10 Best Thru-Hiking Tents of 2021

10 Best Thu-Hiking Tents

What are the best tents for thru-hiking? The first major option is choosing between a semi-freestanding tent which comes with tent poles or a trekking-pole tent. Semi-freestanding tents are usually easier to set up than trekking pole tents but often weigh more. Trekking pole tents utilize your trekking poles for the structure of the shelter, and are often single-wall, which means increased condensation. That said, there are plenty of shelters that mix and match styles, and we’ve done our best to mention the details in each listing.

You’ll also be considering the following factors: livable space, weight, durability, ease of pitch, and protection. When you take all of these into consideration, there is no perfect tent. If you’re opting for lighter weight, you’re probably sacrificing durability. If you want more livable space and protection, it’s likely a heavier tent. You get the picture.

Your best thru-hiking tent is the one that matches your hiking style. If you’re not an ultralight hiker, you probably won’t be happy with a minimalist tarp. Conversely, if you have a sub-10-pound base weight, chances are you aren’t carrying a freestanding two-person freestanding tent. Here are our top picks (in no particular order) for the best thru-hiking tents to fit a variety of thru-hiking styles and preferences.

1. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV Ul 2
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is a true two-person shelter, and most hiking pairs will feel comfortable in this well-designed freestanding tent. The Copper Spur has 29 feet of interior space, plenty of shoulder room, and two large vestibules. The newest iteration of the Copper Spur now has an “awning-style” vestibule that can be secured with trekking poles to increase the covered space even more. This tent has vents along the fly, a fast, intuitive pitch, and incredibly durable. Large, color-coded buckles secure the tent to the fly and are easy to secure with frozen fingers.

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Backcountry | REI | Amazon

2. Gossamer Gear “The One”

Gossamer Gear The One Tent
Gossamer Gear’s “The One” is the perfect introduction to single-wall trekking pole shelters. This 17.7-ounce shelter is an incredibly spacious one-person model, with a large vestibule and plenty of headroom. The One is 84 inches long and 45 inches tall with a large side door and vestibule. The pitch is intuitive and feels very secure in inclement weather. Setup requires 2 trekking poles, although accessory tent poles are available for sale if you don’t use them. The One is also available in a 2 person model called “the Two”. Both shelters are also available in DCF versions, but with a heftier price stage. See Gossamer Gear for details.

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Gossamer Gear

3. Zpacks Duplex

Zpacks Duplex Tent
The Zpacks Duplex is a two-person trekking-pole tent. It weighs 19 ounces and has a 48-inch peak height, with 8-inch bathtub floors for more protection from snow and wet ground. The two vestibules are cut high, which helps reduce condensation, and the tent itself has enough interior space for most hikers to stay comfortably away from the sidewalls. We know many people who carry this as a one-person shelter because it can feel tight with two people. As a DCF single-wall shelter, condensation can be an issue. Read the SectionHiker review.

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4. Dan Durston X-Mid 1

X-Mid-1 UL Tent
The Dan Durston X-Mid 1 is one of the most popular shelters on this list, and also one of the most least-expensive. It also has some of the best ventilation out of any trekking-pole shelters on the market with two huge rollback doors for ease of access and airflow. The X-Mid is a double-wall tent so internal condensation transfer onto your gear is seldom an issue. The Durston X-Mid 1 has a unique “parallelogram” floor shape, which makes it very easy to set up. Read the SectionHiker review.

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Amazon | The Drop

5. Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is one of the most popular thru-hiking tents because it’s so lightweight. The Fly Creek HV UL2 has steeper sidewalls and less headroom than other Big Agnes models, and only one door and one vestibule. While it has 28 square feet of interior space and is 42 inches high at the peak height, we recommend using it as a spacious 1-person tent for thru-hiking or on an extended trip. Although, the 31 oz Fly Creek HV UL2 is also available in even lighter weight Carbon (DCF), Platinum, and MtnGLO models, we like it the best in terms of price and durability. Read the SectionHiker Review.

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Backcountry | REI | Amazon

6. NEMO Hornet Elite 2

Nemo Hornet 2 Elite
The NEMO Hornet Elite 2 has one of the best weight-to-space ratios out of all of the NEMO models. The trail weight is just 1 pound 11 ounces and it has an interior volume of 27.3 feet. Note that this tent is smaller than some of the others on the list, and the 37-inch peak height might be too low for some hikers. One of the benefits of this tent is the narrow footprint, which means it can fit into tighter campsites and maneuver to fit awkwardly shaped spots. This is a good example of a two-person tent that might be better for one person, though if split up, each hiker would carry less than one pound. The NEMO Hornet Elite 2 has two doors and two vestibules and is a bright, distinctive yellow.

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NEMO | REI | Amazon

7. REI Flash Air 2

REI Flash Air 2
The REI Flash Air 2 is a two-person, single-wall trekking-pole tent. With a trail weight of 31 oz, it has 28.7 feet of interior space and two good-size vestibules for keeping gear dry. This tent has a larger internal volume than other trekking-pole shelters, and the poles supporting the body of the tent are anchored far enough outside of the doors to help avoid knocking into them when entering and exiting the tent. The fly can be rolled back for star-gazing and multiple vents increase airflow when the doors are closed. Read the SectionHiker review.

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8. Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

Lunar Solo Tent
The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is a one-person trekking-pole shelter that pitches with just a single trekking pole. Weighing in at 26 oz, it’s inexpensive and spacious with a 26-cubic foot interior. It is also an exceptionally durable tent, made with 20d silicone-coated polyester fly and a super durable 40d floor. The Lunar Solo has an unusual “hexagonal” shape that provides lots of interior space for gear storage and a peak height of 49 inches. You’ll have to seam seal it yourself or pay Six Moon Designs a small fee to seam seal it. Read the SectionHiker review.

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Six Moon Designs

9. REI Quarter Dome SL 1 Tent

REI Quarter Dome 1 SL
The REI Quarter Dome SL 1 ($299) is a highly livable 31 oz double wall tent with vertical sidewalls and plenty of head and shoulder room. The hubbed and shock-corded pole assembly is color-coded to simplify setup, while adjustable stake out points make stake placement easy and allow for quick vestibule tensioning. Abundant mesh and a roof vent help prevent internal condensation while a variety of pockets and hang loops help organize the interior. This tent is surprisingly affordable and quite a good value. Be sure to check out the REI Quarter Dome SL2 ($349) which is also a great tent for two. Read the SectionHiker Review

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10. Tarptent Double Rainbow

Tarptent Double Rainbow

The Tarptent Double Rainbow is a two-person, double-wall tent built as one unit. It weighs 42 ounces and has the dual-door-and-vestibule that most pairs of hikers will want. The tent uses just one pole for structure along the top of the tent, and trekking poles can be used to secure the corners of the tent, allowing it to be pitched freely on hard surfaces where staking is unrealistic. Keep in mind that you’ll have to seam seal this tent yourself, or pay Tarptent a modest fee to do it for you. A seam-taped DCF version is also available.

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Thru-Hiking Tent Selection Guide

Here’s a summary of factors to keep in mind when choosing your thru-hiking tent.

Freestanding tents vs. trekking pole shelters

These are the two main categories of backpacking tents, and there are pros and cons to both. Ultralight hikers are more apt to choose trekking-pole shelters, which are primarily single-wall units. These are held up by trekking poles, which the design assumes you already carry, thus no added weight of a pole system. These take some practice pitching: if they’re pitched correctly, they are very sturdy, but they definitely have the potential for poor pitches.

A freestanding tent or semi-freestanding tent, depending on how you define it, usually consists of a tent body and a separate rain fly. A separate set of poles creates the structure, and most of these models have to be staked out at the corners and fly for the best pitch. These tents can offer more resistance to condensation and a faster, sturdier pitch on a variety of surfaces, but they are typically bulkier and heavier than trekking-pole models.

Livable space and capacity

There’s a saying that gets thrown around with thru-hiking tents, something along the lines of: a two-person tent is one-person-plus-gear, and a three-person tent is a two-person-tent-plus gear. Just because you’ve hiked with a partner and used a two-person tent, it doesn’t mean you want to live in it with them for up to six months at a time. If you and your partner like to be able to sit up, spread your gear out, and stay away from the tent walls, consider a three-person model for your extended hike. Whichever size you choose, hiking with a partner means you should choose a model with two doors and two vestibules.

How much does weight-saving matter to you?

With very few exceptions, an ultralight shelter is going to compromise something else in the name of saving weight. It might be a single-wall trekking pole shelter that feels finicky to set up and collects condensation, or it might be an ultralight freestanding tent that isn’t as durable as other models. Thinner materials in ultralight shelters need more care, and ultralight poles have to be handled with care as well. A lighter tent might have less interior space, which can feel cramped in bad weather.

Before you go for the lightest shelter out there, consider your preferences as a hiker. You might take a compromise on weight but will end up with a tent best suited for yourself and your hiking style. That said, you don’t want to be carrying any more than a three or four-pound tent on your own. If you’re splitting a tent with a partner, both people shouldn’t have to carry more than two pounds each.

Durability and materials

This goes hand in hand with weight savings. Before you jump on the Dyneema Composite Fabric bandwagon, know that you’ll have to take extra care of the shelter should you go this route. DCF is the darling of the ultralight world, and it has a ton of benefits as a tent material. It’s taut, waterproof, and tear-resistant.

But the fact that it has no give means it can be prone to failure if stretched too much, and some earlier models of DCF tents tried to use too lightweight material, and the DCF tore on high-profile testing trips. If you know you’re hard on tents and you don’t usually carry a footprint, go for a heavier model, or at least something with a reinforced floor. Lighter models have thinner fly fabric and mesh also, with a tendency to get caught in door zippers. Be aware of this, and know that just because your tent cost an arm and a leg, it doesn’t guarantee it’ll stand up to continuous abuse over thousands of miles.

Editor’s note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

About the author

Maggie Slepian is originally from the northeast and is currently based in Bozeman, Montana. Maggie has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, is *almost* done with the New Hampshire 48 4,000-footers, has developed backpacking routes in the Utah high desert, and spent the past five years testing gear and working professionally in the outdoor industry. Maggie spends as much time outdoors as possible, whether it’s backpacking, peak bagging, bikepacking, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, or kayaking. She is currently a full-time freelance writer and editor, and is always busy planning the next backcountry adventure. Get in touch at maggieslepian.com.

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