Backpacking tent vs. Camping tent

Every individual and every outdoor trip is different from one another and we need to understand our needs before choosing a tent for our wilderness explorations. While some of us like to stick to the old-fashioned rugged mode of trekking on foot to our desired destination, many of us are now becoming accustomed to a more comfortable way of driving up in a car and camping in the desired spot. Although camping purists might say that driving out for a camping trip is too luxurious, those of us who want to take our kids along for a camping trip will agree that driving out actually makes more sense than trying to trek all the way. Choosing your trekking gear correctly is important when you have decided to spend the weekend out camping.

There are two basic types of camping tents that you can buy for your trekking expedition. These are:

  • Backpacking tents
  • Camping tents

The main question that you should ask yourself before buying a particular type of a tent is ‘Will I be walking, cycling or driving?’ If you are planning to rough it out in the wild by walking or cycling all the way to your destination, you will need a backpacking tent (along with a very good pair of trekking boots). However, if you have kids and you are planning to take the car, then you can go all out and carry a full-fledged camping tent for your trip.

Introduction to backpacking tents

Since you will be carrying the backpacking tent in your backpack or at the back of your cycle (for a cycling trek) it needs to be lightweight. The main problem with a backpacking tents is that they are not as spacious as a camping tents. You need to consider not only the weight but also the packing size while buying a backpacking tent for the trip. A backpacking tent should ideally weigh up to 2.5 pounds for a single-person tent. The packing size depends on whether you want a 3-season or an all out 4-season backpacking tent for your trek. The best long term investment would be a 4-season tent since you can use this even when trekking in snowy conditions. However, when you go for a 4-season tent, the weight and packing size increases drastically, making it difficult to accommodate them in your backpack.


Some of the very minimalistic backpacking shelters include:

  • Tarps: Tarp shelters are just a rain fly and a basic shelter made out of tarp. It will not protect you from a muddy ground or from insects etc. when you are stopping over for a nap.
  • Bivy sacks: The buvouac sac is a minimalistic method to camp out in the open while carrying the least amount of baggage along. The bivy sac is basically a sleeping bag that has been modified to suit trekking expeditions. It consists of a two or three layered water-resistant and breathable fabric with a zipper entrance. You can enter the bivy sac through the zipper entrance and zip yourself in when the weather gets rough or when you want to sleep.
  • Hammocks: These are styled in the form of hammocks that can be hung in between two poles or trees. These often come with an extra rain fly and adjustable poles to facilitate the process. Check out this video if you want to know how to sleep comfortably in a hammock.
  • Bug shelters: These are mainly to protect you against insects like mosquitoes and bugs. The covering is mostly made of a tough mesh material that does not offer any kind of extra comfort or weather protection.

Introduction to camping tents

When you are driving out for a camping trip and have the entire car at your disposal, the weight of your camping gear is not of much importance. The camping tent can be quite spacious and also come with extra rooms, porch or vestibule (depending on the quality and cost). In short, they can come with all the appliances you need to live comfortably and to have all the protection you need against both weather conditions and animal or insect attacks. There are different types of camping tents. What type you need depends on the terrain you are hiking on and the weather conditions as well.

Camping tent

When buying a camping tent, you should keep the following important factors in mind:

  • Number of people: The tent size should be chosen according to how many people will sleep in it.
  • Terrain: Choose a tent that is best suited for the type of trekking terrain (mountainous, sandy, snowy etc).
  • Weather: The weather conditions play a major role in your decision to buy a particular type of tent.
  • Budget: Your budget also plays an important role in the final decision. Choose a tent that offers the maximum facilities within your budget but do not compromise on the quality of the tent’s basic structure.

It is not always necessary to buy a camping tent that has numerous facilities and fancy interiors. What is really crucial is to buy one that does not break down or collapse in the middle of nowhere.


If your trip involves a lot of moving and trekking, look for a backpacking tent. Backpacking tents are highly portable and can be quite comfortable as well (provided you get one from the right manufacturer). On the other hand, if you plan to camp in one spot for a few days, choose a camping tent which will suit all your requirements and needs so you do not face too many problems and can live comfortably while enjoying the outdoors. 

The choice is yours

Families with toddlers should definitely opt for a camping tent over backpacking tents since these are much more spacious and safer. If you are not bothered about the weight and size of your tent, then the family camping tents and dome tents available online are the best choices for your camping trips. These are spacious enough to fit in a family of four and will protect your family against all kinds of weather conditions.