Tent trail weight vs packed weight: what do you need to know?

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So you are buying a new tent for an upcoming backpacking trip, your first in a little while.

You head online to start comparing your options. As you narrow down your selection, you notice some backpacking tents have multiple weights listed. You’re thinking, “tent trail weight vs packed weight, what’s the difference?”

Luckily, the difference between the two is not much. But, it is also not some technicality, so it is worthwhile knowing the difference.

canyon hiking trip pic

What is the minimum trail weight of a tent?

minimum weight

Minimum trail weight refers to the weight of the essential components needed to pitch your tent. (sometimes referred to as just trail weight, minimum weight, or true trail weight)

This includes items like:

  • Tent body (inner tent)

  • Rain fly

  • Poles

Since there is no mandatory industry standard, some manufacturers will include stakes and guy lines in their minimum weight.

Since stakes and guy lines add only a few ounces, you can at least roughly compare minimum trail weights between tents confidently.

Is the minimum trail weight better to pay attention to?

I pay more attention to the trail weight vs packed weight because it is closer to what I will be carrying in my backpack. I already have stakes and guy lines that I will bring along no matter the tent. Also, I have a groundsheet that fits almost all one or two-person tents.

Because of this, I find the trail weight more useful than the packaged weight.

However, if you are buying a tent for the first time, the packed weight will be better for you to pay attention to. This is because you will likely end up using almost all of what comes with the tent, except for maybe a few items.

My general rule of thumb is that if you already have stakes, a stuff sack, and/or a groundsheet, use trail weight. If you do not have these items, use packed weight.

snowy forest hiking pic

What is the packed weight of a tent?

The packed weight (sometimes seen as the packaged weight or total weight) refers to the weight of all the items included with your tent.

In addition to the minimum trail weight items, packed weight includes things like:

  • Tent stakes

  • Patch kits or repair kits

  • Stuff sacks

  • Set-up instruction manual

  • Footprint (if included)

Since the amount (and weight) of accessories can vary from brand to brand, the listed packed weight can be a harder figure to compare.

Plus, it is unlikely that you will take everything that is included with you out on the trail. Additionally, many backpackers have their own tent stakes and stuff sacks that they like to use. For these reasons, I recommend using minimum trail weight when comparing tent weight, unless you are buying a tent for the first time.

What is not included in the packed weight?

The packed weight will not include any outer packaging that your tent came in. If your shelter comes in a larger bag or box when you purchase it, that is not included in the trail weight.

Also, any optional items that may be associated with the tent. For example, most tents require you to purchase the groundsheet/footprint separately. Any item that does not come with your tent is not included in the weight.

camping trip pic

Are there any other tent weights I should know about?

Nowadays, those are the two weights most manufacturers will list. The name may vary between manufacturers, (I.e., minimum trail weight vs trail weight) but they measure the same thing.

You used to see “fast-pitch weight” (sometimes fast pack weight or fly weight) which generally referred to just the rain fly, poles, stakes, and sometimes the groundsheet.

But, you will not see this weight listed much anywhere anymore.


Yes, the minimum trail weight includes the tent body (inner tent), rain fly, and tent poles.

Trail weight is a closer representation of what you will take with you on the trail, and an easier weight to use as a comparison.


Packed weight includes any stuff sacks that are included with the tent when you purchase it.

For a backpacking tent, I recommend aiming for around 3 pounds or less for packed weight, for a 1-person shelter. Add an additional pound for each person that will be sleeping in the shelter.


Picking a tent can be tough with all the different models available nowadays.

There are ones perfect for you if you prioritize lightweight backpacking. Or if you need one that will last in harsh, rugged environments.

The last thing you need to have to worry about is knowing the difference between different listed weights and what they even mean.

Luckily, the differences between the two are not as complicated or vast as they may originally seem.

Just keep in mind that minimum weight includes the bare essential components to pitch the tent. While the packed weight refers to all of the components that come with the tent.

You will be out exploring on your next adventure before you know it!

scenic river



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