Guys, I'm talking about backpacking tents here! They aren't as roomy as your other huge camping tents, but muuuch more useful for us.
Yeah, some hikers prefer the lightest of 4 x 1P tents, but sharing a 4P tent between 4 people could save you some substantial lbs. To me, it's more effective than carrying two 2-person tents, too.
My top 4 person backpacking tent picks are (from best to worst):
- To me, best one is MSR Papa Hubba NX since it's at the sweet spot of all weight, durability, weather resistance, packed size and inner volume.
- Although it's even better than Papa Hubba, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 | $429.95 is my second choice because it's overkill for most of us...
- Third is REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus due to its larger size, beautiful design and durability; BUT it's heavy!
- Marmot Limelight 4 | $305.96 is the heaviest, but offers incredible durability, weather resistance and inner capacity.
- Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 4 | $187.46 is the best choice for beginners!
I also shared their PDF Manuals at the bottom of this post (under Conclusion heading), if you're interested in that...
If you’re looking for the overall best 4 person backpacking tent, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 and MSR Papa Hubba NX are really your top 2 choices. Even though Big Agnes has the bigger and lighter tent, it's really overkill for most of us - not to even mention that the Papa is even more durable and stable!
Also, you might want a 4-person tent even if you're not hiking with 4 people. They'd be good choices for 3 people and a dog or 3 people that prefer more room.
NOW THE REVIEWS!!! First, my top pick.
MSR Papa Hubba NX Review
- Weight: 5 lbs 15 oz
- Floor area & center height: 93 x 86 in - 44 in
- Packed size: 21 in (length) x 7 in (Dia)
To me, with its updated 2019 version, MSR Papa Hubba NX (most recent version) is the best 4P tent for 90% of us. It's an amazing alternative to Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4.
At 5 lbs 15 oz, it's 12 oz heavier than Big Agnes Copper Spur - but still quite lightweight and the 2nd lightest in this review. Its peak height is shorter than Big Agnes, which creates less space, more wind and weather durability. Papa Hubba NX has the most unique pole structure with 5 poles extending in different directions. This is an excellent feature for stability in harsh weather conditions.
Besides being an overall great tent, MSR Papa Hubba NX has some great customization features. One of them is Fast & Light Body option. We’ve talked about the minimalist fast fly setup where only the footprint and fly are used.
MSR offers another lighter tent body called the Fast & Light Body. It’s very similar to just using the footprint, but instead, the bottom cover has a raise to provide extra protection against the elements.
It’s like using the minimalist setup but it’s more durable in worse weather conditions. In my opinion this is one of the main advantages MSR Papa Hubba NX has over the alternatives. If you're planning to use the minimalist fly-footprint option frequently... This F&L Body is the one to go for.
The Fast & Light Body offers more protection than using the simple footprint.
Check it out at: https://www.msrgear.com/hubba-fast-light-body
In the latest edition of MSR Papa Hubba NX, the tent gets a weather durability update. Both the coating on the raincover and the poles are improved to stand stronger winds and heavier rainfalls.
When talking about the MSR Hubba Series we should also compare them to MSR Elixir series. Both of these tent series are offered in multiple sizes. I’ve also done an intensive review of MSR Elixir 3 if you want to check that out.
Both of them are great tents with creative designs but MSR Papa Hubba is lighter and packed smaller, which is why I chose it for this review. Also, the pole design of Papa offers more stability and protection against winds.
But the best thing about this tent is its space. Before, you'd probably complain about the inner space of this tent, but in 2019, it's updated for maximum livability to offer as much space inside as possible by using an extra pole. The result is this:
Also, after Mountainsmith Morrison EVO (95 in) and Big Agnes Copper Spur (96 in), this tent offers the widest floor area at 93 inches. When it comes to space, I'm a lot more about the tent width, rather than area or length.
Now... I do have three gripes about this tent:
- Its 5 pole set up is a learning curve - especially when compared to Big Agnes Copper Spur which uses only 2 poles... So typically it'd take a few trials to get it. Make sure you read the set up manual [PDF] above.
- Although it offers great livability with the updated 2019 model, its center height (44 inches) is still lower than most other tents - especially Big Agnes Copper Spul.
- Vestibules are a little smaller than other tents in this review.
As I mentioned, the cross pole design offers wind protection for all directions and the 1200 mm durashield nylon used in the rainfly is pretty resistant against rain. I'd recommend this tent probably to 90% of you.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 Review
- Weight: 5 lbs 3 oz
- Floor area & center height: 96 x 86 in - 50 in
- Packed size: 21.5 in (length) x 5 in (Dia)
If you're looking for the best lightweight, spacious, and breathable tent, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 | $429.95 is your choice. As long as you'll be treating it fairly gentle, I think it's the best overall for most of us.
At 5 lbs 3 oz FFW and 4 lbs 2 oz TW, body and poles are unbelievably lightweight without sacrificing the volume. At 96 in x 86 in (57 sq ft), it's the second largest floor area in this list after REI Co-op Half Dome Plus with 92 in x 92 in (58.7 sq ft).
But... when you look a little deeper... It's actually larger! Why?
Because you wouldn't like to have a tent with square floor - but a rectangular floor. When sleeping, width is much more important than length - as long as length does suffice taller people & longer mats. At 86 & 92 inches of lengths, both tents are longer than enough for this - so I'd absolutely give this tent the highest points in terms of floor space!
Besides, it has the highest center height (a whooping 50 in! thanks to its hub pole design) - so I really don't see the competition here...
Back to being lightweight, Big Agnes achieved it with lots of mesh in the tent body and DAC Featherlite poles.
At 21.5 x 5 inches, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 also has the smallest packed size in this list. Obviously this is more important if you'll take longer hikes (more than, say, 3-5 days) at least once.
The design of this tent is very simple. Big Agnes went for a classic design with a "hubbed" cross pole and a short additional pole. The walls of the tent are remarkably vertical resulting in a roomy tent. The tent body is mainly made of mesh that is great in warmer climates.
The fly only has one air vent which could be a disadvantage in higher temperatures. However, with good setup the mesh walls should be enough to prevent condensation.
For some more visuals & about hub pole design, check out this video from Big Agnes:
If you're worried about standing out with a flashy orange tent, it's also available in "olive" color that blends into the surroundings.
But, well, you have to sacrifice something in return against being this lightweight & super spacious...
If I had to say one thing I didn’t like about this tent it would be that it’s not as sturdy as Marmot Limelight 4 or REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus in the wind durability department. The frame is on the taller side for the simple pole structure.
For example, Marmot Limelight 4 is taller but it also has strong poles in both axes that keep the tent stable. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 is made of very lightweight materials to achieve the incredible ultralight packing but this of course means that it shouldn’t be handled roughly.
As long as you'll be treating it fairly gentle, I think it's the best overall for most of us! I'd recommend using the tent exclusively with the footprint in order to prevent damage to the bottom of the tent.
REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus Review
- Weight: 7 lbs 1 oz
- Floor area & center height: 92 x 92 in - 48 in
- Packed size: 24 in (length) x 7 in (Dia)
In my opinion, this amazing tent from REI is really good! Even though it’s not lightweight it’s a comfortable and sturdy tent that you could use in almost every occasion. The 58.7 ft2 floor area is the largest on this list, and the width also creates a comfortable sleeping environment for 4 people.
Another thing REI Half Dome Plus excels at is how easy the setup is. It has hubbed poles that are color coded to make setting up easier. Besides the three main axis poles, it has this additional short middle pole that lifts the roof of the tent even higher to create extra head space. The easy setup makes this a great option for both beginners and advanced campers.
This is a hubbed pole system meaning that the four poles are attached to each other.
It also performs really well in both really hot and rainy weather. The main tent body is mainly made out 20-denier nylon mesh that lets the tent breathe. However, the bottom third of the tent is made of 40-denier nylon to increase privacy and prevent dust from entering the tent. The raincover is made of 40-denier nylon that can endure quite strong rainstorms. The raincover features lots of vents that both increase breath-ability and decrease condensation.
But remember, this is a 3 season tent (like all the others in this review) so don't use it for anything really severe...
The design of the doors on the raincover also prevent rain from entering the tent. In fact you can really tell that every single detail of this tent has been thought out. The inside is filled with mesh pockets to store your loose items, and the stakes and guylines create a very sturdy tent body.
Compared to Big Agnes or MSR Papa Hubba, this tent isn't even nearly as light or packed small. However, if you think you can sacrifice them for more durability, I'd recommend the REI Co-op Half Dome Plus 4 confidently.
*In 2018 REI discontinued to normal Half Dome and announced that only the Plus versions would be sold. These are the slightly larger and roomier alternatives to the classic.
Marmot Limelight 4 Review
- Weight: 7 lbs 15 oz
- Floor area & center height: 92 x 81 in - 54 in
- Packed size: 27 in (length) x 9 in (Dia)
Marmot Limelight 4 | $305.96 is definitely not the best tent in this list in terms of size to weight ratio. It’s the heaviest with 7 lbs and 15 oz, and it has the smallest floor area. The best thing about it is its durability, weather protection and breath-ability.
However, the peak height is 54 inches - which is great! If you are camping in a cold environment or especially a storm you will have to spend lots of time in the tent. The build of the poles creates vertical walls and roomy head space that creates a very comfortable environment for playing cards, eating, hanging out etc.
The poles at the corners bend in a way that creates vertical walls and a large head space.
What I really like about this tent is the simplicity of the design. You can tell that the pole system is nothing super complicated and it is even made easier by the color coded system. The shorter two grey poles increase the head space greatly.
The inside also has four corner pockets for your loose items and four top pockets for easy lighting. The top features loops and hooks to attach lighting or a rack. Since this is a tall tent, attaching items in the head doesn’t become annoying. If you want to use the tent with the door fully open, there is pouch at the bottom where the door nicely folds in.
Another thing I like about the design are the D-shaped vestibules. I’ve already mentioned the importance of good vestibules and D-shape protects the gear in the vestibules from rain and is much better for ventilation. Overall you can tell that this tent they had bad weather in mind when designing this tent. The rainfly can withstand up to 1500 mm of rain which is borderline a 3+ season tent.
Depending on your perspective the flashy orange color of Marmot Limelight can be a advantage or disadvantage. On the one hand, it’s super easy to find your tent even at night or in a fog but on the other hand you certainly don’t blend into the surroundings.
The main downside of this tent is the weight. If you want a lightweight tent, Marmot Limelight 4 doesn’t even compare to Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 or MSR Papa Hubba NX. Similar to REI Half Dome Plus 4 you might want to consider this if you're looking for a halftime camping, halftime backpacking tent. Another thing I don’t like is the too large packed size at 27 x 9 inches.
However, it’s still lightweight when compared to harsher weather tents which tend to be heavier than all of these on the list.
Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 4 Review
- Weight: 7 lbs 1 oz
- Floor area & center height: 95 x 84 in - 51 in
- Packed size: 20 in (length) x 9 in (Dia)
Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 4 | $187.46 is a great beginner tent that would be able to fit up to 4 people. It has everything you'd expect from a 4 person tent - but with some quality, weight and space sacrifices.
The polyester rain cover is quite durable and the aluminum poles are lightweight. The inside features lots of corner pockets and a mesh ceiling canopy for extra storage. It also has two vestibules to store gear and cook in bad weather. Of course it’s not as lightweight as Big Agnes or durable as REI Half Dome but overall still pretty good.
Mountainsmith Morrison Evo has the simplest pole structure out of the bunch with two main cross poles and small brow pole. The brow pole increases the head space but compared to the other tents with more poles that are longer, the brow pole doesn’t do much.
While the simple pole structure is a great bonus for easy setup, it’s a big minus for weather durability. The more complex cage like structures like the one from Marmot Limelight protect the tents from heavy winds. Mountainsmith Morrison Evo has good materials and seams but it wouldn’t hold up as well as the others in a rainstorm due to the structure.
Another thing to note is that this tent features less mesh than the others on this list. This would mean that it would be warmer, which could be a plus in colder nights and very uncomfortable in warmer nights.
The tent body has less mesh paneling than the others.
When you include the footprint this tent becomes 8 lbs 6 oz which is borderline too heavy. I would still take it backpacking but it doesn’t compare to Big Agnes or MSR Papa Hubba. You may choose to omit the footprint or use the tent in its fly-footprint mode (This tent also comes with this feature!).
*Mountainsmith Morrison Evo in the Fast Fly mode with only the footprint and rainfly
If you are looking for even more beginner options you might want to check out ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4P ($140) or even Coleman Sundome ($53!). While they are inferior to the options we’ve discussed, if you are new to backpacking they are great gateway tents.
So what should you consider while looking for a 4 person tent?
Again, I know there are huge amazing 4+ person tents out there but the ones we’re focusing on in this article are the ones suited for backpacking. This means that we’ll also focus on the weight, packed size and how easy it’s to pack and set-up. The other criteria for this comparison are the capacity, comfort, seasonality, weather durability, materials and design.
First, pretty obviously...
Packed Size and Capacity
In order to shed some extra lbs the manufacturers sacrifice tent volume. Among the tents we're comparing, REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus has the largest floor area and the largest tent volume.
In terms of capacity... It’s hard to say. They differ in their floor area to tent height ratios. For example, Marmot Limelight 4 has the smallest floor area but has the highest center height. This means that even though you'll be more cramped when lying down, playing cards or eating in this tent is probably more comfortable due to increased head space.
If you're looking for a 3 person backpacking tent, check out my top picks here.
I gave the separate dimensions and the overall floor area in the comparison chart in this post. All of these should fit even the tallest of people. Still, I think my tips to sleeping comfortably inside a tent would be a good read for any 4 people going to sleep inside a tent together. If it's winter, you can also take a look at my tips to heating a tent without electricity.
Watch out for the floor dimensions especially when packing your mats! You might not be able to fit 4 large sleeping mats in some of these tents. Also if you're looking for good air mattresses to pair with your tent, my other article about air mattresses can also be a good read...
Another thing to consider in the size category is the packed size. At only 21.5 x 5 inches, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 wins this round which is a great plus for long/thru hikes longer than 3-5 days. On the opposite end, Marmot Limelight 4 is packed pretty big at 27 x 9 inches. You could (should) split this tent between with your friends to make it easier to carry.
Weight is another top priority for me when backpacking. All of these tents are pretty good in the weight department and you could take any one of them on a long trip. However, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 4 is by far the best in this category with only 5lbs 3oz.
To me, considering that this tent is not cramped either, this is nuts. MSR Papa Hubba NX is a close second with only 5lbs 15oz but it’s a bit smaller in volume compared to Big Agnes, so... not a very reasonable comparison.
I listed multiple weights for some of the products in the comparison chart at the bottom of this post.
"TW" stands for trail weight, which is different from the packaged weight. Trail weight only includes the "FFW" stands for Fast Fly Weight which is a more minimalist option that includes only the footprint, poles, stakes and the fly.
Yeah, FFW is more uncomfortable than using the actual tent, but I'd prefer this way for longer hikes or in any other condition I'd like a lighter pack. I REALLY like that MSR Papa Hubba NX can also be used with a Fast & Light base as a more minimalist option.
This base is sold separately and offers more protection than using just the footprint though... But if you’re like me and interested in a more minimalist shelter option, definitely check that out.
Seasonality and Weather Durability
I'm all about the 3 season tents here. If you're unaware about it, it means that they can withstand rainfalls and light snow but they aren’t designed for anything more severe. 3 season tents are usually lighter and roomier than 3+ and 4 season tents. Since I'm about backpacking tents here, this criteria is more important.
When trying to heat up a tent, the size becomes an issue. From comfort perspective, it’s great that REI Half Dome Plus and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 are roomy, but if there's only 2 of you inside it, warming it up becomes a headache in colder nights.
When you’re camping in cold and/or humid environments often condensation buildup on the inside of your tents and raincovers. This is because the warmth your body and breath produce a warm air inside the tent that turns to liquid when it touches the cold tent body. This may then turn into ice or create a pseudo-rain in the inside of your tent.
It’s important for tents to have lots of ventilation and flaps on the fly of the tent. This creates a way for the warm air to escape without condensing. You can read about this under ventilation heading of this post of mine (it's the review of MSR Elixir 3).
REI Half Dome Plus has great flaps that create ventilation without letting in the air. In fact, having good ventilation was one of my main criteria when choosing these tents, so all of them are pretty good in that aspect.
In order to prevent condensation, make full use of the ventilation systems. Also check out this video from MSR on condensation & how to prevent it:
if I were to camp in foul weather as much as in better 3 seasons, due to its complex pole structure and thick rainfly (can withstand up to 1500 mm rain!) Marmot Limelight 4 could be a good choice.
The complex pole structure and raincover of MSR Papa Hubba NX makes it a GREAT choice for bad weather.
On the contrary, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 has a very tall frame and thin materials to keep the weight low, but these factors decrease its weather durability. Mountainsmith Morrison Evo also has a simple pole structure and in general lower quality stitching which results in lower performance in bad weather. Just like in other cases REI Half Dome Plus does pretty well in bad weather with a 40 denier raincover.
Denier is a thickness measurement in fabrics with fibers. Higher the denier number, higher the durability; but less breath-ability and softness.
Comfort and Design
IMO, having two vestibules is a great advantage. When I'm with large groups, I like using one vestibule as a storage space to keep our packs dry and the other for entrance & cooking. In good weather this not that important since you will probably be doing the cooking outside but in bad weather being able to cook in the vestibule area is a life saver.
While all of these tents are actually on the small side for 4-person tents, they have 2 vestibules that increase storage space.
At first hubbed poles may look strange or confusing but they are definitely the easier option. They save you the time it takes to figure out which pole is meant to go into which axis. Some designs have also got rid of this problem with color coded poles. If MSR Papa Hubba didn’t have these, most people would take at least half an hour to set it up! You’ll also notice that all of these tents have pole clips instead of the traditional pole sleeves. Tents with pole clips are much easier to setup and especially when the temperature drops below freezing much easier to disassemble. I’ve had so many instances where the pole and sleeve froze together and it was impossible to separate them. Mountainsmith Morrison Evo is especially easy to setup and is great for people without any camping experience.
I know color/beauty usually isn’t anyone's main concern when choosing a tent but... it’s still a factor to consider. Marmot Limelight 4 comes in a very bright orange color. If you don’t like to attract attention then this may become annoying but it certainly is a plus when you are trying to spot your tent from a distance.
My favorites in the color aspect are REI Half Dome and MSR Papa Hubba NX which both have a reddish interior and a whitish rainfly. The white rainfly creates a natural light in the tent when you are inside during daylight. Whereas a bright orange makes everyone and everything inside look very orange.
Big Agnes Copper Spur is sold in orange and olive to give people options and Mountainsmith Morrison Evo comes in a grey-green that blends right into the surroundings.
The white rainfly creates natural lighting inside the tent.
To me, MSR Papa Hubba NX looks the prettiest:
My top 4P tent picks are (from best to worst):
- To me, best one is MSR Papa Hubba NX since it's at the sweet spot of all weight, durability, weather resistance, packed size and inner volume. [PDF Manual]
- Although it's even better than Papa Hubba, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL4 | $429.95 is my second choice because it's overkill for most of us... [PDF Manual]
- Third is REI Co-op Half Dome 4 Plus due to its larger size, beautiful design and durability; BUT it's heavy! [PDF Manual]
- Marmot Limelight 4 | $305.96 is the heaviest, but offers incredible durability, weather resistance and inner capacity.
- Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 4 | $187.46 is the best choice for beginners!
I hope this review was helpful for you to understand which 4P backpacking tent is the best one for your needs. Feel free to ask me any questions, provide feedback and I'll be happy to respond in the comment section below if it's within my knowledge.
Thanks a lot for reading. Happy trails.