My Top 7 Picks for the Best 3 Person Backpacking Tents of 2019: In-depth Reviews and Buying Guide
Finding the right backpacking tent is tougher than you think, especially if it’s your first time. Take this from a person who has been backpacking for the last 9 years. Since I mostly travel with my two college buddies, I need to make sure we all have enough room to spare to avoid discomfort.
I have to admit that today’s tents are a lot better and sturdier than how they used to be 9 years ago. The sheer volume of options we have today will leave anyone spoilt for choice.
If you too are not sure how to find the best 3 person backpacking tent without drilling a crater in your pocket, let me make this a little easier for you.
I have put together a list of 7 backpacking tents from different price groups after scouring the web for hours so that you don’t have to. Here’s hoping you find exactly what you’ve been looking for from the list below:
7 Best 3-person Backpacking Tents Worth Your Time: Detailed Reviews
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Tent: 3-Person 3-Season
I absolutely hate lugging around a heavy-ass tent when I’m on a multi-day camping trip with my mates. Most ultralights I had lived in before couldn’t withstand even moderate weather conditions. On top of that, they were so tiny that claustrophobia could have killed me before any wild beast or poisonous bug bite could.
Big Agnes is one of those rare brands that has managed to strike the perfect balance between convenience and spaciousness. This 3-person tent is everything a minimalist backpacker could ever hope for. From weekend backcountry trips in moderate weather to short road trips to multi-day summer camp outs, this UL is a reasonably priced solution for all occasions.
It weighs just above 3 pounds, which is the same weight as most 2 person tents. Staking and guying the tent is fairly quick and easy, even for the camping dummies.
It has an internal space of approx 41 sq. ft, meaning three well-built people can fit shoulder-to-shoulder with enough legroom to spare. What’s even better is the nearly vertical high walls.
It brings an open feeling to the interior which is a blessing for tall and chubby people like me. I can easily stretch my legs, sit upright bundling under the quilt and read books in my tent.
It also features storm flap zippered vestibules to safely store your gears and 8 more interior pockets for smaller items, keeping the living space clean and uncluttered. I also loved the fact that there are two large doors on both sides. That means you can enter and exit the tent without pestering anyone.
Now, since the tent is so lightweight, you might obviously doubt the construction quality and weather resilience of the product. At least I did. I’m quite glad to be proved wrong this time, for a change. The 20-denier floor fabric and 10-denier nylon rainfly fabric can survive moderate rain and light snow.
Having said that, a heavy gust of wind or heavy snow load can bring severe damage to the tent, something to keep in mind while making the purchase. I’d also suggest being extra careful while handling the mesh and zippers. They are quite delicate and hence, prone to wear and tear. Apart from the obvious cons, the tent is a stellar bargain for the money for its ease-of-installation, high vertical walls with plenty of legroom and of course, the almost negligible weight.
- Lightweight and easy assembly.
- Setting up and taking down the fly is a cinch.
- Snug fit for 3 people with adequate legroom.
- Nearly vertical walls lend a roomier feel to the interiors.
- Lots of zippered pockets and dual vestibules for stashing the gears.
- Two-door design.
- Not suitable for extreme weather conditions like heavy downpour, strong wind or snowstorm.
- The zippers and mesh are needed to be handled with care to avoid damage.
- You need to purchase the footprint separately.
MSR Elixir 3-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent
Although not as lightweight as Big Agnes Copper, MSR Elixir is a large and flexible tent that’s built to take a good amount of beating. It gobbles up very little space in the pack and gets assembled in a jiffy with its color-coded poles.
First-timers might need about 15-20 minutes to set up the whole thing. But once you get the hang of the process, it won’t take you more than 10 minutes. So that’s ticks two boxes right there.
The cleverly designed headroom combined with two-way door and 8 sq.ft vestibules makes it a comfortable, clutter-free hideout for two adults+a kid/pet. Like Big Agnes, this one too has adequate room for stretching your legs.
The build quality, especially the waterproofing quality of the fly is seriously admirable. From torrential rain, crazy storm to ridiculously high humidity, this bad boy handles everything like a pro.
The tent fabric is highly breathable and has lots of vents, which boosts the air circulation and keeps the indoor air comfortable on the muggiest days. And when it’s freezing outside, simply put down the rain covers and instantly bring down the indoor temperature by at least 3 degrees.
Brownie points for the fuss-free disassembly too. You can take apart the tent in minutes, throw the big bag it comes with and be on your way. The bottom line is, if you are prioritizing comfort and weather-protection over reducing ounces in your pack, this is worth having a look.
- Very easy to stake out and take down.
- Lots of legroom, headroom and floor space for a family of two adults and a kid or pet.
- Excellent weather-resistance.
- A tad too heavy for long-distance, multi-day backpacking trips.
So you are almost sure that backpacking is your way of life but not ready to fully commit to the kit yet? Here’s a tent under $200 made just for the blooming backpackers like you. The 3P 4-season Naturehike can go wherever you go and withstand whatever you throw at it without getting a single scratch.
It comes with all the accessories you will need for the setup, no unnecessary bells, and whistles. Even with all the poles, ground cloth, and long stakes, the tent weighs 5.7 lbs. It will come down to 3 lbs minus the accessories. Even a kid can effortlessly lug around this much weight into the woods.
It hits the sweet spot between the convenience of an Ultralight and the sturdiness of a genuine 4-seasons tent. Not to mention that assembling the bad boy is a cinch, in the truest sense of the term. A quick skim of the instruction manual will tell you exactly what to do.
It should take you roughly 10 minutes to put the whole thing together and about 2 minutes to take it down. One thing that particularly impressed me was the quality of the stakes, stuff sacks, footprint, and clips for the price. The tent material itself is robust and has the ability to stand strong in the face of hurricane, hailstorm, and incessant downpour.
This tent uses an inner mesh fly and an outer solid fabric fly to keep bad weather out of your tent. I would not hesitate to take it to the Appalachian Trail. Being a 4-season tent, it can handle snow loads a lot better than 3-season lightweight tents.
Alternatively, when it’s too hot and humid outside but the bugs refuse to give in, roll up the rainfly and only use the netted inner tent to help the airflow.
According to the majority of its current customer base, the tent is a bit tight for three healthy adults but a luxury for two with a pet dog. You can also use the spacious vestibule area of the tent to keep your hiking gears safe from morning dew, snow, and rain. Not to mention, it will also spare you the ordeal of smelling your bud’s repugnant hiking boots.
The ceiling and vertical walls will allow 6 ft. tall people to lay flat, change their clothes and play cards sitting upright.
- Excellent quality of stakes, poles, and footprint for the price.
- Takes 5-10 minutes tops to assemble and 2 minutes to take down.
- Can survive strong gales, blizzard, moderate snow, and heavy torrential downpour.
- Allows tall individuals to comfortably sit upright.
- Spacious vestibule space.
- Dual-wall construction for all-weather protection as well as great.
- Doesn’t have enough pockets to store small gears like flashlights and stuff.
Marmot Tungsten 3 Person Backpacking Tent
If sitting on the edge of the world under the starry night is what your dreams are made of, Marmot Tungsten could be just the right product for you.
Marmot Tungsten provides 41.5 square foot floor space which is snug for two adults and a kid but a mansion for a couple. Its 46-inch high ceiling is probably the highest you can find in this price range. When the sky opens up and the gale storm hits the campsite, the full coverage seam-taped rainfly will keep your family dry and warm inside the shelter. Both the outer and inner tent material breathes well and doesn’t trap any moisture inside, making the tent ideal for wet climate.
Speaking of weather resistance, a couple of field-test reports suggests that the tent holds up surprisingly well against 50-mph winds without suffering any serious damage. After all the gale and dark clouds pass, simply take off the rain fly and behold the star-studded night sky.
Marmot packs in easily, isn’t that heavy to lug around for miles and can be pitched with minimal effort. If I am off to a backcountry camping with my family and have an inclement weather to survive, I won’t look any further.
- PU-coated tent for superior weather-proofing, especially against heavy shower and gales.
- Comes with all the necessary accessories for setup including footprint.
- Reinforced strap points.
- Includes two vestibules (7.8 sq.ft and 10.6 sq.ft, respectively) for stashing your gears.
- Zippered pockets for small items like flashlights, keychains included.
- Would be super tight for 3 adults.
Marmot Limelight 3 Person Camping Tent
Yeah, I’m aware that this is my second recommendation from Marmot. But what can I say? I’m a fan.
This one weighs just a little above 7 lbs, offers 42.5 sq.ft of floor space with a peak height of 48-inch. I am 5’9” guy and it will leave me abundant headroom and leg space to sprawl out and enjoy a cup of coffee with my tentmates.
The usable internal volume is partly the result of the vertical walls and the bent knee poles. If you have pitched a tent before, putting together this free-standing system shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes. Speaking of, my only beef with this product is that there are only 6 stakes included in the package. You will need 12 to keep everything taut and in place. Not a tradeoff for me but still worth pointing out.
Anyway, moving on, like any 3-person backpacking tent worth its salt, this one also features two large doors, one typical D-shaped door at the rear side and one extra-large door at the floor. You will find two 9 sq.ft vestibules near this door for safekeeping your hiking gears and other essentials.
The large door makes moving in and out heavy objects a breeze. When the bugs are not super hungry for your flesh, you can open it up and use it to get some fresh air inside the tent.
Speaking of fresh air, I should mention that the tent has plenty of air channels which help to keep the humidity down on sultry days. Both the floor and the canopy are made from high-quality, waterproof 68D polyester taffeta which ensures a reliable shelter when the clouds begin to roll in.
While it can handle a good deal of rain, wind and light snow, I won’t consider it for extreme cold conditions. With all that mesh, the heat exchange would be rapid, which is the last thing I’d want when I’m feeling frozen like a popsicle.
- Can withstand heavy rain and strong gusts of wind.
- Great for summer, spring, and fall campouts, thanks to plenty of ventilation.
- Two vestibules.
- Upright walls enhance livability.
- One super-large and one D-shaped door for easy access.
- Not the best option to fight blizzard and heavy snowfall.
- Won’t be comfortable for three average-sized adults with lots of gears. However, two adults and a kid can fit shoulder to shoulder.
- A bit heavy for an extended backpacking trip.
Coleman Sundome Tent
No, I’m not a heartless snob who only picks expensive products. When I hit the trail for the first time, I borrowed money from my friend for the gears, so I know exactly how to find quality gears on a shoestring budget. Winterial 3 Person Tent is one of my all-time favorite budget backpacking tents for a number of reasons.
Let’s start with the waterproofing. Coleman Sundome can survive heavy torrential rain and even a deluge like a champ. You won’t need the additional help of seam sealing for this. This impeccable waterproofing ability can be attributed to the bathtub style floor made from a burly 1000D polyethylene. It handles heavy downpour 2x times better than regular nylon. The package doesn’t include a footprint for cost-cutting purpose but you can always use a tarp.
The tent has welded seams in the corner too which completely eliminates the chances of leakage. Brownie points for the incredible breathability and ventilation provided by its large hooded window at the rear side. There’s a small zippered vent near the bottom as well for additional airflow.
When the sky clears up and the bugs are not in full action mode, roll up the rainfly and enjoy the view from the large screen panel on the roof. The tent includes plenty of room for your extra stuff and multiple plastic holes for hanging lanterns.
Not just that, there’s a zippered electrical port located in the front corner to help you run an electrical cord inside the tent. The spacious 49 square foot tent is like a makeshift motel room for 3 people with heavy-duty gears. Moreover, it is tall enough to allow a 6 ft. person to stand comfortably.
You can easily fit one queen-sized airbed in it and sleep like a log in the swamps of Florida. Both setting up and taking down the tent take less than 15 minutes, even when you are up against inclement weather.
- Bathtub-style floor and welded seams prevent rain leakage.
- No indoor condensation, lets in plenty of air through the ground vent, large window and mesh panel on the ceiling.
- Quick setup.
- Roomy interiors with very high ceilings.
- Has a separate port for running an AC power cord inside the tent.
- Doesn’t come with a footprint.
- Extra ventilation renders it unsuitable for extreme cold weather trips.
Kelty Dirt Motel Tent
Simple, elegant and capable of standing strong in the face of adverse weather, Kelty Dirt Motel Tent is everything backpacking tents are required to be. The stargazing fly system is a fancy little design element that makes this tent appear slightly different from other models.
I like how you can roll up the fly/ stargazing flap from the inside and secure it with a clip to enjoy the view of the amazing night sky. This will also simultaneously improve the air circulation inside the tent.
The rain fly is built from silicone-coated 40-D ripstop nylon carrying 1500 mm waterproof rating. This, combined with 2000 mm water-resistant 70-D nylon footprint, makes the tent capable of tackling a substantial amount of rain and wind. Note that you need to buy the footprint separately which is a bit of a downer, considering the price.
With floor space measuring 39.6 sq.ft, this is certainly not the roomiest 3-person tent on this list. I’d suggest it for two adult backpackers carrying lots of gears or two kids with an adult.
After staking out, the walls remain upright which significantly improves livability. The tent offers two vented vestibules and plenty of strategically placed pockets to keep your stuff safe from weather elements.
Putting together all the parts is not dead simple per se, for the first time, even with all the color-coded and clearly marked poles. But it does get a lot easier from next time onwards.
To sum up, anyone who is looking to lighten up his backpack and simultaneously enjoy a solid protection from savage weather will get their money’s worth with this dome-shaped shelter.
- Roomy enough for three skinny individuals or two adults and a kid.
- Vertical walls enhance the livability.
- Freestanding system, includes color-coded hubbed and brow poles for fuss-free setup.
- Unique and functional stargazing fly system.
- 2-door design.
- Footprint not included.
- Too lightweight to survive a hurricane or heavy snow load.
What to Look for When Buying a Backpacking Tent: A Jargon-free Guide
Any backpacker worth his salt will tell you that picking the right tent is sometimes the only difference between a life-altering experience and a long-lasting nightmare. To idiot-proof your purchase, here are a few key areas to focus on:
Lightening up the backpack load is one of the top priorities for most backpackers, including me. Lightweight freestanding systems are the best for enjoying a short backcountry trip or a summer campout.
These tents get set up in a jiffy, have vertical walls and have ample space to let you sit upright and play bridge with your tent partners. Most models in this group weigh 4-6 pounds and will serve the purpose for the casual crowd.
If you want to go even lighter, check out the Ultralights weighing as low as 3 pounds with all the accessories. UL tents are much more specialized and sort of tricky to assemble. In order to trim the ounces, UL manufacturers need to compromise on some important aspects like durability, weather resistance and most of all, the interior volume.
Ultralights also come with a steeper price tag and need to be handled with lots of care. Having said that, if you are keen on keeping the weight as low as possible at the cost of convenience, an ultralight tent with tarp is your safest bet.
Interior Space and Peak Height
Most 3-person tents are comfortable for two but claustrophobic for three along with extra gears. But if you pay close enough to the floor space (specified in square feet) and peak ceiling height, you will get a fairly clear idea of how roomy the tent actually is. I had to do some serious digging to find models that can comfortably accommodate 3 heads.
Many up-to-date models incorporate vertical walls into the tent which substantially increase the usable interior volume. From my personal experience, I can tell you that any tent with 40 sq.ft or above floor space and minimum 39-inch peak height plus upright walls would make a snug shelter for three.
Ease of Setup
Modern tents are far easier to set up than their older counterparts. If you are new to the world of backpacking, you might wish to check out tents that come with free standing poles. With the help of clip system and color-coded tent poles that quickly snap in place, you can get the whole thing up in 10 minutes tops.
Putting the rainfly in place also dead simple with these tents. Seasoned campers won’t need more than 5 minutes. Ultralights are a slightly different ballgame.
You will need some prior experience and practice to get the hang of the setup. However, the extra effort will eliminate the additional load of tent poles from your bag. This will certainly give you an edge when you are off to a challenging trail.
In a single-wall tent, the tent body and rainfly are seam taped together to form a single layer of protection against the elements and insects. When you zip shut the doors, the dome is completely sealed with a small amount of heat trapped inside.
This makes it ideal for cold weather conditions. Having said that, the usefulness of a single-wall tent solely lies at the mercy of the weather.
Tents featuring a double-wall construction come with a separate inner tent body (usually made from mesh panel) and a rain fly. A double-wall is definitely more value for money as it will serve you well in both hot/humid and cold/dry climate.
The mesh panel helps to increase the airflow inside the tent which is extremely important to prevent inner condensation in a humid climate. Lack of proper ventilation also produces a foul, musty smell inside the shelter. Squeezing 3 people in one place in a poorly ventilated dome would be a disaster.
Floor Material and Footprint
All tents are advertised to be durable and weather-resistant, but very few of them actually are. Tent durability is often denoted by the Denier, a unit used for measuring the fabric yar’s weight. Most manufacturers will specify the Denier of the rainfly, canopy and tent floor material. The higher the Denier rating, the thicker the material and therefore, the more durability it offers. Ultralight tents use low rated Denier nylon or polyester to keep the weight down.
Now, any camping veteran will tell you that the floor material has the highest chance of getting punctured in a gnarly terrain. If its made from a light and thin fabric (e.g 15D nylon), you should invest in a footprint.
This might cost you $50 extra and also add to the weight of your pack. But the payoff will be great when it’s raining buckets outside for days and the groundwater level is alarming.
You can also choose a model that already comes with a footprint or opt for a tarp as a cheaper alternative. Ultralights don’t come with a footprint but they most certainly require one. Do keep that mind before making up your mind.
4-seasons backpacking tents might sound like the stud of the group, but it’s not. I mean, yes, they are definitely the best you can have if you are up for a taxing round trip trail to the snow-covered Mount Ellinor or want to explore the pristine beauty of Swamp Canyon Overlook. However, 4-Seasons tents are generally heavy and lack ventilation, rendering them unsuitable for wet and super hot climates.
3-season tents tend to draw a lot more attention due to its lightweight, easy setup and broad weather adaptability. They serve well in summer, fall and spring and premium ones can handle light snow load too.
Vestibule Space for Safekeeping the Gears
Almost every product featured in my list boasts of spacious dual vestibules and dual doors. It is not an important consideration for a 1-person tent but if you want to peacefully co-exist with two others in a cramped up space, you’ll need them.
Having a door at the front and at the back means you don’t have to go through the awkward ordeal of climbing onto your tentmate to enter or exit the tent. And having a sizeable vestibule space will help you avoid smelling dirty boots and repulsive laundry.
Not to mention that it will safeguard hiking gears from elements and also free up a lot of space inside the tent. Multiple mesh pockets and plastic loops for hanging stuff are a bonus. They come in really handy in keeping small items like headlamps, keys, water bottles, and flashlights organized.
So now that you have got an idea of all the best 3 person backpacking tents out there, keep going. Choose the one that perfectly fits the bill and hit the road. Safety is always at the top of my head when I’m selecting gears for my backpacking or mountaineering ventures.
My adventure-thirst has taken me to the most unforgiving terrains around the globe. Believe me when I tell you that without the right gears in my arsenal, I’d be pretty dead years ago.
My point is, don’t compromise with the quality to save a few bucks. Buy a tough one that’s capable of standing strong when the weather roughs it up. End of story.