Why are my 3 season tents warmer than my 4 season one?

7:17 p.m. on December 21, 2015 (EST)
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well what do you think? is it because it is smaller and less area to warm or am i just wanting it to be warmer because i paid 4 times as much for it? My comparison tents 3 season Rei half dome 2plus, Kelty Gunnison 2 vs Hillenberg Nammajt 3gt. undered similar temps.  

7:39 p.m. on December 21, 2015 (EST)
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size would be a factor, but a four season tent is not necessarily warmer - it should be designed and built to withstand more severe weather, especially winds and a significant snow load.

10:08 p.m. on December 21, 2015 (EST)
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Do the 3 season tents have a separate bug fly inner tent with a separate rain fly? And the 4 season has just one tent piece? Cause believe it or not bug netting allows some heat to stay in the tent. Ever notice that in summer using a 3 season tent without the rain fly, the wind is not as strong through the bug netting?

I only have a 3 season tent the Kelty Salida 2 and use it year round. Even on sunny yet snow covered ground I take the rain fly off during the day to allow all the white light in, then replace it at dark to hold in the lil heat it can. And I find just a candle will warm up my tent a bit.

7:47 a.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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GaryPalmer said:

Do the 3 season tents have a separate bug fly inner tent with a separate rain fly? And the 4 season has just one tent piece? Cause believe it or not bug netting allows some heat to stay in the tent. 

 the rain fly is separate on all three tents. I've also wondered how much the color of the tent plays into it. you would think that darker one would be warmer but other than summer it hasn't appeared to be the case. And also how far down the rain fly goes. haven't measured and all 3 are pretty similar length. 

9:33 a.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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Interesting topic John, and as I consider my experiences,  I don't think of one shelter as being warmer than another. The factor that seems significant in my shelters is the ability to block wind; some do that better than others but if there is any ventilation at all wind will get in.

last weekend I chose an exposed camp site just to stay in cell range for a work project. I used my Fly Creek II tent and the wind hit just the right angle to come under the fly and blasted right on the footbox of my WM Apache bag. It was miserable for about an hour and I was about to say the heck with work and move to a more sheltered location. ( I got some relief by sticking the bottom of the sleeping bag inside a trash compactor bag) When the wind died down I was cozy and fine the rest of the night.  I've got some more vacation to use next week and I'm going to bring the most shielded tent I have: MSR Hoop.

 

9:37 a.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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My rain fly on my Salida 2 goes all the way to the ground all around. The entrance has a large triangle shaped vestibule. The walls of the inner tent are half wind proof and half bug netting. I find heat in winter cannot escape so a little condensation is there but runs down the inner flies steep walls so does not build up.

In winter I use my MRS stove (Pocket Rocket) to warm my tent first thing in the mornings before I crawl out of my sleeping bag.


Kelty-Salida-2-b.jpg
Inner tent of the Salida 2


Kelty-Salida-2.jpg
Tent with rain fly on it.  I keep the edges of the fly at the stakes pulled all the way down to the ground in winter

You mentioned color I think the white/grey color reflect sunlight in summer making it cooler inside.

4:01 p.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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Gary you and Pat got me thinking it probably is because of the bug netting after looking at those 2 tents my Gunnison and even the Half dome have less netting the Hilleberg is pretty much all netting on the inner tent and in summer it much hotter and I've been equating that to the red color absorbing heat

4:09 p.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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Pat nice tactic with the trash bag. Last weekend in the 30s used my Big Agnes lost ranger bag an had the same as you felt cool air in footbox coming thru pair of socks mad the difference and I hate wearing socks have used this bag down to 21 degrees before with no problems but there was a lot of moisture in the air last weekend so that may have been the difference it is one great bag ether way

5:40 p.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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John,

the most likely culprit is the size , however another  possible reason is that the GT vestibule is trapping a lot of ground evaporation making the rest of the tent feel colder.

If that is the case , a ground sheet there should fix it.

11:07 p.m. on December 22, 2015 (EST)
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Franco said:

John,

the most likely culprit is the size , however another  possible reason is that the GT vestibule is trapping a lot of ground evaporation making the rest of the tent feel colder.

If that is the case , a ground sheet there should fix it.

 well that is worth a try, I have been using one under the main tent just not the vestibule area. most of the trips i've used it on have been very wet so that does make some sense. that plus like Gary and Pat said- the wind coming in with a lot more mesh/netting. I've also thought that given the Hillenberg is designed with snow in mind(a condition i've never had the opportunity to camp in yet) that the tent would be better insulated with snow build up around it. just dont know hoping for snow soon to find out.

12:05 p.m. on December 23, 2015 (EST)
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HillSuolo01.jpg
This is my Hilleberg Suolo. By the next morning, the snow surrounding the tent was almost even with the top of the tent (there was about another 18" on top of the tent). And yes, it was quite warm in the tent, since the snow provides a fair amount of insulation.

One thing about using a 3-season tent with lots of netting - one year during the Winter Camping training course for adult Boy Scout leaders, one of the students had pitched his tent with fly during the day we arrived. This was on Donner Pass, a location infamous for its high winds and lots of snow. The assignment was to pitch your tent first, then prepare a snow shelter (snow cave, quinzhee, igloo, etc). By afternoon, the blowing snow had gotten under the fly and through the netting, so that the interior of the tent had piled up over 18 inches of snow (when it is cold and blowing, the snow is a very fine powder that can easily get through the mesh netting). - a good reason to NOT use a 3-season tent in the snow. The Suolo has panels that allow you to open for ventilation in warm weather, but close up when there is blowing dust or snow. The 3-season mesh tents like Gary's above do not provide for closing off the mesh in blowing conditions.

The student with the snow-filled tent had declared he would not sleep in a snow shelter. He ended up sleeping in his car and was miserably cold.

On a slightly different approach - an interesting discovery we made on one of my Denali climbs - we were waiting out a storm at the 17k camp  that was windy but not much in the way of clouds. We did build windwalls around the tent. Inside the tent (a TNF 25, which is full-on expedition 3-person), the temperature in midday would get up to a measured 90°F, due to the insulation provided by the double walls (tent plus fly), despite uncovering all the front and rear plus roof mesh venting. When we broke camp to head back down to KIA, we found we had melted a bit of a pit under the tent from all the heat.

12:14 p.m. on December 23, 2015 (EST)
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Good trick for solving that problem Bill is to slack pitch the fly and shovel snow around the edges to seal the bottom. If you put the door to the lee you can keep it opened enough to get some air.

Only good for one night at a time though because the inside of the fly will be frosted over by morning. Needs to be shaken out or it will start snowing inside the tent. That is why the preferred solution is to get a double walled so you can stay inside for a few days if you need to :)

12:22 p.m. on December 23, 2015 (EST)
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LS, the Winter course is always a learning experience. However, different people learn different things. The student in question "learned" to avoid winter camping. He refused after that experience that he would never go camping in the snow again. Funny thing is that his son got to love winter camping and backcountry ski trips.

3:07 p.m. on December 24, 2015 (EST)
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I have a convertible tent - an old EMS Pompero. It has a separate fly, a big vestibule in front, a smaller one in back and flaps that can be zipped up over the net windows and door. It is a heavy five pole design for winter.

It would be a lot colder in the tent with the windows uncovered, so I'm not sure why the OP feels his winter tents are colder that the 3 season tents.  As already discussed, size may be a factor. But since, as least in winter, I am in my bag or fully dressed and not generating any heat outside of the bag or my clothes, I don't see where any heat would be coming from to make a difference.

6:17 p.m. on December 24, 2015 (EST)
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 I don't see where any heat would be coming from to make a difference.

It maybe, as mentioned, that the 4 season version simply traps more moisture/evaporation/condensation than the 3 season one.

At low temps moisture makes us feel colder by several degrees but it makes us feel warmer at high temps.

Some explanations here :

http://www.decodedscience.org/why-does-damp-cool-weather-make-it-feel-colder/6736

7:40 p.m. on December 24, 2015 (EST)
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Maybe this is too obvious. But the only way to really find out what is going on is to conduct a controlled experiment:

1. Camp at least 5 times at the same location with each tent (that means pitching the tent on the same piece of ground, oriented the same way each time)

2. measure the outside temperatures (air and soil) and wind speed, along with the inside temperatures with the same contents (gear and people, including the people wearing the same clothes). Use a good, calibrated thermometer.

3. Record all these data points, including noting the perceived temperature.

As noted many times on this and other websites and in books, how warm or cold you feel is a function of how tired you are, when and what you have been eating, and a lot of other factors. If you are damp from sweat generated in your hike and tent set-up and have a bit of a breeze, you will tend to feel colder (except on hot humid days, when you are likely to feel hotter (as Franco says above).

One thing I find about myself (and others have told me the same thing - if I have just completed a long, strenuous day's hike, as my body is recovering, my pulse rate drops (flowing blood is what carries the body heat to all parts), and I tend to start feeling much cooler, at least for a little while.

8:03 p.m. on December 24, 2015 (EST)
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The simple answer is go outside at -30 and watch the condensation come out of your mouth. That condenstation needs to leave a  tent or it is going to freeze to everything inside. So a good 4 season tent has great venting. So your body can't heat the inside very well. 

9:49 a.m. on December 25, 2015 (EST)
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Franco said:

 I don't see where any heat would be coming from to make a difference.

It maybe, as mentioned, that the 4 season version simply traps more moisture/evaporation/condensation than the 3 season one.

At low temps moisture makes us feel colder by several degrees but it makes us feel warmer at high temps.

Some explanations here :

http://www.decodedscience.org/why-does-damp-cool-weather-make-it-feel-colder/6736

 Franco- great article. This quote from it probably best explains the effect I seem to have been noticing.(Even if it is humid, some of the moisture in our clothing can evaporate. Evaporation still serves as a cooling mechanism.) The Hilleberg with its xtra larger vestibule is just like a larger house with more windows more places for air to enter and more roof to trap it, that combined with the moisture. Now as to Toms statement and without going into the scientific's of it (which I'm definitely not qualified for) I do believe some heat does come from the ground or at least is trapped in place such as when we sit down. Ever walk into a shed or building on a calm cold day and noticed the difference. we always talk about the pulling away effect of the ground but it works the other way also. and if that were not the case then the whole world would be hammock hangers. I do both in cold weather tents and hammocks and use a pad under me in both. the tent is warmer. Is it stricly a trapping of the air affect? possibly but I don't think so mine (Clark Jungle Hammock Nx250) is fully enclosed and a much smaller area than the tent.  

 

10:47 a.m. on December 25, 2015 (EST)
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Bill S said:

Maybe this is too obvious. But the only way to really find out what is going on is to conduct a controlled experiment:

1. Camp at least 5 times at the same location with each tent (that means pitching the tent on the same piece of ground, oriented the same way each time)

 Bill- that 15 times while a very good suggestion is really not practical nor would it be accurate as you wouldn't have a controlled environment. all that you say it true. but let me point out some thing that I've noticed just sitting around in this house I'm remodeling. It has no AC and all windows closed and every evening sitting in the same chair or sleeping in bed I've seen or rather felt the temp change drastically in seconds and sometimes change back. what have been getting at with this post is this. Is there a way of mitigating these effects or am I doing something wrong. I bought a 4 season tent that is a darker color than my 3 season ones and other that the fact that it is larger you would think it would be warmer than the others in the same type of circumstances as I bought it because it is designed for much harsher conditions. I'm not complaining as it is everything you could want in a tent and then some i'm simply trying to learn how to dial it in. We don't get the snow but the vast majority of time i've been hiking there is rain. very few times have i not had rain on a hike. Or like NC you get the cloud effect on top of those hills where a cloud drifts in on you.     

 

9:33 p.m. on February 4, 2016 (EST)
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Bill- 1st let me correct my error the majority of the times that came to mind concerning this topic I've been on exposed mountain tops or  valley fields in temps above  freezing in the Hilleberg and the majority of times below freezing there was 1 or 2 buddies along giving off heat. so naturally when we were out in a 3 season at 20deg in a more sheltered location and wearing warmer gear it would seam like a warmer tent than 35  or 40deg in a larger better venting tent.

I didn't think about these things when I brought this topic up. I knew you guys weren't wrong But it was not matching my experiences, at the time the only real difference I was able to differentiate between our perspectives was you guys were looking at it from being at the same temps in SNOW and I was looking at it with out the benefit of snow as a blanket over the tent. And I was not taking into account the things I said in the first paragraph.

My apologize for not thinking it thru better before I brought up the subject. I'm still thinking thru it and can't seam to get this topic off my mind.

Thanks Guys 

 

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