The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (2024)

The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (1)

Camp in the snow or on the side of the mountain with these impenetrable shelters.

By Maggie Slepian

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Winter camping is a great way to lose the crowds and experience something most people don’t have any interest in participating in. However, winter trips mean more preparation and specialized gear than three-season camping—conditions are harsher, and your gear needs to stand up to the potential for serious storms and snow.

Four-season tents come in several varieties, including lightweight mountaineering shelters, four-season backpacking tents, and basecamp models for ski expeditions and winter hunting. Winter tents are structured to resist snow loading, shedding loads with their steeper walls or dome shapes. These tents are made with burlier wall and floor materials, and often have special poles that resist cracking in sub-freezing temperatures.

If you’re heading out for some winter camping, it’s our duty to remind you to dress appropriately, know your route, bring navigation (and know how to use it) and be prepared for surprise storms and other winter elements.

Best 4-Season Tents

The Expert: I have backpacked thousands of miles across the US, including thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail, and Ouachita Trail, and this summer I bikepacked 1,600 miles from the Mexico border to Jackson, WY. I’m currently checking off sections of the Oregon Coast Trail and the Arizona Trail, and I have been testing gear professionally for more than 10 years. I get outside in all four seasons, and I’ve tested plenty of camping gear during unpleasant winter weather here in the Northern Rockies.

How to Choose a Winter Camping Tent

How We Selected

Winter tents are a pretty serious subject—the right one can keep you dry and warm in inclement weather, and the wrong tent can cause a whole host of problems, making your winter camping excursion not just uncomfortable, but unsafe. These tents are all highly rated, tested by experts, and I’ve used all of the backpacking models myself. The expedition / base-camp models have been used professionally on everything from skiing to mountaineering expeditions with objectives beyond the base camp. These picks represent a variety of models in intended use, weight, and capacity.

Best For Most People

MSR Access 2

The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (3)

Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (4)Two doors and vestibules
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (5)Fast pitch with freeze-resistant poles
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (6)Not as wind-resistant as other styles

Key Specs

Best forWinter backpacking
Weight3 lb 10 oz
Capacity2-person
Interior space29 sq ft
EntryTwo doors, two vestibules

I’ve used the MSR Access 2 every winter since 2018, and I’m continually impressed at the high strength-to-weight ratio, livable space, and relatively decent ventilation. This tent sheds snow exceptionally well, and pitches similarly to a three-season tent, so it doesn’t have much of a learning curve.

At less than 4 pounds, it also doesn’t feel excessive to carry when split between two people. The Easton Syclone poles are made from a strong, flexible carbon composite that’s resistant to breaking in cold weather, and the steep walls mean minimal snow buildup. It has two 8.8-square-foot vestibules for stashing gear, as well as providing protection for cooking. The two doors and vestibules are a somewhat rare occurrence with winter tents, making this an excellent all-around option for packing, base camping, and livable space.

Spacious Two-Person Basecamp Tent

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2

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Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (8)Two doors and vestibules
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (9)Fast pitch with freeze-resistant poles
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (10)Not as wind-resistant as other styles

Key Specs

Best ForWinter backpacking
Weight3 lb 10 oz
Capacity2-person
Interior Space29 sq ft
EntryTwo doors, two vestibules

With a whopping 40 square feet of livable space along with two doors and two vestibules (one large for dry-entry, one smaller for gear storage), the Mountain Hardwear Trango is technically a two-person basecamp tent, but you can easily fit three or four people. This is a classic basecamp model that initially debuted in the mid 90’s, and while it’s quite hefty at over 8.5 pounds, the space and shelter make it worth packing into basecamp.

The fly and floors are fully taped, and the body has generous bathtub floors to protect against mud, slush, and splashing rain. This has mesh windows high on the tent near the roof as well as on both doors, which helps increase airflow in a historically low-ventilation category. This is built with a heavy-duty 70D nylon, and while it takes longer to pitch than a single-hub pole system, the tensioners and guyout points make a taut, stable pitch.

Good For Extreme Weather

Rab Latok Mountain 2 Tent

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Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (12)Highly storm resistant
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (13)Breathable single-layer shelter
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (14)Vestibule sold separately; adds another 1lb 4oz

Key Specs

Best ForMountaineering, backpacking
Weight4 lb
Capacity2-person
Interior Space31.5 sq ft
EntryOne front-entry door, vestibule sold separately

Sturdy enough for base camp needs but light enough weight to carry up the side of a peak, this sturdy, weatherproof shelter has a high wind resistance and enough venting to withstand days trapped in the tent as storms rage outside. This is a single-layer shelter built with 15-denier Pertex Shield Air, which is an air-permeable waterproof / breathable fabric.

It will feel different than a standard backpacking tent with a separate body and rain fly, but the simple pitch and breathable membrane helps keep the weight low without losing weatherproofing. This has a zippered main entry with a vestibule sold separately, and a zippered ventilation window near the foot of the tent.

This tent was designed to withstand deep cold and high winds, making it our pick for high-exposure expeditions, as well as a good all-around four-season option for everything from basecamping to backpacking in inclement weather.

Big Enough For Group Base Camp Expedition

The North Face Bastion 4

Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (16)Weather-resistant to deep cold
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (17)Thoughtfully designed for longer-term living
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (18)Only used for base camp, less versatile

Key Specs

Best ForBase camp
Weight12 lb, 4 oz
Capacity4-person
Interior Space61.5 sq ft
EntryTwo doors, one vestibule

Perfect for guided groups, base-camp ski tours, or larger expeditions, this house-like shelter was designed in conjunction with backcountry athletes who provided input for structure, weatherproofing, livable space, and entry passage necessities. This is a highly rated shelter for deep cold, with weatherproofing tested and rated down to -60 degrees F.

This can work for groups of varying sizes, with enough space for more than four, but enough room for long-term comfort for smaller groups. It has multiple weatherproof venting windows, interior pockets, and gear loops for organizing, and a generous dry-entry vestibule so you can keep the wet slop out of the living space. This tent is time consuming to set up, so the idea is to leave it at base camp for an extended trip, and use it for sleeping and gear storage during expedition days or summit pushes.

Most Stable

Black Diamond Fitzroy

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Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (20)Highly stable in strong winds
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (21)Self-equalizing guyout points
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (22)Heavy for a single-wall tent

Key Specs

Best ForWinter backpacking
Weight6 lb, 4 oz
Capacity3-person
Interior Space36 sq ft
EntryTwo doors, vestibule sold separately

This single-wall, freestanding tent was built for severe weather, with a tight pitch, squat design, and steep walls that can withstand high winds without accumulating snow. The simple, streamlined build leaves little chance of flapping materials, and the strong pole architecture can withstand severe winds without flattening or snapping.

The poles are pitched from the inside, which can take some getting used to (practice in your yard first!) but will get you out of the weather faster once you have the technique dialed. This is a good option for campsites with potential high exposure and strong winds. Like the Rab Latok, the Fitzroy vestibule is sold separately and adds some weight to an already somewhat heavy shelter.

Ultralight Four-Season Tent

Samaya 2.0 Tent

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Pros
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (24)Breathable wall material and zippered vent
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (25)DCF components increase weatherproofing without added weight
Cons
  • The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (26)Less wind resistant than heavier models

Key Specs

Best ForMountaineering, winter backpacking
Weight3 lb 5 oz
Capacity2-person
Interior Space26.9 sq ft
EntryOne side-entry door, vestibule sold separately

With a weight of less than 3.5 pounds, this four-season tent is a top pick for solo winter backpackers or mountaineers who want the extra space of a two-person tent without a weight penalty. This shelter ranks higher in breathability than other shelters of similar design and size, utilizing a three-layer material called Nanovent for the tent walls.

This weighs several pounds less than the Fitzroy, and while the structure doesn’t have quite the same stability, the livable space feels more generous thanks to a ridge pole for increased shoulder room. The removable roof and bathtub floor are made with Dyneema, which increases the cost, but it’s still one of the best materials when it comes to strength-to-weight ratio, waterproofing, and abrasion-resistance.

This is an expensive shelter, but if you’re looking for a lightweight, all-around winter tent that can serve you well on alpine expeditions and extended winter backpacking trips, this is it.

The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (27)

Q+A

The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (28)

Maggie Slepian

Maggie Slepian is a full-time freelance writer in the outdoor industry and has tested gear professionally for almost ten years—she is an avid backpacker, trail runner, bikepacker, and horseback rider and has thru-hiked thousands of miles on the Appalachian, Colorado, and Ouachita trails, along with backcountry travel on terrain including coastal trails, the desert, and high alpine peaks. Maggie has written for New York Magazine, Huffington Post, REI, and Outside. She is a columnist with Backpacker Magazine and is the co-founder of BackpackingRoutes.com. Contact her at MaggieSlepian.com.

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The Elements are No Match for These Great 4-Season Tents (2024)

FAQs

Are 4-season tents warmer than 3-season tents? ›

4-season tents are warmer and more durable than 3-season tents, and sometimes even lighter. These tents will add about 10ºF in warmth and keep out the snow and wind.

Do you really need a four season tent? ›

At the most basic level, a 4-season (or winter) tent is designed to withstand extreme weather, holding up to fierce winds and heavy snow loads. A 3-season (or backpacking) tent is designed for lightweight performance and breathability.

What does "4-season tent" mean? ›

4-season tents are specifically built for use in winter conditions, rather than all year round, when they are likely to be unnecessarily hot and heavy. 3-season tents can handle light winds, general rain and even a bit of snow.

Do 4 season tents stay warm? ›

A 4 -season tent offers more durable fabric, a stronger structure, and cleverly designed ventilation to keep the warmth inside. The flysheet should also be lower to the ground to keep out any snow, rain and gusts of wind to keep you protected.

Can you use a four-season tent in summer? ›

For those who do more winter camping, a four-season is a great second tent. Made for ski and snowshoe camping, they're also ideal for mountaineering in summer, when snow, wind, and cold are possible.

How cold is too cold for tent camping? ›

40° F and Under Is Too Cold

But most pro winter campers agree that 40° F (4° C) is when things start to get uncomfortable. At 40° F, you'll start to feel the chill. It won't be unbearable, but you'll want to have a thick coat and warm sleeping bag on hand.

Why are cabins better than tents? ›

A cabin rental offers more shelter than tent camping. Basic luxuries like electricity and air conditioning are available. Access to furniture and kitchenette. Plenty of space for family.

Can you live in a tent all winter? ›

While a modern four-season mountain tent – or even a bivvy – may be tolerable for a few nights out in sub-zero temperatures, when it comes to truly living outdoors for an extended period in a winter environment, nothing beats a heated tent.

How can you tell if a tent is good quality? ›

Things to look for in a quality tent
  1. Tested for real life. What type of testing do MEC Label tents go through? ...
  2. Leak-proof. A good sealed seam can withstand a downpour and won't be compromised by the hot sun. ...
  3. Ventilation. ...
  4. Durable waterproof floor. ...
  5. Heavy-duty zippers. ...
  6. Aluminum poles. ...
  7. Serious pegs. ...
  8. Easy to set up.
Mar 22, 2017

What tent is really waterproof? ›

Tent fabrics treated with silicone are both very water resistant and remain lightweight. Silicone also doesn't break down as quickly when exposed to the elements. Teflon Coating: Though less common, some tents are processed with a Teflon coating. Teflon is very waterproof, resists stains, and has great durability.

What tents do special forces use? ›

Liri Tent provides military-grade tents tailored for housing solutions. Crafted with the highest quality materials, these tents offer a durable and practical housing option for military personnel in various environments.

What is a 5 season tent? ›

Expeditions or five-season tents are those made to withstand extreme mountain and snow conditions.

How much wind can a 4-season tent withstand? ›

Most tents are designed to withstand average wind speeds ranging from 15 to 40 miles per hour (24 to 64 kilometers per hour). These are typical conditions for moderate camping environments. High-quality tents constructed with durable materials can handle higher wind speeds.

Can tents withstand hail? ›

In the case of a heavy storm, your tent can easily be ravaged by hail, high winds and rain. During a thunderstorm, the safest place to be is inside a large, structurally sound building with plumbing and electrical wiring.

Which tents are the warmest? ›

Top Winter Tents
  1. MSR Access 3P.
  2. The North Face - VE 25.
  3. The North Face Mountain 25 Tent.
  4. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV2 Expedition Tent.
  5. Black Diamond HiLight 2 Person Tent.
  6. Mountain Hardwear Trango.
Dec 11, 2023

What is the temperature range for a 3-season tent? ›

A non-winterized 3-season tent is usually only about 5 degrees F warmer than the outdoor temperatures. Winterized 3-season and 4-season tents will range from 10-20 degrees warmer, while specialty expedition or insulated tents could be up to 25 degrees F warmer than outside temperatures.

What is the difference between 3 seasons and 4 seasons? ›

The biggest difference between these two types of season rooms is the level of usage you will experience. A four-season room can be utilized all year long, while a three-season room does not have the same capacity to be heated and cooled and is, therefore, not usable space in too warm and too cold of climates.

Are rooftop tents warmer than ground tents? ›

Warmer. Because good roof tents have thicker canvas material than almost all regular tents and they also have a hard ABS/fibreglass shell, it means heat doesn't escape from them as easily, so you can stay nice and cosy in there during the night.

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