If you’re here, my guess is that you’ve already got a good few outdoor trips under your belt and you’re looking for the next challenge. A winter expedition is a very natural graduation but gear requirements can be quite different. Which means it’s worth taking a bit of time to research the best 4 season tents on the market to make sure you get the right tent at the right price.
I get asked for winter tent recommendations quite a lot but the thing is people have different priorities. Are you most worried about the cold? Are we talking about pitching in a campsite? Or will you be hiking a trail for 10 days? Are you an ultralight junkie?
As you can guess, there’s no one-size-fits-all “best winter tent” because everybody’s needs are different. But here's my opinion for a range of situations.
Eureka Alpenlite 2XT (2-person winter tent)
MSR Access 2
ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2
Kelty Yellowstone 4
Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6
Moose Country Gear Base Camp 6
North Face Assault 2 (Summit Series)
High Peak South Col 3
This tent is a real cracker. You can throw pretty much any sort of weather at her, including heavy snow, and she’ll hold up just fine. There’s tons of ventilation options so you’ll have no fear about condensation. It has a good array of pockets to stow your bits and pieces. And it’s not going to break the bank.
Like a lot of 4-season tents it's not the most compact. And it's quite small on the inside (so if you’re not a couple you’ll want to be close friends to sleep two people). The most annoying thing is a slightly weird rear vestibule that you can only get to from the outside...
If you want an all-weather tent that's super durable and light enough to thru-hike with, you're going to love this option!
The Access comes in 1-person (3.5lbs), 2-person (4.4lbs) http://amzn.to/2kiBtds and 3-person (5.3lbs) http://amzn.to/2jKICzk versions and has been designed especially with back-country skiers (and therefore snow) in mind. Because of the design, there’s a really good crossover with other winter climates and it stands up well to wind and rain too.
Some owners have reported issues with a bit of condensation. My take on this is that it’s more about managing expectations. MSR have a great reputation which translates into a bit of a premium when it comes to price. So when things don’t go according to plan, a sense of disappointment sets in. I personally have not experienced any condensation, but it seems that it’s potentially one of the few downsides of owning an otherwise excellent piece of winter kit.
If you’ve got the money and you want a winter tent you can rely on, then you won’t be disappointed by this range. Personally I’d go for the Hilleberg over the Access 1. But if you’re looking for a well-constructed, lightweight, durable, 2-person or 3-person winter tent you’ll struggle to find a better balance of features than the Access 2 or 3.
Pros - multiple sizes to choose from, solid build, very lightweight
Cons - Bit pricey, some reports of light condensation
This is a very durable little number. It’s great in snow, rain and wind. It’s also very roomy compared to most 2-person tents. Super-easy to put up and it’s got a fantastic little gear loft. There’s a lot to love about this tent and when you consider the price tag, it’s great value for money.
The Less Good
Unfortunately it is bulky; you’re going to need a fairly large pack to stow it in, even if you use compression sacks. The worst part for me is it’s a bit of a pain to pack up. I like to get moving quickly in the mornings so extra minutes packing using cold fingers can be quite frustrating.
If you like the look of the Eureka Alpenlite 2XT but it's a bit out of your budget this 4-season backpacking tent is a great alternative. Your compromises will be some extra bulk and fiddly packing up when you break camp. Neither of these issues are insurmountable and it makes for a great first winter tent.
Back to what I was saying about buying a more tradition tent and investing in different winter gear, the Kelty Yellowstone is a solid option at a reasonable price. You’ve got a range of sizes including 2-person, 4-person, 6-person and 8-person. It stands fairly tall. It’s going to keep you dry. And it’s going to last you for a good long time.
There’s no vestibule which means you either have to take your wet gear off outside before you come in, or bring your wet gear inside. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not unusual. You’ll also want to buy some extra stakes to keep the fly down in winter weather (for some reason Kelty seem a bit stingy when it comes to stakes).
If you’re willing to invest in a winter sleeping pad and a winter sleeping bag to keep you warm, then this tent is going to keep you sheltered and dry. It’s not my first choice for a winter backpacking tent, but if you’re looking for a few days away with friends or family, it’s one to seriously consider.
Pros - Sturdy, waterproof, great value
Cons - No vestibule, not the lightest tent
You can buy a 4-person or an 8-person version of this fabulously-spacious tent. There are two doors, two “rooms” (which you can easily turn into one big room) and at the front you can create an awning to extend the space even further.
But it’s not the space that’ll make you fall in love with this beast, it’s the fact it’s virtually bomb-proof. Unlike a lot of family tents, this one has a full rain fly which is guaranteed to keep you dry. The design is so sturdy it won’t budge in all but the strongest of winds. It really is a superb base station tent, suitbale for all weathers and extremely durable.
Set up is fairly straight forward. You can definitely do it solo (though 2 people would make it quicker). When it comes to the take down Big Agnes have provided a really well-thought out carry case. Every part of the tent has its place marked out so you pack it away easily and spot any missing parts.
Look, you’re not going to get a large, sturdy, durable, 4-season tent on the cheap. And the Big Agnes Flying Diamond ain’t cheap. That in itself isn’t so bad, because if you intend to use it a lot for the next decade or two, it will pay back your investment.
But at the price I would have expected them to throw in a footprint (which they don’t). And I was disappointed to discover that the stakes felt cheap. For tents at the lower end of the market, I expect to have to invest in a few extra bits and pieces to make things easy and comfortable. And I think BA have let themselves down a bit by not dotting every i and crossing every t. But these are just niggles at the end of the day.
A family doing some winter camping will find this a wonderful investment. It’s also going to work for winter hunting. And you know what, even though it 20lbs, I think that you could split it out across a small party to do some comfortable winter backpacking.
Basically, if you want a tent that will stand up to punishing weather season after season AND give you a bunch of space AND be really comfortable… this is going to work for you.
Pros - Built to last, really weatherproof, great space
Cons - It’s going to cost you, bad stakes, no footprint
While obviously smaller than the 8-person versions of the other two tents in this section, it’s still a good size. There’s a couple of vestibules for stashing gear (large one out front and a smaller one round back). It’s light, so you you’ve got a bit more flexibility when it comes to use (you’re not just restricted to car camping). It’s a really solid build with a full rain fly which will keep the rain, wind, cold and snow at bay. Setup is easy and it packs down into a slim 2ft bag weighing a pretty reasonable 10lbs.
It’s a fine piece of kit at a great price point!
There are vestibules but there’s no porch. Now, I kinda view a porch as a bit of a nice-to-have so the absence of one isn’t a big deal. But the problem here is that the vestibules mean you end up having to skip around your gear to get in and out of the tent. It’s not a big deal, but it is a bit of a compromise.
The only other thing is you’re not going to fit a large group or a large family in here. It feels more like a tent for sleeping in than a tent for living in.
If you’re in a smaller group and are planning to use a tent primarily for sleeping then this is a really good, solid option. I can’t see anyone regretting buying it.
Pros - Easy set up, high quality build
Cons - No porch, not suitable for big groups
The 2-person version weighs in at just under 5lbs. We’re not talking ultra-light here but they are both good lightweight winter companions. They are really spacious (you can trust their size ratings, unlike many!). The seated headspace is phenomenal, it’s got great gear pockets and two vestibules.
Above all, this is a tent you can trust on the side of a mountain!
The only quibble I really have with the Battle Mountain is that it’s a bit on the bulky side when packed. If you love you’re lightweight gear you’ll probably like a small pack so you’ll want to keep that in mind.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time on the side of a snowy mountain, you really won’t regret having the Battle Mountain with you. For those who are a little less dedicated to winter camping, you might prefer something with slightly lower specs.
Pros - great space, very sturdy
Cons - big bulky when packed
This tent is bombproof and will last through many, many seasons of harsh weather. 50mph winds? No problem, the guyline tie-outs will keep it steady. Snow? It’ll hold up in all but the wettest of heavy snow falls.
There’s loads of interior space. It’s rated as a 3-person tent and you could just about fit 3 people in. There are two large vestibules that are fully enclosed for gear. All in all, it’s widely considered to be a truly excellent winter tent.
When I say it’s a winter tent, I mean just that. It's not exactly a "4-season tent" because it's not going to be very comfortable in the summer heat. It’s really a tent for fall, winter & spring. It also weighs in at about 10lbs-12lbs (depending on what you take and what you leave). OK to split up between 2-3 people but not great for a solo backpacking trip.
If you’re needing a solo backpacking option or a true 4-season tent that’ll be comfortable in the summer, there are better options for you. But if you want a pure-play cold weather tent for winter backpacking as a couple or in a small group, this is a really, really good choice. The price is pretty incredible for the amount of use you’ll get!
Best Tents for Winter Camping
I think it’s all too easy to stay indoors during the winter. Let’s face it; it’s dark, it’s wet and it’s cold. Why wouldn’t you want to just light a fire, dust off the board games and wait for spring?
I’m not going to lie, I sometimes find it really difficult to motivate myself to leave the house when the conditions outside are just deeply unappealing. But you know, I can’t think of a time when I’ve regretted making the effort...
In Norway they have a saying that you may be familiar with: "Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær" - “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”. And the reality is, if you’re prepared and you have the right gear, even the worst weather is unlikely to ruin a trip.
So there’s no good reason not to head off for a long weekend camping with friends or family. In this section I’m not going to talk about tents for hiking and backpacking (that’s a different section). But I am going to make some recommendations for winter tents that will let you escape to a campsite or a few miles up a trail and spend a few nights in relative comfort.
This is a really good-sized tent. You can choose between a 6 person version or an 8 person version. It’s going to stand up well in a stiff breeze and you are going to keep dry even in a fairly heavy downpour. The porch is a really nice feature allowing you to sit out while staying under cover. It’s straightforward to set up. And the whole thing packs down into a bag that’s about a foot and a half which makes it quite neat for the size of tent.
The Less Good
The fly has good coverage over most of the tent but it doesn’t cover the screened porch so you might need to throw a tarp over that to keep water out and retain a bit of heat. The constant flow of air does make it a problem for some people when it gets cold and definitely counts against it as a winter tent. So while it is rated for 4-seasons, you’ll really want to trust the rest of your gear to keep you toasty.
Great Choice If...
If you want a budget winter tent for family camping that you can trust to keep you sheltered and dry, this is a good option. You’ll definitely be good as low as 40°. But as you drift into the 30s you’ll want to pay attention to the rest of your gear )and you might want to consider using a tent heater).
Pros - Good value, solid
Cons - Not good for a harsh winter, not the most durable
Best Lightweight Winter Tents
If weight is your overwhelming priority, then price is going to have to be the main trade-off. Here I’ve lined up 3 of the best best ultralight winter tent options. They are pretty awesome!
One of the most telling testimonials for this tent is that it has been used on extended polar expeditions. So you know it’s a solid design. And yet the weight is a mere 2.8lbs and it’s small enough to slip into the side pocket of many backpacks. (For the technical among you, this is because the Kerlon 1200 fabric has one of the best strength to weight ratios on the market).
Unlike a lot of 1 person tents, you can sit up properly in the middle without feeling feel like the walls are bearing down you. There’s enough room for all your gear. Set up and tear down are incredibly simple which means if you’re on the move daily, you’ll really appreciate the design.
The Less Good
It’s not cheap. But you really are getting what you pay for.
Great Choice If...
If you’ve got the budget, you’re not going to regret buying this tent. So much thought and craftsmanship has gone into the design. Hilleberg is such a highly regarded maker, every dollar you spend on this will be paying for a benefit. One for the outdoor connoisseur!
Pros - super lightweight, incredibly strong, beautiful design
Cons - None
Best Winter Backpacking Tents
Backpacking in winter is wildly different from backpacking in any other season. And, as ever, the gear needs of a backpacker are a delicate balance. Everything has to be light enough to carry for a full day, to be sturdy enough to stand up to quite a battering, to be easy to set up, easy to pack up and easy to repair if anything goes wrong.
And of course budget is never far from front of mind either. I’ve created two different sections for winter backpacking tents. In this section I look at a selection of all-rounder tents for winter backpacking. Which is to say weight is only one consideration of several. If you are an ultralight gear junkie, you might want to skip to my list of best lightweight winter tents.
Considerations for a Winter Camping Tent
All winter tents need to be tough, stable and waterproof, so all my recommendations take that into account. In addition to that, I’m going to assume that size is one of the biggest priorities for a winter camping trip.
Size & Weight
I see winter camping as a bit more sociable than walking a winter trail might be. I imagine you’re probably going as a group or as a family so you want a space that will allow for some socialising. And because you’re probably looking at creating a base camp to spend a few consecutive days, weight is probably a fairly low-ish priority when it comes to buying criteria.