In this text, I present 14 best backpacking 3 person tents that are on the market now and that will be the main tools for backpackers in 2018. Most of them are new models or improved versions of the previously existing tents. All are top-notch tools from the renown brands.
My list of the best 3 person backpacking tents
Here is my list, with the tents ordered by weight from lighter to heavier:
The terminology used in the text
- Area per person – this is the inner tent area divided by 3.
- Total area per person – this is the inner area + the vestibule area divided by 3.
- Area/weight ratio – this describes the inner area per packed weight, in square meters per kilograms, so the more the better.
1. MSR FreeLite 3 Ultralight Backpacking Tent
This is the lightest tent in the list. The small differences in weight as compared to the other tents below are mainly due to the pole system. So you have a single pole here, and it splits on one end into two branches, and you have a Y-shaped structure.
They describe it as freestanding but this is not so. The structure is indeed a tripod, and it is self-supporting even before you attach the tent, but to have the tent fully spread and functional, it is necessary to stake the feet side to the ground.
The tent is with an extra ridge pole which ads a lot of headroom. The packed size of this tent is truly great and its waterproofness rating is quite moderate. So the rain fly is 15D nylon ripstop with 1200 mm Durashield polyurethane & silicone. The floor is 15D ripstop nylon with 1200 mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR.
Please see this video by MSR where they present the whole FreeLite series:
- Area per person: 13.2 ft² (1.22 m²).
- Total area per person: 19 ft² (1.76 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 2.35 m²/kg.
- Expensive tent, around $360 at the moment of writing the text.
- Minimum weight: 2 lb 15 oz (1.34 kg).
- Packed weight: 3 lb 7 oz (1.56 kg).
- Width: 68 in (172 cm).
- Length: 84 in (213 cm).
- Floor area: 39.5 ft² (3.67 m²).
- Vestibule area: 17.5 ft² (1.62 m²).
- Peak height: 39 in (100 cm).
- Packed size: 18 x 6 in (46 x 15 cm).
- Doors: 2.
2. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 mtnGLO Backpacking Tent
This is an ultralight backpacking 3-season freestanding tent with dual side doors and with an award-winning mtnGLO Tent Light Technology. The tent is with an extra cross pole which adds lots of volume, and this is why you have the letters HV (high volume) in the name.
This is the only tent here with the integrated light. So you have LED light strand integrated into tent seams. This is durable and flexible to withstand all that you do with the tent, and it operates on three AAA batteries.
- Area per person: 13.7 ft² (1.27 m²).
- Total area per person: 19.7 ft² (1.8 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 2.12 m²/kg.
- Packed weight: 3 lb 15 oz (1.79 kg).
- Trail weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg).
- Integrated light system.
- Many interior pockets.
- Very expensive tent, currently around $550.
Please read more in my detailed review.
3. Sierra Designs Sweet Suite 3 Tent
This is a tent from a completely new lightweight series launched in September 2017 for the season 2018, a 3-season 3-person tent with 2 doors.
The tent is semi-freestanding. So you have a tripod Y-shaped hubbed pole geometry similar to the number 1 above. Please see more about this terminology in my separate text. The additional cross pole ads extra volume.
The fly is designed with stargazing features which means that you can roll it up from any of the two sides, and you can deploy it easily in the case of a rain.
- Area per person: 13.5 ft² (1.25 m²).
- Total area per person: 19.4 ft² (1.8 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.94 m²/kg.
- Minimum weight: 3 lb 12 oz (1.7 kg).
- Packed weight: 4 lb 4 oz (1.93 kg).
- Two-door & two-vestibules.
- Unique prebent pole geometry for extra interior space and volume.
- Great packed size, 17 x 6.75 in (43 cm x 17 cm).
- Y-pole configuration.
4. Nemo Dagger 3 Person Tent
It is interesting that the packed weight of this tent is the same as the Sierra Designs tent above. Here too you have two doors and two vestibules which add 23 square feet of protected space for gear. Here you have a hubbed-pole design combined with an additional ridge pole that gives the sidewalls verticality that adds lots of elbow room inside the tent.
The floor is 30D PU nylon ripstop (3000 mm) waterproof bathtub-style with fully taped seams, and the rain fly is a 15D Sil-PU nylon ripstop with 1200 mm rating.
The stuff sack is an innovative “dual-stage” design with split components of the tent so that they can be shared and carried separately by the users. The poles are high-quality DAC 9.0 / 9.6 mm Featherlite NSL.
- Area per person: 14.3 ft² (1.33 m²).
- Total area per person: 22 ft² (2.03 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 2.07 m²/kg.
- Expensive – around $500 at the moment of writing the text.
- Minimum weight: 3 lb 12 oz (1.71 kg).
- Packaged weight: 4 lb 4 oz (1.93 kg).
- Floor dimensions: 90 x 70 in (229 x 177 cm).
- Peak height: 42 in (107 cm).
- Floor area: 43 ft² (4 m²).
- Vestibule area: 23 ft² (2.1 m²).
5. Marmot Tungsten UL 3P Backpacking Tent
This is a new 2017 freestanding 3-season 3-person lightweight version of the popular tent. The letters UL in its name mean ‘ultra-light’, so this is a very lightweight tool 1.97 kg only, built for backpackers.
The floor is a catenary cut construction with seams lifted off the ground. The poles are pre-bent, and this gives some extra volume inside. The brow pole is added to the standard X-shaped pole construction and it lifts the side walls and makes them almost vertical.
The fly is full coverage polyester which doesn’t stretch and sag when wet. It is also designed to resist UV damages, and it comes with two integrated vents so ventilation should not be a problem.
- Area per person: 13.83 ft² (1.27 m²).
- Total area per person: 20 ft² (1.84 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.93 m²/kg.
- Trail weight: 4 lb 1.3 oz (1.85 kg).
- Packed weight: 4 lb 5.5 oz (1.97 kg).
- The price as of the moment of writing the text was around $390, please check the link for updates.
- 2 doors & 2 vestibules.
6. Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL Tent
This is an ultralight tent with 2 doors and 2 vestibules, with a hub poles design. The fly and the floor are silicone treated nylon rip-stop with 1200 mm rating. This type of coating is far better than the PU coating. About coatings types please see more in this text. All seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (no PVC or VOC’s).
The poles are DAC Pressfit pole, so these are among the best on the market. Please see more in this short video by Big Agnes:
- Area per person: 14.3 ft² (1.33 m²).
- Total area per person: 20.33 ft² (1.87 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.99 m²/kg.
- 2 doors.
- The current price is around $440.
- Trail weight: 4 lb 1 oz (1.84 kg).
- Packed weight: 4 lb 7 oz (2.01 kg).
- Floor area: 43 ft² (4 m²).
- Vestibule area: 9 + 9 ft² (0.8 + 0.8 m²).
- Peak height: 43 in (109 cm).
- Packed size (L x D): 21 x 4 in (53 x 10 cm).
7. Marmot Force 3P Tent
This is a weight-saving design with only one main pole which splits on both ends making the structure fully freestanding. When you attach the tent and the additional brow pole, this creates a very stable structure with vertical sidewalls and lots of shoulder space.
Two D-shaped doors are with vestibules created by the full-coverage fly. The catenary cut floor fabric is 30D nylon with 2000 mm rating, and the fly is 20D polyester with silicon-PU coating combination which gives 1200 mm waterproofness rating. The poles are high-quality DAC NFL.
- Area per person: 13.3 ft² (1.23 m²).
- Total area per person: 18.3 ft² (1.7 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.8 m²/kg.
- 2 doors.
- The current price is around $463.
- Min weight: 3 lb 9.8 (1.64 kg).
- Packed weight: 4 lb 6 oz (2.06 kg).
- Dimensions (L x W): 88 x 70/60 in (224 x 178/152 cm).
- Peak height: 42 in (107 cm).
- Floor area: 40 ft² (3.7 m²).
- Vestibule area: 8.6 + 6.4 ft² (1.4 m²).
- Packed size (L x D): 18.5 x 6.7 in (47 x 17 cm).
8. Big Agnes Copper Hotel HV UL3 Tent
The inner tent which you have here looks quite ordinary and its size is not so impressive. But the materials used in the construction are the top quality. Though only when you add the fly you realize how extraordinary this tent is.
So you have only 41 ft² (3.8 m²) in the inner tent and this means 13.7 ft² (1.27 m²) per person. But see the porch in the picture above, and there is also a vestibule on the other side. They together add 36 ft² (2.4 m²). So the total protected area is 77 ft² (6.2 m²) and this means 25.7 ft² (2.07 m²) per person. As you realize, this is an enormous space for 3 people.
The weight is also impressive, you have 4 lb 9 oz (2.07 kg) packed weight. The waterproof rating is moderate, only 1200 mm, but this is a silicone treated material. The poles are top-notch DAC product. But this all comes at a price, the tent is quite expensive, please read more in my full review.
9. MSR Mutha Hubba NX 3-Person Backpacking Tent
This is a freestanding 3-person tent designed for three backpackers with a unique pole configuration. The poles are very reliable top-quality DAC press-fit aluminum.
The rain fly is 20D nylon ripstop Durashield coated with 1200 mm rating, and the floor is 30D nylon ripstop Durashield coated with 3000 mm. The floor is bathtub style. A bit more you can see in this short video from the MSR:
- Area per person: 13 ft² (1.22 m²).
- Total area per person: 17.67 ft² (1.66 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.62 m²/kg.
- 2 doors.
- Current price around $500.
- Min weight: 4 lb 9 oz (2.07 kg).
- Packed weight: 5 lb (2.27 kg).
- Floor dimension: 84 x 68 in (213 x 173 cm).
- Peak height: 44 in (112 cm).
- Floor area: 39 ft² (3.67 m²).
- Vestibule area: 14 ft² (1.3 m²).
- Packed size (L x D): 21 x 7 in (53 x 18 cm).
10. Sierra Designs Meteor 3 Tent
This is a completely new 2017/2018 tent for three people, so do not mix it with the Sierra Designs Meteor Light 3 tent that has been around for many years.
This tent is quite wide, so you have 70 inches (178 cm) but this is still only for the narrow backpacking pads. The poles create a hubbed structure so this is a very stable and robust construction with 2 side doors and two vestibules.
- Area per person: 13.6 ft² (1.26 m²).
- Total area per person: 19.6 ft² (1.82 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.55 m²/kg.
- Minimum weight: 4 lb 14 oz (2.21 kg).
- Packaged weight: 5 lb 6 oz (2.44 kg).
- Pre-bent poles add extra volume.
- Two doors.
- Fly vent.
- Roll-up fly design.
- Great burrito-bag design.
11. Big Agnes Blacktail 3 with footprint
Here you have a tent with two main aluminum poles, plus a brow pole above the doors, which pulls the side walls up and makes them vertical. It comes with a bonus footprint which is specifically designed for this tent.
Waterproofness rating is the same 1500 mm for both the fly and the floor. From the examples given above you realize that this is very decent rating, and for the typical 3-season use you will not need more.
- Area per person: 14.67 ft² (1.37 m²).
- Total area per person: 20.67 ft² (1.9 m²).
- Area/weight ratio: 1.51 m²/kg.
- Trail weight: 5 lb 6 oz (2.44 kg).
- Packed weight: 6 lb (2.72 kg).
- Included footprint.
- Very reliable and high-quality tent.
- Two doors and two vestibules.
- The current price is around $280, please check the link for updates.
12. Mountainsmith Vasquez Peak 3 person tent with footprint
The packed weight of this tent is such that you would not carry it on the trail. But this includes the footprint as well, so when you leave unessential pieces, you have 5 lb 4 oz (2.5 kg) and this is light enough to be carried on the trail. So this Vasquez Peak 3 is a versatile tent.
The poles are aluminum, an interesting construction which is a single piece, so there is nothing to guess. The waterproof rating is high, the fly is a full coverage type, so you have a full protection. The area is not so great, you have 36 ft² (3.34 m²), but there are two vestibules that add some space so the total protected area is 55 ft² (5.1 m²). Please read more in my full review.
13. Big Agnes Van Camp SL 3 Tent
This tent is among the heavier in the list and probably not many people would use it as a backpacking tool. It is in between the two groups, the backpacking tents from one side and the camping tents from the other. With the weight of 6 lb 2 oz (2.78 kg) and the area of 42 ft² (3.9 m²), it is very similar to the Blacktail tent from the same brand presented above.
Here too you have two doors and two vestibules, and the vestibules add 9 + 9 ft² (0.8 + 0.8 m²) to the total protected area. The waterproof rating for the fly and the floor is 1200 mm and 1500 mm, respectively. Please read more in my full review.
14. Marmot Crane Creek Tent
This Crane Creek 3 is built to fill the gap between the true backpacking tents (you have seen some great models above) and ordinary camping tents. So it is heavier than the other tents here in the group, you have 6.31 lb (2.86 kg). The floor area is 3.6 square meters and this gives 1.2 m² per person. This does not look much, but you also have two large vestibules on the two sides.
The tent is with aluminum poles and you have them 3; 2 create the usual X-shape freestanding dome and one cross pole is there to make the doors vertical. The inner tent is with lots of mesh so I would not use it in a very cold environment; it is best suited for 2 seasons. Please read more in my full review.
So this was my list of the best backpacking 3 person tents. As you realize, those are all top quality tents but with the prices to match. The reasons for such prices are the materials used in their construction. The fabric must be of a great quality, lightweight, and strong, and only then the coating can be thin and lightweight yet fully waterproof. Some of them are with silicone or with silicone and PU combination. Typically the silicone is applied from outside and the PU coating from inside; this is because of taping which is far easier with the PU than with the silicone.
Which one would be the best? I do not think there is a straightforward answer. The differences in the size are minimal, but the differences in the weight and price are more substantial.
If you need a camping tent for 3 people please check this list, these are usually larger but heavier tents, and with more comfort.
Thank you for reading. Please use the comment box below if you have any question or comment. I wish you a nice day.