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Our outdoor experts have tested the best four-season tents over the last 11 years. This review features 16 of the market's most tried and true popular models, tested by our team, including international guides, weekend warriors, and recreational expeditionists. We've tested across the globe, with each tent in all seasons, enduring conditions of sandy deserts, windswept ridges, frigid lows, and hot highs. After field testing, we meticulously assessed key features and noted which tents were best for particular niche conditions. All of this research is done to help you find the best tent, no matter your budget.
Versatile, lightweight, double wall design works far better in rain than single wall models, handles condensation well, big vestibules, easy to pitch
Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability, ample guy points
Lots of headroom, long internal length, lightweight, versatile, easy to pitch, handles condensation well, water resistant
Spacious and strong for its weight, top-of-the-line poles and fabrics, easy to set up, poles insert from outside, inner tent is attached to outer tent, great high and low ventilation, spectra guy lines with camming adjusters, inner tent is removable
Lightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, versatile, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, and longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller people
Isn't as strong as other 4-season models, offers a good but not excellent packed size
Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guy lines included
Not strong enough for expedition use in the greater ranges
Zipper pulls are hard to grab with gloves and rattle in high winds, needs a larger area to pitch and can be more challenging to setup in rockier terrain
Tiny vestibule, one of the weakest 3(.5)-pole designs in our review, only one door
The ski and summer mountaineering focused design perfect for almost any trip you can dream up
All-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar
Light, roomy, and versatile for modest four season conditions
A spacious and strong model built for high winds
A solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price. Great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treeline
Functional Weight: 4.9 pounds | Floor dimensions (L x W): 87 x 51 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Bomber two-pole design
Fabric handles moisture and condensation well
Fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability
REASONS TO AVOID
Setup requires a learning curve
Heavier than ultralight bivy tents
The Black Diamond Eldorado balances excellence through all the metrics. It's stormworthy enough for major routes in Alaska and Patagonia, where its integrity has been proven time and time again. It holds up to fierce winds and heavy snow more effectively than any 2-pole bivy tent we have tested. It also offers slightly more interior space among two-pole bivy options. It is 4-5 inches longer than most competitors, which taller folks will appreciate. Its Todd-Tex fabric is the best-performing material of all the single-wall options. While heavier, it's far more breathable and handles condensation noticeably better than most other single-wall shelters.
With a trail weight of less than 5 pounds, the Eldorado is hardly "heavy," but it's not nearly as light or compact as many new-wave bivy tents. It's over a pound heavier than the lightest bivy style options and around 25% larger in packed volume. That extra weight goes into this tent's high strength and comfort scores. The internally pitched design is super strong despite only having two poles, but there is a learning curve to mastering its setup. The bottom line remains; if you are only going to own one 4-season tent for a wide range of alpine adventures, then the Black Diamond Eldorado is our top recommendation.
Weight: 4.1 pounds | Floor dimensions (L x W): 84 x 50 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Fairly spacious interior
Two decent-sized vestibules
Performs better in the rain than single-wall models
Easy to pitch
Handles condensation well
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as strong as other 4 season models
Large packed size
The MSR Access 2 is one of the market's lightest double-wall 4-season tent options. While we love single-wall shelters for their compact size and weight-saving benefits, they are rarely versatile and perform poorly in the rain. The Access is unique: it is light and packs down small while offering versatility. It is one of the lighter models to feature two doors: no need to crawl over your partner in the middle of the night. We stayed dry on a rainy week-long ski of the Ptarmigan Traverse, even in the sleeting rain. We found it perfect for summertime mountaineering in the lower 48 and southern Canada, modest snow camping trips, and multi-day ski tours. We would even take it on the occasional backpacking trip. It excels at versatility, low weight, and the ability to keep its occupants dry in heavy rain.
While the Access 2 is robust and unquestionably a 4 season shelter, it isn't quite expedition-worthy. We wouldn't choose it for trips to the Alaska Range, the Karakoram, or Antarctica as a primary, long-term camping tent. It handles moderate winds and snow-loading, but this is not the tent you want in extreme conditions. We love it for longer ski traverses or summertime mountaineering routes in less far-flung ranges where moisture management is key.
Weight: 5.87 pounds | Floor dimensions (L x W): 88 x 60 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Relatively lightweight, particularly for a double-wall tent
Great price point
Interior fabric handles condensation well
Accommodates taller folks
REASONS TO AVOID
Not super bomber for a three-pole design
Only one door
The REI Arete ASL 2 is a high-value and versatile double-walled model for four-season use. For the price, there is no better option. Our taller testers appreciated its roomy dimensions and were impressed by its low weight and packed volume. It handles condensation and rain extremely well with a newly designed interior, a huge zip panel, and loads of mesh. It has a relatively high peak height and long internal dimensions. The 3.5 pole design provides good headroom and livability.
This model offers good storm worthiness, but it isn't quite a go-anywhere, do-anything shelter. It doesn't provide the top-notch storm protection required for extreme environments. It's ideal for summer mountaineering on peaks like Mt. Rainier or Mt. Shasta, spring ski tours, or winter camping at or below treeline. It doesn't fare particularly well in moderate-to-strong winds and wouldn't be our first choice for a full-on expedition tent to a place like Denali. However, this model is tough to beat if you're planning more moderate mountainous adventures in the lower 48 or Southern Canadian Ranges and are looking for a great value option.
Weight: 3.31 pounds | Floor dimensions (L x W): 82" x 48 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Small packed size
Advantageous tiny footprint
REASONS TO AVOID
Not completely waterproof
Not as easy to pitch as other models
Poor ventilation and breathability
Poor wind resistance
The Black Diamond Firstlight is ideal for fair-weather multi-day alpine climbing and ski touring adventures because of its exceptionally low weight and ability to compress smaller than any other model in our review. Its small size and tiny footprint allow you to pitch it nearly anywhere there is room for two people to lie down. Its bug netting means as long as it is nice out, you can sleep with the door wide open without getting bit. We don't love it for extended storms or harsh four-season conditions, as it isn't that strong nor completely waterproof. Built with a newer version of Black Diamond's proprietary NanoShield fabric, it has created the most water-resistant Firstlight, helping it handle a little rain or snow fine. Still, it can be challenging to stay dry for extended periods. You might be wondering why bring a tent if it isn't particularly water resistant, wind resistant, and suffers from poor condensation?
This model borders on mediocre for wet or stormy conditions. It offers just enough water resistance for short-duration "surprise" afternoon thunderstorms. It works well for fair-weather areas like the Sierra but not for consistently wet and stormy spots. However, the Firstlight is our top choice for trips where weight is the main consideration.
Weight: 9.64 pounds | Floor dimensions (L x W): 85 x 64 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Strong and proven in the world's most extreme places
Easy to pitch in higher winds
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the best headroom despite the roomy dimensions
Okay condensation performance
The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is one of the most expedition-worthy 4 season tents ever built. It's perfect for harsh weather or extended base camp adventures. It has been from Antarctica to Mt. Everest to the North Pole. It has accompanied people on some of the most remote expeditions to the ends of the earth. While it's overkill for more modest summertime mountaineering in the Tetons, Canadian Rockies, or the North Cascades, it's worth every bit of weight when the conditions turn gnarly. With its 4-pole design (not including its 5th hooped vestibule pole), the Trango 2 is easily one of the strongest shelters on the market and is as easy as it gets to pitch in high winds. It's the roomiest two-person shelter in our review, long-term tent dwellers will appreciate it. Its spacious vestibule will store plenty of gear or provide a place to cook when you can't hang outside any longer.
The Trango is 100% designed for expedition use, and these attributes make it great in the nuclear wind or dumping snow; however, it's a little on the heavy side for multi-day ski touring or summertime mountaineering. If your excusrions lean more towards modest alpine objectives, you should choose a lighter and more packable tent. However, for those looking to shelter from high winds and heavy snowfall, this tank of a tent is excellent as your home away from home in the world's most extreme environments.
Weight: 3.75 lbs / 5 lbs w/ included vestibule | Floor dimensions (L x W): 82 x 42 in
REASONS TO BUY
One of the more versatile single-wall tents
Detachable hooped vestibule
Respectable headroom for a "bivy tent"
REASONS TO AVOID
Care must be taken with the poles while pitching
Only okay in the rain
So-so moisture management if vents are sealed
The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT tent is one of the more versatile single-wall shelters we tested. FUTURELIGHT is TNF's proprietary air-permeable fabric. After extensive testing, we found it offered some of the best breathability in our tests. The Assault 2 can adapt to a variety of environments thanks to this material and its three sizable vents. Adding to its versatility is its detachable hooped vestibule, which you can leave behind to save weight if you choose.
While pretty light, you can still get a lighter, more compact tent if you value weight savings over versatility and comfort. Additionally, this model isn't our first choice for fierce weather or extended hangouts as our sole shelter on a lengthy expedition. In the end, though, The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT strikes a nice balance between weight and versatility. While not a true "expedition tent," it is more than enough for the typical mountain trip.
Our review process starts with combining our expertise on these tents with thorough research into the market. Once we decide on a selection, we purchase them all at full cost and create a test plan determined by the most important factors in the functionality of a 4 season tent. By having a long testing period and various sources of information, we can gain valuable insight into things like long-term durability and what models fared better or worse in a diverse range of weather conditions. These tents have seen high winds and countless snowy, rainy, stormy, and sunny days. We've been testing tents continuously for over a decade in a various locations, like Alberta and British Columbia, Alaska, Patagonia, Antarctica, Peru, Bolivia, Aconcagua, and other locations worldwide.
Our testing of 4 season tents is divided across six rating metrics:
Weight (25% of overall score weighting)
Weather/Storm Resistance (25% weighting)
Livability (20% weighting)
Ease of Set-up (10% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Versatility (10% weighting)
This review is crafted by long-time OutdoorGearLab contributor and professional mountain guide Ian Nicholson. Ian is an internationally licensed IFMGA/UIAGM mountain guide who has spent almost 2,000 nights sleeping in a tent over the last two decades. As a result, few people can offer the level of expertise and insight Ian can regarding 4-season shelters.
Ian's professional mountain guide background ranges from being a member of the AMGA's (American Mountain Guides Association) and AIARE's National Instructor teams to teaching professional-level courses for both professional training bodies. Ian has guided ten Denali expeditions and completed five more trips to other areas of Alaska ranges in addition to first ascents in Patagonia, the Waddington Range, the North Cascades, and more than 30 week-plus long ski traverses around the world. Few people consider their shelter options as deeply as Ian, obsessed with researching the latest products, their strengths, and best applications and putting them through their paces. While Ian spearheads this review, we made sure to draw upon a pool of more than a dozen individuals and guide services.
Analysis and Test Results
We've selected a wide variety of 4 season tents. We test super lightweight to heavy and mega stormworthy. All tents in this review can withstand a host of conditions, from super sunny conditions to cutting winds. Each is scored against the metrics to help you filter out which tent buying considerations are important for you.
If you've been searching for a 4-season tent, you know they aren't cheap. We help assess the right shelter — without overpaying for your needs. Standing out among the rest for value are both The North Face Assault 2 and REI Arete ASL 2. Both represent a good overall performance score at a great price. All have different niches and are ones to consider if you're looking to pinch some pennies and save a little money. These tents will be especially appealing for people just getting into 4 season conditions and those who only plan to do a trip or two a year in more moderate environments.
This is the most important metric. We assessed a tent's ability to protect its occupants from the elements and the outside environment. The best models keep you dry without bending, changing shape, or excessively flapping in high winds.
We pitched each model on breezy, exposed ridges and driving snow and rain. Once pitched, we compared each model and how well they kept us dry in bad weather. We look at pole design, type, fabrics, vestibules, and other features that affect each shelter's strength. Some of the largest contributing factors 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 mechanisms for attaching the outer tent to the poles. Finally, we look at the number, location, and quality of guy points. We learned from our testing that pole design and quality are the most significant factors influencing wind resistance and overall strength.
The most significant factors contributing to a tent's strength are the number of poles, their layout/design, and the number of pole crossings relative to the tent's size and external height. More full-length poles and more crossings equate to more strength.
How strongly do you need your 4 season tent to be? All the models we reviewed are robust enough for use in at least moderate 4-season conditions. These tents should withstand strong winds greater than 35 mph with little protection and modest snowfall. Every tent we reviewed works above treeline for summertime mountaineering objectives, multi-day ski touring adventures, and modest mid-winter use.
While all the shelters we tested qualify as 4-season tents, not every tent can handle all 4-season conditions. They won't excel in the "Great Ranges" like the Alaska Range, and Antarctica, the Karakoram, or extended time above treeline in strong winds and heavy snow loads. If you are going into serious conditions, choose one of the more robust "4-season" models with more poles and pole crossings.
Tent poles used in the tents we tested range from 8mm to 10.25mm in diameter. Except for a few exceptions, the thicker the pole, the stronger it is.
DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles are some of the best aluminum poles. We also liked Easton's new composite pole used on the MSR Access 2, as they can flex much further before breaking.
Fabrics range from ultralight, non-waterproof, wind-breaking materials, as on the Black Diamond Firstlight, to light and robust silicone-coated nylon, found on the Hilleberg models, including the Nammatj 2, and Jannu. They also can include air-permeable materials similar to what you might find in a waterproof jacket in the case of The North Face Assualt FUTURELIGHT to specialized and robust ePTFE laminates (think a much burlier version of a 3-layer Gore-Tex jacket) found in the single-wall Black Diamond Eldorado. We break down each tent's specific fabric in their reviews.
Coatings: Silnylon vs. Polyurethane
There is a difference between a tent covered on both sides with silicone, called sil-nylon, 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 a 4 season tent is the Hilleberg Kerlon 1800 sil-nylon, which has a breaking strength of 40 pounds. You can also find this material on their Nammatj and Tarra tents.
The Black Diamond Eldorado,Black Diamond Fitzroy, and Black Diamond Ahwahneeuse a burly PTFE laminate, similar to your waterproof and breathable jackets. The difference is that the inside has tiny hairs that allow more effective moisture and condensation management. PTFE fabric is stronger than most sil-nylon but is a little heavier and bulkier.
Guy Line Points
Most of the 4 season tent options tested have between 4-10 guy line tie-out points. Six is nice for most alpine climbing and ski trips in the lower 48. Eight or more is ideal for expedition use and extreme weather. Guy lines have far more holding power than the lower corners of the tent. They pull from the middle of the tent and get a better angle against the wind to keep your shelter in place.
The Most Weather Resistant
The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, Black Diamond Fitzroy, and The North Face Mountain 25 offer the greatest strength and weather resistance. They are the most popular on expeditions to Vinson, Everest, and Denali.
Among non-4-pole designs, the Black Diamond Eldorado offers the greatest static strength, with the Hilliberg Jannu checking in as the strongest amongst 3-pole designs. While exceptionally strong, these competitors are a step down in storm worthiness from the abovementioned models. All of these models are worthy of being taken to big remote ranges like the Alaska Range or the Himalayas.
If you're looking for a Denali stormworthy model or something equivalent, we recommend looking at contenders scoring a 9 or a 10 in this metric.
Tents like The North Face Assault, Black Diamond Hilight, and Black Diamond Ahwahnee are not as sturdy, despite having 2.5 poles. The 0.5 pole is a half-length pole that creates more headroom but doesn't add strength. At times, the awning created by this third pole can act as a sail and further stress the poles. These models offer respectably strong 4 season shelter but aren't a model we'd take to Denali or any place we'd expect fierce winds.
Weight and Packed Size
We rank each 4 season tent based on its weight (which we measured ourselves) and packed volume. We measured both the minimum weight and "packed weight" for comparison and used these measurements to compare each model accurately. The minimum weight is the tent, fly, and poles; no guy lines, no pole sack, no sacks, etc. The measured weight is the weight of each tent where it is usable, which is generally everything included in the minimum weight, plus guy lines, a pole bag, and an appropriate number of stakes. The measured weight is the primary number we used for our comparison.
A tent is where you stand to save the most weight among a single piece of equipment. The tents we tested have a huge weight range from just under 3 pounds to nearly 9 pounds!
The Lightest of the Light
The Black Diamond Firstlight is the lightest tent tested at 2.8 pounds. The MSR Advance Pro 2 is the next lightest model and offers the lowest weight among waterproof models at 2.9 pounds. However, to achieve this low weight, there is no bug mesh (a deal breaker if camping below treeline). It also has the smallest interior space and the least breathable fabric. The Mountain Hardwear AC2 (3.4 lbs) is the lightest model, which is waterproof AND offers a bug mesh door. The North Face Assault 2 weighs a little more (excluding its removable hooped vestibule) and offers more venting options.
Light with a Little More Versatility
We loved the Black Diamond Eldorado, MSR Access 2, and the Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2. They weigh between 4 and 5 pounds and are significantly more versatile and comfortable than tents that weigh a pound or two less. For most people, these hit a sweet spot of weight, comfort, strength, and livability.
Bivy-style tents are ideal for short trips in nice weather. However, if you are only going to own one tent, get something just a little heavier (often only 8-16 ounces more) that provides significantly greater ventilation, comfort, and strength.
While there is no shortage of carry-over routes in North America, most people aren't bringing the tent up and onto the route on a regular basis. That is why we generally recommend a more all-around tent for general use and then a sil-nylon tarp or bivy sack for the rare (for most people) carry-over route (where you need to carry your tent with you while climbing).
Comparing models side by side, some models take up as little as one-quarter the space of the bulkiest options. That said, keep in mind that a little more bulk can provide a lot more versatility and strength.
One of the most compact models we tested was the Black Diamond Firstlight and the Black Diamond Hilight. No other disappeared as easily in our pack as these two. Options like the TNF Assault FUTURELIGHT and Mountain Hardwear AC2 were still tiny and still compressed down nearly to the size of a Nalgene bottle but not quite as small as the first two listed models.
The MSR Access 2, Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2, REI Arete ASL 2, and Black Diamond Eldorado were the next most packable models, which were as much as 40-50% bigger than the smallest models but provided more comfort and versatility. Comparably the least packable models, The North Face Mountain 25 and Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, offer more interior space and greater strength but were roughly 2-3 times the size of all the models mentioned above.
Most people would obviously prefer a more compact model over a larger one. The exception is the expedition environment, where extra bulk is often 100% worth it for added comfort and strength. A shelter is one of your most important lifelines if you are on a remote glacier being pounded by driving wind and snow. Keep that in mind when judging a tent's packed size.
The Size of a Tent's Footprint
A tent's footprint is the total amount of real estate it takes up, which is not to be confused with the smaller footprint "tarp" that protects only the floor of your tent. Footprint is especially important if you are perched on ledges, rocky moraines, or nestled between boulders. These conditions are common in the Cascades, Tetons, Colorado Rockies, Wind Rivers, or Sierra.
We assess how pleasant (or, in some cases, tolerable) it was to spend time in each tent. We looked at interior space, headroom, door and vestibule design, zipper quality, the number of pockets, peak height, and vestibule space. Then we assessed the overall vibe of how pleasant it was to share each model with another person. 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?
A key "livability" spec is the number of square feet of interior space. These tents ranged from 24-40 square feet. Most averaged around 30 square feet. As a reference, the average sleeping pad is 20 x 72 inches or 10 square feet. Tents that are 24-27 square feet feel a little tight as two full-length pads barely fit. Tents with 28-34 square feet feel comfortable for most people, and 35-40 square foot tents feel spacious and could borderline fit an average-sized third person.
The most livable tents were the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, with its two HUGE doors and higher-than-average headroom, along with the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, The North Face Mountain 25, and Black Diamond Fitzroy. All of these offered 2-doors, pleasant interior height, and a fair amount of square footage.
If you are looking for a nice blend of weight/packed size and livability, then the Mountain Hardwear Outpost, and REI Arete ASL 2 were our favorites. The MSR Access 2 and Black Diamond Eldorado are right behind. While none of the "bivy-style tents" were truly comfortable compared to the models listed above, The North Face Assualt, with all its venting options, vaulted ceiling, and vestibule option, was livable given its weight.
Ease of Set Up
To look at the ease of setup, we look at whether or not the tent uses pole clips, sleeves, or internal poles. We also evaluate the time for set up and how easy each is to set up in poor conditions.
Pole clips are the quickest and easiest way to set up a tent. On double-wall tents, they let moisture move and prevent condensation. The disadvantage of clips is that they are heavier and don't spread the force of wind or snow as evenly along the pole's length compared with pole sleeves.
Pole sleeves are more supportive than clips, as they spread the weight evenly across a wider area. However, they are challenging to use when it's windy. In a gust, the tent acts like a kite until setup is complete. Clips are slightly faster to set up.
Lighter-weight tents use internal poles, and you typically have to set them up from the inside. This is the lightest design because the tent's body supports the poles, and no real clips or sleeves are needed. Some designs use small pieces of velcro or twist-tie features to keep the poles in place. The weight shavings from forgoing clips and extra materials mean that internal pole tents are often lighter.
Internal pole design is as strong or even stronger than models that use sleeves with a similar pole structure. The primary disadvantage is that internal pole setups are the most challenging and time-consuming to pitch. If it's windy, it's an even bigger pain. You have to crawl inside to set up. Examples are the North Face Assault, Eldorado, and Black Diamond Fitzroy.
The models above have a very tight pitch, which makes them incredibly strong for their weight; they also have the biggest learning curve to pitch efficiently while avoiding stabbing a hole through the floor. The learning curve is hardly extreme, but it is worth setting up in a park or backyard a few times before dealing with it on a trip. A tip from Tester Ian Nicholson: stand and start from the back corners, working towards the door.
MSR Advance Pro and Mountain Hardwear AC2 use sleeves with closed ends on one end. You don't have to snap the first side of the pole into a grommet, and it automatically locks into place. This was much easier than single-wall tents that pitch from the inside.
Among double-wall models, the Hilleberg models 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. For more traditional double-wall designs, we found the REI Arete was easier and faster than others.
Adaptability and Versatility
A tent's versatility refers to its performance across various conditions and climates. All 4 season tent options are designed with snowy and windy conditions in mind. We compared them across the spectrum of common uses, such as alpine climbing, bivy tent climbing, snow camping, multi-day ski-touring, and expedition climbing. We also compared how well each model performed in the rain, warmer three-season travel, and desert climates.
More versatile tents are generally a better value. As a whole, most double-wall tents scored better than single-wall tents because they handled warmer conditions with and without moisture. The Mountain 25, Trango 2, REI Arete ASL 2, and Outpost 2 also fared well and would be good options for sea-kayaking and both three and four-season use.
A tent scored higher in this category when it had features that allowed us to use it differently. For example, a removable inner tent, which allows you to use and pitch your tent in different ways. We also loved models like The North Face Assault, which came with removable vestibules, adding to its versatility and adaptability. You can buy a vestibule for all of Black Diamond's single-wall models, but they are sold separately.
All Hilleberg tents have removable inner tents that give you a lighter floorless shelter for summer backpacking and fast and light winter trips. The floorless option is excellent for mountaineering because you can dig into the snow to create a cooking area.
Among single-wall tents, no tent comes close to matching the versatility of the Black Diamond Ahwahnee. It offers two gigantic doors, which we left open to create unparalleled ventilation and a roomy feel. This is one of the few single wall tents you could use strictly as a 3-season backpacking tent but still strong enough for modest 4-season conditions. Since many people looking for a 4-season tent end up camping a good portion of the time in 3-season conditions (often while approaching the route or simply camping above treeline on warm summer days), the Black Diamond Ahwahnee is truly tough to beat.
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 options. The Hilleberg models and The North Face Mountain 25 have some of 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 when moisture vapor from your breath freezes, hits the roof and falls back on you.
Of the single wall tents, The North Face Assault sported the most impressive ventilation system. It has four total vents, with a vent on the front door, one on each side, and a door/window/escape hatch allowing ventilation and air circulation. The hatch also allows for improved safety while cooking.
Unlike most 3 season models, not all 4 season tents have a bug screen. A bug screen is essential if you are not on an expedition-style climb. It lets you leave the door open for ventilation and defends against mosquitos or black flies. This is particularly true for climbers or ski tours who are likely to have a few lower elevation camps below the treeline where it's buggy.
Durability is set by the type of fabric used for the fly, the quality of the poles, and the floor. If pitching on snow, the floor will matter less. Silnylon is the fabric of choice for double-wall tents. Most PU formulations used on fly fabric coatings are more prone to hydrolysis (chemical breakup) than sil-nylon. They can wear out faster, particularly in wet environments, and aren't as resistant to UV degradation.
The Hilleberg Nammatj, with three layers of silicone on each side, may last twice as long as the competition.
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. The most durable double-wall tent we tested is the Hilleberg Jannu, which features mega high-quality poles; they also have the nicest fabric among other contenders in our review.
We understand that the 4-season tent market is vast, and the investment is large. We hope that our experiences of exploring, sleeping, and living in each tent helps you find the best tent for your adventure.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.