A good thing to keep in mind when buying a tent is, What is it I need protection from? Katie Gerber, a Colorado-based wilderness guide and the author of Adventure Ready: A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training, and Resiliency, says, “Someone who is hiking in a place where it’s not raining a lot and there aren’t bugs is going to want a superlight tent or maybe even a tarp that doesn’t have bug netting in it. And if you’re gonna be in places where it’s really wet, you would want a double-wall shelter because it cuts down on condensation.” I wish I’d had this advice when I was 19, when I brought my grandpa’s old, heavy Coleman car-camping tent on a backpacking trip through the Peruvian Andes. What I really needed was a lightweight model that took up less space in my pack — instead, I brought along a fabric cinderblock. Lesson learned: There’s a proper tent for every scenario.
To help you find the best tent, we talked to outdoor-gear experts, guides, and backcountry enthusiasts. We’ve organized the tents below by livable space and intended use.