Four-season tents to keep you comfortable year-round
When the weather changes, so do your camping equipment needs. If you have some outdoor adventures planned in harsh winter climates, you can’t take along just any tent if you want to stay warm. Instead, you need a four-season tent that offers enough insulation to keep the cold at bay and is built strongly enough to stand up to wind and snowstorms.
When choosing a four-season tent, weight is a top priority, as is the overall durability of materials. Look for a tent that is easy to set up quickly, since you never know when you’ll be doing it in poor weather. The MSR Remote 4 Tent scores top marks in all these areas, making it an ideal choice for adventures with two or three people.
What to know before you buy a four-season tent
Four-season tents are intended for use in extreme conditions such as wintertime mountaineering or when taking backcountry ski tours. You won’t have the luxury of driving right up to the campsite and unloading your gear. Instead, you’ll likely be carrying it for long distances, so it is important to take portability into account when deciding on a tent.
Look at the overall weight of any four-person tent you are considering, as well as the packed size. Some minimalist models weigh a few pounds and pack down as small as 6 inches by 10 inches. Others may weigh as much as 20 pounds or more and have a 24-by-30-inch packed size.
Cold-weather camping may involve spending a lot of time inside your tent. Consider the various factors that enhance a tent’s livability when making your decision. These include windows, headroom, floor space, door and vestibule design, number of pockets and how dark or light the interior is.
Ease of setup
Four-season tents should be easy to set up. One of the biggest factors in how easy it is to set up a tent is how it attaches to the poles.
Using pole clips is the easiest and quickest method. However, pole clips don’t spread out the weight of the tent material as evenly across the pole. Pole sleeves take slightly longer to set up but are more supportive than clips and spread out the weight more evenly, which better allows a tent to stand up to heavy snow buildup or strong gusts. Internal pole systems are the lightest because they don’t require clips or additional material for sleeves. The downside is that they are the most cumbersome to set up.
What to look for in a quality four-season tent
One of the main factors that determines a tent’s strength is its poles. Consider the number, layout, thickness, and material. The more poles a tent has and the more crossings they make, the stronger the tent will be. Evaluate this according to the size and overall height of the tent. Shorter, smaller tents don’t need as many poles or crossings as large tents do to withstand strong gusts and other elements.
The majority of tent poles for four-season tents range from 8 to 11 millimeters in diameter and are made of aluminum. However, there are some models with carbon fiber or composite poles. These are lighter weight, but they may be less strong.
As with the number and layout of poles, the number of guy lines affects how well a tent can stand up to the elements. The minimum acceptable amount is four, but if you are expecting to experience severe weather, you are better off choosing a tent with six to 10 guy lines. Some models have guy lines or tie-out points with reflective accents, which makes them easier to spot in the dark.
The fabric of four-season tents isn’t very breathable, so vents are essential for comfort and preventing a buildup of condensation. Ideally, these vents should spread across all tent sides so no matter which way the wind is coming from, some of it will enter. Some models may feature a bug screen that allows you to leave the door open for airflow without worrying about mosquitoes or other pests entering.
Pockets are helpful for keeping items organized and out of the way but easily retrievable. The pockets should be large enough to accommodate flashlights, food, and other items you want to store in them.
How much you can expect to spend on a four-season tent
Four-season tents are more expensive than their three-season counterparts due to the heavy-duty materials used. The most affordable models start around $250, and premium models can cost thousands.
Four-season tent FAQ
Can I use a four-season tent in the summer?
A. Despite the name, most people won’t want to use a four-season tent for anything but cold winter days. This is because the tents aren’t very breathable and tend to have poor ventilation compared to three-season tents. They are heavier and don’t pack down as small, making them inconvenient to carry when they aren’t needed.
How can I reduce the condensation in my four-season tent?
A. The best way to reduce condensation in a tent is to increase the ventilation. Open all the vents in your tent the next time you see a lot of condensation building up. Whenever possible, cook outside the tent. The heat released from camp stoves will cause additional condensation.
What is the best four-season tent to buy?
Top four-season tent
What you need to know: The sturdy MSR Remote 4 can stand up to the most extreme conditions and has plenty of floor space for three climbers and all their gear.
What you’ll love: It has vents in the main tent fabric and the rainfly to reduce condensation, and it features reflective guy points that are easy to find if setting camp in the dark.
What you should consider: It doesn’t pack down quite as small as some other three-person options.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top four-season tent for the money
What you need to know: The Alpenlite XT is one of the most affordable four-season tents and is made with durable materials you can rely on to keep you warm and dry.
What you’ll love: It has plenty of pockets inside for stashing stuff, and the six guy lines and sturdy construction allow it to withstand strong gusts without budging.
What you should consider: It’s heavy for its size and doesn’t have a lot of ventilation.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: If the entire expedition team wants to spend time under a single tent for warmth and camaraderie, the eight-person Marmot Lair is the way to go.
What you’ll love: It has a removable floor so you can dig out snow beneath it for added insulation and head room, and it features jingle-free zippers you can open without waking everyone inside the tent.
What you should consider: Its weight and large packed size makes it best for base-camp use.
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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