Gear

9 Best 3-Person Backpacking Tents for 2019

by Mac Misseldine

best 3-person backpacking tents

The biggest challenge with a 3-person backpacking tent is finding the sweet spot between weight and functionality. The Marmot Limelight 3P is our pick to hit everything you need at an affordable price.

When everything you need for your trip is strapped to your back, you don’t have the luxury of going with a 100 square foot Costco tent with a queen-size inflatable air mattresses and a blow-up jacuzzi. Every pound of pack-weight counts, so you’ll have to decide which features are essential and which you can do without.

Buying a premium backpacking tent can be an overwhelming process when you don’t have a lot of experience or when you’re planning a trip in a new environment. How much floor space do you need? How much extra weight can you handle in your pack? Which type of fabric and construction best fits your style of backpacking?

To help take some of the guesswork out of the buying process, we’ve compiled a list of the best 3-person backpacking tents that cater to a wide variety of needs, conditions, and budgets. Many of these are considered ultralight tents, so they’re guaranteed to help keep your pack light.

Included are a few heavy-duty options to consider for backpacking in severe weather, plus budget-friendly options that won’t break the bank. Each is highly reviewed, widely recommended, and guaranteed to enhance your backpacking adventures for years to come.

Marmot Limelight 3P

marmot limelight 3p tent
Perennial bestseller with a huge fanbase.

The Marmot Limelight 3P is the most popular 3-person backpacking tent on the market. If you’re looking for easy setup, a roomy interior, or a lightweight tent that won’t weigh you down, this tent checks all of the boxes. Even better, it delivers all of these perks at a fantastic value.

The Marmot Limelight 3P utilizes a zone pre-blend construction to create vertical walls, which translates into a roomier interior with more headspace. With two entry points — a super-sized double door at the front and a D-door in the back — each doorway provides a vestibule for gear storage when the fly is up. It’s surprisingly breathable, too, with No-See-Um Mesh on the upper walls and ceiling, and airflow vents built into the fly.

Inside the tent, you’ll find plenty of pockets for small gear storage. There’s also a lamp shade pocket to hold your headlamp at night for better ambient lighting — we’ve all kicked the lantern on the floor enough to understand the benefits here. All of the seams are fully taped and sealed, so you’ll never have to worry about any rain or moisture seeping into the tent except in the most rugged of storms.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 6 lbs. 11 oz. with a packed size of 22” x 8”, trail weight of 6 lbs. 0.5 oz.
  • Offers 42.5 square feet of floor space with a peak height of 48 inches
  • Vertical walls and strategic clip placement for a larger interior volume
  • Color-coded “easy pitch” clips and poles for quick setup
  • Includes a Marmot footprint

MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3

MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3
High performance that won’t weigh down your pack.

We love the versatility of the MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3. Only 5 lbs. at its maximum weight, you can fold the 21” x 7” pack in half with the attached compression straps for easy, compact storage.

When weight is an concern and your coverage needs are minimal, you can opt for the “Fast & Light” setup with just the fly, supports, and footprint. Either way you go, the unified hub-and-pole system with color-coded clips makes setup and takedown easy.

The MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3 features two large D-shape StayDry doors with built-in rain gutters, making it easy to enter, exit, and access gear. The tent and fly sport ventilation features to provide fresh air, including a rainfly kickstand vent to minimize condensation. Made with durable high-tenacity nylon fabrics,  both the fly and bathtub-style floor are coated in Durashield for maximum protection from the rain.

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Key Features:

  • Ultralight with a max weight of 5 lbs. and a trail weight of 4 lbs. 9 oz.
  • Optional “Fast & Light” setup drops the packed weight to 3 lbs. 11 oz.
  • 39 square feet of floor space, 14 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 44 inches
  • You can fold the 21” x 7” pack and secure it with compression straps to make it compact
  • Includes a rainfly kickstand vent to provide fresh air and minimize condensation

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 Classic

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 Classic
Industry-leading versatility and ease of use.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL Classic line boasts an almost cult-like status on trails, mountains, and back countries across the world. It’s a tried and true, do-it-all backpacking tent backed by thousands of loyal customers and a trophy case full of awards. Whether it’s the ultralight weight, sturdy construction, or superior waterproofing, there’s no shortage of praise for this tent.

The standard packed weight of the Copper Spur UL3 Classic is just 4 lbs. 5 oz. — on the light side considering the trail weight of the average tent. The pack sheds 7 ounces when you remove the nonessential elements, and clocks in at barely over 3 pounds when you opt for the minimalist fast-fly setup.

Whichever setup you choose, it’s a piece of cake to put together with pre-cut, ready-to-pitch guy lines, tensioners attached to the fly, DAC Pressfit poles with lightweight hubs, ultralight plastic clips, and 8 DAC superlight aluminum J stakes.

The interior of the Copper Spur UL3 Classic features 8 interior storage pockets, multiple gear loft loops, and 2 media pockets above the sleeping area. Double your pleasure with two oversized drop doors with easy-grip zipper pulls, two vestibules with storm flaps on the vestibule zippers, and two fly vents for optimal air flow.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 4 lbs. 5 oz. with a packed size of 6.5” x 21”, and a trail weight of 3 lbs. 14 oz.
  • Eliminate the non-essentials for a fast-fly setup that’s just 3 lbs. 2 oz. (footprint not included)
  • 43 square feet of floor space, 18 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 44 inches
  • Plenty of interior storage with 8 interior pockets, 2 media pockets, and gear loft loops

NEMO Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tent

nemo dagger 3p tent
Spacious interior with ultralight performance.

The NEMO Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tent hits the sweet spot with weight and interior space. Where other ultralight backpacking tents often struggle to provide more than 40 square feet of floor space, the NEMO Dagger ups it to 44. This tent also offers double the average vestibule space with 23 square feet, so there’s plenty of room to stash your gear outside and free up interior space.

The NEMO Dagger comes with a few proprietary features you won’t find anywhere else. They’ve solved the packing dilemma with their Divvy Stuff Sack, a solution allowing the user to split up tent gear for an even distribution of weight between backpackers.

NEMO tents also incorporate an overhead pocket — dubbed a Light Pocket — which holds your headlamp to create ambient lighting inside the tent. Finally, the inner tent features a built-in privacy panel for extended coverage and security when you need to block out the No-See-Um Mesh.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 4 lbs. 4 oz., with a trail weight of 3 lbs. 12 oz.
  • Packed size of 19” x 6” with the ability to split between two packs using the Divvy Stuff Sack
  • 44 square feet of floor space, 23 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 42 inches
  • Proprietary Light Pockets that turn your headlamps into ambient lighting

Black Diamond Vista Tent

Black Diamond Vista Tent
Redefining floor space for 3-person shelters.

The Black Diamond Vista Tent offers the most interior space of all the tents on our list, with a whopping 51 square feet of floor space. The larger size makes it  about a pound heavier than the average backpacking tent, but it’s worth the extra weight for those who value breathing room and arm space.

Of course, you can always ditch the tent and use the fly to set up a free-standing rain cover if you need to drop weight for minimalist trips, though you’d have to purchase a ground cloth separately.

The Black Diamond Vista Tent maximizes its square footage with a fast-pitch hub, variable-diameter DAC Featherlite poles, double doors, and two integrated vestibules. As you’re lounging around inside, the tent will keep you safe from the elements with double walls, 2000mm nylon flooring, and a 1500mm polyester fly.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 6 lbs. 8 oz. with a packed size of 8” x 19”
  • Ditch the non-essentials for a trail weight of 5 lbs. 15 oz.
  • 51 square feet of floor space, 18 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 46 inches
  • Quick and easy setup with a fast-pitch hub and variable-diameter DAC Featherlite poles
  • The most floor space you’ll find in a 3-person backpacking tent

REI Co-op Passage 3 Tent

rei passage 3
The perfect entry-level option on a budget.

The REI Co-op Passage 3 Tent offers the best overall value for a 3-person backpacking tent. At less than half the price of most competitors, the Passage 3 covers all of your basic needs: a waterproof shelter, adjustable ceiling vents, sturdy aluminum poles, twin stake-out vestibules, and plenty of interior pockets and hang loops for storage. REI makes it easy to set up with equal-length poles, pole clips, color coding, stakes, and guy lines with tighteners.

The REI Co-Op Passage 3 tent weighs in a couple pounds heavier than the lightweight options on our list, so it may be a bit of a drag on your back while you’re hiking. The polyester used for the tent and fly also lack the thickness and durability of many premium backpacking tents, so it may not fare well in extreme weather.

That said, if you tend to backpack only short distances in fair weather, the REI Co-op Passage 3 will easily cover your needs — and save you a chunk of cash too.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 6 lbs. 3 oz. With a packed size of 9.5” x 21”, and a trail weight of 5 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Offers 44 square feet of floor space, two vestibules, and a peak height of 48 inches
  • Increased vertical space at both ends of the tent
  • The best value for a 3-person backpacking tent

Zpacks Triplex Tent

Zpacks™ Triplex Tent
When we say ultralight, we mean ultralight.

The Zpacks Triplex Tent is hands-down the #1 tent for ultra-light backpackers and those otherwise concerned with pack  weight. Indisputably the lightest backpacking tent on the market, the Triplex Tent clocks in at just 1 lb. 6.5 oz.

That’s three times lighter than the average lightweight backpacking tent, and less than half the weight of the minimalist fly-and-footprint approach. Even better, the Triplex Tent offers superior waterproofing and longevity, so you’re not sacrificing functionality or durability for weight savings.

How does the Triplex Tent pull off such a magic trick? The secret is in the fabric. Zpacks tents are made with Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), a material that’s naturally waterproof and offers a high strength to weight ratio built to handle high winds without tearing. DCF doesn’t stretch, absorb water, or require any chemical coating. In the rare case of a tear, you can repair the rip in seconds with DCF tape.

Apart from the magic fabric, this tent employs all of the standard features for keeping water and bugs outside. Four storm doors tie open for views outside and latch shut to keep out the wind and rain. The canopy overhangs the bathtub floor by 4–5 inches so the rain naturally cascades away from the base. All of the seams are stitched and taped, and the tie-outs have bonded reinforcements for maximum strength.

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Key Features:

  • Trail weight of 1 lb. 6.5 oz. (doesn’t include stakes, which must be purchased separately)
  • 37.5 square feet of floor space, two vestibules, and a peak height of 48 inches
  • Made with DCF that’s naturally waterproof and wind-resistant
  • The tent provides natural ambient light during daylight with DCF’s semi-transparent nature
  • The lightest 3-person backpacking tent on the market

The North Face VE 25

the north face tent ve25
For severe weather, high winds and anything else nature throws your way.

When you’re backpacking, mountaineering, or climbing in extreme weather, the VE 25 by The North Face is the tent that’s trusted by the pros. Trusted at base camps on Mount Everest where it’s 60-below-zero, you can bet your ass it’ll keep you warm and dry just about anywhere.

The VE 25’s design is based on traditional yurts. Used in the frigid lands of Siberia and Mongolia, nomads traditionally  made these circular tents from animal pelts and skins on a collapsible framework. Luckily, this version is a bit more modern.

The canopy is made with 40D 240T Nylon Ripstop, the flooring with 70D 210T Nylon Taffeta, and the fly with 75D 185T Nylon Ripstop. Inside the tent, you’ll enjoy a spacious cabin with 48 square feet of floor space and up to 48 inches of headroom.

The price you’ll have to pay for this behemoth: a significantly heavier pack weight. With a max weight of 11 lbs. 12 oz., the VE 25 is twice the weight of the average 3-person backpacking tent. You can skinny that down to a trail weight of 10 lbs. 13 oz., or you can take the fast-pack approach with just the fly and ground cloth if fair weather conditions are in the cards.

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Key Features:

  • The heaviest 3-person backpacking tent on the list at 11 lbs. 12 oz.
  • Trail weight of 10 lbs. 13 oz., or a fast-pack weight of 7 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Offers 48 feet of floor space, 16 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 48 inches
  • Heavy-duty Nylon Ripstop and Nylon Taffeta construction
  • The best 3-person backpacking tent for extreme weather

Hilleberg Nallo 3

Hilleberg Nallo 3
All-season protection without the added weight.

When you’re gearing up for a fast-paced backpacking or mountaineering trip in severe weather, The North Face VE 25 might be a little too heavy. That extra five pounds may not sound like much now, but we promise you’ll feel once you get your feet on the trail. Instead, consider a lightweight all-weather backpacking tent like the Hilleberg Nallo 3.

The Hilleberg Nallo 3 is a popular choice for professional climbers, long-distance hikers, wilderness photographers, hunters, and other adventurers who need to haul heavy gear over long distances.

The tent offers complete year-round protection from rain, snow, wind, and cold, and it does this at almost half the weight of the VE 25. In fact, with a trail weight of 4 lbs. 14 oz., the Hilleberg Nallo 3 is just as light as many lightweight backpacking tents that are limited to three season use.

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Key Features:

  • Max weight of 5 lbs. 12 oz., with a trail weight of 4 lbs. 14 oz.
  • 36 square feet of floor space, 15 square feet of vestibule space, and a peak height of 41 inches
  • A true all-season, all-weather lightweight backpacking tent
  • The best choice for long trips in severe weather with heavy gear where every pound counts

No matter which tent you choose, be sure to get out there and enjoy the wild. As much as we love our tents and junk, obsessing over gear always comes second to obsessing over mountains, canyons, and waterfalls.

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