The Cost of Home on the Trail: How to Choose the Perfect Tent for Your Thru-Hike

Choosing the right tent for your thru-hike is crucial. This guide explores how much you should spend on a quality, durable tent and the top brands to consider.

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

My Xmid 2 Pro tent and Roan backpack out in the bampground on a overnight
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Your home on the trail, a tent should be one of your most significant purchase expenses as you prepare for your thru-hike.

The cost of a tent for backpacking will vary greatly depending on how much you’re willing to invest, how often you plan to use it, and what weather conditions you expect.

Since you plan to use the same tent throughout your entire thru-hike, you must emphasize quality and durability.

While there are many budget-friendly tents, you don’t want to skimp on quality and have to purchase a new one for your hike mid-trail.

You should expect the price range for a backpacking tent to be between $250-$700. This range will put you within the price points of some popular name brands like Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, and Nemo Equipment.

How Much Do Thru-Hiking Tents Generally Cost?

When preparing for a thru-hike , especially as a pure new hiker you have loads of choices to make for gear in front of you and the initial feeling of most is to go hard on budget gear.

For many items, budget gear will make sense but from the standpoint of you need a simple and easy, dependable, and lightweight shelter for upwards of 180 days you need to splurge here.

So Then, How Much Should You Spend on a Tent?

I would highly argue the lowest-cost tent you should consider purchasing would be the Lanshan 2 or 2 Pro, which I discuss here.

This is a decent-quality, entry-level shelter but it will have durability concerns over the rough terrain that accompanies thru-hikes.

For most people, the best shelter options would be in the $250-500 area, which contains the most common thru-hikers tents. These would be made from SilNylon and SilPoly.

Is it Worth Spending a Lot of Money on a Tent?

If you think about what your home costs you a month while working you are spending almost always a thousand dollars a month, this means you will save at least $6000 from housing on a thru-hike.

This is why I am a huge proponent of using a bigger chunk of your gear budget on your shelter, along with your other big three it is the best way to drop pounds from your backpack in a single purchase.

This is why so many thru-hikers will choose a more expensive DCF Tent like the Zpacks Duplex or, like I do, the Durston X-Mid 2 Pro.

These tents offer huge space for a single person with weights just over a single pound!

Nemo Elite and Gossamer Gear The Two on a grassy section of land.

Are Expensive Tents Better Than Cheap Tents?

This is typically a yes, but like all things, the more ultralight, the easier to damage some things can become. The price is for the performance, not necessarily for brute durability.

As a thru-hiker, you will want something that can be set up and broken down very easily and something that can take the weather conditions you will encounter during a thru-hike.

Also, with the more expensive tents, you usually get a more comprehensive warranty, which can be very handy if something goes wrong while on the trail.

Who Makes the Best-Quality Thru-Hiking Tents?

There are many great tent brands available for thru-hiking and each of these companies has shown time and again that their shelters are able to live throughout a long-distance trail.

  • Zpacks – The leader in ultralightweight tents, Zpacks offers a selection of shelter systems designed specifically for thru-hiking. Their tents range in price from $500-$750.
  • Gossamer GearThe One and The Two shelters are newer on the market than many others but people absolutely love them. Since they are SilNylon they are very light but also much less expensive.
  • Nemo Equipment – Their Hornet and Dragonfly are immensely popular on all the major thru-hike trails. They have a more luxurious feel than many of the other tent options and as such cost a bit more.
  • Big Agnes – They have long been a go-to brand in the thru-hiking community and have tents that are sure to fit your budget, ranging from $250-$500.
  • Tarptent – High quality and amazing name in the thru-hiking community, they have a tent to suit nearly any need, ranging from $200-$700+.Ultimately, how much you should spend on a tent is up to you and how much money you have available

Ultimately, the best tent choice depends on how much money you would like to invest, how often you plan to use it, and what weather conditions are expected.

Also, make sure to check out their closeout and bargain pages for some sweet deals!

Price Range Based on Tent Weight

When it comes to how much you should spend on a tent, it really depends on how much weight you can carry.

If you want something that is simple and easy, dependable, and lightweight for upwards of 180 days then you will need to splurge.

In this case, tents with a higher price tag tend to offer better quality and durability which can be worth the extra cost for most thru-hikers.

Ultralight Tents (Under two pounds)

These are the most premium tents you will find, almost always made from Dyneema, and will require trekking poles to set up. These all help drop significant ounces off your pack.

These types of tents can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000+, depending on how much you want to go all-in on ultralight gear.

Lightweight Tents (Under three pounds)

These are the most popular thru-hiking tents . They are not as expensive but will still give you a great amount of protection and comfort without sacrificing performance or weight too much.

Tents in this range will typically cost around $200 – $500, though prices can vary depending on brand and features.

Standard Tents (Under four pounds)

These are made from ultra-budget materials making them typically very durable but also incredibly heavy and bulky.

These are often entry-level tents and cost around $100 – $200. These will do the job if you don’t have a lot of money to spend but should be avoided by anyone looking for performance and durability on the trail.

Dan Durston X-Mid 2 Pro at a campsite low ground view

Why You Should Avoid Cheap Tents

Cheap tents in this price range may seem like a bargain from the outside, but the biggest issue is that they tend to fail frequently, which can be catastrophic to you on the trail.

You can’t manage tearing fabrics, breaking poles, and even something dreadful in a storm like a leaking rainfly while you are out in the wilderness.

Thus, spending money on a quality tent that will last for years and provide reliable shelter when you need it most is always best.

Final Thoughts on Tent Cost and How Much to Spend on a Tent For Your Thru-Hike

In conclusion, how much does a good tent cost? Depending on how lightweight you want it to be, how durable it needs to be, and how many features you want, prices vary from under $100 up to over a thousand dollars.

Generally speaking, quality tents run between $200-$500 range for thru-hiking needs. Picking the right shelter is important so take your time researching and make sure that whatever tent

Do your research before making a purchase and ensure that the tent you select will provide the quality and durability needed for your thru-hike adventure!

I own many types of tents as each works well for specific needs , think about it as your home on the trail, a 1 person tent works well but for many, it feels too compact and they want that two-person space.

Spending more on the right tent will be worth it in the long run.

Happy trails!

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