Backpacking Tent vs Pop-Up Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

When comparing a backpacking tent vs pop-up tents, they each offer simple options great for different types of campers. Are backpacking tents worth the extra cost to shave a few pounds? Are pop-up tents worth the ease of set-up?

We’ve broken down the major similarities and differences of common tent types to help you make the right decision for your next outdoor adventure!

Backpacking Tent vs Pop-Up Tent

First, let’s break down each type of tent:


backpacking tent vs pop-up tent
True to their name, backpacking tents are intended for backpacking! They are traditionally smaller than most other tent types as their primary focus is keeping the weight down while protecting you from the elements.


a-frame tent vs pop-up tent
A newer tent category with fewer offerings than most other types of tents, pop-up tents are specifically designed for the easiest set-up possible. The poles are integrated directly within the tent frame and fabric.

Major Differences

The biggest difference between a backpacking tent vs pop-up tent is portability and construction.

Backpacking tent’s largest advantage comes from their size and weight. Built specifically for backpacking, manufacturers use lightweight poles, minimally required fabric, and other techniques to get to crazy low weights. Some of them are under 2 pounds, even less if you ditch the bag the tent comes with. When every ounce and square inch counts, it can be well worth the extra cash to splurge on specialized backpacking tents instead of the bulkier pop-up packages.

Each tent type can hold up to 4 people on average but the way they are constructed makes set-up very different. Pop-up tents have all of their poles integrated within the fabric of the tent and usually just need a quick shake out or quick push of some expandable sections to go from bag to tent quickly. Backpacking tents are constructed similarly to dome tents, using two or more external poles to intersect to create the frame. Larger tent types can be found in different structural designs.

Backpacking tents typically have a two-layer design to repel rain while most pop-up tents have a limited two-layer or single-layer rain protection that may not offer the same level of protection.

Best Uses For Backpacking Tent vs Pop-Up Tents

A backpacking tent is best used for its namesake, backpacking! Pop-up tents can be used for backpacking too but will add more weight and a bulkier bundle to your pack than the more specialized tents will. Many pop-up tents won’t fit easily into backpacks at all! Both tents are a little small for use during family or car camping but they certainly will protect you from the weather if you can fit!



Family Camping

Car Camping


Feature Comparison | Backpacking Tent vs Pop-Up Tent

Backpacking tents and pop-up tents are very similar outside of portability and ease of setup. If you can afford it, a backpacking tent will probably be the better choice for any campers looking to try out backpacking. If you’re nervous about all the poles and setup or just using for car camping with 2-3 people, pop-up tents are the way to go.








Ease of Setup

Want more?

Check out our infographic and larger article covering the ten most common tent types or use our tent finding tool to quickly find the tents that suit your needs!

About the Author

Photo of author


Robbie is a Co-Founder and editor at Midwest Camping. Robbie has backpacked over three hundred miles of the Appalachian trail, visited seventeen national parks, and camped regularly for the last two decades.

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