The Best Thru-Hiking Tents of 2023
Choosing a tent for your thru-hike is a big deal, but it’s also probably the least stressful house shopping experience you’ll have in your lifetime. Enjoy it. The best tents for thru-hiking strike a balance between weight, livable space, ease of pitch, and stability.
Your tent should also be stable in snow, breathable in areas of high humidity, and waterproof. You should be able to comfortably keep your sleeping bag away from tent walls to prevent dampness, and also get in and out easily, sit up comfortably, and have enough space (if hiking with a partner) where you don’t feel like you’re whacking them every time you move or put a layer on.
One note before we dig in: In the interest of consistency, all listed weights below represent the minimum trail weight, which includes the tent itself, rain fly (if applicable), and poles (if applicable). It does NOT include the weight of stakes, stuff sacks, or a footprint.
Best Tents for Thru-Hiking:
- Gossamer Gear The One (Easiest Pitch for Trekking Pole Shelter)
- Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 (Best Ultralight Freestanding)
- Durston X-Mid 1P (Best All-Around)
- Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 (Best Freestanding for Individuals)
- MSR Hubba Hubba 2 (Best for Rough Weather)
- Zpacks Duplex (Most Popular Ultralight Thru-Hiking Tent)
- Nemo Hornet Osmo 2 (Smallest Footprint)
- Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (Best One-Pole Setup)
- Tarptent ProTrail Li (Roomiest Vestibule)
- Zpacks Free Duo (Easiest Pitch / Best Freestanding Single-Wall)
- 3F UL Lanshan 1 Pro (Best Budget Ultralight Tent)
- Lightheart Gear Solong (Best Tent for Tall People)
Best Tents for Thru-Hiking FAQs:
- Freestanding vs. Trekking Pole Tents
- 1P vs. 2P Tents
- Single-Wall vs. Double-Wall Tents
- What to Look For in the Best Tents for Thru-Hiking
- Packaged Weight vs. Trail Weight
- Tent Footprints
- Tent Materials
- Seam Sealing
Best Tents for Thru-Hiking of 2023
Gossamer Gear The One (Easiest Pitch for a Trekking Pole Shelter)
Weight: 17.7 ounces
Interior space: 16 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The One is a solo-hiker fave that tops ultralight gear roundups across the board—including our annual AT thru-hiker survey, where it was crowned the most popular one-person tent for the second year running. It’s affordable, lightweight, and spacious.
The setup is simple for a trekking pole shelter, and the venting design helps prevent some of the condensation issues that arise with single-wall shelters. The top bar is wide enough to provide ample shoulder room, something that can feel lacking in solo shelters. This is a one-piece shelter that sets up with a minimum of six stakes and two trekking poles.
True ultralight fanatics can spend more to upgrade to the DCF One, shaving about 2.4 ounces from the total setup without losing any functional space or design features. The fact that the DCF One is perennially out of stock is a testament to its popularity. But at the end of the day, the original silnylon One is the tried-and-true thru-hiking staple in GG’s fantastic shelter lineup, and it’s the one we’ve chosen to feature in this year’s roundup.
- Side-wall tie-outs: If you want to put in the extra effort to guy out the side walls for more tension (recommended), the option is there.
- Easy side-entry: Both doors open for max airflow.
- Quick pitch: All trekking pole shelters (OK, all shelters in general) take some practice to get right, but this shelter is one of the less finicky trekking pole options to pitch.
Some of our taller users had trouble keeping their feet away from the walls of the tent. Additionally, several participants in our annual Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey who had used the One during their thru-hikes said the tent tends to leak (and presumably also sag, since it’s silnylon) in the rain. And The One’s square-panel design will not perform as well in wind as tents with triangular panels.
Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 (Best Ultralight Freestanding Tent)
Weight: 27 ounces
Interior space: 20 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The Fly Creek is one of the flagship lightweight backpacking tents from Big Agnes and now comes with more headroom and a larger front entry. This well-designed tent’s pole structure offers maximum interior space for as little weight as possible, and the materials have stood the test of time on thru-hikes, with very few durability issues compared to other tents. It was a toss-up between this and the beloved Copper Spur, which is more comfortable but also heavier and more expensive.
In 2021, Big Agnes began manufacturing the Fly Creek with high-quality solution-dyed fabric that is resistant to UV fade and conserves water and energy during manufacture.
“I shared a two-person Fly Creek with my partner on an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and we both absolutely loved it. It’s durable and easy to set up. Although some people find it cramped for two, we never really minded. We were also very impressed by the tent’s stormworthiness: it stood up to high winds, driving rain, and literal floods without missing a beat. To this day, it’s never leaked, ripped, bent, or otherwise developed signs of wear despite heavy use.” —Kelly Floro
- Single-hub pole structure: Fast pitch, easy to set up. Big Agnes uses lightweight plastic clips to attach the tent body to the poles that are easy to clip, even with frozen fingers.
- Interior pockets: Never lose your headlamp or your phone with two interior pockets, handy for organizing smaller items.
- Dry-brow entry: Helps keep your gear dry when it’s stashed in the vestibule.
The Fly Creek has roughly the same interior space and headroom as the Copper Spur and Tiger Wall, but its door and vestibule are positioned at the front of the shelter, rather than on the side. This means you’ll have to scoot forward out of your sleeping bag and do tent yoga to get in and out in the middle of the night. While we like the idea of the dry-brow entry, it does make it slightly more physically challenging to crawl in and out of the tent. Finally, the Fly Creek takes a lot of stakes—eight minimum if you have the fly on—which reduce its UL luster somewhat.
“Although I love this tent, I eventually upgraded to a Tiger Wall because of the increased headroom and side doors. The front door is really difficult to use, especially if you’re trying not to accidentally squash your partner’s face in the dark. This also renders the tiny vestibule virtually useless.”—Kelly Floro
Read our review of the Fly Creek HV UL2 here.
Durston X-Mid 1P (All-Around Best Tent)
Category: Trekking pole tent
Interior space: 20 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The X-Mid was among the most popular tents in our annual thru-hiking survey and also got a strong vote of support from the comments section last time we published this list. It’s easy to see why.
It’s reasonably lightweight, simple to pitch, and has plenty of space, including two doors and vestibules—a luxurious touch for a one-person shelter. A laundry list of well-thought-out details makes this tent exceptional in rough weather: factory-taped seams polyester doesn’t sag or absorb water, the steep roof panels shed snow easily, the double-wall design and large mesh storm vents minimize condensation impacts, the polyester fly and bathtub won’t sag or absorb water, and the fly sets up first to keep the tent interior dry.
The updated 2022 X-Mid comes in at roughly the same weight as the previous version despite having more interior space in all dimensions and a number of added details to improve stormworthiness and ease of setup.
Dan Durston, who is perhaps the ultimate backpacking gear wonk, has thought through every aspect of the design, and you can read a thorough explanation of his thought process over on his site. And on top of it all, it’s among the cheapest tent on this list (especially considering the fact that the X-Mid comes with six titanium stakes and factory-taped seams).
- Polyester-based design: In a market dominated by silnylon and Dyneema, Durston made the semi-unusual choice to opt for silicone-coated polyester (silpoly). Why? It’s cheaper than Dyneema, and it won’t sag or absorb water like nylon. I’ts also more UV-resistant than nylon. For reference, Six Moon Designs also uses silpoly in the Lunar Solo, and more tent manufacturers are expected to make the switch in coming years as its benefits become more widely recognized.
- Fly pitches first: …and gets taken down last. That means the interior of the tent will stay dry and cozy in rainy weather.
- Double-wall: For hikers who want the weight savings and simplicity of a trekking pole setup with the ventilation advantages of a double-wall, the X-Mid is one of just a handful of options. Large mesh vents further enhance airflow. Alllows fly-only pitch.
- Dual side doors and vestibules: Thanks to the X-Mid’s eponymous X-shaped layout, where the tent floor is oriented diagonally to that of the fly, even the single-wall version offers ample vestibules and doors on both sides.
- Double-sewn seams: Increase the tent’s durability and speak to the overall quality and attention to detail of this design. The X-Mid is also designed to minimize the total number of seams, which improves waterproofness, durability, and weight efficiency.
One reason silpoly isn’t as popular as silnylon for tents is that it isn’t as strong. Durston points out that polyester is more UV-resistant than nylon and that nylon absorbs water and sags when wet, weakening the material significantly, so that polyester may prove to be the more durable choice in the long run. Still, be aware that you might need to baby your brand-new polyester tent more than an equivalent (dry) nylon setup. Also, the X-Mid has a pretty large footprint (46.5 square feet under the fly), which can make campsite selection more challenging.
But availability (or lack thereof) is probably the biggest drawback to this perennially sold-out model (it’s in stock as of early January 2023 though!).
Check out our interview with Dan Durston on Backpacker Radio.
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 (Best Freestanding Tent for Individuals)
Interior space: 28 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
This tent combines the best features of the Fly Creek and the Copper Spur. The Tiger Wall is a similar size to the Fly Creek, but the horizontal spreader bar allows for additional shoulder room, plus two doors and two vestibules, which make it easier to share. It’s eight ounces lighter than the Copper Spur (and cheaper, too) but has more shoulder space than the Fly Creek, plus the two doors and vestibules that pairs of hikers might prefer.
Since 2021, Big Agnes has manufactured the Tiger Wall with high-quality solution-dyed fabric that is resistant to UV fade and conserves water and energy during manufacture.
“To me, the Fly Creek was already one of the best thru-hiking tents out there, and the Tiger Wall solves all the beefs I had with that tent (more headroom, convenient side doors) while retaining the durability, compactness, and ease of use—all with a very minimal weight penalty.”—Kelly Floro
- Structured corners: This means the bathtub floor has a few extra inches in the corners of vertical structure, which can give you more space to keep your sleeping bag and feet away from the tent walls
- Dry-door entry: A few inches of space extending over the door means the interior of the tent can stay drier during setup and exits during rainy nights.
- Interior pockets: A large ceiling pocket can hold a headlamp for some *~*ambient lighting*~* and media pockets along the side are perfect for stashing small items.
- Color-coded buckles: Sure, you can still mess up clipping the fly to the tent body, but it’s harder to do with the color-coded buckles.
The vestibules can be hard to crawl in and out of, and the rain fly can get snagged on the zipper. It is a tad smaller than the Copper Spur with less foot room, but again, it comes in eight ounces lighter. Like all freestanding tents, it’s a body-first pitch, which means your tent interior will be exposed to rain when pitching until you can get the fly up. The Platinum and Carbon versions of the Tiger Wall are lighter, but the price tags are traumatic. Pick your poison.
Watch our video review of the Tiger Wall here.
MSR Hubba Hubba 2 (Best Tent for Rough Weather)
Interior space: 29 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The MSR Hubba Hubba 2 got a major facelift this year. The new model is a whole ten ounces lighter than its predecessor, and it accomplished this without sacrificing any of the interior space. Thanks to the way the shoulder space and poles are set up, it can be more comfortable for taller hikers or pairs of hikers who want to split the weight for the luxury of some extra space. The true (non-tapered) rectangular floor and 40 inches of headroom make this tent truly spacious.
The fly and tent body materials are heftier than other models of a similar size, but the tradeoff is increased durability and less chance of the fly getting caught in the zipper. The poles are thicker than lighter-weight tents, so you can be a little rougher with this tent. The fly pitch is taut, but what really sells us is the design for maximizing head, shoulder, and foot space as well as the burlier materials for durability.
Find the MSR Hubba 1 here.
- Stable, durable poles: It will take a lot to make this tent collapse. Poles are Easton Syclone, which are ultra-rugged and can stand up to some serious wind. The poles reach all four corners of this true freestanding tent, which improves wind stability as well.
- Proprietary waterproofing: Nothing will prevent condensation in extreme conditions, but the DuraShield waterproofing and taped seams keep it dry from outside precipitation. The vestibule doors feature StayDry rain gutters to keep you and your gear dry, and kickstand vents maximize airflow.
- Livable space: Mentioned above, but the design—from head(space) to toe(space) has livability in mind.
The tent does have a smart design, but it’s still 29 square feet of interior space for nearly three pounds, which is a bit more than other semi-freestanding tents. You’re trading weight savings for durability. Depending on what type of hiker you are, this could be worth it. It’s also worth noting that the tent body has more solid (non-mesh) panels, which is great during storms but means fewer opportunities for stargazing on fair nights.
Read our review of the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 here.
Zpacks Duplex (Most Popular Ultralight Tent for Thru-Hiking)
Category: Trekking-pole tent
Interior space: 28 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
“For years the Zpacks Duplex has maintained its status as one of the most popular and well-liked tents of thru-hikers—and for good reason. It stands as one of the lightest and most durable two-person trekking pole shelters available, perfectly suited for an entire summer on the trail. Single-wall DCF construction keeps the weight low without sacrificing strength or longevity, providing fully waterproof protection and a rugged bathtub floor that does not require a groundsheet.
And despite the low weight, the Duplex is spacious enough to comfortably fit two hikers in the fully enclosed bug mesh while protecting their gear in the two vestibules. The Duplex provides full-sided protection when the weather gets nasty, and opens up on both sides for views and ventilation when the skies are clear. There will be plenty of both on a thru-hike, and the perennially awesome Duplex handles it all without weighing you down.”—Owen Eigenbrot
- Mesh pockets: Two mesh interior pockets are located near each screen door and can be accessed from outside the tent as well.
- 8-inch bathtub floor: The tall bathtub floor keeps rain out even in the soggiest campsites
- All-in-one construction and fast pitch: Tent body and fly are one unit, with a fast (and dry) pitch using two trekking poles. Once you’ve pitched this a few times it’s easy to get it taut.
- 48-inch peak height: Very few people will be too tall to sit up in here.
- Rugged DCF construction: Naturally waterproof materials and taped seams mean no DWR finish or after-market seam sealing needed.
“The major criticisms of the Duplex are shared across all ultralight trekking pole shelters. As with most of these, the Duplex takes some getting used to. One must find a balance between trekking poles and guy lines, which can be challenging and changes every night… On some terrain, finding a large enough flat spot that accepts stakes can be a chore. Condensation is also a chronic issue on nights when the storm doors are closed, and the A-frame walls make it impossible to avoid brushing against this moisture. The price tag is hefty, albeit fair.”—Owen Eigenbrot
The Duplex also requires eight stakes to get adequate tension. “The large, square panel moves too much to actually use in any wind without (the extra two stakes). This large square panel is one of the major downsides of this tent.”—GPS
Nemo Hornet Osmo 2 (Smallest Footprint for a 2p Tent)
Interior space: 27.5 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The Hornet has a versatile footprint and can fit into tighter spaces than some of the broader pitches. This is technically a semi-freestanding tent (like the Tiger Wall) as opposed to having all corners of the tent set up with poles. You’ll have to stake out the footbox for a full pitch. The design is overall similar to the BA Tiger Wall, but the Hornet uses special proprietary fabrics and shaves a couple of ounces thanks to its cut-out fly design.
NEMO maximizes headroom with their proprietary “Flybar” pole clip, which takes the place of the spreader bars of other tents. This helps keep the angle of the tent walls away from the shoulders, allowing for more sitting room and space to change without touching the sides of the tent.
The Hornet was updated in 2023 with Nemo’s proprietary Osmo fabric, a ripstop nylon and polyester composite that’s purported to be more water-resistant and less likely to sag when wet. Unlike many waterproof materials, Osmo contains no harmful PFOAs (sometimes called forever chemicals because of how slow they are to break down).
If you really want to save weight, the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo weighs six ounces less, costs $650, and has the same interior space.
- Osmo fabric: Nemo claims it’s more water-repellent and less likely to sag when wet than prior versions of the tent.
- Single-hubbed pole system: Easy setup and pitch, lightweight poles are just one piece and have three anchor points—two at the head, one at the foot.
- Flybar™ pole clip: Instead of a horizontal spreader bar, this tent comes with an extended pole clip to add headroom.
- Two side-entry doors: Can be considered a must-have for two-person tents.
This is one of the smaller two-person semi-freestanding tents on this list. The Hornet is lightweight and stable, but it does have less interior and vestibule space than the comparable BA Tiger Wall (which many users already consider cramped) and will feel tight with two people after extended use.
Some users also complain that the cut-out fly leaves the head and foot ends of the tent vulnerable to backsplash during heavy rain.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (Best One-Pole Setup)
Interior space: 26 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
“$250 is cheap for a backpacking tent. And yet the quality of the Lunar Solo feels anything but. This tent is optimized for maximum ventilation: plenty of mesh throughout the structure and a gap between the fly and the ground promote airflow. It only requires one trekking pole to set up and has a generous 49 inches of headroom at the peak. The steeply angled pitch of this tent helps it to shed snow effectively, making it feel surprisingly stable for a structure that’s only propped up by one pole. SMD updated the design at the end of last year to include corner cord guyouts for easy tension adjustment.”—Kelly Floro
- Center pole pitch: This increases the stability of the tent in high winds and allows it to shed water more easily
- (Almost) entirely mesh side wall: Ounce-saving mesh increases breathability from the bathtub floor to the peak (an additional 360˚ mesh strip just above the bathtub adds to the tent’s breezy appeal.
- 6-inch floating bathtub floor: 40D silicone-coated polyester and the tent’s floating floor design maximize puncture resistance
- Internal mesh storage pocket: You know the drill. Organize your small items for easy nighttime access.
The steep walls of this shelter and single-pole setup mean less shoulder room and more wind resistance. Users will need to seal the seams themselves or pay $35 for Six Moon Designs to seal the tent for $35 before shipping if you don’t want to do it yourself. Stakes aren’t included, so if you don’t have some already, you’ll need to factor that into the purchase price as well.
Read our review of the Lunar Solo here.
TarpTent Protrail Li (Roomiest Vestibule)
Category: Trekking pole tent
Interior space: 21 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The traditional and ever-popular silnylon Protrail got a DCF update in 2020, shaving nine ounces. This A-frame shelter has a front entrance and a generous overhang to prevent items in the gargantuan vestibule from getting wet. This is a single-piece shelter with an integrated fly and tent body, making a fast pitch once you get the hang of it. It has a 45-inch peak height at the front of the tent, with a steep pitch on the sides and down toward the back.
You will need two trekking poles for this setup, with the tallest one at the front entry, and just four stakes. We recommend pitching the front pole at an angle to make entry/exit easier. It has a ring of 360-degree mesh and a rear mesh window for increased airflow and views. The rugged floating bathtub means you theoretically don’t need a groundcloth with the Protrail Li, sparing you from further weight and setup difficulty.
- Reinforced pole caps: A lot of pressure is put on the hubs for trekking poles. These are reinforced for extended durability
- Large vestibule: The vestibule or “beak” area is 11 square feet, plenty big for gear organization and maneuvering
- Fast pitch: Like all trekking-pole shelters, it takes a few tries to dial in the system, but once you have it, the pitch is fast, especially since you only need to pound four stakes in the process.
- Smart ventilation design: It’s a constant battle to combat condensation in shelters like this, but storm flaps can be opened and rolled up to allow maximum airflow.
- Bathtub floor: The floating bathtub floor is rugged and tall enough to protect from splashing rain.
Zpacks Free Duo (Easiest Pitch / Best Freestanding Single-Wall Tent)
Interior space: 26.25 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
“The Free Duo combines the best features of Zpacks’ DCF shelter line with the practicality of a traditional freestanding tent. It requires zero stakes to pitch (though two for the vestibules are recommended), which means it can go where trekking pole shelters can’t; bare rock, deep sand, tent platforms, a parking lot, or other stake-rejecting ground. The single-wall construction makes setup quick and easy—no fly or footprint needed.
“With the help of two unique ‘H’ carbon poles, the waterproof DCF canopy pitches taut every time, which reduces wind noise and increases living space. Two vestibules provide ample storage for gear, and fully-enclosed mesh keeps out the bugs even on nice nights when the storm doors are furled. Despite being both easy to use and supremely livable for two hikers, the Free Duo weighs in at under two pounds. Not only is it the lightest freestanding tent available, it’s also one of the best.”—Owen Eigenbrot
Read our review of the Free Duo here.
- ‘H’ shaped poles: The pole structure uses two ‘H’ sections to give the tent shape. The poles are a bit unwieldy to handle solo, but minimal attachment points make setup quick.
- Two rainbow doors: With no trekking poles in the way, the full-wall doors on either side of the tent make entry and exit easy no matter which side you’re on. Good for a quick getaway when nature calls.
- Vestibules: The vestibules are classic Zpacks with two storm doors on each side. Close them all up for warmth or rain protection, or open them up after eating beans for dinner to improve ventilation.
- Small footprint: With no stakes or guy lines, the Free Duo nestles well into smaller camp spots that might reject trekking pole shelters.
“The big downside to the Free Duo, and all semi- or freestanding tents, is its weight. While it is extremely lightweight for that shelter type, the poles alone weigh 13 ounces. Trekking pole shelters remain the lightest option for thru-hikers willing to sacrifice ease of use for weight savings. The poles are also bulky and serve only one purpose, whereas trekking poles are useful all day and don’t add to pack weight.
“As with other single-wall tents, condensation can be an issue with the Free Duo, but the concave interior makes it easier to avoid brushing against the damp interior, and huge doors provide ample ventilation when the weather allows. Finally, the Free Duo is expensive. Arguably, it’s a fair price, but budget-conscious hikers may need to look elsewhere for their trail abode.” —Owen Eigenbrot
3F UL Lanshan 1 Pro (Best Budget UL Tent)
Category: Trekking pole tent
Interior space: 24.7 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
At well under $200, the Lanshan 1 Pro is the most affordable tent on this list while remaining truly ultralight at 26 ounces for the tent, guyline, and stuff sack. The Lanshan is made of silylon with all guyout points reinforced by UHMWPE-gridstop.
Where this tent shines, besides the price, is in versatility. Most thru-hikers will be OK with the standard three-season version of this tent, but there’s also a four-season version of the Lanshan for winter adventurers. Likewise, taller hikers can upgrade to the plus-size version, and stargazers who don’t mind a little extra weight can opt for the double-wall Lanshan 1. Unlike many UL manufacturers, 3F UL ships all over the world, a boon for international hikers.
- Single or double wall: The Lanshan Pro is lightest as a single-wall tent with a roof vent to reduce condensation. But if you prefer the ventilation and stargaze-ability of two walls, the Lanshan 1 is your best bet. You decide.
- Reinforced guyouts: All guyout points are reinforced with UHMWPE-gridstop to prevent tears.
- Fully integrated bathtub floor: The 4.3-inch-high bathtub floor is sewn to the main tent body with a band of no-see-um mesh.
The Lanshan doesn’t come seam-sealed; you can do it yourself or pay $35 to have 3F UL do it. The tent body is also made of silnylon at a time when many manufacturers are switching to silpoly, which doesn’t sag and stretch when wet the way silnylon does. 3F UL is headquartered in China, which may be a downside for US consumers who aim to shop closer to home. Finally, the bathtub floor is only 4.3 inches high, which is…not much. For comparison, the Lunar Solo’s bathtub is six inches deep. You’ll be vulnerable to splashback in this shallow tent.
LightHeart Gear SoLong (Best Tent for Tall People)
Category: Trekking pole tent
Interior space: 30 square feet
Why We Love This Tent
The floor of the SoLong is 100 inches long. LightHeart says it’s SO LONG that hikers taller than six-foot-eight will still sleep comfortably in it. While best as a solo tent for tall folks, two “regular-size” individuals could use it comfortably as well. We love that the Solong has an awning vestibule one one side: perfect if you want a little more airflow or to lay in bed and look outside while still having some overhead protection. The tent likewise has two generous peak vents to cut down on condensation. We love LightHeart in general as a small, North Carolina-based, woman- and veteran-owned company.
- Eight-inch bathtub floor: Much taller than average, great for preventing splashback.
- Awning fly: One of the vestibules can be propped up with a carbon fiber pole to create an awning.
- Lateral ridge pole: Creates more head room and lateral stability during windstorms.
- Linelocs: For easy precision tensioning of all guyouts.
- 30D ripstop silnylon: Both fly and bathtub floor.
- Double-stiched seams: For added durability.
The awning requires a carbon fiber pole to set up, which is sold separately and not factored into the base weight or price of the tent. I suppose you could also use a short trekking pole to set it up if you have a third one handy (the tent itself requires two). Not necessarily a true con, but it’s worth noting that while the SoLong is extra long, it’s not extra-tall: the peak is 45 inches tall, which is about typical for a backpacking tent.
The Best Tents for Thru-Hiking for Thru-Hikers: FAQs
What’s the difference between freestanding and trekking pole tents?
Traditional tents have dedicated poles to give the shelter structure and body. These tents will hold their shape without the need for stakes, so they’re referred to as freestanding. (Note: even for freestanding tents, one or two stakes are typically required for the vestibule(s), and the use of additional stakes will improve your tent’s stormworthiness). The MSR Hubba Hubba is a good example of a true freestanding tent. These shelters are simple to pitch, but the poles add both weight and bulk and are always at risk of bending or snapping.
Trekking pole tents are instead supported, obviously, by the user’s trekking poles. These tents are non-freestanding because they require stakes to hold their shape. The Zpacks Duplex is a good example. Trekking pole tents are much harder to set up than their freestanding brethren, but by ditching the tent poles, you’ll save a massive amount of weight and space in your pack. If you’re camping on bedrock, snow, or another medium that won’t readily take stakes, you’re in trouble. Deadman anchors, large rocks, tree trunks, and other objects can be used in place of stakes in a pinch.
Some tents, like the Big Agnes Tiger Wall, are semi-freestanding: they have dedicated poles that mostly support the tent, but they require stakes to give the footbox structure. This hybrid approach helps shave some ounces by simplifying the tent pole architecture while retaining the easy setup advantage of true freestanding tents.
Should I go with a two-person tent or a one-person tent?
It’s largely a matter of personal preference, but we will point out that according to our thru-hiker survey, two-person tents are far more popular than their one-person counterparts (even among solo hikers). Most 1p shelters take that designation literally: they’re just wide enough to accommodate a regular-sized human laying on their back with a few inches of space on either side, and that’s it. This makes the tent as light as possible, of course, but can undoubtedly feel cramped to some hikers.
Since your tent will be your home for several months on the trail, many solo thru-hikers choose to upgrade to a 2p tent so they can have a bit more room to spread out. The larger version of the tent usually weighs a few ounces more and is more expensive, but the tradeoff is worth it for many hikers. Similarly, couples often go with a 3p tent.
What’s the difference between single-wall and double-wall tents?
Single-wall tents, like the Zpacks Duplex, shave weight by eliminating the separate bug mesh. Single-wall designs are lighter and faster to set up once you get the hang of it. There’s no separate rainfly to fuss with because the whole tent is waterproof: the rainfly is the tent. This also makes it way easier and drier to set up and take down camp in wet weather. On the other hand, they’re often poorly ventilated compared to their double-wall friends (though some single-walls do better than others). Condensation is one of the biggest issues with these shelters, though good campsite selection can help to mitigate this.
Most single-walled tents are also trekking pole setups, while most double-walled designs are freestanding, but this isn’t set in stone. Double-wall trekking pole shelters like the Durston X-Mid and the Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp + NetTent combo do exist. As do single-wall freestanding tents like the Zpacks Free Duo. Which style/combination of styles makes for the best thru-hiking tents? It’s largely a matter of personal preference.
What features should I look for in the best thru-hiking tents?
Livable Space: A one-person tent is fine for people counting ounces, but some hikers will appreciate a lightweight two-person tent for just themselves. It will allow you to spread out, stay away from the tent walls, and keep your gear inside the tent with you. For two people on a thru-hike, some two-person models will work fine, but often pairs of hikers end up getting larger models after a few hundred miles of bumping into each other when sitting up or changing. Consider interior space, vestibule space, and peak height.
General Conveniences: Consider that this is your home for months at a time. What features do you want in your portable house? Two doors and two vestibules for multi-person tents will alleviate any crawling over each other during midnight cathole excursions, and interior side pockets are nice for small items. The best tents for thru-hiking strike a fine balance between functionality and weight.
Ease of Pitch: Test your setup before you leave. The last thing you want to be doing after an excruciating day on trail is fighting with your guylines to get the fly taut before the rain comes in. Or pitching your tent in the mud just to have it collapse on you a few hours later.
Weight-to-Space Ratio: Sure you have 31 square feet of space, but your tent also weighs six pounds. Is this worth it? It might be, and that’s OK. On the other hand, you could prefer a 14-ounce, single-person trekking pole shelter and forgo the headroom. That’s fine too. More than likely you’ll wind up somewhere in the middle—many of the listed shelters have 27-29 square feet of interior space and weigh 2.5-3.5 pounds.
What’s the difference between “packaged weight” and “trail weight?”
The packaged weight is the weight of the tent plus everything that comes with it, including instructions, repair kits, stuff sacks, extra stakes, extra guyline… you get the picture.
In contrast, the trail weight (or minimum trail weight) is the combined weight of the tent body, rainfly, and poles (if applicable). It does not include the weight of the stakes, footprint, or any extra guyline you might choose to carry.
As you can see, both numbers give an incomplete idea of the weight of your tent. This true weight will likely be somewhere in between the packaged and trail weights. Some cottage brands, like Zpacks and Gossamer Gear, will give you an itemized breakdown of the individual weights of each tent component down to the smallest stuff sack, adding much-needed clarity to the tent buying experience.
Do I really need a footprint with my tent?
In general, yes. The footprint, or groundcloth, will prolong the life of your tent by protecting the floor from moisture and abrasive, puncture-making stuff like rocks, sand, and twigs. Annoyingly, most tent purchases don’t include the footprint: after shelling out hundreds of dollars for the tent, you then have to fork over an additional $50 or $60 (plus several ounces of base weight) for the groundcloth. Meh.
As an alternative, you can make or buy an inexpensive, lightweight Tyvek or Polycro groundcloth. Some tents, like the Tarptent Protrail, have rugged, puncture-resistant bathtub floors and don’t require a separate footprint.
What’s the difference between silnylon, silpoly, and DCF?
Silnylon: Most traditional tents are made of silicone-coated ripstop nylon, or silnylon. Silnylon is popular because it’s inexpensive, waterproof, reasonably puncture-resistant, reasonably lightweight, and packs up small. It has a tendency to stretch out and sag when wet, making it tough to get a taut pitch. UV exposure also weakens it quickly.
Silnylon is available in different weights, which are measured in units of deniers (d). The larger the number, the tougher (and heavier) the material. The ultralight Big Agnes Tiger Wall uses thin 15d silnylon, the SMD Lunar Solo uses 20D, and the burlier MSR Hubba Hubba uses 30d. A ripstop nylon backpack, in contrast, might use 500d silnylon.
Silpoly: Silicone-coated polyester isn’t as strong as silnylon when new, but a growing school of thought says silpoly’s superior UV-resistance makes it more durable in the long run. It also won’t sag when wet the way silnylon does. Silpoly is growing more and more common in the UL tent world as the fabric technology continues to improve: Six Moon Designs and Durston Gear have both embraced it over silnylon, and Henry Shires is in the process of changing several silnylon TarpTent designs back to silpoly.
DCF: DCF (Dyneema Cuben Fiber) is the cutting edge of ultralight fabrics. Originally designed for use in sailboats, DCF is an extremely lightweight and strong nonwoven/laminated fabric and the darling of the cottage gear trade. It’s completely waterproof and resistant to both tears and stretching, though it can still be punctured fairly easily. It’s easy to repair with a simple patch job, though. It also won’t sag or absorb water when wet.
Do I need to seam seal my tent?
Depends on the brand. Most big brand tents—Big Agnes, REI, etc.—have factory-taped seams and don’t require initial seam sealing. The factory treatment can wear out after extensive use, so you’ll eventually have to reseal them. Some cottage industry tents, like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, don’t come seam sealed to keep the price lower. You can pay a little extra for seam sealing service or save money and do it yourself.
Fortunately, seam sealer is widely available at camping and hardware stores and is easy to use. Just set up your tent (in a dry, non-dusty, non-windy place), ensure that the seams are clean and dry, and paint seam sealer over all seams that don’t adjoin mesh paneling. Leave the tent set up for several hours until the sealant has dried completely.
Why should you trust us?
Because we’re so incredibly intelligent, of course! Attractive, too. (Not to mention extremely humble).
But if that isn’t enough to impress you, there’s also the fact that everyone who contributed to this article is an experienced thru-hiker with thousands of on-trail miles under their belt. We’re gear nerds who love putting our equipment to the test on trails long and short, and we’ve tested dozens of tents in pursuit of a better night’s sleep in the backcountry.
Moreover, we survey hundreds of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers every year to learn about their behaviors, demographics, and—you guessed it—gear preferences. That means our picks for the best thru-hiking tents aren’t just our opinions: they’re based on years of feedback from the thru-hiking community.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.