- Hiking or backpacking tents are a whole ‘nother kind of animal from camping tents. They’re smaller and lighter and designed to be carried on your back when hiking. Camping tents are left at the site, hiking tents go with you. There are some tents that promise both options, but it’s a compromise in terms of convenience and, sometimes, quality.
There are, as a rule of thumb, four things to consider when choosing a backpacking tent:
- Size–Backpacking tents don’t have a whole lot of room inside in order to reduce weight. They are usually designed for the lay-down height and width of an average adult body. So if you are 6’2″, you may want to look for a tent that has a floor length of over 84 inches. Tent packaging will often have the word “2” in the name, which indicates the number of people that can sleep inside. If you don’t mind the extra weight, a dome tent is great. You can sit up in them, which increases comfort if you find you have to spend time inside due to adverse conditions.
- When you go hiking the last thing you need is a thousand pounds of stuff on your back. Your 10-pound tent may feel light when you pick it up initially, but try carrying a ten-pound sack of potatoes around at home for an hour or so and you’ll soon see just how heavy that can become. So try to aim for three pounds or less per person in your backpacking tent weight. For example, if the tent is designed to sleep two, make sure it’s 6 pounds or less. The lighter the better.
- Your best decision would be to settle on a three-season tent, which is suitable for the moderate-weather conditions of spring, summer and fall. If you will be hiking where the weather features winter conditions, a four-season tent is necessary. These tents can also be known as mountaineering or extended season tents.
- Backpacking tents aren’t cheap. That’s because they are designed with features that lighten the over-all load a person carries, without losing out on durability. Expect to pay about as much or more for a back-packing tent that you would for a larger camping tent designed to hold a comparable number of people.
Other options that make your backpacking tent a thing of beauty and a joy forever are seam sealer, which while is not necessary on better tents, helps prolong the life and water-proofing qualities of your tent seams, a “footprint”, which is a groundsheet designed to fit the shape of your tent thereby reducing the chances that it will catch rainwater by extending beyond the perimeter of the tent floor, and a vestibule, which is important for such a small sleeping space as it enables the hiker to leave the boots and backpack outside the tent in the little shelter and still have them be protected from the weather.
There are other types of backpacking tents that hikers like to use, which are even smaller and more light-weight. We’ll be getting into those a little later.
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