With 14 hiking tents in my kit store, deciding which one to take on my backpacking trips has been a tricky decision over the last few months. But invariably I’ve found myself reaching for the lighter-weight models – those under or close to 2kg for a two-person, 3-season shelter.
Why? Because carrying a back-achingly heavy load up a steep hillside is an utter nightmare, and it’s not even necessary with the array of ultralight tents now available on the market. Granted, there are one-person tents and even bivvy bags if you want the ultimate lightweight shelter. But for less than 1kg per person, you can have it all – sturdy weather protection, superb liveability and excellent features, without needing to be Geoff Capes to carry your tent up a mountain.
Of course, lightweight tents always involve some level of compromise. Flysheets may not be flush to the ground, mesh inners can be draughty and cold, inner-first pitching is inconvenient in a downpour, high walls can catch the wind, and ultralight materials often have lower-than-ideal hydrostatic head waterproof ratings. But, unless you’re caught in a truly atrocious storm, many ultralight tents are fine for UK 3-season adventures.
During my testing trips on the 100-mile South Downs Way, the 30-peak Ring of Fire hike in Scotland’s far-flung Galloway hills, and in my local Lake District fells, these lightweight tents have hit the spot: joyously lightweight, yet comfy and protective too – a perfect compromise.
The best two-person tents
Sea to Summit Telos TR2
Best in Test
1. Sea to Summit Telos TR2
This tent is positively palatial, with first-rate headroom and liveability, despite weighing only
- Exceptional space to weight
- Well ventilated
- Good porch space
- Can catch the wind
- Could have better HH ratings
Terra Nova Pioneer 2
2. Terra Nova Pioneer 2
If the thought of using a USA-style ultralight, high-walled, mesh-centric backpacking tent in the
- High HH ratings
- Still reasonably light
- Easy pitching in the rain
- Others more spacious
- One porch
- Pole sleeves feel flimsy
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Bikepack Solution Dye
Best for bikepacking
3. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Bikepack Solution Dye
There is a lot to love about this new-for-2022 tent. It weighs just 1242g (the second lightest on
- Very lightweight
- Also great for bikepacking
- One door and porch
- Could have better HH ratings
- Annoying stuff sack
NEMO Dagger Osmo 2P
Best for space
4. NEMO Dagger Osmo 2P
There is precious little to choose between the Dagger Osmo and Sea to Summit’s Telos TR2. They use
- Spacious porches
- Good interior space
- A bit draughty
MSR FreeLite 2
Best for summer
5. MSR FreeLite 2
At just 0.91g trail weight, this minimalist tent is the lightest on test and delivers the best
- Very lightweight
- All-round spaciousness
- Quick to pitch
- Concern over weather-resistance
Vaude Hogan SUL 2P
Best lightweight tent for weather resistance
6. Vaude Hogan SUL 2P
Featuring Vaude’s tried-and-tested tripod – a long ridge pole along the length of the tent and an
- Good waterproof ratings
- Quick pitching
- One small porch
- Not as spacious as others
What to look for in a two-person tent
Shape: Dome tents and geodesic tents are the most stable shapes and best for dealing with stroppy weather. Tripod and backpacking shapes are lighter than dome and geodesic tents but aren't so weather resistant, though usually still very good. Tunnel tents are popular for hiking and camping alike. They can be compact and lightweight or large and commodious, depending on the design. They aren't as good in a storm as dome or geodesic tents but they are usually still pretty good.
Flysheet: For maximum weatherproofing, a tent’s flysheet – the waterproof outer – should peg out flush to the ground, and be easily adjustable via tension straps so that it’s taut, stable and well-shaped. Some flysheets don’t quite reach the ground, which aids ventilation but risks water ingress.
Weight and packed size: For trekkers, this is key and part of the reason two-person tents are very popular. They can give that bit of extra room without adding too much weight or girth to the packed size. Consider your rucksack size and volume and be sure to check dimensions of a tent's packed size before committing to it. For a good quality, 3-season tent for UK use, 1kg or under is extremely light, 1.5kg is good and more than 2kg is a tad on the heavy side.
Pitching: Some tents, particularly from US brands, are pitched inner first – which isn’t ideal if it’s raining. Others are pitched outer first or all-as-one, enabling the inner to be kept dry while the flysheet is pegged out. Ease of pitching is another important consideration.
Waterproofing: For an indication of how waterproof a tent really is, check the hydrostatic head of the flysheet and groundsheet. A good baseline is 3000mm. However many other factors, including silicone or PU coatings, the tent’s shape, sealed seams, and the tightness of a fabric’s weave, affect waterproofing.
Ventilation: Condensation can be difficult to avoid in the UK’s wet climate, so good ventilation is key. Mesh vents on the inner and vent windows on the flysheet will help increase airflow, as will mesh panels on the inner’s walls. Good clearance between the inner and outer is very important too.
Features: Other important features include: a good-sized porch for stashing your backpack and boots, a wide door for easy entry and exit, sufficient length and width for lying down (check carefully if you’re 6ft+), a stormflap over the main zipper, internal pockets for gear organisation, an easy-to-fill carry bag, strong poles, good pegs, sturdy pegging out loops and robust guy lines.