When you’re looking for a winter tent you need to consider what the conditions will be like. If you expect heavy snow, you might want to consider a winter tent that’s strong in structure like a 4-season tent. If there’s unlikely going to be snowfall or , a 3-season tent could save you some weight so you won’t have to unnecessarily lug around a heavy backpack.
If it’s just cold (without snow or just a little), a three-season tent is good enough and can save you a lot of weight. Tarps and other ultralight tents may also be sufficient in winter conditions. Some hikers prefer to use bivy sacks. If you expect a lot of snow, your winter tent needs to be tougher or you risk having it destroyed by the weight of snow. High winds can also wreck havoc on your tent.
4-season tents have more poles than 3-season tents and are configured in such a way that makes it strong enough to handle rough weather. There are at least 3 poles in a strong winter tent, often more. This is the main reason why they tend to be heavier than 3-season tents. Lightweight 4-season winter tents usually have high strength aluminum poles instead of fiberglass which tend to shatter easily.
There should be guy-out loops for staking to increase its chances of holding out in the worst of weather. Freestanding pop-up tents have no place in harsh winter conditions.The stakes should be suitable for use in whatever the terrain is. However, even snow stakes like y-stakes and tubular stakes may not be good enough in snow.
Aluminum stakes do a good job in gripping ice and snow but taking them out the next morning can be a nightmare. Plastic stakes don’t grip the snow well enough and are not strong enough for frozen snow. If you’re going to use stakes, titanium alloy ones may be a good choice because it doesn’t grip the snow and ice too much and is stronger than aluminum. Anchoring guy ropes without stakes is possible if you know how.
At the same time, a tough winter tent must also be able to shed snow so that it doesn’t only rely on its strength. These tents are usually in the form of a dome or modified dome tent and have steep walls that shed snow effectively. Tall, vertical walls may also cause problems in windy weather because they’re not aerodynamic enough to shed wind. It helps if you choose a site that is well protected. Keep reading Camping and hiking checklist: Choose which one you need
A winter tent needs to be able to keep you dry especially in a fierce blizzard. Keeping you dry is the main function of a tent which is critical in winter. Getting wet in winter may prove fatal.
Manufacturer claims aside, you can’t really tell for sure if a tent is weatherproof unless it is tested by a third party reviewer. Even though a tent that is labeled as weatherproof may be reasonably assured not to leak, they sometimes do. This is proved by Backpacker Magazine when they subjected some supposedly weatherproof tents to a high pressure water spray. See the video here.
However, a tent is likely to keep you dry from the outside elements if it has sealed-seams, bathtub floors, waterproof fabrics, zipper flaps.
In summer, ventilation is important for keeping cool but in winter it is essential if you want to stay dry. Poor ventilation may result in condensation inside the tent. Vapor from your breath and wet clothes that doesn’t exit the tent will condense on the tent walls and possibly drip on you.
Single wall tents are non-breathable so ventilation may be a problem. Entrances should be protected from the rain so that you can ventilate through them without getting wet.
Vents positioned at the top of a tent allow moist, warm air to escape. Your best bet is to find a tent with hooded vents that can be opened in any weather. Double wall tents have mesh openings, which aid tremendously in ventilation. Vestibules are also great for ventilation and they can also be used for storing wet boots and gear.
The fly of a blizzard worthy winter tent should have a fly that extends close to the ground so that any condensation formed will not drip on the sleeping area.
You may also like to read: 7 Tips For Traveling To Cold Weather