Best Tents of 2021: Buying Guide & Reviews

Last Updated: April 2021

A tent is one of the most important pieces of gear you can have when you spend time outside. However, a quality tent is a significant investment, so it’s crucial that you get one that’s perfect for your needs.

We know how difficult it is to find the right shelter for your future adventures since there are so many great options out there today.

To get you started, we’ve reviewed the top performers in each tent category right here for you to check out.

We have also crafted a detailed buying guide covering the different types of tents and what to look for.  Jump to Buying Guide.


Quick Recommendations

TL;DR - Here are the best tents on the market.


Best Backpacking Tent - MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2

Specs:

  • MSRP: $449.95
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Floor Area: 29 sq. ft (2.69 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 3lb 14oz (1.76kg)
  • Doors: 2
  • Peak Height: 39 in (100cm)
  • Other Sizes: 1P,  3P, 4P

What We Like:

  • Very packable
  • Can be stripped down for an even lighter shelter option
  • Two large doors with vestibules for gear storage and easy entry/exit

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive for a 2 person tent
  • Can feel a bit tight with two people and a lot of gear

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is an award-winning two-person backpacking tent that’s perfect for any extended overnight adventure. It has a maximum pack weight of 3lb 14oz (1.76kg) but can be trimmed down to just 3lbs (1.36kg) for light and fast trips into the mountains.

The tent uses burly Easton Syclone Poles, made from aerospace composite materials. This provides them with the robustness they need to withstand heavy winds while remaining light enough for easy transport.

For added weather-resistance, the Hubba Hubba uses an Xtreme Shield Waterproof Coating. This helps prevent water from seeping through the fabric during heavy rainstorms. Both of the tent’s large StayDry doors also have built-in rain gutters and sizable vestibules for maximum protection.

Where this tent really shines, though, is in its packability. The tent can be rolled up into its very small 18x6 inch (46x15 cm) stuff sack for easy transport. You can even set up the Hubba Hubba with just the fly, poles, and a ground tarp to cut weight.

Finally, when it comes to durability, the Hubba Hubba is top-notch. It’s made using a 30D ripstop nylon floor with a 3000mm Xtreme Shield polyurethane coating. This means it’s strong enough to hold up after years of use in the outdoors.

Best Backpacking Tent Runner-up: Marmot Limelight 2

The Marmot Limelight 2 offers a lot of the same great features of the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 at nearly half the price. It also has a bit more living space and a slightly higher center height for added comfort. However, the Limelight is heavier than the Hubba Hubba because it uses thicker materials for the floor and the fly.

For budget conscious backpackers, check out our review of the Naturehike Cloud-Up Tent.


Best Ultralight Tent - Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight 2

Specs:

  • MSRP: $499.95
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Floor Area: 27.3 sq. ft (2.5 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 2lb 1oz (935g)
  • Doors: 2
  • Peak Height: 37 in (94cm)
  • Other Sizes: 1P

What We Like:

  • Very lightweight with options to strip down the tent further
  • Two doors and vestibules
  • Easy to set up with hub pole design

What We Don’t Like:

  • Very expensive
  • Fabric is very thin, so care is needed not to damage the tent

When it comes to ultralight backpacking, the Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight 2 is hard to beat. Unlike many lightweight tents, the Hornet Elite doesn’t skimp on functionality. It has all the features you need for a comfortable outdoor living experience.

The tent has a maximum packed weight of 2lb 1oz (935g) but can be pared down even further to just 1lb 11oz (779g) for ultra-minimalists. It achieves these magnificent weight savings using an ultra-fine 7D ripstop nylon fabric. The fabric is even treated with a silicone water repellent for added weather-resistance.

This tent uses DAC Featherlite poles that combine weight savings with durability. It also has a unique Flybar volumizing pole clips and volumizing guy outs that add plenty of interior space for maximum comfort.

For protection from the bugs, the Hornet Elite has black no-see-um mesh that is clear enough for great stargazing at night. It also has two doors and two vestibules, which allow for easy access and gear storage.

One of the best features of this tent is Nemo’s Divvy stuff sack. This sack makes it super easy to split the tent up between two hiking patterns for simplified weight savings on the trail.

Best Ultralight Tent Runner-up: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 is a slightly more affordable and marginally heavier alternative to the Nemo Hornet Elite. However, where the Copper Spur really shines is in the world of livability. It has more interior space than the Hornet Elite and two vestibules that can be converted into awnings. 


Best Car Camping Tent - Nemo Wagontop 4

Specs:

  • MSRP: $499.95
  • Sleeping Capacity: 4
  • Floor Area: 69.4 sq ft (6.5 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 20lbs 1oz (9.1kg)
  • Doors: 1
  • Peak Height: 80 in (203cm)
  • Other Sizes: 6P, 8P

What We Like:

  • Very spacious interior with a high ceiling height
  • Huge vestibule for plenty of gear storage options
  • Lots of ventilation and great views through panoramic windows

What We Don’t Like:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

The Nemo Wagontop 4 is a modern tent for families and groups that like to car camping in style. It integrates a whole host of different luxury features for a more comfortable outdoor experience.

The Wagontop uses a unique pole design that provides enough headroom for most adults to stand upright. Plus, the poles on this tent have a self-contained hub design that makes them easier to set up but strong enough to stay upright in a storm. 

This tent has a huge vestibule, which offers plenty of space for gear storage. You can even combine it with an optional “garage” that’s actually large enough to park a car inside if you want more storage space.

The floor of the Wagontop is made with a 300 denier fabric, which is durable enough for frequent use. It also has big panoramic screen windows that open and close easily for better ventilation.

If you’re interested in traveling with a larger group, the Wagontop also comes in 6 and 8 person sizes. It also has plenty of little features, such as internal pockets and hooks to help you stay organized on the go.

Best Car Camping Tent Runner-up: The North Face Wawona 6

The North Face Wawona 6 is a slightly more affordable alternative to the Nemo Wagontop 4. It offers more sleeping space and an equally large vestibule. The Wawona 6 is somewhat heavier and bulkier but is equally as effective in foul weather.


Best Rooftop Tent - Tepui Explorer Autana 3

Specs:

  • MSRP: $2,149.95
  • Sleeping Capacity: 3
  • Floor Area: 93.3 sq. ft (8.6 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 152 lbs (68.9 kg)
  • Doors: 2
  • Peak Height: 52 in (132 cm)
  • Other Sizes: 4P

What We Like:

  • Lots of internal living space and a comfortable mattress
  • Huge annex doubles the interior floor plan
  • Four season capabilities with adequate airflow for the summer

What We Don’t Like:

  • Too heavy for smaller vehicles
  • Very expensive

The Tepui Explorer Autana 3 is an industry-leading rooftop tent for large SUVs and trucks. It is made from a super-durable 600 denier and 260g poly-cotton fabric that can protect you from intense conditions all-year-round. The fabric on this tent is also both mold and UV resistant for long-term durability.

Although it’s made with thick fabrics, the Explorer Autana is highly breathable, thanks to its large mesh panels. It features plenty of no-see-um mesh to allow for adequate airflow without letting the bugs in at night.

This tent has a fully insulated, welded aluminum tube base on top of an aluminum cap sheet. It also has an 8 foot 6 inch (2.6m) telescoping ladder that makes it easy to get in and out of the tent at night.

One of the best parts of the Explorer Autana, though, is its annex. When you set up the annex on this tent, you more than double your living area. This provides you with plenty of space to hang out and relax or to store your gear.

If that wasn’t enough, the tent also comes with a high-density 2.5-inch foam mattress with a cotton cover. It has enough room for three people to sleep comfortably. Additionally, it even has large internal pockets to help you stay organized when you’re living life on the road.

Best Rooftop Tent Runner-up: Yakima SkyRise

The Yakima SkyRise is a more affordable rooftop tent option that’s light enough to be mounted onto a smaller SUV or crossover vehicle. It is quick and easy to set up and has a telescoping ladder. 


Specs:

  • MSRP: $250
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1
  • Floor Area: 10.8 sq. ft (1 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 1lb 4oz (564g)
  • Doors: N/A
  • Peak Height: N/A

What We Like:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Hoop provides added comfort for sleeping
  • Four season use

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive

The Outdoor Research Alpine Bivvy is a reliable all-around single person sleeping option for more remote backcountry pursuits. It features a hooped design, which provides added comfort and headroom while sleeping.

The Alpine Bivvy is made from Gore-Tex Respiration Positive 3L fabric on top for maximum breathability and weather-resistance. It also has a 40D ripstop nylon floor with TPU lamination to help you stay warm and dry on snow and cold ground.

On pleasant nights, you can open up the Alpine Bivvy’s traditional clamshell zipper for added ventilation. It even has a built-in bug net around the opening to keep the creepie crawlies out during the summer months. Or, you can zip it up to completely isolate yourself from the harsh conditions outside.

Best Bivvy Tent Runner-up: Outdoor Research Helium Bivvy

The Outdoor Research Helium Bivvy is a lighter and more affordable alternative to the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivvy. However, it’s designed mostly for three-season use, so it is best for super light backpacking trips or summertime climbing adventures.


Best Four-Season Tent - Black Diamond Eldorado

Specs:

  • MSRP: $599.95
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2
  • Floor Area: 30.8 sq ft (2.9 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 5lb 1 oz (2.04 kg)
  • Doors: 1
  • Peak Height: 51in (130cm)

What We Like:

  • Completely waterproof
  • Durable enough for big winter storms
  • One of the lightest options for a fully-featured 4-season alpine tent

What We Don’t Like:

  • Very expensive
  • Vestibule not included

The Black Diamond Eldorado is a fully-featured four-season tent specifically designed for alpine pursuits during the winter months. This tent has a classic structure for a mountaineering shelter but has slightly more room to accommodate taller climbers.

One of the advantages of the Eldorado is that it can be set up from the inside using two poles. This is particularly helpful if you arrive in camp in the middle of a storm but don’t want to soak the floor of your shelter.

It uses cutting-edge ToddTex single-wall fabric to cut weight and increase its packability without losing durability. Thanks to its dome design, the Eldorado is particularly well suited for very windy conditions. 

The tent also has three vents for added breathability during periods of nice weather. You can even get an optional vestibule for the Eldorado to maximize your gear storage on longer trips.

Best Four-Season Tent Runner-up: MSR Access 2

The MSR Access 2 is an excellent four-season tent option for people who tend to stick to the treeline region in the winter months. It’s lighter and more affordable than the Black Diamond Eldorado. But, it is best used for winter backpacking trips below the alpine zone, rather than high-mountain adventures.


Best Crossover Camping & Backpacking

Tent - Marmot Limestone 4

Specs:

  • MSRP: $370
  • Sleeping Capacity: 4
  • Floor Area: 60 sq. ft (5.6 sq. m)
  • Pack Weight: 11lbs 11oz (5.3 kg)
  • Doors: 2
  • Peak Height: 61 in (154 cm)
  • Other Sizes: 6P, 8P

What We Like:

  • Affordable 
  • Durable materials
  • Two large doors and vestibules

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not great in very windy conditions
  • A bit heavy for backpacking

The Marmot Limestone 4 is an excellent choice for families and small groups that want just one tent for both backpacking and car camping. This tent has a spacious interior and a simple design that’s easy to set up in just minutes. The Limestone is made with Marmot’s “Zone Pre-Bend” poles, which provide ample interior space for sleeping. To make the pitching process even easier, the tent even has color-coded clips and poles.

It has a large front double door with a vestibule for gear storage. Additionally, the Limestone has a second rear door, so you don’t have to crawl over your tent mates to go outside in the middle of the night.

Other notable features in the tent include multiple interior pockets. These help you stay organized, even on longer camping trips. Plus, the Limestone has a unique “lampshade” pocket that allows you to convert your headlamp into an illuminating lantern in seconds.

Best Crossover Tent Runner-up: Big Agnes Big House 4

The Big Agnes Big House 4 is equally as affordable as the Marmot Limestone 4 but is slightly lighter and is tall enough to stand upright in. However, it does not have any vestibules and is not as waterproof. So, it’s best for summertime camping in good weather. 


Tent Comparison Table

Tent Name

Type

MSRP

Backpacking

$449.95

Backpacking

$248.90

Ultralight

$499.95

Ultralight

$449.95

Car Camping

$499.95

Car Camping

$398.95

Rooftop

$2,149.95

Rooftop

$1,099

Bivvy

$250

Bivvy

$219

Four-Season

$599.95

Four-Season

$599.95

Crossover 

$370

Crossover

$349.95

tent

The Ultimate Tent Buying Guide

In this section we will break down the following:

  1. What to Consider When Selecting a Tent
  2. The Different Types of Tents
  3. Price Vs. Value
  4. What to Look For When Buying a Tent
  5. Key Tent Features
  6. Tent Components
  7. Best Places to Buy a Tent

What to Consider When Selecting a Tent

Choosing the right tent is no easy task. With so many different options to choose from, you must know precisely what you’re looking for before you get started.

Here are some of the main factors to consider as you shop:

  • Purpose - are you backpacking or car camping?
  • Duration of Trip - how long are you going for?
  • Capacity - how many people does it need to sleep?
  • Season - what will be the climate?

Now, let's dive deeper one by one.

Purpose

While all camping involves sleeping outdoors, there are many different kinds of camping trips - each requiring a different type of tent. 

For example, someone heading out on a three-week backpacking trip will need a different tent than someone going car camping for the weekend at their local campground.

Thus, your intended purpose will have a substantial impact on the tent you choose.

When considering your needs, think about the remoteness of your adventures. Do you stay close to the road? Or do you opt for trips deep into the backcountry?

These questions will help guide you in your decision-making process.

Duration of Trip

As you can imagine, there are some substantial differences in the kind of gear you need for trips of different lengths.

Simply put, a shorter, one or two-night trip will not require the same robustness of equipment that a six-month thru-hike would.

If you’re headed out on a shorter backpacking trip, you can probably get away with a heavier, bulkier tent, since you won’t need to carry it for very long.

Alternatively, longer backpacking trips generally require that you have lighter, more compact equipment.

For car camping trips, however, the opposite is true.

If you’re planning to car camp for a few days or weeks, you’ll probably be happier in a larger, more comfortable tent. Conversely, if you’re only camping out for a night, you can get by with a smaller, less comfortable model.

Sleeping Capacity

The sleeping capacity of a tent refers to the number of people that can somewhat comfortably fit inside. The size of the tent you need, then, will depend on the number of people you plan to camp with.

That being saidjust because a tent is marketed as a “two-person” model, doesn’t mean it’s going to be overwhelmingly comfortable with two people inside.

If you’re car camping or have a lot of gear, it’s recommended that you get a tent one size bigger than you actually need. Unless weight is a major concern for you, you’ll probably be happier in a larger tent.

Camping Season

Modern tents are marketed as either “three-season” or “four-season” models.

Any tent designed for three-season use is not appropriate for the winter months. Four season tents, on the other hand, are specifically crafted for use throughout the year.

What’s the difference between a three and a four-season tent, you might ask?

Well, a four-season tent will have less mesh and more insulation to help keep you warm in the cold. Additionally, a four-season tent will be strong enough to withstand high winds and heavy snowfall.  

In our opinion, the best four-season tent on the market is the Black Diamond Eldorado

Do note that due to the extra insulation, a four-season tent is almost always heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than a three-season modelSo, if you’re not planning on doing any winter camping, you should probably stick with a three-season tent.

rooftop tent

Types of Tents

There are many types of tents available, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know:

Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents are designed, as the name suggests, for backpacking.

These tents are relatively lightweight and compact so that they will fit easily in a backpackHowever, they are less spacious and less comfortable than other models.

For all-around, won't let you down backpacking tents, check out the MSR Hubba Hubba NX or the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 - see our in-depth review.

Ultralight Tents

Ultralight tents are very similar to backpacking tents, but they use only the lightest materials availableSometimes ultralight tents will entirely forgo poles, so they integrate your trekking poles into their construction.

While these tents are light, they are generally quite tiny and are not great for all but the most weight-conscious of backpackers.

The Opt Outdoor team's expert selection for an Ultralight Tent for Thru-Hikers is the Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight.

Car Camping Tent

Car camping tents are best for campers that spend a lot of time in a campground. They are quite large and spacious. Car camping tents will often include high ceilings for added livability and comfort.

There are various sub-types of car camping tents, including:

  • Multi-room tents -  A car camping tent designed to replicate a small house. They will have two or more rooms to help everyone get the privacy they want while camping. Yet, they are quite bulky and are not appropriate for backpacking.
  • Truck Tents - A unique kind of camping tent that allows you to sleep on the bed or roof of your car or truck. They can be installed relatively easily and provide instant shelter wherever you can find a place to park your vehicle at night.
  • Canvas Tents -  A highly robust and comfortable shelter for car camping adventuresThey are made from durable cotton canvas, which provides breathability, warmth, and water-resistance. Canvas tents are usually quite large, so they’re not ideal for remote trips.

For car camping options, you can't go past the Nemo Wagontop 4.

Instant Tent

Instant tents, or “pop up tents,” can be used for a variety of purposes.

Their defining feature is that they can be set up in a minute or less. Usually, instant tents will come with pre-attached poles to make pitching a breeze.

Bivouac (Bivvy) Tent

Bivouac, or bivvy, tents are a niche type of outdoor shelter. They are very small and compact, providing only enough room for one person to sleep inside.

Bivvy tents are ideal for light and fast alpine climbing trips, but not much else. We like the Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivvy tent.

tent

Price vs. Value When Buying a Tent

One of the most common questions we get is if price correlates with value when it comes to tents. In general, the more you spend on a tent, the better it is, though there are exceptions to every rule.

As far as  the quality of construction and materials go, you just aren’t going to get a super lightweight and incredibly strong tent without a substantial financial investment.

Indeed, many of the world’s best tents for climbing and mountaineering cost over $1,000 each. However, you don’t need to spend your life’s savings to get a decent tent.

There are plenty of great backpacking tents in the $300-$400 range. But, you should expect to spend at least $250-$300 if you want a quality tent.


What to Look for When Buying a Tent

When buying a tent, look for the following key characteristics to ensure that you’re investing in a quality outdoor shelter:

Weather-Resistance

A tent’s primary purpose is to protect you from the wind and the rain.

Highly weather-resistant tents will have rain flies made from durable ripstop nylon with a DWR coating. Plus, they’ll have super sturdy aluminum poles that are strong enough to hold up in high winds.

Weight

If you’re backpacking, the weight of your tent is going to make a big difference.

Whenever you have to carry your tent over a long distance, it’s best to look for a lightweight model. As a rough guideline, any two-person tent over 4lbs (1.8kg) is considered heavy.

Durability

No one wants to spend money on a tent only to have it break after a few nights outside. Thus, opt for a highly durable tent with thick fabrics and burly poles whenever possible.

However, keep in mind that durable tents tend to be heavier and bulkier than more fragile options.

Packed Size

The packed size of your tent will affect how easy it is to pack every morning. If you’re car camping, this is less important, but backpackers generally prefer quite compact tents.

The size of a tent’s stuff sack is a good indicator of its packed size when you’re looking at tent specifications.

To understand how much space you have in your backpack, check out our definitive backpacking buying guide - Best Hiking Backpacks.

tents

Key Tent Features

Tents are quite complex pieces of gear, and it’s important to understand their features before you buy. Here are some of the key features of tents:

Shape

There are several different tent shapes, each of which has its pros and cons. This is what you need to know:

  • Dome Tent - The dome tent is the most common model on the market today. Dome tents provide ample stability and durability in the wind and the rain, but often sacrifice living space for compactness. They are ideal for longer backpacking trips.
  • A-Frame/Wedge Tent - The A-frame tent is the classic tent design. They have one pole on either end, which gives the tent a similar shape to a capital A. This kind of tent is quite compact and generally rather heavy, so they’ve fallen out of fashion in recent years.
  • Geodesic Tent - Geodesic tents are shaped like a half-sphere and are a very popular design for mountaineering basecampsThey have many crisscrossed poles, which provide excellent durability in the wind. Plus, they usually have a tall inner ceiling height, which is ideal for comfort inside.
  • Tunnel Tent - Tunnel tents are shaped like a long caterpillar and have poles that wrap around from one side to another. They are pretty strong in the wind and can be quite comfortable for long trips. Plus, they are often lighter than other types of tents.

Floor Length

The length of a tent floor affects how comfortable you will be at night. However, this is more of a concern for taller campers.

If you’re over 6 feet (1.8m) tall, it’s worth checking out the length of a tent before you buy, or you might end up cramped as you sleep.

Peak/Center Height

A tent’s center height tells you how much headroom you’ll have. 

Backpacking tents will usually offer only enough headroom to sit upright, while car camping tents are usually tall enough for you to stand in.

Tent Doors

A tent with multiple large doors is easier to get in and out of than a tent with small doors. However, more doors usually mean a heavier tent, so there are some drawbacks here.

Tent Vestibules

A tent vestibule is a covered space outside your tent doors. Vestibules are an ideal place to store gear at night to protect it from the elements. But, large vestibules also add weight to your tent.

Single-Wall v. Double Wall

These days, the vast majority of tents are “double-wall” models.

This means that they have an inner mesh tent and an outer rainflyThe double-wall construction allows for added versatility and breathability, especially in the summer months.

A single-wall tent, on the other hand, puts just one layer of fabric between you and the environment. These tents are lighter than double-wall tents.

However, single-wall tents are not as breathable as double-wall models and are less suitable for warm summer conditionsMost single wall tents are used in alpine mountaineering, where saving weight is critical.

Tent Components

There are three main components to a tent:

Rain Fly

The rainfly of a tent is the waterproof layer that protects you from the elements. In high-end tents, the fly will be made from ripstop nylon, which is light, yet durable.

Budget tents will usually use bulky polyester instead.

Inner Body

A tent’s inner body is the part you sleep in. Inner bodies usually have mesh walls for added breathability and a thick nylon or polyester floor for waterproofing.

Poles

Poles are used to give a tent structure and stability. High-end tents will use ultralight aluminum or carbon for their tent poles. Some tents will even have just a single pole, which makes set-up a breeze.

tent

Best Places to Buy Tents

If you’re in the market for a new tent, here are some of the best places to find one:

  • AmazonYou can buy pretty much anything from Amazon, and a tent is no exception. They have a particularly broad selection of car camping tents available, too.
  • REI is one of the United States’ leading outdoor gear stores, and you can find one in nearly every state. They usually have a good selection of backpacking and camping tents for a variety of pursuits.
  • Backcountry.com is a very popular online outdoor gear retailer that sells tents manufactured by nearly every brandBackcountry doesn’t have any brick and mortar stores, but they offer fast shipping and easy returns.
  • Local Gear Stores. Buying from your local gear store is a great way to support small businesses. Plus, small gear shops are usually run by very knowledgeable staff who are happy to answer your questions.

The Bottom Line

Buying a tent is one of the biggest investments for any outdoor enthusiast. So, it’s important that you get it right the first time. 

Thankfully, buying a tent is all about knowing what exactly you’re looking for in a shelter.

Once you know what you need, you can start to narrow down your options based on size, weight, and other key features.

A tent is a highly important piece of gear, so it’s worth spending your time on the buying process to ensure that you find the right one for your needs.

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