When I was a kid, I camped along the banks of a river that flowed through the grazing lands of my dad’s cattle ranch. I would find a sandy bank enclosed by trees and willows and set up camp. I usually packed in by horse, and had enough cover by trees and willows, that I almost didn’t need a tent. Nowadays, I find myself alongside a lake with little tree coverage in cold, night mountain wind and rain.
What do you need to be looking for when you are shopping for backpack tents? Some people think it’s all in the brand. Some people think it’s all in design, and some don’t think at all. Here are the top things you need to consider when looking for a backpacker tent.
1. Weight – This is a big one. Packing a tent into the mountains 20 or 30 miles will end up being a very difficult experience if you have to carry a heavy tent that doesn’t allow you to carry other necessities or nice-ities. Many recently manufactured well-built tents are less than 3 pounds! That makes the old quads feel a little better just thinking about it.
2. Durability – In years past, durability and weight seemed to be a zero sum decision. When one goes up, the other goes down. However, in recent years, backpack tents have become more durable and lighter. No more large canvas for durable tents and no more nylon for tents that are as durable as women’s hosiery.
3. Size – I’m sure you are thinking that we already discussed this in weight, but just as we talked about before, larger doesn’t necessarily mean heavier. When backpacking in a group, it is good to pack a larger 3 to 4 person tent instead of everybody taking separate smaller tents. This allows for more packing room, lighter packing and a more efficient experience. If, however, you are the solo packer type, 1-person is usually enough.
4. Pack ability – I had a tent once that felt like carrying a box more than a tent. It stuck so far out the back and out the side of my pack that I felt I should just bring the wood shed along with it. Nowadays, you don’t really have to worry about that because most backpack tents are built to be packed, but once in a while, there are those tents that make you feel like you are lugging around a cardboard box full of marbles. Get a packable tent.
5. Ease of Setup – There is nothing more frustrating when you are wet, cold, tired, and have to deal with some complicated shelter that makes you wish you had just hauled in a bunch of 2x4s and a hammer to build your shelter. Find a shelter that allows you to set up and break camp quickly. Time is the name of the game in backpacking.
6. Design – Lastly, it makes a difference when you get to stretch those …