Finding a good backpacking tent is the key to a successful hiking expedition, but there’s a fine line between success and failure. Selecting a quality 3-season backpacking tent can be a little complex, so you should carefully and thoughtfully balance comfort and space with weight.
The 10 best 3-season backpacking tents are:
- Winterial Single Person Bivy
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person
- Teton Altos Tent 2
- Eureka Suma 2-Person
- North Face Stormbreak 2
- 3-Person Marmot Tungsten
- North Face Stormbreak 3
- Kelty Late Start
- Kelty Grand Mesa 4
- Kazoo Uranus 4 Person
From lightest to heaviest, these tents combine decent quality and affordable pricing while keeping the weight minimal. With a variety of sizes to choose from, you’ll surely find one to meet your needs. Below are some basic criteria and specs to help you choose the right 3-season backpacking tent.
What To Look For In A 3-Season Tent For Backpacking
There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right backpacking tent. You should think about functionality, convenience, room, weight, and ease of setup. Prioritizing what’s important to you is essential to a pleasant hike-thru adventure. Here are some things that most campers consider when selecting their tent.
Capacity And Space
Obviously, the first thing you want to consider is how many people your tent needs to sleep. Sometimes, hikers are willing to sacrifice weight for a little more tent room, but on those longer journeys, every ounce matters. While campers do sometimes opt to upgrade size for a bit more room, remember that smaller tents are easier to keep warm.
Another thing you should consider is how much ground space you’ll need to set up your tent. Tents with a lot of guy lines will require more room to stake down. If you know you will be camping in tight spaces, seriously review your tent specs to avoid any difficulty on the trail. A freestanding tent will require much less space.
Poles, Frames, And Stakes
Poles, frames, and stakes all add weight to your backpack. It’s common knowledge that aluminum poles are lighter and a bit sturdier compared to fiberglass, but the number of poles you have makes a difference. When it comes to selecting your tent frame, this is important to remember.
Since there are a variety of tent setups from simple X-frame construction to hubs to skeletal frames, consider which one will provide the lightest option and take up the least amount of space in your pack. This will make both your hike and your tent construction easier.
Stakes are important since they hold your tent in place but, again, metal stakes will be heavier than aluminum or fiberglass. Many campers often choose to upgrade their tent stakes to aluminum to shed as many ounces as possible. If your tent has an abundance of stakes, this is certainly worth considering.
Rainfly And Guy Lines
The rainfly acts as your tent’s umbrella, so it needs to work well at keeping rain out. Having a full-coverage rainfly is the best way to make this happen because a fly that extends all the way to the ground provides the most protection. Full-fly enclosures are better at preserving warmth and withstanding weather, and they almost always give the additional vestibule space that many campers enjoy.
Your guy lines will keep your tent secure from the harsher elements, particularly heavy winds, so it’s important to make sure you have plenty of them and that your lines stay taut without slipping. Take the extra time to make sure your guy lines are secured to the ground, especially if you’re expecting high winds.
Weatherproofing And Durability
Your tent floor and fly should be sufficient to withstand your average hiking adventure. Not only does your tent battle the terrain and the elements, but it also endures heavy body friction from elbows, knees, and feet while you are sleeping or going in and out.
Fabric of high denier (a unit of thickness for fabrics) makes for heavier tents, so many tent manufacturers sacrifice deniers to lighten the load. You really need to do your research in this area to make sure your tent is capable of holding up well in bad weather and from usage.
Different manufacturers use different fabric types, so while you want your tent as light as possible, you also want it to do its job of protecting you from the rain and wind. The last thing you want to do is wake up wet and cold, so when it comes to specialty fabrics, do your homework.
Freestanding vs Staked
Freestanding tents are easier to set up and require less room, while staked tents are lighter and usually able to sustain more adverse conditions. Staked tents also take longer to set up. Whichever one you choose, make sure it matches your camping needs.
If you know you’ll be camping in tight spaces, a freestanding tent will suit your needs better. However, if you’re camping at high altitudes where winds are typically higher, then a staked tent would be of better service.
Vents And Windows
Vents and windows not only provide adequate airflow, but they also prevent condensation build-up. When selecting your tent, make sure it can do both of these well. Some tents are entirely mesh, and some rainflys are completely solid, and there’s a whole spectrum in between. You should study the makeup of both the tent and the fly to guarantee your tent provides adequate ventilation and airflow.
Storage And Zippers
You want good quality zippers that work well. You will generally have zippers on your tent door, fly closures, and any windows. Be sure to check all of them for proper function. They should move freely without hanging up or getting caught on the tent fabric.
Also ensure that your tent provides ample storage space for your needs. From pockets to gear lofts to vestibules, there are a variety of combinations to choose from. Extra storage space is always a good idea, and you should find a tent with as much as you can afford.
Weight And Pack Size
For backpackers, these are the most crucial features you should look for in a tent, second only to staying warm and dry. It’s hard to balance comfort and space with weight, but remember that every ounce you pack directly impacts how many miles you hike. The heavier the tent, the more you’ll struggle to go the distance.
For shorter hikes, this might not be a problem. However, if you’re on a multi-day hike, you’ll travel less distance with each added ounce of weight. One thing to consider is if your tent is intended to sleep multiple people, then you always have the option to divvy up the gear between all your party members. This will go a long way to lighten your load.
Doors And Vestibules
If your tent is designed to sleep multiple people, then two doors are better than one. This makes it easier for getting in and out without having to climb over other bodies, especially in the middle of the night when Mother Nature calls.
In addition, full tent rainflys usually have a vestibule over the doors. More people means having more gear, so having two doors typically gives you two vestibules creating more space for storage. Some tents are even designed to allow the fly to convert into an awning, which is always nice.
Setup And Tear Down
Not only do you want a tent that can be set up quickly and easily, but you also want one that tears down easily and packs away nice. If you have a tent that’s difficult to get back in its bag, then you’ll have a hard time getting it down the trail. This is especially important if your adventure is more than one night.
You don’t want something that’s bulky and cumbersome to haul. Your tent should pack down small enough that it easily fits inside or attaches to your pack, without any difficulty. Sometimes your tent’s frame structure can be a little cumbersome, so make sure you select a tent that has a frame that works well for you.
Of course, the lighter the tent, the more you are going to pay, but you don’t have to go broke to find a good backpacking tent that’s built well enough to sustain your adventurous lifestyle. However, you do need to evaluate the price per ounce compared to the number of ounces carried.
While lighter tents cost you more money, all the tents listed below can be found for a reasonable price and many of them are very affordable. Don’t forget to consider the additional costs of any upgrades or added gear, like footprints or improved poles and stakes. If you’re on a budget, try to find a tent that includes most of your needs, so you don’t have to buy a lot of extras.
3-Season Tent vs 4-Season Tent For Backpacking
Unless your excursion includes hiking in harsh elements, a good 3-Season tent can sustain you through the winter months. While 4-season tents are certainly more durable and made to withstand heavier rain, wind, and snow, they also cost substantially more than your average 3-season tent.
Since 4-season tents are made with durability in mind, they have less mesh and fewer vents and windows. This will preserve body heat, and 4-season tents can sometimes be overly warm in the summer. But if you’re a hardcore backpacker that likes snow and mountaintop ridges, then a 4-season tent may very well be worth your investment.
The 10 Best 3-Season Backpacking Tents
1. Winterial Single Person Bivy
This little gem is specially designed with women in mind, so it doesn’t work well for anyone over six feet tall. It comes with all your stakes, poles, and guy-lines, as well as three bundles of paracord. It’s ultra-light at2 lbs 9 oz, and it has a reinforced, full-coverage rainfly that protects against rain and cold. It also provides adequate ventilation.
This tent has one large, double-layered door made with big zippers and a vestibule for storing gear. It’s 7.5 feet long and almost 2.5 feet wide, with just over three feet of peak height. Depending on your height, you may not be able to sit up all the way. It sets up with two aluminum poles and 14 ground stakes with three guy lines and is not freestanding.
The Winterial Bivy has a durable, waterproof floor and fly with pre-sealed seams made with 190T polyester. It provides a single storage pocket for personal gear, and it tears down just as easy as it sets up. It packs down to 4 x 4.5 x 18 inches. If you don’t mind a coffin-style tent, this is a decent hiking tent for one person.
- Very affordable
- Under three pounds
- Packs tidy
- Not freestanding
- Tight quarters
- Limited head space
2. ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person
Coming in at just over 3.5 lbs, the Lynx is another one-person tent. It’s free-standing with a typical X-frame construction that comes with two aluminum poles and is very simple to set up and tear down. It provides just over 21 square feet of floor space and a center height of 36 inches, and packs down to 6 x 17 inches.
The tent body and fly are 75 denier waterproof/weatherproof 185T polyester that resists UV damage. The floor is 75 deniers, with a 2000 mm waterproof coating. It has one door with durable extra-large zippers and three half-mesh walls, which increase overall ventilation.
It has a full fly extension with a 10 square foot vestibule for additional storage and has two vents at the top to help reduce condensation. The Lynx also has an overhead gear loft and side mesh storage pockets. It comes fully equipped with fly buckles, stakes, and guy lines. The steel stakes can be upgraded to aluminum to ditch some weight.
- Great price
- Decent room
- Quick and easy setup
- Metal stakes
- A little heavy
- No windows
3. Teton Altos Tent 2
A bit more expensive than the first two tents, the Teton Altos has a sleek design weighing only 3 lbs 11.2 oz. While it is free standing, it also performs well at staving off high winds. It has a waterproof 68 denier bathtub-style floor with a 1500 mm rating and double reinforced seams and anchor points.
The full coverage fly is only 20 denier Ripstop fabric, but it can also act as a stand-alone shelter, and provides a vestibule for additional storage. The Altos has an easy one-person setup with a skeletal frame and a single aluminum pole with clip-on attachments.
The Teton Altos also comes with its own footprint. With its near-vertical walls, this tent provides 33 square feet of room, 42 inches center height, and a single door. It packs down to 7 x 7 x 15 inches.
- 33 square feet
- 68 denier/1500 mm rating
- Comes with a footprint
- Single door
- One vestibule
- Rainfly only 20-denier
4. Eureka Suma 2-Person
For less than the Teton Altos, you can have a two-person tent that weighs less than four pounds. At 3 lbs 13 oz, the Suma has a simple X-frame set up with two aluminum poles. Even with its low weight, it still features a 68 denier, 185T floor with a 1500 mm waterproof rating. In addition to being treated for weather, it’s also been treated for abrasion.
This tent features a side door that is fully mesh and three walls that are a combination of fabric and mesh, all of which are made of 20 denier no-see-um nylon. It has full fly coverage with 10 square feet of vestibule space and a vent for ample airflow.
It’s a little less roomy than the Altos at just over 30 square feet, but it provides a tad bit more height at 43 inches. It also includes a gear loft and 3 pockets for organizational space. It packs down to a size of 5 x 17 inches and is light enough to carry on any hike.
- Durable 68 denier fabric
- Smaller than Teton Altos
- One door
- One vestibule
5. North Face Stormbreak 2
The North Face Stormbreak 2 is specifically designed for roadside and multi-mile pitches. This is a freestanding, fast-pitch tent. It has simple X-frame construction with two additional roof supports to maximize head space. It’s a bit heavier at five pounds, but split between two party members is easily doable.
It has a high bathtub floor with 68 denier polyester fabric and a 3000 mm waterproof coating. The fly is even more durable with 75 denier polyester, but only a 1200 mm rating. This is one of the few 2-person tents that provide two separate entrances with two separate vestibules.
The sidewalls are layered with a bathtub-style floor, vertical mesh walls, and a solid square roof to provide high-low airflow ventilation. The rainfly extends all the way to the ground and provides two vestibules of 9.8 square feet each. The overall floor space is 30 square feet, and it offers four sidewall pockets.
- Two doors
- Two vestibules
- Great headroom
- Heavier than others
- No vents in the fly
- Smaller than Teton Altos
6. 3-Person Marmot Tungsten
The Tungsten 3-person tent provides just over 41 square feet of space and a peak height of 46 inches, providing greater sleeping area and headroom than some other tents. It has simple X-frame freestanding construction that makes for quick and easy pitching for only five pounds.
The floor and fly are made of 68 denier polyester taffeta 190T. The floor has a 2000 mm waterproof rating, while the fly has an 1800 rating. The body fabric is a combination of 68 denier polyester taffeta and 40 denier polyester no-see-um mesh. The tent has two doors with jingle-free nylon zipper pulls, and the full fly extension offers a 10.6 square foot vestibule on each side.
It also features interior pockets and a lamp pocket for organizing gear. Furthermore, it’s one of the few tents that comes with its own footprint. However, the Tungsten does not offer any vents to maximize airflow. It packs down to 8 x 22.5 inches.
- Two doors and vestibules
- 40-68 denier/1800-2000 mm rating
- Comes with footprint
- Weighs five pounds
- No vents
7. North Face Stormbreak 3
For an affordable price, you can get a 3-person version of the Stormbreak 2. It has a trail weight of nearly six pounds with approximately 40 square feet of floor area. It has the same easy-pitch X-frame aluminum pole design as the Stormbreak 2, with added roof supports to maximize interior volume and provide abundant headroom.
Like its sister tent, the floor is made of 68 denier polyester with a 3000 mm waterproof rating. The fly and canopy are 75 deniers with a 1200 mm rating, while the mesh walls are 40D polyester mesh. In addition, the canopy and floor are fully seam taped to protect against water and bugs.
It has a full fly extension which creates two 10.8 square feet vestibules over each of its two doors. There are storage nets in the corners and loops at the top to run paracord for hanging items inside the tent. It provides high-low ventilation for optimal airflow.
This tent is not ideal for backpacking unless the party members split the weight, and it’s a little on the tight side for three full-sized adults.
- 68-75 denier/1200-3000 mm rating
- Two doors
- Two vestibules
- A bit small for three people
8. Kelty Late Start
Weighing five ounces more than the Stormbreak 3, this is a good 4-person tent at 6 lbs 4 oz. The Kelty Late Start is the most expensive tent on this list. It features simple X-frame construction with aluminum poles and Kelty’s very own Quick Corners Technology for super-fast, easy set up and tear down.
The floor is made of 68 denier polyester and 1800 mm waterproof rating and provides 55.7 square feet of floor space. It has a bathtub-style floor with four no-see-um mesh walls that are nearly vertical due to the pre-bent roof poles designed to maximize interior space.
It has a single door for entry and exit. The full coverage fly provides an additional nine square feet of vestibule space just outside the door. The fly does not have any vents so airflow may be impeded. This tent packs down to 7.5 x 7.5 x 18 inches.
- Light for a 4-man tent
- Quick and easy setup
- Roomy interior space
- Only one door and vestibule
- No vents on the fly
- Very expensive
9. Kelty Grand Mesa 4
At only 6 lbs 13 oz, the Grand Mesa weighs just slightly more than the Late Start. It features classic X-Frame construction with lightweight aluminum poles and Kelty Quick Corners for quick and easy set-up. It has high bathtub floors with four mesh walls and a solid rooftop.
The floor, walls, and fly are all 68-denier polyester with an 1800 mm waterproof rating, which provides 54 square feet of space and just over four and a half feet of center height. It provides a full-coverage fly creating a roomy 14 square foot vestibule over the single D-shaped door. However, there are no vents or windows. The Shark Mouth carry bag also packs down to 7.5 x 7.5 x 18 inches.
- Reasonably priced
- Durable 68D/1800 mm
- Quick and easy setup
- Only 1 door and vestibule
- No vents or windows
- On the heavier side
10. KAZOO Uranus 4 Person
At 10.71 lbs, the Uranus is the heaviest tent on this list, but it’s not overly expensive. If the weight can be divided between four party members, it can be relatively light. It has typical X-Frame construction with fiberglass poles, which is quick and easy to set up. This tent is not free-standing and must be staked down.
The floor and rainfly are made of 210 Ripstop polyester and 3000 mm waterproofing to provide about 56 square feet of space. The four walls combine 190T breathable polyester and B3 mesh, which provide 57 inches of peak height. It has a full fly extension, which offers a storage vestibule over each door, one large (17.2 sq ft) and one small.
The tent also comes with its own footprint that extends into the vestibule areas, creating a barrier between your gear and the ground. With extra poles, the vestibule could optionally be converted to an awning. The rainfly has a window on each side, but it does not offer any vents. There are also several small wall pouches and a lantern hook on the ceiling. It packs down to 6 x 6 x 22 inches.
- 2 doors and vestibules
- Optional vestibule awning
- Comes with extra-large footprint
- Fiberglass poles
- No vents
Choosing a backpacking tent for your next camping trip forces you to think about what’s important to you. Ranging in price and with everything from 1-person tents to 4-person tents available, you’re sure to find a durable, roomy, lightweight, and affordable backpacking tent that suits your needs.