There is a common misbelief about four season tents. Due to the name of these types of tents many think that a four season tent is a shelter that was made for year-long use. However the truth is different, four season tents are designed for winter use only. Such tents are unfortunately not practical for summer camping, life would be very easy if they were. We would have to buy only one tent, and we could use it in all weather conditions.
The biggest reason why four season tents are not optimal for use during other times of the year is that they are too hot, too heavy, and not waterproof. Tents optimised for winter use have a heavy, solid structure. This is a crucial feature that ensures that the tent can withstand the weight of heavy snow. Winter tents need to stay solid even in the strongest winds. The heavy structure of the tent esures that you won’t have any problems if you encuonter strong winds durign your hikes.
It would be wasteful to use such a heavy tent during the summer months, when you can’t take advantage of the heavy structure, but you still have to carry all the weight of the tent with you. In fact if you go backpacking with a four season tent I advise you to split the weight with your partner(s). You can ask them to carry a few parts of the tent, so that none of you will crumble under the heavy weight of the tent.
So what makes a great four season tent? The best four season tents have great venting, and a big vestibule. Unless the tent has great venting, frost will build up inside your tent. The humidity of your breath will freeze on the inside of the wall of the tent, which can lead to a very unpleasant camping experience.
Four season tents need to have a big vestibule. A vestibule is a perfect space to have as a gateway between the outside world and the inside of your tent. So that you can take off your snowy gear, and store it inside the vestibule. If the snow melts inside your tent, the water will produce humidity, which will lead to frost build-up. The vestibule can be used for cooking as well. Although cooking inside a tent is dangerous – you can get carbon-monoxide poisioning, or set the tent on fire – but sometimes the weather conditions are so dire out there that you must prepare your food inside the tent. If you have to cook inside the vestibule, be very cautious, and make sure that the air can move the smoke out of your tent.
The four season tents are also different to summer tents because they don’t have a water resistant rainfly. This is another reason why four season tents are not perfect for summer camping. Your rain will soak in heavy rain. You can always put an extra tarp on your tent in order to make it waterproof, but I advise to buy a three season tent if you plan on hiking during the summer, spring or autumn.
Four season tents are made for winter use, they are not ideal for camping during the summer. They have a solid structure that can withstand heavy snow, and even the strongest windstorms.
When choosing a four season tent, make sure that it has a solid design, and a big vestibule. The weight of the tent shouldn’t bother you too much, four season tents are always going to be heavy due to their structure. If your tent is too heavy, you can ask your partner(s) to help you out, and carrry a few pieces.
Make sure that the four season tent of your choice has excellent venting. This will prevent internal frost build-up inside the tent.
I have prepared the below infographic to help you choose the best four season tent four your needs: