From backcountry ski tours to mountaineering in some of the most brutal weather on Earth, a 4-season tent is the last line of defense between you and the elements. Accordingly, these tents are much stronger than their 3-season counterparts with less mesh, more substantial canopies and rainflies, tougher pole structures, and a whole host of features designed for winter use. Below are our picks for the best 4-season tents of 2023. Given the range of possible uses, we’ve categorized the different models under mountaineering, basecamp, and treeline. For more background, see our 4-season tent comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
- Best Overall 4-Season Tent: Mountain Hardwear Trango 3
- Best Single-Wall Mountaineering Tent: Black Diamond Eldorado
- Best All-Season Tent for Treeline Adventures: Nemo Kunai 2P
- Best Ultralight 4-Season Shelter: Black Diamond Mega Snow
Best Overall 4-Season Tent
Packaged weight: 11 lbs. 5.1 oz.
Floor area: 48 sq. ft.
What we like: Tough build, great livability, and comes in multiple sizes.
What we don’t: Heavy and expensive.
Mountain Hardwear’s Trango has been trusted for years in the most inhospitable regions of the planet. And although it’s the heaviest tent on our list, you’ll be thankful for all 11 pounds 5.1 ounces when you’re weathering out tough conditions in basecamp. Holding back nothing in the name of protection, the Trango 3 features a double-wall design, 48 square feet of living space (suitable for three and ideal for two), and two doors and vestibules for easy access and convenient storage. And for added security in high winds, Mountain Hardwear designed the tent fly to connect to both the poles and the body of the tent, forming one solid structure that can withstand some of the world’s worth weather.
At high-altitude basecamps around the world, you’re bound to see two tents more than almost any other: The North Face’s VE 25 (below) and the Mountain Hardwear Trango here. The Trango does fall short of the VE 25 in a few categories: It’s more expensive (by $250) and forgoes the TNF’s pole sleeves, which provide a very stable structure in high winds (our tester had the opportunity for a side-by-side comparison while guiding on Denali). But we’re big fans of the Trango’s innovative design that secures the fly to the tent body, and it’s a lot easier to come by (the TNF is not available online at the time of publishing). In addition, it features a more durable fly (70D vs. the VE 25's 40D), and comes in two ($900), three, and four-person varieties ($1,200). All told, whether you’re winter adventuring in the Lower 48 or waiting out weather in the greater ranges, the Trango is one of the most well-built and reliable shelters available.
See the Mountain Hardwear Trango 3
Best Single-Wall Mountaineering Tent
Packaged weight: 5 lbs. 1 oz.
Floor area: 30.8 sq. ft.
What we like: Lightweight and compact.
What we don’t: Mediocre ventilation; only one door and no vestibule.
The Black Diamond Eldorado is a classic. Despite numerous updates over the years, this single-wall, two-pole tent has withstood a whole lot of blustery winter nights and summit pushes. Most importantly, durability and build quality are superb—the Eldorado has provided reliable shelter on everything from Everest expeditions to bivying up high on Cerro Torre. And despite the toughness, the tent weighs just 5 pounds 1 ounce, which is about as light as you’ll get for a serious mountaineering tent.
Ultimately, the decision between the Black Diamond Eldorado and a double-wall tent like the Trango above comes down to your travel and comfort needs. Some feel that the extra pounds of a basecamp tent are worth the added features and space, while others want to get up and down the mountain with as little weight as possible in their pack. Of course, there are many downsides to the minimalist design: The Eldorado is a tight squeeze for two, only features one door, and the lack of vestibule certainly limits your options for storage. What’s more, the single-wall build doesn’t breathe nearly as well as a double-wall design. But the weight savings are worth those sacrifices for many alpinists, making the Eldorado the top minimalist 4-season tent on the market. And for a bit more versatility and comfort, Black Diamond also offers the Ahwahnee ($1,000), which features two full side doors and comes with the option of adding a vestibule.
See the Black Diamond Eldorado
Best All-Season Tent for Treeline Adventures
Packaged weight: 4 lbs. 5 oz.
Floor area: 26 sq. ft.
What we like: Great value; zip-off walls offer versatility for a variety of conditions.
What we don’t: Very tight quarters and takes more time (and space) to set up than most mountaineering models here.
Many 4-season tents are overkill for mild winter conditions, especially when you can get away with a lighter and more breathable design. Enter the “treeline” category, and our top-pick Nemo Kunai. Marketed by Nemo as a 3-4-season backpacking tent, the Kunai offers reliable shoulder-season and mild-winter protection with a solid tent body and extra pole that extends from side-to-side for added stability. When temperatures rise, portions of the canopy unzip to reveal mesh windows, which means increased airflow when you need it and wind protection when you don’t. All told, the Kunai is a versatile and lightweight shelter ideal for everything from spring ski traverses to fast-and-light winter camping—and the price is right at just $550.
That said, there are a few shortcomings to the Kunai’s design. First off, its footprint is decidedly tight (over 4 sq. ft. smaller than the Eldorado above) and tapers at the feet, which means you’ll have to sleep shoulder-to-shoulder with your tent mate. Further, you only get one door and vestibule, which is far from the most convenient setup. Finally, unlike the single-wall mountaineering tents here, the Nemo’s double-wall design is a bit tricky to pitch in inclement weather and doesn’t fit on tiny ledges nearly as well (especially given the need to guy out the fly). But the Kunai offers better protection and breathability for less weight than these designs, and you really can’t beat the versatility of being able to unzip the tent walls. Added up, its an incredible value and a great choice for treeline camping and spring mountaineering alike.
See the Nemo Kunai 2P
Best Ultralight 4-Season Shelter
Packaged weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
Floor area: 78 sq. ft.
What we like: Incredible versatility for snow camping.
What we don’t: Floorless design means you’re more exposed to the elements.
You’ll likely want a fully featured tent for sleeping in the snow, but as a dining shelter, gear storage, or simply a change of scenery when cabin fever sets in, the Black Diamond Mega Snow is a total basecamp luxury. And we use the word “luxury” lightly—with single-wall construction and no floor, it’s far from the most protective tent here. But the value of this shelter really comes into full view while camping on snow: the center pole prop serves as a table, while the outer edges can be dug out to create seating for up to six. The Mega Snow tacks on vents (this is one shelter we encourage you to cook in!) and a nifty valence around the perimeter, which increases interior space and keeps the elements at bay. Finally, it can double as a lightweight sleeping shelter in a pinch—we’ve fit four sleepers in Black Diamond’s Mega Light, and the Mega Snow is considerably roomier at 78 square feet.
But calling the Mega Snow a 4-season tent is a bit of a stretch. Its tough 30-denier canopy has withstood winds up to 50 miles per hour throughout our testing, but it just doesn’t compare to burlier tents like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT below or even the single-walled Black Diamond Eldorado. In essence, it is a glorified tarp with no floor: in truly cold or windy conditions, it’s prone to flapping around and will feel quite drafty (you can pile snow on the valence, but ventilation will suffer). And keep in mind that Black Diamond also makes the much lighter Mega Light (2 lbs. 13 oz.) with no valence, and the Mega Bug, which sets up underneath the pyramid shelter and adds a bug net and bathtub floor for an extra 3 pounds 10 ounces.
See the Black Diamond Mega Snow
Best of the Rest
Packaged weight: 10 lbs. 5 oz.
Floor area: 48 sq. ft.
What we like: A great value for a time-tested and sturdy basecamp design.
What we don’t: Only sold in a three-person capacity.
The VE 25 is one of expedition mountaineering's most popular tents, and for good reason. Similar to the Trango above, the three-person VE 25 features a burly double-wall build, stout poles, and time-tested fabrics that thrive in tough conditions. Two doors and vestibules provide multiple entry points and ample storage space, and you get eight internal pockets and an assortment of hanger loops to organize and dry out your gear. And for those tent-bound days (or weeks) in basecamp, the VE 25 ventilates well and provides ample space for two or three with a 48-square-foot floor plan and peak height of 48 inches (3 in. taller than the Trango).
Our main gripe with the VE 25 is that it can be tricky to find—at the time of publishing, it’s not carried by any online retailers. But if you can get your hands on one, it’s a stellar tent: The combination of pole sleeves and clips results in noticeably more structural integrity in high wind than the Trango, and it’s a full $250 cheaper. Of course, weight is a factor with any basecamp design—if you're opting for a tent like the VE 25 or Trango, it's likely you're flying or portering into the mountains—and one downside of the TNF is that it only comes in one size (the Mountain Hardwear is available in two, three, and four-person varieties). But for a great combination of value, protection, and livability for waiting out storms at basecamp, the VE 25 is tough to beat.
See The North Face VE 25
Trail weight: 4 lbs. 1 oz.
Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
What we like: Ultralight for a double-wall tent yet decently protective and roomy.
What we don’t: Pricier than the Kunai above and not as versatile for mild conditions.
For backcountry ski trips or spring mountaineering when the weather is fairly good or you won’t be fully exposed, it’s worth considering a tent in our treeline category. The double-wall Access toes the line between the 3- and 4-season categories, with more bombproof protection than a standard backpacking tent (including solid tent walls and an extra pole for structure) in a streamlined and packable 4-pound-1-ounce design. And importantly, you still get two doors, two vestibules, and 29 square feet of floor area (our testers jumped up to the three-person version for extra space with a canine). If you’re looking for a double-wall tent that provides 4-season protection at a low weight, the Access 2 is well worth a closer look.
Compared to the Nemo Kunai above, the Access 2 is a bit roomier, including a rectangular (read: non-tapered) floor plan that's two inches longer from head to toe. It also features two doors and two vestibules—a big plus for livability—and is a few ounces lighter to boot. But the Nemo wins out in value at a full $250 cheaper, and we’re big fans of the versatility you get with its zip-away walls. In the end, both tents are wonderful treeline options, although you’ll want to be sure not to push them too far into deep-winter conditions: Neither design features a fly that fully extends to the ground, so you’ll want to create a snow wall if you anticipate drafts and drifts. But we’ve found the Access to be a wonderful fit for shoulder-season adventures, including ski trips into the B.C. backcountry and trekking in Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash… Read in-depth review
See the MSR Access 2
Packaged weight: 8 lbs. 3 oz.
Floor area: 30.1 sq. ft.
What we like: Super roomy vestibule and unique aerodynamic structure.
What we don’t: Only one door and peak height is low for a basecamping tent.
Based in Sweden, Hilleberg specializes in tents, with a strong lineup of designs for everything from solo fastpacking to high-altitude mountaineering and polar expeditions. Each model features ultra-premium materials and focuses on small details like no other brand, making Hilleberg some of the most reliable—and expensive—tents on the market. Their Nammatj GT is a very popular option for extreme mountain conditions, featuring strong Kerlon fabric and a tunnel-shaped design for remarkable stability and protection. You also get a whopping 25.8 square feet of vestibule space, which is a convenient design for cooking in inclement weather. All told, considering the all-in weight of 8 pounds 3 ounces, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a 4-season tent that does more while weighing less (and the standard Nammatj is only 6 lbs. 10 oz.).
A nice alternative to many of the dome tents here, the Nammatj GT’s unique tunnel shape is aerodynamic in strong winds and easily sheds snow. This design makes it one of our top picks for the harsh conditions of high-altitude basecamps and polar exploration, but you do give up a bit of livability with only one door and a lower peak height (37 in. compared to the TNF VE’s 48 in.). It’s also worth noting that many guide services on Denali pitch the Nammatj (or four-person Keron 4 GT) using two sets of poles, as the poles has been known to bow and snap when the wind hits the tent just right. Finally, like everything from Hilleberg, the Nammatj GT will cost you a pretty penny at $1,115. But if you’re considering tents like the Trango or VE 25 above and have the added budget, the Nammatj is well deserving of a spot on your short list.
See the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT
Packaged weight: 3 lbs. 3 oz.
Floor area: 24 sq. ft.
What we like: The lightest tent here but still waterproof; easy setup.
What we don’t: No mesh door and very limited floor area.
Black Diamond’s Eldorado above offers a great combination of bombproof weather protection in a streamlined build, but for some climbers it’s still too much tent. Enter the MSR Advance Pro 2, which features a packed weight of 3 pounds 3 ounces (almost a full 2 lbs. less than the Eldorado) and a tiny 24-square-foot floor area that fits on the smallest mountain ledges. Set up doesn’t get much easier (MSR even has a video of setting up the Advance Pro while perched on a bucket) and the external pole sleeves mean you don’t have to crawl in and out to get a perfect pitch. Side vents help with airflow, and a waterproof coating on both the body and floor keeps most moisture out (we recommend sealing the seams too).
The Black Diamond Firstlight below used to be our go-to tent for fast-and-light pursuits, but after too many nights of dealing with wet walls and pesky drips, we turned to the Advance Pro 2 as a more waterproof option (it doesn’t hurt that it’s slightly lighter too). But there are some compromises with the design, namely in terms of interior space. With a 24-square-foot floor, you lose 6 inches off the width of the Firstlight, making the Advance Pro 2 barely tenable for two. Further, the tent lacks a mesh door, which takes a real toll on ventilation (and is made worse by the single-wall construction). As a result, we recommend the MSR strictly for the most weight-conscious of missions, although it’s practically indispensable for quick hits and summit pushes.
See the MSR Advance Pro 2
Packaged weight: 7 lbs. 11 oz.
Floor area: 36.3 sq. ft.
What we like: External pole structure sets up fast and reduces weight.
What we don’t: Low peak height and thin fly fabric.
Taking direct aim at the popular Trango and VE 25 tents above is the Nemo Chogori 2. The big news with this tent is its combined double-wall construction and external pole structure, which makes it faster and easier to pitch in inclement weather (the Trango and VE 25 require that you set up the body and rainfly separately, which takes more time and can lead to moisture getting inside the tent). Nemo didn’t skimp on quality either with strong DAC poles and silicone-treated nylon on the fly for added durability and weatherproofing, plus the addition of a wrap-around snow skirt on the newest version. And at 7 pounds 11 ounces, the Chogori is among the lighter basecamp-ready tents on this list.
What are the downsides of the Nemo Chogori? With 36.3 square feet of interior space, it’s fairly roomy for a two-person design, but its 39-inch peak height means less head room than most tents here (on the other hand, this is great for keeping a low profile in heavy winds). Further, the fly fabric is relatively thin at just 30-denier, compared to the 70- or 75-denier of many basecamp tents here. And at $750, you won't save anything over the VE 25 (also $750), nor does the Nemo come with the TNF's long track record in extreme conditions. But taken together, the Chogori’s simple and quick set-up, strong pole structure, and reasonable weight makes it an attractive and versatile option for mountaineering and other winter backcountry adventures.
See the Nemo Chogori 2
Packaged weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.
Floor area: 32.9 sq. ft.
What we like: A great value for a 4-season tent.
What we don’t: Not built for the toughest of conditions.
Similar to the Nemo Kunai and MSR Access above, there’s a time and place for the Arete. REI calls it “all season light” (hence the "ASL"), which translates to a tent that offers better weather protection than a traditional 3-season model but isn’t built for super-strong winds or heavy snow loads. But with a four-pole design, the Arete is a very stable tent, and head room is generous at 43 inches. For 6 pounds 5 ounces and only $449, it’s an economical way to hit the backcountry on a ski or snowshoe trip in mild to moderate conditions. Put simply, you won’t find a better deal anywhere on this list.
One thing in particular that we like about the REI Co-op Arete is that it’s a true year-round option. The double-wall design and substantial mesh door and vents means that it can be used for normal backpacking trips not involving the cold, but the Arete can hold its own on snow as well. As long as you don’t depend on the Arete to be your companion on high-altitude or particularly stormy missions, it’s great for the shoulder seasons and a healthy range of mild winter trips.
See the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2
Packaged weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Floor area: 27.3 sq. ft.
What we like: Lightweight and super easy to pack.
What we don’t: Not waterproof.
The Black Diamond Firstlight is a polarizing 4-season tent. Some climbers rave about just how light and packable it is, while others decry its middling weather protection. What’s our take? It’s ideal for the right objective, and a poor choice for just about everything else. Under clear skies or in sub-freezing temperatures, the Firstlight provides a stable shelter at a very low packed weight (only the MSR Advance Pro 2 is lighter), and with better breathability than much of the single-walled competition (the mesh door is a big plus). Top it off with a super affordable price tag and a 6-inch wider floor area than the aforementioned MSR, and there’s a reason why climbers turn to the Firstlight year after year for minimalist protection from the elements.
But the biggest shortcoming of the Black Diamond Firstlight—and we won’t sugarcoat it here—is that it’s not waterproof. The NanoShield canopy fabric has a silicone coating that is water resistant, and you’ll have to seam seal the tent before using it to prevent leaks. In dry snow and wind, the tent puts up a valiant defense, but you’re guaranteed a wet night in anything more than a light rain. For comparison’s sake, even the minimalist MSR Advance Pro 2 above offers a significant bump in wet-weather protection, and the BD Eldorado is still our favorite single-wall tent if you’re willing to shoulder the extra weight. Finally, keep in mind that the Firstlight is also available in a 3P design ($500, 3 lbs. 13.6 oz.), which is a reasonable option for those who need a bit more space.
See the Black Diamond Firstlight 2P
Packaged weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz.
Floor area: 33 sq. ft.
What we like: Light enough for summit pushes yet comfortable for waiting out a storm.
What we don’t: Not as roomy as most basecamp options.
MSR’s Access above is built for spring conditions or winter camping below treeline, but we turn to their more substantial Remote for full-on mountaineering objectives. With a sturdy frame, bombproof Easton Syclone poles, and solid walls with zippered vents on each door, the Remote is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws its way. And while the storm is raging outside, the inside is nicely tuned for comfort, including excellent livability at 33 square feet for the two-person version (noticeably more than single-wall tents like the Firstlight and Eldorado), near-vertical walls, and a large main vestibule. If you’re on the hunt for a sturdy double-walled tent that offers more protection than a treeline or mountaineering design without the heft or price tag of a true basecamp model, the MSR Remote is a really nice middle ground.
We’ve taken the Remote on ski mountaineering trips along Canada’s Icefields Parkway and up Mount Rainier and found it to be a very capable companion in heavy wind and snow. That said, we did have some issues with condensation buildup: the thick rainfly material has a tendency to trap warm air, with the only vents being the mesh panels on the doors (there are no dedicated vents at the top of the tent). And similar to the MSR Access, the Remote lacks storm flaps at each end, and the rainfly can hover as far as 5 inches off the ground when taut (the tall bathtub floor should keep most of the elements at bay). Within this ‘tweener category, we give the slight edge to the Chogori for its spacious floor plan and quick set-up, but the Remote uses slightly more durable fabrics (40D) and will save you over a half-pound… Read in-depth review
See the MSR Remote 2
Packaged weight: 7 lbs. 4 oz.
Floor area: 31.2 sq. ft.
What we like: Premium materials and construction, versatile for all-season use.
What we don’t: Expensive and heavy for a treeline tent.
The Nammatj GT above is a premium basecamp tent from Hilleberg, but for shoulder-season conditions, their Allak is a very popular option. Like designs like the Kunai and Access above, the Allak features a lightweight yet sturdy dome structure that’s protective in a storm yet breathable enough for summer heat. In short, it’s among the most versatile all-season designs available, and with two doors and vestibules the Allak’s 7-pound 4-ounce weight is considerably lighter than true basecamp models like the Trango above.
The Allak walks the line between our “treeline” and “basecamp” categories, and Hilleberg’s Red Label (one step below their legendary Black Label) alludes to a similar classification. In other words, it’s a step up from a tent like the REI Arete ASL above, but not quite on par with the Trango or VE 25 above in terms of protection. But in our experience, the Allak is strong enough to handle the gusty winds and heavy precipitation of true winter weather, making it a just-right option for winter camping in the Lower 48. Within Hilleberg’s lineup, you can also bump up to the Staika for a similar yet more protective build (8 lbs. 13 oz.)... Read in-depth review
See the Hilleberg Allak 2
Packaged weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz.
Floor area: 26.8 sq. ft.
What we like: Double-wall design and innovative feature set for a low weight.
What we don’t: Hasn’t been around long enough to be time tested.
SlingFin might not be a household name, but don’t be fooled: This company knows how to make a serious tent. Established by the co-founder of Mountain Hardwear (also a former TNF and Sierra Designs designer), SlingFin is employee-owned and self-describes as “small, lean, and scrappy,” specializing in high-quality tents with no constraints. We’re really excited about their new HotBox, which somehow pulls off a double-wall design for just over 4 pounds all-in (the minimum weight is just 3 lbs. 4 oz.). In other words, we’re talking about the packed size and weight of the Firstlight above, but with significantly more breathability and water protection.
We’ll be testing the HotBox this winter while climbing in Southern Patagonia, but all signs point to it being a functional and high-performance tent for alpine-style summit pushes. Like most mountaineering designs, the footprint is streamlined enough to fit on small bivy ledges, but the HotBox also features two snow flaps that can be staked out for additional protection. And despite its double walls, the tent easily sets up in an integrated pitch, with body and fly attached. Finally, you get a seemingly endless list of features, including vents that double as gear storage, internal guylines, and a pole sleeve that detaches to save weight. We’re very excited to take the HotBox for a spin, and will update this review once we do.
See the SlingFin HotBox
Packaged weight: 8 lbs. 1.1 oz.
Floor area: 45.8 sq. ft.
What we like: Lightweight and strong; features a vestibule (unlike most single-wall tents).
What we don’t: You can save weight with a more streamlined design like the BD Eldorado.
Mountain Hardwear’s Trango 3 above is a perennial favorite for those who want maximum basecamp protection, but if you’re looking to shave some weight for summit pushes, the ACI 3 is a great tent to have in your pack. Built for expeditions on the world’s highest peaks, the ACI features burly single-wall construction and a reinforced sleeved-pole design that sets up in a flash and is stable and quiet in high winds. And despite its streamlined design, the Mountain Hardwear tacks on a number of useful features, including a vestibule and interior snow port, which unzips so that you can sweep out accumulated snow, rope up to an outside anchor, or even relieve yourself when you’re tent-bound on a snow day.
At only 8 pounds 1.1 ounces for 45.8 square feet of livable space (the three-person Trango is 48 sq. ft. and clocks in at 11 lbs. 5.1 oz.), the ACI 3 is fairly competitive in terms of weight and fits three sleepers better than most mountaineering tents here (the attached vestibule is nice, too). And for two people and their gear, it’s certainly a more comfortable choice than a tent like our top-ranked Eldorado (5 lb. 1 oz.), but the weight penalty is significant. Finally, like most single-wall tents, ventilation isn’t the ACI’s strongest suit, but you do get four zippered vents and a full mesh door to encourage airflow. All told, you can’t go wrong with Mountain Headwear’s mountaineering tent collection (we also love their minimalist AC 2), and the ACI 3 is provides a nice balance of protection, minimalism, and livability. Editor’s note: The Mountain Hardwear AC tents are currently out of stock, but we expect to see more inventory later this spring.
See the Mountain Hardwear ACI 3
Packaged weight: 8 lbs. 12 oz.
Floor area: 33 sq. ft.
What we like: Incredible wind resistance and sets up quickly in bad weather.
What we don’t: Expensive and low on interior space compared to the competition.
The majority of Black Diamond’s 4-season tents are holdovers from their Bibler acquisition, including the single-walled Eldorado above. But released in the spring of 2021, the Mission is a Black Diamond original. Like the Nemo Chogori, it’s a double-wall tent with an external frame, which is ideal for getting a fast pitch in bad conditions (you don’t have to expose the inside of the tent to the elements). Further, the unique tunnel shape offers best-in-class stability (similar to the Nammatj above), and BD ups the ante with center hubs and crisscrossing poles for even better assurance in crosswinds. Tack on two generous vestibules, and you get a highly capable basecamp design that goes head to head with the likes of the Trango and VE 25 above. It's for good reason that the Mission has now become a staple in high-altitude basecamp environments in the Alaska Range.
What are the downsides to Black Diamond’s new design? Unlike most of the double-wall tents here, the Mission’s fly does not separate from the tent body, which limits ventilation and makes the tent a no-go for mild conditions or particularly sunny days on snow. And while it’s slightly lighter than much of the competition, the floor area takes a hit—both the two-person Trango and ACI 3 above offer a bump in interior space with 40 and 45.8 square feet respectively. A final downside is the fairly steep $900 price tag, although the Mission is still significantly cheaper than the Hilleberg Nammatj. But it's a solid basecamp entry from Black Diamond, and particularly easy to pitch in high winds. Keep in mind that Black Diamond also offers the tent in three- and four-person models, the latter of which comes with an extended front vestibule for added versatility at basecamp.
See the Black Diamond Mission 2
Packaged weight: 6 lbs. 3 oz.
Floor area: 41 sq. ft.
What we like: Very spacious but still lightweight.
What we don’t: Not as bombproof as heavier options.
With the Copper Spur HV3 Expedition, Big Agnes took their wildly popular backpacking tent and added a host of 4-season features to make an intriguing winter camping and mountaineering design. We’ve include the three-person model here, which is far roomier than any of the two-person options on our list, yet has a packaged weight of just over 6 pounds. Compared to the three-person MSR Access (5 lbs. 1 oz.), the Copper Spur weighs over a pound more but easily surpasses it in livability with near-vertical walls. Tack on beefy, large-diameter poles, glove-compatible zipper pulls, and multiple tie-down options that are large enough to be staked out with skis, and the Copper Spur Expedition is a proper, winter-ready structure.
Despite its great space-to-weight ratio, the Copper Spur Expedition strikes us as an in-between design that doesn’t excel at anything. With thin fabrics and a hubbed, three-pole structure, it just can’t match the protection provided by tents like the Trango above, which boasts a four-pole build and burly (albeit heavy) 40D nylon walls. And true ounce counters will probably sacrifice a bit of comfort for the weight savings of a single-walled tent. But if you’re looking for a middle ground that prioritizes both space and weight, the Big Agnes is an intriguing alternative. For a more traditional basecamp-style design from Big Agnes for mountaineering or serious winter objectives, check out their Battle Mountain line.
See the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 Expedition
Packaged weight: 7 lbs. 15 oz.
Floor area: 34.5 sq. ft.
What we like: A great value and roomy.
What we don’t: Heavy, bulky, and limited performance capabilities.
We’ll start by saying that we’ve had positive experiences overall with Alps products, although they are budget in nature and definitely not among our top performers. But you can’t argue with the value, which is why the Alps Tasmanian made this list. At only $300 full MSRP ($210 on Amazon at the time of publishing), you get a fairly protective tent that will do the trick for most casual winter campers. We particularly like the roominess of this tent, which at 34.5 square feet is one of the biggest two-person models. Plus, the large mesh vent at the top does a fairly good job at promoting airflow and preventing condensation from building up.
It’s important to have reasonable expectations for a 4-season tent in this price range. First, the Alps Tasmanian is heavy at 7 pounds 15 ounces, not to mention it’s bulky and somewhat difficult to stuff into the included sack (although you’ll likely end up separating the tent body and poles to make it easier to fit in a pack). Second, we don’t recommend putting this tent to the limit in terms of tough winter weather. It should perform fine in the cold and light to moderate wind, but the tents above use higher-quality materials and much more complex designs. Finally, durability always is a concern with products that undercut the rest of the market in price. Alps does cover manufacturing defects under their warranty but not anything related to normal wear and tear.
See the Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2
|Mountain Hardwear Trango 3||$950||Basecamp||11 lbs. 5 oz.||48 sq. ft.||45 in.||Double|
|Black Diamond Eldorado||$900||Mountaineering||5 lbs. 1 oz.||30.8 sq. ft.||43 in.||Single|
|Nemo Kunai 2P||$550||Treeline||4 lbs. 5 oz.||26 sq. ft.||44 in.||Double|
|Black Diamond Mega Snow||$450||Basecamp/treeline||3 lbs. 10 oz.||78 sq. ft.||66 in.||Single|
|The North Face VE 25||$750||Basecamp||10 lbs. 5 oz.||48 sq. ft.||48 in.||Double|
|MSR Access 2||$800||Treeline||4 lbs. 1 oz.||29 sq. ft.||42 in.||Double|
|Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT||$1,115||Basecamp||8 lbs. 3 oz.||30.1 sq. ft.||37 in.||Double|
|MSR Advance Pro 2||$800||Mountaineering||3 lbs. 3 oz.||24 sq. ft.||44 in.||Single|
|Nemo Chogori 2||$750||Basecamp/mountain||7 lbs. 11 oz.||36.3 sq. ft.||39 in.||Double|
|REI Co-op Arete ASL 2||$449||Treeline||6 lbs. 5 oz.||32.9 sq. ft.||43 in.||Double|
|Black Diamond Firstlight 2P||$450||Mountaineering||3 lbs. 6 oz.||27.3 sq. ft.||42 in.||Single|
|MSR Remote 2||$860||Mountain/basecamp||7 lbs. 2 oz.||33 sq. ft.||44 in.||Double|
|Hilleberg Allak 2||$1,165||Treeline/basecamp||7 lbs. 4 oz.||31.2 sq. ft.||41 in.||Double|
|SlingFin HotBox||$650||Mountaineering||4 lbs. 2 oz.||26.8 sq. ft.||41 in.||Double|
|Mountain Hardwear ACI 3||$1,000||Mountaineering||8 lbs. 1 oz.||45.8 sq. ft.||41 in.||Single|
|Black Diamond Mission 2||$900||Basecamp||8 lbs. 12 oz.||33 sq. ft.||43 in.||Double|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3||$600||Treeline/basecamp||6 lbs. 3 oz.||41 sq. ft.||41 in.||Double|
|Alps Tasmanian 2||$300||Treeline||7 lbs. 15 oz.||34.5 sq. ft.||46 in.||Double|
- 4-Season Tent Types
- Weight and Packed Size
- Double-Wall vs. Single-Wall Tents
- Size: Floor Area and Peak Height
- Ventilation and Condensation
- Silnylon vs. Polyurethane
- Storage: Vestibules and Interior Pockets
- Tent Pole Quality
- Stakes and Snow Anchors
- When Waterproofing Matters
- 4-Season vs. 3-Season Tents
- A Note on 4-Season Shelters
The term 4-season tent is a catch-all for any shelter that is made to withstand inclement, winter weather. However, there’s still a fair amount of variation within the category, which includes bulletproof, spacious, and heavy tents (great for basecamping), lightweight single-wall builds (great for alpine pushes), and everything in between. Below, we break down our three main categories of 4-season tents: mountaineering, basecamp, and treeline.
Mountaineering tents are built for high-alpine environments with weight as a primary consideration. Many of these tents are of the single-wall variety (more on that below) and make few compromises in terms of wind and weather protection. Square footage tends to be lower than basecamping and treeline tents, and the same goes for peak height. Almost all mountaineering tents are waterproof (or easily seam-sealed), with one exception being the lightweight Black Diamond Firstlight.
4-season tents of the basecamping variety are more comfortable and heavier than their mountaineering siblings above. To start, you may not have to carry your tent as far or as high, and therefore you can get away with packing more weight (and getting more tent in return). In addition, it’s highly likely that you’ll end up spending more time in a basecamp-style tent. Mountaineering tents are designed for fast and light adventures and summit pushes, but basecamping can be done in a variety of circumstances and conditions. Many of these tents have a double-wall design, which helps with ventilation, condensation prevention, and space, all at the expense of weight.
Treeline tents are the most trimmed-down 4-season models on the market. As the name implies, tents like the Nemo Kunai and MSR Access are designed for winter camping but not necessarily for heavy exposure in the high mountains. Compared to a 3-season version, a treeline tent will have a more substantial bathtub floor, less mesh, and heavier canopy and rainfly fabrics. But these tents fall short of basecamp and mountaineering models in terms of their toughness and durability, and it’s best not to put them to the test. They are, however, a nice option for light winter adventuring and serious 3-season backpacking in unpredictable weather.
4-season tents weigh more than their 3-season counterparts due to heavier and more durable fabrics, stronger poles, and beefier zippers. On the light end of the spectrum, the minimalist Black Diamond Firstlight has a feathery packaged weight of just 3 pounds 6 ounces, while a heavy-duty model like the Trango 3 is over 10 pounds. Even if you look at the trail weight instead of the packaged weight (which doesn’t factor in stuff sacks, stakes, and guylines), you’ll still be close to 9 pounds for a number of tents on this list for the two-person version (the three- and four-person models weigh even more).
As with almost all types of outdoor gear, going up in weight has its advantages. Heavier 4-season tents generally are tougher and more weather resistant, ventilate better, and have more features. You’re getting a whole lot more tent, which may end up being worthwhile. We’ve been tent-bound in a Firstlight for three days on end, and even in with the rose-colored tint of nostalgia, the experience still remains a dismal one. We surely would have traded a few pounds of peanut M&Ms for the comfort and weather protection of a heavier tent like the TNF VE 25.
Weight and packed size generally go hand in hand and there is a strong correlation between the two variables. In many cases, two or more climbing partners can split up the components on the tent to less the burden for each. It’s worth noting that this process can be more difficult for single-wall tents than the double-wall variety—with no rainfly, the tent body is the vast majority of the weight and bulk. But with most double-wall tents, the canopy and rainfly often can be split up fairly evenly.
A critical distinction among 4-season tents is between double and single-wall designs. Simply put, a double-wall tent is composed of two separate layers: the inner tent canopy and an outer rainfly. Single-wall tents, on the other hand, have one layer of fabric to protect you from the outside elements. Single-wall tents are considerably lighter than double-wall models and still can be tough as nails, but at the cost of comfort, weather protection, and ventilation.
Which type of 4-season tent design should you choose? Unless weight and packed size are your top priorities, a double-wall wins out in basically every respect. By and large, you get more space, two doors rather than one, and larger vestibules (many single-wall tents forgo the vestibule completely). Second, with two layers of fabric between you and the elements, you get more robust and reliable weather protection. And most significantly, double-wall tents are far and away the more breathable option, as air can flow freely between the tent body and waterproof layer. Single-wall tents, on the other hand, are more minimalist in nature and meant for weekend summit assaults on Mount Rainer or the final push to the top of a Himalayan giant, while double-wall tents are more comfortable at a 17,000-foot camp on Denali in heavy wind and snow. If your trip or expedition is longer than a couple of days, a double-walled tent likely is your best bet.
The interior space of a tent is most commonly measured by the floor area, which we’ve provided in square feet in our product specs and comparison table. Compared to normal backpacking tents, 4-season tents range from minimalist to roomy, depending on their intended use. For example, a mountaineering tent like the MSR Advance Pro 2 is just 24 square feet, while the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 measures 40 square feet. Two climbers crammed into the Advance Pro 2 will be cramped like sardines whereas the Trango has a lot more room to sprawl. The moral of the story: if you’re looking for space, tents of the basecamp and treeline variety win out.
But square footage doesn’t tell the entire story as it only represents the floor: you also have the peak height and slope of the walls. A high peak height makes it easy to sit up and move around the tent, while heavily sloped walls have a tendency to make everything feel much smaller. We’ve provided the peak heights in our comparison table above, and the slope of the wall is best gauged by carefully studying the shape of the tent (or better yet, getting inside and seeing for yourself). Many tents now feature a cross-bracing pole on the ceiling, which provides lateral stability against wind and snow loads while also offering more headroom (think of a cube as opposed to a pyramid). More headroom can make those tent-bound days more bearable.
Last but not least: make sure to find a tent that is a few inches longer than you are. Otherwise, you will have to sleep at an angle or in the fetal position, neither of which is optimal. Most 4-season tents can accommodate people over 6-feet tall, but Hilleberg seems to be the favorite brand for those who tower over the rest.
By nature, 4-season tents are warmer than 3-season tents—they have less mesh, are designed to protect you from the elements, and therefore hold in more heat. Yet it’s important to keep fresh air flowing both to stay dry and to save you from the funk of your climbing partner’s socks. Over time, your breath will condense on the inner walls of the tent. In warmer weather, it will turn into beads of water on the ceiling and walls. In colder weather, it will turn to frost feathers. Both can fall on your face while you sleep and get your sleeping bag and other gear wet. And sleeping in a fully enclosed tent can make you feel groggy as you continually breathe stale air.
Proper ventilation will help to alleviate many of these issues. It’s important to remember that even the best 4-season tents are prone to some type of condensation, but some fare better than others. Double-wall designs tend to breathe better than single-wall tents, and the more vents the better. If drafts don’t make you uncomfortable, leaving doors and any available vents open can help mitigate condensation. In the product descriptions above we’ve tried to describe which tents in particular are strong or poor in terms of breathability, which certainly can be an important factor to your comfort.
When heavy winds and six feet of snow bury your tent at 14,000-foot camp on Denali, you want to know that it will be able to stand up to the load. Moreover, at higher altitudes and on glaciers, tents will be subjected to intense ultra-violet rays from the sun. This will wear your tent out faster than it would at lower altitudes or in more hospitable climates. For these reasons, many 4-season tents are made with heavy fabric (like 70D Nylon Taffeta with a quality coating) to stand up to the rigors of sunlight (which is stronger at higher altitudes due to the fact that there is less atmosphere to filter its rays), high winds, and driving snow and rain.
Time-tested tents such as the Mountain Hardwear Trango, The North Face’s VE 25, and numerous Hilleberg models are known for being able to stand up to years of abuse in the toughest climates on Earth. On the other hand, many mountaineering-specific tents are made with thinner fabrics in order to shave weight (the MSR Advance Pro 2 has 20D shell fabric compared to the Trango's 70D fly), and thus don’t stand up as well to wear and tear. Another way to determine a tent’s longevity is by comparing prices within categories. In general, as the cost of a tent goes down, so does the build quality and durability (for example, the $1,165 Hilleberg Allak is a far more robust treeline tent than the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2). This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule by any means, but cheaper tents tend to be less durable and trustworthy than their more expensive counterparts.
Taking a quick dive into the nitty-gritty of fabric strength and waterproofing, there are two basic types of coatings used on 4-season tents: silicone (also referred to as silnylon) and polyurethane (commonly written as PU). Silicone-coated nylons are very expensive, typically weigh less, pack down smaller, and in the case of Hilleberg’s siliconized Kerlon fabrics, have incredible tear strength and longevity. But even Hilleberg uses polyurethane for the floor of their tents. Polyurethane can be laid on thicker than silicone for excellent puncture and abrasion resistance, is much easier to seam tape, and far less slippery than silicone, which is helpful on a tent floor to keep you from sliding around. The main downside is a shorter lifespan, particularly with low quality polyurethane that is prone to delaminating. But the benefits often don’t outweigh the added cost of silicone, so most non-Hilleberg tents have polyurethane coated rainflies and floors.
On an extended trip where inclement weather is likely, having ample space to store and dry your gear is an absolute necessity. Tents like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 and the Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition are lined with pockets upon pockets. And yet it never ceases to amaze us how easily we fill those pockets with food, gear, and electronics once our packs are emptied. This storage is especially important considering that keeping your gear organized and separate from your partner’s is essential on any long trip (you wouldn’t want him or her to start eating your snacks!). Most tents also feature small loops meant to string guy line across the ceiling, which is useful to dry wet gear after a long day in bad weather.
Perhaps nothing on a 4-season tent is more important to comfort than the vestibule. A tent’s vestibule acts as a separate room that separates the dry, snow and rain-free interior of the tent from the harsh outside elements. Nothing will aggravate your partner more than soaking their dry down sleeping bag with your wet Gore-Tex and snow-ridden boots. The vestibule is where you seal yourself off from the majority of the outside weather and prepare to enter the tent dry, just like you would take your muddy shoes off outside before walking on someone’s carpet. Many tents have a smaller rear vestibule that can hold a few backpacks, but isn’t optimal for cooking or using as the main door. And keep in mind that many mountaineering tents forgo vestibules to shave weight, so be sure to choose accordingly if it’s an important feature to you.
Everyone who has backpacked knows that the number of doors a tent has matters a lot. Nothing is more frustrating than having to crawl blindly over your partner at 2 a.m. to answer nature’s call, and they would probably say the same. In general, lightweight mountaineering tents are most likely to have one door—it’s an easy way to cut weight and keep the footprint of the tent small (and the hope is that you’re not spending a lot of time in the tent anyway). Basecamping and treeline tents are likely to have two doors, which allows each person to enter and exit as they please. And one final consideration in relation to doors: a second door often means a second vestibule, which greatly enhances the storage opportunities and comfort.
In terms of tent pole quality, 4-season tents will have stronger (and heavier) poles that can withstand big gusts of wind. In cold weather, tent fabric shrinks and plastics and metals get brittle. Snapping a tent pole in a storm easily could result in a shredded tent, but stout metal poles (Easton, DAC, etc.) with long connector joints will provide torsional strength. And beware of any tent pole with a plastic tip (the end part of the pole that connects into the grommet of the tent). One year on Denali, one of our gear testers saw over a dozen of the same poles shear off at the tip when a company switched from metal to plastic.
In environments with unpredictable weather, it’s imperative to make your tent bombproof against wind and storms. Once while returning to Camp Muir after summiting Mount Rainier, one of our testers watched a tent roll down the Cowlitz Glacier and fall into a crevasse (true story). He later found out that the team had “anchored” their tent down with basic 6-inch stakes meant to hold a standard tent backpacking in the dirt.
When using a 4-season tent in an alpine environment, it is not uncommon to use backcountry skis, ice axes, pickets, ski poles, bamboo wands, or anything else that can be securely buried and not bend or break under high loads. On big mountains like Denali, it’s advisable to dig down two feet or more and fill around your “stake” with very compact snow. If you don’t have long skis or poles at your disposal, you can make a “deadman” anchor with any spare pieces of gear lying around. Simply wrap a stick, rock, tent stake—even a stuff sack filled with snow—with a guyline and bury it deep into the snow. What’s most important here is that you cover the deadman with heavy, compact snow so it does not become unanchored.
You might be wondering why on earth we would recommend a non-waterproof tent like the Black Diamond Firstlight here. After all, isn’t the whole purpose of a tent—especially a 4-season tent—to keep you dry? Yes—and no. Here is our reasoning: In truly wintery conditions when temperatures stay well below freezing, the chance of snow melting and seeping through the walls of a tent like the Firstlight is slim to none (and if it does, the DWR coating puts up a fairly solid defense). If there ever was a time to skimp on waterproofing, deep winter is it. On the other hand, in warmer temperatures there’s a good chance you’ll be using your tent as more of a shelter from wind than rain (think summer in Patagonia). In this case, a windproof tent is all you need.
There are a couple clear benefits to forgoing waterproof material in a tent. First, waterproof fabrics and seam taping increase weight and price—at 3 pounds 6 ounces and reasonable $450, the Black Diamond Firstlight is an ultralight, affordable option. In addition, waterproofing generally detracts from breathability—especially in a single-walled tent—which means that the other waterproof models trap noticeably more condensation than the Firstlight. But these benefits come with some responsibility. Make sure you seal your tent’s seams as a first line of defense against wet precipitation (Gear Aid’s Tent Seam Sealant is a proven choice). Second, routinely give your tent a shake when it’s snowing so that there is no opportunity for the snow to warm and turn to water. And when you’re not sure of what the weather might do, leave your Firstlight at home and bring a truly waterproof structure.
Four-season tents are the “take anywhere, do anything” tent, and they are designed to withstand the harshest environments in the world. We’ve watched entire vacations go by from the inside of a 4-season tent as inches of snow and rain fall outside, staying dry and comfortable inside (albeit stir crazy and disappointed). Like the old adage says: “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” Likewise, don’t bring a tent designed for the Pacific Crest Trail to the stormy realms of the Cascade volcanoes, Denali, or Patagonia’s Torre Valley.
When you are using a 4-season tent, odds are you will be in a climate prone to inhospitable weather. 4-season tents are more robust, heavier, and more durable than standard backpacking tents, and designed to withstand heavy wind, rain and snow. They’re also packed with features, including flies that extend farther down the main body of the tent (and some models feature snow skirts—flaps that are meant to be buried in snow), high bathtubs on the main body to prevent rain and snow from leeching into the tent, and large vestibules that provide ample room for storage and cooking. It’s not uncommon on big mountain expeditions in Alaska to see intricate kitchens where teams have dug pits in the snow and can comfortably stand, cook, and socialize in the enclosed space of their vestibule.
Most of the tents above feature a pole-supported design that provides 360-degree security from wind, rain, snow, and bugs. But for those who value weight-savings above all else, a 4-season shelter offers weather protection almost on par with a treeline model at half the weight or less. To maximize their strength-to-weight ratios, popular 4-season shelters like the Black Diamond Mega Snow above and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 are floorless, non-freestanding, and utilize a center pole (often two attached trekking poles or ski poles) to create a taught, pyramid shape. When properly set up, these tents can hold strong in moderate wind and shed driving rain and snowfall.
Our favorite use for a 4-season shelter is as an additional living space while basecamping on snow. By digging out the base, you can create a sitting and standing area for four (or more!) that offers a great change of pace from tent life. Then, when you need a true respite from bugs, wet ground, or seeping rain, you always can escape to the security of your tent. The most intrepid of adventurers might opt for a 4-season shelter as their dedicated sleeping area, but we only recommend this for trips when the weather is mild or when weight really wins out: long ski traverses, fast-and-light climbs, and backcountry treks that cover a lot of distance and require a very light pack.
Back to Our Top 4-Season Tent Picks Back to Our 4-Season Tent Comparison Table