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Updated on October 21, 2022 at 01:19
Serious hunters know that camping isn’t just a warm-weather activity. Many hunting seasons span the coldest months of the year—and, in many areas, fall can have many winter-like days. If you don’t have access to a hunting camp, or if you just want to mix it up and venture further into the wilderness, the right tent will make it possible. But to spend the night out in the countryside during the winter, you need to come prepared. The average tent will not keep you warm or dry during a storm. You need a tent built for the cold.
Winter tents are significantly different from ordinary tents. They are often constructed with different materials, less ventilation and more insulation than the tents you would use in the summer. Winter tents come in different shapes and sizes. Some winter tents even boast built-in stoves or stove ports, which allow you to keep the fire inside to keep out the cold even on the coldest of winter nights. Here’s a guide to finding the best winter tent for your winter camping or ice fishing trip.
How to choose the best tent for winter camping
Before buying a winter tent, you should think about the specific activities you will be using it for and the conditions you are likely to face. When it comes to dealing with the unpredictable elements during winter, it’s always best to be safe. You’ll want a winter tent that will protect you not only from the typical winter conditions you’ll experience, but also from the most extreme ones. You can never really predict when a storm will hit or when the temperatures will drop extremely low. When it comes down to it, a winter tent is a basic piece of survival gear.
Are 4-season tents a good choice for winter camping?
The difference between a 4 season tent and a winter tent is that a winter tent is built to be warmer and more resistant to wind and snow. That said, you can find a high-quality four-season tent that will be able to handle most winter conditions—as long as you make sure to layer up, wear a hat, and bring a sleeping bag rated for sub-zero temperatures. So if you want to buy a tent that will be sufficient in the winter but suitable for other times of the year, or get a lightweight tent, a four-season tent is an option.
Four-season tents have several attributes that make them an attractive option. They tend to offer more ventilation than a typical winter tent and are usually easier to pitch. When you’re hunting for a four-season tent, make sure you’re getting what’s advertised. Many companies will advertise a regular tent as “four-season,” without backing up that claim with features. Look for tents that have a heavy frame and are completely waterproof – not just water resistant.
4-Best Season: Marmot Unisex
The Marmot Thor is a two-person tent built to withstand the elements. Amazon
The Marmot Thor is a four-season, two-person tent that performs well during the winter and shoulder seasons. The tent doesn’t have heavy insulation or a stove portal, but boasts strong, lightweight poles and a nylon roof fabric. The unique tubular design of the canopy maximizes its wind and snow resistant qualities. D-shaped doors allow easy access, even when the tent is sitting in the snow, and the tent also features snow covers and full fly coverage. Two large anterooms provide additional storage space. The 10.5-kilogram tent is designed for long climbing expeditions, meaning it’s light enough to pack into a backpack and durable enough for long trips.
Will you have a large group?
Because winter tents have to be especially strong to withstand wind and snow, are often placed in the middle of small snowdrifts, and need to trap heat, they usually don’t have as much surface area as normal tents. This means that the best winter tents are often in the 2-3 person range. If you go further than that, the winter tents you’ll find will be expensive and difficult to pack. If you’re willing to foot the bill and you’re going camping somewhere you can drive in an SUV or truck to carry your tent, then a large winter tent is worth the investment.
Best for large groups: Whiteduck Regatta Canvas Bell Tent
The Whiteduck Regatta Canvas Bell Tent lets you create a storm hunting camp anywhere. Amazon
The WHITEDUCK Regatta Jar Bell Tent is more yrt than tent. It is a large, round canvas tent made with 8.5 oz. beige military duck canvas. It is waterproof, mildew and UV resistant, and available with a fire retardant finish. The tent has durable double-layered doors and windows. It’s a sturdy tent, but it’s sturdy. The center post and entry post are both constructed of galvanized steel. The 16-foot size comfortably sleeps eight adults. To stay warm, there is a 5-inch stove hood. This is a large tent, but if you’re looking to hang out and camp with a large group during the colder months, it’s a great choice.
Will you encounter a lot of snow and wind?
Winter tents come in different shapes and sizes. The shape is just as important as the fabric and pole material to how well the tent will stand up to the winter elements.
A-frame tents are common for backpacking because the shape is usually easy to break down and pack. The sloped walls of this style tent shed water and snow with ease, but the large, wide sides are weak against direct wind. Two main structural pillars intersect to create a dome shape that is strong and easy to deploy. They are expensive, but are the most storm-proof option.
Best for wind and snow resistance: Cabela’s Alaska Guide Geodesic Tent Model
Cabela’s Model Guide Alaska Geodesic Tent is built to withstand wind that would crush smaller tents. Amazon
The Cabela’s Guide Alaskan Model Geodesic Tent is designed to withstand extreme conditions. The geodesic form constructed with 7 impact-bonded fiberglass poles is extremely strong. The 75D polyester ripstop construction sheds rain and snow and has a waterproof coating. The tub-like floor is extra thick and is meant to keep away soil moisture that might otherwise seep in from melting snow. The tent boasts plenty of storage pockets and gear panels. Overall, this is a great dome tent – and relatively affordable.
Looking for a tent to use while ice fishing?
On warm winter days, you can ice fish without any shelter at all. But if you’re hitting rough water in bad weather, you need an ice fishing tent that’s heavy and warm. Ice fishing tents are also known as ice fishing shelters.
The best ice fishing tents are easy to set up. Pop-up construction makes this easy. Ice fishing shelters must be insulated and built to withstand high winds like other winter tents, but ice fishing shelters have no floor, so you can enter a fishing hole. You cannot use an ice fishing tent for normal winter camping trips. That said, they can be a great option to put out during the day to relax when you’re not fishing.
Best for Ice Fishing: Frabill Bro Hub
You can focus on the fishing, not the cold, inside the Frabill Bro Hub insulated ice shelter. Amazon
Frabill Bro Hub’s insulated ice shelter is spacious; Frabill advertises it as being able to fit two to three “bro-sized” anglers. The ice fishing shelter is fully insulated and boasts 600 denier polyester walls and roof, as well as an extra strong 900 denier skirt section to protect against the stress of the weather or the wrong boots. The ice box has 4 removable shade windows, two interior pockets and a license holder with clear exterior pockets. When it breaks down, it fits inside a locker bag that has a built-in pocket to store your tools. It’s easy to pack and carry, which is a plus when you need to change points.
Best budget winter tent: What you get for under $100
Winter camping gear is generally more expensive than camping essentials. Winter tents must be made of high quality material if they are to have any chance of withstanding extreme winter conditions. If you’re in the market for a winter tent, consider buying the best quality portable structure you can afford. That said, there are some less expensive options that will give you good bang for your buck and keep you warm at night, as long as you’re willing to shell out.
Best Budget: Fltom Camping Hot Tent
The Fltom Camping Heated Tent is an affordable and functional winter tent. Amazon
The Fltom heated camping tent is a great option for the budget-minded winter camper. The tepee shape sheds snow and rain, and has a stove opening, which allows you to use a portable stove inside. The full polyester exterior is water resistant and strong, though not as effective as the more expensive winter tent offering. The umbrella is easy to assemble and can be stored in a backpack when broken down.
About stove holes in winter tents
Many winter tents have reinforced, fireproof stove pipe vents or “stove plugs” at or near the top of the tent. Portable camping wood stoves have pipe chimneys that come out of that stove pipe hole and release smoke into the air. A stove will add weight to your load, but once you place it inside the tent and start the fire, it will heat up quickly.
A final word on shopping for the best winter tent
You don’t want to cut corners when you’re winter camping, because braving the cold is key to having a good time. You’ll probably be outside all day, so make sure the tent you bring is a good one, with solid construction and good materials, so you’ll feel comfortable as soon as you step inside. The best winter tent will allow you to focus on the fun, not the tent itself.