When the walking’s done, having the right tent to retreat into is essential. There are plenty out there at the moment that are designed to enhance your outdoor experience and make the most of your down time with innovative architecture and features.
Pitching is an obvious priority, so that you’re not wrestling with poles and pegs when you’re already exhausted from your route.
Once the tent is up, you need quality materials that will keep out any overnight weather, in combination with good venting to stop the internal atmosphere turning tropical.
Obviously, weight is crucial if you’re going to be lugging it up hill’s and down dale’s. And the tent needs to pack down so that it doesn’t hog the volume when it’s stowed away in your backpack, but you need to balance weight with strength and space for easy living.
We took all the tents onto Dartmoor and experienced the usual four seasons in one day, so that we could really see how well they stood up to the elements. We wanted to get a real sense of what it was like to live in them during the afternoon, evening and overnight to find the ones that really made us happy campers.
The best backpacking tents for 2021 are:
- Best for liveability – Big Agnes copper spur HC UL3: £499.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best for camping in smaller spaces – Snugpak journey solo: £140, Snugpak.com
- Best for warmer weather – Lightwave sigma S20: £699, Lightwave.uk.com
- Best for getting a good view – Kelty dirt motel: £259.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best for solo short to medium trips – Alpkit ordos 2: £169.99, Alpkit.com
- Best for taller trail hounds – Big Agnes fly creek HV UL2 SDF: £355.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best two-person tent – Big Agnes tiger wall UL2 SDF: £399.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best three-person tent – Sierra Designs meteor lite 3P: £367.95, Wildbounds.com
- Best for trail weight – Vango F10 project hydrogen: £630, Vango.co.uk
- Best for quick pitching – Wild Country zephyros compact 2 V3: £210, Terra-nova.co.uk
Big Agnes copper spur HC UL3
Best: For liveability
If its room you’re after when you’re exploring then this superb 1.59kg free stander will take all your kit as well as your sleeping set up and will still offer plenty of space to swing a roll mat – so if you’re renowned for being a tent rhino this one’s for you.
It’s been designed with high volume living in mind with plenty of storage space, bin pockets and two ingenious vestibule doors which can be pitched out so that you can turn them into awnings and really make the most of your campsite and provide even more living space. The copper spur’s material is durable without adding unwanted weight to your backpack and we liked the internal storage options, especially the elevated “mezzanine” which is a stroke of design genius from the manufacturer.
Snugpak journey solo
Best: For camping in smaller spaces
As the name suggests this is a 2kg tent for anyone who simply wants to get their head down, recoup and recharge before getting back out there the following morning. The aluminium hoops on the Snugpak take this out of the bivvy category and into tent territory, so there’s room to move once you’re in your bag, whether that’s for a spot of route planning or reading. The small footprint also opens up more camping pitches for you as you won’t need a lot of room. Pitching itself was straightforward and some good venting ensures that you’ll have a comfortable night and wake up raring to go.
Lightwave sigma S20
Best: For warmer weather
Traditionally, the problem with single-skinned tents is condensation. However, the S20 is a single-skinner that won’t wake you up with a condensation shower inside the tent. What you will get are all the advantages of single skins like the tent’s lighter weight, 1.75kg, and good breathability, which makes it an ideal choice for summer. Easy to pitch, with good headroom and a sizeable porch for gear storage.
Kelty dirt motel
Best: For getting a good view
It’s not just the name of this tent that we love, but the fact that it’s heavy on features without feeling heavy on your back, at just 2.2kg when packaged. Very easy to pitch, the tent felt stable and secure when it was up and did a great job of keeping the weather out. Two nice big doors mean you’ll have no problem getting in and out and we liked the fact that you can fold back the fly to reveal the night sky, so that you can spend your night stargazing before getting some shuteye.
Alpkit ordos 2
Best: For solo short to medium trips
The fact that this is a good, roomy two-person tent, that’s very reasonably priced, means that it could be a good option if you’re heading out on your own and you fancy a little more space than you’d get from a one-person.
The ordos 2 offers straightforward pitching and at only 1.4kg, you’ll hardly know that you’re carrying it and it packs down to the size of a water bottle so it won’t take over your pack. The geodesic design means that you won’t feel cramped when you climb in for the night and there’s plenty of pocket storage inside and a porch which doubles as a vestibule.
Big Agnes fly creek HV UL2 SDF
Best: For taller trail hounds
The latest iteration of Big Agnes’ popular two person ultralight offers some impressive head room thanks to its steep walls. It also manages to swerve being a pain to pitch (which is a regular criticism of ultralights) by virtue of the Big Agnes’s tent buckle system – a combination of a hubbed aluminium pole with corner buckles, that feature the tent’s rainfly attachment, tensioner and stakeout loop all in one.
The large arch-like opening makes getting in and out of the tent easy, so there’s no need to contort your body and this also means that you’ve got plenty of porch to play with when you unload your gear. There are nice details inside too, like well-placed media pockets and loft loops.
Big Agnes tiger wall UL2 SDF
Best: Two-person tent
This two person ultralight tent has some generous internal dimensions, so you won’t keep banging heads with your hiking buddy, plus there are two doors so you won’t wake anybody up if you need a toilet stop in the middle of the night. There are two porches to protect your gear overnight and you won’t have to worry about durability when out on the trails as the Tiger Wall is made out of the same material used for parachutes and paragliders. And if you’re guaranteed good weather overnight there is also the option to pitch the tent with just a single-skin for pared back, fast, camp set up.
Sierra Designs meteor lite 3P
Best: Three-person tent
This is the latest update to what is already considered to be one of the best backpacking tents around. Sierra Designs have added some extra headroom and pitching was made super simple thanks to colour-coded poles. And, because the tent is fully freestanding it retains its shape without the need for stakes in the ground – so you can actually move the tent around your campsite with ease, if you need to reposition due to weather.
The fly sheet completely rolls back so you can be in control of ventilation on hot nights, or just get stunning views of the night sky. There are two doors and two porches so getting in and out is easy and there’s plenty of room for storage. All this for a barely noticeable 1.89kg.
Vango F10 project hydrogen
Best: For trail weight
If you’re often out on the trails for days at a time then pack weight will be a priority, and they don’t come much lighter than this tent, which weighs in at an incredible 0.68kg. A lot of this has to do with Vango’s innovative airbeam technology, which eschews poles for inflation tubes which are filled with the provided bike pump to make pitching an absolute doddle. The tent is durable and the twin skin 7D nylon inner and outer means that you’ll keep even the roughest weather outside. Inside, the tent feels surprisingly roomy with good venting and a porch big enough for boots and backpacks.
Wild Country zephyros compact 2 V3
Best: For quick pitching
This popular backpacking tent has been updated for 2021 to make pitching even easier because the flysheet and inner go up together, and then you just need to pitch your guy lines (so it’s not free-standing) and you’ll have a roof over your heads within minutes. The high grade polyester groundsheet and fly sheet did a good job of keeping out the rain and there was good ventilation and plenty of room inside with one porch and two doors for easy access. The other great thing about this tent is that it packs down superbly and is only 1.85kg.
The verdict: Backpacking tents
Combining practicality with liveability the Big Agnes copper spur HC UL3 is a versatile tent suited for all kinds of expeditions. With an innovative pitching performance you won’t want to be bogged down with lots of tensioning and adjustments, when all you want to do is get a brew on.
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From tents to sleeping bags, these are the camping essentials to pack for your next night under the stars
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