Shelter: It’s one of life’s essentials. These four tents fulfill other needs, too—like comfy sleep, easy set-up, and eco-friendly construction.

Nemo Equipment Nano Oz THE GREEN TENT Nemo Equipment Nano Oz [4 lbs. 8 oz.] [36 square feet] If you’re planning to commune with nature, why sleep in a tent made of toxic petrochemicals? Most tents are still made of vinyl, or PVC, a plastic that’s dangerous both to your health and the environment. Both PVC-producing factories and the products themselves emit dioxins that can cause cancer, asthma, and birth defects. Fortunately, tent manufacturers like Nemo are introducing vinyl-free tents. One of the most durable and dependable eco-friendly tents today is the Nano Oz, an ultralight tent made almost completely from post-consumer waste PET bottles. The tent poles are bamboo, and side release buckles and ladder locks are comprised of recycled plastic. There’s nothing flimsy about this innovative eco-tent; it withstood torrential downpours and gale-force winds on an Appalachian overnight. $449; nemoequipment.com

Sierra Designs Lightning XT 4THE FAMILY TENT Sierra Designs Lightning XT 4 [6 lbs, 13oz]  [57.5 square feet] Stick two kids, two adults, a dog, and a bunch of gear into a traditional family tent and things get claustrophobic. You want more room, you have to get a bigger (and heavier) tent. Sierra Designs addressed this issue with the Lightning XT 4 by merging key design elements of the tunnel tent with the traditional dome family tent. The result is an easy to set up dome tent with the near-vertical walls of a tunnel tent. The marriage of styles opens up the interior giving you square footage that you can actually use. The Lightning XT 4 also weighs about half as much as other comparable family tents enabling you to move beyond the gravel pads of car camping into, dare we say it, the backcountry. $449; sierradesigns.com

MSR Carbon Reflex 2THE ULTRALIGHT TENT MSR Carbon Reflex 2 [3 lbs. 4oz.] [29 square feet] If tents were allowed to compete on The Biggest Loser, MSR’s Carbon Reflex 2 would be the contestant that steps on the scale and drenches the stage with tears of joy. Similar in size to the popular Hubba Hubba, the Carbon Reflex is a full pound lighter than its predecessor, making it just over three pounds in its packed sack. That’s a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to long-distance backpacking trips. The weight savings comes from the carbon fiber poles, a feature that also doesn’t come without a steep price tag. But if you can afford it, a roomy two-person tent with simple two-pole set-up that’s this light can’t be beat.$499; msrgear.com

Golite Shangri La 2THE TARP
GoLite Shangri La 2
[1lb, 13 oz.] [49 square feet]
Backpacking with a tarp saves weight, but forces you to sacrifice certain luxuries tent campers can grow accustomed to. The GoLite Shangri La 2 combines the weight savings and efficiency of a tarp design with some of the creature comforts offered by the latest tents. Like most tarps, you can use adjustable hiking poles (or ski poles) to set up the Shangri La, but you also get a zippered door, peak vents for ventilation, and two mesh pockets for gear like headlamps or water bottles–simple luxuries not found on your standard tarp. Keep in mind, the floor and bug nest are sold separately, so be prepared to share your shelter with the occasional creepy crawly. $175; golite.com