A backpacking tent is a type of camping tent that is designed specifically for long hiking trips where you’ll be carrying it around. Because of this, one of the most important things to think about is the tent weight, as you don’t want something that will weigh you down.
As a general rule, backpacking tents should weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, but the weight you should choose can depend on several different factors. In this article, our team of experts will teach you all you need to know about picking the right backpacking tent weight for you: how weight is measured, different types of backpacking tents, and other features/alternatives to think about.
How Tent Weight is Measured
When you’re looking to buy a tent, you may notice that there are a couple of different weight measurements shown. The two most popular are the trail weight and the packed weight.
In reality, the true weight of the tent that you end up carrying will probably be in between these, but it’s helpful to know what they mean anyways.
The packed weight of your tent includes everything that comes included with it when you buy it. This means that extra gear, stuff sacks, repair kits, and more are all included in this weight measurement.
If you’re browsing for a tent online, this is the weight you’ll most often see. Some retailers also call it “total weight”.
While this is a helpful measure, the truth is that you will likely not be carrying all of this with you, so this is an overestimate of the true weight. A good way to think of the packed weight is the maximum your tent will weigh.
If packed weight measures the maximum a tent will weigh, then you can think of trail weight as the minimum weight. This measures the weight of only the tent, rainfly, and tent poles.
In other words, it includes only the absolute necessities you’ll be bringing on your trip. You’ll likely end up carrying additional gear like stakes.
Types of Backpacking Tents
Depending on how intense of a backpacking trip you plan on taking, different tents will best suit your needs. The 3 described below are the most popular types, and we give you the weight ranges you should expect when purchasing one of them.
A standard backpacking tent typically weighs between 5 to 7 pounds. While it is the heaviest type of backpacking tent, it does offer several advantages to lighter options.
For example, they are generally cheaper, more comfortable, provide more protection from the elements, and are easier to set up. If you’re going on a short trip or are camping in tough conditions, we’d suggest buying a standard tent in this weight range.
Lightweight tents fall in the middle of the backpacking tent weight range, at around 2 to 4 pounds depending on which one you buy.
These tents balance weight and comfort and are a great option for most standard hiking trips.
Ultralight tents strip out all unnecessary weight to create the lightest tent possible, typically weighing only 1 to 2 pounds.
While they’re the most expensive type of backpacking tent, the extra weight can make a big difference on long-distance trips that last several days to weeks. If you plan on going on something like that, an ultralight tent is a great choice.
Other Factors That Influence Weight
While the type of tent you’re buying will be the main factor that influences its weight, there are several other things to think about if you want to dig deeper.
Remember, buying a backpacking tent can be expensive, so it’s important to know everything you can before making that purchase.
Most backpackers choose either a 1 or 2-person tent for their trips if they’ll be sleeping alone. A 1 person tent will be lighter in weight, but will also be tight inside and might not allow you to fit all of your gear.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to go a bit heavier in weight, a 2-person tent will have more space and comfortably fit you and your gear inside.
Backpacking tents usually come in 3 and 4-season varieties. 3-season tents are designed to handle most conditions except for the extreme cold. They’ll usually weigh less than a 4-season tent and are cheaper as well. Unless you’re going winter camping, a 3-season tent will be the best option for you.
If you are going to be backpacking in cold or extreme conditions, you should get a 4-season tent. While heavier, they provide more insulation and protection from the elements.
The Tent Footprint
Tent footprints act as an extra layer of protection between your tent floor and the ground, helping it stay clean and last longer. While it will add some extra weight to your backpack, it might be worth bringing if you have a less durable tent or will be camping on harsh terrain.
Beyond the above, backpacking tents have tons of other features that you can decide are important or not to you.
For example, a second door, interior storage, double vs single walls, and the setup type (freestanding vs non-freestanding) are all things to consider.
Camping vs Backpacking Tents
The average two-person camping tent will weigh about the same as your standard backpacking tent, so 5 to 7 pounds. If you’re going on a standard car camping trip, tent weight is a much less important thing to think about.
Instead, you should choose something in your price range that is high quality, has the features you want, and is the right size. You should only think about getting a lightweight tent if you’re going backpacking, as otherwise, the tradeoffs are not worth the benefits.
Tent Alternatives to Save Weight
If you want something with the weight of an ultralight tent but without the high cost, then one of the backpacking tent alternatives below might suit you well.
While they don’t provide any protection from the elements on their own, hammocks are a great option to consider if you’re camping in the woods or warmer weather. They’re incredibly lightweight and many people say they’re more comfortable than sleeping bags.
If you don’t want to be completely exposed to the outdoors, many come with a bug net, and you can also hang a tarp over it for rain protection.
Bivy sacks are small shelters designed just big enough to fit your body and a sleeping bag, without room for much else. There are both waterproof and mesh options depending on the conditions you expect to be backpacking in.
Tarps shelters are makeshift camping tents that can be made with dedicated camping tarps, or if you’re looking to make a completely homemade camping tent, some regular tarps and a few other materials.
They’re super lightweight and can be set up in any number of ways, which makes them a great option if you’re going to be moving around a lot while camping.
In summary, the backpacking tent weight you should choose depends on the type of trip you’re going on and the features you want. However, if you’re still not sure what to do after reading this article, a lightweight backpacking tent in the 2-3 pound range will be the most versatile choice.
If you have a favorite backpacking tent or any other tips on choosing the right one, please leave a comment below. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.