The Best 2-Person Backpacking Tents Under $200

July 25, 2016

You can spend a lot of money to get the latest, greatest, ultralight-est backpacking tents out there. You don’t have to. A range of solid, sturdy, and affordable tents are available that will provide you with reliable shelter for years to come.

Less Is More.

Here’s the thing: You need to be willing to carry a bit more weight on your back to keep more cash in your pocket. These tents again prove a classic truism of outdoor gear: you pay more to get less, at least in terms of weight. (Or I suppose in this case, you pay less to get more…but you get the point.) All of these tents weigh in around 5 pounds, versus other (more expensive) ultralight models that tip the scales at 4 pounds or less.

What you won’t sacrifice, however, is protection from the elements. When properly pitched, all of these tents will provide ample shelter from rain and wind. Each features a tried-and-true design: two doors, two aluminum poles that cross in the middle at the apex of the tent, and a to-the-ground rainfly for full coverage from the weather.

A few have slight modifications on the design, but are essentially just riffs off this classic approach. There’s a reason, of course. It’s a design that works. As somebody who has used tents like these for years, I can attest to that 100 percent.

So get tenting! All of the weights listed below are for packaged weight (learn about the difference between packaged weight and trail/minimum weight.)

REI Passage 2

Weighing in at 5 pounds, 5 ounces, the Passage 2 is a classic. It offers ample room, with a peak height of 42 inches, a 54-inch width, and a longer-than-usual 90-inch length that should appeal to taller campers. Two doors and vestibules, plus adjustable ceiling vents on the rainfly are a bonus. $159

REI Passage 2
REI Passage 2

The North Face Stormbreak 2

Two small cross poles on the top of this tent provide spacious headroom (peak height: 43 inches) while also helping keep the rainfly away from the tent body for better ventilation and protection from moisture. What you gain up top, however, you lose in length (87 inches) and width (50 inches),  It weighs in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces.  $159

The North Face Stormbreak 2
The North Face Stormbreak 2

Marmot Catalyst 2

This tent features a slightly asymmetric pole design, with an extra curving pole on one side near the top. This allows for a larger-than-usual vestibule on that side (9.5 square feet vs. 6.7 square feet on the other side. It is the tallest tent in this line-up (44-inch peak height) and also features a reasonable amount of space inside (53 inches by 88 inches). It’s also the lightest of the bunch at 5 pounds, 3 ounces. $169.

Marmot Catalyst 2
Marmot Catalyst 2

Marmot Tungsten 2

For a few dollars more, the Tungsten 2 offers several excellent design features not seen in other tents at this price point. Most notably, it features distinctive bends in the poles near the bottom. These “sleeping zone pre-bends” create more vertical tent walls near the ground and a much more spacious on-the-ground sleeping experience—it feels much longer than its 88-inch length would imply. Large doors that open completely and a cross pole up top for extra headroom and weather protection are additional bonuses. Perhaps the best value of any tent in the list. 5 pounds, 4 ounces. $199.

Marmot Tungsten 2
Marmot Tungsten 2

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.