Backpacking Tent Vs Camping Tent

Updated Aug 5, 2023

Hello, fellow adventurers! Today, we’re diving deep into the world of tents, specifically comparing backpacking tents and camping tents. As someone who’s spent countless nights under the stars, I’ve experienced firsthand how the right tent can make a world of difference to your outdoor adventure.

Backpacking and camping, though similar in many ways, have distinct needs that influence the type of gear you should take, especially when it comes to tents. When you’re nestled deep in the wilderness, miles away from the nearest road, a backpacking tent is your best bet. But when you’re camping in a more accessible location, you might appreciate the luxury of a spacious camping tent.

In this article, we’ll compare backpacking tents and camping tents, looking at the factors like weight, size, durability, and ease of set up, to help you decide which one best suits your needs. Let’s get started!

Comparing Backpacking Tents and Camping Tents

Backpacking tents and camping tents may seem alike, however they have differences. Let’s look into them!

Backpacking TentCamping Tent
Prioritize light weight over features and comfort.Prioritize comfort and extra space.
Light and small for easy transport during hikes.Heavy and bulky, ideal for not-moving camping.
Normally fit 1-2 people.Available in various sizes for groups.
Built with strong materials for harsh outdoor conditions.Constructed with thicker fabrics for extended life.
May lack ventilation due to size and full coverage rainfly.Offers better airflow with multiple windows and doors.
Usually only offer sitting height.Larger family tents will have standing height inside.
More expensive price for their size.Can be more expensive because of the amount of materials used.
Cheaper options are heavier.Cheaper options are lower quality and not weather resistant.
A table comparing backpacking tent and camping tent features.

Choosing Between Backpacking and Camping Tents

Choosing a backpacking tent or a camping tent comes down to careful consideration of several factors. These can really affect your outdoor experience and tent usability. Here are some points to consider:

  • Weight: Backpacking tents are light and portable for hikers and backpackers who carry their shelter. Camping tents are more about comfort and space than saving weight.
  • Size: Backpacking tents are generally smaller for 1 or 2 people, while camping tents give more room for larger groups and families.
  • Durability: Backpacking tents are built with light materials, but this can reduce their durability. Camping tents use heavier fabrics for longer use.
  • Setup Time: Backpacking tents are designed to be set up quickly since backpackers often need to beat darkness. Camping tents take longer due to increased size and more complex features.
  • Weather Resistance: Both types should protect from elements, but backpacking tents prioritize this more due to remote locations.

Taking these into account will help you pick what fits your needs. It’s worth noting that mountaineering tents are available for tough environments with special features like stability and enhanced weather resistance, but they will also be quite expensive.

Comparison of Features: Backpacking and Camping Tents

Let’s cover the pros and cons of each type of tent so you can better understand their differences:

Pros and Cons of Backpacking Tents

Backpacking tents, as the name suggests, are designed for situations where you have to carry all your gear on your back. This means they’re often lightweight, compact when packed, and designed to provide shelter in a variety of weather conditions. They’re usually designed for one to two people, minimizing weight and maximizing efficiency. Backpacking tents have the edge in rough weather and high-altitude conditions because they’re typically designed to withstand elements like strong winds and heavy rain.

However, there are trade-offs. Due to their focus on minimalism, backpacking tents can be relatively small and cramped. You’ll have enough room to sleep and store your gear, but not much else. They can also be more complex to set up as they often use hiking poles for structure. Lastly, quality backpacking tents can be pricier than their camping counterparts because of the specialized materials used to keep them lightweight and durable.

Pros and Cons of Camping Tents

Camping tents, on the other hand, prioritize comfort and spaciousness. They are perfect when the camping site is relatively close to your vehicle or you don’t have to carry your gear far. Camping tents usually offer more headroom and overall living space, often including vestibules or screened rooms for gear storage or just to enjoy the view without bugs.

These tents are typically easier to set up, with more straightforward designs and heavy-duty poles. They also range widely in size, with models accommodating families or groups. Cost-wise, you’ll find that camping tents can be more affordable than backpacking tents, and they come in a variety of styles to suit different needs.

However, camping tents are usually heavier and bulkier, making them unsuitable for situations where you need to carry all your gear. They may not perform as well in extreme weather conditions or rough terrain as they are primarily designed for comfort and convenience in established campgrounds.

Choosing the Right Tent For You

Choosing between a backpacking tent and a camping tent depends on what kind of camping you’re planning to do and what factors matter most to you.

First and foremost, consider where and how you’ll be camping. Will you be carrying your gear over long distances, up mountains, and through trails? If so, a lightweight and compact backpacking tent will be your best friend. But if you’re heading to an easily accessible campsite and comfort is your top priority, a camping tent can provide the roominess and ease-of-use you need.

Consider the conditions you’re likely to encounter. If you expect to camp in harsh weather or high-altitude conditions, a rugged backpacking tent will provide better protection. However, if you’re camping in milder climates and established campgrounds, a camping tent will suffice.

The size of your group also plays a role in your decision. Camping tents come in larger sizes, accommodating families or groups, while backpacking tents are often designed for one to two people.

Finally, think about your budget. Backpacking tents, with their specialized materials and designs, can be pricier, while camping tents can be more affordable.

Can’t Pick Between the Two?

If you’ve read the information above and still can’t pick between the two types of tents, here are your best options:

  • Purchase one of each. If budget allows, get a tent that’s the best in its own category. We have a heavier and spacious car camping tent that we use while at campgrounds, plus we have a lightweight backpacking tent that we use only for backpacking.
  • Purchase a backpacking tent: If you can’t afford both, you should purchase a backpacking tent. That’s because you can use a backpacking tent for regular camping, but you can’t use a regular camping tent for backpacking. That way you’ll get the most out of your new piece of gear..

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to tents. It’s all about what fits your specific needs and preferences. As an avid camper, I’ve found value in having both types of tents in my gear collection for different kinds of adventures.


There you have it – a rundown on the key differences between backpacking tents and camping tents, and some guidelines on how to choose between them. The right tent for you depends on a mix of factors, from the type of camping you’ll be doing to your personal preferences for comfort and convenience.

Whether you opt for the lightweight and compact design of a backpacking tent or the spacious luxury of a camping tent, remember that the best tent is one that serves your needs and enhances your outdoor experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between a backpacking tent and a camping tent?

A: The main difference between a backpacking tent and a camping tent is their intended use. Backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and compact, making them ideal for backpackers who need to carry their shelter with them. Camping tents, on the other hand, are typically larger and heavier, offering more space and comfort for car campers.

Q: Can I use a backpacking tent for camping?

A: While it is possible to use a backpacking tent for camping, it may not provide the same level of comfort and space as a camping tent. Backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and compact, which means they often sacrifice space and amenities. If you prioritize comfort and space, it’s recommended to use a camping tent for camping purposes.

Q: Can I use a camping tent for backpacking?

A: Using a camping tent for backpacking is generally not recommended. Camping tents tend to be larger and heavier, making them impractical for backpackers who need to carry their shelter with them. Backpacking tents are specifically designed to be lightweight and compact, making them much more suitable for backpacking trips.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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