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You came to this page because you want me to name the best backpacking tents, right?
OK, here's my answer:
The best ones:
Sounds like a tall order, right?
Let's say you want to go ultralight - hard and fast and unburdened on the trail.
I wouldn't sing the praises of a fully loaded tent with all of the bells and whistles - that would waste your time (and probably annoy you).
That's why my information needs to be broken down into categories.
And be forewarned. If you really get into this backpacking thing, you will acquire more than one tent.
A pricey habit, but completely justifiable, in my mind!
And of course you must also consider these common sense variables: "need" -versus- "want" -versus- "can afford" -versus- "can carry for days at a time."
Whew! That's a lot of stuff to consider!
Can't we break it down to the essentials?
Here's the bottom line when considering best backpacking tents:
Every tent must keep your body and your gear safe, regardless of weather conditions. If it fails that simple little test, put it in the pile with other garage sale items.
In order to perform well for you, your shelter needs functional construction:
So in your purchase decision, you must balance not only the tent's price, but what your money is buying in terms of quality, smart design features, weight, ease of use, and longevity.
Let's take a brief look at some of these essential features.
Which footprint will give you maximum room for your plans?
How many times each year, and where, will you be using this as your home away from home?
If you're just starting out as a hiker, you don't need a tent which is designed for the rigors of Mt. Everest.
Likewise, if you're going to be out in all kinds of weather for weeks on end, you don't want fancy bells and whistles, you want SHELTER!!
One of the first pieces of data you should zero in on is weight.
Going solo? You really need to balance weight and performance!
So be prepared to answer those questions (how many times, and when and where) when you go into a gear store and start looking at tents.
And be suspicious if the salesperson doesn't ask you!
You owe it to your trail comfort and safety to spend some time answering another question:
"What makes this particular shelter a candidate for my essential gear list?"
Check out all of the variables I've outlined above. You want to be ultra-certain about the best backpacking tent for you, right?
Here's the tent I'm currently using, because all the variables line up and make it a reliable, durable, lightweight shelter.
Want to do your own due diligence?
Here's where spreadsheets come into their own.
Maybe it's because of my science background, but I just love to set up a table and enter the data whenever I'm considering a major gear purchase.
Make a list of my "essential features" down the left hand side, and list at least 3 candidate tents across the top.
Fill in the info as you research each tent, and Voila! You have a great little decision making tool.
Of course, if that seems a little geeky, you can always hold that garage sale for any "clunker" tents you purchase.
But I find that a supremely unsatisfying back up plan.
Your pre-purchase thoroughness will eliminate the need to stand on your lawn with a "For Sale" sign, when you could be backpacking instead!
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