Backpacking Tents Conclusion: Cost, Brand, and Making the Decision

First, if you are seriously looking for a good backpacking tent, and you skipped to the end, please go back and read the previous sections :-) I'm not repeating the information here, so you'll be missing out.

A backpacking tent is one of those big, important purchases. Don't scrimp on quality. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 plus for the top-notch models and brands. You'll want the best you can afford. I've experienced many storms -- wind, rain, snow -- while settled securely inside my tent, and never once regretted investing in a good one. That being said, once you've picked out the style and brand you want, you can always look for discounts and sales. Discount backpacking tents can be obtained at screaming deals from REI Outlet or Outlet, or Sierra Trading Post, among others.

What are the "good" brands? There are a lot of 'em. In no particular order: North Face, Mountain Hardware, Marmot, Kelty, Moss, Walrus, Sierra Designs, Big Agnes, Bibler, Black Diamond, MSR, REI. As I mentioned above, if it's carried in serious outdoor stores like or REI, you'll be safe.

In-store or online? Sure, it's ideal to actually get inside the tent you are considering at a local store, but to a large degree you can also rely on user comments online. Read a fair number of them and it's suprising how accurately you can assess a tent. Better yet, you'll often get all kinds of tips and information that the salesperson won't say or won't know. So don't be afraid of buying online. There's often very good help available; for instance, has an excellent Live Help/Chat if you need immediate expert assistance. Even with shipping, the total cost is very competitive if not better than going into a local store (to use as an example again, they have "free shipping on all tents over $50", which essentially means all of them). Most online stores have easy returns as well -- so you can still have a firsthand look before fully committing.

Still confused or undecided? In my opinion, for 2 person backpacking tents, the most all-purpose, space-and-weight-efficient design consists of two cross-over poles, in a simple "X" shape. Add double doors, each with its own vestibule, and you have a can't-lose tent. Add a 3rd pole, eliminate the mesh, and you've created a 4-season tent. The REI Half Dome is an example. It's a bestseller (low price quality). The Mountain Hardwear Skyledge, and the Bibler Ahwahnee (single-wall, 4-season) are a couple of other good examples. Big Agnes also has some excellent lightweight mesh tents roughly based on the "X". This isn't the end-all-be-all advice though. There are plenty of other great designs. Just keep looking around, especially at online backpacking tent reviews and you'll find your perfect backpacking tent.

Part 1: Backpacking Tents Intro | Part 2: Intended Use | Part 3: Important Features | Part 4: Capacity and Weight | Part 5: Conclusion
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