Best Winter Tents For Camping In The Cold Weather

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Don’t get caught out in the cold in a three-season tent! When the campfire goes out, you’ll be wanting one of these toasty shelters to keep the frostbite at bay...
MSR Remote 2 - Overview
The MSR Remote 2: Our Best Choice Overall

Single-walled or double-walled? Mountaineering or expedition? Polyurethane or silnylon? If we’re speaking your language, you’re in the right place. If that all sounds foreign to you, well, you’re also in the right place. This is our guide on everything you need to know about the best winter tents currently available. If you get lost into all this complicated jargon, don’t forget check our winter tech cheat sheet (or our detailed buying guide for even more explanations)

Winter tents vary widely in both size and intended use. We’ve reviewed countless examples of big sturdy tents for expedition basecamps, fast and light mountaineering tents for high-speed ascents, and casual backcountry winter tents for hiking and sleeping beneath the treeline.

Overall, we found that the MSR Remote 2 was the best winter tent currently available for pretty much anything, from hardcore mountain expeditions, to more casual family camping. It’s warm and tough enough to handle cold wind and snow, yet roomy and livable enough for family camping trips year-round.

We tested the Remote 2 during a ski mountaineering trip in the Swiss Alps, aiming to the Pointe de Vouasson, culminating at an altitude of 11,000 ft. This double-wall tent proved to be a game-changer, offering a balance of durability and comfort not often found in mountaineering tents. Its 22 square feet storage vestibule was invaluable for our gear, while the 33 square feet of floor space and 44-inch peak height provided unexpected livability in such harsh conditions.

MSR Remote - Best Overall Winter Tent
We tested the MSR Remote 2 in the Swiss alps at a 11,000 ft. summit.

The Remote 2 won’t be the best bet for everyone though, and that’s ok. Some folks want to venture deep into the snowy backcountry, some want to take tackle overnight skiing trips, and others need an ultralight blizzard-proof shelter for that last stretch up to the peak.

Wherever you fall in the winter camping continuum, we’ve got a tent below that’s perfect for your next dash through the snow.

TentSummary
MSR Remote 2: Best Winter Tent OverallA double-wall mountaineering tent that’s surprisingly light and compact. Blizzard-proof construction and fast setup combined with a degree of livability you just can’t get in a single-wall design. See review
Mountain Hardwear Trango 4: Best Overall QualityOne of the most proven and respected mountaineering tents of all time. Surprisingly versatile for a tent that’s built to handle the worst winter weather on the planet. See Review
Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2: Best On A BudgetGreat casual cold weather camping option with a price tag that’s hard to believe. A great choice for winter outdoors fun. See review
REI Base Camp 4A highly versatile winter camping tent with tons of storage and livability. High quality materials and adjustable ventilation make for the ideal shelter for your typical year-round camper. See review
The North Face Assault 2 FuturelightA weatherproof singlewall tent with surprising focus on livability. Detachable vestibule adds storage and versatility. See Review
MSR Access 2: Most Versatile
Arguably the most versatile winter tent on the market, capable of tackling spring backpacking trips and snowy backcountry excursions alike. A double-wall shelter boasting four-season performance in an impressively lightweight package. See review
Marmot Thor 2PRock solid winter tent that’s ready for the gnarliest weather. Fantastic two person option with room to spare. See review

Winter Tent Tech Cheat Sheet:

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty, fair warning: There’s a good bit of technical jargon and unique features associated with the best winter tents you may not be familiar with. Here’s a quick primer to make sure we’re understanding each other. For even more details, don’t forget to check out our buying guide!

Best Winter Tent - Cheat Sheet
Photo by Jan Kopriva

Four-season tent: This is the technical term typically used to describe winter and cold weather tents. Note that although all four-season tents are built for general winter conditions like cold and snow, some are built much more ruggedly than others to cope with 70 mph winds and several feet of snowfall.

Single-wall tent: As the name implies, these are tents that use a single layer of fabric for protection rather than the seperate canopy and rainfly systems we typically see on three-season camping and backpacking tents. Single wall tents weigh less, pack smaller, and set up easier than double-wall tents, but they don’t typically ventilate as well.

Double-wall tent: Many winter tents use double-wall construction like the camping and backpacking tents described above, but with a unique twist: They don’t use much (if any) mesh netting. These tents are heavier than the single wall models described above, but typically breathe much better, are a good bit roomier, and feature more creature comforts and storage than single wall designs.

Pole construction: For winter tents, just know that fiberglass poles aren’t allowed, aluminum poles work if they’re designed for cold temperatures, and flexible carbon composites are expensive but worth every penny.

Fabric thickness: The thicker a fabric, the more robust and warmer it tends to be. Fabric thickness is notated in “denier” or “D” ratings, so just know if one tent has a “20D” rainfly and another has a “30D” rainfly of the same material, the 30D rainfly should have the longer lifespan.

Fabric coatings: Winter tents use fabric coatings to improve their water resistance. The most common are polyurethane (PU), silicone treated nylon (silnylon), and durable water resistant finishes (DWR). PU coatings are the most common and most affordable. They may not last quite as long as silnylon, but you’ll still get several years of reliable performance out of them. Silnylon fabrics are more expensive but tend to be lighter weight and  longer lasting. DWR coatings can be applied to any tent material, and are always a nice bonus from the factory.

Our Picks For Best Winter Tents

MSR Remote 2: Best Overall Winter Tent

Best Winter Tents - MSR Remote 2

Specs:
Weight: 6.7 lbs (3 kg)
– Packed size: 20” x 7” x 7” (51cm x 18cm x 18cm)
Floor size: 87” x 55” (221cm x 140cm)
Peak height: 44” (112cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: Four-season backpacking/mountaineering
Occupancy: 2
Construction: Double-wall
Price: $$

Most mountaineering tents stick to single-wall construction to keep their packed size and weight down, but they can be awfully lacking in creature comforts. Enter the MSR Remote 2, a double-wall mountaineering tent that’s built to go the distance in even the harshest weather.

MSR Remote 2 - Snowfall
Waking up after a night of heavy snowfall, we confirm that the MSR Remote 2 is can handle the most demanding alpine conditions.

On our recent ski mountaineering journey in the Swiss Alps, targeting Pointe de Vouasson, we put the MSR Remote 2 to the test at a challenging altitude of 11,000 ft. This tent, with its innovative double-wall design, stood out for its exceptional blend of ruggedness and comfort in the demanding alpine environment, making it truly deserving its title of “Best Overall Winter Tent”. The spacious vestibule, offering 22 square feet of storage, was a major plus for our equipment, and the ample floor area and peak height made it feel almost as roomy as a three-season tent.

MSR Remote 2 - In the Mountains
The MSR Remote 2 offers very good livability, even in winter expedition set-up

With top-of-the-line Easton Syclone poles, reinforced guyouts, and snow flaps, the Remote is every bit a hardcore mountaineering tent that’s ready to tackle mountain peaks and extended backcountry escapades. Add to that the convenience of a clip in canopy, heavy-duty ripstop nylon fabric, and a freestanding frame, and you’ve got a bombproof shelter that’s easy to set up and is built to go the distance for season after season.

MSR Remote 2 - Easton Cyclone Poles
The Easton Syclone poles are lightweight and very well built.

Additionally, we found the Remote 2 to be surprisingly versatile in better weather conditions, making it an excellent choice for more casual camping adventures. Its ease of setup and comfort features make it a reliable and enjoyable option for a range of outdoor activities beyond hardcore mountaineering.

MSR Remote 2 - Set-up
The Remote was easy to set-up, including by night with a headlamp

The main tradeoff with the Remote 2 is the same as most double-wall designs: All that extra fabric (especially fabric this tough) adds up. While it’s still a far cry from your typical double-wall winter tent at just 6.7 lbs, the MSR Remote is significantly heavier than the beloved MSR Access. We think that’s a welcome price to pay for a hardcore winter tent with some added livability, but if you’re used to the single-wall lifestyle, it might be tough to swallow.

The Remote 2 packs relatively small, but we would recommend to split in into two backpacks if you can
Pros:Cons:
– Blizzard-proof materials throughout
– Spacious interior for a mountaineering model
– Excellent vestibule storage space
– Double-wall construction adds weight
– Somewhat bulky when packed



Mountain Hardwear Trango 4: Best Overall Quality

Best Winter Tents - Mountain Hardwear Trango 4

Specs: 

Weight: 12.7 lbs (5.8kg)
Floor size: 96” x 94” (244cm x 239cm)
Peak height: 50” (127cm)
Number of compartments: 1
– Capacities: 4 person / 3 person / 2 person
Shape: Dome
What we like: Proven mountaineering tent, rugged, livable
What we don’t: Expensive, overkill for most campers

If you were wondering where tents like the REI above get their inspiration, you need look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Trango 4. This is one of the most widely used, widely respected, and utterly proven alpine expedition tents in the world. 

Mountain Hardwear has been manufacturing and refining this tent since 1995, and the Trango name has earned a well-deserved reputation for performance and reliability over the years. In our recent testing, we were all blown away by the Trango’s unmatched weather protection, which is just as well suited to two feet of fresh snow as it is to gale-force winds and torrential downpours. 

The latest version of the Trango comes complete with the latest technology and the most durable materials on the market. DAC Featherlight NSL poles, DAC J-stakes, a 70D sil-nylon rainfly, and cotton-wrapped polyester stitching, just to name a few. Everything about the tent looks and feels utterly bombproof, and we wouldn’t think twice about taking it anywhere on the planet. 

What’s even more surprising about the Trango is that despite its uncompromising focus on performance and technicality, it’s just a great all-around tent in terms of livability. There’s plenty of room for three folks to sleep comfortably, and it’s even got an impressive amount of storage and vestibule space to boot. We also found out during our testing that it is one of the easiest shelters out there to pitch, 

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-built and more capable winter shelter than the Trango, but as you might expect, quality like this doesn’t come cheap. There’s no getting around the sticker shock of a $1,000+ dollar tent, and although we feel the Trango is worth every penny, chances are it’s overkill for casual cold-weather campers. Read our full test and review…

Pros:Cons:
– Industry-leading weather protection
– Built to handle gale-force winds
– Top shelf materials and hardware throughout
– Expensive
– Overkill for casual winter campers



Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 : Best On A Budget

Best Winter Tents - Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2

Specs:
Weight: 7.4 lbs (3.4 kg)
– Packed size: 7” x 19” (18cm x 48cm)
– Floor size: 92” x 62” (234cm x 157cm)
Peak height: 46” (117cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: Casual winter camping
Occupancy: 2 (3-person also available)
Construction: Double-wall
Price: $

If there’s one thing most four-season tents have in common, it’s a high price tag. Granted some are much more expensive than others, but for the most part, they just don’t exist for under $500. Enter the Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2.

For under $300, here is a tent that is ready and willing to handle temperatures well below freezing, wind, snow, and rain. On top of that it’s awfully roomy for a two-person model, sports double doors and double vestibules, and has a respectable peak height to boot.

With that being said, as you might imagine a tent at this price has some serious limitations. Let us be abundantly clear here: This is not a mountaineering tent, this is not a tent you go off climbing mountains with, and generally speaking this is not thetent you want your life to depend on in a serious winter storm.  Those tents are expensive for a reason.

What the Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian is, however, is a great option for front country camping in the dead of winter. Just don’t stray too far from your vehicle…

Pros:Cons:
– Incredible price for a 4-season tent
– Roomy interior for two
– Plenty of vestibule space for gear
– Absolutely not for high-altitude pursuits
– Heavy
– Packs bulky for its size



REI Base Camp 4

Best Winter Tents - REI Base Camp 4

Specs:
Weight: 16.8 lbs (7.6 kg)
Packed size: 20” x 10” x 10” (51cm x 25cm x 25cm)
Floor size: 100” x 86” (254cm x 218cm)
Peak height: 60” (152cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: 4 season camping
Occupancy: 4 (6 person also available)
Construction: Double-wall
Price: $$

Rather than make the fastest, lightest or most technical tent imaginable, REI’s Base Camp 4 is a great all-around cold weather tent that’s perfect for the car campers out there who don’t want the fun to end when winter rolls around.

What the Base Camp lacks in technical prowess, it more than makes up for in innovation and livability, and for that, we’re giving it the nod as the best winter tent overall this year. Standout features of the Base Camp include oodles of interior space, an impressive vestibule area, fantastic organization, and some of the best ventilation we’ve ever seen in a four-season model.

The double doors are huge, the windows are outstanding, and there’s even enough mesh in the ceiling for summertime use. While that would normally limit a tent to three-season duty, the folks at REI have a trick up their sleeve: Essentially every bit of mesh on this tent includes a zippered backing of solid material, which allows you to dial in the perfect amount of airflow v. warmth for wherever you’re camping. Combine that with an easy-to-pitch design, tough fabrics throughout, and 60 inches of peak height, and you’ve got a winning combination of performance and livability.

With that being said, it should come as no surprise that the Base Camp won’t cut the mustard on your next mountaineering trip and probably isn’t the best shelter if you’re expecting three feet of snowfall. Still, it’s a fantastic option for your everyday winter camper, and an especially strong candidate for family camping in the winter, especially in the larger 6 person model. Read our full test and review…

Pros:Cons:
– Outstanding livability
– Year-round versatility
– Adjustable ventilation is fantastic
– Not built for extreme weather
– On the heavy/bulkier side



The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight

Best Winter Tents - The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight

Specs:
Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)
– Packed size: 22” x 7”  7” (55cm x 18cm x 18cm)
– Floor size:
82” x 48” (208cm x 122cm)
Peak height: 42” (106cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: Mountaineering
Occupancy: 2
Construction: Single-wall
Price: $$$

Few brands are as synonymous with hardcore winter tents as The North Face, and their latest single-wall tent, the Assault 2 Futurelight, represents their latest and greatest in fast and light designs. 

Single-wall tents are known for their low weight, high portability, and outright simplicity, and the Assault 2 has all three in spades. As an added bonus, it also boasts best in class livability and versatility as a single-wall/minimalist shelter, which earned it a spot on our list this year. 

A few key elements set this tent apart from your typical single-wall. For one, it’s much more livable and versatile than your typical bivvy tent thanks to a detachable exterior vestibule that helps free up floor space inside the tent. Second, it also happens to breathe and vent much better than most, which we chalk up to the new 20D Futurelight 3L fabric and a healthy-dose of well-placed windows.

As with most modern mountaineering tents, cost is the first hurdle of the Assault 2. This tent is expensive, but not overly-so for a hardcore four-season model. The second drawback of the Assault is that it’s setup takes a bit more time and skill than some, mainly because the two main poles have to be deployed from inside the tent. Lastly, we’ll point that while the light-but-tough “Futurelight” fabric is a big part of what makes this tent shine, durability and longevity are a bit of an unknown here. 

Pros:Cons:
– Light and compact
– Adjustable ventilation works greats
– Removable vestibule adds livability/versatility
– Expensive
– Fabric lifespan is uncertain
– Set-up takes some getting used to. 



MSR Access 2: Most Versatile

Best Winter Tents - MSR Access 2

Specs:
– Weight: 4.1 lbs (1.9 kg)
Packed size: 18” x 6” x 6” (46cm x 15cm x 15cm)
Floor size: 84” x 50” (213cm x 127cm)
Peak height: 42” (107cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: Four-season camping/backpacking
Occupancy: 2 (3 person also available)
Construction: Double-wall
Price: $$

If you want the lightness of a single-wall tent but the creature comforts of a double-wall model, look no further than the MSR Access 2. As far as winter tents go, this one is almost too good to be true.

Take all the things you look for in a great backpacking tent like double doors, double vestibules, a roomy interior, and excellent rain protection, then add in extra warmth and snow-worthiness and you’ve got the MSR Access. The Access was an easy pick for best overall quality because it’s so incredibly versatile. Versatility is the name of the game with the MSR Access, so it should come as no surprise that it’s the most versatile of the bunch.

Its combination of Easton Syclone poles, a central support frame for snow loads, and snow flaps along the vestibule make the MSR truly winter-ready, yet its excellent ventilation (thanks to a touch of mesh in the canopy), watertight rainfly, and four-pound packaged weight make it a viable candidate for year-round backpacking duty.

Honestly the only real drawback of the MSR Access is that it’s not quite tough enough for hardcore expedition duty or mountaineering in heavy snows and strong winds, but truth be told most winter campers aren’t looking to climb Everest anyways. If you’re looking for the best winter tent for adventures below the tree line, the Access is just the best in the business.

Pros:Cons:
– Premium Easton Syclone poles
– Outstanding weather protection
– Snow-ready yet light enough for backpacking
– Fabrics are thinner than most
– Not suited for extreme snow/expeditions



Marmot Thor 2P

Best Winter Tents - Marmot Thor 2P

Specs:
Weight: 10.2 lbs (4.6 kg)
Packed size: 29” x 9” (72 cm x 22cm)
Floor size: 88” x 60” (224 cm x 157 cm)
Peak height: 46” (117 cm)
Number of rooms: 1
Shape: Dome
Best for: Basecamping
Occupancy: 2 (3-person also available)
Construction: Double-wall
Price: $$

The Marmot Thor 2P is a bombproof expedition-ready tent with a surprising amount of space for a two-person model.

While strength is important for any serious snow camping tent, the Marmot Thor goes the extra mile for added sturdiness. All the fabrics are reliably heavy duty, from the 40D nylon canopy to the 50D polyester rainfly. The floor steps it up another notch with a burly 70D nylon construction, and all fabrics are treated with water-resistant coatings.

In terms of the poles, the Marmot Thor has two things going for it that make it special. First is the overall pole count, as the Thor’s six pole construction (most of the best winter tents on our list stick with four or five) give it a leg up on structural stability in strong winds and heavy snowfall. The second thing we like here is that Marmot made each of the 6 poles the same length, so there’s no second-guessing or color-coordinating to worry about when you’re trying to get your tent pitched and your body out of the weather as quickly as possible.

Of course the fact that this is a double-wall model with six poles means setup takes a bit longer than single-wall options (or the innovative double-wall Chogori above), but we think the premium double-vestibule silnylon rainfly on the Thor is worth a little extra effort.

Pros:Cons:
– All the trappings of a serious expedition tent
– Generous floor space
– Clever equal-length
– 6-pole design for fool-proof setup
– 6 pole design is sturdy, but takes a little longer by default
– On the heavy side for a two-person model



Buying Guide For The Best Winter Tents

In all actuality, “4-season tents” is a bit of a misnomer. See, any tent described as a 4-season tent is usually built for one season specifically: Winter. They get the name “4-season” because technically, they’ll function in all four, although you’d be pretty miserable in most 4-season tents in the middle of summer.

With that being said, it’s important to know that not all 4 season tents are built for extreme conditions. While every tent on the list above is perfect for the colder months, some are really only designed to handle light snow, where others are literally built to withstand weathering blizzards on Kilimanjaro.

There are a handful of features that decide just how much abuse a cold-weather tent can handle, so if you’re planning on some cold weather camping of your own, here are the metrics that land a tent on our list.

Best Winter Tent - buying guide intro
Four season tents are ideal for high elevation in mountainous regions, whether there’s snow on the ground or not. 

What makes a winter tent suitable for cold weather camping?

The main differences you’ll notice between four-season tents and their three-season cousins is a stark lack of breathable netting. Some winter designs manage to wedge in the odd window or mesh vent here and there, but because these tents need to keep you warm first and foremost, you’ll find that where you’d typically find mesh, heavy-duty waterproof fabrics have taken its place.

In addition to the focus on warmth and waterproofing, you’ll also find that the pole designs of four-season tents are much more robust. We’ll dig more into both topics below, but for now just know these differences are largely to blame for the extra weight you see on the best winter tents.

Floor Size And Center Height

Best Winter Tent - Size
Winter tents tend to have smaller interiors in the name of preserving heat and adding wind resistance.

By their nature, even the best winter tents tend to have less interior space than their three-season counterparts. True, some general-use front country options feature comparable dimensions, but as you get into more serious climbing and mountaineering territory, interior space has a habit of shrinking.

No, camp manufactures aren’t trying to give anyone cabin fever: These tents are more compact by design.

Remember, the more serious the conditions you’re camping in (wind, snow, wind-blown-snow etc.), the more streamlined you want your tent to be. That’s why most winter tents are either (a) compact with very steep walls or (b) larger and rounded, but with lower center heights.

Both shapes are meant to cut through strong winds and shed snow as efficiently as possible, but as you might suspect, neither comes close to the roomy three-season cabins currently available.

Weight And Packed Size

Weight and packed size play a major role for certain types of cold weather camping.

For instance, if you’re looking to go backpacking in winter weather, the usual size and weight rules apply (the lighter and smaller, the better), but with another factor thrown in: Warmth.

We’ll dig deeper into the insulation problem in the section below, but for now just know that winter backpacking tents must maintain a difficult balance between robust, weather-proof materials and portability. Because the conditions of typical backpacking or even winter car camping (also called front country camping) trips aren’t meant to be extreme, these cold-weather tents strongly resemble your typical three-season tent, but with the aforementioned adjustments which limit their star-gazing potential.

Aside from general use winter camping tents like these, you’ll find two main types of 4 season tents: Mountaineering tents and basecamp tents. Both of these tents are made for tackling freezing cold, high elevation camping (you know, like Mt. Everest or the North Pole… stuff like that), but they take very different approaches.

Mountaineering tents are unique in that they must be both as light as possible and as rugged as possible. This typically translates into lightweight, single-walled designs (we’ll get into single v. double-wall below as well) that sacrifice comfort and interior space for compactness, durability, and weatherproofing.

Basecamp tents, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of their mountaineering cousins. These are much larger, heavier tents that aren’t designed to be carried day-after-day. In fact, as the name suggests, these cold-weather tents serve as “home base” for winter expeditions. As such, they can (and will) be much larger and heavier than any other type of tent for snow camping.

Insulation: Double-Wall vs. Single-Wall Tents

Best Winter Tent - Insulation
Whether your tent is a single-wall or double-wall design, you need to make sure it’s built to handle snowfall if you’re expecting anything over a few inches.

The best winter tents come in two flavors: Double-wall and single-wall. Double-wall tents are the kind most of us are accustomed to seeing, and consist of the main body (also called the canopy), as well as an outer rainfly that protects the inner layer from wind and precipitation.

Single-wall tents, on the other hand, are a simplified design that saves weight and space by combing the rainfly and the canopy into a single waterproof layer. These tents value “fast-and-light” over everything else, and as a consequence won’t be nearly as comfortable or well-ventilated as a double-wall design. You can think of a single-wall tent as the “ultralight” option for high-speed mountain ascents.

Honestly about 99% of us are better suited using a double-wall design. Nearly all of the “creature comforts” we value in three-season tents can be found in double-wall four-season tents (interior space, storage, extended vestibules, multiple doors), and several of the smaller size double-wall options are also surprisingly lightweight.

Storage: Vestibules And Interior Pockets

Just like their three-season cousins, storage and organization play a major role in best winter and cold weather tents.

Remember you’re much more likely to spend time stuck inside mountaineering and basecamping tents waiting out a storm at some point, so having as much interior storage as possible frees up precious floor space for your stay.

Vestibules are also as important as ever here, if not more so. Keeping as much wet/snow-covered gear out of the tent as possible cuts down on condensation dramatically. The more space you’ve got to stash gear outside your front door, the better.

Ventilation And Condensation

Best Winter Tent - Ventilation
Winter tents have to walk a fine line between heat retention and condensation management.

Winter tents are designed to keep your hard-earned body heat inside their walls where it belongs. That means they have the tough task of keeping bitter cold winds at bay while also letting condensation from your breath (plus any wet gear or snow that finds its way into the tent during setup) escape.

Generally speaking, double-wall tents are much better at dealing with condensation since they can get away with much larger vents in the canopy. With that being said, the fabrics of single-wall tents have come a long way, and the gap isn’t as wide as it once was.

Still, buying a single wall tent pretty much always means limited ventilation and dealing with some degree of condensation. If you’re willing to put up with the occasional wet wall or midnight drip in the name of outright performance and simplicity, these tents are tough to beat.

Durability, Materials, and Weather Protection

Because these tents are often used in the most rugged conditions, durability is paramount in a cold-weather tent.

Again, if you’re not buying a tent to use in driving snowstorms or extreme-elevation mountaineering pursuits, you can relax a little here, but if deep-snow is your destination, don’t cut any corners.

Tents for snow camping have three main factors that determine the reliability of their materials: Pole design, fabric thickness, and fabric coatings.

Best Winter Tent - Durability
Both the material of your tent poles and the way they connect to your tent and rainfly are important considerations.

Pole Design:

We’ve always preached the importance of having sturdy tentpoles from reliable brands like DAC or Easton, but when the temperatures drop, this becomes absolutely mandatory.

Four-season tent poles can be aluminum (most of them are), but they should also be much more robust than your typical three-season poles. You’re looking for poles that are both thicker in diameter as well as more securely connected. Remember, bitter cold makes for brittle materials.

Fiberglass poles are an absolute no-no below freezing, but even your average lightweight aluminum designs can snap under pressure from heavy winds or deep snow if it’s cold enough outside. You’ll also start to see poles made from composite materials (like carbon fiber) at this level, so remember there are viable alternatives to aluminum as well.

Fabric Thickness:

We always recommend referencing fabric thickness as a benchmark of durability, but similar to the poles above, there’s a lot more riding on the fabric of a winter tent.

The typical wear-and-tear of use is there as always, but snow itself is particularly hard on a tent. That’s because snow has a tendency to pile up on and around the walls of your tent (whereas rain simply rolls off), which puts weight and pressure on the fabrics. It’s also worth noting that the sun’s rays are more intense in a snowy/mountainous environment (being surrounded by white can feel a lot like being shoved inside a solar oven), so thicker fabrics will hold up to the rigors of UV-rays for much longer than thin ones.

Fabric Coatings:

When it comes to serious waterproofing, rugged, thick fabrics aren’t always enough to keep moisture at bay. That’s why you’ll see additional waterproof coatings applied to even the thickest fabrics on many of the snow camping tents above.

The most common you’ll see by far is Polyurethane (typically abbreviated PU), which is a high-performance, abrasion-resistant waterproof coating. The other coating is silicone, which is exclusively applied to nylon tent fabrics, and thus often referred to as “silnylon.”

Both coatings are time-tested and battle-proven. PU tends to be more affordable and easier to live with day-to-day, but not quite as durable as silicone. Silicone-treated fabric, on the other hand, is typically lighter weight and more packable, and therefore (by the laws of outdoor gear) much more expensive.

Ease Of Set-up

Best Winter Tent - Ease of Set Up
No one wants a tent that hard to setup, but when you’re pitching a tent in a snowstorm, simplicity is particularly important.

All other things equal, an easy-to-pitch tent is always better than a difficult one. We like to think that factor is multiplied exponentially at the end of a long day when you’re tired and the snow starts really coming down.

The faster you can get your tent set up and staked out, the sooner you can start warming up inside it, and the less likely you are to get any undue moisture on the inside.

With that being said, because the best winter tents are built to beat even the gnarliest weather, their set-up can be a little more involved than your average backpacking tent. The concept is exactly the same, but because the stakes are much higher for an improperly secured tent (just imagine having a tent collapse in a snow storm), getting it properly tensioned requires time and attention.

And, because you’ll often be setting these tents up in several feet of snow, you can’t just hammer in a typical six-inch stake and call it a day either. Pitching a winter tent involves burying multiple anchors. Whether that’s specially-designed snow stakes (which are broader, longer, and much more rugged), skis, or trekking poles depends on what you hike in with, but you’ll need something substantial to keep your tent secure.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it was the MSR Remote 2 that got our attention, for its ability to handle winter expedition and season camping alike. Rather than tailoring its expertise to one purpose only, the MSR Remote digs its heels in the name of convenience and proves a tent can handle snow in January and a more casual camping in July. Granted, there is small weight penalty here, the features you get in exchange are top-shelf.

Best Winter Tent - Conclusion

With that being said, if fast, light, and dependable are your top priorities, the MSR Access 2 is one of the lightest double-wall winter tents we’ve ever seen. The Access is good for everything short of serious blizzards and alpine expeditions above the treeline, which makes it ideal for you average winter backpacker or overnight skier. Of course if those hardcore winter expeditions are your bag, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 4 just can’t be beaten for its quality materials and go-anywhere attitude.

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