Winter camping is an incredible way to spend time outside during the colder months of the year. But as alluring as it may be, camping in cold weather requires that you have the right gear on hand for the job.
One of the most critical pieces of winter camping equipment is a good winter tent. However, with so many different models to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.
As an experienced outdoor educator and someone who's spent months of their life sleeping under the stars on frigid winter nights, I know exactly what goes into the best winter camping tent.
Based on my experience in the mountains, the best winter tent for harsh weather is the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2. For backpacking, one of the top tents for winter camping is the MSR Access 2. If you're looking for a 4-season tent for car camping or base camping, something like the Nemo Chogori 2 is also worth checking out.
But if there's one thing I know about winter camping, it's that no one tent will work for every situation. To that end, in this article, I'm going to introduce you to the 5 best winter tents on the market so you can find the perfect shelter for your adventure needs.
The 5 Best Winter Tents for Cold Weather Adventures
There are dozens of tents for camping in winter conditions out there, but not all of them can handle extreme conditions.
Here's our list of the 5 top winter tents to consider for your next cold weather trip into the mountains.
Mountain Hardwear Trango 2
- One of the most popular winter tents ever created
- Dome shape design and DAC poles provide protection in extreme winds
- Very durable fabrics with 10,000 mm waterproofing and full seam taping
- Huge vestibule area provides ample space for getting dressed in strong winds or storing gear
- Breathable fabrics and large mesh panels provide air circulation in cold environments
- One of the more expensive tents for winter camping
- Heavy for a 2 person tent
A time-tested four-season tent that's a favorite of winter campers everywhere, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is the top shelter in our review.
We like the Trango 2 as a cold-weather tent for use in windy conditions and in areas with heavy snow loads because of its dome-shaped design. This shelter has been through many upgrades since it was first released in 1995 and it remains one of the top shelters for extreme weather conditions to this day.
What sets the Trango 2 apart is its burly DAC Featherlite NSL aluminum poles, which are both lightweight and super-durable. It's also very easy to set up due to its color-coded system, which is imperative if you need to pitch your shelter in periods of inclement weather.
The tent itself is made with a rugged 70D nylon taffeta fabric that's waterproof and rated to 10,000 mm. It features a double-wall design, a bathtub-style floor, and full seam taping to keep you dry in heavy snowfall. At the same time, this cold weather tent has a mesh canopy with vents to allow for air circulation and a UVX window for natural lighting.
Other key benefits of the Trango 2 include its huge front vestibule, which is a must for cold weather camping. This vestibule is perfect for storing your outdoor gear and it gives you plenty of space to get dressed in the morning, even in harsh winds.
There are only a few downsides to the Trango 2, namely its premium price point and its heavyweight for a two-person model. With a weight of 9 lb 10.2 oz, the Trango isn't the lightest tent out there. But if you want something that can withstand extreme winds and harsh conditions, that bit of extra weight just might be worth it.
|Minimum Trail Weight||8 lbs. 9.7 oz.|
|Packaged Weight||9 lbs. 10.2 oz.|
|Packed Size||8 x 24 inches|
|Floor Dimensions||92 x 64 inches|
|Floor Area||40 square feet|
|Vestibule Area||12 square feet|
|Peak Height||38 inches|
|Number of Doors||2|
|Number of Poles||5|
|Pole Material||DAC Featherlite aluminum|
|Pole Diameter||9 millimeters|
|Canopy Fabric||40-denier ripstop nylon|
|Floor Fabric||70-denier nylon taffeta, rated 10,000mm waterproof|
|Rainfly Fabric||70-denier nylon taffeta, rated 10,000mm waterproof|
REI Arete ASL 2
- Lightweight and budget-friendly four-season tent
- Spacious interior with lots of gear storage pockets
- Breathable fabrics and mesh panels provide air circulation to prevent condensation
- Made with bluesign-approved materials that are better for the environment
- Can also be used for summertime camping in temperate climates
- Not designed to withstand heavy winds or deep snowpacks
- Relatively small vestibule compared to what you can get elsewhere
Finding a quality tent for winter adventuring on a budget isn't easy. With the REI Arete ASL 2, however, you can get a reliable shelter for use in moderate snow and wind conditions without breaking the bank.
The REI Arete ASL 2 is a four-season tent that's just as comfortable for use during the summer as it is in the winter months. It features a dome-style design that provides it with natural resistance to wind, snow, and rain as well as a spacious interior structure so you can stretch out and relax after a day of hiking.
REI built this model out of durable 40D nylon taffeta fabric that's both waterproof and bluesign-approved so it's better for the environment. It also features a large mesh panel on the door and ceiling to provide you with ample air circulation, even in a snowstorm or bad weather.
The other thing that we like about this tent is that it can adapt to a variety of weather conditions. It's a double-walled tent with a burly rainfly, but the tent body has a plethora of zippable panels that you can open or close for ventilation. It also has an abundance of interior pockets for gear storage, which is vital in a two-person tent.
Additionally, the Arete ASL 2 comes with a large front door for easy entry and exit as well as a decently sized vestibule. This vestibule is helpful for stashing your wet gear in areas with deep snow and for putting on your boots in inclement weather.
Of course, the Arete ASL 2 does have some drawbacks, namely that it's not designed for extreme winds. It also only has one door and its vestibule isn't as big as what you'd find elsewhere. But despite these downsides, we think that the REI Arete ASL 2 is a budget-friendly and impressive tent, especially given its lightweight.
|Minimum Trail Weight||5 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Packaged Weight||6 lbs. 5 oz.|
|Packed Size||6 x 6 x 20 inches|
|Floor Dimensions||88 x 57/60/44 (L x W head/shoulder/foot) inches|
|Floor Area||32.9 square feet|
|Vestibule Area||8.7 square feet|
|Peak Height||43 inches|
|Number of Doors||1|
|Number of Poles||4|
|Floor Fabric||Nylon taffeta|
|Rainfly Fabric||Nylon ripstop|
MSR Access 2
- Spacious interior with a high peak height
- Ultralight design is ideal for winter backpacking around the treeline
- Micromesh canopy fabric is very breathable
- Made with some of the most durable poles on the market
- Versatile enough for year-round use
- Relatively small doors and vestibules
- Doesn't offer the wind resistance you see with a mountaineering tent
If you're on the lookout for a tent that can hold its own on a wintertime backpacking trip on snowshoes or skis, the MSR Access 2 just might be what you need.
The Access 2 is a lightweight and warm shelter that provides everything you need in the mountains. It has a classic half-dome shape that offers incredible space overhead but that can also withstand wind, rain, snow, and sleet while in the great outdoors.
A key benefit of the Access 2 is its incredible array of fabrics and materials. This tent boasts Easton Syclone poles, which are among the most durable options available for bad weather camping. We also appreciate that these poles have a hub design, so they're very easy to put together—even if you're wearing mittens.
Better yet, the MSR Access 2 is crafted out of 30D ripstop nylon fabric that boasts 3,000 mm Xtreme Shield polyurethane and DWR fabric coatings. It's also completely seam-taped to keep you dry in harsh weather conditions. This double-walled tent even has a 10D micromesh breathable fabric canopy to ensure that you have a balance of weight savings and ventilation in your shelter.
As far as gear storage does, this lightweight tent has two modestly sized vestibules that offer some storage space. There are also two large internal pockets in this shelter for stashing essentials like your headlamp.
It's worth noting, however, that, while the MSR Access 2 is one of the most versatile tents on the market, it's primarily designed for use below or around treelines. Its structure offers wind resistance but it won't withstand truly extreme conditions. The doors and vestibules on this type of tent are also fairly small. But for wintertime backpacking, it's hard to beat.
|Minimum Trail Weight||3 lbs. 10 oz.|
|Packaged Weight||4 lbs 1 oz|
|Packed Size||18 x 6 inches|
|Floor Dimensions||84 x 50 inches|
|Floor Area||29 square feet|
|Vestibule Area||17.5 square feet|
|Peak Height||42 inches|
|Number of Doors||1|
|Number of Poles||1|
|Pole Material||Easton Syclone|
|Canopy Fabric||20D Ripstop Nylon|
|Floor Fabric||30D Ripstop Nylon|
|Rainfly Fabric||20D Ripstop Nylon|
Nemo Chogori 2
- Super durable dome-shape design is ideal for extreme weather
- Integrated fly and external pole structure make set up a breeze
- Large interior space and a huge vestibule for gear storage
- Made with some of the best fabrics and pole materials available
- Has a PVC window to let in natural light
- Expensive for a 2 person tent
- Relatively low 3'3" peak height
Basecamping and car camping during the winter months require a tent that's spacious, durable, and functional, even during the coldest nights of the year. That's where the Nemo Chogori 2 really shines.
The Chogori 2 is one of Nemo's most popular winter tents, and for good reason: It features a dome-shaped design that can withstand extreme winds and deep snowpacks. This true 4-season tent also has a unique integrated fly design and an external pole structure that makes setup quick and easy.
This external pole structure and integrated fly design come with another key benefit, namely a lighter weight. By attaching the fly and body of this shelter, Nemo made the Chogori 2 as light and packable as a tent with a single-wall design without compromising breathability or waterproofing.
Plus, the Chogori 2 has a massive interior with 36.3 square feet of floor area to provide ample space for you to stretch out at night. It also has a huge vestibule that offers more than enough room for gear storage in harsh conditions but that can also be propped open for added air circulation in mild weather.
The other benefit of the Nemo Chogori 2 is that it's made with rugged materials like Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL poles and a 70D PeU Nylon fabric that's treated with silicone for waterproofing. It also has solid PVC windows that let in natural light without compromising the tent's weather resistance.
But the Chogori 2 is among the most expensive tents in our review and it has a relatively low peak height of 3'3". For car camping and basecamping in the winter months, though the Nemo Chogori 2 is hard to top.
|Minimum Trail Weight||6 lbs. 12 oz.|
|Packaged Weight||7 lbs 7 oz|
|Packed Size||8.7 x 18.1 inches|
|Floor Dimensions||89 x 65 inches|
|Floor Area||40.1 square feet|
|Vestibule Area||11.7 square feet + 4.2 square feet|
|Peak Height||39 inches|
|Number of Doors||2|
|Number of Poles||5|
|Canopy Fabric||20D Nylon Ripstop|
|Floor Fabric||70D PeU Nylon|
|Rainfly Fabric||30D Nylon Ripstop|
Black Diamond Mega Snow 4
- Very lightweight winter tent for 4 people
- Comes with ultralight DAC tent stakes and a carbon fiber pole
- Option to convert your trekking poles into the center pole to cut weight
- Great airflow and spacious interior
- Can also be used during the summer months
- Doesn't include a tent body (should be pitched directly on the snow)
- A bit of a learning curve to figure out how to set it up properly
One of the biggest complaints we hear about winter camping tents is that they're heavy and bulky. With the Black Diamond Mega Snow 4, however, a lightweight shelter for backcountry outings in the wintertime can be your reality.
Tipping the scales with a packed weight of just 3 lbs 10 oz, Black Diamond's Mega Snow is one of the lightest 4-person shelters available. It's a single-wall tent that boasts 30D polyester fabric and fully-taped seams to keep you dry in everything from powdery snowstorms to heavy rain.
However, if you're expecting the Mega Snow 4 to be just like every other tent on the market, you'll be a bit disappointed. This ultralight tent doesn't have an internal body as it's designed to be pitched directly onto the snow. As a result, it's best for campers in areas with deep snowpacks where weight savings and breathability are key.
While the Mega Snow 4 certainly isn't for everyone, it has a lot to love for the ultralight winter campers among us. It comes with DAC tent stakes and a lightweight carbon fiber center pole for a faster setup in the mountains. Or, you can use the included Pole Link Converter kit with your trekking poles instead of the center pole for even more weight savings.
Additionally, the Mega Snow 4 boasts a snow skirt around its perimeter to prevent powder from drifting into your sleeping area. It also has a vent for air circulation and it's compatible with Black Diamond's Mega Bug mesh shelter for summertime use.
As we've mentioned, the Mega Snow 4 isn't your classic winter camping tent, so it may not work if you're looking for a more standard shelter design. However, if you want a light shelter that's spacious enough for a group of campers, this tent is a solid choice.
|Minimum Trail Weight||3 lbs. 1 oz.|
|Packaged Weight||3 lbs 10 oz|
|Packed Size||6 x 15 inches|
|Floor Dimensions||106 x 106 x 106 x 65 inches|
|Floor Area||78 square feet|
|Number of Doors||1|
|Number of Poles||1|
|Canopy Fabric||30-denier ripstop polyester|
What's The Difference Between a 3-Season and 4-Season Tent?
Before we get into our discussion of what you need to look for as you choose a winter tent, it's important that we first highlight the differences between 3-season and 4-season tents so that you understand the value of a proper winter camping shelter.
There are a few differences between 3-season tents and a true 4-season tent, namely:
- Shape & Design – One of the key features of a 4-season tent is a shape that can withstand high winds and heavy snowfall. A true 4-season tent often has a dome shape as these designs can withstand very high winds. Some lightweight winter tent models may have pyramid or half dome constructions instead.
- Durability & Materials – The winter months can bring with them harsh weather, so most 4-season tent models are crafted with durable materials. This means that they're built with a higher fabric thickness than what you see with a 3-season tent. Most 4-season tents also have aluminum tent poles (rather than fiberglass poles) for improved durability.
- Breathability & Warmth – A winter shelter needs to be able to keep you warm at night while also staying breathable. As a result, many 4-season tent models boast thick fabrics with lots of integrated vents for airflow.
Of course, there are more differences between 3 and 4-season shelters. But, you'll generally find that a 4-season tent can provide more durability, weather protection, and warmth in the long-term than a comparable 3-season model.
How to Choose the Best Tent for Winter Camping
Now that you know why it's important to invest in a 4-season shelter for winter camping, we can discuss some of the key features you need to look for as you shop. So here are some of the most important things to keep in mind while researching your next winter camping shelter.
Single-Wall vs Double-Wall
One of the first things you need to decide on when buying a winter shelter is whether you want a single-wall or double-wall tent.
Double-wall designs are arguably the most common. They feature separate rainflies and bodies, which provides you with more breathability and weatherproofing at the expense of weight savings. Most of the shelters in our review have a double-wall design.
Single-wall tents, on the other hand, have only one layer of fabric between you and the elements. The Nemo Chogori 2 is the closest shelter in our review to a single-wall tent. The benefit of this kind of shelter is that it offers weight savings in the mountains, though that often comes at the expense of weatherproofing and breathability.
Ultimately, there's no right or wrong answer to the single-wall vs double-wall debate. But it's important that you take the time to decide which of these constructions is best for your camping needs.
Tent Design & Materials
The vast majority of winter camping tents feature a dome or half-dome design. That's because these constructions provide ample strength in extreme weather conditions.
However, the overall design of a tent is just one part of its durability. The materials that a tent is made from are also critical to the longevity of your shelter in high winds.
In particular, you'll want to look for tents that are made with thick fabrics (at least 30D for the rainfly and floor, if not thicker) and with rugged aluminum poles. You'll also want to keep your eye out for tents that boast silicone or PU waterproof coatings and fully taped seams as these will help you stay warm and dry in inclement conditions.
Gear Storage Options
Winter camping is a gear-intensive pursuit, so any tent that you buy needs to have plenty of storage options for your equipment.
The best way to store your wet gear during the winter is in a large tent vestibule. Thankfully, most winter tents come with vestibules, some of which are even big enough to get changed in. These huge vestibules can also greatly increase the interior space of your tent, which can add to your comfort levels in the mountains.
Ease of Set-Up
A tent's ease of set-up is important to consider, especially in the winter months. That's because pitching a tent in cold, wet conditions can be challenging, so you want a shelter that you can set up as quickly as possible.
To that end, it's worth looking for a tent with hubbed poles or a color-coded system so that you can quickly get your shelter pitched in foul weather. Tents that are easy to set up with thick gloves on are even more valuable when you're in the alpine.
Weight & Packed Size
Last but not least, you always need to think about the weight and packed size of your shelter. Most winter camping tents are heavier than their 3-season counterparts due to their burlier materials and large vestibules.
But as a general rule, you want to look for a winter shelter that weighs about 2 to 3 lbs per person (i.e., a 2-person tent would weigh 4 to 6 lbs) for backcountry trips. This weight range is manageable for most campers, so it's a good target to strive for as you shop for a new tent.
The Verdict: What is the Best Winter Tent?
There are so many tents for winter camping on the market today. But which model is best for your needs?
Every winter camper will have slightly different needs and expectations from their cold-weather camping tent. But after reviewing the top tents for extreme weather conditions, here's what we'd recommend:
- Best Overall Winter Tent – Mountain Hardwear Trango 2
- Best Budget Winter Tent – REI Arete ASL 2
- Best Winter Tent for Backpacking – MSR Access 2
- Best Winter Tent for Car Camping & Basecamping – Nemo Chogori 2
- Best Lightweight Winter Tent – Black Diamond Mega Snow 4
There you have it, folks, everything you could possibly need to know to shop for your next four-season tent plus expert reviews of the 5 best winter camping shelters on the market today.
We hope that the info we provided here helps you feel more confident as you shop for your next wintertime shelter so that you can get out and adventure with minimal hassle. Happy camping!