Bivies – Okay, a bivy is not exactly a tent, but I think it’s worth mentioning while you’re shopping around. A bivy is simply a shield or cover that goes over you and your sleeping bag to protect you from the elements. You can find very lightweight bivies, about a pound, for under $200, so it is worth considering. Just keep in mind, these are great for sleeping in, probably not so much for hanging out in or spending a rainy zero day in, since there’s not much room in there.

Best bivies

Do you need a ground cloth for your tent?

Most manufacturers and retailers will recommend a ground cloth to extend the life of your tent and help protect the floor of your tent from tears and excessive water exposure. And, yes, that might help. But honestly, I think it’s a little over kill. Like I said, I’ve had and used my tarp tent for five summers now with NO ground cloth. Gasp. And it’s really fine. I mean, I am careful with my tent and where I put it, but I’ve never had any issues or tears on the bottom from not using a ground cloth, knock on wood! Ground cloths are going to add a little extra weight, and sometimes extra cost, especially if you buy one from a retailer.

Alternatively, a lot of hikers just use leftover Tyvek from construction sites or hardware stores as a ground cloth, which you can sometimes get for free by asking nicely, so I hear.

If it’s going to give you peace of mind to have a ground cloth under your tent, then by all means, use one!

If you’re just tarping it, a ground cloth may be a little more beneficial there to help keep your sleeping pad and sleeping bag clean and dry.

Where to buy your backpacking tent

First on the list, I have to say REI. REI has totally won over my heart with everything they stand for, and fight for, as a company though their actions and advertising. All the feels aside, their customer service and return policy can’t be beat. This is the place to go if you still have a lot of questions and need some more guidance about gear, their staff will walk you through everything and get you set up. Be sure to become a member first to earn back a dividend on your purchases.

If you already know what you want, and don’t need any extra help deciding from expert staff, then you can search for deals online on, or Or, if you have an REI near you, keep an eye out for their annual garage sale, where you can get steeply discounted, used gear.

If you have any other questions about backpacking tents – let me know in the comments below!

For more backpacking gear recommendations check out:

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