For most people, camping is something that happens at the height of July, when the nights are warm and the winds are lazy. And why not? What better time to enjoy the wilderness than when the weather is fine?
If only it were that easy. Not all adventures happen in the middle of summer and none of them happen according to plan. That’s what makes them adventures!
Whether it’s a mid-January ice fishing trip in Southern Colorado or a late-fall snowstorm in the forests of Oregon, being totally prepared means having a tent that can stand up to the sudden and sometimes fierce forces of inclement weather. Cold weather tents utilize thicker rain covers, aerodynamic designs, and state of the art weatherproof coating to offer ultimate protection for the more advanced outing.
We’re taking a look at 9 of the Best Cold Weather Tents that we could find. But first, we’re going to learn a thing or two about what it is that makes these tents so effective at keeping the cold out.
Best All-Around-Performance Tent
ALPS Mountaineering LYNX 4-Person Tent
Weight: 8lbs 10oz
Interior Size: 64 Sq. Ft.
Of all the tents on our list, not a single one of them offers the perfect balance of performance and affordability as the Alps Mountaineering LYNX tent. This is a true 4-person workhorse tent with only enough features to get the job done. The job, in this case, is providing 4 season protection from all kinds of inclement weather.
The LYNX is certainly one of the biggest tents that our team reviewed. It is actually possible to sleep four people, which isn’t often the case when you look at tents that claim to sleep four people. The extra space can also be a huge benefit to the two-person backpacking teams who need some extra indoor storage to spread out.
The vestibules here are of a decent size. Nothing huge, but certainly large enough to house your pack or any extra gear that you don’t want to bring into the tent.
We can say one thing with certainty about the LYNX: this baby is totally weatherproof. We had it out in some pretty heavy rain and not a drop was able to make it through. As long as you use the guylines properly, it should be able to take a considerable amount of wind as well without buckling.
Our biggest problem with the LYNX was the pack weight. It’s approaching 9 pounds including the stuff sack, which can be a tad heavy for long distance excursions and backpacking adventures. If you are sharing this tent with another backpacker, then you might be able to ‘trade’ off the extra weight.
We have some concern about the durability of the tent poles, but aluminum poles are not usually seen with a tent at this price, so we are going to let this one slide.
Best 4 Season Tent for Snowshoeing
GEERTOP 2-Person 4-Season Backpacking Tent
Interior Size: 32 Sq. Ft.
One of the first things that we look for in a good 2 person tent is something that almost anyone who has camped with a partner would appreciate, the presence of a second door so you can get in and out of the thing without tripping over the other person. The GEERTOP 4-Season Backpacking tent has just that, so we were immediately feeling kind of sweet on Geertop. But we wanted to see what else this tent had to offer.
The second thing we noticed about this tent was how incredibly warm it is. In fact, when the rain fly is on and everything is all zipped up, this tent is downright cozy. We even had to crack one of the doors for some extra airflow. In really cold temperatures however, like those you’d find when your ice fishing in Southern Colorado, this tent would be the perfect thing for the job.
What really sets this tent apart from the other 4-season tents on the market is the built in snow skirt, which is essentially an angled flap of material around the perimeter of the tent that prevents snow & moisture from getting beneath your tent. Even the best tent materials wont’ stay waterproof if you roll over onto a pile of snow.
While the tent material is quite thick and feels strong, we did notice some fairly easy tearing occur when the tent fly was hung up in a tree. Now this is something that might tear any rain fly, but we expected it to hold up a little better than that. One problem that this tent’s warmth creates is the accumulation of moisture inside the tent over time. GEERTOP spent so much time figuring out how to keep moisture out of the tent that they never stopped to consider the moisture that was already inside! We can’t really fault the manufacturer though. A moist interior is something that all good 4-season campers have to get used to sooner or later, unless they enjoy waking up with icicles on their face.
Best Tent for Cold Weather Car Camping
ALPS Mountaineering TAURUS 4 Person Tent
Weight: 10lbs 11oz
Interior Size: 62 Sq. Ft.
Our favorite thing about ALPS Mountaineering as a whole is their customer service department, so we thought we’d take a moment to give them a shout out. We had a shipment arrive without the tent stakes included, and these guys were on the horn with a reply within minutes! Thanks y’all!
As for the tent, we must say that we were similarly impressed. This is yet another example of ALPS creating a tent that is reliable, durable, and functional in all the important ways while skipping the frills and unnecessary upgrades that you would find in a more expensive tent.
The TAURUS tent is not so different from the LYNX. In fact both tents share the same upgraded rainfly that offers full coverage and great protection against heavy rain. Even that nasty sideways blowing rain won’t be able to make it in.
The TAURUS however is a few bucks cheaper than the LYNX, and there are a few drops in quality to match. For one thing, this tent features fiberglass tent poles as opposed to the aluminum poles of the LYNX model. Not only is the fiberglass heavier than aluminum but it does have a tendency to snap when too much pressure is applied. In addition to that, fiberglass is also considerably heavier, which more than explains the TAURUS’ bulky 10+ lb pack weight.
Overall a great quality tent for its price. We imagine it could handle a few strenuous seasons of camping before the seams start to give out.
Best Cold Weather Tent on a Budget
FLYTOP 2 Person 3-4 Season Backpacking Tent
Interior Size: 40 Sq. Ft.
We did some digging to find out what exactly FLYTOP’s game is in the outdoor industry, and you might not be surprised to learn that we didn’t find much. One thing that they do sell is entry-level camping and backpacking tents at prices that are significantly below those of their competitors. So If you are looking for something on the more affordable side, this might be the one for you.
Look, there are a lot of reasons that this is a great tent. It sets up easily for one, with a very intuitive pole design that makes it easy to do even in the darkness. It’s got a good amount of space and the rainfly was at least good enough to repel a decent sized rainstorm that lasted about an hour. After that, who knows?
This is a warm tent. That much is true. The thick material can certainly handle some winter camping, and as long as you use a waterproof ground cover (the included ground cover is not waterproof) then you will most likely stay dry and warm.
The weakness in the FLYTOP 2 Person tent is simply in the sturdiness of construction. The poles are easily bent and the seams are not as tight as you might want for a 4 season tent.
For the price however, there are all sorts of reasons you would want to pick up a tent like this, whether it’s to stash in the back of your car for emergencies or have a backup tent around the house for when the family comes to visit.
Best Stargazing Tent
ALPS Mountaineering ZEPHYR 3-Person Tent
Weight: 6lbs 2oz
Interior Size: 38 Sq. Ft.
If anyone else is like me and puts off a lot of body heat in the night, then you will know my pain when I talk about how much moisture I wake up to when I spend the night inside a tent. So much condensation in fact that it is nearly dripping on my by the time the morning comes. This is to be expected of course: the way rain covers generally work, they don’t like to let moisture pass in or out.
The ZEPHYR is the perfect answer for folks like us. The base construction of this tent is all mesh, that is to say, the ‘dome’ portion of the tent (the base panel is 75D 185T Poly Taffett). The effect of this is that even with the rain fly on, there is so much more ventilation than other tents. I love a good breeze when I sleep but I can’t stand mosquitos and bugs, so this is most definitely going to be my new mid-summer stargazing tent.
The tent does have some drawbacks. We found it strange for instance that the ZEPHYR featured such a different rainfly than other ALPS products, like the LYNX or the TAURUS. The rainfly on this model does not seem to work as well, and we did experience some moisture penetration after even moderate amounts of rain.
Also, the ground floor panel is thinner and less water resistant than it is with those other models. For that reason, if you decide to go with the ZEPHYR, then we recommend investing in some extra ground cover if you are really looking to stay dry.
Best Mid-Range Cold Weather Tent
LUXE TEMPO 2 Person, 4 Season Backpacking Tent
Interior Size: 32Sq. Ft.
It simply isn’t easy to find a 4 season tent that is capable of keeping you warm in winter temperatures for less than a few hundred dollars, but the LUXE TEMPO might have changed our opinion on high performance, low price tents that are as functional as they are affordable.
Here’s the thing: I can’t always shell out $200 or $300 for a top of the line tent when I’m only looking to spend a couple of weekends out in the woods. Especially considering all the advances in tent construction materials and techniques and it seems silly to spend that much.
Of course the LUXE TEMPO certainly isn’t one of the best tents on the market. Both the pole and fabric construction is mid-grade at best, and though it seems to perform alright, we can only assume that it won’t last more than a season or two before they start to show some real wear and tear.
The tent is a bit small, even for a 2 person. I’m about 6’2”, and I only barely fit when I was lying down. If you are any taller than I am then you might have some problems squeezing in.
However when you take the great price and factor in the low pack weight and 4-season weatherproofing, , this is a great little tent and would be perfect for hitting the trail later in the season.
Best Ultralight 4 Season Tent
Naturehike CLOUD-UP Ultralight 4 Season 2 Person Backpacking Tent
Interior Size: 32 Sq. Ft.
Poles: 7001 SpaceAluminum
The words ‘Ultralight’ and ‘4-Season’ are not usually seen in the same sentence, because the materials needed to make a tent 4 Season are almost always thicker and heavier to the point where the tent becomes too heavy to meet that classification. We’re not sure how they did it, but Naturehike’s CLOUD-UP series of tents manages to do just that. The tent is available in 1, 2, and 3 person models, but we were able to take a look at the 2 person model for our guide. (We review the 3-person model next)
At only 3.75 pounds the CLOUD-UP is easily the lightest cold weather tent on our list, and that alone is worthy of praise. But the hits keep on coming. The CLOUD-UP takes the basic structure and setup technology that many hikers and backpackers might have become familiar with if they’ve ever used Big Agnes’ ultralight tents. Then they make it more affordable than those premium brands.
Of course the waterproof silicone coating is not quite as thick as you would find on something like a Big Agnes tent, so the waterproofing is not quite as solid, but as long as the rain fly is set up to be tight and secure then it really shouldn’t be an issue.
What is a bit of an issue is the length of this tent. It is simply too small for anyone above 5’11’’ by our estimate. If you are taller than that then you will likely experience your head and / or feet rubbing up against the sides of the tent.
Best 3-Person Cold Weather Tent
Naturehike CLOUD-UP Ultralight 4 Season 3 Person Backpacking Tent
Interior Size: 40 Sq. Ft.
So this is the 3-person model of Naturehike’s remarkably lightweight CLOUD-UP series of ultralight tents. There are not a ton of differences between the 2 and 3 person model, but we can say for certain that the increased size is nothing if not more comfortable. It’s not always fun cramming yourself into a two person tent, and sometimes the extra weight in your pack is totally worth it.
The increased size of the 3 person model seems to add some rigidity to the overall structure, even though it is slightly taller than its smaller counterpart. The rainfly uses the same system of attachment, but somehow feels more solid here, perhaps a better connection.
Again, this is one of the warmest ultralight tents that you will find on the market, period. Yes, it is a bit more expensive than the 2-person model but for a tall guy like me, I will gladly shell out the few extra bucks and haul the extra pound or so of weight.
Of course the same issues are present in both sizes of the CLOUD-UP. This tent is not very breathable, which means that condensation can form even when fully vented.
Naturehike could do well to look into their zipper construction, as this was not the first zipper to break on one of their tents
Best Cold Weather Tent for High Winds
HILLMAN 2-Person 4-Season Ultralight Camping Tent
Interior Size: 40 Sq. Ft.
Let’s talk 20D for a second. That’s what the HILLMAN rain fly is made out of, and it’s the reason that this tent offers such high resistance to the elements. It’s one of the thickest and most durable fly fabrics that we have seen, and the performance speaks for itself. Once you have this thing fully setup (which can be kind of a chore if we’re being honest) then it is simply one of the most rigid constructions and surely no match for even the strongest of winds.
The same goes for rain and snow. There is simply no way anything is getting through.
However this is the only cold weather tent on our list in which the rain fly cannot be removed separate from the main tent portion. Because the frame poles loop through the fly itself, there is no way to set this tent up without the 20D cover. That means that this really isn’t the best choice for camping in the middle of summer, but as far as extreme conditions go, where you wouldn’t want to take the cover off anyway, this is the tent for the job.
Setup and breakdown seem unnecessarily complicated, and it doesn’t help that the included instructions are in Chinese. It is absolutely possible to figure it out without too much hassle, but we do recommend setting it up once or twice on the lawn so you can get the hang of it. There’s nothing worse than trying to setup a tent for the first time under cover of darkness.
What Makes a Great Cold Weather Tent?
Cold weather tents, also known as 4 Season Tents, are designed to provide greater levels of both waterproofing and insulation, allowing campers to stay protected in all sorts of conditions. Thought not everybody likes the thought of camping in the winter, it can be just as comfortable if you have the right tent.
So what, exactly, makes a great cold weather tent?
Fabric Specification Guide
If you’ve spent any time at all shopping for a cold weather tent lately, then perhaps you’ve come across those little numbers and letters that appear next to the tent descriptions. Numbers like 20D, 210T, or 3000mm. What does it all mean? We’re here to take some of the mystery out of it.
When you see a number like 20D, it is referring to something called Denier. Denier is a unit of density based on the length and weight of a piece of fiber, and thus is used to refer to the overall thickness of fibers that make up the tent fabric.
The bigger the Denier number, the thicker the fibers in the material.
Thread count (200T, 310T, etc.) is a simple measure of the total amount of both vertical and horizontal threads within a square inch of fabric.
A greater thread count means a softer fabric due to having a finer texture, and can often, but not always, be a stronger material.
When you see a number like 3000mm, you are seeing a rating that refers to the waterproof coating that has been applied to the tent fabric.
More specifically, this rating designates how much water the material can sustain before it starts to leak. So therefore the higher the waterproof rating, the more water your tent will be able to repel before any of it soaks through.
When we think of cold weather camping, we think of late night snowstorms rolling in over the desert and blanketing our dents with that dense, wet spring snow that we get sometimes in the Rockies. On mornings such as these all we really want to do is stay in the tent all cozy, warm, and perhaps most important of all, dry.
For us the CLOUD-UP 3 Person Ultralight tent was one of the more impressive products that we have looked at this year, simply because it offers such an enticing balance of lightweight construction and serious weatherproofing.
However we’re going to be keeping the ALPS Mountaineering LYNX 4 person tent in the back of the SUV. When it comes to a tent that is all-around reliable and easy to set up for emergencies or impromptu camping parties, no other tent even comes close.
Frequently Asked Questions:
•Q: How durable of a floor do you need?
A: There is a great degree of difference between different tent floors, so choosing the right one for your purpose is that much more important. If you are going to be doing a lot of backpacking where uneven and rough surfaces are common, then you are going to want to invest in a footprint to go beneath your tent.
Footprints are layers of thick material that are designed to form a waterproof barrier between your tent and the ground and can also act as both an insulator and a protector.
Not all tents come with footprints, so check the specifications before purchase!
•Q: Can you use a cold weather tent on a high mountain?
A: For the most part, yes. It all depends on what kind of space you find to set your tent up and whether A.) There is enough room and B.) If you are able to get the tent stakes in the ground.
The cold weather camping and backpacking tents we looked at are all free standing, which means that they do not need to be staked in in order to stand up. However, stakes are absolutely required if there is any chance of inclement weather.
These tents are lightweight, so even a breeze can carry your tent away!
•Q: What is the best floor material, polyester, or nylon?
A: The ongoing debate between polyester and nylon is a heated one, but unfortunately there is no clear answer to this question. Both polyester and nylon offer unique benefits and suffer from unique drawbacks, so a lot depends on what you are looking for in a tent.
Polyester is both cheap and lightweight, so is one of the most common materials used in tent floor construction.
Nylon is capable of being woven to a thicker degree than polyester, so it can often be more durable and more waterproof.
•Q: Do I need to buy a rain cover?
A: All the cold weather tents that we looked at here include a rain cover, so you do not need to purchase one in addition to the tent.
However there are tents out there that are sold without rain-covers, so be sure to double check before you make a purchase.