Stake out the perfect tent so you can rest easy.
The formula is simple: A swath of nylon, some poles, a zipper, and several stakes. But the job of a tent—to act as a solid shelter, impermeable to storms, and keep you warm, safe, comfortable, and dry outside for days on end—is no small task.
From the campground to the backcountry, a tent serves as an outdoorsman’s refuge from the wilds outside. Zip yourself inside and you can eat, rest, collect, and sleep well after a hard day on the trail.
If you’re tempted to skimp on one item of gear, don’t make it the tent. Leaky seams and clammy quarters can wreck a weekend getaway. These selections, from backpacking models to a top-end expedition tent, will do the job—rain, shine, snow, and all elements in between.
Stephen Regenold writes “The Gear Junkie,” a syndicated newspaper column on outdoors equipment. He’s also the founder and editor of gearjunkie.com.
Weight: 5 pounds, 1 ounce.
Pump it up. A column of air—not poles—props up the Morpho 2P, a flagship shelter from the company that invented “AirSupported” technology in 2003. An included pump inflates a stout pillar arched to hold the tent high. NEMO touts it as “stronger than conventional tent poles.” The result promises a space-age shelter that’s lightweight, strong, and roomy enough for two campers and a load of gear inside.
Weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces.
This two-person Salt Creek was designed for backpacking in the spring, summer, and fall. Manufactured with sustainable components that include recycled zippers, guy lines, and nylon webbing, its white fly consists of dye-free recycled polyester. A mesh tent body provides ventilation for the hottest summer nights.
MSR DRAGONTAIL 2
Weight: 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
Made for the mountains—and the worst weather nature can conjure—the Dragontail’s hoop design withstands strong winds and heavy snow. This single-wall tent doesn’t need a rain fly. Made with a seam-taped, silicon-coated nylon face, it’s ultrathin and waterproof. An open-and-close vent runs the length of the ceiling, maximizing breathability in the high wilds at night.
Weight: 3 pounds, 6 ounces.
Backpackers in need of a featherweight shelter might pick a model such as the LT Strike, a tent with vestibules on the sides for gear. It sleeps two people and has a ceiling peak of about three feet for sitting up straight.
Weight: 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
A stout, simple build and a classic A-frame design has kept Eureka’s Timberline in circulation with Scouts for decades. The updated SQ Outfitter version, released in conjunction with the Boy Scouts’ 100th Anniversary, features a stronger frame and more headroom. Staked out, the floor plan measures about 7 feet by 8.5 feet, sleeping four Scouts comfortably side by side. It’s a car-camping staple, but you wouldn’t want to take it backpacking.