How much does a tent weigh? The weight of a tent can vary greatly. Contrary to what you might have been told, lighter isn’t always better.
It all depends on:
- The climate you will be camping in
- How many people the tent is designed for
- The quality of the tent
- The activity the tent is designed for
For example, a one-person ultralight camping tent will weigh considerably less than a six-person tent with two bedrooms and a big living area for playing board games on a rainy day.
But, seriously, how much does a tent weigh?! Well, the lightest one-person tents on the market weigh about 1.88 pounds (0.85kg), while a midrange five-person family tent with two bedrooms and a large porch can weigh around 35 pounds (16kg.)
Our needs might be different, but the weight of your tent does matter.
Finding the balance between a quality tent that will protect you from the elements but won’t weigh you down on the trail is hard.
This article will help you make the best decision for you!
Why Isn’t a Lighter Tent Always Better?
If you are going to be camping next to your car at a campsite, it doesn’t matter if your tent is heavy. In this circumstance, you will be prioritizing comfort and space over lightness.
However, if you are going to be hiking and wild-camping with your tent, then you will want to minimize the weight in the pack.
Read also: The 7 Best Wild Camping Tents
In this case, try to ensure that your tent is no more than 2.5 pounds. If two of you are sharing a tent, you could buy a five-pound tent and split the weight between yourselves.
Going for a lighter tent can result in less protection from the elements, even if you splash out a lot of money on it.
For example, a 4 season tent designed for the snow will be considerably heavier than a 1 season tent of the same price.
Whilst the 1 season tent will be lighter, the waterproofing and windproofing will suffer.
On top of all that, a lightweight tent will probably have lighter components, like zips and clips.
This can reduce its quality, and it will break down a lot more quickly than a tent with heavy-duty fittings.
It is possible to get high-quality ultralight tents, but they come at a premium.
Of course, some people enjoy the challenge of camping as minimally as possible, whilst others enjoy their comforts when sleeping under the stars.
Only you can determine the best tent and pack weight for you!
Understanding Tent Seasons
As a general rule, 1 season tents are the lightest, and 5 season tents are the heaviest.
No, that’s not a typo. Unlike in nature, tents are ranked in five possible seasons! This is because a tent ‘season’ is just a rating out of five, rather than how many seasons a year it can be used.
Of course, a cheap and basic 1 season tent could be heavier than the most expensive ultralightweight 4 season tent on the market.
It’s also worth noting that different companies will have different criteria by which they measure their seasons. Consider tent seasons as ‘marks out of 5.’
But bear in mind that most companies rate their own equipment, so the rating may well be biased!
To help you understand which type of tent you will need for your adventure, we have described the different tent seasons below.
1 Season Tent
If you are camping in a 1 season tent, you will want to keep a very close eye on the weather!
This will protect you from a very light and brief rainfall, but don’t count on it in wet and windy conditions.
This would be appropriate only for a warm, dry summer night.
It offers the most basic protection from the weather. More than anything, this is to give you privacy from other campers.
It will probably be cheap, but it will end up costing you more if you have to replace it with a more expensive model anyway.
It will almost certainly be light, but not considerably lighter than a 2 season tent, which will give you better protection from the elements.
Proceed with caution, as 1 season tents are often a waste of time and money.
2 Season Tent
You’ll probably get slightly better protection than in a 1 season tent, but you still can’t count on a 2 season tent if you encounter any cold or wet weather.
If you’re camping in a garden or on a campsite during the summer, it’ll be fine!
It should also be fine for a spot of hiking and backpacking in good weather. The materials aren’t likely to be of great quality, but that may make them lighter.
However, if you are going to be camping regularly and heading off on the trails, you will probably want to invest in a 3 season tent at a minimum.
That being said, a 2 season tent can often be made comfortable in the wintertime if you bring along insulated camping mats, quality sleeping bags, and warm clothing.
Overall, this extra kit will make your pack heavier than if you’d just bought a 3 or 4 season tent.
3 Season Tent
You probably wouldn’t want to use a 3 season tent in extreme conditions like deep snow.
However, if you have a good quality sleeping bag, 3 season tents do just fine in the wintertime.
At the same time, they don’t get too hot and uncomfortable in the summer.
3 season tents can be used in a wide range of scenarios. I highly recommend a 3 season tent for most people’s needs.
4 Season Tent
If you buy a 4 season tent, you will notice a big step up in price and weight.
This is because of the high-quality materials, and the extra layers of waterproofing and insulation.
They are designed for camping in the winter and would be uncomfortable to sleep in during the summer.
5 Season Tent
5 season tents are also known as expedition tents.
These are needed only for extreme weather conditions like powerful wind or sub-zero temperatures.
They are designed for professionals, and they are very expensive and much heavier than a standard tent.
However, the price and weight are worth it if you’re camping in a blizzard!
Expedition tents are designed to withstand snowfall and gales, so in the right conditions, they are worth every cent!
Trekking Pole Supported Shelters
The heaviest part of a tent is usually the poles.
One solution is to buy a shelter that is supported by your trekking poles. This way, you can minimize extra weight in your pack.
At the same time, the trekking poles can relieve pressure on your joints and support your stability on rough terrain or river crossings.
You can buy tents with ultralight poles, but these are a lot more expensive.
So, a trekking pole tent is a good midway between a tent and a tarp or basha.
However, they can be more difficult to pitch than a classic tent, particularly if the ground isn’t even.
You will need to practice pitching it nice and tight to protect yourself from the rain.
Trekking pole tents are not appropriate for extreme weather conditions.
They usually have only a single wall, so they can accumulate condensation and they aren’t very windproof. In the summertime, they are usually adequate.
Make sure your trekking poles are in good condition before you head off with a trekking pole tent. If they break during your hike, you could be stuck without shelter.
Tarp or Basha Camping
Basha and Bivy
Another lightweight option is to camp with a basha and a bivy.
I’m not speaking another language, honestly.
Basha is British military slang word for a sleeping area. It is now used widely in the camping scene to refer to a makeshift tarpaulin erected to give you a little shelter from the wind and rain.
Tarp and basha camping are the same thing.
A bivy (or bivy sack) is a lightweight, waterproof, and windproof bag. It looks like a sleeping bag. Y
ou use it as outer protection for a sleeping bag if you are getting right back to nature and camping without a tent.
A midrange bivy sack weighs around 1.1 pounds (500g), but bivy sacks can be as light as 7.5 ounces (213 grams). A midrange 3m x 3m basha weighs around 1.7 pounds (just under 800g).
So, if you are looking for the lightest weight option possible, you can bring a basha (waterproof tarp) and a bivy bag (waterproof sleeping bag cover).
Typically, you attach the basha to some trees with cord and then sleep beneath it.
As with traditional tents, lighter doesn’t automatically mean better. Before buying any camping equipment, you will want to read the reviews and consider the type of conditions in which you plan to use it.
Basha and Hammock
If you don’t like the idea of sleeping on the ground, where the creepy crawlies can reach you, you can camp with a tarp and hammock instead.
You can buy ultra-lightweight hammocks with mosquito nets built into them. They are surprisingly comfortable, and you can pop the tarp above you to protect yourself from the rain.
You can pick up a camping hammock cheaply online. Even the cheapest options (around USD 20) weigh only around 1.4 pounds (0.6kg).
If you are willing to spend a little more (around USD 90), you can buy a combination of a tarp, a hammock, and a mosquito net that will weigh 2.25 pounds (around 1kg).
What’s more, you can enjoy a view of the stars that you would be cut off from within the walls of a conventional tent.
Hammocks are quite comfortable without a sleeping mat, but don’t be fooled.
A sleeping mat is an important way to keep warm while sleeping in a hammock because it insulates you from the cold and protects you from the wind.
It might not be necessary on a warm summer's evening, but you will be vulnerable to the cold without one.
Read also: Best Sleeping Pads for Hammocks
Packed Weight Versus Trail Weight
Packed weight means the weight that your tent is when you buy it, with all the ropes, pegs, and stuff sacks included.
Trail weight is the actual weight of the tent when you pack it into your rucksack.
Packed weight is normally between 5 and 8 ounces (140 - 227 grams) heavier than trail weight.
For example, you don’t normally need to bring all the extra pegs with you on the trail.
Usually, you should assume that your tent will weigh the packed weight.
Some people choose to upgrade certain components of their tents rather than the whole tent itself.
For example, you might want to spend money on top-range poles or pegs, but keep some of the heavier/cheaper components.
The Weight of a Tent Footprint
A tent footprint is a plastic sheet that you lay on the ground underneath your tent.
It is designed to protect the floor of the tent from wearing thin. Every time you camp, you move around inside the tent and the groundsheet rubs against the floor.
The tent footprint helps protect your tent from wear and tear, so it will last longer.
Tent footprints are particularly good to use for very lightweight tents that have thin groundsheets.
Somewhat ironically, this means that, with lighter tents, you will need to carry extra weight to protect them.
It’s not necessary to buy a perfectly fitting tent footprint, as you can cut it down to size.
However, you don’t want it to be bigger than the tent. This can cause water to run between the groundsheet and footprint, and thereby penetrate your sleeping area.
A tent footprint normally weighs around 2 pounds (0.9kg).
If you go camping only a few times a year, it isn’t necessary to use one.
However, if you are going to be regularly camping in an expensive backpacking tent and you want it to last as long as possible, it’s well worth buying a footprint.
They usually cost around USD 30.
As a cheaper and lighter solution, some people use plastic window wrap insulation instead. This may be cheaper in the short term, but the cost to the planet will be greater.
The tent footprint can be used for many years, whereas the plastic window wrap will be thrown away after each use.
How Heavy Should Your Backpacking Pack Be?
There is no one answer to this question.
Some people get a thrill out of packing nothing more than a water filter and a knife. They forage and hunt for their food and build their shelters out of fallen branches.
Other people prefer to bring plenty of supplies.
Warm layers, a good-quality tent, an insulated sleeping mat, a first aid kit, bug spray, a hairbrush, pajamas, a pack of cards, a six-pack of beer … you get the idea.
The weight of your pack will depend on:
- Your comfort needs
- Your experience in the outdoors
- How far you’ll be hiking
- Your natural build
- How fit and strong you are
- The climate and weather conditions
As a general rule, your hiking backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your body mass. If you are carrying supplies for kids, you might have to carry more than this.
More important than the weight of your pack is how well it is packed, and how well it fits you.
Make sure it has been adjusted for the length of your back and try to pack the weight evenly throughout the rucksack.
If your backpack can stand up without falling over when you place it on the ground, you have packed it well!
What's the Difference Between a Camping Tent and a Backpacking Tent?
A camping tent is designed to be driven to a campsite in your vehicle, not carried in your rucksack.
They are heavier and bigger than backpacking tents. There may be separate bedroom compartments and you will have a lot more space to stand up and move around in comfort.
Backpacking tents are as light and as small as possible. They are much more cramped, but they are easier to carry long distances.
The weight of your tent will depend on its season rating, how many people it is designed for, and its quality.
If you are going to be hiking, you need to strike a balance between lightness and adequate protection from the weather.
You could consider camping with a hammock or bivy sack, but I do recommend a 3 season tent at a minimum if you will be camping regularly.
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Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.