There’s no doubt that it’s always wise to carry a backpacking tent on your expeditions, just in
case you want to stop between two places.
The fun of pitching a tent for camping is on another level, particularly if you love stargazing or just being in the presence of nature!
Often adventurers are looking for the best cheap backpacking tent that won’t have too much impact on their wallet. That’s because most people don’t know how often they’ll use a tent. Of course, avid backpackers generally go for high-end backpacking tents.
But this post is specifically dedicated to reviewing the top 5 best cheap backpacking tents of 2020.
Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent - Best Overall
The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent - Runner Up
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2- Person Tent - Budget Choice
1. Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent: Best Overall
The Mountainsmith brand has been making quality adventuring gear for 40 years.
Mountainsmith Morrison 2 is the best cheap backpacking tent on the list, as it is quick to set up and offers exceptional protection from the elements.
Large Interior Space
It doesn’t have a top bar, so interior livability is slightly compromised. However, the tent in itself is quite large with 56” width, 43” height and 35 ft² of large interior space, so it doesn’t really feel cramped. It is perfect for 2 adults.
There are tiny mesh storage pockets on the inside of the tent where you can handily store small items. There’s also a removable loft pocket provided.
Lightweight and Portable
The 3-season design is what makes Morrison 2 great value for money. It's a classic rectangular- shaped, 2-door tent which comes with crossing poles. It's a solid buy, given its polyester main body, large 17 sq. ft. vestibules, YKK zippers and mesh wall panels. The clip-pole attachment makes it easy to pitch and it is incredibly lightweight.
When packed (with footprint), the tent weighs just 5 lbs. 8 oz.
For better visibility during the night, the Morrison 2 boasts reflective guy lines which can be adjusted via a tension lock system.
Bathtub Floor Layout
The tent fly ventilation windows ensure that air flow is maintained during hot nights. In addition, it features an innovative bathtub floor construction to prevent water from running in during rainstorms.
Overall, this freestanding tent is comfortable and incredibly easy to assemble. Simply refer to the printed setup instructions which are provided on the nylon storage sack.
Things we like
Things we don’t like
Anyone who is primarily looking for a lightweight and simple tent for backpacking, here’s your best cheap backpacking tent! The Morrison 2 is spacious enough for two people, has two convenient vestibules and is simply a breeze to assemble!
The tent fly windows are not that great though, despite claims to the contrary.
2. The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent - Runner-Up
- QUICK PITCH. Our easy-to-pitch, two-person camping tent is refreshed for spring with a new vestibule design that makes camping in adverse weather more enjoyable. Larger doors allow for easier access, and provide an even better view of the great outdoors.
- COMFORTABLE DESIGN. Easy to get in and out, this tent features two doors and two twin-zip, multi-configuration vestibules. Keep comfortable with high-low ventilation for optimal airflow while you're relaxing and sleeping.
- EASY ACCESS. Doors stuff into the adjacent mesh pockets so you don't have to roll them up and they stay out of the way while your tent is set up.
- QUALITY CONSTRUCTION. A Fully seam-taped canopy and floor help enhance durability and waterproofing. Canopy: 75D Polyester. TaffetaMesh: 40D Polyester Mesh. Fly: 75D polyester. Floor: 68D polyester.
- TECHNICAL SPECS. Stuffsack Size: 7" X 22" (17.8 cm X 55.9 cm). Total Weight: 5 lbs 14.2 oz. Trail Weight: 5 lbs 5oz. Fastpack Weight: 3 lbs 14.1 oz. Floor Area: 30.56 square ft. Peak Height: 43". Footprint sold separately.
North Face has been around in the mountaineering gear industry for over 50 years, so you can expect nothing but the best from this brand.
Large 2-Vestibule Design
Stormbreak 2 is another best entry-level tent which is easy to pitch and intended for two people. The new inventive design features two full doors and two multi-configuration vestibules which you can use to store your gear conveniently.
Both doors are fairly large (about 9.78 ft²) and allow you easy access to or exit from the tent. The impressive thing is that you can simply stuff these doors into the nearby mesh pockets without the need to roll them up.
Stormbreak 2 comes with a full seam-taped floor and canopy. This design makes it ideal for use even during harsh weather conditions.
High-low ventilation further allows optimal airflow throughout the tent setup.
The biggest advantage of the Stormbreak 2 is how it provides spacious headroom when compared to other tents with a large 30.56 ft² floor area.
As for the storage sack, it includes all the essential gear such as two gold main poles, a rainfly, canopy, two ridge poles and eight tent stakes. Everything is color-coded to ensure correct setup.
The reasonable price of the Stormbreak 2 doesn’t mean quality has been compromised. Its canopy is crafted from 75D Polyester Taffeta, whereas the floor features 68D Polyester with a 3000Mm PU coating. Finally, the 75D Polyester, PU coated fly sheet is what keeps the tent waterproof during rainy conditions.
The total weight of the pack is 5 lbs. 14.2 oz. (2.6kg), while the fastpack weight is up to 3 lbs. 14.1 oz. (1.76kg). Therefore, some people might feel it's too heavy to carry on strenuous hikes.
Things we like
Things we don’t like
Stormbreak 2 is the best cheap backpacking tent if you’re looking for spacious headroom and rugged weatherproof design. Remember that it is not lightweight, but it remains unbeatable and is extremely comfortable for two adults at this price!
3. ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent - Budget Choice
- There's no assembly frustration with our Lynx Tent series; this free-standing, aluminum two-pole design is a breeze to setup
- Polyester tent fly resists water and UV damage while adding two vestibules for extra storage space
- Fully equipped with #8 zippers, storage pockets, gear loft, aluminum stakes, guy ropes and two doorways
- The ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent is on our best sellers list; it’s a must-have for your next adventure
- Base Size: 5' x 7'6, Center Height: 46", Total Weight: 5 lbs. 12 oz. , Minimum Weight: 5 lbs. 1 oz. , Color: Clay/Rust
Since 1993, ALPS Mountaineering has offered superior, performance-driven mountaineering gear for avid adventurers. Not all of their products are low-priced, but this best budget tent Lynx 2-Person model is an exception!
This is the cheapest option on our comprehensive best backpacking tent list. So, if you’re on a tight budget, you can opt for this one!
Easy to Set Up
It's simple to set up the Lynx Tent as it has a nice freestanding design with two 7000 series aluminum poles, rather than poor fiberglass poles. For better ventilation, you’ll see half of the walls on both sides are covered with mesh.
You must simply attach the provided pole clips over the poles and this rectangular dome-style tent will be assembled in no time!
Even though the Lynx model is a low-price tent, the material quality suggests otherwise.
The tent is fairly well-made with a 75D 185T polyester canopy featuring 1500mm coating that remains firm and prevents UV damage. Factory-sealed seams on the canopy and floor further prevent the gear from harsh weather. Even the buckles on the fly sheet are weatherproof for better protection and flexible adjustment, and the eight zippers have a heavy-duty feel.
Finally, the floor is crafted from 75D 185T poly taffeta material with 2000mm coating.
Good Storage Pockets
The Lynx tent has two doors for easy access, along with two convenient vestibules where you can store gear. Mesh storage pockets and a top gear loft serve as additional storage options.
Concerning livability, the tent feels quite spacious with a 46” center height, 37 ft² tent area and 20 ft² vestibule area.
The minimum weight of the tent is 5 lbs. 4 oz. (2.38kg), while its total weight is around 5 lbs. 15 oz. (2.69kg). When packed into the sack, the tent reduces down to a size of 6” x 20”.
Things we like
Things we don’t like
If you’re wondering which cheap tent you should buy, you might like the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx Tent. It is well-made, easy to set up and totally breathable – perfect for warm climates.
Plus, for such a good design, it is available at a shockingly low price!
4. Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent
- Backpack-friendly compact folding poles, Gearloft loops, Color coded clip and fly attachment.Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
- Roll top cube carry bag, Easy set up, Free standing, Fabric/mesh tent walls
- Kelty hug clip, Easy entry D door, Internal storage pockets, Fully seam taped construction
- Seasons: 3, Number of doors: 1, Number of vestibules: 1, Number of poles: 2, Capacity: 2
- Floor area: 30.5 ft² / 2.83 m², Vestibule area: 10 ft² / .93 m².Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
If you’re a light backpackers, Kelty Salida 2 is the best cheap lightweight tent by far.
Why? Because this fully functional tent weighs just 4 lbs. 9 oz. (2.06kg) when packed, while its minimum weight is just 3 lbs. 14 oz. (1.75kg). Therefore, it might be the lightest budget tent which also offers great value for money.
The lightweight design comes at the cost of a minimal 1-door, 1-vestibule configuration. That is why you might not be able to store plenty of gear in a single vestibule.
As for interior space, it is enough for two people with 43” maximum height and 30.5 ft² floor area. This design makes it the best-selling entry-level tent for backpackers who want a lighter and cheaper tent.
Easy to Pitch
As with most freestanding backpacking tents, the Salida 2 also comes with aluminum cross- poles which allow for quick setup. In addition, the 68D polyester Nylon floor with 1800mm coating, 68D Polyester wall and 40D no-see-um mesh walls make it more durable.
3 Season Tent
Kelty includes a rainfly, while the fully seam-taped design is what makes it a 3-season tent.
Some of its other convenient features include gear loft loops, internal storage pockets, color- coded clips for faster assembly, and a roll top cube carrying sack.
Things we like
Things we don’t like
Even though the Salida 2 is lighter and affordable, it offers amazing features such as the spacious D-shaped door, good livability and simple configuration. It offers everything you could possibly need from a 3-season all-round tent.
5. Kelty TN 2 Person Tent
- The TN2, 2 person camping and backpacking tent was awarded the 2014 Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice and the 2016 Outside Magazine Gear of the Year awards.Weight: 4lb 9oz
- Part of our TraiLogic Collection, the TN2 is loaded with useful features: shorter 14-inch aluminum poles for easier packing, innovative hug-clip technology for simple setup, and a roll-up Stargazing Fly
- TENT FEATURES: 3 Season rated, Freestanding design, DAC Pressfit poles, Color Coded Clip Construction, Taped floor seams, Mesh wall panels, Internal storage pockets, Jake's Foot pole attachment, Noiseless zipper pulls
- FLY FEATURES: Stargazing fly, Taped seams, Jake's foot fly attachment, Fly vents, Welded clear windows, Noiseless zipper pulls, Guyout points
- SPECIFICATIONS: Seasons: 3 | Doors: 2 | Vestibules: 2 | Capacity: 2
Last one to pop up on our best cheap backpacking tent list is another one from Kelty and it's their TN 2-Person Tent.
This is your go-to tent if you love stargazing!
TN2 is an amazingly compact backpacking tent featuring Stargazing Fly™, so you can blissfully enjoy your nighttime and gaze at the sky. If it rains, you can simply deploy the rainfly on the spot without even leaving the tent. That’s the coolest thing about TN2!
The stargazing fly is quite durable with taped seams, welded clear windows and durable
zippers. It even has Jake’s foot fly attachment, two vestibules and vents to allow better airflow.
The Kelty TN2 is one of the models from Kelty’s newly launched TraiLogic™ Collection. It has a
shorter pole design in order to better fit into the rectangular Tent Cube bag which is provided. Its innovative hug-clip technology allows for faster assembly.
Compared to other tents, this one may not be as durable, due to its 70D nylon floor and 15D no-see-um mesh walls. But it is by no means bad either.
The rainfly is made from 40D coated Silnylon (silicon nylon) for excellent water resistance. The internal space is large enough for two people, with 42” headroom and 27.5ft² floor area.
The Kelty TN2 is also lightweight, weighing just 4 lbs. 13 oz. (2.18kg) when packed.
Things we like
Things we don’t like
Although it has a few design flaws, anyone who’s impressed with the innovative Stargazing Fly™ should go for this tent. It is claimed to be a 3-season tent, but it is most suitable for summers, and not really recommended for use during the rainy season.
Buying Guide For Backpacking Tents
Here are a few factors you should consider before buying your best cheap backpacking tent:
Your backpacking tent must be lightweight and easy to carry, as there’s nothing more annoying
than hauling around an extremely heavy tent sack.
If you are buying a 2-person, look for the one which is around 3-4 pounds in weigh., Any heavier and it does not count as a lightweight backpacking tent.
Generally, brands specify the minimum weight and total weight of a tent in their technical details:
- Minimum weight, also known as trail weight, means the weight of the tent, poles and rainfly without the stakes, guy lines, footprint or sack.
- Whereas packed weight is the weight of the entire sack including accessories such as poles, stakes, rainfly, guy lines, etc. - basically everything that’s provided by the manufacturer.
In the two-person tents reviewed here, most of them weigh 5 lbs. or more.
- If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind a heavyweight tent, you can go for heavier tents which are equally affordable, spacious and durable. Such tents are good for short backpacking trips.
- Thru-hikers who cover larger distances often opt for premium ultralight tents that will be much easier to carry.
- People who want a perfect balance of both lightweight and livability can go for mid- range tents.
Stable and Simple Design
The greater the number of stakes and poles, the harder it will be to set up the tent. Therefore, you should look for a tent which has a simple design but durable poles and stakes. These should give a nice taut shape to your tent that won’t easily be affected by fast winds or storms.
Door and Vestibule Design
Some doors in the tent have a nice D-shape, while are just small and difficult to access. Vestibule design also plays a major role in comfort, as this allows you to store plenty of gear inside.
- Always check how many doors and vestibules your backpacking tent has along with its vestibule area and door shape.
- A vestibule will hold your wet or dirty gear and keep the interior clean, as it covers the
- Check whether the doors are at the side panels or at the front. A few mesh storage pockets inside the tent are also handy.
- Some tents even provide a top gear loft where you can place a headlamp or store small gear.
All these minimal features might take your backcountry camping experience to a whole new
level, so it’s good to consider them.
Some tents look like hemispherical igloos, while others have a nice rectangular prism-like shape and some look like tiny pyramids.
It's all about how the poles support the tent. Make sure you check the pole locations before selecting your tent; some tents have poles right in the center, which some people may not like.
To be honest, it's all about personal preference.
- High-end, expensive tents come with sturdy poles, stakes and guy lines which can withstand harsh weather.
- Budget tents may have pole systems with minimal stakes which bend easily in high winds.
- Generally, tents have aluminum poles which are durable and light. Most aluminum poles are manufactured by Easton or DAC. And you may also see a quality rating, such as 6000 or even strong 7000 series poles.
- Carbon fiber poles are extremely light, thin, expensive and strong. But these poles are difficult to repair, in the event that they break.
- Fiberglass poles are heavy, cheap and NOT durable.
Note: Some tents have reflective guy lines, which is a good feature to have as this prevents tripping when it's dark outside.
Headroom is an important factor to consider before purchasing any backpacking tent. You don’t want to feel cramped and uncomfortable after investing so much in a tent. This particularly applies to tall backpackers.
The headroom (center height) of a tent must be spacious enough to be able to sit up comfortably. Also, the length and width must be good enough to accommodate your height, with a little space left above and below your feet.
- For a 6’ tall person, look for a tent that is at least 78 inches in length
- The center height of a tent must be above 36”. Anything below that will feel uncomfortable.
Depending on the type of adventure you want to go on, you can select from 3-season tents, 4- season tents (also known as mountaineering tents) or extended-season tents (3/4-season tents).
The fabric, quality and design of a tent all contribute to providing warmth during the winter.
- A 3-season tent will be sufficient for most backpacking trips, be it in summer, spring or autumn. During cold nights, just make sure to carry a god quality sleeping bag and you will be fine. 3-season tents provide good breathability and are also lighter.
- 4-season tents are good in high winds, snow and night temperatures that are around or below 15 °C. However, you’ll probably sweat a lot in a 4-season tent during the summer. These are generally dome-shaped tents with high-quality rainfly and a low profile.
Interior Space (Livability)
Floor area, center height (headroom) and walls play a vital role in defining a tent’s livability.
- The floor area can range anywhere from a confined 20ft² to a large, spacious 50ft². You must look at this detail to understand whether or not you will be able to comfortably lie down inside.
- The tallest point of the interior of a tent is known as the center or peak height. This defines how easily you can sit up straight inside the tent. All these specs determine the livability of the interior space.
- Also look at the tent shape to understand how the actual interior space will feel.
A 2-person tent must have at least 30 ft² of floor area. Tall people can opt for tents which are larger than this.
More: Best Car Roof-Top Tent
Durable Construction (Denier Rating)
Often, the tent material details have a “denier” rating which signifies the weight of the fabric used. The lower the rating, the thinner the fabric, while the higher the denier rating, the thicker its fabric yarn will be.
Check the denier rating of the canopy and floor as well as the rainfly and see whether any of these have PU or Silnylon coating for extra durability and weather-resistance. A higher denier rating also means it will be a heavyweight tent.
- Denier rating of around 15D or 20D is considered to be very thin fabric.
- Averagely durable tents may have around 30D to 40D rating. Such tents strike a good balance between weight and longevity.
- Sturdy and durable tents are made from 68D or 70D fabrics.
A rainfly is an essential part of your tent which prevents water from dripping inside and also from cold, wind or snow. Some rain covers are fully seam-taped and feature a waterproof coating which will endure heavy downpours.
You must check whether the rainfly offers full coverage or only covers half the tent.
Note: Some tents come with an innovative stargazing fly which can be deployed without you having to go out of your tent. They roll up halfway back and allow an unobstructed view of the sky through the mesh.
Most manufacturers mention the waterproof rating of their tents, which determines the pressure at which the water will breach the fabric. This rating is specified in mm (mmH2O).
For example, a 1500 mm rating means that the material can only bear 1500mm of water pressure, before it begins to leak.
The higher the rating, the greater the water-resistance and durability of the fabric will be.
More: Check Best Waterproof Tent Here
Withstanding heavy storms or high winds generally depends on the quality of stakes, fabric and inclination of walls.
- Tall tents with vertical walls may not be able to withstand high winds.
- 4-season tents are intended to withstand heavy snow, as they feature slanted walls which do not allow snow to accumulate on the top.
How Do You Choose Your Best Backpacking Tent?
Should you buy a freestanding or non-freestanding tent?
- Freestanding tents come with their own pole-designs which keep them taut and upright. The tent body is further stabilized with extra stakes and guy lines. Such tents are easy to set up, can be assembled literally anywhere (be it on a soft or hard surface) and are quite stable. Most importantly, you don’t need to pitch these tents to the ground.
- Non-freestanding tents, also referred to as trekking pole tents, only include the tarp and tent. They require support and stabilization from additional trekking poles along with stakes and guy lines. As with freestanding tents, here there are no poles designed exclusively by the brand for a specific model. Non-freestanding tents are affordable, compact. lightweight and easier to carry. As the name suggests, these tents don’t stay upright if not pitched to the ground. Therefore, you won’t be able to use such tents on hard surfaces.
- Half-free-standing tents are those which stand upright even with a few stakes.
Almost all the tents in this best cheap backpacking tent review are freestanding; some of them include tent stakes.
Single Wall vs Double Wall:
Most commonly, a backpacking tent has two types of wall panels:
- Outer rainfly which acts as a barrier against harsh weather conditions, such as storms or rain.
- Inner mesh walls which promote good ventilation and prevent bugs from getting in.
Single-wall tents only use the outer tarp, which is why they are lighter and may not withstand high winds.
Double-walled tents combine mesh walls with a rainfly to provide excellent water-resistance along with good ventilation. Such tents are a great choice during mild weather. If you remove the rainfly completely, you can use the mesh walled tent during the summer.
More: Best Pop-Up Tent
Some brands do not provide mesh walls, but include adjustable air vents on the top of the rainfly.
Keeping these vents open will offer good airflow. In addition, as they are covered from the top,
rain won’t get into the tent.
Bathtub Floor Construction
Bathtub floor construction is when the floor is lined with water-resistant coated fabric, so it rests a bit higher above the ground. This design effectively prevents rain from dripping or running into the tent. The best backpacking tent absolutely must have this feature!
1-Person, 2-Person or 4-Person Tent
A 2-person tent might not always be spacious enough for two people. Sometimes a tent might be advertised as a 2-person tent but have constricted dimensions.
The basic rule of thumb is go for 27-28 inches width per person. The wider the better!
Length is also an important factor to consider. Remember that length is measured at floor level. If the wall panels are too inclined, they may touch your head and feel uncomfortable.
Therefore, you should keep this in mind when selecting your backpacking tent.
Tall people should opt for a longer tent.
More: Best 6-Person Tent
With or Without Footprint
A footprint is a protective tarp which goes between the ground and the tent’s floor. This provides excellent insulation against water and dirt or debris, thereby preventing wear and tear of the tent floor.
Only opt for a footprint if you’re going to camp on harsh surfaces or if your floor fabric has a
low denier rating.
Most brands sell footprints which are exclusively designed for their tent series.
What Is the Difference Between Backpacking Tents and Bike Touring Tents?
- Backpacking or hiking tents are ultralight and fold down compactly for easy portability. As the gear is carried on your shoulders, it shouldn’t weigh too much or use too much space in your backpack.
- Bike touring tents should have good storage options along with large vestibules. This is because bikers carry a lot more gear than backpackers. Also, such tents need to be spacious and comfortable, even if that means you have to pay a few bucks extra for them.
Even though all the reviewed backpacking tents are inexpensive, this does not mean they won’t
last you for many years.
On this list, the Mountainsmith Morrison 2-person tent is the best cheap backpacking tent, due to its easier setup and impressive weatherproof design.
In addition, the large interior space, light weight and 2-vestibule design are factors which make it stand out from the rest.
It is also the only tent on the list which features innovative bathtub floor construction!