After a long and cold winter, spring is finally starting to show signs of arriving in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s not to say that we don’t like winter, far from it in fact. But the winter months don’t always offer the best conditions for spending the night under the stars. We’ve been dreaming of long days on the trail followed by nights under canvas.
Things to consider
When choosing a tent, there’s a lot to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to think about the capacity of the tent. 1-person tents tend to be the lightest and smallest to pack down but can often be very cramped, leaving you feeling like you’re sleeping in a coffin. 2 person tents are perfect when you’re travelling alone but can also accommodate a partner or friend. For the extra few grams that come with a slightly larger tent, it’s definitely worth it.
That’s not to say that staying light-weight isn’t important. Your tent will be one of the heaviest items in your pack, and keeping your pack weight down will make your day on the trail much more enjoyable. The primary design function of a backpacking tent is to be lightweight. But, lightweight tents can be expensive. In fact, good tents, in general, are expensive. You get what you pay for though, so if you plan to spend a lot of time sleeping in the dirt, it’s a solid investment.
The season rating and design of the tent you go for depends entirely on your intentions and personal preference. If you plan to use your tent year round, a 4 season geodesic tent which will stand up in wild weather is a wise choice. However, if you only plan to camp during the summer months, any design will do.
We recommend a double-walled design- one with an external fly sheet and an internal bug mesh. The gap between the two layers encourages air flow through the tent which reduces condensation build up. Any moisture that does settle will do so on the outer sheet, keeping you nice and dry in your sleeping bag.
So, with longer days and warmer nights upon us, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite backpacking tents on the market. In the interest of fairness, we’ve covered a range of tents from budget-friendly, right through to the top of the range/best-money-can-buy, taking into account comfort, weight and space.
MSR Hubba Tour
The MSR Hubba is the absolute classic in lightweight, well-built, outdoor accommodation. The large living space to weight ratio is what makes the MSR such a popular choice for hikers, bikers and light-travellers. In addition, the new MSR Hubba Tour tent comes with an extra vestibule which is perfect for drying wet boots or storing kit.
The Hubba Tour isn’t the lightest tent on the market, weighing in at around 2.5kg for the 2 person model. But with that extra weight, you get more space, more comfort and more quality. The exoskeleton frame is designed to withstand the harshest weather and is super easy to erect.
image via our good friends at Pannier.cc
2 person RRP: £554
Hilleberg The Tent Maker Akto
Hilleberg has been making tents for nearly half a century, so it’s fair to say they know what they are doing. The Akto was first produced twenty years ago and has been popular ever since. If you’re looking to save a few grams from your pack, the Akto could be just the thing you’re looking for. The newest model is one of the lightest four-season tents money can buy, weighing in at 1.3kg at its lightest! The Akto is the perfect 1-person tent for extended trips when keeping weight down is a must but you also want a bit more comfort than a bivvy bag.
Akto actually means ‘solo’ in Sami, the language of the people indigenous to northern Scandinavia.
Vango Tempest 200
At the lower end of the price range, the Vango Tempest 200 is an excellent introductory backpacking tent. Weighing in at 2.7kg it’s not the lightest tent in the world but for the price, it’s a pretty solid choice. The tunnel design gives you quite a lot of space to move around, and much like the other two tents, the porch is ideal for storing boots and bags.
image taken on a wild night in the Brecon Beacons
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
The latest offering from Big Agnes is the lightest tent in their whole range. The UL2 has two doors and vestibules and surprising amount of space for such a featherweight tent. Often super-lightweight tents compromise on interior space but the Big Agnes is surprisingly roomy. However, to get the weight down so low, Big Agnes have used an extremely thin fly sheet which could tear very easily. The thin fly sheet means that the UL2 isn’t the most durable, therefore it wouldn’t be advisable to take the Big Agnes out in the winter. But as a summer tent when you want to save on weight but not lose out on space, it could be the one you’re looking for.
An added bonus on the Tiger Wall is that you can pitch it without the fly sheet on clear nights to really enjoy a night under the stars.
Terra Nova Solar Photon 2
The Terra Nova Solar Photon is the lightest 2-man, self supporting tent on the market, weighing just under a kilo when packed down. The sturdy design will stand up in strong winds and keep you dry in the innevitable spring showers. Space is a little bit short and it can feel slightly clostraphobic, but for a tent that weighs next to nothing, you can’t complain.
The Terra Nova Solar 2 is best for fast-and-light hiking trips or bikepacking trips when weight saving is key.
There are hundreds of other tents to choose from on the market. It obviously depends on your requirements, your budget and personal preference, but the above five tents are a solid starting point.