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Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a newbie, quality backpacking gear is a must. A backpack, sleeping bag, and tent will consume most of a limited budget. Therefore, finding the best budget backpacking tent is crucial. Your tent becomes your home away from home on the trail, and you cannot afford to skimp on this item.
Many believe that enjoying the great outdoors will cost a lot. That isn’t always the case. Quality backpacking equipment can be found if you know where to look. Don’t let a tight budget hold you back from your next outdoor adventure. You can have fun-filled wilderness adventures without spending too much. Here’s how to find the perfect backpacking tent without overspending.
Thankfully, equipping yourself with decent backpacking gear while staying within a budget is possible. Getting the best budget backpacking tent is one of the ways to control your overall equipment budget.
We have made a list of amazing tents we tried and tested during our many backpacking adventures. Of course, the tents on our list come and go as we discover new tents to replace them. Not only do our backpacking needs change, but technological advances in tent materials and construction change over time as well.
That being said, in addition to affordability, tent metrics must include wind and rain resistance, quality construction, and a decent manufacturer’s warranty.
The Geez values affordable backpacking equipment, but not at the expense of quality. We recommend tents sturdy enough to protect you on a backpacking trip, yet affordable enough not to break the bank.
Considerations When Buying a Budget Tent
The best-budget backpacking tent should not compromise quality and comfort over affordability. For campers and backpackers alike, reliable tents are essential to a memorable wilderness adventure. Thus, you need to choose a tent that can provide you with the shelter and protection you need. In doing so, consider these factors:
A tent’s weight is one of a backpacker’s most important considerations. You want a lightweight tent to keep your pack as light as possible. Because most backpacking involves hiking long distances, carrying a heavy tent takes a toll on your back and legs. As the miles go by, the more weight you carry the more tired you become.
When we talk about a tent’s weight, there are two things: Trail Weight vs Packaged Weight. Trail weight is the minimum weight of a tent that includes all the essentials such as the tent body, rainfly, and poles. Meanwhile, package weight refers to all inclusions of the trail weight plus the stakes, stuff sack, guylines, and footprint (if included).
For backpacking trips, the less a tent weighs, the better it is. Backpackers aim to minimize the base weight of their backpacks. Along with the weight of the backpack itself, your sleeping bag and tent account for the bulk of the base weight.
Lightweight tents are made from thinner fabrics that make them weigh less. That said, thinner fabrics are not as durable as heavy-duty ones. Fabric durability in tents is measured in denier. The higher the tent’s denier, the more durable it is. But, a higher denier is also tantamount to more weight.
So, the best way to ensure the fabric’s durability is to treat your tent gently. Protecting the tent floor with a durable footprint is key. High-quality materials for poles, zippers, and other tent parts are also key to longevity. In addition, carrying your tent in a higher denier stuff sack protects it on the trail as you scramble under bushes and tree limbs or between and around rock outcroppings.
Size and Space
Budget backpacking tents likely do not have great size and interior space because they are made with minimal materials to save cost and weight. While the floor area is almost the same as more expensive tents, the headroom is different. Most budget tents we know of don’t have enough headroom to allow you to sit upright comfortably inside the tent.
If you want additional headroom that gives your interior area a major size boost, you can shell out a few more dollars to get REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2. Though it is pricier than the Passage tent we recommend below, you will have enough headroom to move around.
Doors and Vestibules
Most budget backpacking tents in our list feature dual doors and vestibules. This comes in handy, especially for a 2 person tent. It makes coming in and getting out easier since each person has their own door to use. The vestibules also add additional dry storage space for backpacking gear and equipment outside the main body of the tent.
The major downside to a front-entry tent is inclement weather. Rain can enter the tent as the vestibule flap is moved aside to enter or exit the tent.
Ease of setup, that is how difficult the tent is to put up, should also be considered. Novice backpackers should not bring a tent that is complicated to set up. Since most backpacking tents have fairly quick and easy installation instructions, this consideration is most times unnecessary. However, it still helps to know how the tent is set up before buying one and before your first adventure.
A tent serves as your shelter and refuge. It should protect you from the elements and also provide a sanctuary in the wilds for getting a peaceful night’s sleep.
Budget tents are often made with cheaper materials. However, you should ensure that these materials will stand up to the rigors of the trail. It must provide proper protection from the elements and withstand the changing terrain. You need a functional tent each and every day you are on the trail.
Backpacking tents usually come as 1P, 2P, and 3P. Before purchasing, know your camping needs first. If you always travel alone, you can purchase a 1 person tent to save both weight and money. But, if you are a couple or in a group, you should get 2 person and 3 person tents.
Although a 2P tent weighs more, the Geez always backpacks with one. Even though I am a solo backpacker, I like the extra room it provides to move around. Additionally, I don’t feel so claustrophobic in a larger tent.
Ventilation adds comfort to your tent. You don’t want to retire to a tent and feel stuffy inside, right? Most budget tents have mesh panels that allow airflow. But, it can get compromised when the rainfly is on.
Having rainfly vents can ensure that airflow circulates well even with waterproof fabrics, sealed seams, and rainfly. In addition, properly staking the rainfly out and away from the tent body allows air to circulate around the bottom of the tent. Without proper ventilation, moisture can condense on the rainfly and tent walls. This inevitably drips on you in the middle of the night and makes you miserable.
6 Best Budget Backpacking Tents
Premium Choice: Paria Outdoor Products Zion Backpacking Tent
- 1-person, 2-person and 3-person tents are available
- Side entry on both sides
Zion Backpacking Tent from Paria is our top choice. Zion’s ingenious side entry points are an unheard necessity. Because the camping tent has openings on both sides, 2 people camping don’t have to crawl over each other to get out of the tent. This is especially beneficial at night when you have to go to the bathroom while the other is sound asleep.
As seasoned campers, we notice that front entry tents have slanted openings. Rain comes in when we open the tent and creates an unwelcome mess. The storage pocket for your bags for this type of backpacking tent is located at the back, making it hard to get into. But with this 2 side door design, you don’t have to deal with the disadvantages of a front door tent.
Paria Outdoor Products designed and manufactured Zion. This company is one of the most reliable brands we always use because of their top-quality and budget-friendly gear. Paria does not compromise quality over affordability and vice versa. You always get good gear, from a trekking pole to a sleeping pad to a sleeping bag and everything in between, from them.
They also offer free shipping across the United States and a lifetime product warranty. A 60-day return window or exchange is also one of its benefits. Paria is one of the trusted names among hikers and backpackers in the US and around the world.
- Compact and light
- Waterproofed with dual silicone/PU coating
- Factory taped seams
- 3000 mm hydrostatic resistance
- Aluminum alloy stakes
- Reflective Dyneema guy line
- Easy to set up
- 5 lbs weight with stakes and footprint
Most Lightweight: Nemo Equipment Hornet Osmo Ultralight Backpacking Tent
- 1 to 2 lbs minimum weight
- 1 person, 2 person and 3 person tents available
- Bluesign approved material
Although expensive in comparison of other budget tents in our list, the Nemo Hornet backpacking tent is our top choice for the most lightweight of all tents. If your budget can afford it, you will not be disappointed with this tent.
Minimum weights, including the poles, inner tent and rainfly, range from 1 to 2 lbs. The single person tent has a minimum weight of 1 lb, while the 2 to 3 person tents log in at 2 lbs. This camping tent is exceptionally good for ultralight backpacking.
The 2 to 3 person tents have 2 doors and 2 vestibules. Such a design makes it more convenient for you to move around. This is also a good choice for campers who want to pack an ultralight tent to include in their backpacking gear.
Nemo Hornet has a bluesign® approved floor material. The material used for the tent floor meets requirements that reduce the chemical impact on people and the planet. Consequently, they have created an eco-friendly backpacking tent, and one of the best in our opinion
- NEMO lifetime warranty
- Nightlight pockets
- Increased privacy
- Water repellent
- More expensive than other best budget backpacking tents
Best Freestanding Tent: Marmot Cazadero 2P Tent
- Designed for 3-season camping
- Dual d-shaped doors on each side
A lightweight tent specifically designed to enjoy 3-season camping, this is a good choice for backpacking adventures. It is one of the freestanding tents we love to use on our camping trips because it is convenient and quick to set up. Each side has a door and spacious vestibule that you can use for dry gear storage.
However, this budget backpacking tent may not be ideal for long distances. While it is ideal as a budget tent, its trail weight is just shy of 5 lbs., making it on the heavier side. The tent has a 32 sq ft floor area, taped seams and a full coverage weatherproof rain fly. The tent pole is made of 7000 series aluminum, ensuring durability and strength that supports the tent in most weather conditions.
- Dual door
- Polyester taffeta floor material
- Comes with a tent footprint, tent pole, rain fly, guylines, and stakes
- UV resistant and waterproof
- Only available in 2-person tent
- Not lightweight – Weighs just under 5 lbs.
Most Budget-Friendly: REI COOP Passage
- Adjustable ceiling vents
- Fly doors can be rolled up over the roof
A budget tent made to impress. REI COOP Passage surely makes the cut as one of our best budget backpacking tents. REI Passage is affordably priced for a 2-person tent. Whether car camping or taking it out on a backpacking journey, you’ll find this tent convenient and easy to set up. It has a minimum trail weight of 4 lbs. 2 oz.
The backpacking tent has an x-pole configuration that increases its vertical space to give you enough headroom. Each side also features its own door and vestibule you can use for gear storage. This is the best tent we choose to enjoy the night sky since the fly doors can be rolled over the roof. Doing so gives you an unobstructed night sky view while improving ventilation inside the tent.
- Light and packable
- 2 aluminum poles
- Accessories like footprint included
- 2 doors and 2 vestibules
- Adjustable ceiling vents
- Budget tent
- Limited to 2 person tent only
Best Budget 4 Season Tent: Naturehike Cloud-Up Backpacking Tent
- Comes with a snow skirt
- Setup as fast as 5 minutes
Backpacking in the winter is made possible and comfortable with Naturehike Cloud-Up backpacking tent. Many gear reviews approve of this 4-season budget tent. The lightweight tent only has a trail weight of 1.5 kg (3 lbs). The front vestibule makes your front area more spacious and may act as storage.
The tent features double layers, with the inner tent and outer tent superposed together. It makes the tent body more waterproof, windproof and snowproof when needed. For light weather use, you can set up the tent using the inner layer alone to keep the interior well-ventilated and cool. It is designed with a snow skirt that strengthens the tent’s ability to withstand the cold, harsh winter, and windy conditions.
- Quick setup
- Durable for its price
- No condensation
- Light Weight
- Slippery tent floor material
- Marginal length for tall individuals
Best for Backcountry: Big Agnes C Bar
- Oversized ceiling pocket
- Reflective guy lines and webbing
Big Agnes is no stranger to giving campers the best tents. One of the brand’s affordable tents we recommend for backpacking is C Bar. At 3.6 lbs the Big Agnes C Bar has a decent weight that is light enough for backcountry hikes and camping trips. Despite its cheap price, it features quality fly and impressive weather resistance. It works well for a 3-season tent.
The pole is color-coded and makes setting up the tent a breeze. The cross poles give the tent a bit of headroom, but still not good enough for tall people. If we see a problem with this tent, that’s probably about space. Though built for lightness and affordability, this tent lacks space.
- Reflective tent corners for easy visibility at night
- Simple design
- Easy setup
- Small room and vestibule
- Front entry only
- Footprint sold separately
Your backpacking adventure should not be compromised with low-quality tents that can barely keep you protected and comfortable. Some backpacking tents are still made of quality materials even if they are sold for a cheaper price. If you know where to look, you can definitely pick a reliable and best-budget backpacking tent that won’t compromise quality.
Seasoned backpackers in addition to the Geez have tested our recommendations above. The tents are functional and durable enough to withstand most weather conditions.
Do I need a footprint?
Using a footprint is not always a necessity. However, a footprint has many benefits, such as protecting your tent from damage that ground elements may cause, providing additional warmth and cushion, as well as preventing moisture and water from seeping through the tent floor.
Is it okay to buy cheap tents?
Affordable tents are okay as long as you can vouch for their quality. But note that most cheap tents are not built to withstand extreme weather conditions, and the materials used may not last as long.