3 or 4 Season Tent

4:57 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I've been looking for a 2 or 3 person back packing tent. I typically camp in weather ranging from 50F and clear skys to 10F with snow. The norm is probably somewhere in the middle.

The question I have is whether or not a 3 season tent will cover that range of weather. Have read some good reviews on the Kelty Zen but don't know how comfortable it would be in below freezing temperatures.

Any suggestions?

7:08 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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2,979 forum posts

Check out the gear review:

I would add: It isn't free standing, something I prefer in a snow tent.

10:08 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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A tent is just that a tent. All tents are generally nylon fabric to cover you while you sleep. They are not temperture barriers, tho they do stop the wind and will add about 10 degrees warmth to sleeping. A sleeping pad adds another 10 degrees of warmth insulating you against the ground. But your sleeping bag will do most of the work of keeping you warm.

3 seson tents are basically designed for the 3 mildest seasons Spring,Summer and Fall when the lightest precipatation is going to fall. Winter o the otherhand is going to drop the heaviest.

Depending on what you plan to do either just camp in all seasons besides winter then a 3 season tent will work. But if you ever plan to camp in snow country winters then it will be good to get a 4 season tent.

Self supporting tents are best as you can set them up almost anywhere as they dont nessessarily need to be stakes tho it is recommended. I use a 3 season tent that is not selfsupporting, so I am limited to ground that is sof enough for stakes. Or I have to use deadweights like rocks, logs or tree's to tie my stake loops to. But for weight it is one of the lighest tents I have ever used for its roominess.

This is the tent I use the Hex 3, now called the Shangri-la 3 tent. It only has one pole in the center but has to be staked out. Its from Golite. It weighs less than 6 lbs total.

2:21 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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78 forum posts

I use a 3-season tent year round. The downsides are that it has a lot of netting so when it's windy it can be breezy inside the tent. And when snow is wet and gloppy I have to periodically shake the tent so that it slided off the fly, and then I kick it away from the bottom of the fly so I'm not sealed in. And I do use the extra loops and extra stakes if it's going to be windy.

But it costs less than a full 4-season tent, and it generally weighs less. There are 3-4 season tents. The REI Cirque and Arete are good deals for the money and there are others who make similar tents. They aren't all that heavy either.

2:43 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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The comfort in a tent is primarily a function of your sleeping bag and pad, with the tent mostly serving to cut the wind and keep rain, dust, and snow off you. As I noted over in another thread nearby, mesh tents are not really even 3-season. If you get blowing snow, it will come under the fly and through the mesh. A full-on expedition tent only adds 10 deg to the warmth, mainly because of cutting the wind. One of the 3-season mesh-tops with fly adds 5 deg to the warmth. So if you have a bag good to 0° or below, you will be fine with whatever you get (except for blowing snow).

Yes, I have camped in winter in 3-season and 3-4 season tents, and some tents called "4-season" that have exposed mesh or zip-in panels to cover the mesh. I have found these to be much less than satisfactory if it does start blowing. The zip-panel "4-season" tents are heavier than real 4-season tents (zippers do weigh, after all).

Gary's GoLite and the similar Black Diamond Megamid (and the superlight Megamid Lite), and Integral Designs similar tent actually work very well in the kind of conditions you say you go out in.

11:31 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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712 forum posts

Yes tents can act as a wind barrier and can prevent heat loss due to convection. Tent walls also do a much better job in preventing heat loss from convection (wind) that any non-waterproof sleeping bag shell.

I find there is increasing amounts of misinformation from some posters. Why is that?

12:10 p.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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119 forum posts


I use a three season tent all year round without problems. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and we can have rain, snow, hail and sun all in one day! Our snow is usually very wet and heavy so I am most comfortable with aluminum tent poles. We have lots of wind with rain as well as snow and so far I have been snug as a bug in a rug. My sleep system I think is the key to real warmth. I am a cold sleeper so in the winter I use a -18C bag, a vapour barrier liner and also an overbag to keep my down dry. I sleep in a hood, light gloves, fleece longjohns and top, and two pairs of wool socks! I have a thick insulated self inflating mattress. Might sound like a lot and perhaps it is but sleeping cold to me is miserable so I make sure that doesn't happen.


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