Top Tents and Hammocks of 2017: Results from the Annual Hiker Survey

For the fourth year, The Trek has surveyed long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT) regarding the shelter systems they use – tents, hammocks, and more. Each year, we ask hikers about the types of shelter systems they use, as well as their favorite brands and models. This year, we also reported the preferences for couples and people hiking with dogs. For the details, keep reading, or skip to the TL;DR at the end.

The Hiker Sample

Two hundred and fifty three hikers participated in the survey, all of whom had walked a section or thru-hike of the AT in 2017. Three quarters (74.5%) were thru-hikers and the rest were section hikers. For more details on the hiker demographics, check out our post with general information from the survey.

Shelter System Types

Unsurprisingly, the majority of hikers used tents, while about a tenth of hikers used hammocks. All other forms of shelters were only rarely used.

Hiking Partners

29 out of 34 (or 85 percent) of people who hiked with a significant other predominantly used tents. (Keep in mind that more than one person from a couple might have completed the survey, which could skew the results a little). Six out of seven (or 86 percent) of people who hiked with a dog used a tent. About 80 percent of people who hiked without a significant other OR a dog primarily used a tent. The other 20 percent used the other forms of shelters listed above.

While solo hikers often use 2-person tents just to have a little more room, the size of tent needed depends on how many people and dogs are using it. For this reason, I looked at tent size by hiking partners. Keep in mind that some people hiked with friends or family, and they were lumped with the solo hikers because it wasn’t clear whether they shared a tent. Furthermore, very few hikers brought a dog for the majority of the hike, so these numbers are based on limited data.

About half of solo tenters used a 2-person tent and slightly less than half used a 1-person tent, while it was rare for them to use a 3-person tent. In contrast, almost two thirds of hikers who went with a significant other most of the way used a 2-person tent, and almost a third used a three-person tent, while 1-person tents were uncommon for these hikers. Although our data on hikers with dogs is limited, it does appear that 2- and 3-person tents are the way to go if you plan to hike with a dog the majority of the way.

Popular Brands and Models

Lastly, we asked hikers what their favorite brands and models were for their shelter systems. Here are the rankings by popularity.


Top 1-person models:

  1. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1
  2. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1
  3. REI Quarter Dome 1
  4. Nemo Hornet 
  5. ZPacks Soloplex

Top 2-person models:

  1. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 
  2. ZPacks Duplex 
  3. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
  4. MSR Hubba Hubba 
  5. REI Quarter Dome 2 
  6. Nemo Hornet 2P, Elite 2P

Top 3-person model:

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3


Almost all hybrids were from the brand TarpTent by Henry Shires. While there was great variety in the preferred model, the most popular was the Notch.


  1. Warbonnet – the only model represented was the Blackbird
  2. Hennessy Hammock
  3. Lightheart Gear
  4. Eno


  • If you’re unsure of the shelter type to use on your hike, a tent is the way to go, particularly if you are hiking with a significant other or a dog.
  • If you want to try out something different or more lightweight, go with a hammock. All other shelter systems (including no shelter at all), are highly uncommon for long-distance hikes on the AT.
  • People hiking with a dog or a significant other would likely need a 2- or 3-person tent. Peopl hiking solo are fine with a 1- or 2-person tent.

Muchas Gracias

Many thanks to the hikers who participated in the survey! Congratulations to you all and to your puppers! I would never get this data or get these posts done if it weren’t for Zach Davis and Maggie Slepian – thanks to you both.

More from the 2017 Hiker Survey

Check out our previous post with general hiker information. If you’re not sure what sleeping bag or quilt type is best with your shelter system, check out our previous post on that topic. To stay updated on the subsequent hiker survey posts, subscribe to The Trek newsletter.


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Comments 9

  • Lisa : Jan 4th

    Lightheart gear makes hammocks?

  • Chris G. : Jan 5th

    I dont see the hammock brands I used on the list but guess they missed the cut for the survey?

  • Cosmo Catalano : Jan 6th

    Interesting stat that more than half the solo tenters were in 2 person tents. Also, any thought on surveying hikers who have tents/hammocks/tarps on how many nights they used them vs the shelter?

    Thanks again for some great info!

  • Tripp Clark : Jan 10th

    Lightheart Gear is listed as #3 hammock. Is this a typo? They make great tents, but I don’t think they make a hammock.

  • Stephen Robert Marsh : Jan 15th

    I really appreciate the statistics. Gives me an entirely new appreciation for the Nemo Elite and the BA Tiger Wall as evolution designed to focus at through hikers as trend setters (among other things).


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