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10 Best Lightweight 3-4 Season Tents

10 Best Lightweight 3-4 Season Tents
Winter tents and shelters for mountaineering, winter backpacking, and backcountry skiing tours need to be stronger for camping in exposed windy terrain that is subject to snow loads. Our preference is for lightweight tents and tarp shelters because no one wants to lug a heavy tent all day when climbing a peak, snowshoeing, or backcountry skiing if it’s avoidable. What follows are our recommendations for winter tents and shelters that can handle moderate (3-4 season) snow loads and wind while being lightweight enough to carry comfortably in a backpack.

Make / ModelStructuralMin Weight
Hyperlite Mtn Gear UltaMid 2Trekking Pole1 lb 3.1 oz
MLD SuperMid Trekking Pole1 lbs 10 oz
Tarptent Scarp 1Freestanding3 lbs 0.5 oz
KUIU Mountain Star 2Freestanding3 lbs 1 oz
Black Diamond FirstLight 2Freestanding3 lbs 1 oz
Samaya 2.5Freestanding3 lb 7.4 oz
MSR Access 2Freestanding3 lbs 10 oz
NEMO Kunai 2Freestanding3 lbs 14 oz
SlingFin CrossBow 2Freestanding4 lbs 6.2 oz
Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition HV 2Freestanding4 lbs 10 oz

1. Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2

Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) UltaMid 2 is an ultralight floorless single-wall pyramid made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics that has dual peak vents to help mitigate internal condensation. Weighing just 1 lb 3.1 oz, it requires two ski/trekking poles (lashed together) to set up and has a rectangular footprint that is 83″ wide x 107″ long with a peak height of 64″. If your goal is to minimize your gear weight for winter backpacking, mountaineering, or backcountry touring, you can dig out a sleeping area under the UltaMid and arrange your sleep system (sleeping bag/quilt and pad) on top of a simple plastic sheet.

View at HMG

2. Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid

MLD SuperMid
The Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) SuperMid is a single wall, floorless pyramid tarp with a square 9’2″ x 9’2″ footprint with a peak height of 69″. Pyramid tarps are bombproof in wind as long as they’re securely anchored with deadmen in winter. Weighing 1 lb 12 oz oz, the SuperMid can sleep up to four people or it can be set up as a protected group kitchen. It has one oversized peak vent for ventilation, a center door zip, and 16 guylines including 8 perimeter guylines outfitted with linelocs. It can be pitched with two ski/trekking poles, lashed together.

View at MLD

3. Tarptent Scarp 1

Tarptent Scarp 1

The Tarptent Scarp 1 is a spacious, double-wall tent with two side vestibule doors. While it is designed for one person, it is in fact wide enough to fit two. Weighing 48.55 ounces, the Scarp comes with a single arched tent pole and can be pitched fly first before the inner tent. The inner is available in mesh or solid fabric. Additional cross poles can be attached in windy conditions. The corners are supported with short carbon fiber struts in order to provide occupants with more headroom and interior space. Read our Scarp 1 review. 

View at Tarptent

4. KUIU Mountain Star 2

Kunai Mountain Star 2
The KUIU Mountain Star is a 2-person freestanding double wall tent 3+ season tent with a very strong-sleeved exterior pole design. It has two doors and two vestibules as well as kickstand vents at the ends to reduce any internal condensation. The tent has three poles, which are available in carbon fiber or aluminum. You can also augment the strength of the vestibule cross pole using trekking poles which is useful in high winds or heavy snow loads. With a built-in rainfly and bathtub style floor, the interior stays protected, even during set up and take down although you can also set it up without the inner tent to reduce weight.

View at KUIU

5. Black Diamond FirstLight 2P Tent

Back Diamond Firstlight 2P tent

The Black Diamond FirstLight is a lightweight 2-person single-wall tent. Weighing just 3 lbs 1 oz (seam-sealed), it’s made with NanoShield single-wall fabric and has a 70-denier polyester floor. It has a front door and a small rear window, with zippered mesh panels at both ends to provide ventilation and spindrift protection. Crossed internal poles make setup fast and easy and provide a strong structure capable of withstanding high winds and snow loads. Seam sealing is recommended. A separate front vestibule is also available. Read our FirstLight Review.

View at Black Diamond

6. Samaya 2.5 Blue

Samaya 2.5 Blue
The Samaya 2.5 Blue is a strong, single-wall, dome-shaped tent weighing 3 lbs 7.4 oz that can sleep two people comfortably with plenty of extra room for gear.  The floor is made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics while a breathable 3-layer laminated fabric with an impressive breathability rating of 40,000g/m²/24h is used for the walls. The Samaya has three poles and a single door, although a vestibule is also available. A large top vent with an external Dyneema cover helps manage airflow and condensation, while the tall door allows easy entry with gear and includes a removable mosquito net. It is expensive though. The Samaya 2.5 is also available in a pink color.

View at Backcountry

7. MSR Access 2

MSR Access 2 Tent
The MSR Access 2 is a two-person, double-wall tent that weighs 3 lbs 10 oz. It has two doors and two vestibules that provide excellent livability and gear storage, with a freestanding pole architecture so you can set it up quickly, even on snow. A central support frame and carbon fiber tent poles provide a strong structure for snow loading while remaining lightweight. The solid inner tent is breathable but provides enhanced wind protection to keep you warm on cold winter nights. Read our MSR Access 1 Review.

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8. NEMO Kunai 2

Nemo Kunai 2
The NEMO Kunai 2 is a double-walled four-season tent that weighs 3 lbs 14 oz. It has a solid, breathable inner tent for greater warmth, with large pass-through vents that provide excellent airflow. An aggressive brow pole over the front door provides additional clearance inside the front vestibule, which provides a sheltered entrance and damp gear storage. The Kunai 2 is suitable for year-round use, which is an added bonus.

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9. SlingFin CrossBow 2 Four Season

SlingFin Crossbow

The SlingFin CrossBow 2 Four Season is a lightweight two-person tent designed for use in extreme winter weather. Weighing 4 lbs 6.2 oz, it has a breathable nylon canopy that protects its occupants against spindrift and wind while keeping condensation to a minimum. Poles sleeves, which SlingFin calls a WebTruss help to distribute snow loads across a larger surface area and are much stronger than clip-style tents. The pole structure can be further strengthened with trekking poles or ski poles using SlingFin’s outrigger pole system. Two large vestibules and numerous internal pockets provide best-in-class livability, while door vents provide unrestricted cross-tent airflow for excellent condensation management without sacrificing weather protection. Read our CrossBow 2 Review. 

View at SlingFin

10. Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition HV 2

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV 2 Expedition
The Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition HV 2 is a lightweight freestanding tent for year-round mountaineering. This is a beefed-up, burly addition to the award-winning Copper Spur HV series and includes a sturdier pole system, steep walls for maximum living space, a nylon zip-up option for complete closure, and two doors/two vestibules for easy tent life and optimum gear storage. It has a large closable ceiling window to vent condensation with gear loops inside for internal organization. A three-person version is also available.

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Winter Tent and Shelter Selection Guide

When evaluating winter tents and tarp shelters, it helps to research the climate conditions, particularly snow loads and wind speeds, you expect to use the tent in, as this will inform the degree of tent pole strength and ventilation required.

Tent or Tarp?

Tents are almost always heavier than tarps, but they offer a lot more comfort and protection because they have floors. They can also be much easier to set up if they’re freestanding so you can get out of the weather quickly and change into dry clothes. While tarps are substantially lighter, they can take a while to set up since you have to freeze your guy-out points in place in snow, a process known as sintering. This can take 20-30 minutes, during which time you’ll get much colder. You have to decide which option is better for your needs.

Pole Architecture

Many winter tents have several crossed poles, anchored inside or outside the tent walls. Exterior poles that are anchored in sleeves are much stronger than poles that connect to an inner tent using clips or velcro tabs. They’re much more wind-resistant and capable of withstanding heavier snow loads. For tarps, most require one or two poles to set up, although ones with high ceilings may require that you lash two trekking poles together, usually with a flexible ski strap, to attain the proper height.

Guy Out Points

It’s important to secure your tent or tarp to the snow when you set it up so it doesn’t blow away and so the walls don’t collapse under wind pressure. Winter tents typically come with gear loops instead of guylines for this purpose so you can use gear to anchor your tent, like skis, poles, ice axes, etc. If you use snow stakes, it’s important to freeze these in place by packing snow all around them and letting it harden. If there’s no snow on the ground, you’ll have a very hard time pounding regular tent stakes into the frozen ground. When this happens, you’ll quickly realize the advantage of using a freestanding tent.


It is important to minimize and reduce internal condensation. This is achieved by keeping tent door(s) open when feasible, through peak and side vents, and in some cases through the use of breathable wall fabrics. You can never have too much ventilation in a winter tent or shelter because you’re sleeping on top of water, frozen water. Look for tent doors that have mesh screens backing them, as this lets you keep a door open at night for ventilation but blocks snow from blowing into the tent.

Interior Space

Winter tents designed for high alpine mountaineering are often cramped because weight savings are so critical when you have to climb many thousands of feet to reach your destination. When selecting a winter tent be realistic about your length and width requirements, particularly when choosing a two-person wedge-style tent, as livability can be compromised. Consider purchasing an add-on vestibule if available because they make a good “gear room” for you to store wet or snow-covered gear or to cook and melt snow under (with proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning) if you have to wait out a storm.

Number of Doors

Tents designed to hold two occupants are more comfortable and convenient to use if they have two doors and vestibules because you can come and go without waking your tent partner. Dome-style tents often provide greater covered vestibule storage, which can make a significant difference in livability.

Floorless Shelters

Winter tarps do not have floors in order to save weight. Most people dig into the snow with an avalanche shovel to create “furniture” for sleeping or sitting and to increase the amount of usable space under the tarp. Some people, even cut out the floors in their freestanding tents, including the Black Diamond FirstLight, for the same purpose, because it vastly improves livability.

DCF (Dyneema) Tents and Tarps

While tarp shelters made with DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabrics) are lighter-weight than ones made with silnylon or polyester, snow slides better down the sides of silnylon and polyester shelters because they are slicker, reducing the weight of snow loading on the tent poles/ski poles holding up your tent or tarp. In addition, DCF tarps are much bulkier to pack making them less desirable in winter when backpack space is at such a premium.

Check Out All of SectionHiker's Winter Gear Guides!

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  1. Love your reviews , curious on you opinions of the durston x-mid 2 solid and the sierra design convert 2 both on the lower price range especially when the convert is on sale.

    • In terms of winter, it really is nice to have a freestanding tent so you don’t have to fart around with sinterig stakes or trying to pound them into frozen ground. The convert 2 is a nice tent (I’ve reviewed the 3). Haven’t used the Durston 2 but I suspect its also good, but if you’re going to use a trekking pole tent you mght as well just leave the inner at home and dig a pit under the fly. Check out the BD Betalight 2 tarp. It’s another good winter option.

      • Very good point about the free standing tent, that is why I keep reading your site thank you.

      • Surprised NorthFace and Mountain Hardware are not represented in your list.

        • Most of their products are too heavy.

        • Yeah, how about the Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2? I am strongly considering it as it is on sale for $233 before tax at REI right now, whereas my prior top choice, Slingfin Crossbow, is $720. Outpost 2 comes in just over 5 lbs and has burlier fabric. 10D fly and 20D floor on the Slingfin seems perilously thin for an alpine tent..

          And Phil I hear you on farting around with a trekking pole tent on snow, it suuuuucks. I used a Durston XMid 2 on my Rainier summit last year and the fussiness was insane. Digging a giant platform and spending hours fiddling (and it still wasn’t a taut pitch) counteracted the weight savings for me.

        • I think you have that price wrong. I still like the BD Firstlight the best if you can find one. You can lighten it up even further by cutting the floor out. :-)

        • Phil: there was a typo, the Outpost is $343 after an additional 30% off and before tax. However, I think I’m inclined to pay double for the Slingfin for saving an lb for sure but more importantly for a door on each side instead of front and back and the smarter ventilation design tweaks. I also just like supporting gear nerds like the Slingfin crew.

          As far as the Firstlight, I’ve heard they royally suck in the PNW if there’s any precip and it’s not super cold. I think a double wall tent is a necessity here.

        • The firstlight would suck in rain. Yep. But its an excellent tent for snow.

  2. Easton kilo tent and vaude seamless tent good makes

  3. Great reviews any thoughts on the sea to summit telos tr2 plus? It has similar specs to the Msr. Thanks again for having a fantastic site!!

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