Choosing a 4 Season Tent

By Alex Guerrero

Getting into a cosy tent on a snowy evening and waking up to crystal clear skies is one of life’s simple pleasures. Some of our co-founder Nick’s best nights have been in electrical storms in Wyoming or heavy dumps of snow in the Swiss Alps. Mountain camping in winter is all about trusting the tent you're in. This is the AlpGuide to 4 season mountain tents.

Making Your Mountain Tent Decision

  1. What is a 4-season tent?
  2. Do I need a 4-season tent for winter?
  3. How much warmer is a 4-season tent?
  4. What's the difference between 3- and 4-season tents?
  5. What tent structure do I need?
  6. Final factors to consider

What is a 4-season tent?

4 season tents- or mountain tents - are designed for year-round conditions. You'd be expecting dumps of snow or gale-force winds. We've got three 4-season tents: the Kangri, Zhota and Heksa.

Kangri

Kangri 4 season tent
Kangri 4 season tent

What is it?: An extremely strong 2-person, 4-season tent. It's light enough to carry. And strong enough to cope.

Zhota

Zhota 4 season tent
Zhota 4 season tent

What is it?: Versatile, protective, 4-season, 4-person tent. Every feature on the tent has been designed to make your life in the mountains more pleasurable.

Heksa

heksa 4 season tent

What is it?: A 6-person, 4-season, expedition dome tent. It's a spacious, comfortable fortress for extreme conditions.

Do I need a 4-season tent for winter?

Probably! 4-season tents are stronger, warmer, more durable and designed for more extreme weather conditions. They're built for winter. That means they might not be ideal for use all year round. A bit too roasty-toasty if you ask us!

The structures are made to handle rain and snow. They're typically more spacious to make room for your winter kit. And winter 4-season tents are also often made in brighter colours to stand out in inclement weather.

How much warmer is a 4-season tent?

Safety is the main priority of a 4-season tent. To keep you a warm, happy camper in even the harshest of conditions, 4-season tents reduce their use of mesh to maintain the internal temperature. Our 4 season tents don't have large mesh panels on the inner, which helps retain heat. Although, they do have two panel doors so you can still allow airflow through the mesh doors, or seal them up with the nylon door.

 

An red tent in the snowy mountains


What's the difference between 3- and 4-season tents?

4-season tents offer greater protection for the wintriest weather. There are four basic elements to consider when choosing a 4-season tent: poles, flysheet, pegs and groundsheet.

Poles

Poles are a significant proportion of the cost of the tent. They’re one of the easiest ways to save money. But poles are one of the simplest elements to make a tent stronger and more durable.

Material: In most tents, the poles are made from metal or carbon fibre. The most common pole material is metal and, although they all look similar, not all metal tent poles are the same. Their performance can vary enormously due to the construction and material composition used. Carbon fibre is super lightweight and strong but it's expensive. That’s why it’s only used on the lightest tents.

Construction:

The best construction is seamless extrusion, which is where molten metal is squirted out of a mould like icing out of a piping bag. These poles are hollow to make them lighter. Often, cheaper poles are made by rolling a tube and then welding the join. Welded poles are cheaper but weaker. Despite appearing identical, welded poles are not suitable for long term, all-season use.

Flysheet

Now that you have something to hang it off, the flysheet is the primary barrier to the weather. Tent materials can make a huge difference in weight, end-use and weather protection.

 

Do I need a waterproof tent?

The material doesn’t have to have a high waterproof rating to keep you dry. Pitching a tent with taut, low stretch materials allows surface run off and prevents morning grogginess becoming morning sogginess.

The degree of weather protection is mostly related to the amount of coating. The thicker the coating, the more waterproof and durable the material.

Pegs

If you want to hold a tent down in high winds, you need the biggest, baddest tent pegs you can find. The problem is you may not want to carry 10ft iron spikes along with a mallet! Peg choice can depend on the ground and the conditions. But most pegs you take camping are a compromise between strength, weight, and holding power. We sell strong, lightweight titanium pegs.

Groundsheet

When you’re camping in all seasons, the durability and waterproof protection of the groundsheet is key. That’s because you can lose up to 30% of your body heat through the ground. We recommend a hydrostatic head rating of over 10,000mm. For materials, nylon is high strength, low weight and durable.

Are 4-season tents waterproof?

 

Choosing a Style: Geodesic vs Tunnel Tents

A Heksa Geodesic tent in the snow

Inner pitch or outer pitch first is an age-old debate. We’re firm believers in inner pitch first tents. They’re lighter, stronger and easier to pitch. Everything you need for all season camping.

Why Choose A Geodesic Tent

Most 4-season tents on the market are geodesic. The geodesic dome is characterised by a number of interlinking crossover poles which makes for an inherently stable structure. They are also less reliant on their pegs for the stability. Perfect for breezy outdoor sleepovers.

The inner may get slightly damp when it’s put up first, but this is a small part of your camping adventure. The inner provides privacy, bug protection, warmth and a place to hang your light and stow your phone. Geodesic tents need to have a closely woven inner that allows a little airflow through the fabric to reduce condensation, but that also provides some draft proofing.

Why Choose a Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents have two poles rather than four. They also use less fabric and fewer pegs, meaning you can save on weight and pack size. They can be beneficial when it’s chucking it down and it’s blowing a hooly, as you and the inner won’t get wet when pitching the tent.

Final Factors to Consider

The inside of a heksa tent

Here's a few final things we think everyone should consider before making their final tent decision.

Size

The number of people you will need to fit in a tent determines this. You may want to have a 3-person tent for a 2-person adventure if you’ve got lots of kit you want to snuggle up with.

Strength and Safety

A tent's strength comes from the sum of the parts and not one above the other. Our range of tents combine the very best of materials to make them strong enough to support a good dumping of snow, yet still able to withstand a blast from an unsheltered windstorm. And for colour choice, green tents are more discreet and red tents are easily spotted on a mountainside.

Home Comforts

Camping in winter can involve a lot of kit. More space makes it easier to get changed and have fun when tent-bound and makes more storage. Having two doors is handy for ease of entry when you’ve got a tent-mate. Depending on your adventure, you may need to prioritise low pack weight or, alternatively, comfort and liveable space.

Happy Camping!

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