The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents (2024)

If you want to take on big mountains, you need to come prepared. Whether you’re camping at elevation or just going snow camping, cold conditions will test your gear. High winds, snow, and extreme cold can all be serious challenges when camping.

That’s why you need a tent for camping in cold weather. In this guide, I’ll cover some of the best winter camping tents (or four-season tents) on the market and give you some tips on how to make a smart buy.

My Review Process

Over two decades of backpacking and mountaineering across the US, I’ve tried a lot of cold weather tents. In fair and foul weather, my adventures have given me a good grasp on what makes a rock solid winter tent.

I put my knowledge of technology, brands, and design to work to compile this guide. Contained here are the best 4-season tents on the market, ranked by what they’re best at.

I’ve also added a buying guide to help you learn what to look for when shopping for a new cold weather shelter.

What Are Cold Weather Tents (or 4-Season Tents)

What makes a cold weather tent able to stand up to winter camping? And why are there so many different kinds of tents for camping in a cold environment?

Tents for camping in cold weather have thicker walls, stronger poles, burlier seams, and airtight designs. We commonly refer to them as 4-season tents (rather than 3-season tents).

4-season tents have higher resistance to high wind and precipitation. They perform under the harsh conditions you experience when you’re camping in the winter.

Under the umbrella of 4-season tents, there are lots of different categories of shelters with different intended uses. I’ll cover most of them in this review.

Double-Wall VS Single-Wall Tents

The main distinction that differentiates types of 4-season tents is how many walls they have. Cold weather tents have either one or two walls of external material.

Single-wall tents are the simpler of the two types. They’re easy to put up quickly, and usually much lighter than double-wall tents.

But single-wall tents usually aren’t as water resistant. If you’re going far or fast in dry weather, go with a single-wall tent.

Double-wall tents are bombproof. They feature an inner wall of material covered by a rainfly. This maximizes their resistance to strong wind, precipitation, and deep snow.

But double-wall tents tend to be heavy. They work best for expeditions where you have a stationary base camp.

The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents (1)

How To Shop For A Cold Weather Tent

Looking at tents and shelters for cold weather camping is overwhelming. There are a lot of features and designs to consider. Here are a few things to focus on when you’re shopping.

Cost

Cost is always a factor. And when shopping for something expensive like a 4-season tent, it’s good to know what to expect. In general:

  • 4-season tents run from $500 to well over a thousand.
  • Bivy shelters usually stay in the $100-$200 range.
  • Pyramid shelters vary a lot, but usually don’t cost more than $450.

Space

How much room you have in your shelter impacts your comfort and the weight of the tent.

When you’re moving camp a lot, it’s better to have less weight to carry, which means a smaller tent. If you’re sleeping on small ledges at elevation, you’ll also want something as small as possible.

But if you’re setting up a basecamp that you plan to use for a while, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Look for a double-walled tent with a roomy footprint so you can stretch out and rest.

Weight

Weight usually lies in opposition to every other feature in a piece of outdoor gear. Adding more room, more features, or more durability always adds extra weight.

The main thing to focus on is how much you plan to carry your tent. The longer you’re carrying your tent on your back, the lighter you want it to be. If you’re moving a lot, look for fiberglass poles over aluminum poles.

If you’re getting dropped off by a bush plane and setting up a basecamp, it doesn’t matter if it’s a light or heavy tent. Bringing extra poles and repair materials is also a good idea in these situations.

Single-wall tents are almost always lighter than double-wall tents.

Livability

Livability takes into account a few things. One of these is how much room you have while sleeping. Another is how many options you have for storing and accessing your gear.

Vestibules, pockets, stove zippers, gear lofts, extra doors, and the tent’s overall size and height all add to a tent’s livability. These factors determine how easy your tent is to live in long-term, and how cozy a space it is.

Wind Resistance

When you’re camping in the winter, the weather can be very fickle. This is especially true at elevation. If you’re isolated and there’s bad weather approaching, you’re relying on your tent to keep you alive.

A tent's wind resistance depends on the number of tent walls, guy points and guy lines, the thickness of the material, seam taping, and how strong the poles are. Double-walled tents are the most wind resistant. Having high weather resistance usually makes for a heavier tent.

Water Resistance

Water resistance depends mostly on the material in your tent's walls. A material's water resistance is measured by “column strength.” You'll see column strength represented as a number (usually in the thousands) in millimeters.

Column strength represents how much liquid water, supported in a column, it would take to soak through the material. Higher column strength means more water resistance. Waterproof coatings like DWR also increase water resistance.

Having another waterproof layer also increases the water resistance. While single-wall tents with a high column strength are still not usually as waterproof as double-wall tents.

Ventilation

Trapping heat and keeping wind out means sealing yourself in an airtight bubble. One side effect of this is that you may wake up in a puddle of condensation from your own breath.

Most tents have features like mesh vents and windows to increase air flow and let out condensation. Good ventilation is always important, but more so if you’re going to be living in your tent for a long time.

Summary

We find the best all-around 4-season to be The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight. The best bang for your buck is the MSR Access. The best ultralight single-wall tent is the Black Diamond Eldorado. The best double-walled basecamp tent is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2.

The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents (2024)
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