Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.
In our guide to the best backpacking tents for the money in 2017 and beyond, we will help you get the most bang for your budget. The challenge is to find a high-quality tent at a low price. More specifically, the challenge is choosing the best backpacking tent that fits your needs and has an overall value that exceeds the purchase price.
These seven best backpacking tents all punch above their weight, so to speak: We recommend these tents for backpacking beginners because they all have excellent cost-to-value ratios and are easy-to-use. (If you’re looking for the best ultralight tent and cost isn’t a core factor, check out our 10 Best Backpacking Tents guide.)
Before we continue, I have to recommend that you don’t buy a cheap department store “backpacking tent” and expect to have a good backpacking experience. Those budget backpacking tents are usually too heavy and will likely fail — maybe even on your very first backpacking trip in 2017. This is not an issue if you’re staying close to the parking lot.
If you’re actually going backpacking more than a mile from the trailhead you’ll want a good backpacking tent. Why? Rain, bugs, and severe weather. Any time you get in the mountains, there is a risk that you’ll get rained on. Hard. And once your sleeping bag is wet, once your sleeping pad is wet, once your clothes are wet . . . it’s very difficult to get dry unless it stops raining. And that just sucks.
So what makes the best backpacking tents for beginners?
In our opinion, the best backpacking tents — especially for beginners — have a freestanding design. A freestanding tent will let you set it up most anywhere without needing to stake it down. If you hike over varied terrain, freestanding backpacking tents are the most versatile. Next, you should avoid most single-wall tents because they have ventilation issues that tend to collect moisture inside. I always recommend that beginner backpackers go with a design that has plenty of mesh with a separate fly to shed the rain.
Our recommended seven best backpacking tents for the money provide excellent overall value for your backpacking budget in 2017. They are lightweight, durable, freestanding, and most importantly, easy on your wallet. (The pricing is approximate, of course, and sometimes changes.)
*Note: None of our top 7 best backpacking tents for the money for 2017 come in under $100 — most are under $150 or under $200. If you’re on a really tight budget and are looking for a true budget backpacking tent, there are still a few sub-$100 options that can get you by for a season or two. We’ve added some budget backpacking tents at the end in the bonus section for you.
Best 1-Person Backpacking Tent for the Money
The North Face Stormbreak 1 Tent — This is a freestanding tent with a simple and effective x-pole design. Its minimum trail weight is 3 lbs 1.4 oz. It has a bathtub floor to keep the wet out, along with plenty of ventilation and a separate rain fly cover with a vestibule over the door.
The Stormbreak 1 is not the lightest 1-person tent, but at about $129, it’s easily the best overall quality-to-price buy we’ve seen for 2017.
Runner-up:REI Co-op Passage 1 Tent — If you’re a big guy, the you might appreciate a bit more length, width, and height in the newly updated for 2017 REI Co-op Passage 1.
Best 2-Person Backpacking Tents for the Money
REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent — Updated for 2017, the REI Passage 2 now features more ventilating mesh and a new pole setup that increases interior shoulder room. The 88 inches of length and 51 inches of width is about right for most couples. At just $159 and just under 5 pounds, the tent gives you two doors and two vestibules. It has adjustable ceiling vents, interior mesh pockets, and an included gear loft. If you buy the optional footprint, you can use just the rain fly for a lightweight minimalist experience.
Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent — At $169, the Marmot Catalyst offers a full mesh design with two doors, two vestibules, and an enviable level of quality. Plus, it’s hard not to like a brilliant orange tent when it’s setup in the backcountry. Lifts your spirits for some reason. Just saying. [It usually ships with free regular shipping at Moosejaw.]
REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent — If you’re a tall backpacker, you understand the value of legroom, and the REI Half Dome 2 Plus delivers. It’s 98 inches long, which is just over 8 feet. At $219, it’s a bit more than the competition — but it means even the tallest guys won’t butt their heads or feet against a sidewall. The length also means a backpacking dog might have plenty of room, too. We’re just happy that REI is producing it. In addition, it’s one of the few backpacking tents that you can customize by choosing your own fly color.
Runner-up: Brand new for 2017, the Cabela’s Orion 2-Person Backpacker Tent is an outstanding buy with a time-proven freestanding design. At just under $120 with the Cabela’s lifetime guarantee, the price-to-value ratio is excellent. (Try the Cabela’s Axis for two doors and two vestibules.)
Best 3-Person Backpacking Tents for the Money
The North Face Stormbreak 3 Tent — It’s no surprise to see The North Face Stormbreak series again. At just $199, it offers all the goodness of its smaller siblings yet retains the great mix of value to cost.
Marmot Tungsten 3P Tent — We sure like a lot of mesh in freestanding tents, and this Marmot delivers. It’s not Marmot’s more costly ultralight version for 2017, but the price-to-value ratio is good, especially because this tent uses a pole design that creates steeper sidewalls for more head and foot room, which is desirable when you want to fit three bigger backpackers inside.
Runner-up: The previous generation Marmot Ajax 3 is a long-time favorite backpacking tent, available as a closeout at Sierra Trading Post. If it’s no longer available, the brand new Cabela’s Orion 3-Person Backpacker Tent has a similar freestanding design and overall size and weight — and it’s just under $150.
Best 4-Person Backpacking Tent for the Money 2017
REI Camp Dome 4 — At just over 8 pounds in the minimum trail weight, the astoundingly well-priced $199 REI Camp Dome 4 can handle four snug and cozy backpackers, which means your trail weight averages about 2 lbs for each person, which is a good weight-to-space ratio, especially for families who are backpacking. The roomy interior is about 8′ by 7′, giving each backpacker 24 inches of shoulder room — which can feel like more if you sleep head-to-toe, head-to-toe.
These tents typically have less mesh and/or are a bit heavier and shorter in length. The seams are likely not sealed quite as well. They aren’t as good as our top 7 but they are under $100 and they are usually far better than your department store options.