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 / Model||Type||Size||Doors||Min Weight||Price|
|NEMO Kunai 2||Dome||2 Person||1||3 lb. 15 oz.||$500|
|Black Diamond El Dorado||Wedge||2 Person||1||4 lb. 8 oz.||$699|
|NEMO Tenshi 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||3 lb. 14 oz.||$699|
|Hilleberg Soulo||Dome||1 Person||1||4 lb. 7 oz.||$694|
|Black Diamond First Light||Wedge||2 person||1||2 lbs 9 oz||$370|
|Hilleberg Unna||Dome||1 Person||1||4 lb. 7 oz.||$680|
|The North Face Assault 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||3 lb. 4 oz.||$589|
|Rab Latok Mountain 2||Wedge||2 Person||1||4 lb. 1 oz.||$650|
|Hilleberg Allak||Dome||2 Person||2||6 lb. 2 oz.||$990|
|Big Sky Chinook 2P||Dome||2 Person||2||4 lbs||$550|
1. NEMO Kunai 2
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2. Black Diamond El Dorado
3. NEMO Tenshi 2
4. Hilleberg Soulo
5. Black Diamond First Light Tent
6. Hilleberg Unna
7. The North Face Assault 2
8. Rab Latok Mountain 2
9. Hilleberg Allak
10. Big Sky Chinook 2P
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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.
How do we know what the 10 best winter backpacking tents are? We survey our large readership to ask. If you’d like to participate in our surveys, be on the look up for the gear raffles we run every few weeks on SectionHiker, where we give survey participants a chance to win. Or sign up to the weekly, award-winning SectionHiker newsletter, so you never miss out on an opportunity to participate. We hate spam, so we’ll never share your email with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.
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