It seems like backpacking tents are getting more and more expensive, especially ultralight tents made with specialty fabrics. But take heart. There are still plenty of good values and bargain tents available if you know what to look for. Here are our picks for the top 10 best budget backpacking tents available under $250.
1. Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 ($190)
2. Big Agnes C-Bar 2 ($199)
3. Kelty Salida 2 ($150)
4. Big Agnes Frying Pan SL 2 ($250)
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5. REI Passage 2 ($159)
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6. MSR Elixir 2 ($250)
7. Kelty TN2 ($250)
8. The North Face Talus 2 ($199)
9. Marmot Catalyst 2P ($169)
10. Eureka Spitfire 2 ($180)
Tent Selection Criteria
Here are the most important variables to consider when buying a budget backpacking or camping tent.
WEIGHT/TRAIL WEIGHT – Budget tents are almost always heavier than ultralight tents because they’re made with heavier, more durable fabrics. The total weight of a tent usually measures the tent and all of its packaging, while the trail weight is the weight of its poles, inner tent, outer rain fly, minus any tent stakes. Lightweight budget tents are usually in the neighborhood of 4 to 4.5 pounds, which isn’t too bad when split between two people.
TENT POLES – Tent poles are made using fiberglass, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the most durable of the three, while carbon fiber is normally only used in very high-end tents where the focus is on light weight. Fiberglass poles are the least durable tent poles and break frequently. So much so, that we recommend avoiding any tent with fiberglass poles. All the ones above have aluminum poles.
DURABILITY – The floor of a tent is the part of a tent most likely to be punctured or torn as a result of ground abrasion. While using a footprint on floors that are 20 denier thick or less is always recommended, it’s far less necessary on 30 denier or higher floors, except on highly abrasive or rough terrain.
DOORS – Tents with two side doors are often preferable when purchasing a tent for two because it means each occupant can each get in and out without disturbing one another.
INTERIOR STORAGE – Interior pockets and storage organization is a plus in a multi-person tent. Look for internal pockets and gear loops to hang gear from the ceiling. A gear loft is an added bonus. Vestibule space is always a plus as well, but especially if there are multiple doors, so that gear storage does not block entry and exit.
VENTILATION – All tents experience tent condensation, but good tentsite selection and ventilation are the best ways to avoid it. Look for tents that have lots of mesh netting to facilitate airflow, top vents to release moist air, and door tie-backs to roll up tent doors and keep them open at night.
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