Spending time outside in the cold of winter can test the limits of your fortitude and your gear, which is why we picked the bombproof Nemo Chogori 2 as our top four-season tent. We tested this shelter and a dozen more in both the rugged Maine backcountry and the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, home to some of the gnarliest winter weather in the lower 48 states.
The Nemo Chogori is a home away from home for winter warriors, but we understand that its high price tag might scare many people away. Luckily, there are smaller and lighter tents for quick overnights and affordable options for those new to winter backpacking. As a courtesy to help you compare, we’ve included packed weight, floor space, and vestibule size if the tent has one.
Packed Weight: 7 pounds, 7 ounces
Floor Space: 40.1 square feet
Vestibule: 11.7 plus 4.2 square feet
Theis one of the most expensive tents on our list and for good reason. The tent screams quality — everything from the materials used in the tent to the overall design is top-notch. This focus on quality is evident during assembly. The tent has an innovative external pole framework with an integrated fly that cuts the set-up time in half. This design also reduces the weight of the tent by 25% without sacrificing vestibule space, ventilation, and other comforts.
This Chogori is spacious on the inside with plenty of room for two people and their gear. If more space is needed, two Chogori tents can be linked together to form a more substantial shelter. Nemo thoughtfully designed the vestibule so you can open it to the side in inclement weather or to the front in better weather. It also has a window to allow additional light in.
The Nemo Chogori hits the sweet spot between large expedition tents and lightweight below-treeline tents. It is rugged enough to withstand extreme conditions but light enough to carry in a backpack, especially if you have a partner to split the weight. It is ideal for short expeditions where a heavy mountaineering tent like the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is overkill, and the lightweight MSR Access 2 is too fragile.
Packed Weight: 6 pounds, 3 ounces
Floor Space: 41 square feet
Vestibule: 9 and 9 square feet
Big Agnes Copper Spur tents are a favorite among thru-hikers. They praise the Copper Spur for its lightweight footprint and durable design that goes the distance. Big Agnes built upon this winning combination when it designed the Copper Spur HV2 Expedition, beefing it up its lightweight tent for the harsh winter weather.
The HV2 Expedition ships with large diameter poles that strengthen the tent and has a bomber architecture that sheds snow. A heavy-duty ripstop polyester fly with 1200mm polyurethane coating won’t soak through and resists tearing even when the wind begins to howl. Underneath the fly are a combination mesh and ripstop nylon tent body that can be zipped up tight in inclement weather or left open to enhance airflow when the temps are moderate. This flexibility allows you to use the tent in the shoulder seasons as well as the dead of winter, making the HV2 Expedition a true three-plus season shelter.
Like most four-season tents, the Copper Spur HV2 Expedition runs a bit small. It is ideal for a single person and all their gear, but you can fit two people if you dont mind close quarters. You will be most comfortable if you use mummy-shaped sleeping pads and bags that taper to save room. It does have a vestibule to store your gear if you can’t fit everything inside the tent. If the 2P version sounds too small, then you can grab the HV3 Expedition. It boosts the livable space and only adds an extra pound of weight.
Packed Weight: 7 pounds, 1 ounce
Floor Space: 36 square feet
First sold under the Bibler brand, thehas an outstanding track record of performance in the mountaineering community — making it our top pick for single-wall tents.
The Fitzroy boasts a comfortable 36 square feet of floor space, providing ample room for two people. The vestibule is an optional add-on, but we recommend it if you want to fit more than two people and their gear inside. On the inside, there are multiple mesh pockets for storing and organizing equipment. Because of the single-wall construction, the Fitzroy is lighter and more packable than its double-wall counterparts. It’s not the lightest single-wall on the market, but its bombproof construction is worth the small bump in weight. It’s perfect for a multi-day alpine adventure that requires more protection than a fast pack tent, without the added bulk of a double-wall tent.
Unlike double-wall varieties that have an outer rainfly and an inner tent, this single-walled tent relies on a single layer of fabric to protect the occupants from the elements. Like many single-wall tents, the Fitzroy suffers from condensation because the tent fabric does not breathe very well. The doors of the tent provide the bulk of the ventilation but these openings dont provide enough airflow in warmer temperatures. If you are camping at high elevations or in cold temperatures, condensation is less of a problem so this limitation is less of an issue.
The Fitzroy is best suited as a mountaineering tent and shines when it is used in the harsh conditions of the alpine zone. If you need a moderate elevation tent that handles alpine environments on occasion, you should look more closely at Nemo Tenshi 2 — another single-wall tent with similar durability but better ventilation.
Packed Weight: 4 pounds, 1 ounce
Floor Space: 29 square feet
Vestibule: 17.5 square feet
At first glance, a treeline winter tent and a 3-season tent have a lot in common. Both are lightweight, come in a variety of shapes and designs, and have mesh walls for ventilation on milder evenings. A treeline tent, however, is often beefier than its three-season counterpart, offering a thicker, bathtub floor, a sturdier frame to handle snow, and a heavier choice of fabrics for the tent body (20D nylon), floor (30D nylon), and rainfly (20D nylon). It’s this niche — lighter than a winter tent, sturdier than a three-season tent — that thewas designed to fill.
While tents like the double-walled Mountain Hardware Trango 2 weigh nearly 10 pounds, the Access 2 comes in just above the 4-pound mark, making it one of the lightest options on this list. To drop weight, the Access 2 ships with Easton Syclone poles, made of a composite material that’s light like aluminum but claims to be more resistant to breaking than carbon fiber. You can bend the poles extensively — beyond what’s needed to set up the tent — and they won’t break. Compared to the typical fur season tent, MSR also uses lighter fabrics in the tent and rainfly in the construction of the Access 2.
This feathery weight is a trade-off as the Access 2 is not as rugged as its heavier counterparts. When tested below the treeline in milder winter conditions (light winds and light sleet), the tent sheds moisture and blocks wind effectively, keeping the interior warm and dry. We struggled sometimes with condensation because of how well the tent trapped in heat.
When pitched on an exposed ridge during high wind conditions (40-50 miles per hour), it was quite a different experience. Air was able to flow underneath the rainfly and threatened to lift the tent from the ground. The tent didn’t collapse or buckle under the strain, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The tent is best suited for below treeline use where high winds are less likely to damage the tent.
On a comfort scale, the MSR Access 2 has enough floor space for two people and their gear. There’s even ample headroom for comfortably changing clothes. The tent has partial mesh sides that help retain heat while providing airflow that reduces condensation. The Access 2 is easy to pitch, taking five minutes to set up the tent and attach the fly. It features a cross-pole design that sheds snow efficiently while offering additional interior headroom space.
If you want a lightweight and reliable tent for below-treeline adventures, you can’t go wrong with the Access 2. It’ll withstand most winter storms, and the weight won’t break your back. We don’t recommend taking it into exposed areas where the weather is expected to get rough. Backpackers looking for a tent that handles the harsh weather of the alpine zone should consider a beefier double-wall tent such as Mountain Hardware’s Trango 2.
Packed Weight: 4 pounds, 13 ounces
Floor Space: 27.6 square feet
Vestibule: 6.8 square feet
Thefrom Nemo is pricey but you certainly get what you pay for. This four-season shelter is a jack of all trades — light enough to satisfy hikers who travel during the warmer months, yet durable enough to withstand winter conditions.
The Kunai 2P is designed like most three-season backpacking tents with two poles that cross over the top of the tent and a brow extension to increase the headroom and add stability. What sets the Kunai apart from your typical three-season tent is its tapered profile that sheds snow and holds up well in the wind. The tent also uses direct guy-out points that pass through the rain fly and attach directly to the pole to keep the tent securely anchored to the ground.
At just under 5 pounds, the Kunai is significantly lighter than most winter and mountaineering tents, and is built with a 30D nylon ripstop floor, a 15D nylon fly and a 20D canopy. These lightweight fabrics trim the weight of the tent, but it also make the tent more fragile. Zippered mesh windows at the bottom of the tent and strut vents in the fly help to regulate the temperature in the tent and prevent condensation.
Our one gripe with the Kunai is the size. It’s one of the smaller tents on our list. The vestibule doesn’t have extra room for gear, and you may have to snuggle up to your partner to avoid touching the walls of the tent. When it is cold outside, though, you may appreciate the body heat from sleeping in such close quarters.
Packed Weight: 9 pounds, 10.2 ounces
Floor Space: 40 square feet
Vestibule: 12 square feet (2 vestibules)
It’s not surprising to see the Mountain Hardware Trango 2 make our list of the best four-season tents. Just do a scan of basecamp photos, whether it is Everest or Kilimanjaro, and you will spot at least one Trango in the mix. There’s a reason why the tent is so popular among the mountaineering community. The double-walled Trango 2 is built like a tank.
Everything about the tent is designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the alpine environment. Mountain Hardware equipped the Trango with a heavy-duty 70D nylon for the bathtub floor, rugged 70D ripstop nylon for the fly, and durable 40D nylon for the body. The fly not only attaches to the poles, but it is also connected to the frame of the tent for added strength.
You’ll be warm and dry in the Trango2 thanks to its extensive waterproofing. The tent’s shape is designed to shed snow and repel rain. It is equipped with a fully taped fly, taped seams and welded corners. Thanks to its catenary cut, the Trango 2 also can withstand the high winds of the alpine environment.
A home away from home, the Trango 2 has two doors for ease of access and two vestibules to store your gear. It has a generous 40 square feet of living space that is comfortable for two people and a palace for one. The tent’s 10-pound weight may be daunting, but you can buddy up and split the tent and poles to share the burden. If you need more space, the Trango also is available in a 3-person and a 4-person model.
Packed Weight: 5 pounds, 5.5 ounces
Floor Space: 32 square feet
Vestibule: 9.8 and 7.8 square feet
Even though other picks on this list are more than double in price, thefrom Marmot is still an excellent choice for the winter camper or mountaineer. The tent is solidly built and extremely roomy with two entrances and two vestibules for storing gear.
Marmot didn’t skimp when it built the Fortress 2P tent — it’s a rugged tent for its relatively low price point. The company uses 40D polyester no-see-um mesh and a beefy 68D polyester for the floor, canopy, and rain fly. The exterior is waterproof, and the interior is seam-sealed so the tent won’t leak. Heavy-duty straps and buckles on the rainfly are an extra guarantee that the tent will still be standing even when the winds start to howl. We tested the tent in both high winds and snow and felt warm and cozy during our first winter storm of the season.
The Fortress 2P’s interior is roomy for two people and their gear. A small vestibule provides extra storage, but it is not big enough for cooking or eating. The vestibule works best as a shelter so you can put on your boots and zip up your coat before you brave the cold. Airflow is surprisingly good in the Fortress 2P. You can open the rainfly if the conditions allow or open the strut vent at the top of the tent for some fresh air. This mesh vent provides excellent ventilation and helps avoid condensation build-up, making the Fortress 2P ideal for use either below or above the treeline.
Packed Weight: 3 pounds, 1 ounce
Floor Space: 45 square feet
Thefrom MSR is a rugged two-pole pyramid tarp for backcountry explorers who want a simple shelter for their winter adventures. It includes two poles and has a slight catenary cut that makes it easy to get the correct pitch. We were able to get the right pitch on our first try, which is a testament to the carefully-crafted designed.
MSR uses a rugged 30D nylon coated with silicone and urethane in its Twin Sister tarp. It is pitched so snow will fall right off and seam-sealed to keep rain and sleet from seeping into your living space. Two doors provide easy access to a spacious interior that is suitable for two people and their gear. There are no vestibules, but the interior is large enough that they are not needed.
The tarp has a snow skirt that keeps the wind and snow out and the warmth and heat in. It does limit airflow, so you’ll have to open one of the doors if you want some fresh air. The tarp is rugged and stood up well at 40 mph wind and rain. The adjustable tie-outs were helpful as they allowed us to change the tension on the tarp as the conditions changed. The only negative is its weight — at three pounds, it’s fine for the winter when you want a rock-solid shelter, but is heavy for three-season use.
How to choose the right four-season tent
Single-wall vs. double-wall
One major feature to consider when buying a winter tent is whether you want a single-wall or double-wall tent. We recommend double-wall tents as they are more versatile and allow you to choose whether you want to use the fly or not, depending on the weather. The inner tent also provides excellent ventilation, while the outer fly provides ample protection from the elements. Double-wall tents also tend to be stronger and more durable than their single-wall counterparts and, last but not least, if you tear your outer rainfly layer in a brutal storm, you can buy a replacement.
With all the advantages of a double-wall tent, why would anyone want to buy a single-wall? Though they aren’t as durable or breathable, single-wall tents are significantly lighter and are much easier to pitch. They also tend to be smaller, allowing you to pitch them on ledges and other areas when space is at a premium. Single-walled tents are ideal for short trips where being fast and light is critical.
When you sleep, you breathe out warm, moist air and inside a tent, this air rises and condenses. In the summer, this condensation builds up and often rains back down on you, leaving you and your gear damp. During winter, this same condensation freezes. Instead of it raining inside of your tent, it can snow. This snow makes everything inside wet, including your clothes and sleeping bag. Tents need to be adequately ventilated using either physical vents, which allow fresh air to circulate or breathable fabrics that allow for the exchange of moisture to prevent condensation buildup.
In our testing, we found that vents are the most effective way to reduce this condensation. Single-walled tents struggle with condensation because they only have a single layer protecting you from the elements. They don’t feature many vents because each leaves an opening for rain or snow to get inside. Instead of vents, most single-wall options rely on breathable fabrics, but even the best material doesn’t exchange water as well as a vent. The Big Agnes Shield 2 (a single-walled tent) tries to maximize airflow by using two strategically placed side vents that allow water vapor to escape.
Conversely, double-wall tents use mesh in their inner tent, a construction that allows water vapor to escape under the rain fly. One of the best ventilated double-wall options is the Nemo Chogori (our top pick), which has several vents that open from the inside of the tent and provide ample airflow.
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