How to choose a two-person hiking tent
Snug in the tent! South Island, New Zealand.
Updated 17 July 2020
Which tent is the right one for you?
Here are some potential scenarios, with solutions below.
- Scenario 1: All-season Australian walking tent
- Scenario 2: Lightest possible functional 2 person walking tent
- Scenario 3: Tent for extended walking in foul weather areas.
- Scenario 4: Tent for snow camping and alpine conditions.
- Scenario 5: Heavy-duty bombproof tent.
- Scenario 6: Tent for a tall person.
Scenario 1: Bushwalking tent suitable for walking all seasons in South-eastern Australia and New Zealand.
Our recommendation: Mont Dragonfly
Why? The Dragonfly is Australian designed and offers the perfect balance between roomy weatherproof accommodation for multi day bushwalking at a reasonable weight. A tent needs to be suitable for the worst conditions you may encounter; in good conditions, any tent will do.
The Dragonfly is a cross-ridge sleeping design. It has two vestibules, offering space for each occupant to store a pack and boots, etc. Both occupants have access to an entrance/exit, which means you don't have to crawl over someone else to get in or out. Two wide doors offer excellent cross-ventilation. The inner is made of nylon, which is warmer than mesh tents in cold weather, and offers more protection from dripping condensation or random leaks. The double inner doors have a full nylon door backed by a mesh one. Thus, you can be zipped up, as snug as a bug, if necessary. Or, you can roll the nylon door away leaving a large mesh door for ventilation should conditions dictate. The Dragonfly is easy to erect and very stable with a double cross-pole structure. It also offers many small, thought-out features such as reflective guy ropes, a laminated floor, good quality fabrics. Throw in quality DAC poles, the best in the business, and all bases are covered.
Compared to say the Moondance 2 there is more internal space and much better coverage of the inner by the fly over the vestibules. If you have ever been stuck in bad weather on a hike you will understand the advantage of these features in staying dry and comfortable. The vestibules can be configured in a multitude of ways to suit the conditions, it is clear that real bushwalkers have had a hand in designing this tent.
Scenario 2: Lightest two-person functional bushwalking tent.
Our recommendation: Mont Moondance 2
Why? At the outset, it should be said that bringing weight down involves compromises. It is our job to inform you as to what these compromises are, so that you can make an informed decision as to whether these compromises are worthwhile.
The Mont Moondance 2 is an exceptionally light tent. It comes in at 1.87kg, complete with all the required pegs, guys and bags to carry it in. However, it remains an extremely functional walking tent. To achieve this, Mont have used the highest quality fabrics such as a laminated floor with an extremely high waterhead of 10,000mm. Despite this, it's still very light. This is an expensive fabric construction. Most brands simply put lighter coatings on their floor fabrics to keep them light, and that just does not cut it when you need it to.
So, what are the drawbacks? The tent will fit two people, but is smaller than, say, the Dragonfly. It tapers slightly towards one end. This can be a problem if you want to use two thick, full-length mats in the tent.
The inner only has a single door, with a mesh upper section and nylon lower section. The entire upper part of the tent is made from mesh, which cuts the weight. This means it cannot be sealed up in inclement weather or if it is cold. However, it does have nylon right around the lower section up to a reasonable height, which is much better than some competing tents, which are mesh right to the floor. This has the effect of creating a heat island in the lower part of the tent and stops splashback from driving rain.
The vestibules are only small and it is difficult to accommodate a pack in them. It is probably better to leave your pack outside under a raincover. If you are stuck in this tent during an extended bout of bad weather, it would be crowded and difficult to cook in the vestibules.
Scenario 3: Tent for extended walking in foul weather areas. (E.g., Tasmania, New Zealand)
Our recommendation: Exped Venus II
Whilst the Dragonfly would be suitable in this category, the Exped Venus II offers enhanced functionality on several fronts. And if you do a lot of hiking in these types of areas, it may be worth the extra weight. Like the Dragonfly, it has a full nylon inner, and plenty of space for two persons, with two good sized vestibules.
Advantages of the Venus II over the Dragonfly
- Integral pitch. This means that the pole sleeves are in the fly, and the inner is attached underneath to the fly. This is better for pitching the tent in inclement conditions, because the inner remains protected during the pitching process. In high winds it means the stress is transmitted directly to the structure of the tent and the whole thing is more stable. It is extremely easy to pitch, since the inner and fly all go up in one operation.
- Large vestibules. Plenty of room to stash your gear in wet weather. And, excellent for cooking in, if required. There is also good overhang over the inner, so it is not exposed at all when entering the tent in the rain.
- Serious multi-fit guying system for extreme wind conditions.
- Slightly roomier inner, which is important when you're tent-bound due to bad weather.
- Fly comes right down to ground level. This offers better weather protection, but is a trade off with the ventilation.
- Heavier: 2.84kg vs. 2.48kg for the Dragonfly
- Ventilation isn't as good, because the fly comes right down.
- Difficult to pitch inner only (although possible) and harder to dry out because of integral pitch design.
Scenario 4. Tent for snow camping and alpine conditions.
Our recommendation: Wilderness Equipment First Arrow X
Why? The Wilderness Equipment First Arrow X is designed to stand up to serious alpine conditions. It has a tapered tunnel structure, with just three poles completing the whole structure. The largest arch provides working space and room to sit out bad weather. And, the pole arch in the vestibule means there is plenty of vertical space so that you can cook with as much safety and convenience as is possible.
And, the balance between flexibility and stability in the design makes it able to deal with strong winds.
The First Arrow X comes in a shade of blue that is the most visible colour from the sky (yes, even in a glacial environment), which makes the tent easier to find in an emergency. So, if you need to sit out a storm, this is the tent to be in.
Scenario 5: Heavy-duty bombproof tent that will be abused and mishandled.
Our recommendation: Wilderness Equipment i-Explore
The WE i-Explore is made to a higher build standard than many of our other tents. For example, it uses #10 zippers on the fly vestibules, which is like a heavy rucksack closure zip. It's also reinforced at all stress points, and is built with solid fabrics. Therefore, it's ideal for use by schools, hire operations or anyone who is rough on their equipment. It has plenty of space for two persons plus gear, and offers good cross ventilation. The downside of this tent is of course the weight. It comes in at 4.2 kg.
Scenario 6: Tent for a tall person (say, taller than 200cm).
Our recommendation: Exped Mars II Extreme Tent
Simply put, the Exped Mars II accommodates a tall person. Even the tallest hikers shouldn't be too tall to fit in an Exped Mars II, despite struggling to fit into our other tents. In addition to ample length, in general the Mars II Extreme has generous dimensions, with steep side walls to increase living space. The Mars II Extreme is also a useful tent for people who like to store rucksacks inside the tent, because for most people there is ample room to do so at your head or feet.
We sell many more tents than the ones listed above. All these – and their details and specifications – can be found in our tent-buying guide.
Download our tent brochure here.