Who are the best tent brands (and shelters) in 2020? Hilleberg, Big Agnes, MSR, Vango, The North Face, Alpkit, & Nemo. Dig in to find out why!

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Steph C


Planning a camping adventure? 

You’ll need a decent shelter to protect you from the elements, but with so many on the market how do you know which is the best tent brand for you? 

We’ll share our favourite camping tent brands and a few of their top tents that will cater to all your wildest adventures - hiking, bikepacking, packrafting, mountaineering and anything else you can think of. Of course, you can use your tent for anything, even a family camping holiday.

Sustainability is super important to us, so we’ve included this as a major factor - we vote with our cash, so we should support brands who are doing the right thing. 

What factors make the brand good or bad?

  • Quality and design
  • Reliability
  • Value for money
  • Environmental friendliness/sustainability

We should all be considering this before we buy anything; fortunately outdoor brands tend to be better at this, but some go further than others.

Here are our top picks for the best tent brands:

  • Hilleberg.
  • Big Agnes.
  • MSR.
  • Vango.
  • The North Face.
  • Black Diamond.
  • Alpkit.
  • Nemo.

Next up is our buying guide followed by the brands and some of their top tents.

Best Tent Buying Guide for backpacking, wild camping, climbing, and general misadventures

The best tent for you will depend on considerations such as;

What will you be using it for? 

If you’re thru-hiking or backpacking you’ll need to go ultralight, but if you’re cycle touring or staying in one spot, weight won’t be as important.

What conditions are you expecting? 

If you’re likely to encounter particularly gnarly weather conditions or snow, you’ll need a more stable and durable tent. Only go as many seasons as you need though to avoid carrying too much weight.

You’ll also need to consider how many of you will be going on the trip and whether you’re willing to share. Choosing a tent is usually a trade-off between price, weight, durability and comfort. 

Features to consider

Tent fabric

The fabric is all that’s between you and the elements. Cheap tents are often made using thin nylon that tears easily. A higher quality nylon will have a better tear strength and will be more waterproof. Hilleberg tents use a hydrostatic head waterproof rating and their fabrics are amazing!

The inner should ideally be breathable and keep you as comfy as possible, and tent floors should be waterproof and strong enough to withstand punctures. Some models offer a separate footprint to protect against extra rough surfaces.

Colour resistance to light is another factor to consider - you don’t want your smart red tent turning orange in the sun!

Tent poles

It’s the poles that create the tent’s structure, and the type you use will depend on where you go and what conditions you’ll face. 

Aluminium poles are stronger than carbon or fibreglass so will withstand rough conditions, however they are heavier so unless you’re doing something particularly extreme, aluminium poles may not be the best choice for backpackers or hikers. 

Other components

Pegs are usually titanium - lighter pegs mean less weight but possibly less stability.

Zips - should be durable enough to withstand repeated use without breaking. YKK zippers are the strongest.

Look for guylines that stay taught and are easily adjustable - you’ll appreciate this when trying to adjust the tension with numb fingers.

Other things to consider;

Design

How practical is it? Are there enough storage pockets? Is there a big enough porch area or areas where you can stow large rucksacks or dirty boots? If so, will this make it too heavy?

How easy is it to put up? Can you do it on your own? Is it simple to pack away?

Are there enough straps and loops? You’ll need these to fasten doors, secure poles and open door and porch flaps for ventilation. 

Effectiveness

Your tent is your only shelter so will it withstand the weather conditions you intend to throw at it? Will it be roomy enough? Do you need to be able to sit up?

How durable is it? Sometimes it’s worth paying more for something that you’ll still be using in several years’ time. 

Sustainability

How is it made? Are the materials used non-toxic? Will you be able to repair and reuse it if anything breaks? Does the company advocate a fair wage for all workers and suppliers? How committed are they to ethical trading with developing countries?

What about their manufacturing processes - if they use animal products, are these humanely sourced? Do they use clean, renewable energy to power factories? How committed are they to continue to develop sustainable practises in the future? 

The best tent brands

Hilleberg the Tentmaker

Hilleberg tent brand

A Swedish family-owned company with over 45 years of experience in tent manufacturing. Founder Bo Hilleberg became frustrated with the tents available at the time, so he and his wife designed and created their own range. 

They only manufacture tents which makes them well-respected specialists. Their tents are exceptional; pretty much bombproof and some of the best on the market, however the tradeoff is a higher price tag.

Hilleberg have created a colour labelling system for their tents, according to weight, intended use and durability.

Aimed at: wild campers, arctic explorers and hardcore adventurers in gnarly weather conditions. 

Some top picks:

Anjan 2 GT 2-person 3-season tent

Hilleberg anjan gt best tent brands
  • Our founder George used this and loved it’s spaciousness!
  • Lightweight but roomy tent, great for backpacking adventures in snow-free conditions
  • Single opening pole sleeves allow for quick pitching, so get kettle on
  • Inner tents have a mesh door and large mesh vent to the rear for a constant air flow
  • Inner and outer tents can be used separately - great for stargazing or warmer dry nights
  • Weighs in at 2.1kg

Allak 2 2-person 4-season tent

Hilleberg allak 2 best tent brands
  • Free standing tent suitable for all adventures from summer paddling to winter mountaineering
  • Three-pole dome structure gives it strength to withstand all but the worst weather conditions
  • Roomy but has a compact footprint and deals well with snow loading
  • Two entrances allow for better ventilation in warm weather so no yukky sock smells
  • At 3.3kg not the lightest of tents but very durable 

Nammatj 2 2-person 4-season tent

Hilleberg Nammatj best tent brands and shelters
  • Our founder George currently uses this tent and is a huge fan (that's his in the cover image of this article) - a robust all-rounder, equally at home on a high-altitude mountaineering adventure or a weekend in the local hills
  • Pitches easily and can be moved in a flash - ideal for those more extreme adventures
  • Weighs in at 3kg 

Sustainability

All Hilleberg tents comply with REACH - the European Union’s European Chemicals Agency regulation.

They choose suppliers who will work within their requirements and that fit into their Responsibility Code.

Their tents are built to last – you’ll be using yours for years. 

Big Agnes

Big Agnes tent brand

Big Agnes was founded in 2000 with the idea of making the best gear possible to help folks to get outside and chase their dreams. They successfully took on an already saturated market by producing great quality gear. 

The Big Agnes philosophy is that their gear should be pushed to its limits and they are inspired by stories from people using it on adventures. Getting down and dirty in the backcountry is their passion. Right up our street!

Aimed at: thru-hikers and backpackers, with the emphasis on ultralight. 

Some top picks:

Copper Spur HV UL2 2-person 3-season tent

  • Best-selling free-standing ultralight tent
  • TipLok tent buckle system makes setting up a super easy
  • Can be customised with optional vestibule awnings
  • Multiple interior loops - great for attaching gear and tent lights
  • Oversize ceiling pocket for additional storage space, media pockets allow for cord routing for electronic devices - useful for checking emails in bed
  • Weighs in at 1.42kg

Copper Spur HV UL3

Big Agmes copper spur hv best tent brands
  • Comes with all the great features of the HV UL2 but designed for three people to fit comfortably
  • Redesigned inside and out, making it lighter, stronger and even easier to set up
  • Traditional, media and 3D bin pockets help you keep your gear organised without cramping your style
  • Slightly heavier at 1.76kg

Tiger Wall 2 Platinum 2-person 3-season tent

  • Takes lightweight tents to a crazy new level
  • Two doors, two vestibules and a whole host of extras such as colour-coded webbing, pre-cut guylines and storage pockets
  • Single pole makes setting up and taking down fast and easy
  • Weighs in at 1kg - one of the best for adventures where weight is crucial

Sustainability

Their Re-Routt range was introduced in 2008 - products constructed using recycled fabrics, fills and hardware and/or environmentally sensitive manufacturing practices.

Big Agnes partner with many non-profits such as LNT, National Forest Foundation and Outdoor Afro. 

Mountain Safety Research (MSR) 

MSR tent brand

MSR was formed in 1969 by engineer and lifelong mountaineer Larry Penberthy. He had the idea that better, safer, more reliable equipment is the key to unlocking greater adventures, a philosophy that drives the brand today. 

MSR are a close-knit team of outdoor enthusiasts devoted to designing the most reliable, high-performance gear possible to fuel outdoor adventures. Their motto is ‘precision engineering inspired by unruly dreamers’.

I’ve always had a good experience with MSR kit so rate it highly.

Aimed at: wild campers, mountaineers, thu-hikers, backpackers and hardcore adventurers facing gnarly weather conditions. 

Some top picks:

Hubba Hubba NX 2-person 3-season tent

  • Almost every wild camper and backpacker has used one of these at some point
  • Ideal for almost any situation yet still compact and lightweight
  • Unified hub and pole system with colour-coded clips make set up fast and easy and ultra-compact compression sack makes for easy packing
  • Non-tapered floor gives plenty of space
  • Weighing in at 1.72kg - ideal for trips where weight is a premium 

Freelite 2 Ultralight 1-person 3-season tent

  • Ultralight, double wall semi free-standing tent for multi-day trips
  • Roomy interior with plenty of ventilation plus large door for easy access (2 man version)
  • Syclone poles offer resilience in high winds
  • Micromesh canopy for maximum ventilation and protection from bugs
  • Weighs in at just 1.13kg

Elixir 2 2-person 3-season tent

  • Great for adventurers seeking a great value, easy set up tent
  • Freestanding design offers much more space then other tents in this class
  • Elixir footprint allows for easy set-up
  • Glow in the dark zipper pulls are a nice touch
  • Weighs in at 2.77kg

Sustainability

MSR’s philosophy is to build their gear to last so that fewer resources are needed for replacements. They offer a repair service at their Seattle headquarters and will recycle any brand of fuel canisters.

MRS is a founding member of the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group, dedicated to addressing the most important sustainability challenges faced today. They’re one of the first brands to use the Higg Index, the sustainability measurement tool launched by the OIASWG.

98% of the energy used at their Seattle headquarters is supplied by renewable energy sources and they use BPA free and smart packaging materials wherever possible.

I really feel that sustainability is a biggie for MSR so hats off!

Vango

Vango tent brand

Vango was established on the west coast of Scotland in 1966 - the name is an anagram of Govan where their factory was based although they’ve now moved to Glasgow. 

They created the Force Ten classic tent, which was taken around the world by traveller Alistair Scott and used by Chris Bonington for his attempt on the South West Face of Everest. 

In 2008, Vango started working alongside the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, becoming official kit suppliers for expeditions.

Aimed at: Vango have always been the go-to guys for entry level and family camping with some great cheaper options, but for 2020 they’ve focused on producing a whole range of high performance super lightweight kit. 

Some top picks:

Banshee Pro 200 2-person all-season tent

  • Popular choice for wild campers and backpackers - ideal for adventures in remote spots
  • Alloy poles are lightweight but strong
  • Tension band system braces the pole at three points, limiting sideways movement in high winds
  • Twin fly sheet doors for easy access
  • Inner pockets are conveniently placed to keep those essential items handy
  • Weighs in at 2.16kg 

Soul 200 2-person all-season tent

  • Entry-level tent featuring a low-level tunnel design for great stability
  • Can be pitched in under 7 minutes (depending on whether you’ve already started on the whiskey…) and fast pack tent bag enables a quick getaway
  • Lights-out inner reduces daylight for a good night’s kip
  • High visibility guylines are easy to spot in poor conditions
  • 2.17kg weight

F10 Project Hydrogen 1-person tent

  • World’s lightest twin skin tent developed using AirBeam technology
  • Schrader valve allows a bike pump to be used to reach the ideal pressure to support the tent structure
  • Titanium pegs are strong but lightweight
  • Twin skin and Ripstop groundsheet gives great durability
  • Weighs in at just 0.7kg and packs down to 1 litre - that is insane! The ultimate in lightweight backpacking tents, but also one of the priciest

Sustainability

Vango offers a spares service - if you need any replacement tent pegs, poles or bags they’ll help you find them rather than ditch your gear.

Their tents are built to last, but they offer a repair and refurb service to minimise the impact on the planet. 

The North Face

Named after the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain, the North Face was born in 1966 when hiking enthusiast Doug Tompkins and his mate decided to follow their passion and open a small mountaineering store in San Francisco, which is nowhere near any proper mountains, but he seems to have done alright for himself.

Throughout the 1960s, The North Face began sponsoring expeditions to some of the farthest-flung corners of the globe. This helped to define their motto ‘Never Stop Exploring’. 

Well known for providing high-performance gear, they have developed into a global giant supporting many of the world’s top athletes and mountaineers.

Aimed at: wild campers, climbers, polar exploration and hardcore adventurers in gnarly conditions

A top pick:

Talus Eco 2-person 2-seasonTent 

  • Front and back doors plus two vestibules give loads of storage space
  • Innovative design - the poles are clipped outside the tent, making it faster to pitch
  • Fly, canopy and floor are all made from recycled polyester
  • Weighs in at 2.82kg

Summit Series Mountain 25 2-person 4-season Tent

Summit Series Mountain 25 north face camping tents
  • Not cheap, but designed to withstand the worst conditions you're likely to experience
  • Hanger loops for damp gear and large vestibule for bigger packs
  • 4 snow stakes are included for pitching on snow
  • Dual entry comes in handy in case of snowdrifts
  • Reinforced fly sheet withstands gale force conditions
  • Heavier at 4.45kg but a high quality piece of kit

Sustainability

Although initially thought to lag behind its brother Patagonia, The North Face now put sustainability at the heart of what they do.

100% of their electricity is provided by renewable sources and they have developed industry-leading strategies with their Responsible Down Standard and Close the Loop apparel and footwear recycling program.

Their athletes empower students to act on climate change through Hot Planet/Cool Athletes presentations, and their Explore Fund helps young people across the country experience the outdoors.

Black Diamond

Started from a table in 1957 in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, Black Diamond has now grown to cover three continents. They are passionate about climbing and skiing. Their innovative gear designs have set the standard in numerous areas and they describe themselves as the greatest dreamers about what could be, and the harshest of critics about what exists.

Aimed at climbers, ski tourers, thru-hikers and backpackers.

Firstlight 2 (or 3)-person 4-season Tent

  • Single door entry and optional vestibule for extra storage
  • Comes with a pole repair tube
  • Expedition-style steep walls and simple floorshape increases headroom and space
  • 2 interior mesh pockets
  • Weighs in at 1.6kg
  • Distance Tent with Adapter 2-person 3-season Tent
  • Ultralight, single-wall tent for thru-hikers and backpackers looking to keep weight to a minimum
  • Integrates with trekking poles (not supplied) and adapter for quick and easy setup, although may not be the sturdiest in windy conditions
  • Vents at peak and foot give good through ventilation
  • Headtorch pocket in peak
  • 4 tension-adjustable stake-out points
  • Weighs only 750g and packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle

Sustainability

Since Doug Robinson’s 1972 visionary essay on the virtues of clean climbing, Black Diamond’s ethos has been rooted in the idea that the style in which they accomplish their goals is as important as achieving them. This means they make their equipment in a low impact way and have become a globally recognised voice for conservation and presentation ethics.

They’ve also received several awards including Zions Bank's Global Pacesetter Award and the Summit Land Conservancy's Conservation and Sustainability Award. Impressive!

They are committed to complying with the highest standards of social responsibility to ensure the safety and fair treatment for all suppliers and manufacturers as outlined in their Vendor Code of Conduct.

Black Diamond were a founding member of the Outdoor Industry Association's Fair Labor Working Group and carry out regular, unannounced audits of premises to ensure that standards are met.

Alpkit

Alpkit tent brand

Alpkit was born in the UK in 2004 out of a passion for the outdoors and a refusal to accept the high price of high-performance gear. 

Their philosophy is based around developing high quality products that will be loved for longer. Gear is developed with a clear purpose, a technical benefit and with as much cross-over use as possible. 

They keep things simple, and only sell direct to customers, keeping prices low but quality high.

A favourite amongst adventurers and backpackers, they were awarded online retailer of the year in 2019. 

Many of the team use Alpkit gear and are very happy with it. I always enjoy a visit to their stores when passing by.

Aimed at: adventure seekers (wild campers, bikepackers, climbers)

Some top picks:

Soloist 1-person 3-season tent

Alpkit Soloist tent best camping tent brands
  • Firm favourite backpacking tent for many a solo wild camper
  • Uses a single hubbed pole system for easy pitching
  • Tall enough to comfortably sit up in
  • Generous porch area holds those muddy boots, and stash pockets keep phone and head torch to hand
  • For warmer adventures, it’s possible to pitch the inner only and save even more weight. A separately sold footprint means you can leave the inner at home, saving another half a kilo
  • Weighs in at just 1.2kg and packs down to little larger than a bottle of wine

Tetri 2-person 3-season tent

Alpkit Tetri tent best camping tent brands
  • Classic three pole design creates a stable shelter for backpacking adventures
  • Colour coordinated poles means pitching is easy enough for one, so your mate can get a cuppa going
  • Mosquito net door helps keep out pesky bugs
  • Loads of storage options - stuff pockets, porch area and hanging loops
  • Outer can be used on its own as a bivvy shelter for even faster adventures
  • At 3kg it’s fairly heavy but roomier that the Soloist 

Sustainability

Sustainability is at the heart of Alpkit’s philosophy and they work to their own principles:

  • Reduce, reuse, repair and recycle- they have repair centres in the Keswick and Hathersage 
  • Their Continuum project distributes donated gear to various charities
  • Respect our environment - they avoid using harmful chemicals as much as possible and recycle
  • Treat animals humanely - animal products used are from humane suppliers
  • Work with people we believe in - they ensure that all suppliers have agreed to the Ethical Trading Initiative’s base code as a minimum
  • Build a better business - building sustainability for the future
  • Give back - Alpkit donates 1% of monthly sales to their Foundation which supports a variety of events and projects

In 2019 they started working with Ethical Consumer Magazine to help them be truly accountable. Good work!

Nemo

Nemo tent brand

The idea of Nemo was born one stormy night when Cam Brensinger spent a sleepless night on the side of Mount Washington in a poorly designed bivvy. Realising the opportunities to create thoughtful designs for outdoor adventures, he founded Nemo Equipment from a restored mill in New Hampshire. 

The brand quickly won awards for design and innovation, including the ISPO Brand New Award in 2005, and was named by TIME and Popular Science as among the 100 best innovations of the year.

They continue to innovate, motivated by a sticker in their conference room that captures their ethos - ‘Design Like You Give a Damn’. Love that!

Aimed at: the Ultralight market

Some top picks:

Hornet Ultralight 1 or 2-person 3-season tent 

Nemo Hornet Ultralight best tent brands camping tents
  • Offers the ultimate in lightweight living and comfort
  • Single pole construction allows for super-fast set up
  • Two-person tent comes with a dual-stage stuff sack to allow you and your adventure buddy to share the load
  • Flybar volumizing clip adds more room without adding weight
  • Light pockets allow you to turn your head torch into a tent lantern
  • 1-person option weighs less than 1kg

Dragonfly Ultralight 1 or 2-person 3-season tent

Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight
  • Fills the void between balance of weight and liveability in a freestanding tent
  • Large trapezoidal vestibules fit plenty of gear without obscuring entry
  • High-arching main pole significantly increases volume at the head, peak and foot ends
  • Clear black mesh top lets you gaze at the stars but keep your privacy
  • 1-person option weighs in at 1.28kg 

Dagger 1, 2 or 3-person 3-season tent

Nemo Dagger best tent brands camping tents
  • Best-selling tent that’s light enough for backpacking yet roomy enough to comfortably wait out a rainstorm
  • Updated in 2019 with pre-bent poles to create more headroom, colour-coded poles and webbing plus improvements in ventilation and durability
  • More space and storage volume than any other tent in its weight and price category
  • Divvy dual-stage stuff sack allows you to split the load with your walking buddy
  • Optional gear loft for stowing gear on top of your tent
  • 2-person option weighs in at 1.75kg 

Sustainability

Nemo are deeply committed to making the world a better place and a team driven effort is used to tackle challenges from the simple (let’s use solar!) to the complex (reformulating durable water repellents).

We love Nemo’s design philosophy - ‘We have vowed to only design and create things that provide a meaningfully better experience. And if they don’t, we don’t make them.’. 

Their products are high quality and designed to last, which means less landfill, and they’re great advocates of fix it up, don’t throw it out. Their Director of Engineering, a Harvard PhD, is leading an industry-wide effort to develop safer alternatives for flame retardants and durable water repellent coatings. Bang on.

So which is the best tent brand for you?

You won’t go wrong sticking to these tent brands, but remember different models from them have different strengths and features.

Ultimately the best tent for you will depend on what type of trip you’re doing, the length of the trip, budget, how many are going and what weather conditions you’ll face. Consider materials and fabrics, durability, strength, weight, environmental friendliness and price.


Fancy a spot of wild camping? 

Why not join us on a Wild Camping in Snowdonia London Escape?


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