10 Best Lightweight Winter Tents and Shelters of 2021-2022

10 best lightweight winter tents and shelters

Winter tents and shelters for mountaineering, winter backpacking, and backcountry skiing tours need to be stronger and wind-worthy for camping in exposed windy terrain that is subject to heavy snow loads. Some are single-walled since they’re only intended for winter use when insect protection is not needed. Our preference is for lightweight four-season 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.

Make / ModelPeopleDoorsMin Weight
Black Diamond First Light213 lbs 1 oz
Black Diamond Beta Light211 lb 3 oz
MSR Access 2223 lbs 10 oz
MLD SuperMid 411 lbs 10 oz
Black Diamond HiLight 21-213 lbs 15 oz
SlingFin CrossBow 2224 lbs 6.2 oz
NEMO Kunai 2213 lbs 14 oz
Marmot Hammer214 lbs 6 oz
Big Sky Chinook 2224 lbs
Tarptent Scarp 11-223 lbs

1. Black Diamond First Light 2P Tent

Back Diamond Firstlight 2P tent

The Black Diamond First Light 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 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 First Light Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

2. Black Diamond Beta Light 2P

Black Diamond Beta Light 2 2021
The Black Diamond Beta Light is a bombproof ultralight tarp tricked out for snow travel. Newly updated, it features a seam-taped no-stretch polyester fly and an insect-proof mesh skirt, enabling four-season use. It requires two trekking/ski poles to set up and is guyed so you can anchor it with skis, poles, shovel handles, or ices axes. Weighing 23 oz, its steep walls shed snow, wind, and rain without blinking an eye.

Check for the latest price at:
Black Diamond | REI|

3. 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 provided enhanced wind protection to keep you warm on cold winter nights.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

4. Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid

Mountain Laurel Designs Supermid
The Mountain Laurel Designs 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 26 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. While it is available in DCF, we recommend getting the silnylon model because snow slides off it better.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs

5. Black Diamond HiLight 2

BD HiLight 2
The Black Diamond HiLight 2 is a single-wall tent with very good ventilation. An air tunnel inside the roof of the tent helps pull out moisture while the tent’s freestanding architecture makes it easy to set up just about anywhere. While it is sized for two people we think it’s a lot more comfortable for one, with space for your gear inside. It has a side door (a separate vestibule is available) and a half-sized rear window.  Weighing 3 lbs 12 oz, the HiLight 2 is made with Sil/PU coated polyester which does not sag or stretch when it gets wet and is fully waterproof and factory seam-taped. For two people, we prefer the HiLight 3 which has two doors. Read our HiLight 2 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Black Diamond | Moosejaw

6. SlingFin CrossBow 2 Four Season

SlingFin CrossBow 2

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. 

Check for the latest price at:

7. NEMO Kunai 2

Nemo Kunai Tent
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.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | NEMO | Amazon 

8. Marmot Hammer 2

Marmot Hammer 2 Tent
The Marmot Hammer is a wedge-shaped, two-person, single-wall tent (4 lbs 6 oz) that is similar to the BlackDiamond FirstLight, but has better ventilation options. In addition to a front and rear vent, there are two side vents near the front of the tent, where your head is likely to be positioned to help vent water vapor from your breath and reduce internal condensation.  The Hammer also has side guylines that can be adjusted from within the tent, so you can tighten them without having to go outside, a real luxury in nasty weather. A front vestibule is also available.

Check for the latest price at:
Marmot | Amazon 

9. Big Sky Chinook 2P

Big Sky Chinook 2P

The Big Sky Chinook 2P is a freestanding dome-style two-person tent with two doors. The three-pole construction is very strong and storm-worthy, but the tent can be set up with two poles to save weight. The inner tent is available in all mesh or with solid breathable sides to make the tent less drafty in cold and windy weather. Interior vents help prevent internal condensation. Weighing 4 lbs, the Chinook 2P can be set up fly first in rainy weather to keep the inner tent dry. Read our Chinook Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Big Sky 

10. 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 48.25 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 so that they stand vertical. Read our Scarp 1 review. 

Check for the latest price at:

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.


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 First Light, 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.

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  1. Hi Phillip, the Scarp1 review mentioned above dates back to 2009. At that time the reviewer suggested there would be changes to the fly which would assist in condensation mitigation. I checked out the Tarptent site just now and see that it offers an update, new last year, but does not specifically mention the changes for condensation. When writing this review was it based on product data or on having a physical tent to examine. I’m interested in this tent and wonder if the changes that some people, including the reviewer suggested, have been made, and if it is an improvement.

    Thanks for the ongoing and valuable product reviews. Let me also add that I especially enjoy the hiking / fishing articles. I love to hike, but its nice to have a destination and an activity once there. Fishing has the benefit of providing great and sustainable eating too!

    • I wrote that review and used to own the Scarp. The change I probably mentioned was to lower bottom of the rain fly to the ground instead of leaving a gap between the ground and the bottom of the fly which is common on US tents. That particular requirement is required in Scotland/England where the wind blows harder and there isn’t any tree cover. The Scarp is very popular in the UK. It’s really a great tent and very spacious.

    • Just call them and ask. They are really friendly folks.

  2. Thanks for this review. I have a TT SCARP 2 and bought a heavier main pole from Tentpole Technology. Also I bought the optional crossing poles and shortened them and ran them INSIDE the fly.
    I had to remove the X-ing pole webbing pockets from the outside cords and sew them inside just above the apexes of the triangular (^) peak of the “Pitch-Loc” corner struts.This was a very strong geometry. Further I sewed short double-sided Velcro straps to the inside of the fly at the reinforced location of the outside X-ing pole straps token them from moving in very high winds.
    This SCARP 2 is now bombproof!

    For my TT Moment DW I also bought the single optional X-ing pole and also shortened it and ran it INSIDE the fly. This was a much easier mod than the SCARP 2 winter mod.

    In both cases I added 4 fly hem stake loops.These are essential for nailing down the fly in heavy winds. It also prevents flapping, keeping it much quieter and preventing wear on the fly. Tarptent not puts fly hem stake loops on many of its models including the Moment DW.

    My winter mods protect not only against wind but snow load and snow falling from trees during a windy night.

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