Buying a tent is hard enough as there are so many different styles, but one could argue that it’s even harder when you’re trying to buy a backpacking tent. The main reason why is that you’ll be accountable for carrying the tent inside of your backpack. Naturally, this makes the weight of the tent critically important.

Backpackers don’t need to be told how important weight is, and how quickly backpacks can get heavier. Small items begin to add up very quickly and depending on how long of a trip your backpacking adventure is going to be, the water, food, and various pieces of equipment you’ll need to bring will start to create a heavier pack (even if you’re only adding ounces).

This makes it important for backpackers to truly decide what they need and don’t need. Yet, if you’re going to be backpacking overnight, a tent is going to be more or less essential. Sure, you could just sleep in a hammock or sleep in a buddy’s tent, but you may want your own dedicated backpacking tent.

But how much should a backpacking tent weigh? That’s the question right there. The good news is designers and manufacturers design their backpacking tents with weight in mind to attempt to keep it down as much as possible.

With that said, not all of them will be in the same weight class. I’ll go over the following four weight classes in this article:

Before we get more into that, let’s briefly talk about the main tent specifications to keep in mind that will directly play into weight. They can help you to better estimate how much the tent (and the accessories) will weigh in your backpack:

  • Minimum trail weight: This is going to be the bare essentials here including the tent poles, rainfly, and the body. That is, of course, if the tent you purchase even has a separate rainfly or tent poles (as some will be designed to function without them to save even more weight).
  • The packaged weight: Everything you get with your purchase, from the tent body to the poles to the stuff sack to the stakes, will be the packaged weight. The accessories you get with the backpacking tent you purchase will vary as not all of them will come with stakes, for example.

As for the weight, you’ll ultimately end up carrying in your backpack, it’s probably going to be somewhere in the middle of those two specifications. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the different weight classes (generally speaking) that backpacking tents will be associated with.

Crazy-light backpacking tents (less than 2 pounds)

How much should a backpacking tent weigh? Well, if you want, it can weigh as little as possible. If all you care about is weight and you’ll live to sacrifice in other areas, you can get models that weigh two pounds or less (or crazylight models).

Most of these tents that you’ll find will be non-freestanding designs. They’ll omit tent poles to save a bunch of weight and will require the use of trekking poles and will need to be fully staked out. Typically, they’ll also be of the single-wall variety, though you can find backpacking tents in this weight class that will be double-walled.

Without question, you can expect some potential drawbacks of choosing a backpacking tent that’s so light. First and foremost, durability is going to be a concern. However, it goes beyond that for these tents. Seeing how most will be single-walled, breathability and waterproofness will also be lessened.

They can also be tricky to pitch and in the event of some inclement weather, you’ll want to ensure that the one you buy is pitched perfectly to avoid potential disaster. Needless to say, you should have some backpacking experience if you want to go this light. The tradeoffs can outweigh (no pun intended) the lighter weight, unfortunately.

Ultralight backpacking tents (between 2 and 3 pounds)

For most, the answer to the question of how much should a backpacking tent weigh isn’t going to be, “the lightest.” That said, adding a little weight into the ultralight category can still make for a fairly light backpacking tent.

Tents of the ultralight variety will often be made with similar fabrics to that of tents of the lightweight variety (which will be next). Primarily, the weight savings for these tents will come by tapering. Basically, ultralight tents will have smaller floor areas and ceilings that are more heavily sloped.

Much like with crazylight tents, ultralight backpacking tents can suffer from a lack of headroom and semi-complicated setups. Comfort and livability, in other words, suffer a little bit if you go with ultralight tents.

Lightweight backpacking tents (between 3 and 4.5 pounds)

We’re still in a category of backpacking tents that are considered lightweight, which should say something about their intended design. Anyway, lightweight tents will sport some of the features that you’ll find in heavyweight backpacking tents including comfort and interior space.

For comfort and livability, and without going too high on the weight spectrum, you could say that a lightweight backpacking tent can be the perfect compromise for the backpacker looking for the best of both worlds (regarding weight and performance).

Do note that lightweight tents will still suffer a little bit in the durability area. This can be attributed to the thinner fabrics and zippers that will be integrated into most of the tents. And believe it or not, these tents can get really pricy. So, that can also be a factor to keep in mind.

Heavyweight backpacking tents (more than 4.5 pounds)

And now we come to the heavyweight (or just midweight) backpacking tents. As you’d expect, such tents will offer premium performance in the world of durability, comfort, and weather protection. They don’t have to break the bank, either. Such tents can be nice if you have to backpack in the rain.

Tough and robust fabrics, organizational features aplenty, and tons of interior space and room, heavyweight tents are the way to go if you cherish performance over anything else. The downside of such models is pretty obvious as they’re going to weigh the most.

What to consider when choosing a lightweight backpacking tent

Photo by Mael BALLAND / Unsplash

But even after learning all that information, the question still persists. How much should a backpacking tent weigh? Let’s look at some very important questions (that are based on what was just read) to ask yourself to help answer THAT question:

  • How many people will you be sleeping? Perhaps you’re the one who has the responsibility of sleeping one or two people (not including yourself) on your backpacking adventures. If so, know that backpacking tents are classified by capacity from one-person to four-person tents. Now, you can always go one person more than you’ll actually be sleeping for the additional space.
  • How much space are you going to want/need? This sort of plays off of the last question but past the people you’ll need to sleep, just think about the space you’ll want. From the peak height of the tent to the shape of the walls to the dimensions of the floor, keep all that in mind to determine what size will work for you. If you don’t need a lot of space, you might be able to save some ounces (or even a pound) with the tent you buy.
  • How heavy-duty do you want the backpacking tent to be? As you saw from the different weight classifications, heavier tents tend to have more robust fabrics and materials. This plays a direct role in durability. Think about the weather you’ll be facing (or the weather you’ll want to avoid).
  • How much should a backpacking tent weigh for you? This is worded to ask how much weight YOU want it to be. At the end of the day, how important is the weight to you? If it’s the number one concern, you can sacrifice in other areas (such as comfort, space, and durability) to get what you want. And it’s not as if ultralight and crazylight tents are built to be destroyed by the lightest gusts of wind, either.

Final thoughts

It’s kind of a tough question to answer because there are really no right or wrong answers. How much should a backpacking tent weigh depends on your personal preferences, needs, and wants. If all you want is the lightest tent on the market, it’s not going to be as spacious and well-built as others (just naturally).

There’s only so much designers can do if they’re trying to make weight savings the most crucial aspect of their tent designs. The average backpacker is probably going to want to look for a lightweight backpacking tent that has optimal space, livability, and features.

A jack of all trades, master of none approach, if you will. Then again, prioritize the characteristics you want as, after all, you’re the one buying the backpacking tent! Just know that doing so can fluctuate the weight one way or the other.

Our hope is that this all made sense to you as, again, there’s not a right or a wrong answer here. Before we go, on the topic of backpacking, something else you might want to tag along is a saw. If so, you might want to check out our list of the five best and sturdiest backpacking saws.

You just never know when the need is going to come to do a little cutting!