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The marketplace is overflowing with solo, duo, and three-person backpacking tents, but it can feel like slim pickings when you’re outfitting a group of four.
Unfortunately, the limited selection is the least of your worries. While your tent needs to be strong enough to withstand the elements while being light enough to pack, interior space also becomes a major issue when sleeping four.
Let’s face it — nobody wants to get crammed into a sardine can with three other backpackers who haven’t showered in days.
While there aren’t many reputable four-person backpacking tents out there, the good news is you only need one. Thanks to our research, it should be pretty easy to find the perfect one for your adventurous band of four.
Best Three-Season Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4
Winner of the 2017 Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Gold Award, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 takes the cake for the best four-person backpacking tent. With premium materials, increased living space, attention to the details, and an ultralight trail weight of 5 lbs 3 oz, it’s no surprise this is the most popular backpacking tent on the trail.
The Copper Spur HV UL4 uses a proprietary patterned double ripstop nylon fabric that’s durable enough to support your grand adventures for years to come. The fly and floor feature a unique weave with a high-tenacity yarn and high filament count that’s lightweight, 25% stronger, and water resistant.
All of the seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (no VOCs or PVC). For extra protection against stormy weather, the fly and floor are treated with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating.
The Copper Spur HV UL4 employs a four-way high-volume hub to maximize strength and increase living space without adding weight. It relies on DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL poles for support, and superlight aluminum J stakes to keep you grounded. It’s easy to pitch with pre-cut guy lines and tensioners attached to the fly, reflective guy lines and webbing on tent corners, and ultralight plastic clips to attach the body to the pole frame.
These features alone are enough to sell us on the Copper Spur HV UL4, but it doesn’t end there. The tent also features large dual-zipper doors with discrete seams, Quick Stash pockets to keep unzipped doors out of the way, and a two-tone mesh ceiling that’s perfect for stargazing on cloudless nights.
There’s plenty of room for your gear between the massive ceiling pocket, two vestibules, eight interior mesh pockets, and four media pockets with earbud routing slots. For additional storage, consider purchasing the Square Gear Loft.Check Amazon Price
- Trail Weight: 5 lbs 3 oz
- Packed Weight: 5 lbs 10 oz
- Packed Size: 7 in. x 21 in.
- Floor Area: 57 sqft.
- Peak Height: 50 in.
- Footprint: No
Best Four-Season Tent: Hilleberg Nallo 4
The Hilleberg Nallo 4 sets the gold standard for four-season backpacking tents. Weighing less than most three-season competitors, the Nallo 4 is remarkably resilient with a sturdy architecture and premium materials that can handle anything Old Man Winter throws your way. It’s the ideal all-season ultralight backpacking tent for adventurous parties of four.
As one of Hilleberg’s premium Red Label tents, the Nallo 4’s outer shell consists of Kerlon 1200 — a 30D high tenacity ripstop nylon fabric that’s triple-coated with 100% silicone and treated for UV resistance. The Floor consists of 70D ripstop nylon with a triple coat of polyurethane, and is highly resistant to punctures and abrasions.
The Nallo 4 comes with four 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL poles. The poles feature section-connecting inserts that are nearly the same diameter as the pole itself, making them significantly stronger and lighter than standard tent poles.
The Nallo 4 is built for all-season use. The outer tent walls extend to the ground and the mesh areas are backed with adjustable fabric panels to block out the cold air. The shape of the tent is intentionally designed to be aerodynamic and resist snow accumulation, while providing plenty of internal strength to withstand heavy snow and ice. When you need some ventilation, you can roll up the lower portion of the rear outerwall to reduce condensation buildup.
Despite being an all-weather beast, the Nallo 4 is surprisingly easy to set up and take down. The linked but separate inner and outer tent walls allow for simultaneous pitching, while the tunnel design only requires four pegs for pitching. The simple, single-opening continuous sleeve and pole tensioner system is quick to pitch and remarkably stable.
Unlike many competitors who require you to purchase a separate footprint, the Nallo 4 comes with an optional footprint that covers the entire tent area, including the vestibule. It connects directly to the tent, and may be left attached during pitching.
The Nallo 4 is renowned for its lightweight profile, but in the end it’s the tent’s remarkable strength that makes it the prime choice for backpackers who need an ultralight four-season workhorse.Check Campsaver Price
- Trail Weight: 5 lbs 15 oz
- Packed Weight: 6 lbs 12 oz
- Floor Area: 46.3 sqft.
- Peak Height: 45 in.
- Footprint: Yes
Most Floor Space: MSR Papa Hubba NX 4
A close contender for our #1 pick, the MSR Papa Hubba NX 4 delivers maximum floor space in a lightweight tent that packs smaller than most two-person tents. Whether you’re rafting the Rio Grande or backpacking the John Muir Trail, the Papa Hubba has plenty of room for your party of four.
The Papa Hubba NX 4 employs premium materials from top to bottom. The tent’s virtually indestructible Easton ® Sylacone™ MAX poles feature cutting-edge aerospace composite materials and an extra-large diameter. The floor and fly feature MSR’s Xtreme Shield™ ultra-durable waterproof coating that’s formulated to resist hydrolysis (sticky fabric) and last up to three times longer. Combined with the tent’s StayDry™ doors with built-in rain gutters, there isn’t a storm that can topple the Papa Hubba.
The Papa Hubba also features a non-tapered floor, optimized symmetrical geometry, large side windows, adjustable integrated stake-out loops, lightweight reflective guy outs, and a rainfly kickstand vent. Speaking of the rainfly, the cross-ventilating fly cover easily rolls up for a stargazer view at night, and can just as quickly roll back down if it starts to rain.
Considering you get all of these premium materials and features with a trail weight under seven pounds, the MSR Papa Hubba sets the gold standard for four-person backpacking tents. If you’re looking for the silver standard, check out the slightly more affordable MSR Elixir 4.Check Amazon Price
- Trail Weight: 6 lbs 7 oz
- Packed Weight: 7 lbs
- Packed Size: 7 in. x 21 in.
- Floor Area: 63 sqft.
- Peak Height: 44 in.
- Footprint: No
Most Headroom: NEMO Losi 4P
In designing the Losi 4P Tent, NEMO started on the inside and worked their way out. The result is an award-winning backpacking tent with a unique pole configuration that maximizes interior living space and delivers the most headroom in the industry.
The Losi uses quality materials, including a 68D PeU polyester floor, a 40D nylon ripstop fly, and a No-See-Um mesh canopy for optimal breathability and views. When it’s too cold and rainy to let the stars light your tent, stash your headlamps in the proprietary Light Pockets on the ceiling. Thanks to the special light-diffusing fabric, you’ll enjoy an even glow of ambient lighting throughout the interior until it’s time to hit the lights and head to bed.
Like all of the three-season tents on our list, the Losi offers two doors with vestibules to store your gear outside the tent. When you’re ready to pack up and hit the trail, everything fits snugly in the convenient roll-up stuff sack.
The Losi is a little heavier than some of the other backpacking tents on our list, but it’s worth the extra pound for backpackers who value their headspace. Considering the price point and NEMO’s awesome lifetime warranty, it’s a great deal for a versatile, durable tent.Check Amazon Price
- Trail Weight: 7 lbs 14 oz
- Packed Weight: 9 lbs 4 oz
- Packed Size: 8 in. x 22 in.
- Floor Area: 60.6 sqft.
- Peak Height: 61 in.
- Footprint: No
Best Value: The North Face Talus 4
The North Face is a premium outdoors brand that makes Everest-quality gear, so you don’t usually find the word “affordable” attached to the company’s products. In this case, it’s the first word we’d use to describe The North Face Talus 4.
Featuring an updated design that maximizes living space and a chic new aesthetic, the Talus 4 is lightweight, versatile, and roomy. With two doors, two vestibules, a gear loft, and almost 52 square feet of floor space, you’ll enjoy plenty of storage space, easy access to gear, and room to stretch your legs.
The Talus 4’s canopy and floor are fully seam-taped to keep you warm and dry. The tent features high/low ventilation to enhance breathability and eliminate condensation, and you can always roll up the fly for even more fresh air.
The North Face uses DAC Featherlite® NSL poles for the Talus 4. The pole ends have inserts that create strong, functional supports to save weight and reduce breakage. The tent also comes with a footprint, guylines, and stakes.
Backed by The North Face’s legendary Lifetime Guarantee, the Talus 4 is one of the few budget-friendly backpacking tents where you don’t have to sacrifice quality or functionality for a good deal.Check REI Price
- Trail Weight: 6 lbs 11 oz
- Packed Weight: 7 lbs 3 oz
- Packed Size: 8.5 in. x 26 in.
- Floor Area: 51.8 sqft.
- Peak Height: 50 in.
- Footprint: Yes
Marmot Tungsten 4P
The Marmot Tungsten 4P is one of the most popular four-person backpacking tents on the market, and for good reason. The tent casts a wide net of comforts with ample interior space, dependable weather protection, and quality construction.
Using sleeping zone pre-bends and vertical walls, the Tungsten 4P delivers a roomy sleeping area with plenty of head room. You’ll enjoy more movable space thanks to Marmot’s strategic clip placement that amplifies the interior volume. The dual D-shaped doors provide easy access, and accompanying twin vestibules offer additional space to keep your gear outside.
Speaking of gear, the Tungsten 4P provides interior pockets for small gear organization. There’s also a lamp shade pocket where you can place your headlamp to create ambient light inside the tent.
To protect against wet and windy weather, the Tungsten 4P features a seam-taped catenary-cut floor and a seam-taped fly. Both the tent and fly are vented to prevent condensation buildup.
The Tungsten 4P is easy to assemble with color-coded “easy pitch” poles, clips, and fly. Everything is built to last, from the the durable fabrics to the HD Velocity 7000 Series aluminum poles.Check Amazon Price
- Trail Weight: 7 lbs 15 oz
- Packed Weight: 8 lbs 11 oz
- Packed Size: 9 in. x 24 in.
- Floor Area: 53 sqft.
- Peak Height: 52 in.
- Footprint: Yes
Exped Gemini IV
For an expedition-worthy backpacking tent that can withstand harsh winds and weather, check out the Exped Gemini IV. By pairing four 12mm poles with a lightweight three-season fabric, this premium tent delivers unbeatable stability in a lightweight package.
The Gemini IV offers a spacious interior with 57 sqft. of floor space and a 45-inch ceiling, more than enough headroom to sit up comfortably. There’s easily enough floor space for four adults. One reviewer even commented the tent was big enough to comfortably his party of five (two adults and three teens).
The Gemini’s two teardrop-shaped doors offer easy access and provide generous vestibules for your gear. There are also six organizational pockets inside the tent, with two overhead and one in each corner.
The Gemini IV boasts excellent ventilation between the mesh canopy and two fly vents, so you’ll never have to worry about condensation buildup. The 70D floor is unbelievably durable and watertight, to the point that many users report they don’t even bother using a ground cloth.
The feature-rich Gemini IV may be a little pricey, but it’s an excellent choice for backpackers who are expecting wild and windy weather. You could downgrade to the more affordable (and lighter) Exped Carina IV to save a few bucks and enjoy similar quality, though the Carina IV can be a little tight with four sleeping pads.Check Current Price
- Trail Weight: 8 lbs 3 oz
- Packed Weight: 8 lbs 13 oz
- Packed Size: 8 in. x 18 in.
- Floor Area: 56.8 sqft.
- Peak Height: 55 in.
- Footprint: No
REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus Tent
Featuring an updated architecture with more floor space, head room, and shoulder room, the REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus Tent is a strong contender for the Best Value designation.
The Half Dome 4 Plus Tent leverages an REI-exclusive tension-truss architecture with vertical sidewalls to deliver more internal livable space and ample headroom. It’s a breeze to set up with hubbed, color-coded poles.
The Half Dome 4 Plus Tent uses mesh panels on the top portion for optimal views and ventilation. For the lower portion, there are ripstop panels for privacy and blocking out drafts, dust, and dirt. The fly includes four ceiling vents to prevent condensation buildup, and the design allows you to roll up the sides and ends to boost airflow even more when the skies are clear.
The tent features two doors and two vestibules for covered gear storage and easy access. You’ll also find pockets and hang loops inside the tent for better organization, and pockets just inside the door opening where you can stash the tent doors when they’re fully zipped open.
The only downside to the Half Dome 4 Plus Tent is you’ll have to purchase a footprint separately. Apart from that, the tent comes with guy lines with tighteners, a pole bag, a pole repair tube, eight stakes, and a stake bag.Check Current Price
- Trail Weight: 7 lbs 1 oz
- Packed Weight: 7 lbs 10 oz
- Packed Size: 7 in. x 24 in.
- Floor Area: 58.7 sq.ft.
- Peak Height: 48 in.
- Footprint: No
First time shopping for a backpacking tent? We’ve got you covered. Check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide to understand the nuts and bolts of backpacking tents. Whether you read the whole guide or skim the sections you have questions on, we’ll cover the most important factors in choosing the backpacking tent that’s best for you.
Three-season vs four-season
One of the first questions we inevitably see with backpacking tents is the difference between a three-season tent and a four-season tent. The labels are actually a bit misleading, so don’t kick yourself if you guessed wrong.
Generally speaking, a three-season tent is designed for optimal use during the spring, summer, and fall. These tents have what it takes to keep you high and dry from the wind and rain, whether you’re dealing with spring showers or summer thunderstorms (we’ll talk more in-depth about weather protection next).
Four-season tents are really just winter tents. They feature thicker materials and a stronger architecture to withstand heavy winter winds, snow drifts, and ice accumulation — stuff that would normally topple a three-season tent. These tents are also more aerodynamic with steep slopes that prevent snow and ice from accumulating on the roof.
You can certainly use a four-season tent year-round, but you’ll probably find it’s a little toasty in warm weather. If you find yourself doing year-round backpacking trips, you’ll probably want to purchase one of each. A good three-season tent will serve you well over the summer and into spring and fall when the weather is fair, then you can bust out the four-season tent when the temperatures drop below freezing.
When spring showers and summer storms strike, your first line of defense is your rain fly. The fly should use a durable material like ripstop nylon, a DWR (durable water resistant) finish, and taped seams. When you pitch your tent, be sure the fly is taught and extends away from your tent to avoid pooling water around the tent.
While the fly is your first line of defense, most leaks are due to poorly constructed floors. Like the fly, the tent floor should feature a DWR finish and taped seams. The floor should be a higher denier material than the fly, too.
For additional protection from the rain, consider purchasing a footprint or ground cloth to lay underneath your tent. Some backpacking tents come with a footprint included, but most require a separate purchase.
When it comes to wind protection, it all comes down to the tent’s architecture. Vertical walls are great for maximizing interior space, but they’ll catch the wind in a large storm and topple your tent if you aren’t careful. If you choose a tent with vertical (or near-vertical) walls, be sure to pitch the fly when the wind picks up so that the angled shape of the fly makes your tent aerodynamic.
Poles are also important for weather protection. A good three-season tent should have 9mm – 11mm thick poles to avoid bowing or breaking during big wind storms.
It may seem funny to discuss fresh air right after discussing how to lock down your tent against the wind and rain, but trust us — proper ventilation is critical.
For one, you’re going to need a little airflow to prevent the air inside the tent from getting stale (and believe us, it’s going to get stale very quickly with four people inside). More importantly, you need good airflow to prevent condensation from building up and soaking your gear overnight.
The upper portion of backpacking tents are usually made with a mesh material for optimal airflow. This is great for warm summer nights, but unfortunately the fly gets in the way when the weather takes a turn. To get around that, a good tent should have one or more vents built into the fly. These vents should be designed to let some outside air in while still blocking out rain and chilly wind gusts.
It’s impossible to know how effective a tent’s ventilation is based on the description, so this is one area where you’ll want to consult product reviews. At the end of the day, field tests in the real world are the best indicator of how well your tent will perform.
Backpacking tents are constructed with lightweight synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. Nylon is generally softer, stronger, and more breathable than polyester, while polyester dries faster and is more resistant to abrasions. The best backpacking tents will usually offer ripstop nylon, a woven fabric with special reinforcing that makes the material more resistant to rips and tears.
As you’re comparing the materials that manufacturers use in their tents, pay attention to the denier rating (D). Often displayed as 30D, 40D, 50D, etc., the denier rating measures how thick the fabric’s individual threads or filaments are. Fabrics with a higher denier rating will be stronger and more durable, while fabrics with a lower denier rating will be lighter, softer, and more breathable.
While a higher denier rating would normally be a good thing for a durable tent, it’s a two-edged sword for backpackers. High-denier fabrics are much heavier, so most backpacking tents opt for 20D to 40D fabric to strike the sweet spot between weight and durability. You also don’t want a stuffy tent, so the lower denier fabric helps to boost breathability inside the tent.
Sacrifices must be made to strike a backpacking-worthy weight, and unfortunately the greatest sacrifice will always be the living space inside your tent. Unlike camping tents that are large enough to stand up in, backpacking tents only offer enough headroom to sit upright.
Generally speaking, most four-person backpacking tents will provide about four feet (48”) of clearance. If you’re taller and require more headroom (or if you’re shorter and want to stand up) keep a sharp eye out for tents that are more generous with head space.
Floor space is also an area of concern. Tents are commonly quoted in square footage, but that figure doesn’t help much when you’re dealing with a tall sleeper who needs an extra-long floor. Pay attention to the floor measurements, but also keep an eye on the wall structure. Tents with near-vertical walls will provide a roomier interior so everyone doesn’t feel so cramped inside the tent.
Given the cramped quarters inside of a four-person backpacking tent, you’ll definitely want a tent with two doors. Not only does this design offer two vestibules where you can store gear outside the cabin, it ensures you aren’t crawling over your friends when you have to take a leak at 3am.
When you’re talking about backpacking gear, there’s always a tradeoff between functionality and weight. Your goal is to strike the best balance between the two to meet your unique needs. Consider factors such as how much weight you can comfortably carry, how long your backpacking trip will be, and what kind of weather you expect.
While lighter is almost always better, it takes some serious sacrifices to get a tent down into the “ultralight” weight spectrum. You’ll either be paying a serious premium (which isn’t a bad thing if you can afford it), or you’ll have to sacrifice interior space.
That may not be an issue for experienced backpackers who know their comfort level and limits, but it can be a serious shocker for a first-timer who’s used to sleeping in a massive eight-person camping tent. So, before you pull the trigger on an ultralight backpacking tent, look closely at the floorspace, head room, and overall architecture. Picture yourself snuggled up inside with your backpacking buddies, and make sure that picture doesn’t involve any sacrifices that you’re not willing to make for the greater good.
Trail Weight vs Packed Weight
You’ll see a number of weight classifications as you’re shopping for backpacking tents. There’s total weight, packed weight, trail weight, minimum weight, fly weight, and fast-and-light weight, to name a few.
The only weight you can really trust is the total weight, commonly referred to as packed weight. This includes the weight of everything that comes with your tent — the guy lines, stakes, tent body, fly, patch kit, and bags. As a rule of thumb you can usually drop about 5 oz of the packed weight by eliminating unessential items like extra stakes, guy lines, and the tent poles bag.
The other popular weight-point is trail weight. This figure refers to the minimum weight you can get the tent down to by eliminating non-essential items. While trail weight is a useful reference, you should always take it with a grain of salt. In many cases the trail weight doesn’t include tent stakes, and you’ll definitely need those. See our full article on trail weight vs. packed weight for more info.
Some tents include a fly weight, ultralight weight, or fast-and-light weight as a reference point for minimalist backpackers. This usually involves a bare-bones setup with the rainfly and a footprint, and most likely excludes tent stakes. As with trail weight, take these figures with a grain of salt. Such a configuration may be possible if you’re an experienced minimalist backpacker, but it’s definitely not for beginners and novices.
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