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How to Choose the Best Four Season Tents?

Four season tents are for the most extreme conditions in the mountains, where you expect to meet winter conditions all year round with snow and high winds. 4 season tents are for the mountaineers, the skiers, snowboarders, and the winter adventurers. What features do you need in the best four-season tent?

In summary, you need your four-season tent to be:

· Freestanding.

· Weatherproof.

· Stable in high winds and storms.

· Durable.

· Warm and comfortable.

· Affordable

The precise four-season tent that suits your needs depends primarily on your camping destination and conditions. Four-season (or all-weather) tents are more robust than three-season tents and use more substantial, more durable materials in the fabric and poles. More poles and a rain fly that reaches close to the ground, and a curved shape helps keep the four-season tent in place despite windy conditions.

4 season tent

Purpose
Not all four-season tents are the same because different adventures need a different priority. You can categorize four-season tents into these types:

· Treeline or light winter conditions – these four-season tents do not need to be as heavy-duty as a tent going to high altitude. You still want robust construction, weatherproofing, and a durable bathtub floor to keep out the wet snow and mud, but comfort and space are likely to be prioritized.

· Bivy or mountaineering tent – simple construction with two or three crossover poles, single wall, small footprint, and ideal for a quick, short trip where you are pushing fast to reach the summit. You choose the bivy tent when less weight is the priority, and you don't mind sacrificing a bit of comfort and space in the interior.

· Base camp or expedition tent – these are for the most extreme alpine environments and where you want more interior space and comfort. Weight is less of an issue, and these tents are typically double-walled and have plenty of poles for strength and stability. These are the four-season tents you want for Alaska, high altitude mountains, and Antarctica.

 

Construction
The four-season tent construction covers pole configuration, shape, and material quality as part of the selection process.

Double Wall vs. Single Wall.
The primary reason for choosing a single-wall tent is weight and compressibility. Most bivy tents are single-walled to save weight. The single-walled four-season tent provides you with a durable rain fly with either interior or exterior pole structures. These tents have a smaller footprint and are easier to pitch in confined spaces which may be an advantage if you are climbing and have limited camping options.

Tent Condensation

The disadvantage of the single-walled tent is ventilation and condensation. Warm breath condensing and freezing on a single wall can then drip or fall, making you and your gear wet by morning. The interior tends to be adequate but cramped and if stormy weather traps you inside for several hours, you will quickly feel claustrophobic.

The double-walled tent is preferred for comfort because you gain space along with the additional weight. The double-walled tent gives you a breathable nylon interior with some water resistance and a durable weatherproof rain fly to cover the structure. Condensation is less of an issue because your warm moist breath passes through the inner layer and condenses on the outer. The interior wall helps keep you and your gear dry.

Double-walled tents tend to be longer-lived because you have the option of replacing the rain fly when it becomes damaged through exposure to the higher levels of UV light you get at altitude and reflected off glaciers and packed snow. UV light is detrimental to PU coatings because it breaks them down and results in delamination with a loss of weatherproofing.

 

Exterior vs. Interior Pole Structures
Exterior poles are quick and straightforward to erect, and you hook your tent directly to the structure. Exterior poles are more substantial than interior poles, but you can have problems pitching in a high wind.

Interior poles are as strong as the fabric and can fit in sleeves or with clips. The main issue with interior poles is that they are more complicated to put together, and there is a risk of tearing the fabric. Plus, you erect the tent with the door open, and you can guarantee that some of the outside snow will make its way inside while you are putting up the tent.

 

Tent Poles Structures and Materials
More poles give greater stability and robustness. The typical pole configurations for four-season tents are:

· Two poles crossing over in the center, as shown in the 3F UL Taiji 2 Tent.

· Two poles crossing over with a third pole, providing additional structural support, as shown in the Naturehike Spider 1.

· Offset hoops as shown by Naturehike Ice House 2

Poles are typically lightweight, strong aluminum, composite, or the new flexible carbon fiber poles. The pole arrangement creates the useable inside living space, and additional poles may support a vestibule.

Most four-season tents use a dome or tunnel shape with a low peak height to present minimal wind resistance and a profile that sheds snow.

 

Tent Fabric
High-technology fabrics with coatings make ultralight four-season tents feasible, where in the past, tent fabric was a heavy canvas for winter conditions.

The difference between a four-season and a three-season tent is in the rain fly's thickness – you expect a heavier denier fabric with a higher hydrostatic pressure rating. When looking at your four-season tent specifications, you can check the coating's quality and the fabric's waterproofing. The outer rain fly is usually waterproof, and the inner layer is water-resistant but breathable.

 

Guy Ropes and Stakes
Every tent, four-season or otherwise, has a secret desire to fly – so it is essential to securely stake your tent in place with stakes and guy ropes as appropriate. Most four-season tests come with a pack of guy ropes and stakes. It is worth considering investing in a set of stakes for snow or winter camping as there are many stake designs suited for different terrains.

Fluorescent or glow in the dark guy ropes are useful for visibility in the dark and against a white snow background.

Vestibule Space and Snow Skirts

Vestibule Space with a Snow Flap
The vestibule gives you a space to store your pack and wet outdoor boots and clothing out of the weather, but not inside your sleeping area. A snow flap helps keep the snow out of the vestibule. A vestibule either as an integral part of your four-season tent or an add-on is essential to keep snow and rain out of the tent interior.

 

Snow Skirts
Ideally, the rain fly comes down to the ground with no gap, so snow can't blow underneath. In practice, the rain fly never wholly touches the ground, and snow skirts are an added layer that keeps snow out off the bottom section of your tent. Some of the best four-season tents come with custom snow skirts as part of the bundle.

 

Separate Groundsheet vs. Integral
You might think that a sealed waterproof groundsheet as part of the tent construction is the best option for camping in the snow. It is useful in providing a barrier to water and debris. Many winter campers prefer a separate groundsheet or footprint because you can dig out more interior space beneath the tent – part snow house and part tent if you are camping in the snow. Your tent becomes the roof of your snow house, and the packed snow provides walls. This action is only possible in deep snow, but if you are a regular skier or snowboarder, this option is appealing to create a spacious interior with your tent.

 

Doors
The number of doors in a four-season tent impacts your comfort levels – two doors mean two people can use a vestibule to remove their wet outer gear before entering the dry tent interior. One entry means you need to queue up to enter the tent – not ideal when you are cold and shivering in a blizzard. A tent with one door means you climb over your sleeping tent mates to exit the tent. But one door does make for a lighter tent.

Most single-walled, bivy-style tents have one door, and most double-walled four season-tents for two or more have two doors.

Tent Clips, Fastenings, and Zips

Clips, Fastenings, and Zips
The difference between erecting and using a four-season tent and a three-season tent is the environment. A four-season tent is for severe weather conditions, and you are probably going to want to erect it and use it in cold, snowy weather.

Ideally, you can keep your gloves on while putting up your tent and getting in and out of it. Taking your gloves off in sub-zero conditions to handle a metal zip is not ideal. Fabric or rope zip pulls mean you can keep your gloves on while you unzip the door and only remove them when the shelter of the vestibule protects you.

The clips, fastenings and straps need to be robust and strong, and easy to use in cold conditions.

 

Storage
Storage pockets add weight, but they make it easier to stash your vital gear where you can find it in a hurry. Your four-season tent may come with storage pockets and gear clips, but these can be bought as accessories to make your winter camping experience more comfortable.

 

Ventilation
Four-season tents have fewer or no mesh panels than three-season tents because these tents keep out the weather – but you still need ventilation. Ventilation vents at the top of the tent allow warm moist air to exit the tent and are less likely to let snow in if they have snow flaps or other protection. Ventilation panels near the tent's bottom need attention while camping to keep them free from drifting snow.

Even in winter, you may have warm days when you want more airflow through the tent while you are camping. Doors that can roll up with an inner mesh panel are useful for additional ventilation and airing when the weather permits it.

Top Tips for Winter Camping

In the summer months, you may not need a tent to provide shelter from the weather, and many wild campers like to sleep in the open air. In the winter, your tent provides a necessary shelter and can save your life when caught in a snowstorm by providing you with a warm air pocket and a protected place to ride out the storm.

A four-season or winter tent gives you a warm place to sleep overnight. The tent traps your body heat, and this makes an immense difference to your comfort levels both day and night, but there are some tips to make your winter camping experience more enjoyable:

 

1. Insulate the Floor
If you want to stay warm, pay attention to the layers underneath your sleeping bag instead of on top. You lose most of your heat through the cold floor, so putting some extra layers between you and the ground keeps you warm. If weight is an issue, consider a space blanket to help reflect your body heat to you.

 

2. Wear a Hat to Bed
It's tempting to tuck yourself inside your sleeping bag like a fox curled up in a den, but that will cause condensation inside your sleeping bag from your breath. It's better to keep your head out of your sleeping bag and wear a hat to stop heat loss from the top of your head.

Everyone's extremities get colder than their core body, but it is a bigger problem for female campers so take precautions to be warm from the top of your head to the tip of your toes – use hats, gloves, and socks as necessary.

 

3. Keep Your Sleeping Bag Fluffy
A quality mountain sleeping bag depends on the 'loft' of the insulation and air. Every morning and before you get into your sleeping bag, give it a good shake to distribute the insulation evenly. Don't be tempted to sleep in all your clothes – you need them to provide layers when you get up in the morning. If you sleep in all your clothing, when you get out of your sleeping bag, you will be cold because you've gone down a layer. Trust your sleeping bag to keep you warm overnight and when you get out of it, layer up for daytime warmth.

 

4. Lithium Batteries are Better
In cold conditions, Lithium batteries are more efficient than other types. You will need batteries for your torch, headlamp, and other equipment, so choose lithium batteries for efficiency and reliability.

 

5. Check Your Site
Whenever you are pitching a tent, you need to pay attention to the surroundings, but in winter camping, look for:

· Protection from wind – are there natural features that offer some shelter?

· Safety – avoid pitching where you may suffer from falling branches or a large snowslide.

· Features – are there any landmarks to help you identify your tent quickly when you return to base.

· Wind direction – try to angle your tent so it provides the least amount of wind resistance.

Before you start pitching your tent, pack down the snow. This step means you can pitch onto a relatively firm surface, and you don't risk the snow melting underneath you overnight.

If the snow is so deep that you can't drive your steaks into the ground, remember to use snow anchors – heavy weights to keep your tent pegs in position. You can make them by filling bags with snow and using those as weights if there are no branches or rocks available.

 

6. Choose the Right Size Tent
When you are camping in summer, you want plenty of space – more adventurous winter camping means you want enough room to be comfortable but not so much that you get cold. A large tent is harder to keep warm and provides more surface area for the wind and stress on the poles. You want a four-season tent to fit your party and be weatherproof.

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