Camping vs Backpacking Tents: A Complete Guide

Are you trying to buy a tent and you hope to use the tent for both camping and backpacking? That might make things a little difficult since both camping and backpacking have their own special unique needs. I have researched what other campers and backpackers have argued has been helpful for them and compiled their responses below.

Camping tents are built more durable and will last a long time, while backpacking tents are built to be lightweight and will not last as long. Camping tents are more expensive than backpacking tents. To decide which tent to get, decide what kind of camping trip one wants to do.

Camping and backpacking tents are very similar in function, but they have core differences that make one better than the other in different circumstances. Read on to understand better which type of tent will work the best for you and which brands are going to be able to help you.

When to Use a Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents are lightweight. When you are going backpacking, every ounce of weight counts because you are carrying it all on your back for miles on end.

The best time to use a backpacking tent is when you are backpacking, as backpacking tents are very lightweight. Backpacking tents, in general, are of decent quality and are good when you don’t want to pack a lot of things that take up a lot of room.

However, to make a backpacking tent lightweight it has to be small. That means backpacking tents are best for one or two people at most. If you have a camping crew of more than two, a backpacking tent might not work for all of you, and you may need to purchase a larger tent or bring two of them.

Backpacking tents are also easier to put up and take down than camping tents because they are smaller, so if you are camping by yourself, a backpacking tent might be the best one for you. Be aware, though, that backpacking tents are not cheap because of the cost to make lightweight materials relatively durable.

When to Use a Camping Tent

Are you camping with a lot of people? Is this a family gathering or a friend group getting together to have some outdoor fun? Then a camping tent may be the best option for you.

Camping tents are large, so they can fit lots of people in them and are perfect if you are trying to house a lot of people in one place. It is always fun having a ten full of people talking and making jokes throughout the night.

Camping tents, though, are not a great option if you are backpacking. Camping tents on average weigh around 12lbs. This is a lot when you are traveling up hills and mountains. If you are planning on doing hiking with all your supplies on your back, I suggest you do not use a camping tent.

However, if you are going camping, camping tents are perfect. It won’t necessarily matter how much it weighs because you won’t be carrying it for a long distance.

Camping tents are cheaper than backpacking tents. This means that if the weight does not matter to you, camping tents would be the better option.

Camping tents are harder to put up by yourself, though. They are bigger, so you are dealing with longer polls and therefore it is nicer to have someone else there to help you put up a camping tent.

Cost of Backpacking vs Camping Tents

Tents are not cheap. Backpacking tents are actually more expensive than camping tents if you are to base the cost of a backpacking tent on the same cost of a camping tent that houses the same amount of people.

However, camping tents can get more expensive than backpacking tents the larger you want your camping tent to get.

The average cost for a two-person camping tent is within the range of $50-$100, while the average cost for a 10-person camping tent is within the range of $200-$300.

The average cost of a backpacking tent is $60-$180. As you can see this does range higher than a camping tent of the same size. The reason why a backpacking tent is more expensive is that backpacking tents are made with special materials to make them lightweight and semi-durable.

Even though the average backpacking tent costs between $60-$180, that does not mean you cannot find them for cheaper or more expensive. Some brands make backpacking tents that cost up to $2,000. These tents tend to be made to be long lasting and have a brand name attached to them that brings a level of prestige.

Overall, a cheaper option will be the camping tent, so if the weight does not matter to you, the camping tent would be the better option for you.

Types of Tents

There are several types of tent shapes that you can take into consideration when deciding which tent to buy. The first type is the dome-shaped tent. The dome-shaped tent is the most common type of tent. They are what you imagine when you think of a regular tent. Dome tents are very weather resistant and are good for withstanding wind and rain.

Another type of tent that is good for camping is the A-shaped tent. The A-shaped tent is nice because it has two entrances, which can be used as ventilation. It is also very small and lightweight.

A tunnel tent is a fun option, especially for large groups. The tunnel tent is larger in size. The tunnel tent also has a lot of headroom, which is a good option for tall people. It is also known for being very easy to put up and take down.

The pop-up tent is very lightweight. It is made to just pop into its formation, therefore, it is the easiest type of tent to put up.

Walled tents are great for family reunion camping trips. They are very large and have walking room for people. They are harder to take up and put down though.

Then there is the backpacking tent, which can be in any of the styles mentioned above. The only difference is that it will be made with lightweight materials and tend to be smaller in size.

What to Look for in a Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents need to be lightweight. That is the entire purpose of a lightweight tent. You also want to make sure that your backpacking tent is the right weight for you and your hiking needs.

You also want to look into the capacity. If you are bringing another friend along, you want to make sure the tent has space for them. Also, if you are tall, manufacturers may make the tent so small that you won’t be able to fit in it.

Seasonality is another thing to look for. Some tents are built to be able to withstand the cold of winter, while others are not. These backpacking tents are called 4-season tents and if you are planning on camping during the winter, it is a good idea to look for one of these tents. If you are not camping in the winter, the better option would to be get a 3-season tent because they are cheaper and will still fit your needs.

You should also look to see how weather-resistant your tent is. If you are a heavier camper it might be worth buying a tent with higher weather resistance. These tents will be more expensive but will likely be worth it in the long haull.

Durability is another good thing to look at. Check and see how thick the fabric of your tent is. The thicker the fabric, the better your backpacking tent will be and the longer it will last.

What to Look for in a Camping Tent

A good thing to look for in a tent is to see if it has a rainfly. Rainflys are a tarp-like material that attaches to your tent. It will keep out rain and other harsh weather conditions. Rainflys help because if you have a rainfly, that means your tent also has good ventilation so during the day you can keep that open to make your tent less musty.

Another thing to look for is what kind of tent poles come with your tent. There are a few kinds of tent poles. The first kind is fiberglass. These tend to be heavier and they break more easily. Therefore, they are not the best choice for tent poles. The other is aluminum. This is the preferred form of tent pole. Aluminum is lightweight and very strong.

You should check to see if your tent comes with guylines and loops. Guylines and loops are used for camping in windy conditions. If you are camping in a windy area, then it is worth making sure your tent comes with this feature.

Check to see how many zippers and doors your tent has. If you are camping with another person, it might be easier to have two zippered doors so the other person can get out in the middle of the night without crawling over you.

When You Do Not Need a Tent

There are several types of camping in which tents are not necessary. If you don’t need a tent, you don’t have to purchase one and will save money.

There is a type of camping called cowboy camping, and the main purpose is to sleep under the stars. This can be very nice, but you have to make sure you know what the weather is going to be like before going cowboy camping.

If the weather is going to be cold, this would not be a good time for cowboy camping. Also if it is going to be raining, it would not be a good time for cowboy camping.

You can also look for shelters when you are camping. Some camping sites build shelters and in that case, you would not need a camping tent, as you could just sleep under that.

Another option is hammock camping. If you are planning on sleeping in a hammock there is no need for you to bring a camping tent.

Beware, though, if it is windy hammock camping can be very unpleasant. You may end up falling out of your bed. Therefore, if you are hammock camping, it might be good to bring a tent as a backup for the weather.

Best Backpacking Tents

Some backpacking tents are better than others. Here are a few that are well made.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 and UL3 are really good backpacking tents. It will cost you $500, but it is ultralight and is very roomy. It has pockets for storing things and is created with materials that withstand all kinds of weather.

Another option is the Zpacks Duplex and Triplex, which costs $699. This tent is lightweight and has two doors. Its tent poles can also be used as tracking poles making it multi-use, which is a very cool feature.

The MRS Hubba Hubba 2 cost $480 and is a very nice option for camping in heavy weather conditions. It is created to hold strong in rough weather. It is lightweight and also has two doors for your convenience. It also has pockets and is built to be easily put up.

Best Camping Tents

A great option for your camping tent is the REI Grand Hut 4. This tent costs $299 and is made to be very tall. You should be able to stand in it, which is very nice. It is also very easy to set up and take down.

The REI Kingdom 6 is another great option. It costs $499. It is also very tall like the REI Grand Hut 4, but this option comes with dividers. You can build separate rooms in this tent, which makes it very nice for camping with other people.

The REI Co-op Half Dome is another great option for your camping needs. This version costs $329 and is created with very high-quality poles. These poles will last you a long time. The REI Co-op Half Dome tent also is supplied with two doors. This will be very convenient when camping with other people.

Overall, you should have a good idea of what to look for when picking a tent now and should be ready for all of your future camping adventures.

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