Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Four Season Tent of 2021

We tested four season tents from Black Diamond, MSR, Hilleberg, The North Face, and more to find the best shelters for your all-season needs
Putting the Hilleberg Jannu through its paces in harsh conditions on a...
Photo: Graham McDowell
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Monday October 25, 2021
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Our outdoor experts have tested the best four-season tents over the last 11 years. This 2021 update features 12 of the market's most tried and true, popular models, tested by our team, which is comprised of a number of members, 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 note which tents are best for particular niche conditions. All of this research is done to help you find your perfect shelter, no matter your budget.

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 6 - 10 of 12
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $730 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$775 List$700 List
$700.00 at REI
$659 List
Overall Score
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Pros Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability, ample guy pointsSuper strong, livable design, above average versatility, great pockets, reflective Kevlar guylines with camming adjustersSpacious 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 removableStrong, spacious, great pockets, easy to take down and set-upInclued hooped vestibule, lightweight, excellent ventilation, good headroom, compressible, robust
Cons Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guy lines includedNot as light as other models, pole sleeves aren't as quick to set up, more care must be taken while pitching the tentZipper 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 terrainHeavy, bulky, inner door is a little funky, doesn't handle condensation wellExterior fabric isn't as breathable as other models and absorbed moisture, guylines are light duty
Bottom Line All-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnarA popular pick among climbing circles, this model performs well and won't entirely break the bankA spacious and strong model built for high windsProven on countless expeditions around the globe, whether climbing Denali, Mt. Everest, or being used as a base campIt's perfect for shorter trips, is versatile, and is packed full of features
Rating Categories Black Diamond Eldorado The North Face Moun... Hilleberg Nallo 2 Mountain Hardwear T... The North Face Assa...
Weight (27%)
7.0
3.0
7.0
2.0
9.0
Weather Storm Resistance (25%)
9.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
6.0
Livability (18%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
10.0
Durability (10%)
10.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Versatility (10%) Sort Icon
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Black Diamond Eldorado The North Face Moun... Hilleberg Nallo 2 Mountain Hardwear T... The North Face Assa...
Minimum Weight (only tent, fly & poles) 4.5 lbs 7.87 lbs 4.44 lbs 8.6 lbs 3.24 lbs
Floor Dimensions 87" x 51 in 86" x 54 in 87" x 52 in 85" x 64 in 82" x 45 in
Peak Height 43 in 41 in 40 in 38 in 42 in
Measured Weight, with tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag 4.9 lbs 8.5 lbs 5.31 lbs 9.64 lbs 3.62 lbs
Type Single Wall Double Wall Double Wall Tunnel Double Wall Single Wall
Packed Size 7" x 19 in 7" x 24 in 5" x 20 in 8" x 24 in 7" x 22 in
Floor Area 31 sq ft 32 sq ft 30 sq ft 40 sq ft 27.3 sq ft
Vestibule Area 9 sq ft (optional) 11 sq ft 14 sq ft 12 sq ft 10 sq ft
Number of Doors 1 2 1 2 1.5
Number of Poles 2 5 2 5 3
Pole Diameter 8 mm 9.5 - 13 mm 9 mm 10 mm 9 mm
Number of Pockets Side: 4 Ceiling: 0 Side: 6 Ceiling: 2 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 6 Ceiling: 2 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0
Pole Material Easton Aluminum 7075-E9 DAC Featherlite NSL DAC Featherlite NSL Green DAC Featherlight NSL DAC Featherlite aluminum
Rainfly Fabric 3 layer ToddTex 75D PU coated polyester Kerlon 1200 70D Nylon Taffeta 2000mm 50D DryWall durable ripstop polyester
Floor Fabric Unknown 70D PU coated nylon 70D PU coated nylon 70D Nylon Taffeta 10000mm 40D ripstop nylon, 3000 mm PU coating, silicone water-resistant finish


Best Overall 4 Season Tent


Black Diamond Eldorado


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 7
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 9
  • Livability 7
  • Ease of Set-up 7
  • Durability 10
  • Versatility 7
Functional Weight: 4.9 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 87 x 51 in
Bomber two pole design
Exceptionally durable
Fabric handles moisture and condensation well
Compact footprint
Fantastic overall balance of strength, weight, and livability
Mediocre ventilation
Set up takes practice to become proficient
Heavier than ultralight bivy tents

The Black Diamond Eldorado touts superior performance, balancing excellence through all the metrics. We found it comfortable in warm temps and in spring alpine conditions. It's been tested on ski tour missions, alpine climbing days, and backpacking adventures. Through it all, it's been a hit. It's stormworthy enough for big routes in Alaska and Patagonia, where its integrity has been proven time and time again. The Eldorado is a minimal tent that offers an excellent balance of strength, comfort, and weight. Its Todd-Tex fabric is by far the best performing of all the single wall options. Though a bit heavier, it's far more breathable and handles condensation better than most other single-wall shelters.

The downside is it isn't as light as many of the new-wave bivy tents, but it does offer several advantages. It's more versatile, comfortable, and significantly stronger. While it still has a trail weight of under five pounds, it's more than a pound heavier than the lightest bivy style options. This internal-pitch model is strong despite only having two poles, but there is a learning curve to mastering its setup. However, the bottom line remains; if you are only going to own one four-season tent, the Black Diamond Eldorado is our top recommendation.

Read review: Black Diamond Eldorado

Best Bang for the Buck - Single Wall


The North Face Assault 2 FUTURELIGHT


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 9
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 6
  • Livability 6
  • Ease of Set-up 10
  • Durability 7
  • Versatility 5
Functional Weight: 3.62 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 82 x 45 in
Lightweight
Decent headroom and interior space
Good ventilation
Comes with a detachable vestibule
Reflective Kevlar guy lines with camming adjusters
1.5 doors
Easy to set up
So-so breathability
Mediocre condensation management
Poor wet weather performance
Not as wind resistant as other models

The North Face Assault 2 offers exceptional value with a single wall tent construction. It's relatively versatile for a single wall tent, thanks to its many vents and included vestibule, and it weighs in respectably on the scale. On top of that, it's more affordable than most single-wall competitors in our review. The Assault's included vestibule is a huge benefit to a tent that already boasts above-average interior floor space. The short cross poles increase headroom and make it feel more spacious than most bivy tents.

On the downside, we aren't that impressed with its performance in wet conditions, and the fabric seems to saturate faster than others in rain or wet snow. It also doesn't manage condensation well, as the material is not very breathable. However, because it contains a good amount of livable space and is quite packable, and is stormworthy enough for most moderate adventures, we consider the Assault to be a great deal.

Read review: The North Face Assault 2

Best Bang for the Buck - Double Wall


REI Arete ASL 2


69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 6
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 7
  • Livability 7
  • Ease of Set-up 9
  • Durability 7
  • Versatility 7
Functional Weight: 3.62 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 88 x 60 in
Relatively lightweight, particularly for a double-wall tent
Great price point
Interior fabric handles condensation well
Longer than average dimensions make it a solid option for taller people
Decent headroom
One of the least bomber three pole designs
Vestibule is tiny
Only one door

The REI Arete ASL is a high-value double-walled model for four-season use. For the price, there is no better option. Our taller testers appreciate its roomy dimensions and are impressed by its weight and packed volume, which proves to be one of the lightest amongst double-wall models. It handles condensation exceptionally well, with livability that allows you to fully sit up with ease.

This model offers respectable stormworthiness, but it isn't quite a go-anywhere, do-anything shelter, as 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 and winter camping near or below the 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. However, if you're planning more moderate mountainous adventures in the lower-48 and are looking for a great value option, this model has our vote.

Read review: REI Arete ASL 2

Best Double Wall Tent


MSR Access 2


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 8
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 7
  • Livability 7
  • Ease of Set-up 9
  • Durability 7
  • Versatility 9
Functional Weight: 4.1 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 13 x 48-60 in
Exceptionally versatile
Fairly spacious interior
Lightweight
Two good sized vestibules
Performs better in the rain than single wall models
Easy to pitch
Handles condensation well
Not as strong as other 4 season models
We wish it packed down smaller

The MSR Access is one of the lightest double-wall 4 season tent options on the market. While we love and frequently use single-wall shelters (for their compact size and weight-saving benefits), they are rarely as versatile. This is what makes it so unique; it has a packed weight of just over four pounds and features a reasonably spacious interior, twin vestibules, and great versatility. Its double door design means its occupants don't have to crawl over one another in the middle of the night. After using it on a rainy week-long ski of the Ptarmigan Traverse, we were blown away at how dry we stayed — 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. These are all places where versatility, low weight, and the ability to keep its occupants dry are paramount.

While the Access 2 is robust and unquestionably a 4 season shelter, it isn't quite expedition-worthy. It handles moderate winds and snow-loading, but in extreme conditions, this is not the tent you want. We love it for longer ski traverses, where better moisture management and respectable weight are key.

Read review: MSR Access 2

Best for Weight and Packed Size


Black Diamond Firstlight


57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 10
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 4
  • Livability 3
  • Ease of Set-up 7
  • Durability 5
  • Versatility 3
Functional Weight: 3.31 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 82" x 48 in
Super light
Small packed size
Advantageous tiny footprint
Not completely waterproof
Not as easy to pitch as other models
Poor ventilation
Fabric doesn't breathe well
Not as wind resistant as other models

The Black Diamond Firstlight is ideal for fair weather multi-day alpine climbing and ski touring adventures because it is TINY, which is why we love it. We don't love it for extended storms or harsh four-season conditions, as it isn't completely waterproof. It handles a little rain or snow, but in extended periods of either, it can be challenging to stay dry. You might be wondering, why bring a tent if it isn't particularly stormworthy and suffers from poor condensation? We love it for its small packed size and low weight. This tent took up the least amount of space in our pack, hands down. The footprint is small, and it can be pitched nearly anywhere there is room for two people to lay down. While not bomber, it does shield its occupants from light to moderate winds, keeps the bugs out, and will help its occupants maintain some level of dryness — as long as it doesn't rain or snow too much or too hard.

This model borders on mediocre for wet conditions, but for fair weather alpine climbing and ski trips, the Firstlight's weight and low packed volume are hard to beat, as long as you can afford to be picky about your weather. As a result, its versatility is limiting, and unless you live in the Sierra, it likely won't be the only 4 season shelter you end up owning. However, for the trips most people will embark on where weight is a consideration, this model is hard to beat.

Read review: Black Diamond Firstlight

Incredible for Extended Expeditions


Mountain Hardwear Trango 2


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 2
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 9
  • Livability 9
  • Ease of Set-up 9
  • Durability 8
  • Versatility 6
Functional Weight: 9.6 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 85 x 64 in
Strong and has proven time and time again in the world most extreme places
Incredibly spacious
Great pockets
Easy to pitch in higher winds
Versatile
Longer dimensions make it a solid option for taller people
Big vestibule
Not the best headroom despite the roomy dimensions
Heavy
Okay at handling condensation

The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is an expedition-ready 4 season tent built for long base camp adventures. This tried and true model has been used from Antarctica to Mt. Everest to the North Pole and back again. It has accompanied people on remote expeditions to the ends of the earth. While a little overkill for modest summertime mountaineering in places likes the Tetons, Canadian Rockies, or the North Cascades, the Trango is well worth every bit of weight when the conditions turn gnarly. It's easily one of the strongest shelters and is easy to pitch in high winds. It's the roomiest two-person shelter — something that will be appreciated by people living in it for months at a time. Its spacious vestibule will store plenty of gear or provide a place to cook when you simply can't hang outside any longer.

The Trango is 100% designed for expedition use, and these attributes make it great in the nuclear wind; however, it's a little too heavy for multi-day ski touring or summertime mountaineering. If you aren't planning to go on an expedition anytime soon, you should look elsewhere for something lighter, more packable, and a better option for modest alpine objectives. For those looking for a shelter to be used in locations plagued by 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.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Trango 2

Excellent for Lightweight Alpine Climbing


MSR Advance Pro


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight 10
  • Weather/Storm Resistance 7
  • Livability 3
  • Ease of Set-up 10
  • Durability 8
  • Versatility 3
Functional Weight: 3.22 lbs | Dimensions (L x W): 82 x 42 in
Super light
Small packed size
Bomber
Easy setup
Advantageous tiny footprint
Uncomfortable
Poor ventilation
Fabric doesn't breathe well
No bug mesh

The MSR Advance Pro is our favorite bivy tent for harsh conditions and one of our favorite models for any trip where low weight and a minimum packed volume is desirable. It's about the same weight as the lightest models in our review and is one of the smallest when packed. What sets it apart from other bivy tents is its ease of setup. It's one of the only lightweight models that pitch from the outside. The poles are robust and are always connected at the midpoint, significantly increasing this model's overall strength. It's crafted from super sturdy fabric and has bomber guy points, helping to further set itself apart from other bivy-style models.

At 24 square feet, it ranks towards the bottom 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. There is no bug net to help circulate air at lower elevation camps, which can be a reason to go with the significantly less stormworthy BD Firstlight, which does have bug netting. However, for your lightest missions where packed size is of huge importance, this is our top choice.

Read review: MSR Advance Pro

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
78
$730
Editors' Choice Award
An excellent all-around option, it strikes a great balance of weight, strength, packed size, and stormworthiness
77
$600
Top Pick Award
Offers a tremendous amount of versatility and the ability to keep its inhabitants dry
72
$659
Best Buy Award
A versatile bivy style tent that is packed full of features
72
$990
When you know you're in for crummy weather and want an exceptionally high performance model, choose this one
71
$600
Strikes an excellent balance of weight, strength, and livability
71
$550
Top Pick Award
Provides shelter and doesn't weigh you down, but isn't ideal for hanging out in
70
$690
Not as expensive as some other models, this option is a popular choice to bring on climbing adventures
69
$399
Best Buy Award
Hard to beat for the price; offers enough storm protection to more than suit most needs
67
$700
Top Pick Award
A spacious option that is tried and true on expeditions around the world; built for harsh conditions and comfy living
65
$875
Lightweight, comfort, and versatility are the names of the game for this model
65
$775
A spacious model that can tackle seriously strong winds
57
$400
Top Pick Award
A lightweight master, this model is built for minimalism

We tested all of these models ourselves across the Western...
We tested all of these models ourselves across the Western Hemisphere. Lead tester Ian Nicholson has personally slept in every model in our review, putting them through their paces from Alaska to Patagonia. Here The North Face Assault 2 above the Inspiration Glacier with Forbidden Peak in the distance.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Why You Should Trust Us


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 nearly 2,000 nights sleeping in a tent over the last decade. As a result, few people can offer his level of expertise and insight when it comes to four-season shelters. He is a member of both the AMGA's and AIARE's National Instructor teams, teaching professional-level courses for both entities. His experience ranges from ten Denali expeditions, first ascents in Alaska, Patagonia, the Waddington Range, and the North Cascades to and more than 20 week-plus long ski traverses around the world. Few people consider their shelter options as deeply as Ian, who is obsessed with researching the latest products 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 to make this review the comprehensive resource that it is.

Most of the information comes from specific field testing that has been happening continuously since 2008. Test locations include Alberta and British Columbia, Alaska, Patagonia, Antarctica, Peru, Bolivia, Aconcagua, and various other locations worldwide. We examine several factors then determine which are the most important in the functionality of a 4 season tent. By having a long testing period and a variety of sources of information, we are able to gain valuable insight into things like long-term durability as well as what models fared better or worse in specific conditions. These tents have seen high winds, cold weather well below zero, and days of stormy and sunny weather.

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Related: How We Tested Four Season Tents

Analysis and Test Results


We've selected a host of 4 season tents to accurately paint the picture of the current market. We test models that offer different niches across the board, from super lightweight to heavy and mega stormworthy. What's undeniable, is all tents in this review can hold up across a host of conditions, from super sunny conditions to cutting winds. Each is scored against the metrics to help you filter out which tent you need for your ambitions and future travels.

Related: Buying Advice for Four Season Tents

Some of our test group, including (front to back) the Black Diamond...
Some of our test group, including (front to back) the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, Eldorado, Fitzroy, and Firstlight.
Photo: Max Neale

Value


If you've been searching for a four-season tent, you know these products aren't cheap. When prices are ranging over a factor of four, the right shelter — without overpaying for your needs — is key for your budget. When we select our products, we specifically look for high-value options — a great product at a good price. 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.


Weather Resistance


This metric assesses a tent's ability to protect its occupants from the outside environment, whether that be snow, rain, or wind. The best are those that will keep you dry without bowing or changing in shape in high winds and relatively poor conditions. We take this metric seriously, which is reflected in our intensive evaluation of each product.


To start testing, we take the time to set up each tent in a variety of conditions, from high ridges to rainy plateaus. In addition to these field tests, we comparatively evaluate the integrity of the tent design. We look at pole design, pole 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. What we learned from our testing is that the most significant factor influencing wind resistance and overall strength are pole design and pole quality.

We looked at each model analytically for its storm resistance but...
We looked at each model analytically for its storm resistance but also tested each tent in the field over several years. We compared them on how they handled snow loading, strong winds, and rain. Here the Black Diamond Eldorado is shown with its optional vestibule put to the test during an early season snowstorm.
Photo: John Miner

Pole Design

The most significant factors contributing to a tent's strength are the number of poles, their layout within the tent, and the number of pole crossings relative to the size and external height. Almost always, more crossings equate to more strength.

All the tents in our review are suitable for 4-season conditions...
All the tents in our review are suitable for 4-season conditions, but some can't quite handle the harsher end of the spectrum. This photo shows 60+ mph winds ripping over the upper West Buttress on Denali.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

How strong 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 and multi-day ski touring adventures, where camps will likely be made in exposed areas above treeline along with modest winter use.

More pole crossings are generally indicative of greater strength...
More pole crossings are generally indicative of greater strength. The Fitzroy's four poles and seven crossings are similar in design to other models like the Hilleberg Tarra, and Mountain 25, all of which are the absolute strongest in our review. The Fitzroy is one of the only ones that pitch from the inside, which is one of the reasons why it's lightweight.
Photo: John Miner

If you are planning on logging time in massive mountain ranges or will be spending extended amounts of time above treeline, where the potential for regular strong winds and/or heavy snow loads is greater, you should consider a beefier tent with more poles and pole crossings, as well as a burlier overall design.

If extended trips, extreme conditions, or expedition use are in your...
If extended trips, extreme conditions, or expedition use are in your plans for the future, a sturdier tent with more poles and pole crossings will easily be worth their weight. The North Face Mountain 25 on an early season trip in the North Cascades.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Tent Poles

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.

Not all tent poles are created equal; we delve into pole materials...
Not all tent poles are created equal; we delve into pole materials, construction and diameter of each tent's poles and how it plays a roll in each models strength.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

DAC Featherlite NSL Green Poles are some of 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). We particularly liked Easton's new composite pole used on the MSR Access 2, as they can flex much further before breaking.

Fabrics

Four season tent 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, and Jannu. We've also tested beefy laminates (think 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.

The Hilleberg Jannu uses Kerlon 1800 silnyon, which, despite its...
The Hilleberg Jannu uses Kerlon 1800 silnyon, which, despite its slippery feel, has a breaking strength of 40 lbs and will hold up longer overtime to UV and water damage. Why doesn't every company coat both sides with silicone? Because it's a fair bit more expensive and some companies claim it's overkill. However, we have yet to find anyone that debates that it isn't better long term.
Photo: Graham McDowell

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 a 4 season tent is the Hilleberg Kerlon 1800 silnylon, which has a breaking strength of 40 pounds. You can find this material on their Nammatj and Tarra tents as well.

Black Diamond's Bibler line of tents used a proprietary ePTFE fabric...
Black Diamond's Bibler line of tents used a proprietary ePTFE fabric (similar to a 3-layer Gore-Tex) called ToddTex. While heavier and not as packable as other models, it's insanely strong and breathes noticeably better than all other single wall models. It has thousands of micro hairs built into the fabric to help moisture pass through it more efficiently.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

PTFE Laminates

Some 4 season tents, like the Black Diamond Eldorado,, 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.

Guy line Points

Most of the 4 season tent options tested have between 4-10 guy line tie-out points. We like having at least four, though six is nice for most alpine climbing and ski trips in the lower-48. For expedition use and extreme weather, six is a minimum, and we'd rather have eight. The guy lines have far more holding power than the lower corners of the tent; as the guy lines pull from the middle of the tent, they get a better angle against the wind to keep your shelter in place (AKA leverage).

The Tarra standing strong in high winds in Red Rocks, Nevada. (The...
The Tarra standing strong in high winds in 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 pound tear strength.
Photo: Max Neale

The Most Weather Resistant

The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and The North Face Mountain 25 offer excellent weather resistance. They are notably strong, which is why the previously listed models will make up a large chunk of the tents you'll see on expeditions from Vinson to Everest to Denali.

The North Face Mountain 25's four-pole design, plus an additional...
The North Face Mountain 25's four-pole design, plus an additional pole for the hooped vestibule, is the most common pole-design among 4-season shelters (they maximize strength and pole crossings for the given weight). The TBlack Diamond Fitzroy features a very similar design.
Photo: Ryan O'Connell

The single-wall model with the greatest static strength is the Black Diamond Eldorado; while exceptionally strong, these competitors are a step down in stormworthiness from the models mentioned above. 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 would recommend looking at contenders that score a 9 or a 10 in this metric.

Models like this one with a third half-length pole were nice for...
Models like this one with a third half-length pole were nice for creating headroom but were not nearly as good in high winds. We found these types of tents great for summer mountaineering but not as good for multi-day ski tours or expedition use in extreme conditions. Peter Webb getting ready to pack up with The North Face Assault.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Tents like The North Face Assault are not as sturdy, despite having 2.5 poles, with the 0.5 poles coming in the form of a third half-length pole that acts as a cross pole to create more headroom. At times, the Assault can act as a sail, and as a result, the winds push harder, and the poles become further stressed. The Assault is undoubtedly a strong 4 season shelter but isn't a model we'd take to Denali or places we'd expect fierce winds.

Weight is an important consideration since it often lives on our...
Weight is an important consideration since it often lives on our backs during the day. With most options, it's a weight and packed size vs. livability trade-off. The shorter the trip, the more we'd lean towards going lighter and more compressible. The longer the trip, we'd opt for tents with more floor space and features, aiming to make them more versatile and comfortable. Our experts are testing on the Forbidden Glacier after nearly 6,000ft of elevation gain and a couple of rappels. Lighter models excel on outings like this, and offer a significant advantage.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weight and Packed Size


We rank each 4 season tent based on their weight (which we measured ourselves) and their packed volume. We measure both their minimum weight and "packed weight" for comparison, and used these two measurements to accurately compare each model. 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.


Tent manufacturers often claim several different weights. This can...
Tent manufacturers often claim several different weights. This can be confusing to the consumer, so let us try to break it down. When manufacturers are stating minimum weight, they mean just that - literally just the tent and poles, no stakes, guylines, etc. When they just say weight, they basically refer to the weight of the package, including guy lines or the tent stuff sack. We compared models with their pack weight or what you'd commonly bring, which includes guy lines and a handful of stakes, plus the tent but not the tent's stuff sack.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Of all the comparison categories in our review, this is where we saw the most significant difference. For example, the Black Diamond First Light is one of the lightest tents tested, with a low minimum weight.

The Black Diamond Firstlight is one of the absolute lightest tents...
The Black Diamond Firstlight is one of the absolute lightest tents we tested. While it scored low for comfort and stormworthiness there is something to be said about a 4 season tent that is as light and small as this one. Here the Firstlight stands below the Price Glacier on Mt. Shuksan a classic carry-over-style alpine route.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We can then compare it to models like the The North Face Mountain 25 or the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, which weigh significantly more and are essentially 2-3 times the weight of the lightest models. That means depending on what shelter you opt for, there is likely no other piece of gear that facilitates as much weight savings (or additional weight) as your shelter. For most fair-weather summer mountaineering trips in the lower-48 and Southern Canada, light is generally right.

At just a hair over four pounds for its true packed weight, the...
At just a hair over four pounds for its true packed weight, the Access 2 impressed us as one of the lightest double-wall models we tested. While light, it doesn't give up anything for its versatility and compresses smaller than a number of single-wall options.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We loved models like the Black Diamond Eldorado, The North Face Assault 2, MSR Access 2, and the Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2 All of these models weigh just a little over four pounds and are heavier than several of the extremely weight-focused bivy-style tents; all prove to be significantly more versatile and comfortable for only a pound more, and we think that for many people, these tents hit a sweet spot of weight, comfort, strength, and livability.

Photo: Ian Nicholson

That said, we love bivy style tents for short trips with nice weather. However, if you are only going to own one tent, getting something just a little bit heavier (often only 8-16 ounces more) that provides significantly greater ventilation, comfort, and strength could be worth it, especially since most climbers in North America use a short "short-term base-camp". This refers to hiking into a camp, then leaving camp to summit a peak, and returning to camp before hiking out.

The Eldorado, pictured here on Mt. Shuksan, is one of the more...
The Eldorado, pictured here on Mt. Shuksan, is one of the more durable products out there. Tester Ian Nicholson has used his well over 200 days. While it isn't the most packable nor the lightest, it is lighter and smaller than most models we tested and is bomber and surprisingly pleasant to hang out in. Camped out below the Sulphide Glacier, Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades, WA.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

While there is no shortage of carry-over routes in North American, and many people might embark on 1 or 2 a season, most people aren't bringing the tent up and onto the route, where weight would become even more crucial.

It's important to take into account your needs and what you plan to...
It's important to take into account your needs and what you plan to do with your product. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming at first. But read on to help pick which option is best for you. Here Ian Nicholson and the Eldorado are camped below Forbidden Peak.
Photo: Jason Broman

Packed Volume

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. We'd typically prefer a more compact model over a larger one, unless we're on an expedition to an extreme environment, where even a fair amount of extra bulk is 100% worth it in comfort and strength. A shelter is literally one of your most important lifelines if on a remote glacier being pounded by winds and snow.

For most climbers and skiers embarking on 2-5 night trips, packed volume is weighed pretty heavily. Similar to weight, and depending on the types of trips you typically go on, 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; no other disappeared as easily in our pack as this one. Options like the TNF Assault, MSR Access 2, Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2, and Black Diamond Eldorado weren't a whole lot less packable but provided more comfort and versatility.

A small footprint isn't just for tiny ledges mid-route (though it is...
A small footprint isn't just for tiny ledges mid-route (though it is nice for that too); it also comes in handy for a lot of summertime, alpine climbing where big flat areas are generally hard to come by. Smaller dimensions let you take advantage of more places on rocky outcroppings or between boulders as seen here with The North Face Assault.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 established camp/bivy sites perched on rocky moraines or nestled between boulders can be small, as is often the case in many areas of the Cascades, Tetons, Colorado Rockies, Wind Rivers, or Sierra.

Hooped vestibules unquestionably add to a given model's livability...
Hooped vestibules unquestionably add to a given model's livability. Besides making the tent "feel bigger" they provide a place to leave wet gear, change before entering the tent, and allow you to leave doors completely open to maximize interior ventilation. While unnecessary for short trips with good weather, vestibules are 100% worth their weight for extended or stormy adventures. The Vestibule of a MSR Remote 2 shown here.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Livability


Here we assessed 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 on 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?

How much liveability and floor space you want depends on the types...
How much liveability and floor space you want depends on the types of trips you'll be going on. For shorter trips, during times of generally stable weather, we prefer a lighter and smaller tent. Hopefully, we won't be hanging out in it much and it's lighter and more compact in our packs.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We also considered if the fly protects the inside from splashback or water dripping off it. Here are our ratings for each model's livability. As a reference, the average size sleeping pad is 20 x 72 inches or 10 square feet.

Double wall tents tend to be a lot more versatile and comfortable...
Double wall tents tend to be a lot more versatile and comfortable, making them right at home on expeditions where a little extra weight and packed volume are easily worth the extra strength.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Among the most comfortable in the sub-five pounds category, the MSR Access 2 and Black Diamond Eldorado were our favorites. These struck a nice overall balance between weight and comfort, with the Mountain Hardwear Outpost also being decent but checking in a hair over five pounds.

Ease of Set Up


To look at the ease of set up, 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 much faster and easier to set up than sleeves and...
Pole clips are much faster and easier to set up than sleeves and while they don't support the pole quite as well, this is a much more subtle difference.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 pole's length (compared with pole sleeves).

Pole clips have the advantage of ease and speed but also help...
Pole clips have the advantage of ease and speed but also help protect the poles while pitching it in windy conditions. This is because you can clip the tent from the bottom up versus threading the pole through a sleeve, where it can act as a sail. This is the time your pole is at the most risk of breaking.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Pole Sleeves

Pole sleeves are more supportive than clips, as they spread the weight out more evening across a wider area. Clips are slightly faster, though sleeves are challenging unless it's incredibly windy; then, you have to be very careful. 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.

Some models, like the Mountain 25 (pictured here) use pole sleeves...
Some models, like the Mountain 25 (pictured here) use pole sleeves rather than clips. Sleeves do a slightly better job of supporting the pole while spreading out pressure more evenly. They can also be more challenging to pitch, particularly in strong winds.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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 REI Arete ASL 2.

Some models use a hybrid of pole sleeves and clips, like the REI...
Some models use a hybrid of pole sleeves and clips, like the REI Arete ASL 2 (seen here). This combination gets some of the benefits of both clips (ease of set-up) and sleeves (strength).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Internal Poles

Internal poles are found in lighter-weight tents, and you typically have to set them up from the inside. This is the lightest design because the body of the tent itself supports the poles, and no real clips or sleeves are needed, though 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 means that internal pole tents are often lighter weight.

The Black Diamond Eldorado has an internal pole design. The...
The Black Diamond Eldorado has an internal pole design. The advantage of this design is that it's lighter weight and marginally less bulky overall, and the poles are exceptionally well supported. The disadvantage is a slower set-up time which takes more practice, and if it's snowing or raining, it's hard to keep the interior of the tent completely dry.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

This design is also incredibly strong and can be 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. The reason is you have to crawl inside to set up. Examples are the Eldorado and Firstlight. These models 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 your backyard a few times before having to deal with it for real. A tip from Tester Ian Nicholson is he stands feet on the ground and starts from the back corners, working towards the door.

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 pitch from the outside and generally use clips.

The North Face Assault uses a combination of sleeves and clips, pitching from the outside. What sets this model apart is that 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; it just automatically locks into place.

The Jannu's three different vestibule configurations are shown here...
The Jannu's three different vestibule configurations are shown here. The middle is our lead tester's preferred option because it is easier to enter and exit. You can also roll the vestibule away completely, not shown.
Photo: Max Neale

The Jannu's pole structure is easy to set up, even with one person...
The Jannu's pole structure is easy to set up, 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.
Photo: Max Neale

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. For more traditional double-wall designs, we found the REI Arete was easier and faster than others.

Using a four-season tent for family or warmer weather three season...
Using a four-season tent for family or warmer weather three season camping can be less than ideal. This depends on how adaptive your tent is, which can range from uncomfortable to rather pleasant. Here tester Ian Nicholson takes a collection of four season tents on a wet low elevation family camping trip.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Adaptability and Versatility


Versatility is an essential factor in choosing a tent. A tent's versatility refers to how well it performs across a range of conditions and climates. Many people looking to buy a four-season tent will want to use it on a range of trips and in multiple climates. All 4 season tent options are designed with snowy and windy conditions in mind, and 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.


In the end, more versatile tents are generally 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. The Mountain 25, Trango 2, and Outpost 2 also fared well and would be good options for sea-kayaking and both three and four-season use.

Versatility is important for those who don't want to buy a quiver of...
Versatility is important for those who don't want to buy a quiver of tents. It's hard to get a tent that's perfect for everything but some are certainly more versatile than others. Pictured here is The North Face Mountain 25 that has been used for extended expeditions on three continents, as well as summer alpine climbing in the North Cascades. Here we used it for a week-long sea kayaking trip on Vancouver Island's West Coast in the Broken Islands. It is worth noting that because of exposure to higher winds and with weight and bulk being slightly less of an issue, many sea kayakers may choose a three or four season tent.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

A tent scored higher in this category when it had features that allowed us to use it differently. 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. We also loved models like The North Face Assault, which came with removable vestibules, adding to its versatility and adaptability. It is worth noting that you can buy a vestibule for all of Black Diamond's single-wall models, but unlike the TNF Assault, it isn't included.

Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Inside the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 without the inner tent. Going...
Inside the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 without the inner tent. Going floorless saves 30.9 oz. for three-season backpacking or fast and light winter travel. The walls seal fairly well with the ground and even minimizes the number of flying insects from entering. Setting up with only the fly and poles is possible with nearly all Hilleberg designs.
Photo: Max Neale

Ventilation

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 that happens 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. This model features 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.

The North Face Assault sported one of the most impressive...
The North Face Assault sported one of the most impressive ventilation systems for a bivy-tent.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Bug Screen

Unlike most three-season models, not all 4 season tents have a bug screen. For those not going on an expedition-style climb, having a bug screen is pretty essential. It lets you leave the door open, which allows for ventilation, and also ensures you won't be driven insane by mosquitos or black flies. This is particularly true for climbers or ski tours who are likely to have a few lower elevation camps below treeline where it's buggy — which would say is nearly every mountaineering or ski tourer at some point.

Having a door you can leave open for ventilation is ideal...
Having a door you can leave open for ventilation is ideal, especially if it features a bug screen; a bug screen is more than worth its weight and could be a pivotal factor when finalizing your decision between models.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Durability


The main factors influencing durability are 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 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 retire their tents with plenty of life left), gets eight to twelve 22-day Denali expeditions out of The North Face tents.

A tent such as 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.

Testing durability onsite and comparatively while playing in snowy...
Testing durability onsite and comparatively while playing in snowy conditions.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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. 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 tested our favorite four season tents in a variety of locations...
We tested our favorite four season tents in a variety of locations, from expedition climbing in the Alaska Range and the Andes to summer alpine climbing in the Cascades, Sierra, and Tetons. We also went on multi-day ski tours and took them winter camping. Here we test while camped at White Rocks Lake on Day 3 of a six-day journey across the North Cascades' Ptarmigan Traverse, with Spire Point and the Elephant's head looming above the Dana Glacier.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


We understand that the tent market is vast, and the investment is large when it comes to 4-season tents. We hope that our experiences of exploring, sleeping, and living in each helped point you in the right direction. We know that the search can be tough, but we are here to make it a little bit easier — no matter your budget or adventure.

Ian Nicholson

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