Camping and backpacking tents on a budget

Camping tents on a budget

If you’re just jumping into the world of outdoor recreation, one of your first purchases is probably going to be a tent.

There are hundreds of choices and the cost can run up really fast. Also, if you’re like me, you can sometimes overthink your options.

My goal is to simplify the process.  I camp frequently both with and without my family.

I’m also obsessive about keeping up with new gear trends.

Frankly, outdoor gear manufacturers are always trying to come up with new “technologies” that make you think you need their product. Some of their use of new materials and technology is legit, but a lot of times it’s just a gimmick to convince you to spend more money.

One Shirt = One Tree
Plant a Seed

You don’t have to have the latest and greatest to have an incredible time in the outdoors.

If you’re operating on a budget … keep reading

There are three main classes of tents to consider.

    • Family – Car Camping These tents are intended for a large group of people or car camping. They’re ofter spacious, but heavy and bulky when compared to a backpacking tent.
    • Backpacking – These tents are meant to be light, compact and a good when will be easy to construct in adverse conditions. Just because a backpacking tent is smaller, does not mean that it will be less expensive.
    • Four Season – These tents are designed to take the extreme weather. Often that means gusty winds, snow, and hard rain. As you may imagine, that can run up the price real quick. There really is not an inexpensive four season tent, but below you’ll find my recommendation for best value.

Once you determine which class tent you’re looking for, the choices for the best bang for your buck become pretty clear.

Family/Car Camping

($203) Coleman Steel Creek 6 Person Fast Pitch Dome with Screenroom


Affordable Camping Tents Budget
Coleman Steel Creek 6

Pros – Really slick screened front porch, durable, fast pitch system (5-10 min)

Cons – Dirt and mud may wash into screen room during heavy rain, poorly designed carrying bag

($189) Mountain Trails Grand Pass Tent- 10 Person

Budget Camping Tents
Mountain Trails Grand Pass Tent – 10 Person

Pros – Very Spacious, Large vents for warm climates, sets up surprisingly fast

Cons – Flimsy tent stakes, Needs a lot of space for tent and guy lines, thin material


($219) REI Half Dome 2 Plus

The “Plus” version of the REI Half Dome 2 offers a little more space with minor sacrifices to size and weight. The Half Dome is only available at REI.

Affordable Backpacking Tents
Half Dome 2 Plus Tent

Pros – Spacious for a two-person tent, durable, available in fun colors

Cons – A little heavy when compared to more expensive backpacking models

($101) ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent

Backpacking Tents on a budget
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1 – Person Tent

Pros –  Compact for backpacking, lightweight-under 4 lbs., great ventilation, durable fly, great value

Cons – Designed for just one person

($119) Featherstone Outdoor UL Granite 2 Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Cheap Backpacking Tents
Featherstone Outdoor UL Granite 2 -Person

Pros – Lightweight – under 4 lbs, a lot of mesh for ventilation, compact

Cons – Thin material

Four Season

($589) – The North Face Mountain 25

Inexpensive Four Season Tent
The North Face Mountain 25 – 2 – person tent

Pros – Super Sturdy, efficient pockets, high strength guy lines with equalizers, great price for four season tent

Cons – A little on the heavy side, some have complained about the fly sticking together when stored in hot areas

($700) – Mountain Hardwear EV2

Yes, this tent lists for $700 but I’ve seen it go on sale at REI for as little as $524. If you can get it on sale, more power to you!

Inexpensive Four Season Tents
Mountain Hardwear EV 2


Pros – Its design is extremely sturdy with just three poles and there’s great headroom for a four season tent. Pitches quickly.

Cons – Some complaints about poor ventilation.  I know manufacturers call them “four season” tents, but you’ll be better served getting a regular tent if you plan on camping in the summer.

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