“I have found that the Kelty Dirt Motel performs better in wind and is faster to set up than most other brands and models I have used in the past,” Stroeer tells SELF. Along with standing up to 30-mph-plus winds and solid waterproofing, the Dirt Motel has two doors and vestibules and plenty of room inside to move around.
For everything from large groups to solo car camping, Coleman’s eight-person Instant Family Tent is one of Bradford’s top picks. She uses it for comfort camping on her own and on group trips with Black Girls Camp, an Ohio state-registered nonprofit aimed at bringing more black women into camping and providing a safe space to learn and enjoy the outdoors.
The tent sets up in under a minute with snap-in poles that are durable and easy to use. “It sets up in about 50 seconds, and I’ve used it in the wind and the rain and have not had any issues with them,” says Bradford. The only drawback, she says, is that while the instant-pitch tent is great for convenience, especially after a long drive, it doesn’t pack down as small and isn’t quite as winter-friendly as some of her favorite traditional-pitch tents like the Field and Stream Cross Vent 8-Person Tent ($ 132, Amazon).
When you’re backpacking, you carry all your gear with you on the trail, meaning every little bit of weight counts. Michelle Markel, a long-distance hiker and founder of supportpubliclands.com, says, “Tent weight is one of the most important considerations, because on a long-distance hike, every ounce counts.”
At the same time, you also have to balance weight with durability because you don’t want your shelter to break or tear during a storm or midway through a weeklong trek. “It doesn’t matter if your tent weighs less than a pound if it leaks water on the trail,” says Reed. For durability, look for tents with ripstop nylon material and aluminum poles.
The Nemo Hornet tent is Markel’s top choice for her solo trekking adventures. “It hits virtually all of the important features,” she says. For Markel, this means it’s ultralight (1 lb. 10 oz.), durable, freestanding, double-walled, and easy to set up, and has a side door.
With a fully connected foldable-poll system, the Hornet is easy to set up, and since it’s freestanding, you can pitch it on virtually any flat area. Once up, the tent provides enough space for one person to snuggle up on their own, and the side door makes it easy to get in and out. Markel says the side door “makes the tent feel larger when I have the fly open to the side as opposed to one end.”
At the same time, if you only have the cash for one tent and you want to bring a friend sometimes, the owner of Adios Adventure Travel, Jacquie Whitt, recommends getting a two-person tent. In that case, the Hornet also has a two-person version ($ 370, REI).
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Tent got multiple recommendations for backpacking too. Reed loves the Tiger Wall tent for its weight (2 lb. 8 oz.), two doors and vestibules, and durability. “It also features ripstop nylon in the body that helps resist wear and tear,” says Reed.
Rosenberg also recommends the Tiger Wall for folks who are new to backpacking and don’t plan to winter camp. “It’s a great little lightweight tent that’ll do the job,” she says. “It’s also got some nice pockets and is spacious.” Plus, the aluminum poles are all connected, making setup and takedown quick and easy.
The MSR Hubba Hubba tent has stolen the hearts of numerous backpackers, including two of our experts. The tent isn’t cheap, but it makes up for it with exceptional performance in all conditions. The tent is lightweight (3 lbs. 14 oz.) but still spacious enough to be comfortable sharing with a buddy. Emily Pulido, a former Rare Earth Adventure guide, finally landed on the MSR Hubba Hubba after trying many different tents. “The poles are all in one so it is an extremely easy set up and you don’t have to worry about leaving behind a pole,” she says.