The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Discover tried and tested reviews as well as our top picks for the best backpacking tents.

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

by Live for the Outdoors |

An idyllic night under the stars is always available to the backpacker with the right shelter in their rucksack. Here’s our pick of the best premium one-person tents.

The top three

MSR Zoic 1 £254.95

Lots of living space, but at this price can you really get all you need for a range of wild camping situations?

Tester: Graham Thompson

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 223x189x100cm

Packed size 14x50cm

Weight 1740g

If you’re looking for a comfortable living space in warm weather, this is an outstanding tent. It pitches inner first, with the three poles crossing at the middle to form a dome shape that allows plenty of headroom. The pitching is very easy too, and once the inner is erected you can easily position it where you want to avoid any lumps on the ground. The fly goes over the top of the inner, and again this is easily achieved with ladder lock webbing buckles allowing easier tensioning.

It's good

Once pitched it’s very stable and there’s a huge porch down one side, which can be fully opened up if desired. The mesh inner makes this a very cool and airy tent in mild conditions, and is of benefit not only to comfort at night but also manages to reduce both the weight and price.

This tent is great for warm weather, but with so much space inside it’s also comfortable during wind and rain.

However

This isn’t the best tent in terms of weather protection, as the fly doesn’t reach the ground and all that mesh on the inner can make it feel cold and draughty. The porch is less well protected too. Annoyingly it only comes with the bare minimum of pegs (eight) – ten pegs would be better for the mixed weather typical of the UK.

And that’s the issue with this tent – it has been designed for mild weather, and even stargazing at night, so other tents are simply better when the heavens really rain down.

Having said all that, the price here is great, so it’s a case of deciding whether the drawbacks are actually drawbacks for your style of camping.

Verdict

An exceptionally spacious and comfortable tent to live in during mild summer weather, with a very good price, but others are lighter and better in wild weather.

Features 4/5

Design 4/5

Weight 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 5/5

Overall score 84%

Terra Nova Laser Compact 1 £382.50

This lightweight option might be feature-packed, but does it have mass appeal?

Tester: Anna Humphries

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x93x95cm

Packed size 14x30cm

Weight 1096g

It's good

This is the latest version of the renowned Laser Competition series of tents, with the addition of shorter poles for 2019 to bring down the overall length of the tent when packed to just 30cm. Combine its packed size with a weight of around 1kg and this, on paper, is the ideal tent for lightweight backpacking.

The tent is pitched outer first, with one pole being fitted across the centre and two shorter vertical poles at each end. Once erected it is reasonably stable. The outer door is secured open with an unusual hook and loop design, but this works very well and actually results in a neater door when opened than many others that tend to sag and unravel.

The porch is full length and 50cm wide, with enough room for a pack while leaving space to easily access the inner. Inside the tent there is good headroom too, making this a spacious shelter from the elements.

Nice touches include a double zip on the main door, so you can look out and check the weather easily, and just enough mesh to reduce weight without making the inner too breezy.

However

This tent is a touch fiddlier to pitch just right, requiring a little more fine-tuning. While stable enough for general conditions, some other tents are even more robust, although, of course, they are heavier too.

The inner space is good for the tent’s weight; lighter tents will probably offer less space and roomier tents are likely to be heavier.

The price is pretty steep too, a result of the overall package being a compromise between weight, space, stability and cost.

Verdict

Perhaps the ideal all-rounder for backpacking when you want good space but also good weight and packed size; but others offer space, price and stability benefits.

Features 4/5

Design 4/5

Weight 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 4/5

Overall score 80%

Hilleberg Akto £585

Built to withstand the wildest of mountain weather, but is this enough to justify the price?

Tester: Tim Butcher

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x90x90cm

Packed size 16x43cm

Weight 1750g

It's good

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x90x90cm

Packed size 16x43cm

Weight 1750g

Far more robust than other tents, the Akto is the sort of tent you buy if you want it to protect you no matter what the weather. Designed as an all-season tent, the flysheet extends to the ground to lock out wind, rain and snow, while its zips and fittings are chunkier than others.

Pitching is easy, as the four corner vertical poles are in-situ, leaving just one pole to be fitted, and the design is outer-pitched first with just four pegs required for a basic set-up. Once up this is a very stable structure, with a larger porch than others, offering plenty of room for gear and cooking.

Inside it is bigger than similar designs, so feels like a tent you can live in for more than a couple of nights. There is no mesh on the inner, so it isn’t too draughty, but in summer you can unzip the doors at the head and the foot of the outer for more airflow.

However

The drawbacks are price, weight and packed size – ie the factors that have led to such a robust and spacious tent. You have to consider if the performance offered here matches your backpacking requirements.

Lighter, cheaper mesh tents will be fine for mild summer conditions when you can sit outside of an evening and even leave your pack out overnight. If those are the conditions you’re expecting then you can save cash, weight and packed size by looking elsewhere, but for everything else this is very hard to beat.

Verdict

Perfect for solo backpacking in wild weather, but for mild conditions you can save weight and cash by choosing a tent with less protection from the elements.

Features 5/5

Design 5/5

Weight 3/5

Performance 5/5

Value for money 3/5

Overall score 84%

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Runners up

Lightwave T10 Trail £300

Tester: Graham Thompson

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x85x95cm

Packed size 14x40cm

Weight 1638g

The two-pole tunnel on this tent can be pitched inner or outer first, with the flysheet hugging the ground to help keep the wind and rain out.

The front door has a double central zip so you can open it from the top or bottom, and there is good room for gear in the porch too. However, other porches do allow gear storage and easier access to the tent.

The inner feels a little less spacious than others, and if you can pay more money you can get a lighter tent.

Pros

Price, inner or outer pitch first, great front door, great weather protection.

Cons

Less spacious, less easy access to inner, not the lightest option available.

Buy it if

You want a tent with outer or inner pitched first design for wilder weather, and don’t need more space, and cannot extend your budget to lighter tents.

Overall score 80%

FJÄLLRÄVEN Abisko Lite 1 £500

Tester: Anna Humphries

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x90x90cm

Packed size 14x35cm

Weight 1718g

This tent combines an outer pitched first design with stability and great living space, making it ideal for the typical mixed conditions of the UK mountains.

The porch is full length and 65cm wide, so more than enough for one person’s gear while maintaining easy access to the inner.

The inner doesn’t have too much mesh, so isn’t cold and draughty, but you can vent each end of the inner.

And double zip pulls on the outer door allow it to be opened from the top.

Pros

Weather protection, good living space, reasonable price compared to similar spec tents.

Cons

Not the lightest and slightly smaller living space than some other designs.

Buy it if

You want good weather protection and don’t need more space or lower weight, which may require spending more money.

Overall score 80%

Vaude Lizard 1P £565.95

Tester: Tim Butcher

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 210x60x75cm

Packed size 10x35cm

Weight 740g

The superb weight is the standout feature, along with an unusual pole configuration with a pole that acts like a cantilever when tension is added via a rear guyline.

Pitching is easy, as the four corner pegs have ladder lock adjusters, but you do need a solid pegging point for the main pole guyline, as otherwise you won’t get the cantilever design.

The main door opens from the bottom only, and you get a full-length porch that is 40cm wide at its widest point. Headroom and living space are smaller than other tents.

Pros

Weight, packed size, surprising space for the weight, great for one night.

Cons

Living space is small, less weather-resistant than others, main door lacks top opening, price, not ideal for longer periods in bad weather.

Buy it if

You want a very lightweight tent for milder weather rather than a more spacious, weatherproof shelter for extended use in wild weather.

Overall score 76%

Nordisk Lofoten 1 ULW £580

Tester: Tim Butcher

The Big Test: Backpacking Tents Review 2019

Internal dimensions (LxWxH) 220x85x70cm

Packed size 10x17x22cm

Weight 736g

Designed for adventure racing and described as one of the lightest two-skin tents in the world, the Lofoten 1 ULW is certainly minimalist. The poles are made up of shorter sections than normal, so the packed size is very short. The fabric is also very thin, as it is 15-denier nylon rather than the heavier nylons used on other tents.

Pitching is easy and you can extend the porch canopy for more cooking space, but this tent does have less living space than others, so it isn’t ideal for use in extended periods of foul weather.

Pros

Weight, packed length, porch canopy extension, great for one night.

Cons

Small living space, flaps more in the wind than higher-priced designs, price, heavier tents are more comfortable for extended periods of use.

Buy it if

You want a very lightweight tent for use in milder weather rather than a more spacious weatherproof shelter for extended use in wild conditions.

Overall score 76%

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