The best backpacking tent 2019: super lightweight and compact tents

Small, lightweight, strong, storm-proof and feature-packed. You might be pleasantly surprised at what our best backpacking tents can do

The best backpacking tents

There are lots of compromises to be made when hitting the road, but finding the best backpacking tent needn’t be one of them. You want a tent that’ll protect you from the elements and fit everyone in your party, but also take up the minimum of space in your pack and not weigh you down while you’re walking? You got it.

We’ve listed each tent’s hydrostatic head, a scary-sounding but pretty straightforward metric for assessing your shelter’s suitability in wet weather. It’s basically a measure of water-resistance: for example, a hydrostatic head of 5000mm means that the tent fabric can hold a column of water 5000mm tall before it starts to seep through. 

Everything else is fairly self-explanatory – choose the capacity depending on how many friends you’re dragging along, and the weight depending on how strong you’re feeling.

The best backpacking tent

1. OEX Bandicoot II Semi-Geodesic

Semi-geodesic but fully functional, this is our best backpacking tent all round

Best for: Stormy weather
Capacity: 2
Weight: 3.2kg
Hydrostatic head: 5000mm
Reasons to buy
+Sturdy semi-geodesic construction+Pre-attached groundsheet

Prepare for all eventualities with this semi-geodesic tent from OEX. Its marsupial-inspired name says a little something about its adaptability in hostile environments, and it combines ease, comfortable carry and toughness to win the day as our best tent for backpacking. 

Despite its impressive lack of weight, it packs in a roomy porch and strong aluminium poles in a sturdy configuration to stand firm in stormy weather, as well as having a pre-attached groundsheet for quick and easy pitching in poor conditions.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

2. MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Naughty name, heavenly features

Best for: Warm weather
Capacity: 2
Weight: 1.72kg
Hydrostatic head: 1200mm
Reasons to buy
+Space-saving hub pole design+Well-ventilated

Despite the cheeky name, this MSR tent is all business. The hub pole design cleverly maximises the usable space inside the tent, including head and elbow room, while ensuring it stays stable. The mesh canopy allows unrestricted views and, combined with the cross-ventilating flysheet, works to keep condensation at bay and allow optimum airflow, ideal for use on hot and sticky nights. 

The rain gutters make a nice feature in unexpected wet weather, although with the joint-lowest hydrostatic head on our list, it’s worth bearing in mind that this tent is better suited to dry weather.

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Ultra Light

3. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Ultra Light

Guaranteed watertight and with room enough for two

Best for: Lightweight two-man
Capacity: 2
Weight: 1.16kg
Hydrostatic head: 1200mm
Reasons to buy
+Lightest two-man tent+Stable, high-coverage freestanding design

Easily our lightest two-person tent, this offering from Mountain Hardwear looks to be a great pick for the backpacking twosome. The truly freestanding design is a triumph of geometry, not sacrificing stability or coverage for the sake of being lighter to carry, and it has a number of handy features that bely its complete lack of heft – the welded zipper flap is drier than the usual sewn flap, and its guaranteed watertight construction makes it great at coping in wet weather; there are mesh pockets for interior storage, and a dry vestibule for storage and muddy boots.

Vango Nemesis Pro 300

4. Vango Nemesis Pro 300

If inclement weather is your nemesis, take this Vango tent along to fight the good fight

Best for: All seasons
Capacity: 3
Weight: 4.35kg
Hydrostatic head: 5000mm
Reasons to buy
+Splittable doors; two entrances+Suitable for all seasons

An all-seasons tent that’s compact and light enough to take backpacking? That’s right. This geodesic tent by Vango is specially designed for camping in winter and any adverse weather conditions, making for a harmonious meeting between advanced waterproofing and stability, and a packable, portable weight. 

It’s said to sleep three comfortably, and the ability to split doors, plus two separate entrances, keeps you from getting in each other’s way. Reviewers were very impressed, saying that they’d used this tent in extremes of weather and had no shifting or condensation for their troubles, meaning it really stands up to its built-like-a-tank promise.

Vango Banshee Pro 300

5. Vango Banshee Pro 300

Light on the back, light on the wallet, and most importantly, teenager-proof

Best for: Budget three-man
Capacity: 3
Weight: 2.82kg
Hydrostatic head: 5000mm
Reasons to buy
+DofE recommended kit+Easy-to-pitch tunnel design

That this trekking tent features on the DofE recommended kit list is already high praise, and Vango back it up with their claim that the Banshee is ideal for beginners as well as more seasoned outdoorsmen. 

It certainly seems that way: comparatively inexpensive, lightweight (of course) and with an intuitive tunnel design that makes for quick and easy pitching, it’s a good entry-level option for striders of all stripes. The two doors and single porch mean the three inhabitants aren’t stepping all over each other, too.

Terra Nova Laser Competition

6. Terra Nova Laser Competition

Take your solo adventures seriously with this quick-to-pitch one-man tent

Best for: Solo backpackers
Capacity: 1
Weight: 0.97kg
Hydrostatic head: 5000mm
Reasons to buy
+Flysheet and inner pitch in one+Strong but very light

Lone wolves need look no further for the best one-man tent for their backpacking adventures. This one from Terra Nova looks simple, sure, but it squeeze in a surprising amount of functionality to suit three-season travel without overcomplicating things. 

The flysheet and inner can be pitched as one and, according to Terra Nova, in under five minutes; the strong but featherlight end poles are small to maximise space; it’s incredibly compact when broken down, and most importantly, outdoorsy reviewers found it stood up to strong winds and driving rain.

Coleman Cobra 2

7. Coleman Cobra 2

Surprisingly spacious and sturdy, especially for the budget price

Best for: Strength
Capacity: 2
Weight: 2.05kg
Hydrostatic head: 3000mm
Reasons to buy
+Spacious interior+Inexpensive but strong

This two-man tent comes highly recommended by reviewers as a beginner or budget option, but that’s not code for ‘a bit rubbish’, far from it in fact. Wild campers rated it for use even in storms and driving rain, and found it stood up well to elemental punishment, as well as offering a spacious sleep for two people and their essentials. 

Too long for most compact tents? Some jolly tall testers, including those who’d previously tried the Vango Banshee, found they didn’t touch the ends of this tent, so don’t lose hope in lightweight tents just yet!