You can’t let a little thing like snow and cold stop you from getting back to nature and engaging in one of the most time-honored traditions: camping. If you’re one of those summertime only campers, or three-seasoners who never even tries to get your gear together and go out during the blustery months, then we challenge you to snap up a winter tent and give it a try. If you do it right with plenty of warm layers, a roaring fire, some serious homemade cocoa with some serious aged whiskey backing it up, it will be the holiday gift you never knew you wanted.
Anyone considering taking a winter trip needs to be concerned about safety. Remember, in the rule of threes you can only survive three hours without proper shelter, so a bad tent isn’t just uncomfortable, but can be deadly. We’d strongly advise you take every precaution, and that means taking along a tent that has bombproof insulation, excellent weatherproofing, and an easy setup so you spend less time toiling out in the brutal elements. To help you survive your cold-weather adventures, we humbly suggest the 8 best four season tents for winter camping.
ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 3
Pro: Sturdy 7000 series aluminum poles
Substantial Bargain: Though it’s 8 full pounds and essentially only a two-pole system with added single poles for the vestibules, this is a bargain for standard campers who want space to spare and loads of toughness at clearance prices. The vestibules are large enough to cook in without worrying about singing the fly, and you’ll be able to lay out flat or kneel easily unless you’re better than 6-and-a-half-feet tall. Set it up correctly, and it can shrug off glacial winds. Just don’t expect it to last for years to come.
REI Arete ASL 2
Pro: Tall and comfortable
Con: Awnings tend to capture drafts
Worthy Underdog: Trying to get a decent 4-seasoner that can actually hold up in winter and doesn’t run you more than $600 – $1000 is tough. That’s why we leave it to one of the biggest names in the outdoors, REI. Are you going to be climbing the highest alps in this? We doubt it, but for average outings in some pretty dodgy weather, you’re getting a helluva bargain with the ASL 2. It’s 5.5 lbs and feels comfortable for backpacking in any conditions. Pitching is color-coded and simple, but not “do it in high winds with gloves on” simple. Circulation is handled well for all weather conditions and the poles are the real story, as they’re all DAC Featherlite: top of the line.
Big Sky Chinook
Pro: Two doors with a huge gear area
Con: Some pole options are weak
Change-Up: The story of the Chinook begins with a three-season, two-person tent that is pitched with just a pair of poles for summer fun. Then, when the blustering starts and the bleak season begins, you add in the third pole to give you the resiliency needed for winter camping, even in 60 mph winds. The ridge pole can even bounce back from taking winds right across the broad side of the tent. You’ll want to go with the 9mm aluminum poles, as there are lighter options available, but they’re only good for hot, dry camping adventures and buckle when the snow flies.
Pro: Loads of inner pockets for storage
Con: Small vents
Weather Warrior: If you’re going to name a tent after the god of thunder, it had better be ready for anything. With six dual-diameter DAC poles, this fits the bill. Pitch in high winds and you’ll never have to hold it up. Throw it against heavy rains and you’ll laugh the night away. Using Catenary Cut floors, contact with the ground is reduced and helps keep wetness from finding its way underneath you. The side walls stand tall to drop condensation and provide additional space on the inside. It even has two doors with zips that don’t jangle for quieter nights with less trouble from mere mortals.
Mountain Hardwear EV 2
Pro: Incorporated vestibule shaves weight
Con: Difficult to pitch on flat dirt
Action-Oriented: The EV stands for Ed Viesturs, who was the first American to scale each of the 14 mountains that rise more than 26,000 feet. As far as single wall tents go, this is tough as nails, and extremely comfortable, though during the summer months you’re going to want to avoid spending too much time indoors. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it has decent ventilation that uses some lower vents that can keep a nice cross breeze, but they’re just not always enough when a heatwave hits. Employing three DAC Featherlite NSL poles, it will stand and deliver under the harshest onslaughts nature can come up with.
Crux X1 Assault
Pro: Fast setup even in wind
Con: Small floorplan
Dry Times: Serious winter wetness will give you chills faster than a biting wind, which is why the Assault uses X-tex fabric, a polyester that uses activated carbon to absorb water before it can condense and leave you damp. With a 50D rating, it’s as tough as it is able to handle your water woes. You won’t even need to hide from the walls, which is good because space is hard to come by with only 47-inches worth of real estate. The small size makes the three pole construction with uninterrupted sleeves work well for keeping winds quiet and snow from sneaking in.
Exped Venus III
Pro: Won’t sag in wet conditions
Con: Loads of fly connectors
Max Headroom: This is a spacious tent, particularly if you’re going it alone. With floor space for three people, you’ll be able to stretch out in the double-walled enclosure, or lay back in the vestibule with its generous drip line. All mesh walls keep condensation down to nil, though the high walls tend to be bad with high winds, even if they do push everything to near-vertical which is what accounts for the spacious feeling of the interior. The color-coded guides helps with setup, but with all the fly ties, it’s a little finicky until you get the hang of it.
Pro: Snow slides right off
Con: Not adept at handling shifting winds
True Alpiner: Meant for serious outings by mountaineers, this is a beast of a tent that prefers its winters cold and windy. Tipping the scales at a hair over 6 lbs. the Jannu is easy to carry and can be setup from the outside in just a few minutes, making it the go-to choice for serious sub-zero temperatures. It’s probably overkill if you’re not going to be doing technical climbing and need a sturdy basecamp outlet, but it’s never too much when the mercury drops and the wind picks up. It’s a double wall tent that doesn’t require extra setup since the interior hangs from the exterior at all times. A style that is fast, stylish, and simple.
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