The Best Four Season Tent Review

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Hilleberg Saitaris (red) and Jannu (green) with the Mountain Hardwear Hoopster (orange) in Greenland.
Credit: Eric Guth
We tested 24 of the best four-season tents in a head-to-head competition that assessed weather resistance, livability, weight, packed size and durability. Testing took us all over the Lower 48, to Alaska, Canada, Patagonia, Greenland, Antarctica, and up mountains like Aconcagua and Denali. This review reflects the experience of dozens of people over four years of testing. Our ratings and awards identify the best overall tent, the best value tent, the best dome tent tent, and the best ultralight single wall tent.

Also see our Backpacking Tent Review and Ultralight Tent Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: and Max Neale

Top Ranked Four Season Tents Displaying 1 - 5 of 23 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Hilleberg Nammatj 2
Hilleberg Nammatj 2
Read the Review
Hilleberg Jannu
Hilleberg Jannu
Read the Review
Video video review
Hilleberg Tarra
Hilleberg Tarra
Read the Review
Video video review
Nemo Tenshi
Nemo Tenshi
Read the Review
Mountain Hardwear EV2
Mountain Hardwear EV2
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Street Price $610$885
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Varies $885 - $975
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$699Varies $525 - $700
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100% recommend it (3/3)
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50% recommend it (2/4)
Pros Bombproof in high winds, very comfortable, lightweight, highly versatile, extremely durable, pitches quickly from outside, 3 color options.Strong sidewall, highly resistant to snow loading, pitches quick from outside, great ventilation, three color options.Fortress-like strength for worst conditions, 2 doors, 2 vestibules, good ventilation, extremely durable.Removable vestibule, best single wall ventilation system, innovative anchor point, stronger than ultralight tents, removable vestibule.Strongest 2p single wall tent, most comfortable 2p single wall tent, pitches quick from outside
Cons Not as strong as dome tents (not as good for basecamping), only two pockets.Less comfortable than Hilleberg Nammatj.Significantly heavier than Hilleberg Nammatj and Jannu.Heavier than ultralight tents, not as spacious as Mountain Hardwear EV 2.Poor ventilation in calm conditions, heavier than ultralight bivy tents.
Best Uses Everything: mountaineering, ski touring, backpacking, bike touring.Alpine climbing, high altitude mountaineering, expeditions.Extended basecamping, expeditions.Expedition climbing.High altitude mountaineering.
Date Reviewed Aug 15, 2013Aug 16, 2013Aug 16, 2013Aug 12, 2013Aug 17, 2013
Livability - 20%
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Weather Resistance - 20%
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Durability - 10%
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Weight - 25%
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Product Specs Hilleberg Nammatj 2 Hilleberg Jannu Hilleberg Tarra Nemo Tenshi Mountain Hardwear EV2
Type Double Wall Tunnel Double Wall Double Wall Single Wall Single Wall
Weight (oz.) 87.4 97.3 144 84 78
Weight (lb.) 5 lb 7 oz 6 lb 1 oz 9 lb 5 lb 4 oz / 6 lb 10 oz 4 lb 14oz
Packed Size (in.) 6x20 6x20 7x20 7 x 15 5x18
Floor Dimensions (in.) 87 x 52 93 x 57 83 x 55 86 x 47 105 x 35-48
Floor Area (sq ft.) 30 36 30 28 31
Vestibule Area (sq ft.) 13 13 28 11 (removable) 0
space-weight ratio 0.34 0.37 0.21 0.33 0.4
Peak Height (in) 38 40 42 42 41
Number of Doors 1 1 2 1 1
Number of Poles 2 3 4 2 tent + 1 vestibule 3
Pole Diameter (mm) 10.2 9 10.25 9 9
Number Pole Intersections 0 (tunnel tent) 3 5 1 3
Number of Pockets Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 4 Ceiling: 0
Gear Loft Clothesline Clothesline Clothesline No No
Pole Material DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlite Atlas Scandium XL
Number Rainfly Pole Clips 17 20 39 15 38
Rainfly Fabric 40D silnylon 30D silnylon 40D silnylon 40D PU coated nylon 30D PU coated nylon
Floor Fabric 100D PU coated nylon 70D PU coated nylon 100D PU coated nylon 70D PU coated nylon 40D PU coated nylon

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • All Reviewed Products
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Hilleberg Nammatj 2
$610
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REI Arete ASL 2
$359
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Hilleberg Jannu
$735
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Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2
$500
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Hilleberg Tarra
$885
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Hilleberg Nallo 2
$625
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Nemo Tenshi
$699
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Black Diamond Fitzroy
$700
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MSR Fury
$579
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North Face Mountain 25
$539
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Mountain Hardwear Trango 2
$525
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Black Diamond Firstlight
$300
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Marmot Alpinist
$500
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Black Diamond Eldorado
$600
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Hilleberg Unna
$560
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Sierra Designs Convert 2
$599.95
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Rab Latok Ultra
$500
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Brooks Range Invasion
$600
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Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R
$499
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Black Diamond Ahwahnee
$600
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Mountain Hardwear EV2
$660
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MSR Asgard
$580
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MSR Dragontail
$550
100
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59
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Easton Expedition 2
$750
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REI Mountain 2
$349
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Choosing the Right Tent for Your Needs
From tiny 2 lb. single wall assault shelters to tank-like 10 lb. double wall basecamp behemoths, this reviews compares every type of winter tent. Although all models are designed for winter use, double wall tents also perform well in others seasons and, therefore, are the most versatile. Due to their limited ventilation, single wall tents generally perform poorly for three-season use.

For fast and light winter travel on skis or by foot with trekking poles, or for three-season alpine rock climbing and mountaineering, our testers prefer floorless pyramid shelters and flat tarps. These shelters are found in our Ultralight Tent Review.

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Our initial round of testing in 2010-2011 included 13 four-season tents, pictured above. Then we expanded the review in 2013 to include 9 more models for a total of 24.
Credit: Max Neale
Types of Four Season Tents
Types of winter tents can be categorized by the number of walls and pole design.

One or Two Walls?
Single Wall - The lightest and least comfortable type of tent. Best for alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering where low weight supersedes all other factors. Best in below freezing temps.

Double Wall - Heavier, more comfortable, more versatile. Best for mountaineering expeditions, basecamping and polar exploration. Also works well in all three-season conditions.

Pole Design
Freestanding - The lightest and most compact type of tent. Best for alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering. These can be pitched in small spaces with minimal tieouts and have high static strengths for snowloading. Examples: Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, Black Diamond Firstlight,Hilleberg Unna.

Self-supporting - The most popular design. Poles support the tent to some extent while tieouts support vestibules or awnings and add tension. Best for basecamping and mountaineering. Examples: Hilleberg Jannu, Mountain Hardwear Trango, North Face Mountain 25.

Tunnel - The lightest type of double wall tent and the most space for lowest weight of all types. Fantastic performance in high winds if positioned into the wind. The type of choice for polar explorers and ski touring, and the best balance between low weight, livability, and strength. Examples: Hilleberg Nammatj, MSR Dragontail, Hilleberg Nallo.


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Types of 4 season tents, left to right: Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 (single wall + freestanding), Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 (double wall + self-supporting), Hilleberg Nammatj (double wall + tunnel tent)

Criteria for Evaluation
We assessed each tent based on its weather resistance, weight, packed size, durability, livability and features.

Weather Resistance
This variable assesses a tent's ability to protect its inhabitants from the outside environment. We considered pole design, pole type, fabrics, vestibules and features that relate to strength (number of pole intersections, number of points and mechanism for attaching the inner tent to the poles, number of points and mechanism for attaching the outer tent to the poles, and the number and quality of guy points. We share many of these specifications in the table above and in each individual review.

The most significant factors that influence weather resistance are pole design and the number of walls. The strongest and most weather resistant tent overall is the Hilleberg Tarra, followed closely by the Hilleberg Jannu. The single wall tent with the greatest static strength is the Mountain Hardwear EV2. However, that tent suffers from low vents that can collect spindrift…so much so that we rate the Nemo Tenshi as the most weather resistant single wall tent.

Poles
Poles used in the tents tested range from 8mm to 10.25mm in diameter. The majority are aluminum and made by DAC but some are made by Easton and are either aluminum or carbon fiber. DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles are the best available aluminum poles found in mainstream tents. A few smaller manufacturers use Easton poles that might be slightly stronger for their weight. One company, Stephenson's Warmlite, uses custom aluminum poles that are very strong for their weight, but not durable. All Hilleberg tents can be fixed with two sets of poles to increase strength in ultra heinous conditions. Though beneficial in theory, none of our testers has found a need or desire to try this; Hilleberg tents are already ultra strong.

Fabrics
Tent fabrics range from ultralight non-waterproof windbreaking materials (such as on the Black Diamond Firstlight to super strong and relatively light silicone coated nylon (found on the Hilleberg Nammatj, Hilleberg Tarra and Hilleberg Jannu). There is a dramatic difference between the nylon that is impregnated on both sides with silicone, called silynon, and a fabric that is coated on the outside with silicone and the inside with polyurethane (PU). The latter is much cheaper but neither as durable nor as strong. The strongest fly fabric used on the tents tested is Hilleberg Kerlon 1800 silnyon, which has a break strength of 40 lb. and is found on their Nammatj and Tarra tents, among others. The weakest fabric tested is used by the Brooks Range Invasion and breaks at a mere seven pounds!

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The Hilleberg Tarra standing strong in high winds, Red Rocks, Nevada. (The tents at left are deformed or broken.) The Tarra has four 10.25mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles, the strongest available, and a silynon fly fabric with a 40 lb. tear strength.
Credit: Max Neale
Durability
The main factor here is the type of fabric used for the fly and, less significantly, the floor. Again, silnylon is the fabric of choice for the fly on double wall tents. Most of the PU formulations used on fly fabric coatings are more prone to hydrolysis (chemical breakup) than silnylon. We find that they wear out faster, particularly in wet environments. For example, the fly material on the Mountain Hardwear Trango (sil on the outside, PU on the inside) may last for about 90 days of hard use in a wet climate before it needs to be retired. A tent like the Hilleberg Nammatj (three layers of silicone on each side) may last up to twice as long. This assessment is based on our direct experience using the Trango for 90 consecutive days in Patagonia and from speaking with mountaineering guides in Alaska, Argentina and New Zealand. Eventually, however, any coating will wear off. It is possible to recoat a fabric but it's much more common to just buy a new outer tent.

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McKenzie Long climbing in Patagonia with the Black Diamond Eldorado tent, one of the toughest single wall tents available.
Credit: Luke Lydiard
Tent floors generally have high grade PU formulations that resist hydrolysis well. The majority of the double wall tents tested have a 70 denier floor that's very tough. Some Hilleberg tents like the Nammatj and Tarra use a 100 denier fabric that is ultra burly. Single wall tents often use lighter floor materials. For example, the Brooks Range Invasion uses a superlight 15 denier fabric that's similar to those used on the lightest backpacking tent floors.

Specific features can also have a large impact on durability. The big three here are zippers, clips and webbing adjustments. Bigger zippers last longer and can handle the thrashing of expeditions. Some clips are better than others: Martin Zemetis helped to design the clips used on the Mountain Hardwear Trango series and improved upon them with the clips now found on SlingFin tents, which are easier to use and stronger. Ground level webbing adjustments take a ton of abuse because they live in the dirt or are buried under snow, which often causes them to ice up. Hilleberg is the only company we know of that uses metal webbing adjustments, not plastic, for the four corner points. We take these factors into account in our durability scores.

The most durable double wall tents tested are the Hilleberg Nammatj and Hilleberg Tarra. The least durable double wall tent is likely the REI Arete ASL 2. The most durable single wall tent is the Black Diamond Fitzroy or Mountain Hardwear EV2 and the least durable single wall tent tested is the Brooks Range Invasion, which is also the least durable overall.

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The Hilleberg Nammatj (model 3 GT shown here) and Tarra use a super strong 40 denier ripstop silnylon for the fly and a wildly durable 100 denier PU coated tafetta nylon for the floor. These are the burliest materials used on any 2 person tent tested.
Credit: Brad Miller
Weight and Packed Size
We ranked each tent based on its measured weight. The lightest tent tested is the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, which weighs 2 lb. 9 oz. The heaviest tent tested is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and weighs 9 lb. 13 oz.

Packed size is often the most important consideration for alpine climbers, who may take 30 - 40L liter packs for 8+ days of climbing. The Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 and Black Diamond Firstlight are the most compact tents available.

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Three ultra compact, sub four pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: Brooks Range Invasion, Stephenson's Warmlite 2R, and Mountain Hardwear Direkt2.
Credit: Max Neale
Livability
Here we assessed how tolerable it was to spend time in each tent. We looked at door and vestibule design, zipper quality, number of pockets, peak height, floor area and vestibule area. Then we assessed the overall vibe from each tent. Was it dark and gloomy or cheerful and airy? Did the tent get wet when someone entered in the rain? Do the pockets hold what you want them to? Are two people cramped? Does the fly protect the inner tent from splashback (water dripping off the fly)? We've listed detailed specifications for each tent. As a reference, know that the average size sleeping pad is 20" x 72". Two tents tied for first place in the Features category: the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is the most spacious and has the best pockets, but the Hilleberg Tarra is stronger, easier to sit up in, and has two very large vestibules. In contrast, the Rab Latok Ultra is an ultra small bivy tent that you can't even come close to sitting up in.

Space-to-weight ratio is measured by dividing floor area (sq. ft.) by weight (oz.). This calculation is found in the table above and in each individual review. Note that it neglects to consider vestibule area and the volume of both the inner tent and the vestibule. Our Livability ratings attempt to take all of these factors into account.

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On expeditions double wall dome tents (left) are excellent for base camping and single wall pyramid tarps (right) are great for cooking in. Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Credit: Tressa Gibbard
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A massive vestibule, such as on the Hilleberg Keron 4 GT shown here, can provide lots of space for cooking. This setup is great for extended basecamping but can also be replicated for lower cost with a separate pyramid tarp.
Credit: Hilleberg

Ventilation can have a dramatic influence on a tent's comfort. Generally, we've found that double wall tents have better air circulation than single wall tents and that Hilleberg tents have the best ventilation of all double wall tents. We've found that the top vents on their dome tents are remarkably effective moving air around and mitigating the "it's snowing inside" effect that happens when moisture vapor from your breath freezes in the cold air, hits the roof and falls back on you. Of all single wall tents tested, the Nemo Tenshi has by far the most impressive ventilation system – four vents total – that can greatly improve comfort as well as safety while cooking. See a photo of the Tenshi's large rear vent below.

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The Nemo Tenshi's rear vent is fantastic. You can seal it up tight (left), have a small opening (center), or open it fully (right). Mesh netting further allows you to customize airflow or vent in warmer conditions with insects.
Credit: Max Neale
Features
This is a qualitative assessment of the quality of features found on each tent. We base our rating on our experience testing more than 70 different tents and shelters of all types. Generally, SlingFin and Hilleberg tents have the best features. A few models from other companies, such as the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 and Nemo Tenshi, also score highly for features. We find that many tents have several good features, like the design of a vent or a vestibule, but also a few that leave much room for improvement. Perhaps the single tent with the most up-to-date and best thought-out features is the SlingFin HardShell, a new tent from a new company that blows all other 3-4 person dome tents out of the water. The HardShell, however, is not a two-person tent and is therefore not compared in this review.

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The Hilleberg Jannu's three different vestibule configurations. The middle is our testers' preferred option because it is easier to enter and exit. You can also roll the vestibule away completely!! (not shown).
Credit: Max Neale
Ease of Setup
Properly setting up a four-season tent on snow or ice can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours. Chopping a tent platform or cutting blocks to build a wind wall totally sucks. A tent that sets up quickly can save a lot of energy. A tent that pitches quickly in high winds is even better. The fastest tents to set up are all Hilleberg models, which pitch from the outside (the inner tent is suspended from the outer tent) with either pole sleeves, which are super fast, or big alternating clips. Of all the single wall tents tested the Sierra Designs Convert 2 is the easiest to pitch. That tent uses internal poles sleeves with a port that allows you to insert and adjust the pole from the outside of the tent. This is a fantastic design that is, much to our disappointment, not used by any other companies. The photo below shows one of the reasons why it's so easy to pitch Hilleberg tents.

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The Hilleberg Jannu's pole structure is incredibly easy to setup even with one person, in high winds, while wearing gloves. After staking the base of the tent out, the poles insert into partial pole sleeves (shown here) that stand up by themselves!!
Credit: Max Neale
Adaptability
Adaptability can be an important factor on long trips that cross multiple climates because it increases the versatility of a tent, i.e. you can use it in more places. In that sense adaptability makes a tent a better value. There are two primary ways that a tent can be adaptable: (1) it can have a removable vestibule, as is found on some single wall tents, and (2) it can have a removable inner tent.

Models with removable inner tents receive a score of 3 points for adaptability. Those with removable vestibules receive 2 points. Tents that are not adaptable, i.e. must be pitched the same way every time, receive a score of 1.

All Hilleberg tents have removable inner tents that allow you to have a lighter floorless shelter for summer backpacking and fast and light winter trips. The floorless option is also great for mountaineering because you can dig down into the snow to create a cook area with benches and a table.

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Mountain Hardwear Trango on a sea kayak expedition in Chilean Patagonia. Double wall tents work well in both the worst winter conditions and also in challenging three-season conditions.
Credit: Max Neale
Going Ultralight? Consider an Ultralight Shelter
If saving weight is your top priority, and you are not alpine climbing, we suggest a floorless pyramid shelter, which is lighter and more spacious than any single wall tent. Pyramids pitch with trekking poles, ski poles or skis and have up to three times as much space and weigh less than a tent supported by dedicated poles. Check out our Ultralight Tent Review for details.


Forget the Footprint
Unless you are camping on razor sharp knives we are highly confident that there is no need for a footprint for any winter tent. The majority of the 24 tents tested here use an ultra tough 70 denier floor that's much more durable than floors found on backpacking tents, which use 15 to 30 denier fabrics. We only recommend a groundsheet for basecamping and car camping on dirt or rocks. Then, consider cutting your own from Tyvek Home Wrap, available at hardwear stores for around $10. Tyvek is more puncture resistant and cheaper than the expensive ($50-80) footprints offered by tent manufacturers. The weight of the tent and your sleeping gear hold it in place.

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Tyvek "Home Wrap" is our favorite footprint for car camping and basecamping because it's waterproof, highly puncture resistant, and exceptionally durable. We prefer clear polycro plastic groundsheets for weight conscious applications.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab

Key Accessories
Upgrading to a more lightweight or sturdy tent stake is a good way improve upon any tent. The Easton Nano Tent Stakes and the Ruta Locua 9" Carbon Stakes are great lightweight options that are still sturdy enough to preform well in rocky alpine soil. For use in snow we recommend upgrading to a dedicated snow stake such as the Hilleberg Snow and Sand Peg.

Editors' Choice Award for Best Overall: Hilleberg Nammatj 2
The Hilleberg Nammatj 2 is the most versatile tent we have ever tested. It provides the ultimate blend of low weight (5 lb. 7 oz.), bomber alpine wind protection, ultra rugged durability, and stay-in-it-for-days comfort. The Nammatj has the strongest poles and fly fabric, and most durable floor of any tent tested. This tent is equally at home in desolate areas with terrible weather as it is backpacking and camping in the summer. Our testers took it up Denali, Rainer and on countless trips across the U.S. and Canada. People that are more badass than our testers have chosen the Nammatj for epic polar expeditions, such as unsupported solo trips across Antarctica! If we were to have one tent for everything we would choose the Nammatj.

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Hilleberg Nammatj at Automated Geophysical Observatory 1, Antarctica. The tent is popular among scientists and support personnel in field camps throughout Antarctica.
Credit: Tressa Gibbard

Top Pick Award for Static Strength: Hilleberg Jannu
Alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering demand a lightweight tent with exceptional static strength, a tent capable of being left alone for days at a time in foul weather. For such situations, where you aren't around to clean snow off a tent, no other similarly light tent performs as well as the Hilleberg Jannu. This compact fortress weighs only 11 oz. more than the Nammatj 2 and provides bomber protection against snowloading. Its smaller footprint and self-supporting design are also slightly better for small ledges and cramped, rocky alpine campsites than the Nammatj. Unfortunately, there's not much space for sitting up and the vestibule is cramped for cooking. The Jannu previously won our Editors' Choice Award but after two additional years of testing we moved it to a Top Pick because our testers reached for the Nammatj more often, and because the Nammatj has proven itself over the long term on big mountains and in Antarctica. Choose the Jannu if you plan to leave the tent unattended in exposed basecamps or if you pursue epic alpine climbs.

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The Hilleberg Jannu pitches from the outside with a combination of partial sleeves and reinforced alternating clips. This is the lightest available double wall tent with PHENOMENAL static strength.
Credit: Max Neale

Top Pick Award for Ultralight: Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2
The 2 lb. 12 oz. Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 is our highest rated ultralight single wall tent for fast and light alpine climbing. This ity bity shelter is like a luxury suite on brutal, frigid alpine climbs where low weight, small packed size, and a small footprint are the #1 consideration. The Direkt 2 offers several significant advantages over our previous favorite ultralight climbing tent, the Black Diamond Firstlight: it is stronger, likely more durable and completely waterproof. The Direkt 2 performs very well for alpine climbing and relatively poorly at most other applications. For all other fast and light winter activities our testers prefer floorless pyramid shelters, which are found in our Ultralight Tent Review.

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Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2

Best Buy Award: REI Arete ASL 2
The REI Arete ASL 2 is a high performance winter tent that doesn't cost a fortune. This tent is a cheaper version of the Hilleberg Jannu; the price is less than half even though the tent performs admirably in most conditions. The differences between the Arete and the Jannu are its fabrics are nowhere near as strong or as durable, its pole design is similar but not as strong (it leaves larger side panels unprotected and has two side awnings that catch wind), its vestibule is smaller and harder to enter and exit through, it takes twice as long to set up, and ventilation is not as good. BUT, the Arete ASL 2 weighs about a pound less than the Jannu and costs $360, not $785. If high altitude climbing is not your objective the Arete offers the best value. We highly recommend this tent to anyone that wants reliable comfort and performance without breaking the bank.

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REI Arete ASL 2

Best 2 Person Tents For Specific Applications
Extreme conditions: Hilleberg Tarra
Backcountry skiing: Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid or MSR Twin Sisters
Single wall tent for tall people: Mountain Hardwear EV2

Best 3 - 4 Person Tents For Specific Applications
Extreme conditions: SlingFin HardShell
Best value extreme conditions: Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 or Trango 4
Basecamping: Hilleberg Saitaris
All-purpose: Hilleberg Keron 4
Alpine climbing: Mountain Hardwear EV 3
Group cook tent or for going ultralight: Mountain Hardwear Hoopster

Chris McNamara and Max Neale
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best 4 Season Tent - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best 4 Season Tent

by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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