The Best Two Person-4 Season Tent

2:17 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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I'm looking for the best of both worlds. I understand no tent is ideal for every situation, but I'm looking for a good, well-rounded tent that can keep me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Most winter camping is done in the Midwest where temps range from around 0 to 45 degrees. Summer camping is up in the mountains with temps from 65-80 at night. I'm looking for something that breathes but keeps me dry. Any suggestions?


2:55 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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There are already many postings on this subject just use the search function.

4:40 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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A true winter tent is designed to withstand snow loads and high wind loading. Any warmth you get from a tent is due to its ability to block the wind. I have a winter tent which once it is zipped up, it is pretty well closed up. In summer that configuration would be way too hot, but mine is a convertible with some mesh panels that can be uncovered for ventilation and it has two vestibules as well that can be opened. My tent also is freestanding with 5 poles-4 across the tent and one hoop for the main vestible. It is heavy-about 8 lbs.

There are so many tents in so many designs and price ranges that it would be hard to recommend any particular design. You could get along with a Tarptent from Henry Shires or go for something like a TNF Mountain 25, which is a fine winter tent, but not one I'd carry in summer.

I suggest you list your requirements - such as the following:

1. Price range

2. Freestanding or not

3. Vestibule or none

4. Mesh panels for summer

5. Weight

Then I would start looking here on Trailspace for tent reviews and at retailers like our sponsors you can find listed on the Marketplace page (link in the banner above) that sell a wide variety of tents to see what fits your criteria. Smaller companies like TarpTent that you won't see sold in a retail store can be found on the web.

I would stay away from anything from a big box store like Wal-Mart, K Mart, etc. You'd be better off buying a good used tent than a new, really cheap one. I got my tent off eBay a few years ago and it was like new. You need to know what you are looking at, but it is worth it to spend a lot of time doing research.

Don't expect any consensus as to the ideal tent-there are too many out there for one tent to be "the one and only" for all persons or purposes, regardless of what you read here or elsewhere. For summer, a lot of people just use a tarp of some sort or a hammock and dispense with the tent entirely.

4:54 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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I also suspect many first-time tent buyers think "sure, I want four-season because it'll be more flexible" and find themselves hauling a six-pound beast all summer, when they do most of their camping.

Some serious snowcampers prefer floorless pyramid tents like the Black Diamond Mega Light -- you can carve out a living space from the snow and have a pretty spacious shelter on your hands; note you have to pack snow around the edges to keep snow from blowing in.

If you only plan to winter camp a few times a year, it might be better to borrow one from a friend or go in on the purchase with a friend -- then you can get one of those great bomber tents that always seem to cost $600 without actually spending $600.

5:27 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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For years I used a 3-4 season convertible tent with good success.

As already mentioned these are double wall tents with zip out panels, made similar to a tent door in that they have both no see um screen, and panels made of the tent fabric. To block out the wind / cold you zip up the panels, to increase ventilation, you unzip them. Very simple and effective, but not necessarily designed to handle snow loads like a true 4 season tent.

As far as what brand....that's going to be a matter of several factors as Tom D. points out.

I also agree with tommangan, if at all possible at least borrow one and give it a test drive. A true 4 season tent is on the heavy side generally speaking and you may find something a bit lighter will work unless you expect a lot of snowfall.

I hike in the mountainous region of the southeast, so I was not too concerned with lots of snow and a 3-4 season tent has served me well. Keeps the wind at bay in the winter, and has really good ventilation during the warmer months, and if the weather is clear I just remove the rain fly altogether leaving a tent that is mesh except for the two sides.

7:59 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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I second Tom D in both doing your own research, and looking on eBay as opposed to big box stores. I found 2 excellent 4 season tents at very reasonable prices on eBay: a Walrus Terramoto 3.0, and a Walrus Hurricane Hole. I got both tents for under $250 including shipping.

2:36 a.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Mountain Hardware Trango 2 get's my vote :)

11:02 a.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Golite's Shangra-la 3 is the tent I use. It comes in three parts. Rainfly with two bugscreened vents on top, a no-see-em inner bathtub floored space and just the bathtub floor. The rain fly weighs abot 2.2 lbs, the no-see-em floor and netting about 1.4 lbs and just he floor is about 1.2 lbs

It will sleep two people and their gear, has but one pole or can be tied at the top with a loop to a limb above for more inner room.

It comes in one of two colors (yellow or green), there are images of the three parts below.

See them and other light tents at

11:48 a.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Gary: thanks for adding that one, I couldn't remember what it was called.

Depending on the snow, building an igloo is always an option.

1:58 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Here is a link to a similar discussion on another forum:

if you're interested, I have an REI Convert Mountain 2 in excellent condition that I'll sell for $160 as mentioned in this thread:

the SD Orion AST is sold, but both NF tents are still available. Here are a couple of photos of the Convert Mountain 2, which is an excellent version of the Moss Stardome II(for a lot less), and is a re introduction of the design of the REI ET-2 Hobitat, a joint venture between Moss and REI. The ET-2 is shown in the last photo.

6:14 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Depending on the snow one can also build a Quinsee (not sure the spelling) Hut. Its like an igloo but if the snow is not hard enough to cut the blocks, you pile up the snow then wait for it to freeze together and dig out a shelter.

9:24 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Sorry, 1st photo of the Convert Mountain above is of the fly, poles, and footprint only. Here is the photo I was trying for.

10:47 a.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Nice design on this one!

10:11 p.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Choose either the Hilleberg Nallo 2 or 3, Hilleberg Jannu, or Hilleberg Allak. And then write a big cheque.

10:30 a.m. on December 1, 2009 (EST)
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I just bought a Garuda Jana for $200 shipped on ebay. I am testing it out tonight for the first time. Seemed like a good price to me.

11:53 p.m. on December 1, 2009 (EST)
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Warm in the winter and cool in the summer do not match. A tent breathable enough for summer, as in screen sides, will be full of spindrift in the winter, whereas a tent strong enough and tight enough for winter will be too hot and may have too much condensation in the summer. Of course all of this is dependent on where you camp and the current weather conditions. Hey get into collecting tents, I have 6, Bill S has more.

Rather than suggeting a brand ame since many companies make excellent winter tents, I reccomend a tent with atleast 3 poles. Though not favored by the people who think you don't need to stake out a freestanding tent, hoop tents offer more vertical walls so you get more usable interior space with less weight. Hoop tents are wrongly maligned. I'm thinking of an old TNF design 2 man 3 hoop tent with vestibule weighing 5.5 pounds that could take winds over 100 mph, I wish I had never sold it, but I replaced it with a Toddtex Bibler Eldorado that is in my humble opinion, the best light weight 2 man tent ever made, but it has 2 poles and flaps too much in the wind, more than a three pole dome.

Jim S

2:51 a.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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Take a look at the TarpTent "Hogback" 4 man tent.

I believe you can get it with both a netting inner tent and a ripstop "winter" inner tent.

Excellent design and American made quality. I own a TT Moment and really like it. Soon I'll be getting a TT Scarp 2 double wall tent W/ the ripstop inner tent for winter camping.


12:06 p.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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The Hogback is not available with the fabric inner at this time, nor is it available with crossing external poles. This is NOT a 4 season tent intended on snow load. Neither is your Moment.

But your Scarp 2 will be if you order the cross poles.

10:07 p.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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Jim S: Is this the old North Face hoop tent you're thinking about?

It's the 3 poled hoop tent, North Face Westwind, one of the best tent's I ever owned. Discontinued, of course.

2:36 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Re: The Best Two Person-4 Season Tent (TarpTent)

I'm an experienced winter camper and taught winter survival to U.S.Army ROTC cadets for several years. I've searched for a long time for just such a tent - and finally found it.

This spring I'm buying TarpTent's Scarp 2. It's a double walled tent that comes with OPTIONAL inner tents. One is mainly netting for summer and the other is ripstop nylon for winter. Buy both for much less than the price of two tents. And buy the optional crossing poles for winter snow loads. BTW, the Scarp 2 has two nice vestibules. No more crawling over your tentmate to answer Nature's call at O' Dark Thirty.

I own a solo summer TarpTent called the Moment. "Most excellent" design and very high U.S. made quality. And Henry Shires, owner of the company is renowned for his great customer service.


7:46 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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I too looked at the TT Scrap 2 but wonder about the strange little four triangles holding up the four outside corners(plastic?). Just wonder how they would hold up in a mean windstorm. Also, it must be remembered, the TTs use the same floor material as on the fly, and I'd be interested in knowing the "hydrostatic" properties of such a thin coated floor. I don't really know what the figures "5,000mm" or "10,000mm" waterproof floor means, but I know it has something to do with weight pressure on the floor to cause sponge-seepage from ground water and pooling.

This is an important consideration on finding a winter tent, and one thing I have to say about the Hilleberg 1200 Kerlon models, they all have excellent, triple coated, 100 denier floors. A beefy floor is vital for a four season tent. I believe the denier on the TT floors is around 30.

11:59 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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All Tarptents us the same material top and bottom - 30d Silnylon. Unfortunately, it only has a hydrostatic head of between 1000 to 1200mm, meaning that in a hard rain, you will get misting through the fabric. This is the reason it is so light as well. Make it out of Kerlon (awesome fabric) and you would add 1/2 a pound. Well worth it for a 4 season shelter in my opinion.

12:48 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Yep the westwind and yes one of the best winter tents ever made.

Hoop tents can be really nice tents but the marketing people have convinced everyone that they need freestanding tents because ya know its so hard to stake a tent ya know it takes stakes and a rock or hammer and who has one of those?

Anyone stupid enough to not stake their tent deserves to be blown away. My wife and I were in Zion Nat'l park in 80 mph winds and some jerks didn't stake their freestanding dome and it blew across the campground with their baby inside, who fortunately and incredibley wasn't hurt.

I think that westwind is maybe a newer one than mine - the vestibule on mine didn't come out so far as I recall.

Jim S

12:55 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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"Anyone stupid enough to not stake their tent deserves to be blown away. My wife and I were in Zion Nat'l park in 80 mph winds and some jerks didn't stake their freestanding dome and it blew across the campground with their baby inside, who fortunately and incredibley wasn't hurt."

Wow. Thanks goodness the baby was alright!

12:56 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Tipi + CWF

Again marketing. They make summer tents from such light material including the floors so they can claim their tent is lighter than the next, then they tell you that you have to use an optional "footprint" which is the real floor but the weight of it isn't added to the tent weight so you actually do carry more weight than they claim anyway. For this reason I think one should shun all lightweight summer tents, especially sil tents, winter use.

A thin 1 or 2 mil plastic liner inside the tent (weight maybe 4 oz) under your gear will act as a vapor barrier and keep you a lot drier than a tent footprint. Also tent footprints can collect water making things worse.

A real winter tent need a strong puncture resitant floor. The North Face westwind had such a floor, verticlw sides, vestibule, took 100 mph winds and still weighed 5.5 pounds. Why can't they make better tents now? Answer they can but don't want to.


Jim S

5:30 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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The original westwind did not have a vestibule, that was added later. I believe the North Face in Europe still sells the Westwind, at least they did a year or two ago.

6:23 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Just a quick story on free standing tents & wind.

Several years ago I was helping out with Boy Scout Troop 459 of Goose Creek SC. We were having a group camp at the Citadel Military College on the football field. Several of the leaders had asked people to use free standing tents because they were worried about tent stakes getting left behind on the football field.

While we were at the mess hall eating with the cadets a thunderstorm with high winds rolled in. Most of the tents were blown to the far end of the field and against the bleachers. Several tents had not been zipped up apparently, and there was clothing and other gear strewn all over the 'path of destruction'. Lots of wet clothes, and confused, bewildered Scouts.

I managed to bite my tongue off. I knew it was a bad idea, but I was not acting in a leadership role. The troop is doing much better now with a couple knowledgeable leaders.

1:26 a.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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Re: The Best Two Person-4 Season Tent (TarpTent)

TarpTent's floors have a heavier silicon coating than the roofs/flys. On my Moment summer tent I merely painted light seam sealer over the top 1/2 of the tent to preclude "misting" in a monsoon-like storm.

The triangles at the corners of the Scarps and Hogback are done with two carbon fiber rods sewn in as captive pieces. Same W/ teh ends on my Moment.

11:57 a.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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Re: The Best Two Person-4 Season Tent (TarpTent)

TarpTent's floors have a heavier silicon coating than the roofs/flys.

Wrong. The floors are not a.) covered in silicon - they are made of silnylon and b.) the floor is not a heavier material. As per the Tarptent Website:

Q: What are Tarptents made of?
A: Tarptents are made of the lightest and highest quality materials available.

Roofing: High tenacity 1.1-ounce/yd^2 ripstop nylon, impregnated with silicone. Final fabric weight is approximately 1.4 ounces/yd^2.

Flooring: Sewn-in: same material as roof(but in black)

12:16 p.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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As I recall the Citadel Camporall, the event staff, NOT the troop leadership required that we not stake down our tents for the reason you mentioned. The tents we(the troop) used required that we stake them down,as you may remember the Taj Mahal we were sleeping in. We did have few small domes that we told the boys to weigh down with gear. As we felt the same way about not staking down the tents.

There was a football field of scouts of every skill range,(1st timers,Weblos,etc.) whos tents were not staked down, flaps open, gear scattered all over the place, and I remember us commenting when we left for the days activities about how bad of shape they would be in if it started to rain. I believe we (the leaders) used it as a demonstration on what not to do.

You were also correct in that when we returned it was like a tornado had come through, but if you recall, Troop 459's gear was, for the most part, still in tact. If you may remember that other than the boys running in and out of their tents, their gear was also dry. We did lose a $12 rainfly, and we did have to do some adjusting, but unlike a lot of the other troops we stayed until the very end. I remember your nephew asking me if we were going home as he saw the mass exodus of inexperienced campers(not like we were pro's or anything) to which I answered him,"Yes, tomorrow at 10am".

I was very proud of our scouts that weekend, the way they banded together to help the scouts in the aftermath of that storm. I was also proud of regrdless of their inexperience that they were in better shape and had a better atitude about the condictions they were in than the other scouts around them. Don't you agree?

It is the bad experiences that make memories and I do appreciate your complement on the troop leaders. I know you ment no harm in your comment only to use your experiences to help others,but if I could make a small request. When you tell of your adventures with Troop 459 of Goose Creek speak fondly and prevay to the listeners that they are a bunch in search of fun and that they are doing their best.


Proud Scoutmaster

Troop 459

6:54 p.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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Welcome ChrisL,

My post was in no was meant to be a poor reflection on the troop, or the great work you do as Scoutmaster. If you read my posts, you will see I tell about lots of things I myself have leaned the hard way, several of them were because I simply did dumb things, like leaving my sleeping bag in the truck and not knowing until we reached the campsite 9 miles in. That's a hard thing to hide from your buddies.

I always try to give some details in my posts about who I'm with, or the location. Maybe I should not have mentioned the troop number, and you are right, several troops were there and were less prepared than T- 459.

I understand that the 'no stake' request came from event staff, I was in no way trying to place blame, it was unfortunate that a work a round was not available.

However, either a tent is set up properly, or it is not. The tents failed to stand up to the winds partially because they were not staked, and partially because some were left open and "parachuted" in the wind. This is the part I was biting my tongue about, any backpacker can tell you, leave your tent unsecured for a bit and that will, of course, be the one time it will rain sideways, a yellow jacket flies in and hides, or your dog digs a hole in the floor of your tent. That last one happened to me in fact.

Everyone learned things that day I hope, I did myself.

You are correct, the boys remained resilient, and hung in there with you two guys doing what it took to make everything work, and bring everyone back safe.

I remember telling you so later.

Again, I was merely trying to illustrate a point with a true story, it was meant to help those who have not yet experienced a situation of that nature. This is the basis for most outdoor instruction, because someone has to be the first one to 'stick a fork in the toaster'.

I have never done anything spectacular myself, like summit Everest or K2, crossed the Himalayas, or climbed steep rock, but I have learned a lot of things the hard way, and offer that information so others may avoid a repeat, even when it is embarrassing sometimes.

12:38 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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A bit of FYI for you gentlemen from Goose Creek, and a question: I was a Boy Scout in Goose Creek [some vague #] years back. Small world, eh? But instead of Troop 459, I was in Troop 457.

One of the highlights of my time with the troop was a long-weekend trail building and maintenance trip in Francis Marion Nat. Forest. Still have the medal earned from that outing and some book-work and writing about the Swamp Fox. Or at least I think I do. And I don't keep much of that sort of stuff.

Our troop also participated in the opening ceremonies of a downtown "trail" called Independence Trail or something like that. Inaugural event held about 1973/4, I think. Used to have a patch commemorating that.

Anyhow....when I was a Scout, I'm pretty sure we staked out our tents.

6:49 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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Well stated trouthunter....very well stated.

6:52 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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we-be-loyal-scouts.... hmmmmm. Yeah...those were the days.

10:38 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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Well....the lessons I have learned about "free standing tents" is that they are free standing ONLY for the purpose of erecting the tent, or moving the tent without having to take the tent apart.

To properly erect a tent, even a free standing tent, they should be staked out, and guyed out as needed. You probably shouldn't wait until a storm blows in to do this.

Just being inside the tent, with your gear, will not give the tent the kind of structural support it needs to distribute wind loads. This is a great way to get a broken pole. I had this happen to me years ago in a cheap tent, and I spent the rest of the night with a one pole tent that was more like a large bivy. To complicate matters the tent fabric was touching my bag and wicked enough water to soak part of my bag that night. I didn't know about that either at the time.

This, or other things can happen to anyone, has happened to me, and once you have learned these lessons you should try to share what you have learned. I wish someone had told me about this problem before it happened to me. The advertising said "Free standing tent", I took it at face value not having much experience at the time.

Life goes on, and as long as I continue to learn new things, or try to do things differently, I'm sure I have more lessons coming.

Complications are part of adventure it seems, I wouldn't have it any other way. So many funny stories have come from things I or someone else has done, to have it any other way.

Like the time "Bob" put his boots by the fire to dry, and left them unattended. Boots are flammable, loosely speaking, even though I've never seen a tag saying so.

1:14 a.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Snow/Wind Load:

Much as I like the TarpTent Scarp 2 it may not be the best fora big, heavy, wet snow load or VERY high winds (over 45 mph), even with optional the exterior crossing poles. For that you need either a 2 or 3 hoop tent ot a 3 + pole dome tent made for 4 season camping.

Hilleberg is, to me, the best tentmaker/designer for winter tents. Pricey but very durable.

CW, OK to nitpick, silnylon is IMPREGNATED nylon, not "coated" as I said. I know that and just said coated as a turn of phrase. But I am positive, having owned two Tarptents, that the TarpTent floors are more heavily impregnated with silicone than the canopies. Pitched my Contrail on very soggy ground and no leaks or wet-throughs at all.


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