free standing
  • Floor Area: 39 square feet
  • Packaged Weight:  4 lbs 13 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs

Cost: $199.95 (Amazon)

The Big Agnes C Bar 2 is the best choice if you’re looking for one of the lightest budget backpacking tents out there, weighing around four pounds. There’s a single front entry door with a vestibule to store gear, an oversized ceiling pocket, plus three mesh pockets for stashing random bits and bobs. It sets up rather easily, and the durable waterproof fly and floor will keep you dry in poor weather.

As it often does, the weight savings comes with a sacrifice in comfort. Many feel this choice is better as a roomy one-person than a two-person tent. But  if you plan to spend more time hiking than hanging in your tent, this lightweight budget tent may be right for you.

Buy On Backcountry | Buy On Amazon


Mountainsmith Morrison 2

Mountainsmith Morrison 2

Mountainsmith Morrison 2

Quick Specs:

  • People: 2
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 2 each
  • Inside dimensions (L x W x H): 92”x 56”x 43”
  • Double-wall, free standing
  • Floor Area: 35 square feet
  • Packaged Weight:  5 lbs 8 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz.

Cost: $141 (Amazon)

The Mountainsmith Morrison 2 comes in as the top spacious budget tent, plus its minimum trail weight makes it a light choice. With large, dual doors, a roomy interior of 35 square feet and watertight construction, the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 tent is a fantastic choice for backpacking. A breeze to set up and possessing additional features like reflective guylines, ventilation fly windows and internal mesh storage pockets, the Morrison 2 delivers great value at an appealing price.

Buy On Amazon | Buy On REI


 

REI Co-Op Passage 1

REI Co-Op Passage 1

REI Co-Op Passage 1

Quick Specs:

  • People: 1
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 1 each
  • Inside dimensions (L x W x H): 88”x 36” x 40”
  • Double-wall, free standing
  • Floor Area: 20 square feet
  • Packaged Weight:  4 lbs 10 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 3 lbs 11 oz.

Cost: $139 (REI)

The sister to the Passage 2, the Passage 1 is the best choice for a one-person tent at an excellent value price. It provides superb  comfort, plus good-sized storage pockets and a vestibule with ample space. The Passage 1 is not complicated to pitch, which is another perk, and the footprint is included for added floor durability.

Another sweet touch is how the fly door rolls up over the roof for sky viewing, improved venting and reduced condensation.

If you’re a solo hiker who appreciates the notion of comfort in the backcountry and you don’t want to splurge on something ultralight, the Passage 1 is a great choice.

Buy On REI


 

Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2

Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2

Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2

Quick Specs:

  • People: 2
  • 3 Season
  • Doors/Vestibules: 2 each
  • Inside dimensions (L x W x H): 90”x 52”x 42”
  • Double-wall, free standing
  • Floor Area: 33 square feet
  • Packaged Weight:  6 lbs 2 oz.
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 5 lbs 9 oz.

Cost: $249.95 (REI)

Okay, don’t get scared off by the word ‘hotel’ in the name of this tent. The Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 is by no means the lightest tent, but it’s rather cool in design. This is the best choice if you’re storing your bike, extra gear, or traveling with your furry friend. With two doors and two vestibules including a massive side vestibule, you are well established with this tent as a good alternative to a 3-person tent.

It’s a snap to set up with color-coded poles (no brainer after a long day of hiking or biking) and has lots of mesh and roof vents for maximum air flow. Two fly vents offer increased airflow and less condensation, and a low vent feature on the vestibule doors creates even more airflow while still providing vestibule coverage.

If you like pockets, its got ‘em, plus the gear loft loops are pretty neat, too.

If you and your hiking partner don’t mind splitting weight and you have your pooch along, the Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel 2 is the way to go.

Buy On REI


Best Budget Backpacking Tents Takeaway

You don’t have to max your credit card when buying a backpacking tent, as there is something out there for everyone. Once you get clear on what your needs and intentions are when backpacking, it’s less overwhelming to research a budget tent. Be sure to keep the key criteria in consideration and remember what’s right for someone else may not be ideal for you. Try one of the above we listed, set it up in your yard and feel it out. If it doesn’t seem like a good match, return it and try another. With a little introspection on what’s important to you when in the backcountry, your homey, practical, little (or big) cocoon awaits.

Heather Rideout
Heather Rideout

Heather Rideout has been a life-long outdoors woman. Her pursuits and passion with hiking and camping have taken her around the world for many long distance trips; such as backpacking in Nepal, India, South America, Morocco, Europe, and North America. Heather has hiked the Appalachian Trail, 2,250 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and a route of 1,500 miles combining several Camino routes through Spain and Portugal. She has been a blogger for ‘The Trek,’ and recorded an episode with one of her outdoor stories for the podcast ‘Out There.’ Heather shares some of her writing on her website, www.wanderyoga.com

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