In this age of lightweight backpacking and camping, more and more people are opting for lightweight gear to save both money and weight. An example is a preference for tarp tents which have become quite popular even though they do not provide the level of comfort provided by regular tents. The early tarp tents were makeshift tents made by backpackers using simply a tarpaulin, plastic or nylon sheet, with no floors and protection from the weather. Nowadays, more sophisticated tarp tents are available in the market with such things as bug screening and storm flaps on the ends and even floors and vents.
Picking the best tarp tent for backpacking, hiking or trekking can often be a challenge. In this article, we look at some of the best inexpensive 3-season tarp tents available in the market. Some of the options that we list here may not be ultralight, but with weight distribution among multiple persons, they would be great value for money buys. We will also look at factors to consider while selecting the best tarp tents for yourself or somebody else. While the options we list are mostly 2-person tents, but you can find 3 or more person option for the same brand. Most of the options listed are three season tents.
Best tarp tents comparison listOur pick of the best tarp tents out in the market and how they stack against each other.
|Picture||Product||Weight (in lbs)||Features|
|Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person Tent||5.5( including accessories)|| - Freestanding 2-person tent made with high grade polyester|
- Rainfly can be used separately
- Dimension : 7.7’X4.7’X3.6’
- Comes with all accessories
- Can be shipped to select countries outside US
|Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent||7.2(including accessories)|| - 1-door imported tent made with Polyester taffeta|
- Easy two-pole design for quick set up, all included
- Dimensions : 7'X5'x4’
- Comes with Electric accessibility port
|Ohuhu 3 Person Tent with Carry Bag||7.5(including accessories)|| - 2-door smart polyester tent for good ventilation|
- Built in Rain fly can be used separately
- Dimensions : 6.7”x7.8”x 2.6’
- Carry Bag and all accessories included
|Bryce 2P 2-Person Ultralight Tent and Footprint||3.9(including accessories)|| - Fully featured Ultralight tent, made Denier polyester|
- Rainfly can be used separately
- Dimension : 7’X4.4’X3’
- 1 year manufacture warranty
|ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent||5.2(including accessories)|| - 2-door imported tent made with Polyester taffeta|
- Easy Assembly with Pole Clips that quickly snap over the tent poles
- Dimensions: 7.5’X4.2X3.8
- Limited Life time warranty
|ANGIX 2 Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent||4.53( including accessories)|| - Light weight 2-door tent made with 210D oxford fabric|
- Rainfly can be used separately
- Dimension : 6.6’X4.9’X3.6’
- Comes with all accessories
|Kelty Salida 2 person Tent||5.9(including accessories)||- Popular,backpack-friendly,single-door, freestanding 2-person tent made with high grade polyester with PU coating. |
- Dimension : 7.3'X4.5'X3.6'
- The tent features collapsible aluminium poles and Kelty's hug pole clips for fast, secure setup.
- Comes with all accessories including stakes, frame poles and carrying.
|Naturehike Double-layer 2 person tent||5.0(including accessories)||- Imported, 2-person tent made with 210T polyester cloth, with B3 Nylon meshes|
- Dimension : 7.9’X6.4’X3.9’
- The tent has a spacious, UV-Proof, wind proof and waterproof design
- Comes with all accessories including stakes, frame poles, carrying bag and a picnic mat.
|Topnaca 2 person backpacking tent||4.53(including accessories)||- Decent 2-person, two door tent made with 210T polyester cloth, with B3 Nylon meshes|
- Dimension : 6.9’X4.5’X3.6’
- The tent features wind ropes, two way zippers for doors and door curtain clasp.
- Comes with all accessories including stakes, frame poles and carrying bag
How to pick the best tarp tents for yourself?
Picking the best tarp tent can often be a challenging task. Typically, tarp tents cost less than the traditional tents and support only three seasons and cannot be used for highly cold weathers, though some manufacturers advertise otherwise. The purpose and number of occupants are also important. Once you have an understanding of that, you can keep the following factors in mind while considering the best choice for you or anybody else you are buying it for:
- Type of tarp tent
- Building Material
- Comfort and Ventilation
Type of tarp tent
Over the years, different designs have emerged for tarp tents. Some of the most common tarp tent designs are,
- Pup Tent
- Ridge or Dome Tent
- Hammock Tent
In this article, we mainly focused on pup tents, dome tents and rain fly tents ( most of the dome tents we listed come with rainfly) as there is real value for money and provide reasonable protection from the weather. In addition, some tents may not have footprints, but all high-end dome type tarp tents listed above do have footprints or base for maximum comfort.
The building material for the outer cover of the tent is extremely important for its durability. Most of the tarp tents use high-grade polyester, silicon coated nylon. Some tents also use Oxford fabric for their outer surface. All these materials are fireproof. In addition, these materials provide decent waterproofing and the tents can withstand light to medium rains. The material for poles and stakes and accessories is also important. Most of the tent poles are made up of high-grade aluminum. The carry bags for tents are generally waterproof dry bags, as the tents have to be carried outside the backpack. In addition, Most of the dome type high end tents such as Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person Tent and Bryce 2P 2-Person Ultralight Tent and Footprint have two layers allowing you to use the Rainfly tent as a separate resting place in conducive weather.
For any hiker or backpacker, the weight of the tent is extremely important. This is one of the primary reasons why tarp tents have become so popular. High-end tents such as Bryce 2P 2-Person Ultralight Tent and Footprint and Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person Tent are very light to handle, but they are costlier than their cheaper counterparts. When considering a tarp tent, it is important to consider the weight of the accessories while picking up one for yourself, as some tents do not come with them. A trick normally used by backpackers is to use trekking poles as tent stakes. This works fine in most weather conditions, but in extreme winds any damage to your trekking poles can be costly, so keep the weather conditions in mind before planning the accessories to carry.
Comfort and Ventilation
Since proper rest is a rudimentary factor for an enjoyable camping trip, it is important that the tent you pick is of the correct size and provides the best ventilation for your needs. Look at the dimensions of the tent to decide whether two persons can comfortably fit in as advertised. Also some tents such as Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent have only one door, thus limiting the ventilation a little. However, such tents provide small zipper mesh window in the rear for air circulation. In addition, almost all of these tents have multiple vestibules to add additional dry storage space and mesh pockets to store small items.
Which are the best tarp tents and what our picks are?
Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person Tent – Editor’s choice pick for best tarp tent
Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person Tent is really the top of the line dome type tarp tent which provides luxury of a regular tent in the three seasons it is meant for. It has two layers and the RainFly enclosure can be used separately as well. It offers decent space for accommodating two persons and comes with all the accessories, including the carry bag. Although it is more than 1.3 lbs heavier than the Bryce 2P tent, it is cheaper, highly durable and comes with double vestibules to add 14 square feet of extra dry storage. For its design and price, it was awarded the Backpacker Gear Guide’s Killer Deal and Killer Value awards in 2011.
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent – Best value pick for tarp tent
Alps Mountaineering’s Lynx is their best-selling two-person tent model. This imported, water and windproof tent is made of high-quality polyester taffeta with Nylon meshes. It has two wide doors with extra-large zippers and half mesh walls for increased ventilation. The tent comes with all accessories included. One of the best part with the Lynx is that it comes with 2 vestibules for extra storage space.
The tent setup weighs a decent 5.2 lbs., making it reasonably lightweight for two persons. The only drawback you can consider is that the tent does not come with a footprint and you will have to purchase it separately. Despite that, the Lynx makes an excellent value-for-money buy for a freestanding backpacking tent.
Coleman Sundome 2 Person Tent – Best ultra-cheap tarp tent
Coleman Sundome 2 person tent is a decent tarp tent for its price. It has one door, with the outer surface made up of Polyester taffeta 75 denier flysheet, which is fire retardant material. It provides a nice mesh rear window for cross ventilation. It is extremely easy to setup and also comes up with electricity accessibility port and flashlight loop in the ceiling. The tent comes with all the accessories including the carry sacks and stakes. At 7.2 lbs ( including accessories ), it may look a little heavy, but with the price and shared weight among 2 persons, it provides an ideal low-cost option. Coleman Sundome tent also comes in bigger sizes.
Many times you need additional accessories such as tent stakes, guy lines, and even a mallet to put in the stakes. If you are looking for such accessories, you can consider one of the following options. All these items come with their lightweight carry pouch.
- Paria Outdoor Products Tent and Tarp Accessory Kit
- Gearupz Tent Accessory Kit
- Coleman Tent Accessory Kit
- TNH Outdoors Aluminum Tri-Beam Tent Stakes
Another accessory worth considering is a tent repair kit or just the tape. This is especially handy if you are camping for more than a couple of days. You can consider the following options (check the building material of your tarp tent before picking the right repair kit)
- Gear Aid Tenacious Tape for Fabric Repair
- Tear-Aid Fabric Repair Kit
- Coleman Tent Repair Kit
- Coghlans Nylon Tent Repair Kit
Finally, an often overlooked, but important item to have with your tent is a tent footprint. A tent footprint provides additional protection to the bottom/floor of your tent against twigs, rubbles, plants and what not. While many tent manufacturers have specific footprints available for their tents, some of the popular generic options to consider are:
- ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2.0 Tent Floor Saver
- Triwonder Multifunction Oxford Footprint
- OUTAD Waterproof Multifunction Tarp and Footprint
TIP:You can use a two person hammock and trekking poles or walking sticks to build a makeshift tarp tent for emergencies.
Final thoughts on the best tarp tents
In this post, we looked at some of the best tarp tents available in the market. Though many survivalists and outdoor experts like to build their own tarp tents, with the availability of a decent number of such tents in the market makes it much easier to own one. We primarily focused on 2-person three season tents which are mainly dome typed tarp tents. We also looked at some of the key factors to consider while picking the best suited tarp tents for yourself or somebody else. Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Best wishes for your next backpacking or hiking trip with your favourite tarp tent!