(Inga Hendrickson)
2019 Summer Buyer's Guide

The Best Tents of 2019

Shelters that rise above in affordability, sturdiness, and headroom


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Sierra Designs Clearwing 3 ($280)

(Courtesy Sierra Designs)

It used to be that you really had to shell out for a tent that was both lightweight and reasonably roomy. Not anymore. Sierra Designs made this tent to compete with value-focused offerings from big-box chains and online stores. Normally, that’s a red flag, but we think the Clearwing 3 is the new category killer. It may not look that way on paper: the price ($280), peak height (46 inches), doors (two), and vents (two) are comparable to the competition. The 46-square-foot interior is a bit smaller than some other three-person tents. But where it matters—in the outdoors—the Clearwing sails to victory. It uses three individual poles that snap together; with help from color coding, the tent was easier to set up than the cumbersome multi-hub systems most manufacturers use. The Clearwing’s cross pole pushes the side walls vertical, adding elbow room and keeping rain from dripping inside when the doors are open. Three big dudes happily hung out in this tent during a damp weekend, and it felt plenty big enough for a couple on a car-camping road trip. Plus, it weighs a pound less than a typical three-person backpacking tent. It’s also more packable: the poles collapse a couple of inches shorter than usual, and the burrito-style stuff sack opens wide, making it easy to fit everything in. Overall, the Clearwing is proof positive that space, weight, and price can play nice like never before. 5.8 lbs

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SlingFin Portal ($485)

(Courtesy SlingFin)

Best for Three Seasons

To meet a three-pound weigh-in, most backpacking tents skimp on features, stability, and durability. The Portal avoids this trap. There are seven pockets and two vents, the fly rolls back for stargazing, the fabric is bomber, and there are a ton of guy-out points for locking it down in a storm. The fly sits closer to the body than on most tents, but a spreader bar across the center and over the two doors raises it, deflecting drips from the entrance. The secret to including all that without the bloat? SlingFin opted for high-quality nylon 66 with a silicone protectant instead of common polyurethane-coated nylon. The combo is tougher, lighter, and more UV-resistant. The 27-square-foot interior is snug for two, but vertical walls add headroom, making the Portal the only tent we’d want on a stormy trek. 2.8 lbs

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Black Diamond Distance ($250, $400 with Z-Poles)

(Courtesy Black Diamond)

Best for Fast and Light Outings

If you’re bringing hiking poles anyway, a trekking-pole tent makes a lot of sense. But the designs can sag under heavy rain and flap precariously in wind. The Distance is a different beast. It weathered 30-mile-per-hour winds and an inch of rain with poise. The key is the six-inch cross pole, which clicks between the trekking-pole handles to create an A-frame. (BD’s Z-Poles were made specifically for use with the Distance.) Über-strong Dyneema guy lines and rigid polyester fabric help it stay erect as well. Sloping walls on all sides are streamlined and give rain no chance to pool. The Distance does feel cramped, despite its two big doors, and the single-wall design means condensation is an issue. But as the wind howled and the tent barely moved, we slept soundly. 1.6 lbs

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From Summer 2019 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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