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 sell 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
MSR Advance Pro Wedge 2 Person 1 2 lb. 14 oz. $549
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 13 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. MSR Advance Pro 2

The MSR Advance Pro is lightweight, freestanding tent that weighs just 2 lbs 14 oz. Designed for high altitude mountaineering, its steep sides maximize interior room while shedding winds. Dual carbon fiber tent poles are anchored in sleeves and crossed overhead, providing the ability to handle heavy snow loads. In addition to the door, front and rear vents help remove moisture and reduce internal condensation, even in the harshest conditions.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

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:
Black Diamond | 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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Author: Philip Werner

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