The Best 4-Season Tents for Camping All Year Round
Winter campingisn’t for the faint of heart. You’re likely to encounter freezing temperatures, chilling gusts of high winds, and potentially some fresh powder. But it’s a great way to drop crowds, find remote slopes for carving lines, or beat cabin fever. Before you head out, you’ll want to pack the right gear that can contend with the elements.
Four-season tents are designed to stay warmer than their three-season counterparts and withstand snow loads, high winds, and white-out conditions. We found seven great options for basecamp and up in the alpine.
Check out our top four-season tent recommendations below, then keep reading for helpful buying advice and full reviews of these and other great models.
Given the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, it’s more important than ever to check the local regulations at your destination before you leave. Pandemic or not, some campgrounds and parks close come winter. Any that are open might have additional health and safety measures in place, such as mask mandates and capacity limits. If you’re planning an international expedition, be sure to consult federal guidelines and factor in possible isolation or testing requirements. No matter where you go, remember to protect yourself and recreate responsibly by getting vaccinated if possible, wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly, and keeping six feet away from other people.
Characteristics of a 4-Season Tent
Four-season tents are sometimes called all-season or winter tents. They can be used 365 days a year, but they’re optimized for mountaineering trips and wintertime excursions. The features that keep them standing in harsh conditions—namely, strong pole architecture and burly fabrics—add weight and cost. Price tags range from around $400 on the low end to a couple grand for a veritable, albeit temporary, fortress. That’s a considerable hit to your bank account but well worth the investment in order to have a safe place to catch some shut eye or ride out snow storms.
Whereas nearly all three-season tents have a double-wall design, four-season tents can have a single- or double-wall structure. A single-wall tent is designed to be as light as possible for summit pushes and other short-term excursions when weight is at a premium. In lieu of a rain fly, the tent body is made of waterproof fabric and often has no windows (a potential entry point for precipitation). This limits breathability and can cause condensation to collect within the tent, particularly in warmer months or more humid climates. Manufacturers usually add one or two vents in an attempt to increase air circulation, but it’s usually not enough for year-round comfort.
Meanwhile, the addition of a rain fly creates the second layer in double-wall designs. As with a backpacking tent, a four-season tent’s fly provides full coverage over the tent canopy and creates a vestibule outside the door. The canopy fabric is more breathable compared to a single-wall tent, and it can include small swaths of mesh. The vestibule offers a covered area to store your pack and other gear. Double-wall winter tents are often roomier and heavier, making them best for use at basecamp or less strenuous treks.
If you’re partial to car camping, you might consider a rooftop tent for your year-round expeditions—provided you can access your destination on wheels. The elevated design, which sits on top of your car’s roof rack, keeps you from sleeping on the cold ground, though you should still bring a weather-appropriate sleep system. Rooftop tents are built with durable material like basecamp tents. For winter, we recommend a hard-shell model with a thick weather- and windproof fabric, like polyester, to keep you warm and dry. Before you buy, don’t forget to check the roof rack requirements to make sure the tent is compatible with what’s on your car.
How Tent Shape Impacts Weather Resistance
A tent’s architecture is integral to the weather protection it provides, and having a preferred style can help you narrow down the options. Dome tents are the most common, but other designs offer particular advantages for winter camping. A-frames prevent snow from collecting on the roof, tunnel tents provide relatively large living quarters, and geodesic domes are incredibly strong in the face of high winds.
Once you decide the type of tent you need, find a model with enough sleeping capacity, and don’t forget to factor in room for your pack, unless you don’t mind it staying out in the cold. Many tents are available in a range of sizes, sleeping anywhere from one person to half a dozen or more. If space is an issue, go with a tent that can accommodate one more person than you need it to. Pay attention to how many doors a tent has, too—more than one reduces the chance that your tent mate will crawl over you in the middle of the night should nature call.
Be sure to pack enough stakes, possibly even the wider snow-ready kind that grip powder better than the average model. Your tent will come with some stakes but usually not enough to secure the canopy and all the guy lines. Consider bringing a footprint or tarp, sold separately, that will extend the life of your tent floor and block moisture from the ground. After lengthy storage periods, be sure to inspect your shelter prior to any trips. Look for rips, tears, and weak tent poles. It’s also a good idea to re-waterproof your tent with a spray coating or seam sealant. This is especially true for single-wall tents, where seams are the most vulnerable points for moisture to sneak in.
How We Evaluated
We don’t take the responsibility of recommending the best four-season tents lightly. When you’re facing the worst of winter, you need gear that won’t fail. As lifelong campers who have endured many a chilly night—which are always worth the off-season solitude and stunning wintry views—we understand the value of a great four-season tent. Using our categorical expertise, we surveyed the market and identified more than 30 promising picks. We compared them on the basis of construction, features, dimensions, weight, and cost. Reviews from expert sites including Backpacker, OutdoorGearLab, Switchback Travel, Evolution Basin, and Section Hiker helped cull the list, as did customer feedback on online retailers such as REI, Amazon, ” data-vars-ga-product-id=”17e6c309-392a-4680-a384-7eba99b5ab9e” data-vars-ga-product-price=”0.00″ data-vars-ga-product-sem3-brand=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-category data-vars-ga-product-sem3-id data-affiliate-network data-affiliate=”true”>Backcountry, and Moosejaw. Ultimately, seven models made the final cut. Read about them below.
—BEST DOUBLE-WALL 4-SEASON TENT—
Mountain Hardwear Trango 4
Packed Weight: 12 lb. 12.4 oz. | Floor Space: 57 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 50 in. | Doors: 2
First released in 1995, the Trango is a tried-and-true basecamp haven. It’s been used on big mountains around the world and is a great choice for weeks-long expeditions on account of its excellent strength and generous size. Mountain Hardwear uses strong yet ultralight DAC poles that connect to the 40-denier ripstop nylon tent canopy with clips instead of peskier pole sleeves. Some of these clips also serve as attachment points for the waterproof 70-denier nylon taffeta fly. This design choice adds to the overall wind resistance of the tent. Meanwhile, a ceiling vent and mesh screens on the doors allow you to control airflow. Thanks to the relatively large interior, you and your tent mates won’t be sleeping on top of one another, and you can stand inside, even if it requires hunching over slightly. Several pockets, a light-diffusing pouch for a headlamp, a small viewport on the fly, and two doors boost the livability. Another thoughtful feature: The front vestibule has a flap that blocks spindrift reasonably well, according to Backpacker. The Trango does pack a weight penalty that most other competitors lack, but when you’re heading into the foulest of weather conditions, the extra pounds are well worth the protection and sizable living quarters.
Buy 2-Person | Buy 3-Person | Buy 4-Person
Hilleberg Nammatj 3
Packed Weight: 7 lb. 4 oz. | Floor Space: 36.6 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 41 in. | Doors: 1
Hilleberg is known for making winter-ready tents, which is perhaps no surprise given the company’s Swedish roots. Its products stand out for a few reasons. First, they all use a silicone-coated nylon in the tent fly that promises exceptional tear strength despite its lightness. Hilleberg calls this fabric Kerlon and reports its strongest version (used in the Nammatj) can withstand up to 40 pounds. Second, the tent canopy and the fly can be pitched and packed simultaneously thanks to a connected (but still separable) design. In addition to saving time, this also keeps the inner tent dry and protected if you’re making camp during a storm. The Nammatj is one of the company’s more affordable offerings that still packs plenty of protection. An abrasion-resistant 100-denier nylon floor is triple-coated with polyurethane to seal out water, and durable 10-millimeter poles create the backbone of the structure. Hilleberg further overcomes the weakness of a tunnel shape by capping the peak height at a squat 41 inches and adding several points for securing guy lines. And despite the burly fabrics, the Nammatj delivers good ventilation thanks to large vents on the fly. The tradeoffs for all this weatherproofing is a high price tag and a somewhat cramped interior with a single door and vestibule. Even so, the Nammatj is a worthwhile investment for a truly portable, practically impenetrable double-wall tent. (Editors’ Note: Hilleberg also makes a two-person model, $875, but it is currently on backorder.)
MSR Access 2
Packed Weight: 4 lb. 1 oz. | Floor Space: 29 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 42 in. | Doors: 2
Perhaps you can justify doubling up on sleeping bags for different temperatures, but if stocking your gear closet with multiple backcountry ready-tents isn’t feasible (and we don’t blame you if that’s the case), spring for the MSR Access. The impressively light three-person tent is designed for tree-line conditions, but with a largely mesh canopy, it won’t be overkill come summer. The well-ventilated body is protected by a vented ripstop nylon fly that’s been treated with polyurethane and silicone to shed rain and snow and block gusts. Further wind resistance comes from the hubbed Easton Syclone poles. This highly resilient, aerospace-grade composite material mimics the strength of aluminum and the lightweight build of carbon fiber. The tent can withstand a good deal, but for the harshest environments, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Storage space inside is limited to two large pockets and a few hanging loops, but you’ll have enough room to stash essentials. Ultimately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another one-quiver tent that’s as capable as the Access.
Buy 1-Person | Buy 2-Person | Buy 3-Person
REI Co-op Base Camp 4
Packed Weight: 16 lb. 14 oz. | Floor Space: 59.7 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 60 in. | Doors: 2
The Base Camp straddles the line between a three- and four-season tent by combining livability with a more durable construction that’s fit for low-altitude winter trips or summer storms. It’s versatile and comes at a significantly cheaper cost than a true winter shelter. The roomy interior boasts the largest square footage and tallest ceiling height—by a whopping 10 inches—on our list. Several gear pockets on the walls and near the ceiling provide plenty of storage to keep things tidy. Especially when the Base Camp is at capacity, two doors ease the entry and exit process, and each has a vestibule (though the area outside the back door is slightly smaller than the front). Vents near the base of the canopy and on the fly, alongside mesh on the doors and at the ceiling, do an adequate job of circulating air. It’s likely the Base Camp will feel stuffy on hot, muggy nights, but on the other hand, you won’t contend with as many chill-inducing drafts during winter compared to most three-season tents. For greater weather resistance, REI adds two aluminum poles to fortify the classic dome, and we appreciate that these poles are color-coded for quicker pitching. The focus on comfort does come at the expense of weight. More than four pounds heavier than the Trango, the Base Camp is best for car-camping pursuits, not human-powered excursions, and that might limit how much use you get out of it during the colder months of the year.
Shop 4-Person | Shop 6-Person
—BEST SINGLE-WALL 4-SEASON TEN—
Black Diamond Firstlight 2P
Packed Weight: 3 lb. 3 oz. | Floor Space: 27.3 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 42 in. | Doors: 1
Black Diamond’s Firstlight is the ideal choice for fair-weather (okay, decent weather) ski tours or alpine expeditions. The ultralight design, easy pitching, minimal footprint, and relatively humble price tag make the Firstlight one of the best all-weather tents on the market. The updated NanoShield fabric keeps the tent extremely light while also providing wind protection. If weight isn’t much of an issue, bring along the compatible ground cloth that can keep you a smidge warmer. The tent’s obvious downfall is its struggle to keep condensation and precipitation out— it’s water-resistant, not waterproof. So if there’s snow or icy rain in the forecast, you’ll be better off with another model. However, the ventilation window offers enough airflow after a sweaty trek or climb to keep your duds inside dry. And though it isn’t the most wind-resistant tent out there, the Firstlight performs well on lightly breezy nights, and it’s easy to set up from inside if you need a break from the elements right when you arrive.
Mountain Hardwear ACI 3
Packed Weight: 8 lb. 4 oz. | Floor Space: 45.8 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 41 in. | Doors: 2
If you’re a hardcore alpine hiker, you’re probably familiar with Mountain Hardwear’s discontinued EV tent. The single-wall ACI is an upgraded version of that beloved model, with new waterproofing, better durability, and more floor space. The three-person tent offers ample room, including a spacious attached vestibule to store your pack or wet shoes overnight. It’s also built with extreme durability and wind resistance in mind. The overlapping poles, pole sleeves, and reinforced seams under the poles add stability and prevent wind and snowfall from shaking your shelter. There’s also an emergency snow vent so you can escape through the bottom (or put your shoes on without getting everything wet) if major snowfall occurs during your expedition. For all-season alpine hikers, this tent is ideal with its four ventilation ports and a mesh zipper door to let in that crisp mountain air. For a single-wall summit tent, the ACI is on the heavy side, but its durability and weatherproofing are worth the extra weight should you encounter a storm.
—BEST ROOFTOP TENT—
Roofnest Condor XL
Packed Weight: 160 lb. | Floor Space: 47.8 sq. ft. | Peak Height: 50 in. | Doors: 1
When it comes to winter camping, sometimes the best way to stay warm is by getting yourself off the ground. If you’re driving to a wintry car camping site, a tent like Roofnest’s Condor XL sets up in less than a minute, taking the edge off of that chilly wind when you arrive. The Condor XL is a heavy duty, spacious rooftop tent at a competitive price, and it comes with mattress to keep you warm and comfortable all night. With two mesh windows and a ceiling hatch, you’ll get plenty of fresh air for ventilation, too. The tent is designed with camping fanatics in mind, with built-in LED lights and a spot to install a solar panel. When the night is over, you can open the main door and climb down the sturdy ladder to make a warm cup of coffee at your site. Users report that setting up the Roofnest for the first time can be a challenge, but the hard-shell container means you can leave it on your roof rack for longer with less chance of damage. The Condor line also includes a couple of add-ons for longer stays: a covered annex perfect for chilly stakeouts and a large open-air awning for milder weather.
Published at Mon, 01 Nov 2021 21:18:00 +0000