Backpacking is strenuous enough without carrying extra weight. Whether it’s your water, food, or equipment, it all adds up and can make your hike harder than it needs to be. One of the most important components to consider is the weight of your backpacking tent.
The average weight for a backpacking tent ranges between 1-2 lbs and 6 lbs. Tents are generally categorized as ultralight, lightweight, and traditional. Choosing the right type of tent for your backpacking trip can make the walking part much easier, without sacrificing tent quality.
Below, we’ll go through each type of tent in more detail, so that you can choose the right tent for your next trip. We’ll consider some of the average weights you can expect to carry, and give you some tips on saving weight with your backpacking tent.
How Much Does A Backpacking Tent Weigh?
While there are no official weight ranges, here are some average weights:
- An ultralight backpacking tent usually weighs between 1 and 2 pounds
- A lightweight backpacking tent typically weighs between 3 and 4 pounds
- A standard/traditional backpacking tent weighs around 5 to 7 pounds
Many new backpackers choose the tent based on price and what the salesperson at the local shop suggests. However, it is best to know how you will use the tent before deciding on which tent to purchase.
Comparing Backpack Tents
After seeing the numbers, many people will think that a lightweight tent is the one to go for. But there is more to it than just weight. Depending on the characteristics, backpacking tent weights will vary depending on whether they are:
- Ultralight, Lightweight, or Standard
- One-Person or Two-Person
- 3-Season or 4-Season
So, let’s take a deeper look at these characteristics. This will help you choose the right tent for your backpacking trip.
Ultralight, Light weight, And Traditional Tents
Depending on what type of trip you are taking and your priorities for this trip, you can find a tent suitable for your needs. In general, the lighter that you go the more expensive the tent will be. Also, it should be noted that these tents tend to sacrifice comfort, ease of use, and durability for the weight savings found in ultralight tents.
A traditional tent will weigh 5 to 7 pounds. While heavier than its counterparts, it offers ease of setup and comfort while on the trail. These tents are made of heavier, more durable materials.
The traditional tent usually costs less than the ultralight and lightweight versions, and is also a bit more flexible. If you want to save some weight without too much added expense then trade your steel tent stakes for more durable, lighter titanium stakes.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: Traditional Tents
The lightweight versions begin to cost more as you save more weight. The priorities for this group are weight, cost, comfort, flexibility, and ease of setup. These backpacking tents weigh between 3 and 4 pounds.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: Lightweight Tents
Ultralight tents let go of convention and eliminate anything unnecessary found in the traditional and lightweight versions. They typically become more expensive as they get lighter, and they also use more delicate materials. They can weigh as little as 1-2 lbs.
If you are looking to spend a week on the trail in a heavily wooded, rocky, or wet area, you should get something more durable. If you spend the week trekking along in arid climates with warmer temperatures, then the ultralight and lightweight versions work.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: Ultra Lightweight Tents
More Tent Options To Consider
Single vs Double Walled Tents
To complicate things even more, tents come in single-wall or double-wall construction options too. Double-wall freestanding tents have the tent plus fly, while the single wall construction combines the materials like mesh windows, zip enclosures, and tent fly.
Single wall tents save overall weight without sacrificing comfort. Like traditional tents, they use guy lines, stakes, and trekking poles (or lightweight tent poles) to hoist the tent. Single wall tents are a good option for early spring or late autumn, but not so much during bad weather and when the bugs are emerging.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: Single and Double Walled Tents
One-Person vs Two-Person Tent
When hiking alone, many people choose to use a two-person tent because of the roominess and the ability to keep all their gear with them. That means a heavier pack. However, the heavier weight provides the benefit of a more comfortable sleeping space with less anxiety by having their belongings on-site.
This is a good option when the weather turns, and you return to the tent for the day. Also, if you have a dog with you, it makes it much more comfortable with the larger tent.
A one-person tent is a better option for longer treks. A lighter backpack lessens the load over the long haul and puts less wear and tear on the joints, especially your back, knees, hips, and shoulders. The drawback is that you need to keep your gear outside, so we suggest putting a rain cover over the pack and hanging it high in a tree with a carabiner.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: One and Two Person Tents
3-Season vs 4-Season Tent
4-season tents are essentially tents made for all weather conditions, and a 3-season tent is designed for spring, summer and fall camping. A 4-season tent will invariably be heavier than a 3-season tent, but this is important when you are venturing out into the coldest part of the year. 4-season tents protect from light hail, snow, high winds, and the coldest of days and nights.
These tents remove mesh surfaces, have a durable fly, and a vestibule that reaches to the ground, which is especially important when the snow builds up around the tent. They have thicker frames and full fabric sleeves, but are more complicated to set up. 4-season tents can weigh as much as 15 pounds.
Built for ventilation, 3-season tents are best used during warmer times of the year and when less torrential downpours are expected. This type of backpacking tent weighs less and protects against most elements. Depending on what part of the country you’re exploring, these tents protect you for much of the 3-seasons that you need protection – spring, summer, and fall.
Here are some examples you might want to consider: 3-Season and 4-Season Backpacking Tents
Trail Weight vs Packed Weight
These terms provide a good starting point but are rarely the true weight of the tent while out on the trail. Trail weight refers to the combined weight of the tent body, rainfly, and poles. It is also known as the “minimum weight” of a tent in its upright set up position.
Packed or packaged weight adds in the stakes, guy lines, stuff sacks, and other accessories like pole repair kits/sleeves or patch kits. This is pretty much the weight of the tent without the box that it was sold in.
The actual weight is somewhere between the trail weight and packed weight, usually about 5 to 8 pounds. Most people will use stakes and the stuff sacks but will leave the repair sleeves and patch kits at home. If you intend on backpacking in dense wet forests a footprint is a necessary addition. The footprint adds between 6 and 12 ounces and is worth its weight in gold.
How To Make Your Backpacking Tent Lighter
Once you have purchased your tent you may decide to lessen the weight by upgrading materials. Upgrading to super lightweight poles, titanium stakes, and other high-tech materials lowers the difference between trail weight and packed weight substantially. As enticing as it may be, it could prove very expensive after the initial purchase.
What About Dividing The Tent?
A great option when backpacking is to use one tent for two people and divide the tent. Depending on your style of backpacking – ultra-lightweight, lightweight, or traditional – there are a few general guidelines:
- A divided tent below 2 lbs per person is considered ultralight with a sub 10 lb base
- 3 to 4 lbs per person is lightweight going with a 15 to 20 lb base
- 20lb or more is the number for traditional
A 2-person tent can be divided in several ways. Popular ways are dividing the tent and stakes for one person and the poles and fly for the other. If traveling with kids, having them carry the tent stakes or fly is a good way to get them acclimated to sharing in the adventure without too large of a burden.
When on a trip with 2 or more people, there is no need to divide the tent. One person carries the tent, and others can divide the food equally. But also remember that not all people are equally strong. My wife is not nearly as strong as I am, so we divide up the equipment 70/30 or so. That way we both have the same amount of fun hiking.
How Much Do Backpacking Tents Cost?
Backpacking tents can range from $250 to $1,500 for a high-quality tent. Higher quality and lightweight materials increase the price. However, many of these lightweight tents are generally less durable than the lower-priced heavier tents. Really think about how you will use a tent before you throw down $1,500.
Reducing how much your backpacking tent weighs may cost a little more and decrease the durability of the equipment, but it might also help reduce stiffness in your knees, back, neck, which is another important consideration. Consider your chosen backpack route, along with your own physical limitations, when choosing the right backpacking tent.
Backpacking tents weigh anywhere from 1 lb to 6 lbs or more. It depends whether you opt for a lightweight, ultralightweight, or traditional tent. You also need to bear in mind the extra components like tent poles and tent footprints when adding up your total backpacking tent weight.