How to Pick the Proper Backpacking Tent

When my kids and I planned our trip to the backcountry of Yellowstone, we knew we were going to have to carry everything.  This included food, water, clothes, sleeping bags, and our tent.  While I was willing to go skimpy on other supplies, I was not willing to pick a tent that would not meet our needs.  I mean frankly, it could mean the difference between life and death.  So before you head out the door to pick a new tent for your next backpacking trip, take a look at these considerations that I have use.



Tent capacity seems to be a simple idea.  You need enough tents or tent space for everyone in your group to have shelter but this can be a problem.  Frankly, I really do not know how they test to see how many people can fit into a tent but I can tell you that my family of four never seems to be able to fit into a four person tent.  My husband has broad shoulders and so does my son.  My daughter and I are small.  Having said that my family never has enough room in the tent and the fact that we are on opposite ends of the size spectrum never equates out the space.  What I have learned from this is to take a look at the people that will be going with you.  When in doubt, go up a person to make sure that there is enough room.  This will reduce the chances of having a conflict. 


When my family went to Yellowstone, we had to deal with warm weather and a chance of snow all at the same time.  Most tents will be a 3 season tents.  They have a lot of mesh panels for air circulation.  They also normally have taller walls and fewer poles.  Since the tent would only be used from spring to fall, the fabric is light, which makes it easy to carry on your pack.

The next type of tent is one that is an extended season pack, which means it is for 3 to 4 seasons.  The difference from the 3 season to a 4 season is the fact that the tent will have fewer mesh panels and more poles. 

The last type is one that is referred to as a 4 season mountaineer tent.  This tent has the fewest number of mesh panels, heavier fabric, more poles, and a rounded dome.

Tent Room

If you have ever been on a campout and it rained, you know how quickly tempers flare.  One of the reasons is space and this is so true when you are stuck in a tent with other campers.  While you do not want extra space that no one is going to use, you want it large enough that people can have some of their own space. 

Other thing to think about is the height of the tent.  I am short so the height really is not an issue but it does become one if my husband goes camping.  He gets tired of having to bend over to get into the tent.  In doing so, when selecting the tent take into consideration the size of all those who will share the tent. 

To help keep tempers down without add extra space; take a look at the rainfly color.  A bright color will allow light to come into the tent.  This simple trick will make the space look larger. 

Tent Weight

The last item is tent weight.  No, I am not saying this is the last thing you should look at but it should not be the only thing you consider.  Prior to selecting your tent, decide who will carry it. 

When it comes to selecting a tent, there are three forms of information that you will need.  This includes minimum weight, packaged weight, and packed size.  Minimum weight is the weight of the tent, poles, and rainfly only.  Packaged weight is everything described in the minimum weight plus things like the tent bag, pole bag, and directions.  The last thing that you will need to know is the packed size.  This is the amount of space that tent and its parts will take up in your bag. 

Now that we have a little more understanding of what is needed for backcountry camping, let’s go tent shopping with our fellow campers.