There are so many tents out there shouting out how good they are, but the best value wild camping tent doesn’t need to shout. After trying out loads of tents in the mountains over the years, I know this is the best pitch for your money.
Best value wild camping tent
There are many one-man tents on the market. Some tents weigh under a kilogram but don’t allow you to sit up (your head’s touching the top of the tent), many have a good size porch but weigh too much, some are just an odd shape for the sake of it, and others seem to have everything you want but then cost £605!
So, let’s first look at what you want in a tent that you will use for wild camping.
Let’s say you’ve camped on a site with the family; you may be used to a massive 4, 6 or 8 man tent. Maybe it blew down in the wind blowing down the Glenridding Valley or leaked in heavy rain after 4 uses, you bought that spray for £20 from the camp shop, and it never worked! You bought a carpet for it and sitting there at 6 am while everyone was asleep you relished in having a couple of ‘pockets’ for your car keys and a hook for the light. Excellent to have brought that fan heater to ‘hook up’ in the evening wasn’t it?
All of the above are my experiences of buying what we could afford, trying to please the wife and kids.
Well, those Ford Sierra days are gone, it’s time to think of yourself for a change, now it’s time to get yourself a sports car.
Wild Camping Tents
Don’t compare a wild camping tent to what you used on that National Trust campsite! These tents work correctly, for a long time, if you know what to buy. Let’s consider what you need from a tent, one thing at a time.
We’ll start as you put it in your rucksack and we’ll assume that ‘value’ means no more than £150, any more than that and I’m guessing you’ve probably been camping a half-dozen times, you’re investing, and you may as well go all in; buy the best tent you can get with the money you have. That’s another blog.
If your tent takes up half of the storage space in your bag, it’s too big. You should probably have a bag the size of an Osprey Kestrel 68L so you have plenty of room for the kit you’ll need for your camping trip.
You need plenty of space. A smaller tent either means that your shelter is small when pitched, the elves made the material or the poles are carbon fibre (thinner but still durable).
Tents under £150 are not made of elvish material so forget that one and the poles are definitely alloys, cheaper and they might even be fibreglass. For under a couple of hundred quid you are looking at a loaf of bread sized tent, there’s no avoiding it. You also have to accept that there won’t be loads of living space.
I always say that if you lighten your bag, you’ll go ‘further and faster for longer’, I’ve had friends who say ‘It’ll just make me stronger!’ and then cut expeditions short or not cover the distance they had planned in the time they had. It’s usually an excuse to not spend money they don’t have. The money will buy you lightweight, strong, breathable material and carbon poles. Lots of money will buy you an 800g tent but we’re ‘starting out’ here.
We have £150, so the best material we’ll get is Ripstop polyester, and the best poles we get are aluminium. This tent will come in at more like 1.7kg.
Pitching your tent
All the tents I have had haven’t been a problem getting up once I read proper instructions and practised. You really MUST have a go in the garden. After some practice, your tent will seem easy to pitch.
Practice pitching your tent. In perfect conditions, you have to get used to putting in the poles and tensioning. Then you are ready for pitching in the rain or in windy conditions. What order do you pin it down? What angle do you fix the pins? When you’re in the mountains in the rain with 30mph winds, you’ll appreciate the time you spent learning the basics in the garden. Knowing how to put a stake in the ground is useful. Hills are literally made of rock, and you don’t have to go far under the turf to find some.
Your tent will probably have an inner and a flysheet. If these can be clipped together permanently and the tent erected in one go, this is the way forward. Putting up the inner in the rain, and then the flysheet, won’t wash in the mountains.
Some ‘coffin’ tents might be very lightweight and small when packed, but they have no space in them at all. It’s hard to get a comfortable sleep. If you’re just getting your head down on a nice summer’s night, maybe you’d be happy enough. However, when you pitch at 5 pm and have to stay in the tent for 12 hours, sitting up is a luxury!
It’s not just about sitting up though. You have a rucksack and a pair of boots with you, you can’t leave them outside in bad weather, even in good weather I find a hundred spiders have been drawn to my smelly boots! One bloke I camped with brought a bin liner to put his bag in, outside! That just means that half of the stuff you want is outside.
You need space for your gear, space to cook, space to lay your stuff out a bit and get comfortable. Bigger tents mean more weight and pack size. Don’t cut corners unless you have tried it out and you’re OK with the compromise.
DO NOT cook inside your tent. Full stop!
Burning any fuel creates toxic gases which you breathe in if you’re doing it inside an enclosed area. When I was a kid I connected both ends of a plastic-coated wire to a battery. The PVC coating melted and smoked, I breathed it in and nearly passed out, won’t go there again! Fumes from burning stoves can kill.
Tents have a porch area. In the Coshee, in Winter conditions, I had no choice but to sit with my feet outside of the tent. I had the AlpKit ‘Jetboil’ style stove in between my legs (warming the blood heading to my freezing toes). I couldn’t sit up in this tent either! You need a bit of porch space. Have the door open even if it means the cold gets in at least the fumes get out. Cook, put out the stove and get in your sleeping bag, zip up and then get warm eating your supper.
Have a read of my blog about keeping warm if you’re going to camp in the winter.
Weather and wind
You can tell that some tents just won’t handle a gust. Even if they look like they would when you lined them up correctly in the wind. When the wind changes direction, you’re screwed.
Before you chance it, think carefully about having to deal with a collapsed tent at 3 am. If it’s raining, and 40mph gusts are dragging it below freezing, you could be in trouble. I’ve been there, it’s horrible, you just want to be home, or at least be in the car, but you have to either pack up or shut up.
Read the reviews. If they start ‘I’ve not used it much’ don’t even read the rest. That’s not a review, that’s someone who wants to hear their own voice.
Good value tents for under £150 won’t fair well in 50mph wind! To survive snow storm after snow storm and gale-force winds, you must spend money; and go for one of the ‘bombproof’ tents like the Hilleberg Akto.
So, in our budget, we must err on the side of caution and start low. Work your way up and see how far your tent will go. Used on Antarctic expeditions, I’d confidently take a Hilleberg to a summit. Whereas something in our budget, I would simply drop down the valley a bit. Check the weather forecast. Shelter from the wind, e.g. by a tarn with the wind coming from the South-West (tarns, face North-East, Google it). Remember, if wind passes over a tarn it will cool and bring moisture with it. Camp on the other side of a tarn, lake or boggy area.
A good value tent must still keep the water from getting in. When you get over £100, you assume that the water shouldn’t get in. Look out for figures of at least 3000mm and more preferably 5000mm. This ‘hydrostatic head’ measurement advises how much water could sit on a piece of the material before the weight would push it through the fibres.
We’ve had two six-man tents that just let water in after a couple of seasons. They’re cheap crap, doing the job for two weeks a year until the warranty runs out. Wild camping tents are going to be used on more trips in the first year. Branded tents have a reputation to uphold so they have to be better.
If you lie in a concealed space for 12 hours with cold weather outside, condensation will build-up. You breathe out moisture, and this is unavoidable, so the question is, how do you get rid of the moisture?
The answer is ventilation. A breeze passing thought the tent would take the moisture out, but that also brings in cold air. If you don’t ventilate the tent enough to start with condensation will build up inside the roof of the tent and then start dripping onto your sleeping bag. If your sleeping bag gets wet, you’re in trouble; this moisture will suck the heat out of you. Been there as well! Froze, no sleep, cut the ridge shot the next day having run out of food trying to keep warm
You need a tent with proper ventilation, opening the door will just be too cold. Some tents have vents at the top and tail; some door zip open at the top as well as the bottom, this is handy.
If you can pitch the tent so the fly has a gap at the bottom. this can also help.
So if you’re letting cold air enter the tent are you not going to freeze? You must think of your sleeping bag as your heat pod, and your tent merely a shelter from the weather. Have a sleeping bag that fastens up nicely around. This way just your face is exposed, and heat loss through convection is minimal.
All of the points above are more important than how good your tent looks.
There are cute shapes and daft looking tents; the best ones look normal for a reason. Most tents come in green so that you don’t show up like a sore thumb. I tend to go for something different.
I owned a nice sand coloured Akto (the red one is also quite fetching).
Now I camp in a tangerine Trailstar tarp (useful as an emergency group shelter as well). Trying the bright orange DD tarp, I found it TOO bright, so I stick to the green. I make tarps myself now, and I’m going for the black ‘stealth’ approach.
Which is the best wild camping tent for your money?
Keeping to the £150 budget, I would choose the Vango Banshee Pro 200 hands down. It’s the best value tent for camping wild you can get. With a 5000mm hydrostatic head, it’ll stay waterproof for years. Importantly, there is enough space in it for your gear and boots inside. It’s a bit bigger than most one-person tents.
We recommend it to our Mountain Leader Academy members for training and assessment and most of them own one.
Ventilation is exceptional; I’ve not had a problem with condensation when I’ve used any of mine (different ages). Keeping the fly and inner together, it’s pitched in 5 or 10 minutes or so. The key to that is to practice at a low level.
Banshee 200 versus the weather
I’ve seen Banshees withstand some awful weather, even snowstorms, but I’ve also seen someone get buckets of snow in. I think this was because the wind changed direction and came at it from the side but she left the door unzipped a bit. The key is to batten down the hatches and point it the right way. Check the forecast, and if the wind is going to change, you may want to be more sheltered. Camp lower down off the ridge.
The above photo shows three tents on Haycock that shouldn’t have been there. The first Banshee caved a bit and let snow in the porch area (she had to dig herself out literally!). These tents weren’t made for such harsh beatings. However, we pushed things to the limits and have great experiences about which to write articles, LOL. I had a great night’s sleep.
You can sit up in the Banshee. If you have 20 small cheap tents in a field and set fire to the ones that you can’t sit up in, you wouldn’t have many left. The Coshee, for example, similar price as the Banshee 200 on Amazon, would be dust! It’s cheaper, lighter and smaller but you’ll kick yourself for getting one.
The Banshee 200 is a good looking tent. It even has a door on either side, one for the sun setting and one for it rising next morning(?) It is at the top end of the budget, but I think it’s worth it.
There are loads of tents out there, maybe something about one gets you. I tried a good few out before I found what I like. That’s how I roll, don’t mind losing a few quid along the way. It pays for experiences like Haycock, Blencathra, Ben Vorlich, Ben Lawers.
Vango Banshee 200 Pro
You will probably have guessed by now that in my opinion, the best value wild camping tent is the Vango Banshee 200. Coming in at about £120, it has loads of room for one hiker and their gear (115cm wide inside), is easy to pitch and is great in bad weather. It weighs 2.4kg and has a pack size of 46.0 x ø16.0cm.
If you’re not convinced read my blog on it…read blog
Vango Nevis 100
If you want a small tent that weighs less, you could go for the Nevis 100. It has similar headroom and is only 95cm wide inside but weighs only 1.7kg with a pack size of 46.0 x ø14.0cm.
It’s only £64 as well!
Whatever you choose, good luck and post us your photos when you get out.