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10 Best Winter Backpacking Tents of 2018-2019

10 Best Winter Backpacking Tents

Winter backpacking tents need to be a good deal stronger than regular three season tents if you are camping in exposed windy terrain that is subject to heavy snow loads. The strongest and most wind resistant tents are wedge or dome-shaped and freestanding, so they are completely self supporting. You still need to secure them to the ground to keep them from blowing away in wind, but freestanding tents can be set up on any surface including open rock ledges or climber’s portaledges, providing added flexibility and increased safety because you can get out of the weather more quickly.

They also need to be more comfortable and spacious because you have to spend more time in them given the lack of daylight and shorter days that accompany winter weather. Added vestibule space is convenient for storing gear and keeping snow-covered items outside the living space to cut down on internal condensation, although they do weigh more. They can also be used for cooking and melting snow under cover when conditions outside are poor. Good ventilation is equally important, again to reduce internal condensation, and to vent dangerous gasses if you cook or fart inside the tent.

Make / ModelTypeSizeDoorsMin WeightPrice
NEMO Kunai 2Dome2 Person13 lb. 15 oz.$500
Black Diamond El DoradoWedge2 Person14 lb. 8 oz.$699
NEMO Tenshi 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 14 oz.$699
Hilleberg SouloDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$694
Black Diamond First LightWedge2 person12 lbs 9 oz$370
Hilleberg UnnaDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$680
The North Face Assault 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 4 oz.$589
Rab Latok Mountain 2Wedge2 Person14 lb. 1 oz.$650
Hilleberg AllakDome2 Person26 lb. 2 oz.$990
Big Sky Chinook 2PDome2 Person24 lbs$550

1. 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 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:

2. Black Diamond El Dorado

Black Diamond Eldorado
Black Diamond makes several other freestanding tents that look like the El Dorado, but it is the roomiest, longest and strongest, designed for taller individuals and more gear. Weighing 4 lbs 8 oz, the El Dorado has two crossed aluminum poles which are secured in the tent’s interior. The walls are made with a breathable waterproof fabric to help vent condensation while front and rear top vents promote greater airflow. A separate front vestibule is also available, but it is not freestanding.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Black Diamond

3. NEMO Tenshi 2

Nemo Tenshi 2 Winter Tent
Weighing in at 3 lbs 14 oz, the NEMO Tenshi 2 is a single wall, four season tent made with a waterproof/breathable fabric to vent internal condensation. It has roof vents, a front and rear window that provide excellent ventilation, and is available with an optional vestibule with a transparent front window for gear storage and cooking in challenging weather. External DAC poles provide a strong shelter while over-sized guy loops let you anchor the tent with backcountry skiing or mountaineering gear instead of stakes.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | CampsaverMoosejaw

4. Hilleberg Soulo

The Hilleberg Soulo is a one person double-wall freestanding tent designed for 4 season use. It has a large front vestibule that provides access and ventilation and can be used for cooking or gear storage in poor weather. Weighing 4 lbs 7 oz, it is tremendously strong and can be pitched just about anywhere. The inner tent can hung inside the outer rain fly after it has been set up, a desirable feature to keep the inner tent dry if it is raining during setup. Most Hilleberg tents have this capability.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

5. Black Diamond First Light Tent

Black Diamond First Light Tent
The Black Diamond First Light is a wedge-shaped two person tent with a single front door. It’s fast and easy to set up with two internal crossing poles. An optional front vestibule is also available. Weighing just 2 lbs 13 oz, the First Light is a single wall tent made with a water-resistant and breathable fabric with two covered vents for internal ventilation. Read our First Light Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI| Moosejaw

6. Hilleberg Unna

Hilleberg Unna
The Hilleberg Unna is a 1-person dome-style freestanding tent that weighs 4 lbs 7 oz. It is ideal for trips in any season where low weight is a high priority, but where the terrain makes for tricky pitching conditions. Rather than a vestibule, the Unna has a spacious interior that easily accommodates the occupant and gear. The corner of the inner tent can be detached to create a large protected area to cook, pack, or store gear.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

7. The North Face Assault 2

The North Face Assault 2
The North Face Assault 2 is a rugged, single-wall expedition tent with a pole-supported ventilation system for increased stability. Sized for two, the 3 lb 4 oz Assault 2 is made with a breathable laminate to vent moisture, with a font door and rear escape hatch. Crossed poles make setup fast and easy. Dual top vents increase breathability, while ample ceiling tabs allow for hanging a stove, gear loft, or drying lines.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

8. Rab Latok Mountain 2

Rab Latok Mountain Summit 2
The Rab Latok Mountain 2 is a single wall tent made with breathable 3 layer eVent fabric. It has two internal crossed poles for strength and is easy to set up in poor weather. A rear vent provides additional airflow and internal humidity reduction. Weighing 4 lb. 1 oz, the tent can be guyed out for use with skis and mountaineering tools, while a 70 denier nylon floor is provided for enhanced durability and waterproofing. A separate front vestibule is sold separately.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

9. Hilleberg Allak

Hilleberg Allak
The Allak is a comfortable and rugged two-person freestanding dome tent with two large vestibule doors and large ceiling vents that provide excellent ventilation and livability. Deep pole sleeves ensure excellent wind resistance and are large enough to accept double poles for maximum strength. Weighing 6 lbs 2 oz, the Allak’s comfortable ceiling height and long length will also appeal to taller users. If you’ve never owned a Hilleberg Tent, you’ll be blown away by the quality of the materials and construction.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw

10. 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 

Winter Backpacking Tent Evaluation Criteria

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

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 that 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.

Ventilation: Important to minimize and reduce internal condensation. This is achieved by keeping the 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, although the addition of doors and zippers can result in increased weight.

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.

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 different in livability.


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  1. Phil, first of all I want to extend a Merry Christmas to you and yours. Secondly how do you feel about non free standing tents such as the offerings from black diamond and MLD for starters.
    Any opinions are well recieved and very welcome.

    • It takes a hardy soul to stand around in damp clothing while your tent stakes sinter in snow when pitching a tarp like the BD beta mid or MLD Trailstar or Duomid. Figure another 30-60 minutes unless you can get them set up with skis as your stakes, and even then you might not have enough skis with you to get a pitch.

      I’ve tried using a tarp in winter, a Duomid in fact, and it works, but I’d much rather just throw up my BD First Light tent which is freestanding and doesn’t require sintering to set up, plus it has a floor.

      You can read about my conclusions here. To each his own. I like getting out of the weather asap.

  2. You’ve written elsewhere that you use ice axe, snowshoes, poles etc. to stake out a tent in snow. Do you ever do the thing of filling stuff sacks (or doubled-up grocery store plastic bags) with snow and burying them in snow as tie-off points? That technique has worked well for me in loose beach sand, but I’ve never tried it in snow, which might ice over and make it hard to get the bags back out.

  3. I have found that most of these so called winter tents are no more than bulky, uncomfortable burlap sacks. Sometimes the best tent is one you can make with materials you find in the woods, particularly brush and twigs from trees. Takes a little more work but it’s natural and will really protect from the elements.

      • Well to each his own, Phil. I’m not saying those tents you list don’t work well. I’m just saying for the money, there are natural ways that work just as well.

    • Wild bush camps are cool and very weather proof but i think the whole point of the article and especially the tents listed is for above tree line camping/ hill camping. Look at the above main article picture and explain where the brush and twigs are?. I think your missing the point of the article. if we was going to camp in the forest you wouldn’t need a high end 4 season tent as normal 2/3 season offering would do the job or a bush camp.

      Great article Phil and happy new year!. I love my Allak for winter missions and even summer sea kayaking missions where wind on open landscapes and beaches can be an issue.

      Cheers Mike.

  4. The Big Sky Chinook seems to have the best design oa all pictured here.

    I’ve tried “wedge” shaped tents and likely had the very first one (Jansport) back in chelate ’70s. NOT a good design. Open the door and bad weather comes right in on the floor. Side winds bent the poles all around.

    Personally my Tarptent Moment DW with ripstop inner and optional crossing pole (shortened 5″ and run Under the fly) is an excellent winter tent. AND with the X-ing pole is freestanding.

    • The Chinook is a utilitarian wonder, but it stays warmer above treeline with the full coverage walls rather than lighter mesh walls. The only complaint I have is it is very noisy in high winds. I have an ancient Wilderness Experience that weighs just a half a pound more that I use if I know I’ll face some wind on a trip.

  5. Still loving my 15+ year old Black Diamond Fitzroy. Heavy at more than 6 pounds and takes longer to setup. But once it is setup, it’s very breathable and immune to high winds and snow. When I bought it, it was made by Bibler in the US. I understand it’s now made overseas. It’s still rated at or near the top in many evaluations.

  6. I’ll give you a wild bush camp.

  7. BTW, I’ve “winterized” my Tarptent Moment DW and Scarp 2 tents by shortening the optional “Crossing Poles” and running them under the fly. They are stabilized with small Velcro cable wraps sewn inside the fly to the reinforcing patches for the X-ing poles’ exterior attachment points.

    Also I added fly hem stake loops to stake down the fly edges and stop flapping in high winds. That along with 4 guy lines and the X-ing poles has kept these tents totally “nailed down” in gusts to 65 mph. (national Weather Service records).

    Tarptent makes their tents with low flys and that makes them ready for winter camping.

  8. You left off the list a tent that, for many 4-season backpackers, might be the best possible option: The Snow Peak Lago 1 Pro. It weighs only 2.75 lbs, is 4-season, free-standing, x-pole design, has a fly and retractable front floor section for boots. It cost and weighs less than all but one of your tents ($400) and that’s with a fly. I’ve used it for years and haven’t wanted anything else for winter weather in the mountains.

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