Hiking Tents: The Complete Guide

Coleman Sundome 2-Person Tent - Full

Buying hiking tents is like buying a home away from home as there are a lot of different styles, sizes, designs and features to choose from. Buying the wrong tent can drastically affect your hiking experience so it’s essential you do your homework first before buying anything else.

Let’s start by taking a look at the different types of tents you can use for hiking.

Summer Tents for Hiking

These tents are built with optimum ventilation and protection from bugs in mind. The best ones will keep you comfortable even during the hottest summer months, and they come with a full cover rain fly and durable skeletal systems, more than sufficient in case there’s a moderate wind or the occasional summer thunderstorm. A well-made summer tent has a generously sized mesh swath so when you peel the fly back, cool air can flow inside.

Three Season Tents

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent

As the name implies, a three season tent is for use during the three seasons: summer, spring and fall. These tents are meant to keep you dry and comfortable and can handle strong winds (but not snow, so you cannot use these during winter). The walls are often constructed with emphasis on ventilation and mesh, providing a nice balance between protection and ventilation.


This hiking tent is for you if you’re the type who likes to venture out during different conditions. A typical convertible tent comes with poles, options for a rain fly as well as vestibule, making it easy to fortify or strip the tent down as befits the prevailing weather condition.

Some convertible tents have mesh windows on the walls, and these are equipped with nylon panels that you can close in case the weather goes bad. As you can see, convertible tents are versatile, but the drawback is the weight as those extra options make them heavier than other tents.

Winter and Mountaineer Tents

Happy Camper Two Person Tent by Wakeman Outdoors

A lightweight hiking tent is good for a trip into the woods, but if you’re hiking during the winter or up the mountains, you are going to need a tent that is made of durable fabrics and heavy duty poles. You will also need a tent that has several guy out points and loops that are set onto the tent fly’s vital points.

Tents for mountaineering and winter are made from tough materials and can withstand rough weather. Most of them are shaped like low boulders for stability, and spacious vestibules are a must for storing gear.


If your main concern is weight and want to travel as light as possible, get a tarp. A tarp is made up of a single sheet, usually polyester or nylon that you can rig onto trekking poles, boulders, roots or trees. Tarps are ideal if you have good knotting skills, and if set up properly can withstand adverse weather conditions. The only drawback is these are barebones and have no floor, walls or protection from bugs.

Other Factors That a Buyer Needs to Consider

Coleman Sundome 2-Person Tent

To get the best hiking tent you have to mull over the manner in which you will be using the tent. The tent types described above should give you an idea of where to start looking, but there are other features that you have to think about such as the following:

  • Floor space: check both the square footage and dimensions of the tent. The capacity given in the product description applies to the number of people who can sleep in the tent on the floor. Also consider the general design, as stout hikers require more elbow room while tall ones could use a longer layout.
  • Headroom: the headroom is determined by the wall slope, with short and “hubbed” poles offering more space. Take into consideration the number of people who will go hiking with you as well as the weather you will be facing.

yodo Lightweight 2 Person Camping Backpacking Tent With Carry Bag

Is there a strong possibility you will be facing rough weather in the coming days? Get a tent with consistent headroom, and if your main concern is weight, look for tents with a light design and low ceiling as they are more suited for sleeping.

The shape of the ceiling is another matter to consider. You have to assess the vestibule’s square footage yes, but don’t disregard the shape as it’s important as well. Generally speaking a high, rectangular design provides more storage room, and it offers you a convenient place to cook in when there’s a strong wind or rain.

Tent Shapes

The best hiking tents come in different shapes and configurations including the following:

    SEMOO Double Layer 3-4 Person 3-Season Lightweight Camping Traveling Tent

  • A Frame: the A frame tent is light, simple and low cost. A-frame tents have sloping walls and this reduces the elbow and head rooms, and the broad sidewalls make them vulnerable to strong winds. They are most suitable for hiking in fine weather.
  • Modified A-frame: these are A-frames with curved sidewalls, a ridgeline pole or center loop pole that provides extra room space and stability.
  • Domes: domes are available in various shapes, pole configurations and sizes, but most have an arched ceiling and plenty of interior space. Dome tents are stable and thus suitable for hiking even with moderate winds.
  • >Hoop/Tunnel: tunnel and hoop tents offer a nice combination of weather resistance as well as weight, but these require staking as they’re not freestanding.
  • Pyramid/Teepee: these tents are comprised of a rain fly with a vertical pole in the middle. You stake this to create the shape of a teepee, and you also get good space to weight ratio. The disadvantage with these tents is they don’t have floors.
  • Wedge: wedge tents are lower at the foot and higher at the head, and their aerodynamic build makes them less susceptible to strong winds. The tradeoff though is the limited interior space particularly the headroom.

Wrapping Up Our In-Depth Look Into Hiking Tents

Whether you are looking for a 2 person hiking tent or something bigger, it’s imperative that you do some research first. The time you invest in doing this will pay off with the right tent that will accompany you regardless of the time of day or what the weather does.