Searching near and far for the best four season tent? Let us help. We analyzed the 50 most popular tents on the market and purchased the top 18 to put through our rigorous tests. Over the course of several years, our team of experts tested each model in horrendous weather to find out how each one held up. Not only did we travel to Antarctica, Greenland, Patagonia, Alaska, and more, but we took them on big mountain objectives like Aconcagua and Denali. If you're looking for a model that's friendly on your wallet, for casual four-season conditions, or you're an alpine climber that believes light is right, this review will help guide you to your perfect tent.
The Best Four Season Tents
|Price||$990.00 at MooseJaw||$729.95 at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$698.95 at Amazon|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$899 List||$479.59 at Amazon|
Compare at 4 sellers
|Pros||Mega storm worthy, highly resistant to snow loading, pitches quick from outside, great ventilation, three color options, multiple setup configurations||Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic overall balance of strength, weight, and livability, best two pole model to get rained or stormed on in, ample guy points||Extremely strong, spacious, bomber three-point self equalizing guylines, tight flap-free pitch||Super lightweight, spacious interior, made in the USA, bomber wind protection, only requires three stakes to pitch, custom features and colors||Comes with nice hooped vestibule, lightweight, excellent ventilation, great headroom, compressible, bomber for a bivy-tent|
|Cons||Not as comfortable as other mostly heavier models, zippers are small and slightly harder to grab, less headroom than other models||Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guylines included||Bulky for a single wall tent, low ceiling height considering the floor space and weight, harder than average to set up, so-so ventilation, expensive, no vestibule||Questionably thin diameter pole and its subsequent durability, all three stakes need to be bomber for the tent to be bomber||Exterior fabric isn't breathable and absorbed moisture faster than other models, guylines are light duty|
|Bottom Line||Built for the worst conditions but still light and packable enough to consider for summer mountaineering.||All-around uses are this model's forte - perfect for summertime mountaineering, light enough for multi-day ski tours, but still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar.||Easily among the most bomber tents in this review; extreme storm protection at a respectable weight and its ToddTex ePTFE single-wall fabric handled moisture and condensation better than any other single wall model.||A strong, spacious, and exceptionally light non-freestanding tunnel tent.||A great all-around single wall tent that is packed full of features but still checks in at a respectable weight and is a fantastic price.|
|Rating Categories||Hilleberg Jannu||Black Diamond Eldorado||Black Diamond Fitzroy||Stephenson's Warmlite 2R||The North Face Assault 2|
|Weather Storm Resistance (25%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (10%)|
|Specs||Hilleberg Jannu||Black Diamond...||Black Diamond...||Stephenson's...||The North Face...|
|Floor Dimensions (inches)||93" x 57 in.||87" x 51 in.||93" x 60 in.||134" x 48-60 in.||82" x 45 in.|
|Peak Height (inches)||40 in.||43 in.||40 in.||41 in.||42 in.|
|Measured Weight (tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag)||6.87 lbs||5.06 lbs||7.06 lbs||3.31 lbs||3.62 lbs|
|Minimum Weight (only tent & poles)||6.17 lbs||4.5 lbs||6.28 lbs||3.25 lbs||3.24 lbs|
|Type||Double Wall||Single Wall||Single Wall||Single Wall Tunnel||Single Wall|
|Packed Size (inches)||6" x 20 in.||7" x 19 in.||9" x 19 in.||3" x 20 in.||7" x 22 in.|
|Floor Area (sq ft.)||34.5 sq. ft.||31 sq. ft.||36 sq. ft.||42 sq. ft.||27.3 sq. ft.|
|Vestibule Area (sq ft.)||13 sq. ft.||9 sq. ft. (optional)||9 sq. ft. (optional)||0 sq. ft.||10 sq. ft.|
|Space-Weight Ratio (inches)||0.31 in.||0.38 in.||0.31 in.||0.84 in.||0.47 in.|
|Number of Doors||1||1||2||1||1.5|
|Number of Poles||3||2||4||2||3|
|Pole Diameter (mm)||9 mm||8 mm||8 mm||9.5 - 16 mm||9 mm|
|Number of Pockets||Side: 4 Ceiling: 0||Side: 4 Ceiling: 0||Side: 4 Ceiling: 0||Side: 2 Ceiling: 0||Side: 2 Ceiling: 0|
|Pole Material||DAC Featherlite NSL Green||Easton Aluminum 7075-E9||Easton Aluminum 7075-E9||Custom aluminum||DAC Featherlite aluminum|
|Rainfly Fabric||Kerlon 1200||3 layer ToddTex||3 layer ToddTex||30D silnylon||50D DryWall durable ripstop polyester|
|Floor Fabric||70D PU coated nylon||Unknown||Unknown||30D silnylon||40D ripstop nylon, 3000 mm PU coating, silicone water-resistant finish|
Best Overall 4 Season Tent
Before we even tallied the scores, we knew the Hilleberg Jannu was our overall favorite. It simply does everything we want, and it does it very well. This tent is one of the strongest on the market and is the most resistant to varying weather. It's also highly versatile, yet doesn't weigh you down, and packs up nicely. Even in stormy conditions, the set-up remains easy.
The main drawback to the Jannu is less space for cooking than in hooped-style tents (though hooped-styles are not as strong). If you're looking for a tent for mountaineering and alpine climbing in the lower 48, you don't need something as burly as this model. However, if you want the best of the best, the Jannu is hard to beat.
Read review: Hilleberg Jannu
Top Pick for All-Around Alpine Performance
Black Diamond Eldorado
The Black Diamond Eldorado is one of the best all-around alpine models. It's storm worthy enough for trips to Alaska but is still light and compact enough for summertime alpine climbing. With that said, its design and features make it slightly more suited for the shorter alpine adventures and multi-day ski trips, which is great because that's what most people want to do. It also offers superior weather resistance (compared to other bivy tents) if you're planning to get heavy amounts of rain or snow.
It isn't as light as the new-wave bivy tents, which for short fair-weather trips are better (they are lighter and more compact). The set-up was also a little complicated and took some practice to master. However, if you are only going to own one 4 season tent for a variety of trips, the Eldorado isn't much heavier and is highly versatile.
Read review: Black Diamond Eldorado
Top Pick for Weight and Packed Size
Black Diamond Firstlight
The Black Diamond Firstlight is hardly an all-around 4 season tent as it is only water resistant and not very wind resilient either. However, it works well enough for the majority of fair weather multiday alpine climbing and ski touring adventures. Why bring it if it isn't that storm-worthy and suffers from bad condensation? Because it packs down tiny and is super light. No other model takes up so little space in our pack like this one. The footprint is nice and small as well, so if there is room for two people to lay down, there's room for you to pitch the Firstlight. And while not bomber, it does shield you from light-to-moderate winds, it keeps the bugs out, and it will help its occupants maintain some level of dryness as long as it doesn't rain or snow too much or too hard.
Since this model is not the best for wetter conditions if you want something that is more storm worthy but offers less interior floor space and no bug netting (a deal breaker for many lower-48 climbers), check out the MSR Advance Pro. If you need something that is a little more versatile that will perform better in wetter conditions and offer more interior room, check out the BD Eldorado above. However, for fair weather alpine climbing and ski trips, the Firstlight's weight and most of all low packed volume is hard to beat.
Read Review: Black Diamond Firstlight
Top Pick for Lightweight Alpine Climbing
MSR Advance Pro
The MSR Advance Pro is a new Top Pick this year. It's our favorite bivy tent for harsher conditions and one of our favorite models for multi-day ski touring or on any trip where low weight and a minimum packed volume is desirable, but a storm-worthy shelter is a necessity. The MSR Advance Pro is about the same weight as the lightest models in our review (2 lbs 14 oz for just the tent and the poles and a 3 lbs 3 oz packed weight) and is one of the smallest when packed. What sets it apart from other bivy tents is it's easy to set up, and it's the only super light model that pitches from the outside. It's also incredibly wind resilient. Additionally, the poles are incredibly robust, and they are always connected at the mid-point, significantly increasing strength. It's crafted from a sturdy fabric and has bomber guy-points.
At 24 square feet, it ranks last for interior floor space (though it is only marginally smaller than most other bivy-tents in our review). It also does not offer the best performance in rainy conditions, and there is no bug netting to circulate air at lower elevation camps which can be a reason to go with the significantly less storm-worthy BD Firstlight above (which does have bug netting).
Read review: MSR Advance Pro
Best Buy for a Single Wall Model
The North Face Assault 2
The North Face Assault 2 is our Best Bang for the Buck for a single wall tent. This was an easy decision for us, as the Assault 2 is packed full of usable features, has a reasonable price, and is a respectable weight. It's significantly less than a majority of its single wall competition, and it comes with a detachable vestibule, which is not included with any other single wall model in our review. Adding to its overall value, the Assault 2 is versatile, thanks to its many vents. It's above average as far as interior floor space goes, and the short cross poles increase headroom, allowing the Assault 2 to feel larger than most bivy tents.
We weren't that impressed with its performance in wet weather conditions though; the fabric seemed to saturate faster than others in rain or wet snow. We also had some condensation issues, as the fabric is not very breathable. But, the price is right on the Assault 2, and the whole packaged is livable and versatile.
Read review: The North Face Assault 2
Best Buy for a Double Wall Model
REI Arete ASL 2
The REI Arete ASL is our Best Buy winner for a double wall model. It's lightweight, for a double wall tent, didn't give us much condensation buildup, and has good headroom, which our taller testers appreciated. Best of all is the price! It's a lot less than many similarly designed tents.While it is a stormworthy option that will perform well for a variety of four-season applications, it isn't a go-anywhere, do-anything shelter, as it does not provide top-notch storm protection in extreme environments. It's ideal for summer mountaineering on peaks like Mt. Rainier and winter camping near or below treeline, but it doesn't fare particularly well in moderate-to-strong winds. If you're hoping not to be out in those conditions anyways, and are looking for a great value option, the Arete ASL is tough to beat.
Read review: REI Arete ASL 2
Best Backcountry Touring Tent
Stephenson's Warmlite 2R
The Stephenson's Warmlite Two-Person Tent (Formerly the Warmlite 2R) is our Top Pick for multi-day ski tours. When you're on extended backcountry tours, weight matters. Leaving your tent behind on an extended ski tour is not an option, and you'll almost always have your tent in your pack (as opposed to a sled). The 3.3 pounds never felt overly cumbersome on our backs, and the interior is spacious, which is helpful for the loftier sleeping bags and clothing you bring while out in the backcountry.
When alpine climbing and mountaineering, the Warmlite Two Person Tent is not always ideal. It's a non-freestanding tunnel design with a larger footprint, which can make it more challenging to set up, especially in smaller tent sites. Those disadvantages disappear while ski touring, where you are nearly always camped on snow. This means you'll never have a hard time staking the tent out (skis, poles, or shovels make for quick and bomber anchors). If you're more of a backcountry touring winter camper rather than an alpine environment one, the Warmlite is the way to go.
Read review: Stephenson's Warmlite 2R
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is crafted by OutdoorGearLab contributor and professional mountain guide Ian Nicholson. Ian is internationally licensed by IFMGA/UIAGM, and has spent over 3,000 days guiding in the pacific northwest, European Alps, and elsewhere. He also holds an AIARE Level III certification as well as a Level I Avalanche Instructor certification. Ian has guided over 1,000 clients, many of whom he has helped select gear for backpacking, climbing, and ski trips. Additionally, Ian has worked in an outdoor gear shop when not guiding, and is thus very familiar with the latest in tent features and design.
We drew upon years of tent use in cold weather and mountains, among ourselves and our pool of more than a dozen individuals and guide services to make this review into the comprehensive resource that it is. Most of the information comes from field use since 2008. Test locations include Alberta and British Columbia, Alaska, Patagonia, Antarctica, Aconcagua, and various other countries. We examined several factors, which we determined were most important in the function of a four season tent. Having a long testing period and a variety of sources of information, we were able to gain valuable insight into things like long-term durability.
Related: How We Tested Four Season Tents
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed each 4 season tent based on its weather resistance (looking at how it stood up to heavy snow loading, winds, and rain), its weight, packed size, durability, livability, adaptability, versatility across climates and applications, and features.
Related: Buying Advice for Four Season Tents
In a category where prices range over a factor of four, finding the right model for you without overpaying is key. Just as how we trade off certain criteria in every purchase, such as livability vs.packed weight and size, we often consider the price of our gear and want the most value possible. Not surprisingly, our Best Buy winners The North Face Assault 2 and REI Arete ASL both represent a good overall performance score at a great price.
This variable assesses a tent's ability to protect you from the outside environment, whether that be snow, rain, or wind. We considered pole design, pole type, fabrics, vestibules, and strength features. These include the number of pole intersections, the number of points, and the mechanism for attaching the inner tent to the poles, along with the number of points and mechanism for attaching the outer tent to the poles. Finally, we also looked at the number and quality of guy points.
What we learned from our testing is that the most significant factors influencing wind resistance and contributing to overall strength are pole design and pole quality.
The most significant factors contributing to a tent's strength are the number of poles, overall pole design, and the number of pole crossings relative to the size and external height. More crossings equates to more strength. While the Black Diamond Eldorado is strong, it's not as robust as the Black Diamond Fitzroy. Both use the same fabric and the same external height, but the Fitzroy has more poles and more pole crossing.
How durable do you need your 4 season tent to be? That, of course, depends on what you plan to be doing. All of the contenders we reviewed are robust models that will excel in most summertime mountaineering adventures and modest winter use. If you are planning on logging any time in massive mountain ranges or will be spending extended amounts of time above treeline, then you should consider a beefier tent with more poles and pole crossings, as well as a burlier overall design.
In addition to design, the next biggest contributor to strength is the tent poles themselves. Tent poles used in the tents we 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, various composites, or carbon fiber. DAC Featherlite NSL Green Poles are the best available aluminum poles found in mainstream tents, with a few smaller manufacturers using Easton poles (which might be slightly stronger for their weight). One company, Stephenson's Warmlite, uses custom aluminum poles that are strong for their weight, though users have had complaints about durability.
Four season tent fabrics range from ultralight, non-waterproof, wind-breaking materials, as on the Black Diamond Firstlight and HiLight, to light and robust silicone coated nylon, found on the Hilleberg models, including the Nammatj, Tarra, and Jannu. We've also tested beefy laminates (think a 3-layer Gore-Tex jacket) found in the single-wall Black Diamond Fitzroy, Eldorado, and Ahwahnee tents.
Coatings: Silnylon vs. Polyurethane
There is a difference between a tent covered on both sides with silicone, called silnylon, and fabric coated on the outside with silicone and the inside with polyurethane (PU). The latter is cheaper but not as durable and strong. The most robust fly fabric used on the 4 season tents tested is Hilleberg Kerlon 1800 silnyon, which has a breaking strength of 40 lb. You can find this material on their Nammatj and Tarra tents.
Some 4 season tents, like the Rab Latok and the Black Diamond/Bibler tents, the Eldorado, Fitzroy, and Ahwahnee, use a burly PTFE laminate, which is similar to your waterproof and breathable jacket. It's also stronger than most silnylon but is a little heavier and bulkier.
Most of the 4 season tents tested had between 4-10 guyline tie-out points. We liked having at least four, though six or seven was ideal for most alpine climbing and various stormy ski trips. For expedition use, we preferred having at least six but would rather have eight. Contrary to most backpacker's beliefs, the guylines have far more holding power than the lower corners of the tents, because the guylines pull from the middle of the tent, resulting in a better angle against the wind to keep your shelter in place.
The Most Weather Resistant
The most robust and weather-resistant 4 season tents that will withstand the strongest winds and the most substantial snow loads are the Hilleberg Tarra and the Black Diamond Fitzroy. They were closely followed by The North Face Mountain 25, and the Hilleberg Jannu. Besides the Fitzroy, the single-wall model with the greatest static strength is the Black Diamond Eldorado; both of these competitors are a step down in their storm worthiness from the models mentioned above.
Tents like The North Face Assault or Black Diamond Ahwahnee were not as sturdy, despite having 2.5 poles as the third half-length pole. Both of these models acted like a little sail, and as a result, the winds pushed harder on these shelters, and their poles were subsequently further stressed.
Weight and Packed Size
We ranked each 4 season tent based on their weight (which we measured ourselves) and their packed volume. We measured both their minimum weight and their packed weight but exclusively used their packed weights for our comparisons. The minimum weight is just the tent, fly, and poles; no guylines, no pole sack, no stacks, etc. That's the minimum amount you can get it down to, should you be looking for the lightest pack possible. However, since it's more useful to carry everything in their stuff sacks, we decided to compare what you'd likely bring for that tent, which was the minimum weight plus enough guylines and stakes, and a pole bag.
Of all the comparison categories in our review, this is where we saw the most significant differences. For example, the lightest tents tested are the MSR Advance Pro, Stephenson's Warmlite 2R, Rab Latok, and Black Diamond Firstlight and HiLight, which all have packed weights of around 3 lbs 5 oz. All of these tents had "minimal weights" of about 2 lbs 13 oz with no stakes, guylines, and pole bag.
The North Face Assault has a packed weight of 3 lbs 10 ounces but provided a lot more ventilation and versatility for only five extra ounces. The Hilleberg Tarra was even more cumbersome, weighing in at 9.5 pounds.
We discovered similar results when it came to packed volume, with some contenders taking up as little as one-quarter the space of the bulkiest. Why not just buy a lighter tent? If you are primarily attempting shorter trips (less than 3-5 days), then this is a great idea. But as you would imagine, a lighter, more compact tent is less versatile and comfortable for extended hangouts, and often not as strong in gnarlier weather either.
Like weight, packed size is often the most crucial considerations for alpine climbers, who may take 30-50-liter packs for many days out in a range of conditions. The Black Diamond Firstlight and HiLight are the most compact models available and are less than a quarter the packed size of some double-wall tents. The MSR Advance Pro and the Rab Latok are about 5-10% larger in packed volume despite being the same weight as the most compressible models. The REI Arete ASL 2, MSR Remote 2, and Hilleberg Jannu are the most compact double-wall tents and are only slightly less packable than the Black Diamond Ahwahnee or Black Diamond Fitzroy.The Size of a Tent's Footprint
A tent's footprint is the amount of real estate it takes up, not to be confused with the "other" footprint that protects the floor of your tent. For many users, this might not be on their radar but could save headaches down the road. Ledges or even camp/bivy sites can be small, as is the case in many areas of the Cascades, Tetons, Rockies, or Sierras. The tent with the smallest footprint was the MSR Advance Pro which we could pitch anywhere two people would have a chance of laying down. The Rab Latok, BD Firstlight, BD HiLight, and BD Eldorado were not too far behind.
Here we assessed how tolerable it was to spend time in each tent. We looked at door and vestibule design, zipper quality, the number of pockets, peak height, floor area, and vestibule area. Then we assessed the overall vibe. Was it dark and gloomy or bright and cheerful? Did the tent get wet when someone entered in the rain? Do the pockets hold what you want them to hold? Are two people cramped? How well do two full-sized pads fit? Can you sit up, face your partner, and play cards?
We also considered if the fly protects the inside from splashback or water dripping off it. Here are our ratings for each models livability. As a reference, the average size sleeping pad is 20 x 72 inches or 10 square feet.
It's worth noting that The North Face Mountain 25 and Hilleberg Tarra were close seconds, with the MSR Remote 2 coming in the next wave.
Among single wall models, the BD Ahwahnee was hands down the most pleasant, with the Fitzroy coming in a distant second; it has slightly more floor space but quite a low ceiling height. All of these models offered different advantages but were all nice to log time in while inside. In contrast, the Rab Latok Summit has the shortest height (off the ground), and you can't even come close to sitting up in it, making it the least "livable" tent. The Advance Pro was tight, but far more livable than the Latok; and, while small, you could still fit two regular sized sleeping pads side-by-side.
Ease of Set-Up
Pole Clips, Pole Sleeves, or Internal Poles?
An age-old debate which we'll decipher for you here. The truth is that each style has its advantages and disadvantages of ease and speed versus strength.Pole Clips
Pole clips are the quickest and easiest way to set up a tent and offer the advantage (in the case of double wall tents) of letting more moisture move around the tent, resulting in less condensation buildup. The disadvantage of clips is that they are heavier and don't spread the force of wind or snow as evenly along the length of the pole (compared with pole sleeves).
Pole sleeves are pretty easy unless it's incredibly windy; then you have to be very careful. While sleeves are easy in pleasant weather, they are not as easy or as quick as clips. When it's windy, you have to use more caution while setting up a tent with pole sleeves; a pole is more vulnerable, with the tent acting like a kite until the whole tent is erected and can support itself.
One small gust can bend or snap the poles if you aren't holding the tent correctly. Once set up, they are equally, if not more, bomber because the pressure will spread out evenly. Pole sleeves don't let moisture circulate as nicely as clips, but this is a smaller difference in materials; examples include The North Face Mountain 25 and the Hilleberg Nammatj. Some models use a hybrid of pole sleeves and clips, like the MSR Advance Pro and the REI Arete ASL 2.
Internal poles are found in lighter weight tents that you usually have to set up from the inside; this is the lightest design because the body of the tent itself is supporting poles. You need very little if any, extra fabric or materials to support the poles. Thus, all of the lightest bivy style 4 season tents use an internal pole design. This design is also strong and can be as durable and robust as a pole-sleeve tent with similar pole structure. The primary disadvantage is that these are the most difficult and time-consuming to set up. If it's windy, it's a pain to crawl inside and set up. Examples are the Black Diamond Eldorado, BD Firstlight, and Nemo Tenshi.
Correctly setting up a tent on snow or ice can take several minutes to several hours. Chopping a tent platform or cutting blocks to build a wind wall is time-consuming and hard work. A tent that sets up quickly can save energy; a tent that pitches promptly in high winds is even better. The fastest tents to set up are the Hilleberg models, which are set-up from the outside (the inner tent is suspended from the outer tent), with a combination of lower pole sleeves and clips.
Of all the single-wall tents tested, the MSR Advance Pro and The North Face Assault were the easiest to pitch and both featured a similar design. Both have external pole sleeves, meaning you don't have to crawl inside them to pitch them. But what sets them apart is the sleeve is closed off at the end; this means that when you are setting up the tent, you don't have to snap the first side of the pole into place.
The MSR Advance Pro takes this one step further, as you only have to push half of the pole through the sleeve, and the other half of the pole is held in place by plastic clips.
Among double wall models, the Hilleberg contenders were BY FAR the easiest to pitch. Unlike most double wall tents, where you pitch the body with the poles and then throw the fly over the top of everything, the Hilleberg models are suspended from the fly, and you erect the entire thing from the outside. This minimizes the amount of time your tent could become damaged by the wind or filled with snow. The photo above shows one of the reasons why it's so easy to pitch Hilleberg tents.
Adaptability and Versatility
Versatility is an important factor in choosing a tent. Many people who are looking to buy a four season tent will want to use it on a range of trips and in multiple climates. A tent's versatility refers to how well it performs across a range of conditions and climates. All 4 season tents are designed with snowy, windy conditions in mind; however, we also compared how well they performed in the rain, warmer three-season travel, and desert climates. We also analyzed how well they delivered from a bivy tent perspective and threw in modest alpine conditions and full-blown expedition use.
In the end, tents that are more versatile are a better value. As a whole, most of the double-wall tents scored better than the single-wall tents because they handled warmer conditions both with and without moisture. There were exceptions, like the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, which featured two full-size doors with bug doors underneath; despite being a single-wall tent, it was possibly the best four season tent tested for three season use. The Mountain 25, and MSR Remote also fared well and would be good options for a sturdy option for sea-kayaking or both three and four-season use.
A tent scored higher in this category when it had features that allowed us to use it in different ways. For example, a removable vestibule, as is found on some single-wall tents, or a removable inner tent, which allows you to use and pitch your one tent in different ways, was helpful.
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 excellent for mountaineering because you can dig down into the snow to create a cooking area.
Ventilation can have a dramatic influence on a tent's adaptability and livability. Double-wall tents often have better air circulation and less condensation than single-wall tents. The Hilleberg models and The North Face Mountain 25 have the best ventilation and moisture management of all double-wall tents. The top vents on dome tents are useful in moving air around and mitigating the "it's snowing inside" effect that happens when moisture vapor from your breath freezes, hits the roof and falls back on you.
The Black Diamond Ahwahneeis a single wall 4 season tent that stood out for adaptability and livability. The Ahwahnee has the highest single-wall peak height, and two six foot plus people could easily sit and face each other. The Ahwahnee's doors, which make up the entire sides of the tent, can be left wide open (with option bug netting) in nice weather or be left cracked open in a light storm. This helps with ventilation, as they are covered by a short third pole, which creates small awnings for the doors. Though shorter with less interior floor space, the HiLight had a similar design. It features one full-sized door on one side and a massive vent that's half the size of the door on the other.
Of all single wall tents, the Nemo Tenshi and The North Face Assault each sported one of the most impressive ventilation systems. Both these models feature four vents total, with a vent on the front door, one on each side, and a door/window/escape hatch that allowed for ventilation and air circulation. The hatch also allows for improved safety while cooking. See a photo of the Assault's sizeable rear vent below.
The main factors influencing durability are the type of fabric used for the fly, the quality of the poles, and the floor. The floor matters less because much of the time you are pitching an all-season tent on snow. 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. They can wear out faster, particularly in wet environments, and aren't as resistant to UV degradation.
That said, companies like Mountain Trip, a super well-known Denali guide service (who retires their tents with plenty of life left), gets eight to twelve 22-day Denali expeditions out of The North Face tents.
A tent like the Hilleberg Nammatj, with three layers of silicone on each side, may last between a third or even twice as long. Regardless of what tent you buy, 150 days is a lot of time for a model to be out in the elements. While it is possible to recoat a fly's fabric, it's much more common to buy a new outer tent (fly), which is an option with most companies.
Tent floors have high-grade PU formulations that resist hydrolysis. The majority of the double wall tents tested have a tough 70 denier floor. Some Hilleberg tents, like the Nammatj and Tarra, use a 100 denier fabric that is burly. Single-wall tents often use lighter floor materials.
Specific features can also have a significant impact on durability. The big three here are zippers, clips, and webbing adjustments. More prominent zippers last longer and can handle expeditions because they continue to work with dust and grit in them. Some clips are better than others: Martin Zemetis helped to design the clips used on the Mountain Hardwear Trango series and improved them with the clips now found on SlingFin tents, which are easier to use and stronger.
The most durable double-wall tents tested are the Hilleberg Jannu and Hilleberg Tarra, which feature mega high-quality poles; they also have the nicest fabric among other contenders in our review. That said, The North Face Mountain 25 is not far behind and for most users, are comparable. The most durable single-wall tents are the Black Diamond Fitzroy, Ahwahnee, or Eldorado, as all feature the burliest outer fabric reviewed. The least durable single-wall tent was the Black Diamond Firstlight.
Considerations for Bivy Tents and Alpine Climbing
For most summertime mountaineering and alpine climbing in the lower-48 and southern Canada, like the Colorado Rockies, Bugaboos, Cascades, Tetons, and Sierra, we prefer single wall bivy tents. This is because we are often choosing to go out in nice weather; while the tent is a just-in-case option, it's also being brought for wind, bug protection, and warmth as much as it is for protecting us from a storm.
Since we are choosing to go out in weather that isn't usually nuking, we aren't going to log as much time in it. Therefore, opting for a lighter shelter is one of the easiest ways to save a significant amount of weight in your pack. In these regions, you are often sleeping on rocky ridges or un-defined campsites, which means a model with a smaller footprint is both easier to find a spot to set it up and often easier to pitch it in a more desirable place.
Going Ultralight? Consider an Ultralight Shelter
If saving weight is your top priority, and you are not alpine climbing, we suggest considering 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, weighing less than a model supported by dedicated poles.
Forget the Footprint
Unless you are camping on sharp knives, we are confident that there is no need for a footprint for any winter tent. The majority of the tents tested use a tough 70-denier floor that's 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 hardware stores. Tyvek is more puncture-resistant and cheaper than the expensive footprints offered by manufacturers. The weight of the tent and your sleeping gear hold it in place.
The tents that we tested are designed to perform well in four seasons, specializing in winter and mountaineering use. Choosing between a single and double-wall tent is essential depending on the type of trips you're planning. If saving weight is most important, a single-wall tent might be preferred. Apart from that, comfort, space and durability most often rank higher in a double-wall tent. We hope that you can use our analysis of these top competitors to find the product that fits your wants and needs.
— Ian Nicholson