It is always a hassle to choose the right backpacking tent whenever you want to go camping. There are so many considerations you have to make.
Along with the weight, not only do you have to consider the price and the quality of the backpacking tent but also its capacity, materials, floor space, and so much more.
The most important factor is undoubtedly the weight of the backpacking tent. You might be wondering what the ideal weight of a backpacking tent should be. It mostly depends on how many items you want to carry with you. However, a backpacking tent for three people should be around 5 pounds.
When selecting a backpacking tent, you also have to consider how to use it effectively. Ideally, you should be using a backpacking tent with the most capacity and the least weight. We will cover some of the ways to pack your backpacking tents in the least cumbersome manner.
As a frequent hiker and backpacker, I had to learn the hard way about what the weight of backpacking tents should be as per my needs, as there is no universal answer. While many of my trips were quite similar in my packing, some of them required a lot of unpacking and repacking. When asked by my fellow backpackers, they were of the same mind as me in that, depending on the individual's needs and the trip requirements, the backpacking tents should weigh accordingly.
How Heavy Should a Backpacking Tent Be?
The ideal weight for a backpacking tent depends on how much you are willing to carry. The lighter the tent, the more expensive it will be. The average three-person backpacking tent weighs about 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms).
What Factors Count in Backpacking Tent Weight?
Not all factors that affect weight are created equal. Here is a list of the three most important factors, in order of importance:
The first and most important factor affecting weight is packed size. The smaller the tent, the lighter it will be. This is because the materials used to make a smaller tent are less than those used to make a larger one.
The second factor affecting weight is floor space. The more floor space a tent has, the heavier it will be. This is because the materials used to make a larger tent are more than those used to make a smaller one.
Weight per Person
The third-factor affecting weight is the weight per person. The heavier the person, the heavier the tent will be. This is because the materials used to make a heavier person's tent are more than those used to make a lighter person's tent.
Luggage and Tools
The fourth factor affecting weight is the weight of your luggage and tools. The heavier your luggage and tools, the heavier your tent will be. This is because the materials used to make a heavier person's tent are more than those used to make a lighter person's tent.
One-, Two-, or Three-Person Backpacking Tents
When choosing a backpacking tent, you will need to decide how many people you want to be able to fit inside. One-person tents are the lightest and most compact option. Two-person tents are heavier and bulkier, but they offer more space. Three-person tents are the heaviest and bulkiest option, but they offer the most space.
The weight of a backpacking tent can also vary depending on the size and floor space. The average two-person backpacking tent has a floor space of 30 square feet (2.8 square meters). The average three-person backpacking tent has a floor space of 40 square feet (3.7 square meters).
Types of Backpacking Tents
There are three types of backpacking tents:
- Three-season tents are the lightest and most popular type of tent. They are designed for use in spring, summer, and fall.
- Four-season tents are heavier and more expensive than three-season tents. They are designed for use in all seasons, including winter.
- Ultralight tents are the lightest and most expensive type of tent. They are made with lighter materials and have fewer features than other types of tents.
Materials Used in Backpacking Tents
The materials used to make backpacking tents are different from those used to make other types of tents. The most common materials used in backpacking tents are:
- Nylon is a strong, lightweight fabric that is often used for the tent body and fly.
- Polyester is a strong, durable fabric that is often used for the tent floor and rainfly.
- Mesh is a lightweight fabric that is used for tent windows and doors. It allows air to flow into the tent and keeps insects out.
- Aluminum is a lightweight metal that is often used for tent poles.
- Titanium is a strong, lightweight metal that is often used for tent stakes.
Parts of a Backpacking Tent
There are different parts used when setting up a backpacking tent.
- The pole is used to support the tent. It is made of aluminum or titanium.
- The stake, also made of titanium, is used to anchor the tent to the ground.
- The fly is a waterproof cover that goes over the top of the tent. It is made of nylon or polyester.
- The floor is the bottom part of the tent. It is made of polyester.
Double- or Single-Walled Tents
Backpacking tents can be either double or single-walled. Double-walled tents have a separate inner tent and rainfly. Single-walled tents have only one layer of fabric. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of tents.
Double-walled tents are more expensive, but they offer better protection from the elements. They are also easier to set up and take down.
Single-walled tents are lighter and more compact, but they do not offer as much protection from the wind and rain. They are also more difficult to set up and take down.
Types of Backpacking Tents’ Weights
The pack weight is the weight of the tent plus the rainfly and poles. The average three-person backpacking tent has a pack weight of 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms).
Trail Weight is the weight of the tent plus the rainfly, but not the poles. The average two-person backpacking tent has a trail weight of 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms).
Fast Fly Weight
The Fast Fly Weight is the weight of the rainfly only. The average ultralight backpacking tent has a fast fly weight of 1 pound (0.5 kilograms).
Weight Classifications for Backpacking Tents
There are three weight classes for backpacking tents:
- Ultralight: less than 3pounds (1.36 kilograms)
- Lightweight: 3 to 4.5 pounds (1.36 to 2 kilograms)
- Heavy to Midweight: more than 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms)
Heavy to Midweight
Heavy to midweight backpacking tents are usually made with more sturdy materials that can withstand harsh weather conditions. However, if you are only planning on using your tent in fair weather, then a lighter-weight tent will do just fine.
Lightweight tents strike a balance between durability and weight. They are usually made with durable fabrics that can withstand moderate weather conditions.
Ultralight tents are made with very thin, lightweight materials that make them more fragile than other types of tents. However, if you are willing to take extra care of your ultralight tent, then it can be a great option for saving weight.
Performance of Backpacking Tents According to Weight
The weight of a backpacking tent will affect its performance in different ways.
Ultralight tents are the lightest and most expensive type of tent. They are made with lighter materials and have fewer features than other types of tents. However, they are not as durable as heavier tents and are more susceptible to damage from wind and rain.
Lightweight tents strike a balance between durability and weight. They are usually made with durable fabrics that can withstand moderate weather conditions.
Heavy to midweight tents are usually made with more sturdy materials that can withstand inclement weather conditions. However, if you are only planning on using your tent in fair weather, then a lighter-weight tent will do just fine.
Benefits of Heavy Tents
Heavy backpacking tents have some advantages over lighter tents. They are usually more durable and can withstand strong winds and rains. They also tend to be more spacious, which can be a plus if you plan on spending a lot of time inside your tent.
Drawbacks of Heavy Tents
The main drawback of heavy backpacking tents is that they are more difficult to carry. If you are planning on doing a lot of hiking, then a lighter tent will be easier to carry. Another drawback is that heavy tents can take longer to set up and take down than lighter tents.
Benefits of Lightweight Tents
Many people prefer using lightweight tents as they have some advantages ove the heavier ones. They are usually easier to carry, which is a plus if you plan on doing a lot of hiking. They also tend to be more compact, which makes them easier to store and transport. Another benefit of lightweight tents is that they can be set up and taken down more quickly than heavier tents.
Drawbacks of Lightweight Tents
Unfortunately, lightweight tents aren’t as durable as heavy to midweight tents. They are also more vulnerable to damage from wind and rain. Another drawback is that they tend to be less spacious than heavy tents, which can be a problem if you plan on spending a lot of time inside your tent.
Benefits of Ultralight Tents
Ultralight tents have some advantages over both lightweight and heavy tents. They are the lightest type of tent, which makes them easy to carry. They are also more compact than other types of tents, which makes them easy to store and transport. Another benefit of ultralight tents is that they can be set up and taken down more quickly than heavier tents.
Drawbacks of Ultralight Backpacking Tents
While lightweight tents do not have the same durability as that of heavy tents, ultralight tents have even less so. They can be easily damaged by weather elements, even more than lightweight tents. Moreover, they are even more cramped.
One should use ultralight backpacking tents if they plan to spend a lot of their time outside while keeping some of their items in the tent.
Additional Factors for Weight of Backpacking Tents
Size of the Backpacking Tent
When it comes to backpacking tents, size does matter. The larger the tent, the heavier it will be. If you are planning on solo camping, then you will only need a one-person tent. But if you are going camping with friends or family, then you will need a bigger tent to accommodate everyone.
The amount of floor space inside a backpacking tent is important to consider because it will determine how comfortable you will be while sleeping. A one-person backpacking tent usually has about 27 square feet (2.5 square meters) of floor space.
If you are taller than average or plan on bringing along a lot of gear, then you will need more floor space and should consider a two-person backpacking tent.
What's the Difference between Trail Weight and Pack Weight?
The trail weight of a tent is the weight of the main tent body, rainfly, poles, and guy lines. The pack weight is the trail weight plus the weight of the storage sack and stakes.
For most people, the pack weight is the more important number because it includes everything you need to set up your tent.
How to Reduce Weight in Backpacking Tents
There are a few ways to reduce the weight of your backpacking tent. One such way is to use lighter fabric for the tent body and rainfly. For example, choose a tent with an aluminum pole instead of a steel pole.
If you don't need a certain feature, then leave it at home. For example, if you know you won't be using the vestibule, then don't bring it along.
You can always go for tents of smaller sizes. A smaller tent will weigh less than a larger one. So, if you don't need a lot of space, then go for a smaller option.
Setting up Backpacking Tents
There are two main setup types for backpacking tents, each having its own use.
Freestanding tents are the most common type of backpacking tent. These tents don't need to be staked down and can be set up on any flat surface. The advantage of these tents is that they can be moved around easily and don't require as much time to set up.
Non-freestanding tents need to be staked down in order to stay upright. These tents are usually lighter weight than freestanding tents because they don't have as many poles. The advantage of non-freestanding tents is that they can be set up in places where there are no flat surfaces, like on a slope or in a rocky area.
Saving Weight without Sacrificing Floor Space
If you are planning on solo camping, then you will only need a one-person tent. But if you are going camping with friends or family, then you will need a bigger tent to accommodate everyone.
One way to save weight without sacrificing floor space is to choose a freestanding tent. Freestanding tents do not require stakes to be set up, so they are lighter in weight. However, they are usually more expensive than other types of tents.
Another way to save weight is to choose a double-wall tent. Double-wall tents have an inner tent and a separate rainfly. This type of construction is more lightweight than a single-wall tent because it uses less material.
Saving Weight with Fast Fly Setup
If you are looking to save even more weight, then you can consider using a fast fly setup. A fast fly set up is when you only bring the rainfly, poles, and guy lines to set up your tent. This eliminates the need to bring the main tent body, which can save you a few pounds.
However, using a fast fly setup will leave your tent without a floor or mosquito netting. So, if you are camping in an area with insects or inclement weather, then it is not recommended.
How to Pack Your Backpacking Tent
Once you've selected the perfect backpacking tent, it's time to learn how to pack it.
The first step is to choose the right size backpack. You will want to make sure that your backpack can comfortably fit your tent, sleeping bag, and all of your other gear.
Next, you will want to attach your tent to the outside of your backpack. Most backpacks have loops or daisy chains that you can use to do this.
If you are using a fast fly setup, then you can just pack your rainfly, poles, and guy lines in your backpack. However, if you are bringing the whole tent, then you will want to disassemble it and carefully pack everything inside.
Be sure to put your tent in a waterproof bag to protect it from the elements.
Which Backpacking Tent Weight Is Ideal?
The ideal backpacking tent weight will depend on your individual needs. For example, if you are solo camping, then you may be able to get away with a one-person tent that weighs less than three pounds.
If you are camping with a group of people, then you will need a bigger tent and the weight will increase accordingly. The best way to determine the ideal weight for your needs is to consider how much space you need and what kind of weather conditions you will be camping in.
Can Backpacking Tents Collapse from Weight?
Yes, backpacking tents can collapse from the weight of snow or heavy rain. This is more likely to happen with ultralight tents that have less sturdy poles and thinner fabric.
To prevent your tent from collapsing, be sure to stake it down properly. You may also want to bring some extra guy lines to provide additional support in case of high winds.
It's also a good idea to camp in an area that has some tree coverage. This will help protect your tent from the elements and provide some shelter if it does collapse.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks