Have tent will travel! A backpacking tent buyers guide

When venturing on a backpacking trip you know that the weight of your clobber is of paramount importance. A backpacking tent, therefore, has to be the residence of choice.
BCH Camping offer a wide range of backpacking tents to suit a range of budgets and sizes. If you’re new to backpacking, or had enough of lugging a standard tent and telling yourself it will be fine (and disagreeing with yourself half a mile in) then this guide to backpacking tents will help you to make the right choice.
What’s the difference between a standard camping tent and a backpacking tent?
The main difference is portability. A standard camping tent is often transported in a car so whilst it is still important that it doesn’t take up too much space – after all where will the cooker, the kitchen cupboards, the picnic table, the crockery, the chairs, the clothes, the bikes and the kids go? – there are still various features of a standard camping tent that makes it heavier, which isn’t an issue in a car. If you’re carrying it, it soon will be!
A backpacking tent must do as the name suggests, be packed on a person’s back. Yes, we’re stating the obvious, but whilst being lightweight is obviously a key issue, that doesn’t mean that durability should be compromised. As such a backpacking tent has unique features to ensure it offers necessary protection.
What are the main features of backpacking tents?

  • Lightweight - 1 person tents start at just 1.75kg and 3 person tents go up to 3.5kg. That’s very lightweight which is important when you consider it will be on your back for a large portion of the day!
  • Backpacking tents have aluminium alloy poles because despite being lightweight, they are extremely strong. In bad weather at most they will, more often than not, bend rather than break. These alloy poles are stronger than fibreglass often used in standard tents.
  • Better quality backpacking tents have a Ripstop outer material which is a pattern of thicker threads in the weave. It allows the majority of the fabric to be very thin – making it more lightweight – but the thicker areas stop the material from tearing or laddering if there is a small hole.
  • The backpacking tents sold by BCH Camping are all Gauranteed 100% waterproof, thereby meeting the Hydrostatic Head standard of 1000 which is the legal minimum requirement to call a tent “waterproof”. As such waterproofing has not been compromised for lack of weight, and all of BCH Campings backpacking tents far exceed this minimum requirement.
  • For backpacking tents the fly sheet is often pitched first because it is 100% waterproof and if you’re pitching your tent in the rain it will protect you while you pitch the inner. For other backpacking tents the pitching order is fly and inner at the same time.
If a backpacking tent is so light, how strong is it in bad weather?
Backpacking tents are categorised by a 2, 3 or 4 season rating:
  • A 2 season tent is designed for good weather, mainly to be used in spring and summer, and will only protect you in mild rain and wind.
  • A 3 season tent will have considerably more resistance in heavier rain and wind, and can be used in autumn and less treacherous winter weather. It will usually be made of more durable material and have a stronger structure.
  • A 4 season tent will be designed for use during winter, able to withstand snowy and other more challenging climates.
What sizes do backpacking tents come in?
Unlike standard camping tents, the largest size available with BCH Camping is a 3 person tent because anything larger would be too heavy to carry.

  • One person tents – perfect for the sole explorer. The Jack Wolfskin Gossamer pitches at 225cm wide x 75cm high, has a Hydrostatic Head (HH) measurement of 4000mm, alloy poles, a breathable mesh inner and weighs just 1.75kg
  • Two person tents – more space and ventilation. The Wild Country Hoolie 2 tent has a sleeping area of 230cm x 100cm and a head height of 90cm, weighs 2.3kg, alloy poles and a HH of 4000mm
At the higher end of the market, the Terra Nova Southern Cross 2 tent is a 4 season tent, pitches at 120cm wide x 102cm high with a Waterbloc of 10,000mm and weighs 2.29kg
  • Three person tents – well proportioned with a generous inner and good head height. The Vango Tempest 300 is a fantastic budget 3 season tunnel tent, pitches at 190cm wide x 110cm high, with a HH rate of 5000mm and weight of 3.35kg
The Wild Country Helm 3 tent has a 3 season rating, pitches at 225cm wide x 120cm high and weighs 2.84kg
How much should I be spending on a good quality backpacking tent?
At BCH Camping our backpacking tents range from £100 up to £450. The lighter and stronger the tent, the higher the cost as manufacturers pack in all of the features we’ve described.
Overall, what should I be considering when buying a backpacking tent?
To consider all of the features and options available you need to think about the following:
  1. Weight – how far are you walking? What else are you carrying?
  2. Season rating – what kind of weather do you usually walk in? Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut and buy a 4 season tent if you only venture out in spring and summer. On the flip side don’t buy a cheap tent that doesn’t give you the protection against the elements that you need as this can be extremely dangerous.
  3. Size/capacity – if travelling alone do you want more space than a one-person tent can offer or are you focussed on being light and quick? If travelling as a group what is important to you – weight or maybe space to store equipment?
  4. Durability – all BCH Camping tents are highly durable, but obviously there are different levels of durability available. If you treat your tent and equipment kindly then you are probably safe with the thinner material of lighter weight tents. If, however, you are guilty of not paying so much attention to the care of your equipment you may want to opt for a heavier material, designed for more durability.
Backpacking tents at BCH Camping
We hope this guide gives you some insight into the world of backpacking tents. BCH Camping offer a comprehensive range of backpacking tents for all sizes, weights and seasons. Do contact us for any additional information, our staff are highly experienced with personal experience of using our products. We’d love to hear from you!