The Best Four Season Tents of 2017

There are many good four season contenders and they each excel at different things. Some are stronger  some lighter  some more adaptable. Therefore figuring out your needs and what types of trips you plan to use your tent on are important while reading this review. Shown here we're testing on the East Ridge of Eldorado  North Cascades  WA.
Looking for a four season tent? Let us help. We researched the 30 most popular tents on the market and put the best 19 in head-to-head tests over several months. Our expert reviewers judged these models on how well they hold up in heinous weather, how much weight they add to your pack, and how livable they are, to name a few metrics. This review not only covered all key aspects of cold-weather shelters but also spanned the globe, pitching in Alaska, Patagonia, Greenland, Antartica and more. We took them up big mountain objectives like Aconcagua and Denali, too. Whatever your needs may be, from budget hunters to alpine climbers to lightweight fast-packers to extreme weather adventurers, this review guides you to your perfect tent.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 17 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Hilleberg Jannu
Hilleberg Tarra in green.
Hilleberg Tarra
Black Diamond Fitzroy
Black Diamond Fitzroy
The latest Mountain Hardwear EV 2
Mountain Hardwear EV2
Black Diamond Eldorado
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Top Pick Award   
Price $935.00 at Amazon$1,095.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$699.95 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$524.93 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$586.47 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score 
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Pros Strong sidewall, highly resistant to snow loading, pitches quick from outside, great ventilation, three color optionsFortress-like strength for worst conditions, two doors, two nice sized vestibules, good ventilation, extremely durableEtremely strong, spacious, sweet bomber three-point self equalizing guy lines, tight flap-free pitchSecond strongest model with only 2 or 3-poles, among the most comfortable two person single wall tents, pitches quick and easy from outside, great for tall peopleBomber durability, compact footprint, lighter-than-average weight, fantastic overall balance of strength, weight, and livability
Cons Not as comfortable as other mostly heavier models, zippers are small and slightly harder to grabVery expensive, significantly heavier than many tents in our review, bulkyBulky for a single wall tent, harder than average to set up, poor ventilationPoor ventilation in calm conditions, poor condensation management heavier than ultralight bivy tentsPoor ventilation, slightly trickier than average to setup, insufficient guylines included (but amble guy points)
Ratings by Category Hilleberg Jannu Hilleberg Tarra Black Diamond Fitzroy Mountain Hardwear EV2 Black Diamond Eldorado
Weight - 25%
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Livability - 20%
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Weather Storm Resistance - 25%
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Ease Of Set Up - 10%
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Durability - 10%
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Versatility - 10%
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Specs Hilleberg Jannu Hilleberg Tarra Black Diamond Fitzroy Mountain Hardwear EV2 Black Diamond Eldorado
Type Double Wall Double Wall Single Wall Single Wall Single Wall
Weight (oz.) 113 oz. 152 oz. 113 oz. 83 oz. 81 oz.
Weight (lb.) 7 lbs 1 oz 9 lb 8 oz 7 lb 1 oz 5 lb 3 oz 5 lb 1 oz

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
April 3, 2017

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Updated April 2017
Keeping up with the market, we updated this review with information on recent product developments. Two Mountain Hardwear tents have been updated with newer versions available today. We contacted the manufacturer about both models, and while there aren't any major changes, we detailed the differences in the canopies, floors, and weights in their individual reviews. Charts and tables are now also included in the performance metrics to display the comparative differences between products.

Best Overall Four Season Tent


Hilleberg Jannu


Editors' Choice Award

$935.00
at Amazon
See It

Strong sidewall
Highly resistant to snow loading
Pitches quick from outside
Great ventilation
Three color options
Not super comfortable
Small zippers
Before we even tallied the scores, we were convinced that the Hilleberg Jannu was our overall favorite because it simply does everything we want very well. This tent ranks among the strongest, most resistant to varying weather, and most versatile, yet doesn't weigh you down and packs up nicely. Even in storm conditions, setup of this tent remains easy. The main drawback is less space for cooking than hooped-style tents (which are also less strong). We do think if you are looking for a tent for mountaineering and alpine climbing in the lower 48, you don't need something as burly as the Jannu and could get away with an all-around tent that's lighter, like the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 or Black Diamond Eldorado. However, if you want the best blend of everything, the Jannu is hard to beat, and therefore wins our Editors' Choice award.

Read review: Hilleberg Jannu

Best Bang for the Buck


The North Face Mountain 25


The North Face Mountain 25 Tent Best Buy Award

$529.62
at Amazon
See It

Super strong
Livable design
Above-average versatility
Great pockets
Reflective guy lines
Sweet Kevlar guylines with camming adjusters
Somewhat heavy
Pole sleeves
The North Face Mountain 25 provides high-performance winter protection without the (relatively) high price tag of most models in this category. This is a four-season tent that we would use on Denali, Aconcagua or on less remote climbs, like Mt. Rainier. At $590, the Mountain 25 is one of the better-priced tents available and gives up nothing for its storm worthiness or livability. Weighing 8.5 pounds, the Mountain 25 is heavier but isn't so outrageous that we wouldn't consider taking it on summer mountaineering climbs. We think the Mountain 25's versatility to be used in a wide range of climates from winter camping to three-season backpacking only increases its value.

Read review: The North Face Mountain 25

Best All-Around Alpine Climbing Tent


Mountain Hardwear EV2


The latest Mountain Hardwear EV 2 Top Pick Award


Second strongest two-person single wall tent
Most comfortable two-person single wall tent
Pitches quick and easy from outside
Great for tall people
Poor ventilation in calm conditions
Poor condensation management
Heavier than ultralight bivy tents
This model received a minor update in 2017 to its canopy and floor materials, which brought a small increase in weight, but intended to make this tent stronger. A more detailed description of the newest version is found in the individual review.

This award goes to the Mountain Hardwear EV2. While the EV2 didn't handle moisture as well as the Jannu, it is lighter, more compact and offers more spacious and livable interior than the Black Diamond Eldorado. We think it's bomber enough for climbing in the Lower 48 and should be considered depending on the usage for climbing in the greater ranges. If you're looking for a bigger EV tent, check out the EV 3.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear EV 2

Top Pick for Weight and Packed Size


Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2


The latest Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 Top Pick Award


Superlight
Small packed size
Advantageous tiny footprint
Uncomfortable
Poor ventilation
Terrible quality guylines and stakes
Like the EV 2, Mountain Hardwear has confirmed that this tent has seen minor updates to its floor and canopy, as well as increased its guylines and tieout points. Weight also increased. See details in the individual review of this tent.

With a minimum weight of 2 lb. 13 oz and a packable weight of just over 3 pounds, the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 is our pick for the best tent for overall weight and packed size. This itty-bitty shelter is a luxury suite on frigid alpine climbs where low weight, small packed size and a small footprint are the #1 consideration. The Direkt 2 is waterproof and wind resistant, featuring great guylines. For all other fast-and-light winter activities, our testers prefer floorless pyramid shelters, which are found in our Ultralight Tent Review.

Read review: Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2

Top Pick for the Most Extreme Conditions


Hilleberg Tarra


Hilleberg Tarra in green. Top Pick Award

$1,095.00
at Amazon
See It

Fortress-like strength for worst conditions
Two doors
Two nice sized vestibules
Good ventilation
Extremely durable
Very expensive
Significantly heavier than many tents in our review
Bulky
If we were planning on going to the harshest weather, then we would likely go with the Hilleberg Tarra. There are a few other tents that are as bomber, like the Black Diamond Fitzroy, North Face Mountain 25, and Trango 2, but the Tarra is likely the most bomber of the bunch and will hold up as well as any tent could. It uses thick poles featuring the nicest materials and a tried-and-true design that has been taken to some of the most extreme environments. If weight and packability are important factors, we would go with the Black Diamond Fitzroy, as it is close in strength and is about 2.5 pounds lighter. For most people going to extreme environments, we would recommend this contender because it is more livable and versatile.

Read review: Hilleberg Tarra

Best Backcountry Touring Tent


Stephenson's Warmlite 2R


Stephenson's Warmlite 2R Top Pick Award

$500 List
List Price
See It

Super lightweight
Very spacious interior
Made in the USA
Bomber wind protection
Only requires 3 stakes
Custom features and colors
Pretty sweet price
Questionable thin diameter pole durability
Three stakes need to be bomber
The Stephenson's Warmlite 2R is our Top Pick for the Best Backcountry Tent. When you're on extended backcountry tours, weight matters, unlike mountaineering or pure winter camping, where you might go light for a summit push, leaving your tent behind. While on an extended ski tour, you almost always have your tent in your pack. For alpine climbing and mountaineering, the Warmlite 2R non-free standing tunnel design and larger interior space can make it more challenging to set up, especially in smaller tent sites. Those disadvantages go away while ski touring, where you are nearly always camped on snow, so you'll never have a hard time staking the tent out (skis, poles, or shovels make for quick and bomber anchors). We also like its weight; the Warmlite 2R offers a lot more livable room, which is nice for the often loftier sleeping bags and clothing you bring while out in the backcountry.

Read review: Stephenson's Warmlite 2R

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
82
$935
Editors' Choice Award
When you know you're in for crummy weather but you can't pack a bomb shelter, this is a good option.
79
$1,095
Top Pick Award
This model takes home the award as the strongest 2-person tent we have ever tested.
78
$800
This model wins in the strength department and proves to be very roomy for two people.
78
$700
Top Pick Award
Although this single-wall tent doesn't snag the top award in its class, it comes in second best.
77
$700
An excellent all-around option.
77
$760
With the most headroom of any single-wall tent we tested, this model is unique.
76
$775
Lightweight, comfort, and versatility are the names of the game for this model.
76
$589
Best Buy Award
Not as expensive as some other models, this option is a popular choice for climbing.
75
$500
Top Pick Award
This model is strong, spacious, and surprisingly light.
75
$650
A spacious 4-season option that won't break the bank.
75
$550
With a spacious interior, this model lacked the performance chops to score well in our rating metrics.
71
$700
Of the single-wall options we tested, this model scored the highest.
70
$575
This model is not luxurious for two people, but it gets the job done when you're on a climbing mission.
69
$735
A spacious model that can tackle seriously strong winds.
66
$650
Of the double wall tents tested, this option is the lightest.
61
$550
Top Pick Award
Not the best at ventilation, this model is super light.
58
$370
A lightweight master, this model is built for minimalism.

Analysis and Test Results


We assessed each four-season tent based on its weather resistance, weight, packed size, durability, livability, adaptability, and features. Check out the table above to see where each ranked in Overall Performance.

Four-season tents. From front to back: Black Diamond Awhahnee  Eldorado  Fitzroy  Firstlight  Marmot  Alpinist (right)  and Mountain Hardwear EV2 (left). Seven double wall tents lie in the rear.
Four-season tents. From front to back: Black Diamond Awhahnee, Eldorado, Fitzroy, Firstlight, Marmot, Alpinist (right), and Mountain Hardwear EV2 (left). Seven double wall tents lie in the rear.

Weather Resistance


This variable assesses a tent's ability to protect from the outside environment, whether that be snow, rain, or wind. We considered pole design, pole type, fabrics, vestibules, and strength features, such as number of pole intersections, number of points and mechanism for attaching the inner tent to the poles, number of points and mechanism for attaching the outer tent to the poles, and the number and quality of guy points. We share many of these specifications in the table above and in each individual review. The most significant factors influencing wind resistance and contributing to overall strength are pole design and pole quality.


Pole Design
The biggest factors contributing to a tent's strength are the number of poles, the tent's overall pole design, and the number of pole crossings relative to size and external height. More crossings relative to a tent's size means more strength. While the Black Diamond Eldorado is strong, it's not as strong as a Black Diamond Fitzroy that uses the same fabric, is the same external height but has more poles and more pole crossing. So how strong do you need your four-season tent to be? That depends on what you are doing. All the tents in reviewed are solid mountaineering tents that will excel in most summertime mountaineering adventures and in modest winter use. If you are planning on logging time in big mountain ranges or spending time exposed above treeline, then you should consider a beefier tent with more poles and more pole crossings.
Not all tent poles are created equal; we delve deep into pole construction looking at the diameter and construction quality of each tents poles in the review.
Not all tent poles are created equal; we delve deep into pole construction looking at the diameter and construction quality of each tents poles in the review.

Tent Poles
Besides 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 or carbon fiber. DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles are the best available aluminum poles found in mainstream tents, with a few smaller manufacturers using Easton poles that might be slightly stronger for their weight. One company, Stephenson's Warmlite, uses custom aluminum poles that are very strong for their weight but have had complaints about durability.

Strong winds (50+ mph) of the Kitchatna spires bending but not breaking the poles of a Mountain Hardwear Trango with Ryan O'Connell looking on pondering why.......
Strong winds (50+ mph) of the Kitchatna spires bending but not breaking the poles of a Mountain Hardwear Trango with Ryan O'Connell looking on pondering why.......

Fabrics
Four-season tent fabrics range from ultralight non-waterproof wind breaking materials, as on the Black Diamond Firstlight, to strong and light silicone coated nylon, on the Hilleberg Nammatj, Hilleberg Tarra and Hilleberg Jannu, all the way to beefy laminates found in the single-wall Black Diamond Fitzroy, Eldorado, and Ahwahnee tents. We break down the four-season tents' specific fabric in individual reviews.
Besides pole design and the number of walls  tent fabric likely the next most important factor contributing to a tents performance.  Photo: Graham McDowell looking down glacier with his North Face Mountain 25 on a two week climbing trip to the Waddington Range  BC.
Besides pole design and the number of walls, tent fabric likely the next most important factor contributing to a tents performance. Photo: Graham McDowell looking down glacier with his North Face Mountain 25 on a two week climbing trip to the Waddington Range, BC.

Coatings: Silnylon vs. Polyurethane
There is a difference between a tent covered on both sides with silicone, called silnylon, and a fabric that is coated on the outside with silicone and the inside with polyurethane (PU). The latter is cheaper but not as durable as strong. The strongest fly fabric used on the tents tested is Hilleberg Kerlon 1800 silnyon, which has a break strength of 40 lb. and is found on their Nammatj and Tarra tents, among others.

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 camped below Forbidden Peak.
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 camped below Forbidden Peak.

PTFE Laminates
Some four-season tents, like the Rab Latok and the Black Diamond/Bibler tents, use a burly PTFE laminate (similar to your waterproof-breathable jacket) that is stronger than most silnylon but overkill for use on double-wall tents.

Guy lines as seen here on the Brooks Range Invasion have far more holding power than the lowest corners of the tents because they hold from the middle resulting in better leverage against the wind. We think having 4 guy points is a minimum for a 4-season tent and 6-8 are ideal for expedition climbing in harsher climates.
Guy lines as seen here on the Brooks Range Invasion have far more holding power than the lowest corners of the tents because they hold from the middle resulting in better leverage against the wind. We think having 4 guy points is a minimum for a 4-season tent and 6-8 are ideal for expedition climbing in harsher climates.

Guyline Points
Most of the four-season tents tested had between 3-10 guyline tie-out points. We liked having at least four, though six was nice for most alpine climbing and various stormy ski trips. For expedition use, we liked having at least six but would rather have eight. Contrary to most backpacker's beliefs, the guylines have far more holding power than the lower corners of the tents, because the guylines pull from the middle of the tent, resulting in a better angle against the wind to keep the tent in place.

The Hilleberg Tarra standing strong in high winds  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 lb. tear strength.
The Hilleberg Tarra standing strong in high winds, 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 lb. tear strength.

The Most Weather Resistant
The strongest and most weather-resistant four-season tents that will withstand the strongest winds and the heaviest snow loads are the Hilleberg Tarra and the Black Diamond Fitzroy. These were followed closely by The North Face Mountain 25, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, and Hilleberg Jannu. Besides the Fitzroy, the single-wall tents with the greatest static strength are the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 and the Black Diamond Eldorado; both of these tents are a step down in their storm worthiness from the aforementioned tents. While the EV2 is bomber, after a few trips we noticed it suffered from low vents that collect spindrift; so much so that we rate the Nemo Tenshi as an equally weather-resistant single-wall tent. If you are looking for a Denali-storm-worthy tent, we would recommend looking at tents that scored a "9" or a "10" and would consider no tent scoring lower than an "8."

Three ultra compact  sub four pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: Brooks Range Invasion  Stephenson's Warmlite 2R  and Mountain Hardwear Direkt2.
Three ultra compact, sub four pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: Brooks Range Invasion, Stephenson's Warmlite 2R, and Mountain Hardwear Direkt2.

Weight and Packed Size


We ranked each four-season tent based on its OutdoorGearLab measured weight and packed volume. We didn't compare their minimum weight, which is typically just that; tent, fly, poles, and excluding guylines - no pole sack, no stacks, etc. Instead, we tried to do comparison weights of what you'd likely bring for that tent.


Of all the comparison categories in our review, this is where we saw the biggest differences. For example, the lightest tents tested are the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, Rab Latok Summit, and Black Diamond Firstlight, which all t have packed weights of around 3 lbs 5 oz, but can be minimized to around 2 lbs 13 oz in the case of the Firstlight and Direkt 2. Comparatively, the heaviest tent was the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, which weighs more than three times as much at 9 lb 13 oz.

Three of the smaller packed size options in our review pictured here in included stuff sacks  left to right: Mountain Hardwear Direkt2  Brooks Range Invasion  Stephenson's Warmlite 2R. Note the crampons for size comparison.
Three of the smaller packed size options in our review pictured here in included stuff sacks, left to right: Mountain Hardwear Direkt2, Brooks Range Invasion, Stephenson's Warmlite 2R. Note the crampons for size comparison.

We discovered similar results when it came to packed volume, with some contenders taking up as little as one-quarter the space of the bulkiest. Why not just buy a lighter tent? If you are primarily attempting shorter trips (less than 3-5 days) then this is a great idea. But as you would imagine, a lighter, more compact tent is less versatile and comfortable for extended hangouts and is often not as strong in gnarlier weather.

For technical routes or for most summer time alpine climbing in the lower-48 you don't need the strongest of 4-season tents. Instead choosing an option like the Eldorado (pictured here) and tents like it for these types of application because its far lighter and more pack-able than tents like the Trango 2 or Hilleberg Tara which while stronger  are overkill for these uses. Photo: Camped below Mt. Shuksan North Cascades WA.
For technical routes or for most summer time alpine climbing in the lower-48 you don't need the strongest of 4-season tents. Instead choosing an option like the Eldorado (pictured here) and tents like it for these types of application because its far lighter and more pack-able than tents like the Trango 2 or Hilleberg Tara which while stronger, are overkill for these uses. Photo: Camped below Mt. Shuksan North Cascades WA.

Like weight, packed size is often the most important consideration for alpine climbers, who may take 30 - 50L liter packs for many days out. The Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, Rab Latok Summit, and Black Diamond Firstlight are the most compact tents available and are less than a quarter the packed size of some double-wall tents. The Hilleberg Jannu is relatively compact for a double-wall tent and is comparable in packability to the Black Diamond Eldorado or Black Diamond Fitzroy.

For many alpine routes summer or winter the tents ability to be setup on small ledges or in tight spaces is as important as weight and packed size and for many routes a full-sized 4-season tent isn't even an option. Photo: The Direkt 2 in use on the Cassin Ridge  Denali AK.
For many alpine routes summer or winter the tents ability to be setup on small ledges or in tight spaces is as important as weight and packed size and for many routes a full-sized 4-season tent isn't even an option. Photo: The Direkt 2 in use on the Cassin Ridge, Denali AK.

The Size of a Tent's Footprint
A tent's footprint is the amount of real-estate it takes up, not to be confused with the "other" footprint that protects the floor of your tent. For many users, this might not be on their radar but could save headaches down the road. Ledges or even camp/bivy sites can be small, as is the case in many areas of the Cascades, Tetons, Rockies, or Sierra. The tents with the smallest footprints were the Rab Latok Summit, Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, and BD Firstlight with the Black Diamond Eldorado not too far behind.
Small footprints aren't just important in the greater ranges. Here Dan Whitmore appreciating the small footprint of the Black Diamond Firstlight  waking up with nearly 2 000ft of air below after a stormy night on a very small bivi ledge on the Northest Buttress of Mt. Goode  North Cascades WA.
Small footprints aren't just important in the greater ranges. Here Dan Whitmore appreciating the small footprint of the Black Diamond Firstlight, waking up with nearly 2,000ft of air below after a stormy night on a very small bivi ledge on the Northest Buttress of Mt. Goode, North Cascades WA.

Livability


Here we assessed how tolerable it was to spend time in each tent. We looked at door and vestibule design, zipper quality, the number of pockets, peak height, floor area and vestibule area. Then we assessed the overall vibe. Was it dark and gloomy or cheerful? Did the tent get wet when someone entered in the rain? Do the pockets hold what you want them to? Are two people cramped? How well do two full-sized pads fit? Can you sit up, face your partner and play cards? Does the fly protect the inner from splashback (water dripping off the fly)? We've listed specifications for each tent. (As a reference, the average size sleeping pad is 20" x 72".)


The most comfortable tent for extended periods is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2, with its 40 square feet of livable space, which was the most space in our review. It also featured well-thought pockets and boasted one of the bigger vestibules among the options tested. It's worth noting that the North Face Mountain 25, Black Diamond Ahwahnee, and the Hilleberg Tarra were close seconds, all offering different advantages that were all nice to log time in. In contrast, the Rab Latok Summit is a small bivy tent that you can't even come close to sitting up in and is the least "livable" tent.

The importance of a four season tent's Livability depends on the users needs. Don't just assume that you do or don't need a more comfortable living space. Are you planning on using your tent for trips to Alaska or planning on climbing basic general mountaineering routes or are you planning on climbing up and over technical routes with your tent on your back? Here Graham Zimmerman and Ryan O'Connell duel it out in yet another game of chess while attempting to climb the west face of Kichatna Spire.
The importance of a four season tent's Livability depends on the users needs. Don't just assume that you do or don't need a more comfortable living space. Are you planning on using your tent for trips to Alaska or planning on climbing basic general mountaineering routes or are you planning on climbing up and over technical routes with your tent on your back? Here Graham Zimmerman and Ryan O'Connell duel it out in yet another game of chess while attempting to climb the west face of Kichatna Spire.

The space-to-weight ratio is measured by dividing the floor area (sq. ft.) by weight (oz.). This calculation is found in the table above and in each individual review. Note that it neglects to consider vestibule area and the volume of both the inner tent and the vestibule. Our livability ratings take all of these factors into account.

The Black Diamond Firstlight is the least expensive product in our review. It is a great fair weather bivi tent for shorter trips  but it isn't as versatile as many other contenders in our review which all offer unique advantages.
The Black Diamond Firstlight is the least expensive product in our review. It is a great fair weather bivi tent for shorter trips, but it isn't as versatile as many other contenders in our review which all offer unique advantages.

Ease of Setup


The chart below gives you a picture of how each tent ranked in the Ease-of-Setup metric.


Pole Clips, Pole Sleeves or Internal Poles?
This is an age old debate of what style is best. The truth is that each style has its own advantages and disadvantages of ease and speed versus strength.
The Mountain Hardwear EV2  similar to the Marmot Alpinist and several of Hilleberg's designs feature many super strong pole clips that setup from the outside. This is much faster than the Black Diamond Bibler series  which setup from within.
The Mountain Hardwear EV2, similar to the Marmot Alpinist and several of Hilleberg's designs feature many super strong pole clips that setup from the outside. This is much faster than the Black Diamond Bibler series, which setup from within.

Pole Clips
Pole clips are the quickest and easiest to set up and offer the advantage of letting more moisture move around the tent, resulting in less condensation buildup. The disadvantage of clips is that they are heavier and don't spread the force of wind or snow as evenly along the length of the pole compared with pole sleeves. Examples include the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 and the EV2.

Pole Sleeves
Pole sleeves are easy unless it's really windy; then you have to be careful. While sleeves are easy in pleasant weather, they are not as easy or as quick as clips. When it's windy, you have to use more caution while setting up a tent with pole sleeves; a pole is more vulnerable, with the tent acting as a kite until the whole tent is erected and can support itself. One small gust can bend or snap the poles if the tent isn't being held correctly; once set up, they are equally, if not more, bomber because the pressure is spread out evenly. Pole sleeves don't let moisture circulate as nicely as clips, but this is a smaller difference compared with materials. Examples include The North Face Mountain 25 and the Hilleberg Nammatj.

Internal Poles
Internal poles are seen in lighter weight tents that you generally have to set up from the inside. This is the lightest design because the body of the tent itself is supporting poles. You need very little, if any, extra fabric or materials to support the poles. This is why all of the lightest bivy-style 4-season tents use an internal pole design; this design is also strong and can be just as strong as a pole-sleeve tent with similar pole structure. The primary disadvantage is that these are the most difficult and time-consuming to set up. If it's really windy, it's a pain to crawl inside and set up. Examples are the Black Diamond Eldorado, Firstlight, Nemo Tenshi, and Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2.

Comparing different styles of tents. The left Marmot Alpinist uses external clips which are the easiest and quickest to set up but slightly heavier and bulkier. The North Face Mountain 25 uses poles sleeves which dissipate force better along the length of the pole but slightly reduce air circulation and are slightly more time consuming to set up. The two right hand photos are of a Black Diamond Ahwahnee that uses the tent itself to support the poles and twist ties to help keep them in place. This is the lightest system but the most challenging to set up.
Comparing different styles of tents. The left Marmot Alpinist uses external clips which are the easiest and quickest to set up but slightly heavier and bulkier. The North Face Mountain 25 uses poles sleeves which dissipate force better along the length of the pole but slightly reduce air circulation and are slightly more time consuming to set up. The two right hand photos are of a Black Diamond Ahwahnee that uses the tent itself to support the poles and twist ties to help keep them in place. This is the lightest system but the most challenging to set up.

Properly 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 sucks. A tent that sets up quickly can save energy; a tent that pitches quickly in high winds is even better. The fastest tents to set up are he Hilleberg models, which pitch from the outside (the inner tent is suspended from the outer tent) with a combination of lower pole sleeves, and clips. Of all the single-wall tents tested, the Sierra Designs Convert 2 is the easiest to pitch. The Convert 2 uses internal pole sleeves with a port that allows you to insert and adjust the pole from the outside of the tent. This is a fantastic design that is, disappointingly, not used by any other companies. The photo below shows one of the reasons why it's so easy to pitch Hilleberg tents.

The Jannu's three different vestibule configurations. The middle is our testers' preferred option because it is easier to enter and exit. You can also roll the vestibule away completely!! (not shown).
The Jannu's three different vestibule configurations. The middle is our testers' preferred option because it is easier to enter and exit. You can also roll the vestibule away completely!! (not shown).
The Hilleberg Jannu's pole structure is incredibly 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.
The Hilleberg Jannu's pole structure is incredibly 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.

Using a four season tent for family or warmer weather three season camping can be less ideal depending on how adaptive your tent is and can range from straight-up uncomfortable to rather pleasant. Here tester Ian Nicholson takes a collection of four season tents on a wet low elevation family camping trip.
Using a four season tent for family or warmer weather three season camping can be less ideal depending on how adaptive your tent is and can range from straight-up uncomfortable to rather pleasant. Here tester Ian Nicholson takes a collection of four season tents on a wet low elevation family camping trip.

Adaptability and Versatility


Versatility is an important factor in choosing a tent; many people who are going to buy a $500-$1100 tent will want to use it on a range of trips and in multiple climates. A tent's versatility refers to how well it performs across a range of conditions and climates. All four-season tents are designed with snowy, windy conditions in mind; however, we also compared how well they work in rain, warmer three-season travel, and desert climates. We also compared how well they performed from a bivy tent perspective and threw in modest alpine conditions and full-blown expedition use.


In the end, tents that are more versatile are a better value. As a whole, most of the double-wall tents scored better than the single-wall tents because they handled warmer conditions both with and without moisture. There were exceptions, like the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, which featured two full-size doors with bug doors underneath; despite being a single-wall tent, it was possibly the best four-season tent tested for three seasons. The Trango 2, Mountain 25, and Tarra also fared well and would be good options for a strong tent for sea-kayaking or something that worked well for both three and four-season use.

Versatility is important for those who don't want to buy a quiver of tents. Its hard to get a tent thats perfect for everything but some are certainly more versatile than others. Pictured here is a North Face Mountain 25 that has been used for extended expeditions on three continents  summer alpine climbing in the North Cascades but here is being used on 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 4-season tent or a 3-season one.
Versatility is important for those who don't want to buy a quiver of tents. Its hard to get a tent thats perfect for everything but some are certainly more versatile than others. Pictured here is a North Face Mountain 25 that has been used for extended expeditions on three continents, summer alpine climbing in the North Cascades but here is being used on 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 4-season tent or a 3-season one.

Adaptability
A tent scored higher in this category when it had features that allowed us to use our tent in different ways. For example, a removable vestibule, as is found on some single-wall tents, or a removable inner tent, which allows you to use and pitch your one tent in different ways, helped.
Mountain Hardwear Trango on a sea kayak expedition in Chilean Patagonia. Double wall tents work well in both the worst winter conditions and also in challenging three season conditions.
Mountain Hardwear Trango on a sea kayak expedition in Chilean Patagonia. Double wall tents work well in both the worst winter conditions and also in challenging three season conditions.

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 great 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 floorless saves 30.9 oz. for three-season backpacking or fast and light winter travel. The walls seals fairly well with the ground and even minimizes the amount of flying insects from entering. The fly-and-poles only setup is possible with nearly all Hilleberg designs.
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 seals fairly well with the ground and even minimizes the amount of flying insects from entering. The fly-and-poles only setup is possible with nearly all Hilleberg designs.

Ventilation
Ventilation can have a dramatic influence on a tent's adaptability and livability. Generally, double-wall tents have better air circulation and less condensation than single-wall tents. The Hilleberg tents and the North Face Mountain 25 have the best ventilation and moisture management of all double-wall tents. The top vents on dome tents are effective 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 all single wall tents tested, the Nemo Tenshi has the most impressive ventilation system — four vents total — that improve comfort as well as safety while cooking. See a photo of the Tenshi's large rear vent below.

The Nemo Tenshi's rear vent is fantastic. You can seal it up tight (left)  have a small opening (center)  or open it fully (right). Mesh netting further allows you to customize airflow or vent in warmer conditions with insects.
The Nemo Tenshi's rear vent is fantastic. You can seal it up tight (left), have a small opening (center), or open it fully (right). Mesh netting further allows you to customize airflow or vent in warmer conditions with insects.

Another single-wall four-season tents that stood out for adaptability and livability is the Black Diamond Ahwahnee. The Ahwahnee has the highest single-wall peak height and two 6' plus people could easily sit and face each other. The Ahwahnee's doors can be left cracked open in a light storm, helping ventilate. The EV2 also allowed excellent sleeping length for taller users, but didn't have as much headroom, nor did it ventilate as well.
The MSR Dragontail also offers a pretty sweet venting system shown here- with zippered openings on both ends reveal a large area protected by bug mesh. The amount of air flow on this tent helps drastically  to reduce condensation.
The MSR Dragontail also offers a pretty sweet venting system shown here- with zippered openings on both ends reveal a large area protected by bug mesh. The amount of air flow on this tent helps drastically to reduce condensation.

Durability


The main factor here is the type of fabric used for the fly, the quality of the poles, and the floor. The floor matters less because much of the time all-season tents are pitched on snow. Again, silnylon is the fabric of choice for the fly on double-wall tents. Most of the PU formulations used on fly fabric coatings are more prone to hydrolysis (chemical breakup) than silnylon. They can wear out faster, particularly in wet environments, and aren't as resistant to UV degradation.


That said, companies like Mountain Trip, a super well-known Denali guide service (who retires their tents with plenty of life left), gets eight to twelve 22-day Denali expeditions out of each Trango. To say the Trango isn't durable is a stretch. The same could be said about other guide services who use tents from The North Face. While the fabric on the Hilleberg Tarra, Jannu, and Nammatj are more durable, it's not as significant an amount for most people who are comparing them with other four-season tents.

While the Hilleberg Tara and Junnu might use slightly more durable fabric  the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is still super tough. Denali guide services like Mountain Trip use Trangos for 160-220 days on Denali before retiring them.
While the Hilleberg Tara and Junnu might use slightly more durable fabric, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is still super tough. Denali guide services like Mountain Trip use Trangos for 160-220 days on Denali before retiring them.

For example, the fly material on the Mountain Hardwear Trango (sil on the outside, PU on the inside) may last for about 120-200 days of use in a wet climate before it needs to be retired. A tent like the Hilleberg Nammatj (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 tent 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 from most companies.

McKenzie Long climbing in Patagonia with the Black Diamond Eldorado  one of the toughest single wall products available.
McKenzie Long climbing in Patagonia with the Black Diamond Eldorado, one of the toughest single wall products available.

Tent floors generally 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.

The Brooks Range Invasion uses the weakest fabric of all 4 season tents tested. We accidentally tore the stuff sack while trying to pull the tent out
The Brooks Range Invasion uses the weakest fabric of all 4 season tents tested. We accidentally tore the stuff sack while trying to pull the tent out

Specific features can also have a large impact on durability. The big three here are zippers, clips, and webbing adjustments. Bigger zippers last longer and can handle expeditions because they continue to work with dust and grit in them. Some clips are better than others: Martin Zemetis helped to design the clips used on the Mountain Hardwear Trango series and improved them with the clips now found on SlingFin tents, which are easier to use and stronger.

Four season expedition testing on Denali's West Buttress.
Four season expedition testing on Denali's West Buttress.

The most durable double-wall tents tested are the Hilleberg Jannu and Hilleberg Tarra which feature mega high-quality poles; they also have the nicest fabric among other contenders in our review. That said, The North Face Mountain 25 and Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 are not far behind and for most users, are comparable. The most durable single-wall tent is the Black Diamond Fitzroy, Ahwahnee, or Eldorado, all featuring the burliest external fabric reviewed. The least durable single-wall tent was the Black Diamond Firstlight.

The Hilleberg Jannu ($935) and Tara ($1100) are the most expensive tents in our review  but to some extent you get what you pay for. They feature super high quality poles and the nicest fabric among any double wall tent we tested. The Same could be said for Black Diamond's Bibler line of single wall tents which feature the straight-up strongest external fabric of any tent in our review. Thats not saying that tents like the Mountain 25 or Trango aren't durable  they just aren't as tough as the Biblers or Hillebergs. Photo: Jannu in use on an extended trip to the IIulissat Icefield in Western Greenland in March.
The Hilleberg Jannu ($935) and Tara ($1100) are the most expensive tents in our review, but to some extent you get what you pay for. They feature super high quality poles and the nicest fabric among any double wall tent we tested. The Same could be said for Black Diamond's Bibler line of single wall tents which feature the straight-up strongest external fabric of any tent in our review. Thats not saying that tents like the Mountain 25 or Trango aren't durable, they just aren't as tough as the Biblers or Hillebergs. Photo: Jannu in use on an extended trip to the IIulissat Icefield in Western Greenland in March.

Going Ultralight? Consider an Ultralight Shelter


If saving weight is your top priority, and you are not alpine climbing, we suggest considering a floorless pyramid shelter, which is lighter and more spacious than any single-wall tent. Pyramids pitch with trekking poles, ski poles, or skis and have up to three times as much space, weighing less than a tent supported by dedicated poles. Check out our Ultralight Tent Review for details.

Not every trip in the mountains requires a burly 4-season tent. Many climbs in the lower-48 can be done with 4-season models on the lighter end of the spectrum or even tougher 3-season models as long the weather isn't too bad and a little extra care is taken. Here Dan Whitmore and John Collingwood hanging out by the Colonial Glacier on Day 6 of the Isolation Traverse  North Cascades WA.
Not every trip in the mountains requires a burly 4-season tent. Many climbs in the lower-48 can be done with 4-season models on the lighter end of the spectrum or even tougher 3-season models as long the weather isn't too bad and a little extra care is taken. Here Dan Whitmore and John Collingwood hanging out by the Colonial Glacier on Day 6 of the Isolation Traverse, North Cascades WA.

Forget the Footprint


Unless you are camping on sharp knives, we are confident that there is no need for a footprint for any winter tent. The majority of the tents tested use a tough 70 denier floor that's more durable than floors found on backpacking tents, which use 15 to 30 denier fabrics. We only recommend a groundsheet for basecamping and car camping on dirt or rocks. Then, consider cutting your own from Tyvek Home Wrap, available at hardware stores for around $10. Tyvek is more puncture-resistant and cheaper than the expensive ($50-80) footprints offered by manufacturers. The weight of the tent and your sleeping gear hold it in place.

Tyvek "Home Wrap" is our favorite footprint for car camping and basecamping because it's waterproof  highly puncture resistant  and exceptionally durable. We prefer clear polycro plastic groundsheets for weight conscious applications.
Tyvek "Home Wrap" is our favorite footprint for car camping and basecamping because it's waterproof, highly puncture resistant, and exceptionally durable. We prefer clear polycro plastic groundsheets for weight conscious applications.

Conclusion


The Best 4-season tent review. We tested our favorite 4-season tents in a range of locations from expedition climbing in the Alaska Range and the Andes to summer alpine climbing in the Cascades  Sierra  and Tetons  in addition to mutli-day ski tours and winter camping. Testing 4-seasons tents 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.
The Best 4-season tent review. We tested our favorite 4-season tents in a range of locations from expedition climbing in the Alaska Range and the Andes to summer alpine climbing in the Cascades, Sierra, and Tetons, in addition to mutli-day ski tours and winter camping. Testing 4-seasons tents 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.

The tents that we tested are designed to perform well in four seasons, specializing in winter and mountaineering use. Choosing between a single- and double-wall tent is important depending on the type of trips you're planning. If saving weight is most important, a single-wall tent might be preferred. Apart from that, comfort, space and durability most often rank higher in a double-wall tent. We hope that you can use our analysis of these 23 tents to find the product that fits your desires.
Ian Nicholson

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