If you’re an avid camper, at some point you’re going to want to test your mettle and head out into the great outdoors during the winter months. Even when the temperatures drop and the snow starts to cover the landscape, the mountains are a great place to enjoy some fresh air and adventure during the colder months of the year.
However, heading into the backcountry in the winter can be quite risky, especially if you don’t have the right gear. Cold, wet, and windy conditions are the name of the game in the winter, so you need to be prepared for whatever the mountains might throw at you.
The answer? The best 4 season tent. Any good four season shelter that’s worth its salt is going to be the ultimate survival tent when the weather takes the turn for the worse. However, with so many models out there today, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit over your head researching different four season tents.
That’s where we come in the picture. Up next, we’ve put together the ultimate buyer’s guide to four season tents, complete with all the information you need to get the tent that’s right for your needs. We’ve even reviewed ten of our favorite tent models so you can spend less time researching winter tents on the internet and more time enjoying the outdoors. Let’s get to it!
If you don't have time for the details, here are our picks for the best rated 4 season tents:
- 1MSR Access - Best for 1 Person
- 2Black Diamond Eldorado - Best for 2 Person
- 3Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 - Best for 3 Person
- 4The North Face Bastion 4 - Best for 4 Person
- 5Big Agnes Mad House 6 - Best for 6 Person
- 6Marmot Lair - Best for 8 Person
- 7White Duck Outdoors Premium Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent
- 8Alps Mountaineering Taurus 4 - Best Budget
- 9Black Diamond Bombshelter - Best Expedition Tent
- 10Black Diamond Mega Light - Best Lightweight Winter Shelter
Table of Contents
- What is a 4 Season Tent?
- 4 Season vs 3 Season Tents
- 4 Season Tent Types
- What to Look For in a 4 Season Tent?
- Best 4 Season Tent Brands
- Best 4 Season Tents On The Market Reviews
- 1. MSR Access - Best for 1 Person
- 2. Black Diamond Eldorado - Best for 2 Person
- 3. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 - Best for 3 Person
- 4. The North Face Bastion 4 - Best for 4 Person
- 5. Big Agnes Mad House 6 - Best for 6 Person
- 6. Marmot Lair - Best for 8 Person
- 7. White Duck Outdoors Premium Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent
- 8. Alps Mountaineering Taurus 4 - Best Budget
- 9. Black Diamond Bombshelter - Best Expedition Tent
- 10. Black Diamond Mega Light - Best Lightweight Winter Shelter
- The Verdict
What is a 4 Season Tent?
Okay, first things first: What is a 4 season tent? Well, simply put, any tent that you can use in the winter months is going to be considered a “four season tent.” However, since there is no international standard for what a “four season tent” really is, it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide what you need for your adventures.
In our minds, any good 4 season tent will be able to withstand heavy snowfall and the high winds that are typical in mountainous regions in the winter months. Plus, a good winter shelter will trap heat well to help campers stay warm while also staying breathable to reduce condensation inside the tent.
4 Season vs 3 Season Tents
In fact, the best way to describe a four season tent is to compare it to a three season tent. Here are the main differences:
4 Season Tent
3 Season tent
4 Season Tent Types
There are many different types of 4 season tents out there, each made for a specific purpose. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind:
Mountaineering 4 season tents are some of the burliest shelters on the market today. These tents are specifically designed to weather the harshest storms on the planet, so you can expect thick, beefy poles and durable fabrics in any good mountaineering tent.
Generally speaking, you won’t find a four season mountaineering tent that can accommodate more than 2-4 people, as these tents are designed to be used on-the-go and need to be fairly portable. This means that they often aren’t very roomy, but they often have large vestibules for gear storage in harsh conditions.
Basecamp 4 season tents are made to be set up once and stay in place for days or weeks on end. These shelters are meant to house a lot of people (think, up to 10 or more) and are sometimes used just as a kitchen area or common meeting space in foul weather.
In general, basecamp tents are large, bulky, and heavy, but are built to withstand pretty harsh conditions. Most basecamp tents are geodesic in shape, which provides a good mix of durability and interior space.
Treeline tents are sort of like three season backpacking tents, but are often a bit burlier. They are meant to be used just around treeline (so at lower elevations) in the winter months, so they often have more durable rain flies and poles, as well as larger bathtub floors to keep the snow out. However, they’re generally not strong enough to hold up in a big storm in the mountains.
Canvas tents are large shelters made from durable cotton canvas. They are ideal for people at lower elevations, particularly at hunting camps and campgrounds, who want a spacious retreat in the winter months. Canvas tents can be used all year long, but are quite popular in the winter because many of them can be outfitted with a wood stove for extra warmth.
Car Camping Tents
Four season car camping tents are very similar to three season car camping tents, but they tend to have stronger poles and rain flies for use in heavy snow. Additionally, they tend to have less mesh on the inner tent body to help campers stay warmer in the winter months.
Unlike a tent, a tarp does not provide a fully enclosed living space. However, in heavy snow conditions, a quality tarp can be all you need to stay warm and dry in the mountains. Many winter campers opt for an ultralight tarp as their shelter, which can be pitched on the snow and provide a lot of protection from the wind and snowfall. However, they take a lot of practice to pitch properly, especially in challenging conditions.
What to Look For in a 4 Season Tent?
Buying a 4 season tent is a large investment, so it’s important that you know what to look for when you’re shopping around. Here are some of the key features to keep in mind when choosing your next 4 season tent:
Double vs. Single Wall
Modern 4 season tents feature either double or single wall constructions. Confused by what that means? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Basically, a double wall tent is any tent that has an interior body and an exterior rainfly. The job of the interior body is to provide breathability and some insulation while the rainfly protects you from the elements. Often, double wall tents will be more weatherproof than single wall tents, but they tend to be both heavier and bulkier than their single walled counterparts.
Alternatively, single wall tents put just one layer of fabric between you and the outside world. This means they are much lighter and packable than double wall tents, but they are often colder and less weatherproof.
Our advice? Unless you plan on heading out on an alpine climbing trip where every ounce makes a difference, you’d probably be happier with a double wall tent, even if it means a little extra weight in your pack.
Every tent has a maximum occupancy, however, the size of tent you need is wholly dependent on who you like to camp with. If you camp alone or with just one other person, then a one or two person tent will do just fine. If you have a family or lots of camping buddies, you may want a 4 person tent or even something larger.
Vestibules are like a tent’s garage space. They allow you to store your gear in a safe area while keeping the inside of your tent free of clutter. However, vestibules add weight and bulk to your tent, so there is a tradeoff here. Plus, you often have to buy 4 season vestibules separately and attach them to your tent if you want to use them.
While a 4 season tent is designed to keep you warm, it’s also important that they be breathable and well-ventilated. Generally, the more mesh a tent has, the more breathable, but with 4 season tents, there is often very little mesh integrated into the tent body.
Thus, the most breathable four season tents will have built-in ventilation points, which are often more effective than breathable fabrics. More often than not, the double wall tents will actually breathe more than a single wall tent because they have more vents and rely less on breathable fabrics in their design.
Setting up a tent can be a pain, so it’s important to find a tent that is quick and easy to pitch, even in foul conditions. Some new four season shelters even allow campers to pitch them from inside the tent, which protects you and your gear from moisture in harsh weather.
There’s no two ways about it: winter can be a wet and windy time of year. Thus, any good 4 season tent needs to be fully waterproof and strong enough to stay upright in strong winds. Exceptionally bad weather calls for a tent that’s made from a waterproof-breathable fabric that’s fully seam-sealed. Additionally, quality 4 season tents will be made with durable aluminum poles with a quality construction that can withstand high winds in the mountains.
No one likes buying new gear, only to have it break after a few trips of use. Thus, durability is always a concern when buying a new tent. Durable 4 season tents will come with beefy poles and thick rain flies that aren’t prone to breaking or ripping in the wind.
However, as you can imagine, durability is almost always a compromise between weight and cost, as it’s quite difficult to find a tent that is durable, lightweight, and affordable. Often, we need to sacrifice one of those three qualities when choosing a tent
Our advice? We’d prioritize durability in your four season tent, even if it means spending a bit of extra money. In the long run, if you have to buy a handful of different cheaper tent models because they don’t last very long, you’ll probably spend more money than you would’ve if you’d invested in a more durable tent in the first place.
Weight is a concern for all backcountry travelers, especially when you have to carry your gear on your back for days or weeks on end. Unfortunately, 4 season tents are almost always heavier than their 3 season counterparts. That being said, if weight is a huge concern for you, your best option is to get a single wall 4 season tent. Single wall options are going to almost always be lighter than the double wall options, but they do sacrifice both durability and weather-resistance along the way.
Just like the weight of a tent, the packed size of a shelter can greatly impact your camping experience, especially if you need to change campsites each night. While some tents pack down quite small, others are rather bulky, which can be problematic when you need to fit everything into your backpack each morning.
As you might imagine, single wall tents often pack down into a smaller size than a double wall tent. However, just like with weight, packed size is often a compromise between durability and cost, as more compact tents often use lighter, thinner materials.
Money, money, money. While many of us would like to be able to buy whatever gear we want without worrying about the cost, money is a major factor in a lot of our decision-making processes.
Our advice is to spend as much as you’re comfortable with on your new 4 season tent. While a higher cost does not always accompany a higher quality product, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a durable, versatile, quality 4 season tent for rock bottom prices.
Sure, if you only plan to occasionally use your 4 season tent for shoulder-season camping in a campground, you probably don’t need to break the bank. Alternatively, if you’re headed into the mountains for some winter mountaineering, a quality tent could make all the difference.
Best 4 Season Tent Brands
With so many different tent brands out there, it’s important that you trust the manufacturer of your gear. Here’s our take on three of the best 4 season tent brands around:
Salt Lake City-based equipment manufacturer, Black Diamond, was started as a technical climbing gear company by legendary mountaineer, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia fame. These days, Black Diamond is well known for producing some of the world’s best climbing, skiing, and hiking gear, and their tents are no exception.
Founded by a small group of disgruntled former Sierra Designs employees, Mountain Hardwear is a manufacturer of premium outdoor equipment for high-mountain technical adventures. Their line-up of tents is specifically designed to meet the needs of alpinists and mountaineers, so you can be sure that you’re getting the best quality 4 season tent out there when you choose a Mountain Hardwear tent.
Well known for their top-of-the-line camp stoves, MSR (Mountain Safety Research) makes some fantastic 4 season tents for backpacking and mountaineering, alike. MSR prides itself on quality, lightweight designs that are functional and versatile, so you can take your new MSR 4 season tent with you on any adventure.
Best 4 Season Tents On The Market Reviews
At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the different kinds of 4 season tents available to you. So, here’s our take on the 10 best 4 season tents on the market today:
1. MSR Access - Best for 1 Person
For those fast and light solo missions into the mountains during the winter months, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the MSR Access. This 1 person alpine tent is perfect for backcountry skiers, split borders, snowshoers, and mountaineers, alike who need a warm, yet lightweight shelter for the night.
Made with a central support system that’s designed to hold up in heavy snow and high winds, the Access is perfect for those wintertime conditions, especially near treeline. Plus, it uses a limited amount of mesh on the tent body to help insulate you from the cold while the rainfly’s Xtreme Shield waterproof coating is designed to keep you dry. With lots of interior space to relax and store your gear, there’s a lot to love with the MSR Access tent.
2. Black Diamond Eldorado - Best for 2 Person
Perhaps the burliest tent in this review, the Black Diamond Eldorado is a modern take on a classic, compact mountaineering tent. This tent features a spacious, 2 person interior that’s meant to accommodate taller people and lots of climbing gear.
The Eldorado is easily set up from the inside using two internal aluminum poles that make it simple to set up your tent without getting soaked in a storm. Although it’s a single wall tent, it has two zippered vents at the peak, one at the door, and one toward the bottom of the tent so it can breathe and ventilate to reduce interior condensation. Oh, and even though it’s a single wall backpacking tent, the Eldorado’s tough ToddTex fabric is ready to withstand the harshest of conditions.
3. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 - Best for 3 Person
Burly, yet comfortable, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 is the latest addition to Big Agnes’ line up of award-winning tents. Made to be taken anywhere in the world, the 3 person Copper Spur HV3 is one of the best rated expedition tents around for the money.
The Copper Spur HV3 uses a high-volume hub design and large diameter poles to help it hold up against mountain conditions and deep snowfall. It also has two doors with adjustable mesh/fabric windows so you can ventilate the tent quickly or batten down the hatches to stay warm. Plus, it’s super spacious inside, thanks to its high ceiling height and plentiful gear storage. What more could you want?
4. The North Face Bastion 4 - Best for 4 Person
For a fully weatherproof expedition tent, you can’t beat The North Face Bastion 4. This 4 person tent is one of the best rated models out there for high alpine use in the world’s most severe weather. Intended as a basecamp tent, the Bastion 4 features 40D silicone-coated and water-resistance treated ripstop nylon on the fly for maximum waterproof performance.
The Bastion 4 uses a combination of pole sleeves and pole clips to ensure the highest level of durability and stability in harsh conditions as well as a nylon bucket floor for waterproofing and structural support. The tent even comes with a large, spacious vestibule that’s perfect for storing gear and getting ready in the morning.
5. Big Agnes Mad House 6 - Best for 6 Person
One of the most versatile tents in our review, the 6 person Big Agnes Mad House 6 is a shelter that’s ready to handle any task. Featuring two doors, two vestibules, and the option to split the tent into two rooms, the Mad House 6 is a perfect 6 person tent for the family that likes to get out and explore.
Although it was originally made for mountaineering, the Mad House 6’s spacious interior design and plentiful gear storage options also make it ideal for use as a car camping tent. Its highly waterproof construction is great for rain or snow, while the integrated vents and windows can even keep you cool during the summer months, making the Mad House 6 a true year-round tent.
6. Marmot Lair - Best for 8 Person
The 8 person Marmot Lair is a palace of a tent, made specifically for base camping in harsh, high elevation environments. The Marmot Lair has a unique geodesic dome shape to hold up in high winds while also providing maximum interior living space and ceiling height.
This 8 person tent features two large D shaped doors and one vestibule, which is perfect for storing gear. It has a removable floor so it can be used as a communal camp dining or common area, as well as interior pockets to make gear storage easy. Oh, and it even has an integrated sunroof window on the fly for plenty of natural light.
7. White Duck Outdoors Premium Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent
The ultimate in luxury camping, this canvas tent from White Duck Outdoors is the perfect getaway shelter for hunting or family trips into the great outdoors. This four season tent is made with a highly durable cotton canvas fabric that’s fully water and UV resistant for maximum durability.
The White Duck Outdoors canvas tent offers plentiful living space, thanks to its 9’ ceiling height and steep wall design. It also includes both a standard bug mesh door and four windows for natural light during the summer months, as well as a 5” wide stove jack opening to keep you warm in the winter.
8. Alps Mountaineering Taurus 4 - Best Budget
If you’re a camper on a budget, the Alps Mountaineering Taurus 4 is one of the best rated 4 season tents for the money. For under $200, the Taurus 4 provides a simple, yet functional freestanding design that can keep you warm and dry in the winter months.
Featuring two vestibules and two doors, the Taurus 4 makes it easy to store your gear and get in and out of the tent at night. The Taurus’ mesh roof and integrated mesh windows provide ample airflow and ventilation while the 75D waterproof-treated polyester fly keeps snow and rain on the outside.
9. Black Diamond Bombshelter - Best Expedition Tent
Tried, tested, and trusted, the Black Diamond Bombshelter is the ultimate expedition tent for the windiest of environments. This dome tent features a two door, two vestibule design for maximum comfort and gear storage.
Made from ToddTex single wall fabric, the Bombshelter is relatively lightweight, yet durable and breathable while also keeping you dry in the rain and the snow. The Bombshelter’s dome design is also made to withstand the worst storms, so you can hunker down and dream of bluebird skies in the mountains.
10. Black Diamond Mega Light - Best Lightweight Winter Shelter
Unlike the rest of the tents in this review, the Black Diamond Mega Light is a purpose-built lightweight year-round shelter that can keep your pack weight down while keeping you dry. Although you can buy the separate Mega Bug to use in the summer months, the Mega Light is the ultimate lightweight winter shelter, especially if you dig yourself a small tent platform and pitch it above your sleeping bags.
At just over 2lbs packed weight, the Mega Light uses one sturdy aluminum pole and can be pitched in nearly any environment. You can use the Mega Light as a winter survival tent or simply pitch it for the rain while you cook. Although it’s not a tent for anyone, the Mega Light is perfect for the gram weenies among us who aren’t willing to splurge on that extra weight.
Here are our answers to some of your top questions:
What Makes a Tent a 4 Season Tent?
First and foremost, a four season tent is any tent that is designed to be used all year round, even in the winter months. To be considered a four season tent, a shelter must be able to withstand fairly heavy snow loads and be warm enough for winter use. However, there really isn’t an international standard for what is considered a “4 season tent.”
Basically, it’s up to consumers to decide what kind of tent is appropriate for the conditions they face. In our reviews, we only included tents that we personally would be comfortable taking into the outdoors during the winter months with cold temperatures (well below 0 degrees Celsius/32 degrees Fahrenheit) and heavy snowfall. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you live somewhere with mild winters, some of these tents might be a bit overkill, unless you plan to travel to the mountains and camp there.
When Do I Need a 4 Season Tent?
Anyone who plans to go camping in well below-freezing temperatures or in places with heavy snowfall would benefit from using a 4 season tent. However, even in the spring, fall, and summer, a 4 season tent has its uses. Indeed, since four season tents tend to be more durable and robust in severe weather, a four season tent is a good option for some summer mountaineering trips.
That being said, if you plan to go car camping at your local campground, a four season tent might be a bit more than you need. Really, it all comes down to a judgment call based on the conditions you expect to experience on your camping trip.
How Do I Stay Warm in a 4 Season Tent?
Staying warm in a 4 season tent is just like staying warm in a 3 season tent. You’ll want to be sure you have a warm enough sleeping bag and a quality sleeping pad before you head into the backcountry. However, in the winter, you’ll also want to bring a plethora of extra layers to stay warm at night. If none of that works, you can also try filling up a hard plastic water bottle (like a Nalgene) with warm water and use that for a bit of extra warmth at night in your sleeping bag.
How Do I Get a 4 Season Tent Back into the Bag?
Packing up a tent is a pain, to say the least, especially when you have a big, bulky, four-season tent. If you’re struggling to put your tent back in the bag when moving from campsite to campsite, we recommend just trying to stuff it in instead of folding the tent up. Simply place the poles in the tent bag first, then stuff in the body of the tent, then the fly. This usually is the best method to use in the field.
If you’re trying to pack up your tent for storage after you let it dry out completely at the end of a trip, try the following:
At the end of the day, you’re probably only going to invest in one 4 season tent. If we had to choose just one of the 10 best 4 season tent that we reviewed here, we’d probably go with The North Face Bastion 4, for it’s durable, versatile, and storm-proof design that can be used in a campground or the mountains. Happy camping!
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