The 8 Best Mountaineering Tents – Expert Guide

AlpInsider is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

The 8 Best Mountaineering Tents – Expert Guide

Planning an overnight trip into the alpine? A backpacking tent might work in calm summertime conditions, but for most adventures you're going to need a tent that can stand up to wind, rain, snow, and anything else the mountains throw at you.

In this guide, I'll highlight 8 of the best mountaineering tents that you can rely on to spend a night in the mountains in any conditions. 

Our Review Process

Picking the right mountaineering tent for a wide range of trips is tricky, since so much depends on weather, your group size, and how light and fast you want to move. So, in this review, I'll review a wide range of tents that run the gamut from burly backpacking tents to ultralight shelters to storm-proof 4-season tents.

All of these tents are durable, provide excellent value for your money, and minimize weight for what they offer. That said, when evaluating tents, think carefully about both the average conditions and the worst conditions you're likely to encounter in the mountains.

MSR Access 2P

Best all-round mountaineering tent

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - MSR Access 2P
Pros

Excellent for most kinds of weather and trips

Lighter than most year-round 2-man tents

Composite poles for sturdy support

Lots of guy-out points on the tent body

Cons

Higher cost than standard 2-man tents

The MSR Access 2P is a tent that doesn't fit into traditional categories. It's lighter than a standard 4-season mountaineering tent, with a thin 20D nylon construction and several mesh panels. It's also heavier than a backpacking tent, with composite poles for support and tons of guy-out points on the tent body.

In my opinion, this unique, in-between design is perfect for most mountaineering trips. This tent can stand up to all but the worst wind, rain, and snow, and even in extreme conditions the external pole structure will make it through the night. At the same time, the tent weighs in at just 4 lbs 1 oz with the fly - several pounds less than most comparable 4-season tents.

Another thing I love about this tent is that it's extremely fast to set up. The poles use a unified hub system, and the tent body is designed to be freestanding.

The biggest downside to the Access 2 is its price tag. But this one-tent quiver is still cheaper than buying separate summer and winter tents.

MSR Access 2P

NEMO Hornet 2P

Best ultralight 2-person tent

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - NEMO Hornet 2P
Pros

Extremely lightweight

Suitable for calm, warm weather

Fair price

Cons

Tent floor and fly are prone to rips

Vulnerable to winds

The NEMO Hornet 2p is more properly considered a backpacking tent than a mountaineering tent. But to be honest, it's the tent I take on nearly every single trip into the alpine, no matter the season.

The main reason I reach for the Hornet 2p is that it's ridiculously light: this tent weighs a scant 2 lbs 6 oz, including the fly.

Of course, you give up a lot in exchange for dropping weight. The tent body is mostly mesh, so it doesn't hold in heat. The tent floor and fly are made of sil-nylon, so the material can rip if you're not careful where you pitch it. In high winds, the poles will blow down - although I've been in 70 mph gusts of wind with this tent and they haven't broken yet.

The weight savings might not be worth those issues for you. However, you should still consider this tent as a fast and light option for summer mountaineering trips if you already have a burlier 4-season tent in your quiver.

NEMO Hornet 2P

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2P

Best for extreme conditions

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - Mountain Hardwear Trango 2P
Pros

Amazing protection against the harshest conditions on the planet

Solid cross-pole design protects you from strong winds

Quick to pitch and fly-first setup possible

Very spacious and can easily fit three people

Cons

On the heavier side due to the immense weather-protection offered

Comes with a higher price, as expected

The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2P is a true mountaineering tent, designed for some of the harshest alpine environments on the planet. If you're planning a trip to the Himalaya, this is the expedition tent you want to bring for base camp.

The tent is quick to pitch, and the cross poles design is virtually impervious to winds. Even better, if you're pitching in bad weather, you can put up the fly first and then set up the tent body from underneath it. The fly is heavy-duty enough to shed snow in a blizzard or to keep you dry in hurricane-like conditions.

The other thing that's great about this tent is that it's enormously roomy. While the Trango is rated for two people, it can easily fit three. The vestibule also offers plenty of space for gear and cooking.

This isn't a tent you want to take on every trip, though. At 8 lbs 10 oz, this tent weighs more than twice as much as many less burly 4-season options.

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2P

Black Diamond Firstlight 2P

Best single-wall tent

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - Black Diamond Firstlight 2P
Pros

Great for trips involving climbing in good weather

Super light and packs down small

Rapid setup time

Dependable protection from strong winds

Cons

Only water-resistant, not waterproof

Very small – only just fits two people

The Black Diamond Firstlight 2P is the ultimate single-wall climbing and mountaineering tent - as long as the weather forecast is good. The Firstlight is water resistant, not waterproof. So, it'll keep you dry in a light rainstorm or if the temperature is below freezing, but it'll soak through in a downpour.

This tent weighs in at just 2 lbs 13 oz, which is shockingly light. It achieves that weight in part thanks to a sil-nylon tent floor, so be very cautious if you're planning to set it up on rocks instead of on snow. That said, the two pole design holds up extremely well in high winds, and the fact that there's no tent fly means that it sets up in seconds.

Beware that this tent is quite small, and just barely fits two people. There's no vestibule to stash gear out of the weather, either.

Black Diamond Firstlight 2P

Black Diamond Mega Light 4P

Best ultralight shelter

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - Black Diamond Mega Light 4P
Pros

Uber fast setup

Enough space for 4 people

Great for ski mountaineering

Cons

Heavier than the NEMO Hornet 2P

Challenging to set up in heavy winds

The Mega Light is another ultralight option for mountaineers who prioritize speed over comfort. The Mega Light weighs in at 2 lbs 13 oz, so it's actually heavier than the NEMO Hornet 2p. But this shelter fits four people easily and provides plenty of space for gear as well.

This shelter doesn't have a floor and isn't freestanding. Instead, it's basically just a piece of 30D sil-nylon fabric that pitches with a single trekking pole or ski pole in the center. It's up to you to guy out the many attachment points on the sides of the tent, so setup in heavy winds can be a serious challenge.

Depending on how you feel about sleeping directly on snow, the Mega Light is actually great for ski mountaineering. That's because you can build up snow walls around the edges to prevent any wind from getting inside the tent. You can also bring a lightweight tarp to add a floor to the shelter.

Black Diamond Mega Light 4P

REI Co-op Arete ASL 2P

Best for value

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - REI Co-op Arete ASL 2P
Pros

Budget-friendly

Can be used all year round

Large living area with great height

Wide vestibule for storage and cooking

Vestibule stake loops are big enough for skis and splitboards

Cons

A bit heavier than the average 2-man tent

The REI Co-op Arete ASL 2P is a budget-friendly 4-season tent that's great if you're just getting into alpine endeavors.

The tent offers a surprisingly large living area, with a peak height of nearly 43 inches - a design that ensures you won't be scraping against the roof of the tent when sitting inside. The wide vestibule also offers plenty of protected storage space and works well for cooking when the weather is bad. Adjustable vents help to prevent condensation from raining down on you in the morning.

The tent is quick to set up and features color-coded poles to make the process easier in the dark. That said, there are four different poles, so it can take some practice to get the setup routine down pat. One thing ski mountaineers will appreciate is that the vestibule stake loops are big enough to accept skis and splitboards.

For the price, I think the Arete ASL 2 offers an incredible value. That said, at 6 lbs 5 oz packed, it's quite heavy for just two people.

REI Co-op Arete ASL 2P

Black Diamond Eldorado 2P

Best for ski mountaineering

My winner
Best Mountaineering Tents - Black Diamond Eldorado 2P
Pros

Protection against a range of harsh conditions

Performs very well in snow and winter weather

Fully waterproof

Cons

The extra strength versus the First Light adds on extra weight

The Black Diamond Eldorado looks a lot like the Firstlight. It uses the same single-wall construction, but everything about this tent is beefed up to handle a wider range of conditions. The stronger poles stand up to higher winds, and the materials are designed to be fully waterproof rather than just water resistant.

That extra strength carries only a minimal weight penalty: the Eldorado weighs 4 lbs 8 oz. I think that's worth it when you consider how much more versatile this tent is, how well it performs in snow and winter weather, and how much more durable it is. You can also purchase a vestibule for the Eldorado, which is pricey but makes the tent even more useful for big mountain adventures.

The biggest issue I have with the Eldorado is that it's not easy to set up. You have to be inside the tent to erect it, which is nice if the weather's bad. But in nice conditions, it feels silly and makes the process overly difficult.

Black Diamond Eldorado 2P

Pros
Cons

Verdict:

View deal

Heading

Heading

This is some text inside of a div block.

How Do You Choose the Best Mountaineering Tent?

Mountaineering tents come in a huge variety of different designs. Some are perfect for pleasant summer weather, while others are built to handle the harshest conditions you could imagine spending the night in.

So which tent is right for you? I'll dive into some of the key factors to consider when picking a tent for mountaineering.

Do You Need a Mountaineering Tent?

First of all, do you even need a specialized tent for mountaineering? Or can you just use your 3-season backpacking shelter for a night in the alpine?

A lot of the answer comes down to the conditions. A backpacking tent will be fine for many summertime trips, especially if there's sunshine in the forecast and only moderate wind. In fact, if the forecast is that good, I'm more likely to pack an ultralight backpacking tent than a heavy, bulky mountaineering tent.

However, a backpacking tent won't cut it as soon as the weather turns bad. If the winds pick up or you're hit with heavy snow, backpacking tent poles will bend or even break. Most backpacking tents are waterproof, but they'll start to leak water after a few hours in a downpour.

So, if you plan to be out in spring or fall, or if you typically climb in an area with unpredictable weather, a burly mountaineering tent is a much better bet than a lightweight backpacking tent.

3-season vs. 4-season Tents

Most mountaineering tents are rated as 4-season tents, which means that they're designed to handle winter camping and extreme weather conditions. 3-season tents are rated for spring, summer, and fall.

The main difference lies in how rugged they are. 4-season tents are typically built with PU-coated ripstop nylon material all the way around, whereas 3-season tents may incorporate lighter materials like mesh and sil-nylon. 4-season tents also use higher strength poles so that they can withstand higher winds and snowstorms.

If you're planning on heading into particularly harsh conditions - such as on any trip in the Himalaya, Alaska, or the Alps in winter - then a 4-season tent is an absolute must. In the Lower 48, you can get away with a much lighter 3-season tent in all but the worst weather, even in winter. 

Single-wall vs. Double-wall Tents

Single-wall tents only have a body, with no fly layer. Double-wall tents have both the tent body and a fly that you wrap around it to provide a second wall.

The choice between single-wall and double-wall tents comes down to what conditions are usually like in your home mountain range.

Single-wall tents work best in cold and dry conditions. They're not always fully waterproof, and ventilation is never good, so they don't perform well if it's humid or raining. The advantage is that since you don't have to carry a fly, single-wall tents can be quite lightweight. They're also very quick to set up.

Double-wall tents are more suitable for a wide variety of conditions. The fly offers better protection against the elements, as well as a vestibule for gear storage and cooking. The tent body is typically made with a breathable material to offer ventilation. The downside is that double-wall tents are relatively heavy and can be difficult to set up.

Space, Storage, and Peak Height

Once you've settled on the type of tent you need, there are a number of design details to consider.

For example, how much space do you need? If you sometimes travel in a group of three, it's worth considering a three-person tent. That way, you'll have extra space when you only have a single partner, and you won't need to bring a second tent when you have three people.

It's also important to think about gear storage. You might be able to leave your pack outside on clear nights. But if it's raining, it's nice to be able to bring your gear inside. Consider whether a tent offers enough space inside for essential items, or whether there's a vestibule area you can use as a storage space.

Another detail that's easy to overlook is the peak height of your tent. This is the height from the tent ceiling to the floor in the center of the tent. The greater the peak height, the more room you have to sit up inside your tent. This is especially worth checking if you're over six feet tall.

Ventilation

Ventilation is also important to consider, especially if you live in a humid region. Double-wall tents are more breathable than single-wall tents, but they're not always perfect at eliminating condensation. Look for features like adjustable vents that can help move moisture out of your tent overnight.

Ease of Setup

You should also take a look at the process of setting up a tent to find out how easy or difficult it is. If it seems difficult to do in your backyard, just think of how complicated it will be on the side of a mountain in a storm.

Look for tents that minimize the number of poles you need to assemble. Some tents use hubbed poles, which spider out from a single point so that you only have to deal with one large, multi-pronged pole. Features like color coding can also be helpful.

Some tents are even designed so that you can pitch the fly first, and then the tent body. This is a huge plus in bad weather, since it keeps the tent interior dry. However, it can make pitching the tent in good weather a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

Summary

Finding the best mountaineering tent is critical for spending a night in the alpine. In poor conditions, having the right tent can be the difference between sleeping soundly or spending the night cold, wet, and sleepless.

If you have to pick one tent for every trip, I recommend the MSR Access 2. It offers excellent storm protection and simple setup at a fraction of the weight of comparable 4-season tents. If you're on a tight budget, check out the REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 as an alternative option for year-round trips.

Common questions

No items found.

I live in Bellingham, Washington, at the base of the wild North Cascades. Over the last ten years, I've explored much of the region's steep terrain and endless layers of ridges and peaks, both on foot and on skis, often linking far-flung ridges together to push deeper into the range.

*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.

We use cookies to improve your experience with AlpInsider. Please see our privacy policy for more information.
Got it!