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The 6 Best Budget Backpacking Tents of 2022

We tested tents from REI, The North Face, MSR, and more to find the best model while shopping on a budget
Best Budget Backpacking Tent of 2022
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday August 30, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Looking to save some dollars by investing in a new budget backpacking tent? This review includes 15 of the best budget backpacking tents available. After researching over 60 models, we put each of the top contenders through our extensive side-by-side testing to ensure you find the best fit for your next adventure. From camping to pitching in alpine fields next to lakes, or nestling down in the brush, in the summer heat and cold and driving rain of spring, we caught some Zs, played some games of cards, and got closer with friends in tight quarters. If you're a thrifty camping enthusiast looking to save a buck without compromising quality, we've highlighted the top performers, as well as those that stand out for excellent space and headroom and weight.

We've tested a lot of the best tents and other backpacking and camping gear over the past decade. See our review of the best backpacking tents for models in the $200-500 range. We've also tested the best camping tents and ultralight tents along with other types of backpacking gear.

Editors' note: This review was updated on August 30, 2022, to include an update to The North Face Stormbreak 2. We also added in two new products, the REI Co-Op Trail Hut 2 and the Bisinna 2.

Top 15 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 15
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $159 List
Check Price at REI
$139 List
$96.93 at REI
$185 List
$185.00 at REI
$289.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$200 List
$199.95 at Amazon
Overall Score
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67
71
Star Rating
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Pros Two side doors, easy to pitch, large vestibulesGreat headroom, large vestibule, easy to pitchExcellent headroom, storage pockets, versatile vestibuleVery stable in wind, good privacy, durableLightweight, easy to pitch
Cons Heavy, not so stable in high windPoles pinch together under fly tensionHeavy, cheap stakesShort, unusual pole configurationSmall interior, single door and vestibule
Bottom Line A straightforward, easy to set up tent with good comfort featuresThis inexpensive budget tent is an excellent option for one personA spacious tent with large vestibules that provide a lot of flexibility for the weatherA hearty 2-person tent with thick fabric that performs well in high windA budget tent for those who want to minimize weight and don't mind sacrificing a fair bit of comfort
Rating Categories REI Co-op Passage 2 REI Co-op Passage 1 The North Face Stor... MSR Elixir 2 Big Agnes C Bar 2
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
Weight (25%)
7.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
10.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Ease of Set-up (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Durability (10%) Sort Icon
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Packed Size (10%)
5.0
5.0
4.0
5.0
8.0
Specs REI Co-op Passage 2 REI Co-op Passage 1 The North Face Stor... MSR Elixir 2 Big Agnes C Bar 2
Measured Packaged Weight 5.23 lbs 4.21 lbs 6.33 lbs 5.53 lbs 3.96 lbs
Floor Area 31 sq ft 20 sq ft 30.6 sq ft 29 sq ft 28 sq ft
Packed Size 8 x 18 in 7.5 x 17 in 7 x 22 in 7 x 20 in 6 x 19 in
Dimensions 88 x 52 x 40 in 88 x 36 x 40 in 87 x 50 x 43 in 84 x 50 x 40 in 86 x (52 x 42) x 41 in
Vestibule Area (Total) 19 sq ft 9.5 sq ft 9.78 sq ft 24 sq ft 7 sq ft
Peak Height 40 in 40 in 43 in 40 in 41 in
Number of Doors 2 1 2 1 1
Number of Poles 2 2 4 2 2
Pole Diameter 8.5 mm 8.5 mm Not provided 8.5 mm Not provided
Number of Pockets 2 1 4 4 3
Gear Loft No No No No No
Pole Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum 7000 series aluminum DAC pressfit aluminum
Guy Points 4 4 4 4 7
Rain Fly Material Polyester Polyester 75D polyester 68D ripstop polyester 1500mm Polyurethane & DWR Polyester taffeta
Inner Tent Material Polyester Polyester 75D polyester taffeta 40D ripstop nylon & DWR Polyester & mesh
Type Freestanding Freestanding Freestanding Freestanding Freestanding


Best Overall Budget Backpacking Tent


REI Co-op Passage 2


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Weather Resistance 7.0
  • Ease of Set-up 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 5.0
Weight: 5 pounds, 6 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 87 x 50 x 43 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Easy to set up
Excellent value
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Not as stable in high wind

The REI Co-op Passage 2 is ideal for the committed car camper that takes the occasional weekend backpacking trip. The interior is spacious and comfortable. It comes outfitted with two large side doors that make it easy to use for two people. Its mesh canopy makes it a nice option for stargazing, while the higher sidewall fabric provides added privacy. Its classic, straightforward X-pole design pitches in an instant. And, of course, the price point is excellent.

This tent could use another large storage pocket to really up the livability. We also think that the fly stability in high wind could be improved if the two vestibules were trapezoidal instead of triangular. However, the pros far outweigh the cons for us, and we would pick this one for our next camping adventure if we were looking to camp big and spend small.

Read more: REI Passage 2 review

best overall budget backpacking tent
The large side doors make getting in and out really easy and can be tied back to maximize cross breeze.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Use of Space and Headroom


The North Face Stormbreak 2


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Weight 4.0
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
  • Ease of Set-up 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 4.0
Weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 87 x 50 x 43 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent headroom
Large vestibules
Well ventilated
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Cheap stakes

The North Face Stormbreak 2 is one of our favorite budget backpacking tents for its solid comfort and smart design. It has versatile vestibules with flaps that roll and secure in several different configurations. It also has plenty of storage pockets for gear that you want to keep close at hand. Crucially, the headroom is excellent, and if you are taking it car camping or on a quick overnight, it can deliver a better experience than more expensive and lighter tents that are far more cramped.

This model is not well-suited for long-distance trips where weight matters. Toting around over six pounds worth of tent is a big commitment. However, if you're not hiking that far or are fine with carrying a little more weight to get more comfort, it's hard to beat this tent for the price point.

Read more: The North Face Stormbreak 2 review

budget backpacking tent - best use of space and headroom
The North Face Stormbreak 2 is a roomy and weather-resistant tent for two.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Bang for the Buck


Slumberjack Nightfall 2


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
  • Ease of Set-up 6.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Packed Size 5.0
Weight: 5 pounds, 10 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 85 x 52 x 39.5 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Extended vestibule
Good weather resistance
Pitches with fly protecting the tent
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited interior pockets
Heavy
Single door

The Slumberjack Nightfall 2 feels like it is meant for folks who want to pitch a tent and stay out there for a while. It offers some of the best protection from the elements of any budget backpacking tent that we tested and has a pole structure that goes outside of the fly so it can be pitched in the rain without getting the interior wet. Its single vestibule can be pitched with trekking poles to create an awesome awning in foul weather.

On the downside, the single head-end door is more challenging to get in and out of than a side-door model. This tent also has to be pitched with the fly attached, so if stargazing is high on your priority list, this one probably isn't for you. The vestibule, when closed, is also relatively small — it's not large enough for two packs. However, if you often find yourself hunkering down in wet weather, we think this tent is worth a strong look.

Read more: Slumberjack Nightfall 2 review

budget backpacking tent - best bang for the buck
The vestibule awning is awesome and creates a nice 'front porch' feel.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best Lightweight Option


Big Agnes C Bar 2


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Weight 10.0
  • Weather Resistance 7.0
  • Ease of Set-up 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Packed Size 8.0
Weight: 4 pounds | Dimensions (L x W x H): 86 x (52 x 42) x 41 inches
REASONS TO BUY
One of the lightest freestanding tents in the fleet
Solid weather resistance for budget tent
REASONS TO AVOID
Narrow space at shoulder height
Single door and vestibule less convenient

The Big Agnes C Bar is for the frugal backpacker who still wants to travel light. Coming in at just below four pounds, it's one of the lightest, most affordable freestanding tents. It sets up relatively easily, and we are pleasantly surprised by its weather resistance and stability.

On the downside, those weight savings come with a sacrifice in the interior volume. This tent is much better as a roomy one-person than a true two-person. It tapers dramatically from floor to ceiling in a way that limits shoulder room. However, if you are about covering miles more than living in your tent, this lightweight budget beauty is right up your alley.

Read more: Big Agnes C Bar 2 review

budget backpacking tent - best lightweight option
The single pole skeleton has a lot of segments but they are easy to orient correctly and attach to the tent.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Best for Stability and Durability


MSR Elixir 2


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
  • Ease of Set-up 5.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 5.0
Weight: 5 pounds, 8 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 84 x 50 x 40 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Thick floor and fly material
Included footprint
Trapezoidal vestibules
REASONS TO AVOID
Short length
Slightly trickier to pitch

The MSR Elixir 2 is a top choice for its durable construction and stability in poor weather. The unique pole structure makes for a sturdy shelter, and the hearty 70D floor fabric and included footprint will resist abrasion from sandy soil. It has two side doors which are easy to open with one hand (nice when you are in your sleeping bag). We love the two trapezoidal vestibules that are both spacious and effective for gear storage and protection.

What we miss in this tent is a lot of the comfort details. It has a short total length, meaning it isn't great for tall sleepers. The downside of the pole structure is that it is gangly for one person to pitch. There is also significant full fabric paneling over the canopy, which minimizes stargazing potential. Even so, if you need a budget backpacking tent that will stand up to the elements, we would pick this one over any other.

Read more: MSR Elixir 2 review

budget backpacking tent - best for stability and durability
The triangular side doors aren't the largest that we have encountered, but they can be tied back if weather and bugs permit.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

A Great One Person Option


REI Co-op Passage 1


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Weather Resistance 7.0
  • Ease of Set-up 9.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 5.0
Weight: 3 pounds, 14 ounces | Dimensions (L x W x H): 88 x 36.5 x 40 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent headroom
Large vestibule
Easy to pitch
REASONS TO AVOID
Doesn't handle strong wind well
Heavy and bulky

The REI Co-Op Passage 1 is a top option for a one-person tent on a budget. It offers many of the same great comfort features found in its award-winning big sibling. We love the peak height, which we found to be higher than other similar one-person contenders. There is enough room to sit up and move around. It is easy to set up for one person with just two identical poles, and its vestibule is large enough for a full-size backpack and hiking boots.

Our biggest issue with this model is its heft. Some budget 2P options come close to its total weight at almost four pounds, so if you are on the fence about tent capacity, consider sizing up. It can also get caught up in the wind, so campsite selection and positioning require extra attention. All in all, though, the price is right for weekend trips for one, and the experience is comfortable.

Read more: REI Co-Op Passage 1 review

budget backpacking tent - the large door and generous peak height are a couple of the primary...
The large door and generous peak height are a couple of the primary features that make the Passage 1 so comfortable.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
74
REI Co-op Passage 2
rei co-op passage 2 budget backpacking tent review
$159
Editors' Choice Award
71
REI Co-op Passage 1
rei co-op passage 1 budget backpacking tent review
$139
Top Pick Award
71
Big Agnes C Bar 2
big agnes c bar 2 budget backpacking tent review
$200
Top Pick Award
70
The North Face Stormbreak 2
the north face stormbreak 2 budget backpacking tent review
$185
Top Pick Award
68
Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 2
mountainsmith morrison evo 2 budget backpacking tent review
$230
67
Slumberjack Nightfall 2
slumberjack nightfall 2 budget backpacking tent review
$159
Best Buy Award
67
MSR Elixir 2
msr elixir 2 budget backpacking tent review
$290
Top Pick Award
65
BISINNA 2
bisinna 2 budget backpacking tent
$80
65
Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2
mountain hardwear mineral king 2 budget backpacking tent review
$300
63
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2
sierra designs clip flashlight 2 budget backpacking tent review
$200
63
REI Co-Op Trail Hut 2
rei co-op trail hut 2 budget backpacking tent
$200
63
NEMO Aurora 2
nemo aurora 2 budget backpacking tent review
$280
61
Kelty Late Start 2
kelty late start 2 budget backpacking tent review
$160
60
Eureka Suma 2
eureka suma 2 budget backpacking tent review
$155
57
The North Face Eco Trail 2
the north face eco trail 2 budget backpacking tent review
$250

budget backpacking tent - different door configurations dramatically change the overall...
Different door configurations dramatically change the overall comfort of a tent. Pictured here is the Suma 2 from Eureka.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Why You Should Trust Us


We started testing budget backpacking tents back in 2019. Since then, we've researched dozens of models and brought over 20 through our hands-on process. We test our budget tents the same way as our regular backpacking tents. We start by sifting through the market, researching top models, and selecting the most promising for rigorous hands-on testing. Then we take them to the trail. We assess each one based on six metrics, including comfort, weight, weather resistance, durability, ease of set-up, and packed size.

Our budget backpacking tent testing is divided across six rating metrics:
  • Comfort (25% of total score)
  • Weight (25%)
  • Weather Resistance (20%)
  • Durability (10%)
  • Ease of Set-Up (10%)
  • Packed Size (10%)

Our experts have spent hundreds of nights on the trail, so they know the value of a good budget backpacking tent. What's more, they pride themselves on finding a good deal. Lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch has been catching Zzzs in the wilderness for 25 years. Spending his first nights under the stars in a classic Eureka A-frame, his knowledge of budget tents has only increased. He got his professional start in the outdoor industry, purchasing and maintaining gear for guided backpacking trips, including a fleet of hundreds of tents. He later became a trip guide, leading multi-week backpacking, cycling, and canoeing trips throughout northern New England and maritime Canada. He has hiked and re-hiked the Appalachian Trail's 100-mile wilderness, as well as hundreds of more miles of the AT. He has also completed thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest, Long, Pinhoti, Oregon Coast, Superior Hiking, and Colorado trails. Having spent hundreds of nights with dozens of different tents, he knows how to spot a high-value budget buy.

Three-person tents typically add extra width to accommodate another...
Three-person tents typically add extra width to accommodate another person.
It&#039;s nice to be able to tie back doors and vestibules.
It's nice to be able to tie back doors and vestibules.

Analysis and Test Results


We use a handful of metrics to assess each budget tent. In this section, we define each one and highlight top-performing models. Each metric is weighted according to our assessment of its relative importance. So, for example, comfort is worth 25% of the overall score, while ease of set up is worth 10%. With that in mind, as you make your purchasing decisions, consider which factors are most important to you and weigh them accordingly.


Value


This particular category is all about finding value. However, even amongst the group, there are a few standouts. It can be a make-or-break factor, but value isn't a part of a product's overall score. In this review, when we talk about value, we are comparing a tent's price to its overall score. Models with higher scores and lower prices will have greater value than those with lower scores and higher prices. For example, the REI Passage 2 and The North Face Stormbreak 2 offer more than what you pay for.

Comfort


Comfort is the sum of all of the features of a tent that make it better to live in. This metric is about the amount of space you have to sleep (especially when there is another person in the tent); it is the amount and accessibility of storage space, the ease with which you can get in and out; it is the availability of headroom available to sit up and eat, and dozens of other details. It is not just the quantitative dimensions of the product but the quality of the experience that those dimensions offer.


We learned from our hands-on testing that the The North Face Stormbreak 2, Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 2, and Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 are among the most comfortable in the fleet. The Mineral King has exceptional width and a peak height that extends all around the tent, meaning it's just as easy to sit up at the edges as it is in the middle. The included gear lofts of the Stormbreak and Morrison are a nice touch that increases livability. Importantly, all of them come equipped with two large side doors and significant interior volume. The REI Passage 2 is also a top contender in the metric. The North Face Eco Trail 2 is somewhat of a surprise; its listed dimensions understate the experience of sleeping in it. Though it lacks substantial storage pockets, the interior volume is more than expected.

budget backpacking tent - wide tents with extra headroom are camper comfort favorites.
Wide tents with extra headroom are camper comfort favorites.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

We found that models with single doors and single vestibules, either at the head or just on one side, make for a more challenging entry and exit. These types of doors usually mean that you have to negotiate your way around the other person to get out. The single door Big Agnes C Bar is very tight around shoulder height, and the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 had our taller testers ducking down just to sit up.

budget backpacking tent - choosing a smaller 2p for solo trips may make more sense for some...
Choosing a smaller 2P for solo trips may make more sense for some than opting for a 1-person. Pictured here is the C Bar 2, from Big Agnes.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

We also took a look at a couple of one-person tents to see if there was even greater value to be had in this thrift-focused category. The REI Co-Op Passage 1 does the best job maintaining the comfort features of its larger sibling, primarily the excellent peak height. On the other side of the equation, a budget tent model like The North Face Stormbreak 1 slashes some of the things we liked most about its award-winning 2P version, namely, nine whole inches off of its own peak height — a difference that is noticeable and much less comfortable.

budget backpacking tent - doors come in slightly different shapes and sizes. here, a somewhat...
Doors come in slightly different shapes and sizes. Here, a somewhat unusual triangle door is not our favorite.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weight


Weight is the all-in total of tent, fly, poles, and stakes. Though budget tents like those in this category tend to use bulkier fabrics like high-denier polyester, it can still be essential to reduce the weight you are carrying, especially on longer trips. In any case, the reality is that you can spend as much (or more!) time with a tent on your back as you do inside of it, so this is an important consideration for us.


Just dipping below four pounds, the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 and the Big Agnes C Bar 2 are comparable to some of the tents in our backpacking tent review. They are suitable for longer adventures, especially if the weight is split between two people. Though they both sacrifice interior space, these are some of the lightest budget tents around.

budget backpacking tent - we like that the vestibule runs low to the ground for weather...
We like that the vestibule runs low to the ground for weather protection but a stiff breeze makes it flap quite a bit. The Flashlight 2 is one of the lightest tents in our budget category.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Most models are in the four to five and a half pound range. These include the NEMO Aurora 2, REI Passage 2, Bisinna 2, MSR Elixir 2, Eureka Suma 2, Kelty Late Start 2, and Mountainsmith Morrison 2. On the heftier end of the spectrum are those like the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2, Slumberjack Nightfall 2, The North Face Eco Trail 2, and The North Face Stormbreak 2, which pushes past six pounds.

budget backpacking tent - the c bar 2 is close quarters on the inside, especially around...
The C Bar 2 is close quarters on the inside, especially around shoulder height, right around where the mesh begins. However, it's also one of the lightest options in our budget category.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Like the REI Co-Op Passage 1 and The North Face Stormbreak 1, our one-person contenders, are both sub-four pound models. If traveling lighter on a budget is a top priority, and going solo is your preferred method, you may also want to consider downsizing.

Weather Resistance


Included in weather resistance are performance in precipitation and wind. For all of the creature comforts that a tent can offer, they aren't worth much if you end up soaking wet or wake up tangled in a collapsed canopy. Another, maybe less obvious consideration, is a tent's ventilation. When you sleep in a waterproof tent, that also means that the moisture in the air and the moisture in your breath can't escape as easily and often condense on the underside of your rain fly. Though there are ways to mitigate this by paying attention to campsite selection , tent and fly design can also play an important role.



budget backpacking tent - almost all tents come with some sort of ventilation system built...
Almost all tents come with some sort of ventilation system built into the fly but their effectiveness depends on the number, size, and placement of the vents.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The MSR Elixir 2 provides some of the best weather resistance in this budget category. Its eight stake points anchor it firmly to the ground, and the pre-attached guy cord adds even more stability. The REI Passage 2 and the Slumberjack Nightfall 2 offer equally solid weather resistance. Both have flies that tension nicely and provide ample space between the fly and tent body to avoid moisture from transferring from one to the other. In the middle, models like the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King, Big Agnes C Bar 2 and The North Face Stormbreak 2 do an admirable job. Still, we experienced just a little more moisture on the inside of our tents, either because it got in from the outside, or we couldn't vent it as effectively.

budget backpacking tent - the nightfall 2 really lets you set up shop and hunker down.
The Nightfall 2 really lets you set up shop and hunker down.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The tents in the bottom half of the metric suffer from issues with fly tension, as is the case with the NEMO Aurora 2 and Mountainsmith Morrison 2. A couple of models, like the Eureka Suma 2 and Kelty Late Start, have a unique issue: once we are satisfied with the fly tension, the two primary poles are squished together in an odd way that makes the tent canopy sag.

budget backpacking tent - the fly can be rolled up and secured partway, providing protection...
The fly can be rolled up and secured partway, providing protection in light rain while still allowing for air flow. There are many other configurations as well.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ease of Set Up


We like tents that are easy to set up. Here we mean ease in terms of the amount of time it takes and how intuitive it is to pitch a tent. From grommets to clips, snaps, hooks, and velcro, we look at all of the ways that a tent comes together. Predictably, tents with fewer poles and an asymmetrical setup (where the pole and fly orientations don't matter) tend to go up faster.


The variation between models is slight, but it could mean the difference between a no-hassle set up at the end of a long day and not quite beating out the late afternoon storm clouds.

budget backpacking tent - many tents have color-coded poles and clips to make set up easy...
Many tents have color-coded poles and clips to make set up easy. This tent goes the extra step by literally spelling out what goes where.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Though most freestanding tents follow the same basic sequence, some offer slight advantages. We found that the REI Passage 2 and The North Face Stormbreak 2 are the easiest to pitch. The former has a basic X-pole design, while the latter includes two additional cross poles that expand its headroom. Close behind are the Big Agnes C Bar 2 and Eureka Suma 2. They are each also reasonably straightforward but take just a little more time to pitch because of slightly atypical pole configurations.

Tents in the bottom half of this metric were trickier because the fly geometry is difficult to tension correctly, or they have a unique setup (as is the case with the Slumberjack Nightfall 2), or both (as with the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2). A couple of models, like The North Face Eco Trail 2, look simple for one person to pitch but prove to be slightly more challenging. In the case of the Eco Trail, it is because of its unwieldy pole structure.

budget backpacking tent - the most straightforward pole configuration is a basic &#039;x&#039; design...
The most straightforward pole configuration is a basic 'X' design with two crossing poles. It is less stable than other more complex structures but it is very easy to pitch.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Durability


We test each tent thoroughly and use our experience and knowledge of materials and design to assess how we think models will hold up over time. Budget tents are not the same as cheaply made tents, so we want to be sure to differentiate between models that are worth the investment and those that have parts that are more likely to fail on trail. We look at floors, canopies, poles, clips, zips, stakes, hubs, toggles, and more.


Taking top honors for durability is the MSR Elixir 2. It comes with a durable floor, included footprint, sturdy pole structure, trapezoidal vestibules, and (at least) eight stake points. Following behind are the REI Passage 2 and The North Face Stormbreak 2. They both remained sturdy allies in inclement weather, which reduces overall wear and tear (as opposed to a model that is constantly being whipped by the wind). The clips, grommets, seals, and materials all seem solid as well.

budget backpacking tent - the clips and other hardware on this tent are not premium parts but...
The clips and other hardware on this tent are not premium parts but they are still solid. Pictured here is the Passage 2.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The middle group in the metric also performs admirably, but we have a couple of minor concerns. For example, when we took down the Slumberjack Nightfall 2, the 'foot' of the pole would pull out from the rest of the pole body. This happened multiple times on different pole segments. Toward the bottom are tents that we have broader concerns about; for example, when taking down the Eureka Suma 2, without applying a lot of force, we inadvertently tore the stitching that secures the vent kickstand to the fly. It not only rendered the kickstand useless, but it also meant rain could find its way in from the top of the tent.

These hexagonal stakes are much sturdier than the traditional ones...
These hexagonal stakes are much sturdier than the traditional ones that come with most budget tents.

In the one-person head-to-head, the simpler two-pole design of the REI Passage 1 proved to be a liability. It has less rigidity than the lower-profile The North Face Stormbreak 1, and its greater peak height makes it more likely to get broadsided and damaged in the wind (but it is always worth considering for your particular situation the tradeoff between slightly decreased weather resistance and increased comfort).

budget backpacking tent - most budget contenders are volume hogs.
Most budget contenders are volume hogs.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Packed Size


Packed size is all about portability and, unsurprisingly, often correlates strongly with weight. Each manufacturer provides "packed size" dimensions. These play into our assessment of each tent, but in the end, these dimensions have more to do with the size of the stuff sack that the tent comes in. We are also interested in how the tent stuffs down into a pack in the real world.


Lighter contenders, like the Big Agnes C Bar 2, Eureka Suma 2, and Kelty Late Start 2 tend to take up less space as well. Though they are made from the same type of fabric (generally 68D polyester) as many of the other tents in the category, their dimensions are smaller, meaning less fabric subsequently takes up less space.

budget backpacking tent - manufacturers try to minimize packed size by reducing the amount of...
Manufacturers try to minimize packed size by reducing the amount of heavy material that goes into a tent. Some models like this one are still super spacious but have a low-profile polyester floor and more (lighter, compressible) mesh.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Though the relationship is not perfectly linear, middleweight contenders like the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 and Slumberjack Nightfall 2 take up about as much space as you would expect, and heavier models like the The North Face Stormbreak 2 and The North Face Eco Trail 2 are volume hogs.

budget backpacking tent - there is a budget tent for everyone, it just depends on what...
There is a budget tent for everyone, it just depends on what features you are looking for.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Conclusion


There are excellent inexpensive options out there, and we hope this review offers you the information you need to make a more informed decision when buying a budget backpacking tent. You don't have to compromise performance on the most important things to you, and it is possible to find the best tent that won't break the bank. There are additional features and increased fabric durability with many of these models, and though they are often heavier than their more expensive counterparts, there are a handful of benefits as well. By and large, the added weight comes with extra room, which can be sorely needed after a long day of hiking. Happy trails!

budget backpacking tent - the stormbreak 2 is one of our favorites for roomy camping.
The Stormbreak 2 is one of our favorites for roomy camping.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ben Applebaum-Bauch


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