The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents

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The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents

If you want to take on big mountains, you need to come prepared. Whether you’re camping at elevation or just going snow camping, cold conditions will test your gear. High winds, snow, and extreme cold can all be serious challenges when camping.

That’s why you need a tent for camping in cold weather. In this guide, I’ll cover some of the best winter camping tents (or four-season tents) on the market and give you some tips on how to make a smart buy.

Our Review Process

Over two decades of backpacking and mountaineering across the US, I’ve tried a lot of cold weather tents. In fair and foul weather, my adventures have given me a good grasp on what makes a rock solid winter tent.

I put my knowledge of technology, brands, and design to work to compile this guide. Contained here are the best 4-season tents on the market, ranked by what they’re best at.

I’ve also added a buying guide to help you learn what to look for when shopping for a new cold weather shelter.

Cold Weather Tent Reviews


The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight

Best Overall 4-Season Tent

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight
Pros

Very light

Versatile

Lots of features

Roomy

Easy to set up

Strong single-wall design

Cons

Not strong enough for long trips or bad weather

The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight is versatile, with a lightweight single-wall design. The livability factor and ease of setup are huge here.

The main things that make the Assault 2 so versatile are the doors and removable vestibule. It has a main entrance, and a back door which makes grabbing gear very easy.

The Assault 2's vestibule adds a ton of coverage for storing gear in bad weather. There’s a lot of headroom inside the body. But the total weight is featherlight - just 3.25 pounds, making it the lightest mountaineering tent on this list.

However, the Assault 2 isn’t quite burly enough for extended use in bad weather. Beyond short trips in the lower 48, you’ll want a double-walled tent for winter camping.

The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight

MSR Access 2 Tent

Best Affordable Versatile Winter Tent

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - MSR Access 2 Tent
Pros

Versatile

Reasonable price

Good shoulder season performance

Light

Easy to set up

Cons

Not rugged enough for use at high elevation

Rainfly could be better

The MSR Access in my opinion is the best winter camping tent for the money in 2022. It’s a double-wall tent with two vestibules that’s ideal for shoulder season adventures.

The Access embraces the idea that you usually don’t need a ton of extra protection when you’re in the high country. It's an insulated tent that handles rain very well and provides a lot of room.

The Access is essentially a backpacking tent with stronger materials. It’s very easy to set up and weighs just 3.8 pounds. For $600, MSR provides an awesome entry point for people buying their first 4-season tent.

But the Access isn't strong enough to handle big snow storms at elevation. The fly doesn’t go all the way to the ground, so you’ll have to build a snow wall if the wind kicks up.

MSR Access 2 Tent

Black Diamond Mega Snow

Best Snow Camping Pyramid Shelter

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - Black Diamond Mega Snow
Pros

Ultralight

Sturdy construction

Sleeps up to four

Easy to set up

Simple design

Cons

Not as waterproof as a traditional tent

No mesh panels

When setting up a basecamp, it’s helpful to have living areas along with a structure to sleep in. The Black Diamond Mega Snow shelter can function as either.

Pyramid shelters work by using a trekking pole to support the center of the fabric. They commonly don’t have bottoms, instead using a dugout in the snow underneath for living space. This design is very lightweight.

The Black Diamond Mega Snow weighs about 3.5 pounds and can sleep up to four people. It features an outer fringe of material that you can bury and guy points for extra wind resistance. It’s also one of the cheaper shelters on this list.

The Mega Snow’s design is very simple. It would be right at home as a cook station at basecamp, or a single night shelter when the weather is clear. But it won’t stand up to extended use as your main shelter in any kind of serious weather.

Black Diamond Mega Snow

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent

Best Heavy Duty Double-Wall Tent for Base Camp

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent
Pros

Plenty of space

Durable

Wind resistance

Double-wall design

Very livable

Great gear storage

Cons

Heavy

Expensive

If you’re going to be around a single area for an extended period, you need to hunker down. You want a shelter with as much durability as possible that’s convenient and easy to get comfortable in for a long time.

The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent meets these requirements with ease. It uses a double-wall design that gives it massive weather protection. Mountain Hardwear also offers 3- and 4-person versions.

The Trango’s floor plan offers a lot of extra space, and the fly adds a vestibule to either end so you can keep wet gear outside your living space. The fly also attaches to the body of the tent itself as well as the poles for more windproofing. For braving heavy wind and precipitation, the Trango 2 is the top choice.

But it’s not exactly featherlight. The gross weight is 9.6 pounds, making it the heaviest tent on this list. It’s also the most expensive on this list.

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent

The North Face Assault Futurelight Bivy

Best Cold Weather Bivy Shelter

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - The North Face Assault Futurelight Bivy
Pros

Ultralight

Very resistant to extreme conditions

Waterproof material

Easy to set up

Fits anywhere

Cons

Not for long term use

No livability

Very few features

The bivy shelter (or bivouac) is an amazing piece of technology. Bivouacs are capable of withstanding extreme environments with ease and pack down like a dream.

The North Face Assault Futurelight Bivy is the best in class for lightweight bivouacs. It works great at elevation, using two small poles to provide just a little extra headroom and comfort.

It’s made of waterproof material and has decent breathability for a bivy. The small footprint and simple design allow it to be set up almost anywhere in no time at all.

What it lacks is livability. Bivy shelters are only meant for one person to sleep in. Don’t expect any of the features you would see in a tent, like vestibules or even doors. It’s definitely not the right choice for use at basecamp.

The North Face Assault Futurelight Bivy

Black Diamond Eldorado

Best Lightweight Mountaineering Tent

My winner
The 6 Best Cold Weather Camping Tents - Black Diamond Eldorado
Pros

Lightweight single-walled design

Very weather resistant

Durable

Roomy

Cons

Not the lightest

Lacks vestibules

Ventilation could be better

The Black Diamond Eldorado takes the principle of a light, versatile tent and cranks the durability up a notch. It’s still on the lightweight end, but can withstand much harsher weather than the North Face Assault 2 or MSR Access.

The design is very simple, using a single wall with two poles and lots of points to attach guy lines. The total weight is just 4.5 pounds, which is still very light. If you’re moving a lot and the weather is iffy, the Eldorado is a perfect travel companion.

The downsides of the Eldorado are the lack of features and ventilation. It doesn’t have vestibules for gear, and the ceiling vents don’t do a great job of letting condensation out.

Black Diamond Eldorado

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What are Cold Weather Tents (or 4-Season Tents)

What makes a cold weather tent able to stand up to winter camping? And why are there so many different kinds of tents for camping in a cold environment?

Tents for camping in cold weather have thicker walls, stronger poles, burlier seams, and airtight designs. We commonly refer to them as 4-season tents (rather than 3-season tents).

4-season tents have higher resistance to high wind and precipitation. They perform under the harsh conditions you experience when you’re camping in the winter.

Under the umbrella of 4-season tents, there are lots of different categories of shelters with different intended uses. I’ll cover most of them in this review.

Double-Wall VS Single-Wall Tents

The main distinction that differentiates types of 4-season tents is how many walls they have. Cold weather tents have either one or two walls of external material.

Single-wall tents are the simpler of the two types. They’re easy to put up quickly, and usually much lighter than double-wall tents.

But single-wall tents usually aren’t as water resistant. If you’re going far or fast in dry weather, go with a single-wall tent.

Double-wall tents are bombproof. They feature an inner wall of material covered by a rainfly. This maximizes their resistance to strong wind, precipitation, and deep snow.

But double-wall tents tend to be heavy. They work best for expeditions where you have a stationary base camp.

How to Shop for A Cold Weather Tent

Looking at tents and shelters for cold weather camping is overwhelming. There are a lot of features and designs to consider. Here are a few things to focus on when you’re shopping.

Cost

Cost is always a factor. And when shopping for something expensive like a 4-season tent, it’s good to know what to expect. In general:

  • 4-season tents run from $500 to well over a thousand.
  • Bivy shelters usually stay in the $100-$200 range. 
  • Pyramid shelters vary a lot, but usually don’t cost more than $450.

Space

How much room you have in your shelter impacts your comfort and the weight of the tent.

When you’re moving camp a lot, it’s better to have less weight to carry, which means a smaller tent. If you’re sleeping on small ledges at elevation, you’ll also want something as small as possible.

But if you’re setting up a basecamp that you plan to use for a while, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Look for a double-walled tent with a roomy footprint so you can stretch out and rest.

Weight

Weight usually lies in opposition to every other feature in a piece of outdoor gear. Adding more room, more features, or more durability always adds extra weight.

The main thing to focus on is how much you plan to carry your tent. The longer you’re carrying your tent on your back, the lighter you want it to be. If you’re moving a lot, look for fiberglass poles over aluminum poles.

If you’re getting dropped off by a bush plane and setting up a basecamp, it doesn’t matter if it’s a light or heavy tent. Bringing extra poles and repair materials is also a good idea in these situations.

Single-wall tents are almost always lighter than double-wall tents.

Livability

Livability takes into account a few things. One of these is how much room you have while sleeping. Another is how many options you have for storing and accessing your gear.

Vestibules, pockets, stove zippers, gear lofts, extra doors, and the tent’s overall size and height all add to a tent’s livability. These factors determine how easy your tent is to live in long-term, and how cozy a space it is.

Wind Resistance

When you’re camping in the winter, the weather can be very fickle. This is especially true at elevation. If you’re isolated and there’s bad weather approaching, you’re relying on your tent to keep you alive.

A tent's wind resistance depends on the number of tent walls, guy points and guy lines, the thickness of the material, seam taping, and how strong the poles are. Double-walled tents are the most wind resistant. Having high weather resistance usually makes for a heavier tent.

Water Resistance

Water resistance depends mostly on the material in your tent's walls. A material's water resistance is measured by “column strength.” You'll see column strength represented as a number (usually in the thousands) in millimeters.

Column strength represents how much liquid water, supported in a column, it would take to soak through the material. Higher column strength means more water resistance. Waterproof coatings like DWR also increase water resistance.

Having another waterproof layer also increases the water resistance. While single-wall tents with a high column strength are still not usually as waterproof as double-wall tents.

Ventilation

Trapping heat and keeping wind out means sealing yourself in an airtight bubble. One side effect of this is that you may wake up in a puddle of condensation from your own breath.

Most tents have features like mesh vents and windows to increase air flow and let out condensation. Good ventilation is always important, but more so if you’re going to be living in your tent for a long time.

Summary

We find the best all-around 4-season to be The North Face Assault 2 Futurelight. The best bang for your buck is the MSR Access. The best ultralight single-wall tent is the Black Diamond Eldorado. The best double-walled basecamp tent is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2.

Common questions

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I consider myself a citizen of the West. Currently residing in my hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah. Between my career as a wildlife biologist and my many outdoor hobbies (mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, climbing, canyoneering, caving), I’ve seen just about every nook and cranny of the Wild, Weird West.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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