How we Test
Having years of experience in the outdoors backpacking and wild camping, our adventures have taken us into the backcountry all over the world. In that time, we’ve been able to really drill down and quantify what makes a good backpacking tent. When reviewing, we always take realistic scenarios and realities into mind and rely on intuition and how things feel rather than just numbers alone. Our reviews are written for hikers, by hikers and we always try to make our recommendations as simplistic, fuss free and free of unnecessary jargon as possible to help you make an easy decision about the best product for you.
Editor’s note: This article is part of our guide to the very best small 2 person backpacking tents in 2023, be sure to check out the rest of this guide for our top buying tips:
Everybody’s wants and needs are unique when it comes to making your outdoors gear, and particularly a backpacking tent, work for you. However, we’ve tried to make this as easy as possible through our reviews of the 25 best small 2 person tents out there in order to help you make a decision that will be right for you. There are a number of factors we have taken into consideration with our reviews when evaluating each product. Here are the main areas we’ve looked at:
Ease of Setup
A really important metric for us when creating our reviews was around just how easy a tent is to set up, and more so, is it actually intuitive? When you get to the end of the day and you’re tired from a day’s hiking, or if you’re at altitude for example, you just want to set up, get pitched up and relax – not be spending hours trying to remember how to set up your tent. Of course, once you’ve developed muscle memory around something, it’s going to be easier to do, but there is a fairly strong chance that if you’re using a backpacking tent, you might not be using it all that often. Maybe only for a season or two each year. When looking at how easy or not a tent was to set up, we evaluated any special features that particular tent might have to make things easier, or more complicated. Sometimes special designs don’t always make things the easiest to remember! We looked at things like pole design, color coding, special clips, space needed to set up, tension and strength needed to set up as the deciding factors in our ratings.
Whether you’re going to be spending days on the trail where you’ll be using your tent or one night at a time, this shouldn’t make any difference to the comfort you’re looking for. We understand that comfort is an individual thing, but we’ve weighed up from our long-standing hiking and backpacking experience just what makes something feel more comfortable than not. The various things we took into consideration when it comes to comfort are:
- How roomy and homely the tent feels – this is of course personal and your level of comfort here will be based on your personal preferences, but we took into consideration how this would feel after days and singular nights, too.
- The materials used – does the tent feel protected? Are the materials going to mean the tent makes a lot of noise in the night? Is the tent ventilated well to prevent waking up dripping in sweat etc?
- How the weight effects the comfort of carrying – the weight of the tent and carrying it around all day are just as important as anything. If you think about it, there’s a good chance you’ll be carrying around the tent for more hours than you’ll have it set up!
The weather resistance offered by the tents we’ve reviewed does differ, as does the locations you’re likely to use the tent. We’ve backpacked and wild camped in many different places around the world, and from this we’ve been able to garner experience in understanding the different needs you might have whether you plan to backpack in the desert of Arizona all the way through to the Scottish Highlands. When reviewing weather resistance, we’ve looked deeply into coating claims made by the manufacturers, the denier of the fabrics used, the overall build quality and the likelihood of any weak points that may occur in the design over time. Based on this, we’ve made our best recommendations and suitability for different weather types to help you choose the tent that is going to best suit the majority of circumstances you’ll be using it in.
The weight of any equipment you carry with you if you’re backpacking, or wild camping is really important. Of course, if you’re an ultra-lightweight backpacker, the lightest possible scenario will likely be your main concern when it comes to buying equipment. However, when looking at weight and making our recommendations, we’ve also tried to take into consideration how the weight will impact the weather durability to make the best all rounders for different situations. When looking at weight, we made our recommendations based on calculations for trail weight, packed weight and how the different elements of the tent could be divided between backpacks for best ease of use and general overall experience.
How well will the package or stuff sack that your tent comes in fit into your bag? Many of the tents we’ve reviewed come in a stuff sack that are all roughly the same size give or take, but there are of course variances in terms of length and width. We’ve tried to take into consideration how well these tents would fit into a variety of backpacks in a size range that the majority of backpackers and overnight hikers would carry. We’ve also taken into consideration how the size of the package and the way it fits into your pack would affect the weight distribution and how this actually feels to carry on the trail all day long. Your comfort on the trail with your tent is as important as when you get the tent pitched!
Durability and weather resistance coincide with each other when we were evaluating the strength of the tents we’ve reviewed, but we also took into consideration the kind of locations you would be using your tent. One thing we found was that many of the more expensive tents in our reviews were often incredibility thin (low denier rating) to help make them as lightweight as possible. Naturally, this could be a cause for concern, and you may fear rips. However, through evaluating and testing further, we found that these fabrics held up incredibly well. When looking at durability, we were also looking at the level of coating that fabrics had (as some cheaper coatings can flake and become less waterproof over time for example). How well stitched and made the various backpacking tents were and if there were any weak points that were likely to cause problems over time. We also evaluated just how durable some of the fabrics would be in heavy storms (for example the tent floor protection against rough rocks and surfaces) and if any weak points would arise here or create potential problems – the last thing you need is a rip if you’ve got days on the trail!
Of course, price was a huge factor for us within our reviews – let’s face it, backpacking tents can and often are incredibly expensive and for most people this is a serious investment in your outdoor gear. However, that investment can and should generally last you a long time if you take care of it. When looking at price, we tried to take into consideration whether the tent in question actually felt worth the price and within this, we were taking into consideration all of the factors outlined above. We also took the ability to repair, replace and generally keep the tent looking as good as it can for as long as it can into consideration when deciding which tents give the best value for money. We also tried to make considerations for a range of different price points in our recommendations – kit costs can be a serious barrier in preventing you from getting outside. You might not have or want to make a big investment at this time on a tent!
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