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Wicked Strong Mortal Asks, How Heavy Are Backpacking Tents?

Backpacking is strenuous enough without carrying extra weight. So, I wondered, how much a backpacking tent weighs? I did some research to find my answer.

On average, how heavy are backpacking tents? The average weight for a backpacking tent ranges between 1 lb. 11 ounces and 6 lbs. Tents are generally categorized as ultralight, lightweight, and traditional.

While there are no official weight ranges, here are some average weights:

  • An ultralight backpacking tent weighs between 1 and 2 pounds
  • A lightweight backpacking tent weighs between 3 and 4 pounds
  • And a standard backpacking tent weighs between 5 and 7 pounds
An ultralight backpacking tent weighs less but loses some comfort.

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 these numbers many people will think that the lightweight will be better but there is more to it than that. Depending on the characteristics, backpacking tent weights will vary:

  • Ultralight, Lightweight, and Standard
  • One-Person vs. Two-Person Tents
  • 3-Season vs. 4-Season Tents
  • Minimum or Trail Weight vs. Pack Weight

So, let’s take a deeper look at these characteristics. This will help you choose the right tent for you.

If you are interested in checking out the best backpacking tents you can find them by clicking here.

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.

Traditional 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 durable materials. The traditional tent 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.

Lightweight Tents

A lightweight backpacking tent weighs less but provides enough comfort on the trail
Sample of Lightweight Backpacking Tent

The lightweight versions begin to sacrifice price (going up) for the weight (going down). 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 on Amazon: Lightweight Tents

Ultralight Tents

while an ultralight backpacking tent weighs less it provides comfort at the end of a long day.

Ultralight tents let go of convention and eliminate anything unnecessary found in the traditional and lightweight versions. They typically shed weight with more pricey, yet delicate materials. They can be as low as 1+ pounds up to 2+ pounds.

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 on Amazon: Ultra Lightweight Tents

Options Within Options

To complicate it more tents come in single-wall or double-wall construction. 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 as early spring or late autumn tenting during bad weather and when the bugs are emerging.

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 cost 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 resort to the tent for the day. Also, if you have a dog with you it makes it much more comfortable with the larger tent.

The one-person tent is a better option for the longer treks. A lighter backpack lessens the load over the long haul and puts less wear and tear on the joints: back, knees, hips, and shoulders. The drawback is that gear is kept 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 on Amazon: One and Two Person Tents

3-Season vs. 4-Season Tent

What is the difference between a 3-season and 4-season tent? One season – winter. A 4-season tent will invariably be heavier but this is important when you are venturing out into the coldest part of the year. 4-season tents protect from “light” hail, snow, snow buildup, 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; especially important when the snow builds up around the tent. They have thicker frames, 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 live in or backpack, these tents protect you much of the 3-seasons that you need protection – spring, summer, and fall.

Here are some examples on Amazon: 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 the 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 ounces. 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.

Lessen the Weight

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. While enticing as it may be, it could prove very expensive after the initial purchase.

As a side note – I once spent 2 hours in a bicycle shop “upgrading” the components on my mountain bike. My wife sat comfortably reading in the corner of the shop while I spent over $1,600. The first race after this shopping spree I broke my titanium gear and got a flat tire! It didn’t pay off. After the race, my wife calmly said, “You know, if you just stopped eating pizza you would save the weight on the bike”. Hindsight.

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 here are the guidelines. A divided tent below 2 lbs per person is considered ultra-light with a sub 10 lb base; 3 to 4 lbs per person is lightweight going with a 15 to 20 lb base and greater than that for traditional.

Dividing the Tent

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; others can divide the food equally. But also remember that not all people are equally strong. Be aware when splitting the equipment and food. 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.

What can I expect to pay for a backpacking tent?

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 yet heavier tent. Really think about how you will use a tent before you throw down $1,500. We wrote an article explaining why tents are priced so high; click here.

I recently read, “I draw the line at 24 ounces for my shelter”. I immediately thought, what an odd statement. I understand if people don’t want to carry heavier weight on their backs but to be honest, that may be too fanatical for me. Choose the correct tent for your adventure and get moving.

Reducing how much your backpacking tent weighs may cost a little more and decrease the durability of the equipment yet it also might help reduce morning stiffness in your knees, back, neck; you get the point.

Posts About Tents

  • Backpacking Tents: Is The High Price Worth The Moulah? Click here.
  • Do Tree Tents Give You a Good Night’s Sleep? Click here.
  • 15 Natural Ways to Heat a Tent Without Electricity. Click here.
  • What Makes A Good Winter Tent? It’s Getting Chilly Outside! Click here.

Related Questions

Once again the answer is not so straightforward. It depends once again on your to get to that answer let’s look at each component of your backpacking trip.

How Much Does a Backpack Weigh?

How much does a backpack weigh? An average backpacking backpack weighs between 2 and 5 pounds.

How Much Does a Sleeping Bag Weigh?

How much does a sleeping bag weigh? Depending on EN lower limit (the temperature rating for a sleeping bag) an average sleeping bag for backpacking weighs between 13 ounces and 4 pounds. In general, the lower the rating the higher the weight-as it gets colder the bags get heavier.

How Much Does a Sleeping Pad Weigh?

How much does a sleeping pad weigh? Sleeping pads range from 8 ounces to 1 pound 8 ounces and the prices vary widely from a low of $30 up to $250. 

How Much Does Water Weigh?

How much does water weigh? One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds or 3.78 kilograms. Carrying 64 ounces of water weighs just over 4 pounds-which can be more than your tent and backpack together.