The most popular backcountry shelter is a tent. They are relatively lightweight, weatherproof (or supposed to be), fairly warm, and easily packed.[Not a valid template]
They come in various types and materials and have many uses. Some tents have specific uses, while others are intended to be used for a variety of purposes. Tents can be very cheap or very expensive depending on the quality, durability, etc. The general rule of tent buying is to purchase the best you can afford. A good, high quality tent will last for many, many years, so an initial substantial investment will pay for itself many times over….especially on those stormy alpine days. Tents purchased from a discount store, or that are considered “off-brands,” could cause your dream trip to be a disaster.
The best way to choose a tent is to first decide what your use for the tent will be. As said, some tents have multi-uses that will fit the bill for most hikers and climbers. Since this should be one of your major purchases in outdoor gear, getting it right the first time is important. Some questions to ask before deciding on a tent: What season will you be camping in? How many people are going to be sleeping in the tent? Do you want your gear to be in the tent too? How long are your trips going to be? Is weight a factor? What shape is important to you? How many entrances to you want to your tent? Do you want the tent to have a floor? Do you want it to be free-standing? How much do you want to spend? So many questions and so many decisions.
Let this solve the problem for you: Most people in the lower-48 states will do fine with a two-person, three-season, double-wall, free-standing tent. With this type of tent, you can do pretty much anything you want (except for an epic on Mt. Rainier). A good brand of this type is fairly lightweight, is durable and weatherproof, has plenty of room for two people and gear, is easily pitched, and will last for years. However, don’t let this sell you. Let’s talk about some other types of tents and their uses. Maybe one of them is right for you.
Three-Season: This tent usually is 1-3 persons, has a double wall, and is designed for spring, summer, and fall use. It is not generally a good choice for heavy winter use because it is not designed to withstand the weight of snow or extreme winds. Double-wall means that the first tent layer is basic nylon (or similar material), has a mesh ceiling, and sometimes has mesh side panels. The second layer is the waterproof fly that which is optional depending on conditions. Three-season tents usually have a “bathtub” designed floor which helps prevent floor leakage. Expect to pay from $150 to $300 for a quality three-season tent. Examples of quality manufacturers are: Mountain Hardware, Sierra Designs, Nemo Equipment, Kelty, MSR, Dana Design, and many more.