Why let some snow and ice stop you from going on the backpacking adventure of a lifetime? For summertime backpackers, the idea of hitting the hiking trails during the colder months can sound like hell, starting with choosing the proper winter tents. However, if you choose and plan for the right gear, it can be one of nature’s most rewarding experiences. If you plan ahead with warm layers, ample supplies of hot drinks, a good fire making kit, and a four-season tent, you may find that wintertime is a great time to go backpacking too. This is especially so as you will find you have the usually crowded hiking trails in breathtaking national parks all to yourself.
For anyone thinking about heading on a winter backpacking adventure, always remember safety first. One key aspect of this is ensuring you have a proper shelter that can stand up to the blustery elements of the coldest months. More so if you are hiking at high altitudes.
In short, you will need a four-season tent, as these do not collapse under the weight of heavy snowfalls. They have thick layers of insulation and are completely waterproof. To help you make it through your winter trip safely, here are the best four-season winter tents that will keep you warm even when the temperature outside drops below zero.
The Best All-Round Winter Tent: North Face Mountain 25
If you want a tent that works in all conditions the winter months can throw at you, then look no further. The iconic North Face Mountain 25 will help you in all types of wintery weather. Combining a highly insulating and wind-proof double wall design with sturdy poles that can withstand even the heaviest snowfall and lightweight and durable fabrics, the Mountain 25 is the best all-round winter tent available on the market.
This North Face model is one of the most comfortable tents out there with a maximum area of 32.5 square feet. It also has a peak height of 40 inches and two points of entry. This means that it can comfortably fit two people. The tent itself can also be split in two for carrying. So, one backpacker does not have to have the burden of carrying all its components. What’s more, its walls are lined with internal pockets that are perfect for keeping your backpacking gear neatly stored away during the night.
However, the Mountain 25 has a couple of downsides as it weighs in at 9 pounds. Hence, some solo backpackers looking to make quick ascents may find it uncomfortably heavy to carry. Also, another notable downside of this North Face model is its high price point coming in at around the $800 mark. However, in general, winter tents are more expensive than regular three-season models. But, with the North Face, you are paying for its superb quality, ensuring it lasts for many adventures to come.
The Best Winter Tent For Quick Ascents: Black Diamond Eldorado & Hilleberg Jannu
Black Diamond Eldorado
The Black Diamond Eldorado has proven itself as the best lightweight winter tent through decades of use. It’s known as the go-to shelter for alpine mountaineers, including numerous expeditions on Mount Everest. Indeed, this tent is specifically geared towards backpackers looking to make rapid ascents who don’t want to be weighed down by a heavier model. With just two strong poles that can withstand the strongest alpine winds and snowfalls and a single wall, this tent is also one of the easiest to set up. This means you can escape the ferocious mountain weather with ease. Moreover, with such a minimalist design, it’s no surprise that the Eldorado is one of the lightest tents on the market, weighing in at just 4 pounds.
However, this is not a tent for the casual backpacker looking to try out some winter hiking. For one, it is not cheap, coming in at around $700. Secondly, it is also one of the smallest tents on the market. It’ll definitely be a squeeze to fit more than one average-sized adult inside. Finally, it has a single wall design, which makes it less breathable and less insulated than double-walled tents. For serious alpinists, these are small prices to pay for a durable and lightweight winter tent. However, for more casual backpackers, this tent is likely not the best option.
A similar option is the Hilleberg Jannu. This tent is easy to set up in difficult alpine conditions. Also, it’s one of the lightest four-season tents available, as it weighs in at 6 pounds. Moreover, the Hilleberg Jannu is a double-walled tent, making it far more breathable and warmer than other four-season tents. It’s aimed towards mountaineers looking to make quick ascents. However, the high price point of around $1000 means that this tent will probably only appeal to backpackers looking to spend multiple days in the alpine backcountry.
The Best For Beginner Winter Backpackers: Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 3 & The Rei Arete ASL 2
When it comes to finding a four-season tent at a reasonable price point that can still withstand the worst weather winter can throw at you, beginner backpackers can find it a serious struggle. However, if you look hard enough there are bargains out there.
Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 3
Coming in at $300 all the while maintaining excellent quality is the Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 3. Constructed using a durable two-pole system, the Tasmanian 3 can withstand high-speed winds and heavy snowfalls with ease. Additionally, it is one of the more spacious tents on the market. To prove this point, a fully-grown man can lie outstretched and sit upright inside. Similarly, the ceiling height and fire-retardant fabric of the vestibules is high enough as to allow indoor cooking. With the only obvious downside being its weight at 8 pounds, this is certainly one of the best bargains around when it comes to backpacking gear.
The Rei Arete ASL 2
A slightly pricier option at $400 is the Rei Arete ASL 2. This tent has ultra-light top of the range DAC Featherlite poles. It’s light weight allows this spacious tent to weigh less than 6 pounds. Although its weight makes it ideal for longer backpacking expeditions, the main downside of the Arete ASL 2 is its complex set up. This means it may not be the best if you want to pitch camp in a hurry.
The Best Winter Tent For Extreme Weather: Marmot Thor
Named after the Norse god of thunder, it is with little surprise that the Marmot Thor bills itself as the best tent for extreme weather. Comprised of six sturdy DAC Featherlite poles, this tent is both lightweight and has the ability to withstand the strongest winds nature can throw at you. Similarly, the tent floor is Catenary Cut, meaning it is suspended above the ground. This then prevents the cold and wet from seeping underneath you.
However, the only downside of the Marmot Thor is that for an extreme weather tent, setting it up is time-consuming. This can prove troublesome if the weather is closing in. Moreover, it’s its mission to keep you protected from the weather. Also, the design has minimized the size of the vents, which can increase internal condensation.
The Best Lightweight Winter Tent: Black Diamond Mega Light
One of the more unusual four-season tents available is the Black Diamond Mega Light. This tent looks more like a circus tent than your usual camping tent. This is because it comes in a pyramid shape for easy construction. Also, to save weight, it only needs a singular support pole alongside a nylon cord. This keeps it up even in strong winter winds. Also, this is one of the largest four-season tents out there, measuring in at 50 square feet; enabling it to fit four people. However, despite its large size, it only weighs in at 2.5 pounds. This means that it can be easily tucked away in your backpack.
Despite this, the Mega Light does have its pitfalls. While it may be classified as a four-season tent, it does not have a built-in floor. Instead, it comes with a thick tarpaulin that can be lain on the ground. This then makes it not ideal for wet or snowy conditions, unless you are fine with getting a bit cold in the night. Similarly, its single pole set up and lack of attached floor means that in high winds, it doesn’t exclude drafts as good as other tent models. However, if you’re camping within the tree line and the weather looks reasonable, there’s no reason why the Mega Light won’t serve you well.