testing the best 3 person backpacking tent in the mountains

3 person tents for backpacking with the best interior area-to-weight ratio

Upgrading to a lightweight 3 person tent for backpacking is the best way for two hikers to camp in luxury by themselves, use wide pads, bring a kid/dog, or cram in a third adult. Compared to their 2P siblings, 3P tents tend to have a higher volume-to-weight ratio, and offer significantly more interior space, often for only a small weight increase.

The downside? Most 3 person tents are actually better thought of as 2.75 person tents because they feel very cramped when used at max capacity. For sleeping three full-size adult backpackers and storing their gear, we strongly recommend a tent sized for four people, or separating out into two smaller tents.

This guide covers what we believe are the best lightweight 3 person tents for backpacking, many of which we have tested in the backcountry, while others are included based on positive experiences with their 2P versions. As a heuristic, we recommend avoiding 3P tents weighing more than four pounds unless they are exceptionally spacious. And you should never settle for carrying anything over five pounds while lighter options like these are readily available. Your back and legs will thank you!

We also cover backpacking tents sized for two, car camping/backpacking crossover tents for 2, 1 person backpacking tents, 4 person backpacking tents, pyramid tents, and backpacking tarps.

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Quick Picks: Best 3 Person Tent for Backpacking

Zpacks Triplex 3 person tent

3 Person Tent Comparison Table

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Tent Price ($) Weight (oz) Height (in) Int Area (ft²) Vest Area (ft²) Area/Pound (ft²)
REI Half Dome SL 3+ 379 77.0 44 48.8 22.5 14.8
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3 499 42.0 42 38.0 16.0 20.6
NEMO Hornet 3 550 45.0 44 39.7 17.2 20.2
NEMO Dragonfly 3 580 53.0 44 41.2 20.0 18.5
Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 600 56.0 43 41.0 18.0 16.9
SlingFin Portal 3 600 60.0 44 41.5 20.6 16.6
MSR Hubba Hubba 3 630 55.0 46 39.5 15.0 15.9
Zpacks Offset Trio 899 22.9 48 41.9 12.5 40.1

3 Person Tent Reviews

comparing two 3 person backpacking tents from above
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3

It’s a sweep! The Big Agnes Copper Spur series is our favorite lightweight freestanding tent in all size capacities, including 1P, 2P, 3P, and 4P! This tent is just so well-made, so well-rounded, so lightweight, and still fully-featured. Its ceiling height, interior area, and vestibule size are all about average in the 3p tent category, which is impressive given that it weighs less than average. While even lighter tents exist, none of them are freestanding nor do they have as many features.

Enjoy near vertical side walls and a very steep head wall – there’s lots of usable headroom to sit up in! We also dig the convertible awning vestibules for nights that are both warm and wet and a host of interior mesh pockets for gear storage. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 is truly an exceptional tent, the gold standard.

  • Price: $600
  • Weight: 56.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 41.0 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 18.0 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 16.86 ft²
  • Height: 43 in
  • Fly Material: Sil Nylon
  • Compared to 2P version: 41% larger interior, 7.5% taller, 30% heavier
  • Pros: Lightweight. Freestanding. Full size awning vestibule. Great interior storage pockets. Vents. Vertical side walls and head end wall. Good headroom.
  • Cons: Not ultralight.

NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 3

NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 3

It’s clear to us that NEMO designed the Dragonfly OSMO to be a Copper Spur killer. On paper, it has slightly more interior area, slightly larger vestibules, a slightly taller ceiling, slightly lower weight, and slightly smaller price tag. All very impressive! So while they certainly designed a great tent with great stats, we don’t think it it has quite the backcountry performance or proven track record to surpass our beloved Copper Spur just yet.

Primarily, that’s because of the semi-sloping side walls, which reduce usable headroom and prevent three occupants from sitting up at once. Though to be fair, many tents are significantly worse offenders when it comes to side wall slope than Dragonfly, and to its credit, the head and foot end walls are both quite vertical. Also, note the scooped rain fly at the head, which helps with venting, but decreases storm-worthiness.

Upgrading from Dragonfly 2 to Dragonfly 3 is a pretty good exchange weight for space. We dig the proprietary OSMO fly fabric, which blends both recycled polyester and recycled nylon in a way that yields a highly waterproof performance and hardly sags or stretches when wet. And like Copper Spur, the interior is fully decked out in pockets. What a great tent, all things considered!

  • Price: $580
  • Weight: 53.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 41.2 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 20.0 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 18.48 ft²
  • Height: 44 in
  • Fly Material: OSMO recycled nylon-polyester blend
  • Compared to 2P version: 42% larger interior, 7% taller, 26% heavier
  • Pros: Lightweight. Freestanding. Large vestibules. Good interior storage. Sustainable. OSMO Fabric has minimal sag/stretch.
  • Cons: Not ultralight. Semi-sloping side walls. Scooped rain fly at head end. No built in vents.

MSR Hubba Hubba 3

MSR Hubba Hubba 3

The MSR Hubba Hubba 3 is another great all-around, freestanding, lightweight, 3 person tent for backpacking. What’s more, it offers one of the juiciest upgrade opportunities from 2P to 3P, in the sense that it is only 20% heavier for 36% more interior area and 15% extra ceiling height. That’s exceptional and the reason you’re reading about it in our 3P list, rather than our 2P list.

We love how Hubba’s chassis is fully rectangular, and completely symmetrical, none of this tapering at the foot end. Unlike most cross pole setups, Hubba has a singular ridgeline plus spreader bar that forks to the corners. This results in a completely vertical head and foot end wall (great!) but sloping corners (not great!). And also unlike most other tents, a majority of its canopy is ripstop nylon, rather than bug mesh. This massively improves draft resistance and is good in wind and snow, but worse in warm conditions when breathability is desirable. Like most premium 3P tents, it has good interior stash pockets.

Hubba Hubba 3 is a great 3 person tent, but the combination of small vestibules, sloping corners, and a less breathable canopy are why we have it in the runner up category.

  • Price: $630
  • Weight: 55.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 39.5 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 15 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 15.85 ft²
  • Height: 46 in
  • Fly Material: Sil Nylon
  • Compared to 2P version: 36% more interior area, 15% taller, 20% heavier
  • Pros: Lightweight. Fully free-standing. High ceiling. Symmetrical. Great upgrade from 2P to 3P. True rectangular floor (not tapered). Interior pockets. Nylon canopy blocks drafts & spindrift.
  • Cons: Not ultralight. Expensive. Small vestibules. Nylon interior canopy is less breathable in warm weather. Sloping corners.

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+

REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+

For those intending to sleep three full size adults in a 3 person tent, we recommend the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 3+. The 3+ designation is what really sets this one apart, in addition to its buyer-friendly sub-$400 price tag. Half Dome 3+’s interior is roughly 20% larger than the average 3p tent, and 25-30% than some of the smaller models. In fact, it’s actually closer to a 4P tent than a 3p. Gosh dang!

But there are drawbacks, and primarily, that’s weight. Coming in just under 5lbs, this is the heaviest tent we have ever considered carrying into the backcountry for 3 season use. That being said, it’s so spacious that area/weight ratio is actually only a bit heavier than average. For under $400, you know there had to be cost savings somewhere, and in this case, it’s the poles. Most of the tents on this list use premium DAC brand hardware, but these proprietary aluminum poles are unimpressive, if not even a bit flimsy. And multiple user reviews indicate that its shock cord interior pole lines tends to lose their tautness over the course of a few years.

But even still, it’s hard to argue with the size and value of this tent. Plus it’s a near perfect option for crossover backpacking and car camping.

  • Price: $379
  • Weight: 77.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 48.8 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 22.5 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 14.8 ft²
  • Height: 44 in
  • Fly Material: Sil Nylon
  • Compared to 2P version: 44% more interior area, 5% taller, 22% heavier
  • Pros: Very spacious, actually fits 3 full size adults. Great upgrade from 2P version. Large vestibules. Good headroom. Complimentary footprint. Vents. Interior pockets.
  • Cons: Heavy. Sloping sidewalls and end walls. Low quality poles, middling wind resistance. Asymmetrical doors.

SlingFin Portal 3

Simply put, SlingFin makes the most stormworthy tents on the market, and Portal 3 is no exception. While the brand specializes in mountaineering and winter camping designs, their 3+ season Portal backpacking tents are the most wind resistant we’ve used. And it’s all thanks to the engineering-centric construction, burly 9.3mm DAC Featherlite NFL poles, and internal guylines that reduce lateral torsion.

But there’s lots more to love about Portal 3 than its sturdiness. The spreader bar and internal mesh pockets increase usable headroom, and keep the interior clutter free. Add cross-ventilation  by placing the KickStand vent struts into the fly door. SlingFin has conducted significant fabric testing, and the result is their double silicone (sil/sil) treated 10d nylon ripstop fly material, which is stronger, more waterproof, and longer lasting than the industry standard sil/pu. Portal 3 compared to Portal 2 is also a pretty solid upgrade, offering 51% more interior area for only 30% more weight.

  • Price: $600
  • Weight: 60.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 41.5 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 20.6 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 16.6 ft²
  • Height: 44in
  • Fly Material: Sil/Sil Nylon
  • Compared to 2P version: 51% more interior area, 0% taller, 30% heavier
  • Pros: Bomber storm-worthiness. Great headroom, near vertical side walls. Premium fly fabric. Good internal pockets. Full size vestibules. Tons of guy out points. Spare zippers.
  • Cons: Expensive. Mid-weight. Unusual tensioning hardware takes getting used to.
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 3

The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 3 is one of, if not the lightest semi-freestanding 3 person tent for backpacking. And it’s another 3p model that stands out as a worthy upgrade investment over the 2p model for more room to spread out in. It’s only 20% heavier than its smaller sibling, but 36% larger! This is especially nice, given the Tiger Wall series tends to have a smaller interior area to begin with.

We love Tiger Wall for it’s near vertical side walls and head wall, offering great overall ceiling space. Many tents in the lightweight semi-freestanding category tend to have very sloping walls, and this being the exception is why it’s our favorite lightweight model. That being said, something had to be sacrificed for all of that weight savings, and in this case, it’s wind-resistance. The high ceiling and tall side walls, combined with the single ridgeline pole mean this one bears the brunt of the wind poorly. If you have stormy weather in the forecast, or frequently camp in strong winds, we recommend choosing a different 3 person tent. But for calm to moderate conditions, its hard to beat this lightweight of a tent, especially considering the price tag, which while high, is lower than average among premium models.

  • Price: $500
  • Weight: 42.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 38 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 16 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 20.6 ft²
  • Height: 42 in
  • Fly Material: Sil Nylon
  • Compared to 2P version: 36% larger interior, 8% taller, 20% heavier.
  • Pros: Very lightweight. Good headroom. Good value. Near vertical side wall and head wall.
  • Cons: Not ultralight. Semi-freestanding. Middling wind resistance. Delicate zippers. Low bathtub walls.

NEMO Hornet OSMO Ultralight 3

NEMO Hornet OSMO Ultralight 3

Thanks to its low weight, premium fabric, and headroom improvements over its 2P sibling, the NEMO Hornet OSMO Ultralight 3 is one of our favorite lightweight 3 person tents for backpacking. The namesake OSMO fabric is comprised of a proprietary blend of recycled nylon and polyester, deriving each fabric’s benefits to create an end product that is sustainable, extra waterproof, and with 3x less sag/stretch than traditional tent fabrics.

On paper, upgrading from a 2p Hornet to a 3P Hornet for 2p-use isn’t the most appealing, given that it’s 36% heavier. However, you do get a significant size increase – 44% more interior area. But the biggest upgrade comes from the spreader bar, which is not present in the 1p and 2p versions, and why we like the 3p so much more for that reason. That being said, the usable headroom goes from poor to decent, but by no means exceptional.

Part of what keeps Hornet’s weight down is the semi-freestanding pitch. It has to be staked out at the foot end to be fully taut, but we’ve rarely ever found this to be an issue in the field. Overall, the Hornet 3 is an inspired tent, and we’re impressed by how much better it feels to camp in than the 2p version.

  • Price: $550
  • Weight: 45.0 oz
  • Interior Area: 39.7 ft²
  • Vestibule Area: 17.2 ft²
  • Area/Pound: 20.2 ft²
  • Height: 44 in
  • Fly Material: OSMO recycled nylon-polyester blend
  • Compared to 2P version: 44% larger interior, 13% taller, 36% heavier.
  • Pros: Very lightweight. Sustainable. Vertical headwall. Tall bathtub floor walls. OSMO Fabric has minimal sag/stretch. Good upgrade opportunity over 2p version.
  • Cons: Semi-freestanding. Sloping sidewalls. Scooped head-end rain fly coverage. Low foot end ceiling.

Zpacks Offset Trio

Zpacks Offset Trio

With a massive interior area-to-weight ratio, voluminous usable headroom, Dyneema construction, and unique asymmetrical offset pitch supported by dual end struts, Zpacks Offset Trio is likely the best performing and most ultralight 3 person tent for backpacking that we’ve ever covered. Aside from its eye-popping price tag, Offset Trio is almost strictly better than its predecessors, the Triplex and Triplex Zip.

It’s the offset ridgeline, bumped closer to the headend, that adds significant headroom above where users sit up. This significantly decreases the likelihood of brushing your head against condensation on the interior, a classic downside for all single-walled tents.

We almost can’t stress enough how large this tent is relative to its miniscule 22.9 oz weight. Hypothetically, you could carry two Offset Trios for the same weight or less than any other tent on this list. And it’s interior is actually larger than average, compared to the field. What an incredible design!

Perhaps it’s greatest drawback, aside from the cost, are its small vestibules, which barely have room for one pack per side and are much better suited for shoe storage. The good news is that the interior is large enough to store packs inside at your feet, because the entire tent is nearly 8′ long.

Read more in our full-length Zpacks Offset Trio review.

  • Price: $899
  • Weight: 22.9 oz
  • Material: Dyneema
  • Interior: 41.9 ft² | Vestibules: 12.5 ft² | Total Area/Pound: 40.1 ft²
  • Peak Height: 48″ | Width: 66″ tapering to 60″ | Length: 94″
  • Pros: Ultralight. Massive interior is long/wide. Excellent headroom. Best-in-class materials. Durable floor. Vents. Magnetic door roll-ups. Sturdy in wind.
  • Cons: Very expensive. Not freestanding. Small vestibules. Dual end strut adds extra setup. Head-end storm door cannot be rolled up.

slingfin portal 3 person backpacking tent

3 Person Tent Conclusion

Backpacking with two campers in a 3 person tent is one of the best ways to increase comfort and spaciousness. On average, you get about 40% more room for 25% more weight – not bad! And all of these tents can fit 3 campers in a pinch. Just be prepared to get cozy!

Thank you for reading this buyer guide, we hope you’ve found the 3 person tent of your dreams. Drop us a line in the comments if you’ve got questions.

Happy trails and happy camping!

-Adventure Alan & Co.

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