For many people, the start of the cold weather signifies the end of their camping season. For some, however, it is just the beginning. See, winter is a great time for those seeking adventure and peace. It’s also a favorite for those who want to put their survival skills to the test.
However, camping during the cold weather requires more preparation. Most of all, it demands you to use the right equipment, especially the tent you’ll be snuggling to at the end of the day. If all that you have is a flimsy setup that’s best suited for summer and spring camping, then you may quickly find yourself in hot water – and not in a good way. So if you want to last the night or weeks of brutally cold weather and snow, choosing the right cold weather tents is key.
- 3-Season vs. 4-Season Tents
- What to Look for in a Cold Weather Tent?
- 5 Best Cold Weather Tents
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How do you keep a tent warm in cold weather?
- How cold is too cold to camp in a tent?
- How can I keep my tent warm without electricity?
- Is a 55 degree low too cold for camping in a tent?
- How can I stay dry at night in cold weather camping?
- Can you survive winter in a tent?
- Do you need a special tent for winter camping?
- Should you put a tarp over your tent?
With tons of cold weather tents in the market, it can be difficult to choose which one can perform against even the worst outdoor conditions. So to help you out, here’s a guide on what you need to look out for when choosing a camping tent for the cold weather. We have also made a list of the best cold weather tents to help narrow down your options.
3-Season vs. 4-Season Tents
Before we proceed, let’s first discuss the difference between a 3-season tent and a 4-season one. Can a 3-season hold well during cold weather camping? Or do you need a 4-season one? Let’s find out here.
What is a 3-Season Tent?
A 3-season tent or backpacking tent is primarily designed to keep your pack light. From its name, it can be used for spring, summer, and fall. It is lightweight with open meshy walls and made with lighter fabrics, providing as much ventilation and breathability as possible without exposing you to direct wind. Usually, it is meant to protect you from wind, light hail, rain, and some cold weather.
What is a 4-Season Tent?
A 4-season tent is heavier, tougher, and made for extreme weather conditions. It is often designed with less mesh, tougher poles, external poles, and other features to improve stability and protection from the elements. This type of tent is designed to withstand hail, snow, ice, snow buildup, high winds, and just cold weather conditions overall – which is why it is called a winter tent or cold weather tent.
While four-season tents are made for winter, they are still versatile enough to be used even in summer. But you may need to pay more attention to cooling them down to camp comfortably.
Which Tent is Right for You?
So now the question is, which camping tent should you get? Well, this all depends on how you are planning to use it and the environment you’ll be in. If you are camping in cold conditions but there’s very little chance of strong wind and snow, then you’ll be fine with high-quality 3-season tents or lightweight mountaineering tents.
However, in more extreme conditions such as heavy snowfall, snow load, and high winds, a 4-season camping tent will be a much better choice. It provides you with more strength, warmth, flexibility, extra stability, and comfort. You can also sleep better knowing your tent won’t just fall on you.
What to Look for in a Cold Weather Tent?
The winter tent market can be a real minefield and you can easily end up with one that can’t perform. If you’re dealing with strong wind, cold temperatures, and heavy snow, this isn’t a risk that you should take. So to make sure you’ll end up with a good quality camping tent for winter, here are the features you should look out for:
There are three types of tents within the 4-season category and you have to choose depending on your selected terrain and intended activity. Here’s a quick breakdown of each one:
- Mountaineering: If you are planning to hike and summit serious mountains such as Mt. Rainier or Denali, then a 4-season mountaineering tent is the best way to go. This type of camping tent is specifically designed for exposed and above-treeline mountaineering expeditions. It offers a lot of space for sleeping, living, and storing your bulky winter gear. It’s designed with double walls and strong shell material, so you’ll always be protected against harsh winter conditions.
- Treeline: If you’re planning on a casual camping trip during winter, a treeline tent is a great choice. It can withstand moderate winds, light snow, and it gives you enough protection from the cold. Unless you’re planning to go high up in the mountains, a treeline winter tent is enough to keep you comfortable and safe on average cold weather trips.
- Basecamp: Compared to a treeline tent, a basecamp tent is tougher and more weather-resistant. It is also more comfortable and spacious than mountaineering tents. If you are at high altitudes and sleeping in the same spot for multiple days, this would be the best type of camping tent to get. The only downside is that it is heavier.
When choosing a tent, you need to consider how many people you’ll need to fit in it. Then you’d have to think about your things too. But the problem is, there’s no industry-standard of sizes. This can vary greatly between brands. For instance, a company’s 2-person tent can be the same size as a 3-person tent of another company.
So when choosing what size to get, always check the exact dimensions. Get tent measurements across different brands and compare them with each other to find the right capacity to meet your needs.
Just a tip: for more room, consider getting a larger tent than you’ve planned. For instance, if you need space to stretch while sleeping, you can buy a 2-person instead of a one-person tent.
One of the things you should look for in a winter tent is good ventilation. While it can be tempting to just keep the freezing air out, you’ll need good ventilation to prevent internal frosting and condensation. Generally, tents with double walls provide better circulation than those with single walls. Most four-season tents, however, already have extra rainfly vents that help control humidity inside.
A vestibule provides extra space to store your gears or change out of your wet clothes off. This is a really important feature to look out for since it gives you space for your outwear gears, including jackets and boots. Meaning, you won’t have to bring in wet or damp things inside the main part of your tent, saving you from moisture buildup and internal frosting.
Typically, 4-season tents use nylon fabric, which is great for insulation and durability while trying to reduce weight. It is stronger than 3-season tents with its thickness measured in denier (D). The higher the denier number, the heavier and more durable the material is. So when choosing, it will help to find tents with the same fabric, check the denier number, and compare them with each other.
Also in the tent’s fabric, look for a DWR coating for the tent rain fly. It should either be coated with PU and silicone, soaked in silicone, or coated with PTFE.
Another thing you have to look out for when choosing a tent is weight. If you are setting up camp straight from your car, then having a heavy tent wouldn’t matter. However, if you are mountaineering, backpacking, or going on a long alpine expedition, then you probably want to keep things as light as possible.
7. Other Extra Features
While not as essential as the others, here are some features that may make your camping experience more comfortable and convenient.
- Two Entrances: If you’re sharing a tent with another person, having two entrances will surely make things easier. This way, you won’t have to climb over each other just to get you and your things in and out of the tent.
- Storage: Keeping your things organized will save you time since you don’t have to rummage your tent just to find the one you need. So look for tents with mesh pockets or hooks inside to save you a lot of trouble.
5 Best Cold Weather Tents
Now that you know what features to look out for and which tent best fits your camping needs, it’s time to choose an impressive tent that will accompany you on your adventure. To help you with that, here’s our list of the top 5 tents for the cold weather.
|Mountain Hardwear Trango 2||Basecamp||2-person||9lbs 10.2oz||40D Ripstop Nylon||double|
|MSR Expedition Remote||Mountaineering||2-person||7lbs 2oz||40D Ripstop Nylon||double|
|Hilleberg Keron 4||Basecamp||4-person||12lbs 2oz||40D Ripstop Nylon||–|
|Black Diamond Eldorado||Mountaineering||2-person||5lb 1oz||Todd Tex||single|
|Nemo Kunai 2P||Treeline||2-person||4lbs 5oz||20D Ripstop Nylon||double|
Best Extreme Cold Weather Tent: Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent
Our top pick for the best tent for extreme cold weather is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2. While a little bit on the heavy side, this tent is made to endure the harsh alpine conditions. It is durable, comfortable, and stays dry no matter what. Made with extremely strong poles, a double-wall design, and a direct connection point for the tent body, frame, and rain fly, this is a solid and impressive tent.
The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 has two mesh doors, 2 vestibules, and a guy system inside that provides that much-needed extra strength when conditions are just at their worst. You can also use the internal guy loops for a clothesline. But what sealed the deal for us was its floor space. Providing a generous 40 sq. ft., the Trango 2 is the roomiest 2-person tent around. With this much space and the dual vestibules, you’d have more than enough space for you, another person, and your gears.
The Runner Up: MSR Remote 2
Like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, the MSR Remote 2 can provide you the protection you need in harsh weather conditions. It is built to withstand heavy snow loads and heavy wind with its double-wall design, durable fabrics, central support frame, and incredibly strong poles. To top it all off, the MSR Remote 2 is lighter than the Trango 2.
So what made us choose Trango 2 over the MSR Remote 2? Well, it just all came down to the livability. While its peak height is taller than Trango 2, its floor space is significantly smaller at 33 sq. ft. There aren’t also many storage pockets inside and while it did good managing condensation and moisture, its ventilation can be better.
Best Cold Weather Family Tent: Hilleberg Keron 4
If you are planning to take your family or friends on winter camping, then here’s a great choice for a tent. The Hilleberg Keron 4 has a 47.3 sq. ft. floor area and 17.2 sq. ft, which is enough to fit 3 to 4 persons and their gears. It is made with durable materials and has a tough fabric and poles, making it an exceptionally stable and strong tent. It can even stand against high winds, which is just perfect for polar expeditions and harsh conditions.
Hilleberg is a well-known brand in the tent industry. They have been around for decades with their first Keron model launched in 1981. Over the years, very little was changed in terms of tent body and design. However, newer models like the Keron 4 do have an overall improved strength. If you need more storage space, you can also get the Keron 4 GT, which comes with an extended vestibule.
On the downside, the Keron 4 is one of the most expensive tents. It even costs as much as a mortgage payment or two good 4-season tents. It’s also heavy at 12lbs 2oz. Furthermore, it’s a tunnel tent, which may make it less effective in handling snow load than a geodesic or dome tent.
Best Tent for Rain and Cold: Black Diamond Eldorado Tent
- Two-person spacious version of I-Tent; 13 cm (5 in) longer and 8 cm (3 in) wider
- Two internal aluminum poles for easy setup
- Two zippered vents at the peak, a hooded vent over the door and one at the bottom
- Single door entry and optional vestibule for gear storage
Here’s a very classic tent that you may already be familiar with. Black Diamond’s Eldorado has proven its might against the rain and cold. Even with its single wall and simple design, this tent is durable and capable of protecting you in alpine conditions. To top it all off, it is surprisingly lighter than most 4-season tents but still significantly heavier than the Nemo Kunai 2P.
With a floor area of 30.8 sq. ft., the Black Diamond Eldorado can feel a little crowded for 2 people. It also doesn’t come with a vestibule. But if you want the extra space, you can purchase a vestibule for an additional cost. For an already pricey product, however, this is a huge letdown.
Best Versatile Tent: Nemo Kunai 2P Tent
- YEAR-ROUND VERSATILITY - The Kunai is truly in a category of its own, able to handle everything from hot and humid days in the trees to frigid temps and exposure high in the mountains. If you're...
- SUPEROIR SHELTER - Top-shelf DAC poles and aggressively-tapered overall tent profile are built to shed wind, rain and snow. Dimension-Polyant sailcloth and a wind-blocking inner tent keep you...
- DRY & AIRY - Tub floor construction guarantees a dry tent no matter how wet the ground is. Large door vent and zippered mesh windows allow for plenty of air flow and a strut vent located on zipper...
- EVERYTHING YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU NEEDED - Overhead Light Pockets use special light-diffusing fabric to cast an even glow with a headlamp and Gear Pockets offer storage for personal items. Divvy Sack...
If you are looking for a tent that’s just right at the sweet spot where it can be used for all seasons, then here’s a great choice. The Nemo Kunai 2P is the best versatile tent as it’s able to handle everything from hot and humid summer days to mild winter conditions. It has a double-wall design, tough poles, and a thoughtfully designed frame that offers the sturdiness and protection you need from a winter tent without the extra weight. At 4lb 5oz, this is the lightest winter tent on our list. It’s also within the ideal weight for a mountaineering expedition.
The Nemo Kunai Two-Person Tent has a 3-4 season design, so it may not be the best for harsh weather conditions. However, this impressive tent isn’t to be underestimated. It is tough and won’t drag you down during your trip.
To achieve that lighter weight, though, you’d have to sacrifice some features. So you’d get only one door, a weaker canvas fabric, and a smaller space compared to the other tents on our list. At a 26 sq. ft. floor area and 8 square feet of vestibule area, it might feel a little cramped inside with 2 people and bulky gears.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you keep a tent warm in cold weather?
Insulate your tent and cover the floor with a foam pad, space blanket, mats, or rugs. Proper ground insulation is key in preventing body heat loss through the ground. This will also make your tent cozier to walk on. You might also want to set up a fire pit using the best wood.
How cold is too cold to camp in a tent?
Depends on an individual’s tolerance to the cold. But generally, a temperature of 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to 4 degrees Celcius) is considered too cold for inexperienced campers with cheap gear.
How can I keep my tent warm without electricity?
Have good ground insulation. This will prevent heat loss through conduction and create a protective barrier between you and the ground. You can use emergency blankets, foam pads, tent rugs, or mats to cover your floor.
Is a 55 degree low too cold for camping in a tent?
No. Many find this temperature great for camping in a tent. Also, the most comfortable nighttime temperature for camping is around 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So you might just enjoy this temperature.
How can I stay dry at night in cold weather camping?
Proper Ventilation. As surprising as it may sound, having excellent ventilation at night will help you stay dry in cold weather camping. This will prevent the condensation buildup caused by your body heat and breath, which can make everything inside your tent slightly damped.
Can you survive winter in a tent?
Yes, but it takes a lot of planning, preparation, the right camping gear, and cold weather survival skills.
Do you need a special tent for winter camping?
Yes. If you are going camping during winter, you will be better off with 4-season rated winter camping tents. They have less mesh netting, which helps keep heat better inside. They also have larger vestibule areas, which is very important in winter camping.
Should you put a tarp over your tent?
You can. Throwing a tarp over your tent can add extra insulation, preventing heat from escaping.