Camping above the snowline in winter can be an incredible (and cold) experience. To ensure your safety and comfort, invest in a purpose-built four-season tent.
Silicone-coated ripstop nylon fabric keeps rain out and handles strong winds and snow-loading. Steep sides prevent snow from resting on the fabric and collapsing the tent. There are large vestibules for gear.
Multiple guyline attachments provide extra stability – essential for the exposed locations and extreme conditions in which these tents are used.
A heavy-duty floor with a waterhead rating of up to 15,000mm will prevent water seeping through the floor. Lighter floors (rated to less than 10,000mm) can be paired with a groundsheet to make them less prone to damage or seepage.
Warmth trumps breathability with a winter tent, so expect the inner to be made from ripstop nylon rather than mesh.
Airflow will be aided by mesh panels with a separate nylon backing near the ceiling or on the doors. Snow-proof vents allow condensation-reducing airflow. Most vestibule doors can open from the top – useful if snow has accumulated around the base of the tent.
The more poles the tent has, the stronger the shelter. Tunnel tents will have one crossover pole at the centre and usually at least two other poles providing structure. Dome tents with up to five poles offer increased strength against wind and snow loadings.
Pockets and suspended gear lockers help keep the tent organised and tidy and provide easy access to essential items like headlamps.
Choose a tent for the size of your party: four-season tents are heavy due to their more robust fabrics and any unoccupied space still needs to be warmed.
The weights shown here are for the total weight of the tent, which includes poles, pegs, guylines and the various carry bags. Many manufacturers also state the tent’s trail weight, which refers to the bare essentials required to use the tent: the tent body, the fly and the poles.
The tent’s floor area and vestibule space indicate how much room there is inside, but just as important is the ceiling height. Clever pole geometry can create vertical walls and more headroom for a more livable interior.
Waterhead (hydrostatic pressure) rating
A fabric’s waterhead rating measures its ability to resist water seepage and correlates with the durability of the fabric. The higher the rating, the more water it can resist and the more durable the fabric will be. Winter tent flys are usually measured between 1200mm and 5000mm. Floors are between 3000mm and 15,000mm.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a tent.
MSR Remote 2 $1599
Two-person expedition tent designed to withstand extreme conditions. Two large doors, hooped vestibule, added width and length to accommodate climbers in bulky winter gear. Fly 68D ripstop polyester, 1500mm Inner 40D ripstop nylon, 15D micromesh Floor 40D ripstop nylon, 10,000mm Poles 3 Ceiling height 112cm Area 3.1m², vestibule 2.04m² Weight 3160g. e.ampro.co.nz
Macpac Aspiring $1449.99
Three-person alpine tent with geodesic design for stability. Dual entry and vestibules, storm/snow flaps, internal mesh and double-door system for airflow, air vent system, seam-sealed, tub floor. Fly 30D nylon ripstop, 3500mm Inner 40D nylon ripstop Floor Torrentwear XP, 10,000mm Poles 5 Ceiling height 110cm Area 3.85m², vestibule 1.5m² Weight 4700g. www.macpac.co.nz
Hilleberg Soulo $1421
One-person multi-pitch winter tent with multiple pole crossing points for strength, fly extends to ground, mesh areas backed with fabric panels, snow-proof roof vent, simultaneous pitching of fly and inner. Fly 30D ripstop nylon, 5000mm Inner 30D ripstop nylon, mesh Floor 70D nylon, 15,000mm Poles 4 Ceiling height 95cm Area 2m², vestibule 0.6m² Weight 2400g. www.motomox.co.nz
MSR Access 2 $1299
Two-person tent designed to resist high winds and heavy snow loads. Central support frame optimises interior space, easy-pitch unified pole configuration, two doors and vestibules. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 20D ripstop nylon, 10D micromesh Floor 30D ripstop nylon, 3000mm Poles 2 Ceiling height 107cm Area 2.69m², vestibules 1.62m² Weight 1980g. e.ampro.co.nz
The North Face VE25 $1100
Three-person mountain tent, seam-taped bucket floor, dual doors and vestibules, high-strength reflective guylines, PU port window, high-low venting, eight interior pockets, hanger loops, four snow stakes included, multi-pitch. Fly 40D nylon, 1500mm Inner 40D nylon ripstop, 20D mesh Floor 70D nylon, 10,000mm Poles 4 Ceiling height 122cm Area 4.5m², vestibules 1m², 0.5m² Weight 4680g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Macpac Olympus $1099.99
Two-person tunnel tent offering stability in high winds. Dual entry, sheltered large vestibule, multiple guy attachment points, internal double door for insulation and airflow, four-vent airflow system, tub floor. Fly 30D nylon ripstop, 3000mm Inner 40D nylon ripstop Floor Torrentwear XP, 10,000mm Poles 3 Ceiling height 115cm Area 2.97m², vestibule 1.5m² Weight 3100g. www.macpac.co.nz
MSR Front Range Tarp $649.99
Four-person alpine shelter allows parties to move quickly on alpine missions and ski traverses. Xtreme Shield waterproof coating. Pitched quickly with ski or trekking poles. Optional bug and floor insert available. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Area 7.52m² Weight 910g. e.ampro.co.nz