Imagine waking up early, the glow of dawn light bouncing off the ground and lighting up your tent. The trees are heavy with a fresh layer of powder. Your tent has shed off the night’s snow, forming around it in a pile. Everything around you is untouched. For many of us, this is a dream scenario. Winter camping can be an amazing and rewarding experience. However, appropriate gear is vital to stay safe while camping during cold winter months. Perhaps one of the most important winter-specific pieces of camping gear is a good four-season tent. This will keep you warm(er) on the harshest of nights, and can be used as a shelter even during blizzard conditions.
There is no singular definition for what the “best” four-season tent is. You will likely want to select one based on what your plans are. Four-season tents come with a variety of features, and range from lightweight spartan mountaineering tents to more spacious and fully featured basecamp tents. As a general rule, four-season tents are more expensive than their three-season siblings. This is because the fabric and construction needs to hold up to more extreme conditions. Luckily, many four-season tents that have double-wall designs can be set up as just an inner or just a shell, and thus provide more flexibility for summer use.
When considering whether or not to invest in a four-season tent, ask yourself what kind of conditions you expect to encounter. Many people buy and use four-season tents without the explicit intention of using them in heavy snow. If you’re going on an expedition-style trip, a four-season tent could provide extra protection and peace of mind. Maybe you’re someone who sleeps cold and you want to do everything possible to warm up your camp. There are plenty of good reasons to consider investing in one. With advancements in fabric technology, four-season tents are also lighter and more packable than ever.
We put together a list of the best four-season tents on the market. These tents exemplify the top performers available today, and each has specific characteristics that will appeal to a specific audience.
1. Best Ultralight 4-Season Tent: Hyperlight Mountain Gear Ultamid
Hyperlight Mountain Gear’s Ultamid tent uses one of the oldest and most well-proven tent designs. The pyramid design is simple, provides room to stand or sit, and sheds snow better than most other designs. It also stands up well to heavy winds. You will pitch this tent using your ski/trekking poles as the primary support. This modular system is great because it eliminates the need to carry extra poles. The Ultamid comes in both two- and four-person versions, weighing in at 1.12 and 1.44 pounds, respectively. That’s way lighter than any of the other tents we recommend. This is largely due to the Ultamid being constructed with Dyneema Composite Fabric, an incredibly light and high performance shell material. Apart from being lighter than and just as waterproof as regular silnylon options, Dyneema Composite Fabric also sheds snow better and doesn’t sag in cold temperatures.
The Ultamid is sold as a single-wall, floor-less tent with optional additions of half and full inserts with mesh and bathtub floors. Considering the majority of people will want an insert, the price of the tent is higher than many competitors. Hyperlight Mountain Gear claims that the Ultamid is more durable than silnylon tents, so the price is justified. For mountain use, the main drawback is the relatively large and flat footprint required to pitch it with a good amount of usable space. However, for most other uses, it packs in plenty of great features that you would expect from a high end four season tent. Coming in at a fraction of the weight of the competition, the Ultamid by Hyperlight Mountain Gear is a clear choice for the best lightweight four season tent.
2. Best 4-Season Tent for Expedition Use: Hilleberg Tarra
The Tarra is a two-person, double-wall tent that is built with extreme weather and livability in mind. The design of the Tarra is a hybrid between dome and tunnel styles. This gives it formidable strength against wind and snow, while retaining a lot of usable space in the tent’s interior. The Tarra features two doors and vestibules for storing gear outside the main compartment. It has a mesh panel near the top of the inner tent to improve ventilation. Overall, it is an exceptionally comfortable tent that provides good all-weather protection. At 8.37 pounds, the Tarra is not the lightest tent on this list. We think it’s best suited to base-camping and adventures below treeline, where flat ground is more common and the extra weight might not be a big deal. It shines as an expedition tent for use over longer periods, on overland crossings or other less vertical activities. Because it is heavy and needs a big footprint to set up correctly, it wouldn’t be the best choice for a mountaineering tent.
A slew of design features add up to make the Tarra a top contender in our round-up of the best four season tents. The outer shell fabric, Kerlon 1800, is a durable and high-performance silnylon that performs well in cold weather and heavy rain. The tent poles are 10mm DAC Featherlight, which are some of the best feeling and most rigorously designed poles available. The Tarra can also be pitched using two sets of poles to increase its wind resistance and snow bearing capabilities. During the summer, the Tarra’s inner tent can be separated from the shell and used as a lightweight two person shelter. Likewise, the outer shell can be pitched on its own to provide minimalist and bomber protection.
Hilleberg also offers the Saivo, which is a three-person tent based on the same design as the Tarra.
3. Best 4-Season Tent for Alpine/Mountain Use: Nemo Tenshi
The Tenshi is an exceptionally well designed single-wall tent that excels in mountaineering use. It’s a simple dome-style design that pitches well on small ledges and uneven terrain. Like the previous tent we mentioned, the Tenshi uses high-quality DAC Featherlight poles. It is easy to set up using the innovative clip system to attach the tent body to the poles. Compared to other similar four season tents, the Tenshi pitches quickly and easily in the wind. You will definitely appreciate this when you’re rushing to create some shelter from incoming bad weather. While the Tenshi is not the strongest in high winds and heavy snow, it holds up formidably for a tent that has a base weight of only 3.9 pounds.
As a basecamp tent or in three-season conditions, the Tenshi features an optional vestibule. This makes it a more flexible option than similar four season tents. However, like most single-wall tents, the Tenshi doesn’t breathe well in wet weather. Even though it has ventilation panels at the peak, the tent’s fabric still condenses moisture in the interior (on your sleeping bag). It works best in alpine settings where you will encounter cold more than wetness.
4. Best budget 4-season tent: Eureka Mountain Pass
For snow camping first-timers, an inexpensive four-season tent is the perfect choice. You don’t need the most engineered mountaineering or expedition-style tent for every winter camping trip. The Eureka Mountain Pass is a good option for those who are interested in winter camping, but want to save some money and get a well-rounded tent. The Mountain Pass tent will perform nicely in three season conditions as well. It has good ventilation thanks to its double-wall construction. The interior has five organization pockets to help you keep track of your gear. The two person variant weighs just a bit over 5.5 pounds, which is decently light considering the price.
The Mountain Pass probably isn’t the best choice for more intense winter trips. Other tents are designed with those requirements in mind. Still, Eureka has a good reputation for building four-season tents. If you’re looking to push your limits on a budget, the Mountain Pass is a great option.
5. Best Winter Group Tent: Hilleberg Atlas
For big winter expeditions, group-style tents reign supreme. The ability to house everyone in the same tent means your group will share body heat and everyone will sleep warmer. It is also easier to set up a single group shelter than multiple smaller tents, and takes up less space. The Atlas by Hilleberg sleeps 8 people, but is modular and can be paired together with other Atlases to fit larger groups. The dome style tent is strong in wind and snow and has a double-wall design for maximum warmth. Like other Hilleberg models, it can be set up as both a single and double-wall tent depending on your needs. The floor of the inner tent on the Atlas can also be removed to set up in a double-wall floorless mode.
The Atlas can be used in many different ways. It was designed to stand up to harsh winter conditions as a four season tent for group expeditions. It can be turned into a canteen where people cook and eat, or as a storage tent on long expeditions. It would function perfectly as a high quality four-season tent for large families as well. Anyone looking for quality and attention to detail will be happy with the construction of the Atlas.
Atticus Lee is an outdoors writer and perpetual traveler. When he’s not writing about adventures and gear, he’s riding his bike across different countries and learning about their cultures. He enjoys coffee, campfires, and street food.
Feature image by Alexey_Medvedev, Shutterstock; secondary images by the individual brands
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