Being outside in the summertime is so much fun. Camping in the wilds with a sturdy backpack is an easy thing to do. If you love camping as much as I do though, you are going to want to extend your camping season as long as possible. Sure, you could select a three-season tent and enjoy spring and fall camping also. However, I wanted to push myself to figure out if I would enjoy winter camping as well. Spoiler Alert! I love camping in the winter with the snow falling around me. Plus it gives me an opportunity to use my snow-shoes! I was overwhelmed with the selection of tents though and as a result, I came to some quick realizations on how to select a four-season tent. If you are in the market to expand your camping season then this list is sure to help you select the best four-season tent!
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Four Season Tent Considerations
There are a few important things to consider as you are making your selection of your new four-season tent. These include interior space, usefulness, setup time, cost, wall thickness, and weight. What I did is made myself a little matrix that showed which had what so that I could easily compare. To help you out I am including my tent matrix which can help you select a Four-Seasontent or any tent really below!
Check out this handy tent selection matrix!
When the snow is battering your campsite you are going to wish that you have as much space as possible. This is a delicate balance because a larger size likely means a heavier tent. It also likely means that the setup time will increase. Remember that when you select a tent it is not just how many people it can sleep. Your gear also needs space. I tend to opt for something that sleeps one or two people more than what I need just to account for gear.
Unless you are made completely of money, please feel free to share if you are, you are going to want something that can be used in multiple different ways. I love watching Alton Brown and he always mentions that having a single-use tool in the kitchen is a bad idea. It is even more critical to have a useful tool when out camping. Your tent is no exception. In this case, though you want a tent that can handle multiple situations (ie cold, hot, severe, and moderate weather conditions). These should be blended with the other considerations provided.
This is one of those things that most people don’t consider. In fact, most manufacturers do not even provide a general setup time in the instructions. If you are by yourself you are going to want to know how long it takes to set up. This is especially important if you are dealing with poor weather conditions as you are putting it up. Now obviously a wall tent will take longer to erect than a thinner-walled tent with collapsible poles. In either case, though you are going to want to practice setting up your tent in a controlled situation. Practice makes perfect and the more you do it the faster you will get at setting your tent up.
One of the first things that you are going to notice about four-season tents is the cost. Once you get over that initial sticker shock you will realize that in most instances the price is worth it. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune when you select a four-season tent! Trust me on this that having a sturdy tent when the blizzard sets in will save your hide!
Wall thickness is driven by the amount of protection that you desire. The level of protection you need depends on how you plan to use the tent. If you are thinking about being in severe weather on longer treks you should consider something a bit more robust. However, if you plan on being in a developed campground then maybe your protection limit can be reduced a little. This is really the difference between a single-walled and double-walled tent. Wall thickness is also going to play into weight. So know what your level of risk aversion is when going into your tent selection.
You may think that in order to sleep in the winter you are going to need one of those military canvas tents with a pot-belly stove! While those shelters are fantastic you aren’t going to want to carry hundreds of pounds of shelter with you when you go camping! Will you get more protection? Yes! However, your back is not going to thank you. So you must consider your winter goals. Short, mild-weather trips will be great with a tree-line type tent. If you are looking at long back-country trips where the weather could get more severe and is unpredictable. Then you may want a mountaineering tent.
Other Four Season Tent Considerations
There are some other things that you may want to consider but are not as critical to the overall tent selection in regards to safety. I consider these items more comfort level items that could make your trip more enjoyable but are not always critical to selection. These include vestibules, interior pockets, multiple doors, and floor protection.
Some tents will offer vestibules or optional outer rooms to where the main sleeping will be happening. This can be very handy when it comes to those moments where you have to ride out a storm. A vestibule can be a fantastic place to put your gear to keep it away from the sleeping area. Additionally, it can provide a space to place wet items like clothes and boots so that they don’t interfere with sleeping. The extra space does come with a cost of added weight. So consider your use when deciding whether a vestibule is worth it.
I love pockets! Really anywhere I can have pockets I will take it including my clothes, pack, and yes tent. There is never enough storage in my life! In tents, manufacturers have become attuned to the fact that it is nice to have some hanging pockets to put things for easy reach. So while not critical to selection finding a tent that has some ample internal storage can make finding that flashlight at two in the morning much easier.
Are you planning on going out winter camping with friends instead of family? Well, this may apply to family as well especially if you have a teen who wants some privacy. There are some tents that provide multiple egress points so that you are not having to constantly crawl over others just to get into the tent. Having a second door also makes it easy to ensure that late-night bathroom runs don’t wake everyone in the tent up. Having multiple doors can cause some site placement difficulties though as you now have to provide wind protection to two doors.
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Many four-season tents have very rugged floor pans. These are made of materials that tend to be thicker and more resilient than a four-season tent. Additionally, if you are going winter camping then hopefully you will be placing the tent on soft snow. You won’t always be using the tent in the winter though! That is why you purchased a four-season tent. Therefore, you will still want to consider purchasing some floor protection. I personally choose to use an additional tarp under the tent to make sure rocks and sticks do not cause any floor damage. You can choose to purchase a footprint though which will help with tent protection. While not a critical item to select a four-season tent it is important to know if your tent floor is sturdy.
Selecting a Four Season Tent
As you can see there are a few considerations that you should take into account while making your selection. If you use the matrix provided then you can quickly see which tent will be best for you. The most important thing to keep in mind when camping in the winter is safety. So make sure that you pick a tent that not only meets your needs but has a track record of being safe in hazardous weather conditions. This will lead you to have a comfortable camping experience no matter the season. Extending your ability to camp will make decompressing easier at any time.
If you have suggestions for other things to consider when evaluating a four season tent drop it into the comments below, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!