Even most budget department store tents will survive backcountry outings in the spring, summer, and fall. When winter sets in a month from now, however, the snow, wind, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures will demand a real all-season alternative. Here are eight of the best four-season tents to ensure you survive and thrive this winter.
MSR Access 2
The two-person MSR Access 2 is a versatile, lightweight, and durable shoulder season backcountry solution. It packs down small, though not quite as small as the competition. It is, however, surprisingly light at just 3.8 pounds for the tent and poles. MSR sidesteps the “bombproof” (read heavy) construction typical in most winter tents for a more balanced, versatile tent that targets the average camper. It’s not designed for extreme winter camping, but rather as a featherweight solution for occasional cold-weather camps. The double-wall design is well-suited for minimizing condensation and camping in hard rain and light snow. The footprint is spacious, while the vestibule adds a generous 17.5 square feet of usable space. Those looking for more room can upgrade to the with 12 additional square feet of living space. What’s more, it’s one of the easiest-to-pitch four-season tents on the market.
Sierra Designs Convert 2
As its name implies, the Convert 2 by Sierra Designs easily converts between three-season and four-season use. That versatility relies on a removable vestibule that cuts the tent’s overall weight down from over five pounds to about four. Given its light weight, it’s surprisingly spacious without the vestibule and downright luxurious with it. Anyone traveling with a dog, a significant other, or substantial gear can upgrade to thefor even more living space. This is a tent for the Everyman Camper — those who enjoy mostly summer backcountry camping with occasional pitches in the dead of winter. The freestanding structure is durable enough to survive lower elevation winter camping with moderate snowfall. Mountaineers and anyone interested in more extreme camping will want to upgrade to a legit winter tent, however.
Nemo Kunai 2P
Nemo Equipment’s Kunai 2P is light enough to use year-round but plenty robust to survive hardcore mountaineering expeditions. The freestanding design relies on minimal poles — only two cross poles and a single brow pole — to make it more streamlined in high wind, heavy snow conditions. Direct guy-out points pass through the fly and tether directly to the tent poles to form a stable anchor. Solid nylon walls ensure the inside stays as warm as possible in cold climates. The interior boasts a decent 42 inches of headroom with 27 square feet of living space. A compact, 7-square-foot vestibule adds just enough utility space for a fully loaded pack and boots. That tight footprint packs down extremely small and translates to a minimum weight of under four pounds, making it one of the lightest, most packable true mountaineering tents available.
Hyperlite UltaMid 2
For ultra-minimalist backpackers who obsessively weigh their packs and question the necessity of every piece of gear, the Hyperlite UltaMid 2 is the ideal all-season camping solution. The single-wall pyramid design is one of the smartest and strongest on the market. That design trades some convenience and creature comforts (like built-in bug and floor protection) for weight. At just 1 pound 7.7 ounces (!), it’s by far the lightest winter-ready tent available. The unique setup requires lashing two trekking poles together to prop up the ceiling. That ceiling is one of the tallest of any four-season tent we tested, and the rectangular-shaped interior is spacious enough to sleep two with plenty of gear to boot. Like all Hyperlite products, the UltaMid 2’s DCF material is lightweight, 100% waterproof, and extremely durable. This unique, high-quality design comes with an equally high price tag, however, and buyers should keep in mind the mesh insert and full/half floor inserts are sold separately.
The North Face Mountain 25
The Mountain 25 from The North Face has long been a go-to basecamp for mountaineers around the world. When hardcore expeditioners talk about “bombproof” tents, this may well set the standard. The ultra-durable build is bolstered by a double-wall construction, strong poles, and winter-tested fabrics. It also boasts two doors, two vestibules, and plenty of storage for even the heaviest packers. All that durability, living space, and storage comes at a price, however, as the Mountain 25 tips the scales at close to nine pounds. Still, for campers seeking a go-anywhere tent — whether the high Arctic, Everest Base Camp, or Mars — it’s a near-perfect, alpine-ready solution at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Fjallraven Keb Dome 2
Fjallraven’s Keb Dome 2 boasts many of the same near-bulletproof features as the Mountain 25, but in a dome construction. With a minimum weight of just over eight pounds, it’s the second heaviest tent on this list. However, all that heft translates to a durable, alpine-worthy tent with a 40D TripleRip sil exterior and a 30D Ripstop DWR inner material. It’s robust enough to use in even the harshest mountaineering conditions. Dual entrances and excellent ventilation mean it works just as well for tropical, high-humidity expeditions, too. Oversized vestibules, a removable shelf, and a generous floorplan guarantee plenty of room for two campers to spread out with their winter gear.
For Quick Ascents
Black Diamond Firstlight 2P
Black Diamond’s Firstlight 2P is a love-it-or-hate-it tent among expeditioners. The minimalist, four-season freestander is ultra-packable and weighs just over 2.5 pounds. Unfortunately, all that weight saving results in a single-wall NanoShield shell that’s water-resistant, but not waterproof. In alpine environments where rain is unlikely, this shouldn’t be an issue. For campers who can overlook that shortcoming, the Firstlight is a reliable quick-ascent solution for ultralight packers who aren’t ready to commit to the ascetic design of something like the UltaMid 2. The 27.3-square-foot floor area is ample enough to sleep two with minimal gear, or one climber with a more generous pack in tow. At well under $400, it’s also among the cheapest mountain-ready camp solutions.
REI Co-op Arete ASL 2
For cold-weather campers on a budget, REI’s Co-op Arete ASL 2 offers an incredible value. Like our favorite MSR Access 2, it boasts a solid, winter-worthy design without the heft and bulletproof durability of a true mountaineering tent. The double-wall construction, coupled with plenty of mesh throughout, ensure it’s well suited for both cold- and warm-weather camps. Plus, the four-pole design provides a more stable footing when pitched. While it’s not suitable for high-altitude camping, it’s plenty sturdy to shrug off a modest snowfall. The best part? At less than $400, it’s an incredible value for occasional winter campers looking for more protection than their traditional 3-season tent can provide.
Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive tent buying guide to find the best tent for your trip.
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