As an avid backpacker and backpacking tent sale enthusiast, I’ve tried my share of 3 person shelters over the years.
When purchasing a new backpacking tent, one of the most common questions is “How heavy should it be?“.
The ideal weight depends on a variety of factors like intended use, construction materials, packed size, and more.
In this in-depth guide, I’ll cover optimal weight ranges to consider for 3-person backpacking tents.
Base Weight vs Packed Weight
First, it’s important to note the difference between base weight and packed weight.
- Base weightrefers to just the tent body, poles, and rain fly. This is the minimum weight you’ll carry.
- Packed weightincludes all tent components like guylines, stakes, stuff sacks, repair swatches, etc. This is the total weight of everything in the stuff sack.
As a general guideline for 3-person backpacking tents:
- Base Weight:3 – 5 lbs
- Packed Weight:4 – 7 lbs
However, the best range depends on several factors discussed below. I’ll also share a few of my favorite <2>backpacking tent options at the end.
Factor #1: Backpacking Trip Duration
- For shorter trips(1-3 nights), you can carry a heavier shelter in the 5-7 lb packed weight range.
- For longer expeditions(4+ nights), aim for a lighter tent in the 3-5 lb packed weight range to save pounds. Every ounce counts on extended trips!
For example, my go-to pick for short getaways is the Marmot Limestone 4P. It tips the scales at 6 lbs 10 oz packed but the roomy interior and fully freestanding design is worth the weight.
However, for my recent week-long trek along the Appalachian Trail, I carried the ultra-lightweight Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 at just 3 lbs 5 oz packed. My shoulders thanked me after summiting several 4,000-foot peaks!
Factor #2: Season/Conditions
- 3 season tents(spring, summer, and fall use) can be lighter since they don’t require sturdy poles and thick, reinforced fabric to withstand heavy snow loads and high winds.
- 4 season/expedition tentsneed stronger, heavier build to handle extreme mountain weather during winter trips. They usually start around 6 lbs packed.
My Marmot Tungsten 3P checks the boxes for 3-season comfort and storm protection at 5 lbs packed while keeping weight reasonable for most backpacking adventures.
Factor #3: Construction & Fabrics
The combination of poles, fabric, and general construction determines the structural integrity and overall weight.
- Aluminum vs carbon fiber poles: Carbon poles are lighter but pricier while aluminum adds durability and affordability.
- Fabrics: Weight typically goes up with thicker, more waterproof fabrics that have higher denier ratings and rugged polyurethane coatings.
- Fully freestanding domes require more robust pole systems which adds weight compared to non-freestanding tents.
For example, my reliable Mountainsmith Morrison 3 features sturdy 70D 185T poly taffeta fly and floor fabrics plus 7000 series aluminum poles to produce a robust, freestanding tent at 5 lbs 3 oz packed that can handle harsh weather when needed.
Factor #4: Packed Size
While not directly correlated to weight, a tent’s packed size does impact how much room it takes up in your backpack. More compact tents may let you pack additional gear and food!
As a rule of thumb, many quality 3-person backpacking tents pack down to 18 x 7 inches +/- a few inches depending on overall weight and pole design.
One of the most space-efficient tents in my garage is the NEMO Dagger 2P. Despite technically being a “2 person plus” tent, it offers impressive interior room thanks to triangulated vestibules.
And at just 3 lbs 3 oz, its trail weight to space ratio can’t be beat! When fully collapsed, it easily slides vertically into a waist belt pocket on my Gregory Baltoro 75L pack.
My Top 3 Person Backpacking Tent Picks
Here are a few of my top-rated picks across various categories based on personal testing and peer reviews:
- Overall Best Lightweight: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 mtnGLO – 4 lbs
- Best Durability & Livability: REI Co-op Grand Hut 4 – 6 lbs
- Best Budget Pick: Kelty Late Start 3 – 5 lbs
- Best 4-Season: Hilleberg Anjan 3 – 7 lbs 2 oz
No matter which tent you choose, focus first on matching key specs like minimum weight, packed weight, peak height, floor dimensions, and vestibule space to your most common trip parameters and group size.
This ensures you get a tent tailored to your adventures- without overpacking those unnecessary extra ounces to carry!
Hopefully, this gives you a better sense of ideal weight targets when shopping for 3-person backpacking tents.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions! I’m always happy to offer advice to fellow outdoor enthusiasts.