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3 Features You Need in Your Next Backpacking Tent

Select the best tent you can afford because like most outdoor gear, you get what you pay for.
Select the best tent you can afford because like most outdoor gear, you get what you pay for. (Kelty/)

There are many ways to experience the backcountry, from hammock camping and tarp set-ups to simply sleeping under the stars. But for most folks, the standard shelter in wilderness travel is still the 1- or 2-person backpacking tent. A tent keeps the bugs out, is a better defense against blowing rain, and offers more room and privacy than the more minimalist approaches. When shopping for your next backcountry bivouac, consider the following features.

Weight

To keep pack weight down, split up the parts of a tent among the loads other hikers in your group are carrying.
To keep pack weight down, split up the parts of a tent among the loads other hikers in your group are carrying. (Hyke & Byke/)

Any tent meant for more than two people isn't really a backpacking tent. It's someone else's load that you are only carrying for them. Generally speaking, for backpacking purposes each person should be shouldering about 2.5 pounds of tent gear. If you are traveling with a partner, split up the poles, tent, and rain fly to achieve the most equitable loads for each person.

Seasonality

Unless you plan to camp through the apocalypse, a 3-season tent should be all you need in most situations.
Unless you plan to camp through the apocalypse, a 3-season tent should be all you need in most situations. (Teton Sports/)

Like sleeping bags, tents are usually rated as either 3- or 4-season gear. A 3-season tent should weather everything but deep snow and a monsoon. But a true 4-season tent can handle whatever nature throws at it, including torrential rains, cold, or heavy snow loads. Unless significant winter camping is on the recreational calendar, a 3-season tent will meet your needs at a more affordable price.

Ease of Set Up

Become familiar with your tent to make it easier to set up and take down when you’re in the field.
Become familiar with your tent to make it easier to set up and take down when you’re in the field. (Kelty/)

Shock-corded poles, quick-clip attachments, and adjustable straps at the corners all go a long way in reducing the set-up time for any tent. But there is no substitute for familiarity with your gear. Practice setting up a new tent in the backyard so that when it comes time to seek shelter in a hurry, you are not fumbling with equipment.

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