When the temperatures drop, it is imperative that you revise your gear and make sure it can stand up to what Mother Nature might throw at it.
From heavy rain to blizzards and snowstorms, a 4-season tent will offer more robust protection against the elements and give you a better chance of staying warm and dry.
Here we provide a summary of the best cold weather / winter tents out there, as well as a brief guide to choosing the perfect winter tent for your camping experience.
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We reviewed over 23 different cold weather / winter tents for camping for this article. Below are the best cold weather / winter tents that made our short list.
Read our complete buyers guide for cold weather / winter tents.
The ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 is the perfect all-rounder and it is surprisingly affordable for what it has to offer.
With a continuous pole system, it is quick to set up and has sufficient space for two people and their accompanying gear. While it's not the most rugged, it will be more than capable of enduring an average winter.
Weighing just over 5 lbs, this two-person tent from Black Diamond is perfect for backpacking.
A compact classic dome tent, the Black Diamond Eldorado is still large enough to fit two people and their gear comfortably. It offers the perfect compromise between protection against the elements and portability.
The Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6 is touted as a 3-season plus tunnel tent. So while it is not designed with extreme winters in mind, it mimics a traditional winter tent with a four-intersection point pole structure that provides improved stability.
With an ample 92 square feet (8.5 square meters) of living space, it is a versatile, all-rounder for a small family or group.
The Black Diamond HiLight 3P Tent is an excellent compromise between rugged and lightweight. This is a single wall tent, which is quick to set up, and designed with steep sides to prevent snow buildup.
This tent is a classic design, bare basics tent. There are optional add-ons that you can buy to upgrade this tent if you need to.
The GeerTop 4-Season Tent is a versatile and affordable option for the recreational camper. It packs down small so you can even take it backpacking.
The GeerTop 4-Season Tent has good water-resistance and UV protection and can be used without the outer layer in warmer weather, truly making it a 4-season tent.
If it is you versus the weather, you want to make sure that you are equipped with the best gear you can afford. A solid and reliable tent is an important starting point.
For the regular cold weather camper, have a look at the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2. Compared to other tents with similar features, the Tasmanian is very well priced. While it is rated as a three-person tent, rather use it as a one or two person tent for improved comfort.
If cold weather backpacking is your thing, you need a tent that will not only protect you from the elements but one that won’t break your back as you carry it around. A lightweight tent will usually be single layer, but a compromise of weight does not have to equate to poor water- or weather-resistance. The Black Diamond Eldorado is such a tent. It is compact and weighs just over 5 lbs, making it the perfect 4-season tent to pack up and take along with you on a trek. The HiLight 3P Tent is another super lightweight offering from Black Diamond. While it is a 3 sleeper, at under 5 lbs, it weighs less than the Eldorado.
If you are looking for a large tent for your family, consider the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. It is not rated specifically for extreme cold weather but it does have all the traditional features of a 4-season tent to ensure that it can stand up to strong winds and cold weather. With two doors and a large front vestibule and a smaller rear one, this 6 sleeper tent offers great space for people and gear.
The budget-conscious, occasional camper will not go wrong with the GeerTop 4-Season Tent. This classic design 2-person dome tent is incredibly versatile. It features a full coverage rainfly that can be removed, allowing this tent to be used in warmer weather as well.
The name “4-Season Tent” is slightly misleading as you will generally only use a 4-season tent in winter. A winter tent is designed to handle inclement weather like strong winds, hail, and snow.
4-Season tents are designed to protect you from snow and ice as well as block freezing wind from getting inside. They have thicker, stronger frames to ensure that they survive the harshest of conditions.
Your tent is your first line of defense against the extreme winter weather, so the decision to buy one should not be taken lightly.
Unless this is a once off trip, buy the best you can afford. The initial investment will quickly pay itself off each time you use the tent.
3-Season tents are designed for mild weather and summer camping. They are not has durable or robust as 4-season tents and will provide little protection from strong winds and snowy conditions.
Unlike 4-season tents, 3-season tents have mesh windows to provide plenty of ventilation. This would not be helpful in winter as the cold wind and rain would be able to penetrate the mesh and get inside the tent.
If you are planning on going camping in a harsh climate, make sure you invest in a 4-season tent as a 3-season would not hold up well or protect you from the elements.
A winter tent should not have any mesh panels. This will ensure body heat is captured and kept inside, while the cold stays outside. All the walls and floors should be made of a strong polyester or nylon fabric that is waterproof, windproof and rugged. A fly on a winter tent should extend to the ground, thus keeping the cold wind out and ensuring that snow does not drift in.
Stability is generally determined by the pole configuration and the structure of the tent. A typical cross intersection is a proven design that holds up well to strong winds. Look for steep walls that don’t allow snow to build up and add compromising weight to the tent.
A round dome shape will stand up better to strong winds than a cabin style tent.
Opt for tried and tested fabrics. Fabric is measured in denier – which indicates the denseness, durability and thickness of the fabric. A higher denier count is preferred in a winter tent.
Any fabric that is described as ''Ripstop'' is great. Ripstop refers to the weave pattern of the fabric; usually nylon that inhibits tears and rips, making your tent more durable.
Aluminium poles are generally strongest and preferred for stability.
Waterproof coatings are rated in millimeters (mm). A higher number equates to better waterproofing. A 1000 mm rating indicates that the fabric can withstand a 1000 mm column of water for over a minute before some moisture will seep through the fabric.
Waterproof tents will have features like taped seams, strong footprints and reinforced corners so make sure you look out for these things in a 4-season tent.
You don’t want to spend 20 minutes in the freezing cold, with gloves on, trying to set up your tent. Look for something quick and easy. Some tents can actually be set up from the inside. While this might take getting used to, it is very convenient being able to be protected from the elements while you pitch your tent. As always, practice setting up and taking down your tent before you head out on your camping trip.
Trying to open a tent door in a blizzard with gloves on is downright hard. Large zipper tags are easier to grip. Having more than one entrance will allow you to take advantage of wind direction and also, if an entrance is blocked up with snow, you still have access from an alternate opening. If there are a number of you sharing the tent, it is also much more practical having more than one entrance point.
It might seem counter-intuitive that you want to allow cold air into the tent when you are trying to keep warm, but if you don’t ventilate properly, the condensation from breathing will result in an uncomfortable and humid environment. Having smart vents that allow you to control the internal temperature will make it easier to stay in the tent and wait out bad weather.
Considering that you will have to do most things inside your tent if the temperature outside is too extreme, it is helpful to have some extra space in addition to a sufficient sleeping area. A large, enclosed vestibule is a useful feature of a 4-season tent as you may also need to store your gear inside to avoid it being snowed under or blown away. As with all tents, if you want more living space, use the manufacturer capacity rating as a suggestion only and considering upsizing.
Not all tents are created equal, and not all affordable tents are of poor quality. It is worth comparing tents within the same price bracket and seeing which one ticks the most boxes from your list of requirements. If you are a frequent camper, buy the best quality that you can afford.
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