Here are the best backpacking tents for 2022 brought to you by camping and backpacking expert Chris Townsend.
The best backpacking tents involve a compromise between weight, space and durability. That’s especially the case with solo ones. There is a limit to how small a tent can be and still be functional.
Tiny backpacking tents with just enough room to lie down but none for sitting, storing gear, cooking and eating may be ultralight but they’re not suitable for comfortable living in a storm.
In this review, I’m looking at tents in which you can do more than just sleep.
Best backpacking tents contents:
- BEST BUY: Vaude Hogan SUL
- RECOMMENDED: Sierra Designs High Route 3000
- RECOMMENDED: Alpkit Polestar
- RECOMMENDED: Vango Heddon 100
- MSR Freelite 1
- RECOMMENDED: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1
- RECOMMENDED: Hilleberg Niak
- Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Solution Dye
- Nemo Hornet 2P
Key features for backpacking tents
Silicone coated fabrics are very light and durable. PU coated nylon or polyester is heavier and less durable but costs less. The seams on silicone nylon tents aren’t usually taped – silicone is very slippery – so some makers treat the nylon with silicone on the outside and PU on the inside so the seams can be taped.
Breathable nylon or polyester resists drips from condensation and keeps out breezes. In warm weather optional mesh doors are useful. Mesh inners are cooler and airier but not as warm, especially in a breeze, and condensation can drip through unless the mesh is very fine.
Groundsheets should be made from heavier fabrics than flysheets and have a higher hydrostatic head (the measure of how much water pressure can be applied before a material leaks). Some makers recommend using an optional footprint under light groundsheets. These add weight and cost.
The inner should be long enough that your sleeping bag doesn’t push against the end. There should be room for a full-length, full-width (c100cm) sleeping mat without it touching either end. Headroom should be enough that you can sit up comfortably at the highest point of the inner – for me that means a minimum of 90cms.
Poles should be easy to attach. Backpacking tents with sleeves should slide in place without sticking. If the poles are different lengths, they and the attachment points should be colour-coded, so the right pole goes in the right place.
It’s useful to have a mix of different types; thin ones for hard ground and wider ones for soft ground. The ones for key pegging points and guylines should be 14-15cms long. With most backpacking tents adding a few different pegs to those supplied is advisable both for different types of ground and in case of loss.
Guylines are the key to stability in strong winds. Extra guylines are useful in a big storm. Many tents have attachment points for these.
The porch should be big enough for safe cooking and for storing wet gear and packs. With some tents porch space can be increased by adjusting the position of the inner or by using a guyline to peg out one side of the door as an awning.
Flysheet doors that can be opened in several ways are the most versatile. In good weather you can open them fully for easy access and good views.
Protected vents or upper door zips that can be left open in all but the worst weather can reduce the amount of condensation that builds up in humid weather. Only close vents when you really must to prevent rain entering.
Some tents pitch inner first, some flysheet first or as a unit. The first gives a taut inner but speed is needed in rain. Flysheet and unit pitching keeps the inner dry, but it can be hard to tension the inner. Whatever the method it’s best to practise pitching before taking a tent on a trip.
Testing notes: Chris tested these backpacking tents in the Scottish Highlands, mostly the Cairngorms, over the last autumn and winter. Sites were both high and low level and at times the tents were subjected to more severe weather than they are designed for. Note: weights are for the tent complete with stuffsacks.
9 backpacking tents for 2022 reviewed
BEST BUY: Vaude Hogan SUL 1-2P (RRP: £470)
Pros: wind resistance, length
Cons: groundsheet hydrostatic head could be higher
Weight: 1255g | Flysheet: silicone nylon, 3000mm HH | Inner: nylon/mesh | Groundsheet: 30D PU ripstop nylon, 3000mm HH | Poles: 8.7mm DAC NFL featherlight | Pegs: 10 x 15cm X | Porches: x1, 70cm deep | Inner dimensions: 235cm x 110/90cm, 95cm high point
Vaude describes this tent as for 1-2 people. I’d say it’s a roomy backpacking tent for one and just about okay for two smallish people if they don’t mind a bit of a squeeze. For one it’s good if you’re tall as it’s longer than most of the tents tested with reasonable headroom at the front.
Read more: Vaude Hogan SUL 1-2P review
RECOMMENDED: Sierra Designs High Route 3000 1 (RRP: £285)
Likes: pitches with trekking poles, very roomy, makes a good tarp, light
Dislikes: minimal porches
Weight: 1010g | Flysheet: 20D nylon ripstop silicone/PU, 3000mm HH | Inner: 20D nylon ripstop silicone/15D nylon mesh | Groundsheet: 30D nylon ripstop, 3000mm hydrostatic head | Poles: n/a, 2 trekking poles needed | Pegs: 9 x 15cm Y | Porches: x2, 28cm deep | Inner dimensions: 259cm x 107ccm, 114cm high in centre
The High Route 3000 1 is the European version of a tent that was launched in the USA a few years ago, the High Route.
The functional difference is in the hydrostatic head of the flysheet and the groundsheet, up from 1200mm to 3000mm in both cases, which should mean better durability and waterproofness, especially with the groundsheet.
Read more: Sierra Designs High Route 3000 1 review
RECOMMENDED: Alpkit Polestar (RRP: £150)
Likes: light, innovative pole use, tough groundsheet, stability, low cost
Dislikes: small porch depth
Weight: 910g | Flysheet: 20D polyester ripstop silicone/PU, 3000mm HH | Inner: 20D nylon ripstop/mesh | Groundsheet: 20D ripstop polyester PU, 5000mm HH | Poles: small 7001 alloy, 2 trekking poles also needed | Pegs: 8x 16cm V | Porches: x1, 50cm deep | Inner dimensions: 200cm x 80/65cm, 90cm high point
The Polestar has an innovative, unusual design. Most shelters that require trekking poles to pitch are ridge tents or pyramids with upright poles. With the Polestar the poles are angled and cross near the top. They are situated at one end of the tent. To give it a little height (though it’s still quite low at 45cm) the other end has a small arch pole.
Read more: Alpkit Polestar review
RECOMMENDED: Vango Heddon 100 (RRP: £165)
Likes: pitches with trekking poles, tough groundsheet, roomy, low cost
Dislikes: not that light
Weight: 1670g | Flysheet: recycled 70D polyester, 3000mm HH | Inner: polyester | Groundsheet: 70D polyester, 6000mm HH | Poles: n/a, 2 trekking poles needed | Pegs: 13 x 18cm hook | Porches: x2, 65cm deep | Inner dimensions: 220cm x 85/75cm, 90cm high point
The Heddon 100 is the most conventional of the three backpacking tents that pitch with trekking poles. It’s a ridge tent with the ridge running across the tent offset from the centre. It does have one unusual feature though. There are porches either side but only one has an external door. The other can only be accessed by a small door on the inner tent.
Read more: Vango Heddon 100 review
MSR Freelite 1 (RRP: £400)
Pros: low weight, large porch
Cons: low hydrostatic head on groundsheet
Weight: 860g | Flysheet: 15D ripstop nylon silicone/PU, 1200mm HH | Inner: 10D polyester micro-mesh | Groundsheet: 15D ripstop nylon PU, 1200mm HH | Poles: DAC NFL 8.7mm | Pegs: 8 x 16cm square | Porches: x1, 66cm deep | Inner dimensions: 221cm x 84cm, 100cm high point
The Freelite 1 is the lightest tent reviewed and surprisingly spacious for the weight. This is mainly due to the ultralight fabrics. Whilst a 1200mm hydrostatic head is okay for the flysheet – I’ve not had any leaks in heavy rain – it is low for the groundsheet. MSR recommends a footprint and can supply one for an extra £40 and 146 grams in weight. I think this should come with the tent. Even better would be a groundsheet with a higher hydrostatic head.
Read more: MSR Freelite 1 review
RECOMMENDED: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1 (RRP: £550)
Likes: lightweight, roomy porch
Dislikes: stretch pegging points, low ends
Weight: 1065g | Flysheet: 20D nylon ripstop silicone, 3000mm HH | Inner: 20D nylon ripstop | Groundsheet: 30D nylon ripstop PU, 7000mm HH | Poles: 8.7mm DAC NFL | Pegs: 10 x 15cm Y | Porches: x1, 50cm deep | Inner dimensions: 220cm x 93/62cm, 95cm high point
Terra Nova’s Laser series of tents are well-established. I’ve reviewed several over the years and have always had a love-hate relationship with them due to one design feature, the separate sleeve protecting the flysheet door zip, which I always found fiddly. Thankfully Terra Nova has finally dispensed with this and replaced it with a factory sealed main seam. Recent ultralight Terra Nova tents have also come with fairly useless thin needle pegs. With this backpacking tent, those have been replaced with decent Y pegs.
Read more: Terra Nova Laser Compact 1 review
RECOMMENDED: Hilleberg Niak (RRP: £920)
Pros: roomy, stable, porch
Cons: not that light, expensive
Weight: 1650g | Flysheet: Kerlon 1000 silicone ripstop nylon, 5000mm HH | Inner: 20D ripstop nylon | Groundsheet: 50D PU nylon, 12000mm HH | Poles: 9mm DAC Featherlite | Pegs: 9 x 16cm V | Porches: x1, 65cm deep | Inner dimensions: 220cm x 120cm, 100cm high point
The Niak is in Hilleberg’s Yellow label series, designed for three-season use. Even so it’s probably the most suitable tent reviewed for severe weather. The flysheet has a high hydrostatic head, the groundsheet a phenomenal 12,000mm one, ten times that of some of the groundsheets in other tents.
Read more: Hilleberg Niak review
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Solution Dye (RRP: £350)
Likes: low weight, solution dye fabrics
Dislikes: low hydrostatic head on groundsheet, small porch
Weight: 930g | Flysheet: solution-dyed silicone/PU nylon ripstop, 1200mm HH | Inner: solution-dyed nylon ripstop breathable and polyester mesh | Groundsheet: solution-dyed silicone/PU nylon ripstop, 1200mm HH | Poles: DAC Featherlite NFL | Pegs: 11 x 15cm T (3 more needed for the guylines) | Porches: x1, 56cm deep | Inner dimensions: 218cm x 97/71cm, 102cm high point
The latest version of the Fly Creek is made from solution-dyed fabric, which is better for the environment than conventional dyeing as it requires 50% less water and 80% less energy plus 80% fewer chemicals. This is excellent and I hope other tent makers follow.
Nemo Hornet 2P (RRP: £400)
Pros: low weight, roomy inner, big porches
Cons: low hydrostatic head on groundsheet, cutaway flysheet
Weight: 1145g | Flysheet: 10D silicone/PU ripstop nylon, 1200mm HH | Inner: 10D Nylon Ripstop/ mesh | Groundsheet: 15D silicone/PU ripstop nylon, 1200mm HH | Poles: DAC Featherlite | Porches: x2, 71cm deep | Inner dimensions: 223cm x 127/114cm, 104cm high point
Nemo were unable to supply the solo Hornet for test so sent the 2 person one, which is still very light. The Hornet 1P weighs some 200 grams less and costs £350. The design and materials are the same except that it only has one porch.
Read more: Nemo Hornet review