Going on a winter hiking or camping trip can be a magical experience, but it can easily turn into an unpleasant event in your life. To avoid that and fully embrace the cold nature, you must make certain preparations for sufficient amount of comfort. You will probably agree with us that the right choice of tent is probably the most important thing to keep in mind, leading us to this article that will help you choose the best cold weather tents for your next chilly adventure.
A fine tent meant for cold weather use should offer high protection from the cold in the form of good insulation, but it also should protect you from strong winds and storms. It should also be breathable and light enough so it can be carried effortlessly (more or less) in your backpack. But, out of so many options in the market, how do you make the right pick?
This is where we come in! In this article we will walk you through the most important features that you should be looking for when buying a tent. We also included our favorite products available on the market along with their specifications and why we think they make good tents.
Our Top Picks
|Sierra Designs Convert 2||30D Ripstop Nylon||Freestanding dome||5 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Hilleberg Jannu 2||Kerlon 1200||Low dome||5.5 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Mountain Hardwear EV 2||30D Ripstop Nylon||Freestanding low dome||4.6 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Hilleberg Tarra 2||Kerlon 1800||Low dome||9.5 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Mountain Hardwear Trango 2||40D Ripstop Nylon||Dome||9.8 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|MSR Mutha Hubba NX||20D Ripstop Nylon||Dome||3.25 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|Tentsile Stingray Tree Tent||30D Ripstop Nylon||Tree house||19 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
|The North Face Summit Series VE 25||Ripstop Nylon with a 1500mm PU coating||Dome||11.75 lbs||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying
Truth be told, there is quite a bit of variety when it comes to tents, however, in order to pick the right cold weather tent, you will need to pay close attention to your options.
Keeping in mind that you will be facing very low temperatures as a baseline, chances are that you will have to deal with other difficult weather conditions as well. Strong winds, storms, high moisture levels, in some cases even low oxygen levels, these are all things that you might potentially have to face, and in most cases, a proper tent can alleviate most of this stress off of your shoulders.
That being said, once you are aware of all the weather and climate conditions that you will be facing, there are few major things that you will need to look for in a tent in order to figure out whether it is the right choice or not.
This can usually mean a lot of things, however, when it comes to tents it is rather straightforward. It all revolves around the material that the tent is made out of (usually nylon), the number of layers that the fabric has and any openings (other than the actual entrance) that the tent might have.
The popular choice for tent manufacturers is Ripstop Nylon fabric because it is lightweight, sturdy and at the same time highly resistant to physical stress. Depending on the density and thread count in the fabric, there will be different values, for example, 20D Ripstop Nylon. The higher the value the denser the nylon, however at the same time the heavier the tent will be, so it is well worth it to try and balance it out a little.
There are a lot of tent styles and designs out there, however, not all of them are applicable in this situation. In regards to cold weather tents, the best way to go for is the dome shaped design, preferably the lower profile ones.
This is because they are a lot more aerodynamic and a lot sturdier than other designs, especially when it comes to high wind speeds. Another good argument for this particular design is the fact that often times it relies on an external frame which is a lot easier to set up and pack while at the same time still sturdy and resilient.
Another useful design is the tree house shape, a pyramidal shape designed to be suspended in mid-air while anchored to trees or cliffs. It is very popular with mountain climbers and cliff scalers because it can be set up easily on cliff faces allowing the climbers to rest without turning back.
When going on a spring or summer camping trip, you will probably use the tent only for sleeping. In those instances, the space in the tent is probably a secondary thing to think about. Contrary to that, the conditions of winter camping demand that you spend more time inside the tent, avoiding the cold weather.
Having this in mind, before buying a tent, make sure you will be comfortable spending more time in it. You should be comfortable sitting, sleeping, or playing cards at night. Also make sure you can breathe inside, because if you cannot, the cold weather tent cannot fulfill its basic functions.
This one is a bit self-explanatory, it refers to the weight of the tent and all its elements while packed as tight and as condensed as possible. Make no mistake about it, you or someone else in your party will have to carry the tent, so the actual weight can become an issue, not to mention the fact that the more the tent weighs, the less that person can carry on him.
The denser the material and the larger the tent, the heavier it will be, so a good idea is to plan ahead, research your destination and see what kind of terrain you will be dealing with. The more difficult the terrain the lighter the tent should be.
As with almost every product, additional things can be added to tents too. Winter tents especially can come with very desirable extras that can be very helpful in the cruel weather conditions.
You winter tent might come with snow pegs that are bigger than the regular ones and they are very helpful in regions with a lot of snow. Taking breathability into account, especially if you’re cooking in the tent (which should be avoided, but sometimes you have no other choice), zipper vents can be very practical for ventilation.
Best Products in Today’s Market
Although there is quite a selection on the market for you to choose from, there are 8 that have managed to stick out as being the most popular and sought after choices.
Price: Approx. $570
Weight: 5 lbs
Number of occupants: 2
Specific features: Unmatched ventilation, convertible design, external pitch frame
Best use: Relaxing outing, cold environments
Description: One of the things that make the Sierra Designs Convert 2 Tent a desirable choice is the fact that it is a more balanced design when compared to other similar products on the market. It can satisfy the needs of many outdoor enthusiasts that want to venture into more chilly climates.
From the amateurs to the jagged veterans, the Convert 2 has something for everyone, starting with the ease of assembly. You don’t have to fiddle around with complicated internal frames, all you need to do is snap it in place and raise the external frame. Plus, the fact that it can be pitched anywhere and on any solid surface makes it a lot easier to manage and a lot less time consuming as well.
In regards to insulation, the 30D Ripstop Nylon material that it uses is more than capable of handling cold environments and difficult weather conditions without allowing for any drafts or leaks to penetrate through. The footprint itself benefits from a double layer of insulation, making it a lot more comfortable to sleep on.
- Convertible and versatile
- Light pack weight
- Can be pitched anywhere easily
- Not a good option for harsh and unforgiving conditions
- External frame makes managing high-velocity winds more challenging
Related: Another great product from Sierra Designs, that goes great with this tent, is the Sierra Designs DriDown 800-Fill Sleeping Bag which adds an extra layer of comfort and protection against the cold.
Price: Approx. $935
Weight: 5.5 lbs
Number of occupants: 2
Specific features: Kerlon 1200 fabric, 9 mm poles, multiple pole crossing point construction frames
Best use: Short and long trips in less harsh environments, camping in difficult weather conditions
Description: The Hilleberg Jannu 2 Camping Tent might not be as tall as other tents, it might not have the same appeal or might not come off as inviting as other similar tents on the market. However it is one of the strongest out there.
Capable of handling even the most difficult weather conditions and even the scariest storms that you can find in cold environments, it is a great choice for the campers that want to be properly protected against the elements and their fury.
Coming in at 5.5 pounds packed weight, it is rather lightweight and easy to carry around, allowing the camper to freely move and explore without having to deal with unnecessary weight on his back. At the same time, it is an easy to pitch the tent, requiring 5-10 minutes to set up and use.
The patented Kerlon 1200 fabric allows the tend to be both sturdy and resilient enough to provide proper insulation while at the same time nimble and flexible enough to withstand even the harshest storms that the elements can throw at it.
- Can handle extreme weather conditions
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Easy to maintain fabric
- Does not do well in hazardous environments
- Can take a while to get used to
Related: In order to help make this tent a lot stronger and capable to handle more difficult environments, the people at Hilleberg came up with the Hilleberg Allak Footprint, designed to help campers pitch their tents on an inhospitable and difficult terrain.
Price: Approx. $615
Weight: 4.6 lbs
Number of occupants: 2
Specific features: 33 sq. ft. floor area, single wall canopy, integrated vestibule design
Best use: Camping in difficult environments, challenging weather conditions
Description: Out of all the tents on the market, the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 Tent is the best choice for the campers that want to go just that little bit further, that little bit higher, that little bit harder. While it is not exactly built for extreme conditions, it is a great choice for rough storms, difficult terrain, and very low temperatures.
The first thing that you will see right out of the box, with this tent is the fact that it is rather lightweight for its capabilities. This is because of the 30D ripstop nylon fiber and the lightweight low dome design which allow the tent to be strong, roomy and comfortable while at the same time light and easy to lug around.
In terms of insulation, you can rest assured that you are well protected from the elements. The 30D Ripstop nylon fiber is woven in such a way that it manages to encompass the entire frame without relying on seams or sections. The floor of the tent is actually thicker and a lot denser making it easy to set up the tent on jagged terrain and difficult soil without having to deal with tears, rips or the temperature of the base.
It even sports an integrated vestibule design so that you can store your gear properly and have your clothes dry up while you are sleeping.
The only drawback is the time that it takes an average camper to pitch this tent up. While it does sport an external frame design and while it does not require too much additional assembly, you will still have to deal with quite a few small parts that you can lose track of.
- Built in vestibule
- Great in harsh environments and difficult weather conditions
- Requires a bit of getting used to when it comes to pitching
- It comes with a lot of small and very small parts
Related: In order to make things easier, Mountain Hardwear makes it possible to purchase the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 Footprint which will add a lot more resilience to your tent and at the same time allow you to place it on some of the most jagged and difficult terrains that you can find.
Price: Approx. $1155
Weight: 9.5 lbs
Number of occupants: 2
Specific features: Kerlon 1800 outer tent fabric, 10 mm poles, adjustable mesh-backed vents, high bathtub floor
Best use: Extreme weather conditions, inhospitable environments, polar expeditions
Description: Make no mistake about it, although this tent might be red, the label that the Hilleberg Tarra 2 Tent carries is a black one. Like all other black label tents, it is built like a fortress and it is able to withstand incredible amounts of abuse and pounding from the elements without even flinching.
This is one of the very few tents that are perfectly capable of handling long term polar expeditions as well as extended stay at the top of Mount Everest because of the way in which it was designed and built.
From the very start, you will notice that the tent itself is rather compact, however, at the same time the frame and poles are well encapsulated inside the lining and the compartmentalization is done in such a way that it does not hinder you while setting it up.
Another thing you will notice is the fact that this tent is made out of the very dense yet versatile Kerlon 1800 fabric, on both the outer and the inner layer of the tent, making it a very well insulated shelter.
One last thing to notice is the fact that the floor of the tent is a bathtub floor, meaning that it is slightly raised so that you are a lot better protected against the actual ground while walking or sleeping.
- Capable of withstanding severe weather and environmental abuse
- Built for temperatures well below the freezing point
- Easy to use, set up and maintain
- A little on the heavier side
- It has a more compact low dome design
Related: For the sole purpose of making it easier on the camper, it is now possible to purchase the Hilleberg Bivanorak, allowing for proper protection of the elements when you are forced to step out of the tent temporarily.
Price: Approx. $650
Weight: 9.8 lbs
Number of occupants: 2
Specific features: DAC Featherlight NSL poles, brow pole vestibules, fully taped fly, taped perimeter seam
Best use: Long term camping, cold environments
Description: The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent is one of the tents that not only manages to live up to the challenges that arise when camping in very cold environments but also the challenges that it faces in other environments as well.
That being said, it is one of the more versatile tents on our list, and for a good reason – it is designed in such a way that allows for a broader range of camping destinations while using it.
While it is a relatively large and roomy 2 person tent, the frame that it sports is made out of DAC Featherlight NSL poles, making it a lot lighter than other tents of its size, bringing its overall packed weight down to just 9 pounds 13 ounces.
Another great thing that this tent brings to the table is the fact that it comes with vestibules and compartment separation already built in, and not as an optional extra from the manufacturer. This makes it a lot more financially accessible and a lot more efficient right out of the box.
While it is a very versatile and adaptable tent, it does have a small downside, it cannot be configured and tailored properly to the destination that it will be pitched in. The vestibules and various other elements are built in, and the camper is not presented with any options to modify the insulation levels.
- Adaptable and versatile
- Lightweight and efficient design
- Easy to set up and easier to take down
- Cannot be tailored to the requirements and specifications of certain locations
- It is recommended to always have a footprint on hand
Related: Another thing that goes well with this tent is the Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 Sleeping Bag which is made available for purchase by the good people at Mountain Hardwear.
Price: Approx. $430
Weight: 3.25 lbs
Number of occupants: 3
Specific features: 20D ripstop nylon / 15D nylon mesh, two large side-entry vestibules, StayDry doors, cross-ventilating rain fly
Best use: Cold weather, more forgiving environments
Description: While there is a sound argument that can be made for high-performance tents that are designed and built to handle anything and any environment, more often than not they end up being overkill. Most of the time we just want a nice relaxing outing, a way to blow off steam and fall off the grid for a few days, not take on nature at its worst, and the MSR Mutha Hubba NX Tent is the best choice for the job.
The most important thing to know about this tent is that it was designed to be simple to set up and take down above anything else. It comes with color coded hooks, clamps and hoops, as well as a featherlight frame that is easy to snap together and set up. Overall the tent takes about 5-10 minutes to set up.
Another thing worth noting is the fact that the tent uses a lot of lightweight materials in virtually all of its aspects, relying on 20D ripstop nylon for the canopy, 15D ripstop nylon for the mesh and lightweight DAC poles.
- Very easy to set up and take down
- Very roomy and comfortable
- Light and easy to transport
- Not a good fit for difficult and rough environments
- Relies on color coded clamps and hooks that can be a nightmare to replace if lost
Related: in order to make your camping experience that much more pleasant and enjoyable, MSR makes it possible for you to purchase the MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot, allowing you to get your cooking done at your camp site with ease.
Price: Approx. $650
Weight: 19 lbs
Number of occupants: 3
Specific features: 3 doors, removable fly sheet, four internal pockets, no footprint whatsoever
Best use: Short camping trips, mild weather conditions
Description: Right off the bat, you will notice that something is a bit off about the Tentsile Stingray Tree Tent, it has no actual footprint, no crossbars, and no reinforcing hooks, not to mention the fact that it has 3 major strap points. This is normal because it is not a normal ground tent but rather a suspended tree house style tent.
While these tents are not really that rare of a sight, they are pretty uncommon when it comes to cold weather tents.
It is strong enough to support 3 people while suspended from trees and it can comfortably fit them in as well. It is properly insulated using 30D ripstop nylon, however, it also brings to the table the bonus that you don’t have to worry about the temperature of the ground.
While it is a neat and rather practical idea, it has a little flaw that cannot really be overlooked, it is quite susceptible to difficult weather conditions. Because it is suspended, it can be tossed and turned by the wind without any actual problems, however, a couple of sturdy anchors can fix that right up.
- Sleeping in it is as comfortable as sleeping in a hammock
- Suspended design makes it possible to set it up over anything
- Comfortable space with plenty of room
- At the mercy of the elements when suspended without anchors
- The frame is quite dense and the tent is quite heavy
Related: In order to help complete the suspended camping experience, the designers at Tentsile came up with the Tentsile Trillium Hammock, which is available for purchase and can help you relax even further while on your camping trip.
Price: Approx. $900
Weight: 11.75 lbs
Number of occupants: 3
Specific features: 1500 mm PU coating, water-resistant finish, durable nylon taffeta floor
Best use: Long camping trips in very cold conditions and very harsh environments
Description: It might not stand out as much or it might not look like anything special as far as cold weather tents go, however when it comes to performance and the ability to handle the roughest of conditions, the North Face Summit Series VE 25 Tent rises to the top with the best of them.
This tent is meant for Everest hiking, on temperatures as low as -60°F. It is a three-person expedition tent that is strong, light, and extremely durable. It is made of lightweight nylon fly and canopy, with the floor made of fully taped, cut-in nylon bucket for added structural strength. The doors are dual with poled dual-entry front vestibule and the window is polyurethane (PU), cold-crack tested to -60°F/-51°C.
Regarding breathability, it features high-low venting with multiple new venting options throughout. It has glow-in-the-dark, color-coded zipper pulls, so you can easily see it at night. The tent has eight interior pockets plus stuff pockets to quickly stow tent doors.
The design is a durable one, balancing ease of use with strength and durability. It is able to provide great shelter in the middle of an arctic snow storm while at the same time keeping you well insulated and protected from freezing temperatures.
- Very strong
- Can take on heavy weather conditions
- Can be placed in harsh environments
- Does not adapt well to mild environments and hot climates
Related: In order to help campers that are going into very cold climates, the good people at The North Face also make it possible to purchase The North Face Aleutian 20/-7 Sleeping Bag to properly insulate and protect yourself while sleeping.
There are quite a few things that you will need to keep in mind before picking out the best cold weather tents for your needs. You will need to do your research, make sure that you have accurate weather reports and predictions, and that you know how many people will be in your party as well as the environmental conditions that you will be facing.
So, what do you think about these products? Do you have experience with some of them? Or maybe you think we missed another great product that you’ll like to share with us? Whatever it is, we would love to hear from you in the comment section below!