If you love camping, mountaineering or backpacking as much as I do, then a tent should be one of your prized possessions. It’s your home away from home while in the wilderness. And if you often visit hiking groups, forums and sites, people often ask “What is the best hiking tent to buy”?
Answering this question is as challenging as choosing from the many tents in the market. But the best advice for me to give is to first do lots of research before purchasing one. And to make things a little easier, I’ve selected five of the best hiking tents in Australia. These tents have unique features that can also help familiarise you with those confusing jargons and terms.
Read this review and learn the things you need to consider when buying a tent so you can match it with your hiking goals!
|Image||Product Name||Dimensions (LxW)||Capacity (Person)||Packed Weight||Seasonal Rating||Where to Buy|
|Floor: 210 x 125cm|
Packed size: 40 x 13cm
Peak height: 100cm
|2||1.9 kg||4||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Floor: 210 x 140cm |
Packed size: 45 x 16cm
Peak height: 115cm
|2||2.9 kg||4||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Floor: 260 x 232cm |
Packed size: 58 x 15cm
Peak height: 132cm
|4||3.9 kg||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Floor: 219 x 152cm |
Packed size: 44 x 18cm
Peak height: 110cm
|2||2 kg||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Floor: 274 x 213cm |
Packed size: 61 x 15cm
Peak height: 150cm
|4||3.6 kg||3||Check Price on Amazon AU|
Things to Consider When Buying a Hiking Tent
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-time adventure seeker, the key to picking out the best hiking tent is understanding its many features. Here are some of the essential factors you need to know while searching for the hiking tent designed for you.
When hiking, three things make up your overall load: backpack, sleeping bag and tent. You need to comfortably carry these three pieces of equipment, making the weight factor extremely vital, especially for long-distance hikes.
Tent manufacturers are always innovating to make their products lightweight yet durable. However, be careful when going for the ultra-light ones as, in most cases, these tents also have less space. So, make sure to compare the weight with the tent’s floor dimensions and capacity. Here are some weight specifications that you need to help you decide:
- Packed weight. Among other weight-related terms, this one is the most essential as your tent will not go beyond this. Packaged weight refers to all the components of your hiking tent off the shelf: tent body, poles, pegs, rainfly, guy lines, footprint, instructions and more.
- Trail weight. Also called minimum weight, this one refers to the tent’s bare essentials that you’ll bring on the trail – your lightest tent setup. It should include the tent body, poles and rainfly, depending on your product.
- Packed size. This term refers to your rolled tent, the amount of space it takes in your pack and how easy it is to carry. To make your hiking tent easier to handle, you can leave out its storage bag then split up the load between you and your hiking partner.
Product names of your hiking tent typically include details such as 2P or 3-person. This description refers to the number of people that can fit in the tent. While you can always go for solo tents to make choosing easier, two 1-man tents are usually more expensive than buying one 2-man tent. But then again, if privacy is your top priority, there are also low-priced 1-person tents available. Also, most 2-person tents are too cramped for two hikers. In this case, you might need to upsize or check out the tent’s dimensions.
Internal space goes hand-in-hand with tent capacity. How spacious do you want your tent to be? How tall are you? Tent manufacturers usually produce tents based on standard sizes. But then, every person is unique, so it’s hard to rely on the manufacturers’ average size guide as a gauge. What you can do is to look for the floor dimensions (length, width and height) of the tent then compare it with your (and your partner’s) shoulder width and height. Here are some space specifications you need to know:
- Floor dimensions. These are the rough length and width measurements of the internal tent floor. Some tent packaging or brand websites even show these details in a comprehensive diagram. Also, remember that some tents are tapered or hexagonal to allow more space for your shoulders and arms without affecting the tent’s weight.
- Peak height. This one refers to the highest point of your tent. However, this measurement doesn’t give you the overall headroom or the sloping areas of your tent. In that case, it’s best to ask for a test-pitch tent in-store, so you can hop inside and see if you can sit up without bumping your head.
Ideally, there should be enough room below your feet and above your head while inside the tent when laying down. That way, you have the space for your hiking gear and restless sleeping companions! Hey, I know you’re in the wild, but still, you need to stay comfy and get a good rest.
Hiking tents can be 3-season or 4-season. A 3-season hiking tent is best for those who like going outdoors during the spring, summer and autumn months. But, if you like mountaineering or hiking all year round, a 4-season tent can get you through the winter chill. In terms of durability, 4-season tents are naturally sturdier to withstand harsher weather elements. Here are their other features and differences:
- 3-season tent
- Made of lighter fabric with less poles to reduce weight
- With ample mesh to allow airflow and keep insects away
- Has upright walls for better headspace
- Can withstand downpours or light snow but not storms, heavy snow or strong winds
- 4-season tent
- Mostly made of heavy-duty material with dome design to hold snow without collapsing
- Includes additional one or two poles and a rainfly that extends close to the ground
- Less ventilated and allows you to cover the mesh panels for a warmer interior
- Can withstand fierce winds and certain low-temperature conditions
The tent’s seasonal rating is one way to determine its strength. But if you want to go into detail, here are some of the other tent materials to evaluate its durability:
- Some tents have fibreglass poles that are lighter but less durable. Aluminium is the most common pole material because of its high strength and low weight. For tents, the 6000 and 7000-series aluminium are standard. The 6000-series poles are sturdy and corrosion-resistant. On the other hand, high-grade 7000-series ones are kink-resistant and lightweight aluminium, typically used for aircraft construction. High-end tents may also have poles made of carbon fibre, which are robust and exceptionally light but not as durable as aluminium.
- Hiking tent producers commonly use nylon or polyester, measured in denier (D), for their canopy and rainfly. Nylon is a lightweight material, whereas polyester is water and UV-resistant. Hiking tents with higher denier have coarser fabric. Generally, canopies range from 40D to 70D, but lightweight tents can go as low as 20D to 30D.
More durable tents are typically heavy and more expensive. However, if you plan to go on hikes often or find harsh conditions exciting, make sure to purchase a robust and long-lasting tent.
Another thing to consider when buying tents is the ease of setting it up. Here, you’ll have to know if your hiking tent is freestanding or not. A freestanding tent includes a fixed pole to support the canopy. It can stand on its own even without pegs or stakes. It’s also simpler and faster to set up, that’s why hikers prefer this type. You can effortlessly move this hiking tent around and even tip it to shake out debris.
If you want to practice your tent-building skills, then a non-freestanding tent is for you. It is usually single-walled, so it’s lighter. However, you need to peg it down to keep its shape, which can take time. Setting it up on a rocky surface can be tricky as well. Moving it is not as easy, so make sure to choose the perfect camping spot for pitching. Semi-freestanding tents are also available.
Some tents include interior pockets or air vents and come in all sorts of shapes and colours. But, at times, the more tent add-ons, the more difficult it is to carry and set up. So, focus on functional tent designs instead. Here are some essential design features to consider:
- Single-wall tents are made of one layer of water-resistant fabric, making it lightweight and easy to set up. However, condensation problems are also typical in these tents. So, you may want to consider the double-wall tents with a canopy and rainfly.
- Most lightweight tents have a single door. But if you’re buying two or more person tents, dual doorways are best. It allows better movement and comes in handy if your partner turns in late at night while you prefer waking up early.
- This section of your tent acts like a foyer or mudroom, where you can keep your dirty footwear or bulky gear away from your sleeping area. It adds weight to your tent but comes in handy in case of bad weather. Front and side vestibules are the most common.
The adage you get what you pay for applies even when buying tents. While you can easily find low-priced options, it’s better to spend a little more for safety and durability. I believe it’s also worth it in the long run, especially if you intend to use it regularly or in harsh conditions. Also, branded tents are usually more expensive but protected with warranties and after-sales service. Their stores also offer accessories and replacement parts, so you might want to consider that, too.
FAQs About Hiking Tents
If you still can’t decide whether you need a tent footprint or if a 4-season tent is worth it, here’s an FAQ section to help you make an informed choice.
How much should a hiking tent weigh?
A hiking tent weighs about 1kg to 2kg per person, while two-person tents are around 5kg. The best gauge here is to visit the outdoors store, try to carry the tent then imagine it with your backpack and sleeping bag. Outdoor experts commonly say that light is right. While this may be true, it’s not always accurate either. Balancing weight, durability, quality, capacity and price when deciding is still the best way to go.
Can a tent fit in a backpack?
A backpack with an inner frame is best when packing a tent. Make sure that your backpack is big enough for your tent, or consider using a compression bag to make it more compact. When placing your hiking tent inside your backpack, roll it up with the poles at the centre. You can also use an external-frame pack for your hiking tent. However, you need to protect it from elements like rain or tree branches. Secure it with compression straps to protect it from falling or sliding off your backpack while on the trail.
Is a 4-season tent worth it?
It depends on whether you want to experience winter camping and how often you want to do it. Some campers have used 3-season tents on winter conditions with no issues. But it is likely to affect your tent’s quality. The need for maintenance or replacement may cost you more in the long run. So, make sure to match your tent with your hiking destination and goal. Use a 3-season tent for your spring, summer and autumn adventures, or purchase a 4-season tent for a pleasant and safe year-round hiking.
Is a tent footprint worth it?
Tents are not exactly cheap, so you want to make them last longer as much as possible. And tent footprints are made for that purpose, making them worth the extra cost and weight. It protects your tent floor from being muddy or snagged by abrasive objects like rocks and sticks. It also enhances its waterproofing ability, which comes in handy during the wet season. A footprint also widens your pitching options for freestanding tents and doubles as a poncho tarp or gear for cowboy camping. However, you may not need this if you only hike on soft terrains or your tent floor is 30D or higher.
Should I get a 2 or 3-person tent?
It’s a matter of balancing capacity with space. A 2-person tent is usually too cramped for two average-sized people to move around with ease. So, you might as well consider upsizing if comfort is a priority. Better yet, don’t rely on tent capacity alone when deciding. Find out its exact floor area, peak height and other essential dimensions instead. These details will give you a better idea if a two or three-person tent works for you. Just remember that higher tent capacity also means higher bulk and cost.
There may be a lot of features to consider when buying a hiking tent. The best hiking tent, however, depends on the types of trips you intend to undertake. If you’re a casual backpacker, for example, price, ease of assembly and overall liveability are your priorities. Once you decide to take on more ambitious hiking goals, weight, seasonal rating and durability now top your list. So, take your time studying every aspect, weigh your options well and do your research. It’s well worth the effort!