Manufacturers do a lot of engineering and scientific work to cater to customers’ preferences and needs. There are 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-season camps and cabins, and they differ greatly in appearance, versatility, durability, weather-resistance, and other characteristics. These are crucial criteria of choice that make up one universal criterion – suitability for hiking during particular seasons.
What is the difference?
Seasonality depends on the type of materials used in shelters. For instance, 1- and 2-season camps are intended for hiking and backpacking in warm climates or seasons. They are very lightweight and easy to set up. Canvases can keep you comfortable during fine weather, but they are too weak to withstand a high wind, heavy rain, or snow. Please, don’t use such a tent for camping in harsh weather unless you want to end up with your canopy soaked, ripped, or blown off.
Vice versa, 4- and 5-season camps and cabins are heavy-duty. They feature frames (mostly aluminum) and canopies that are made of sturdier materials. For this reason, they are more heavyweight and not quite so good for popular ways of hiking (backpacking).
Most likely, you will feel comfortable with such a tent if you go high up in the mountains or reach far into a northernmost region, where winters are really harsh, and summers are not quite so warm. These camps are really good at protecting campers against showers, heavy snowfalls, hailstorms, snow- and ice buildups, etc. They come with heavy-duty frames, pegs, poles, guylines, etc., which help them stand rock-solid in a strong gale and give you a cabin-level comfort.
On the other hand, a 4- or 5-season cabin is not the best option for regular camping in temperate climates, where it gets warm or hot in summer. Most of them have smaller vents, because ventilation is less of an issue in winter, and condensation is less likely to occur during cold weather. Therefore, if you put up a sturdy canopy on a hot summer day, it may get stuffy inside. Besides, sunlight cannot penetrate through a thick canvas, which can be frustrating for those who appreciate light.
Why purchase 3-season shelters?
Commonly, 3-season backpacking camps are intended for hiking in spring, summer, and in the fall. They are good enough to protect campers against mild rain, hail, wind, snow, and heat that are regular events in the temperate area accounting for the biggest part of the country.
These backpacking (pop-up) tents weigh 3 to 6 lbs and therefore pose little or no difficulty for hikers. Most of them incorporate high-quality polyurethane canopies and user-friendly, lightweight aluminum or carbon-fiber frames, and a minimal number of poles, pegs, guylines, and other accessories. Frames feature sleeveless poles, and canopies are usually clipped to them.
Second, these camps are designed to provide effective ventilation: they have several vents, mesh walls, and ceilings. These can be used optionally depending on weather. Besides, mesh can help you protect the interior against bugs and insects while keeping it ventilated without having to close all doors and windows and block the air flow. Most winter (4-season) camps do not have meshes, because there are no bugs or insects in winter. That’s just one more reason why you should avoid using a winter tent in summer: you don’t want to get bugged in the stifling heat, do you?
As follows from the above, 3-season backpacking cabins strike a happy medium between transportability, ease of setup, and the ability to keep you warm (unless it gets very cold in winter), cool, dry, and bug-free. There is just one must-remember thing: if you are a fan of alpine or winter hiking, these products are not for you!
How do I choose a shelter to backpack with?
Although 3-season tents do share some characteristics, there are tons of products, and they differ greatly. If you are planning to hike a lot, you should do some browsing and research. Yes, there is something to consider: size, weight, color, frame design, type of materials used, etc. Also, think twice about where, when, how, and why you are going to camp: do you want to just have fun with your friends and/or loved ones during weekends? How many people and how much gear are you going to have in your backpack? Are you a hunter/fisherman? What kind of terrain and location do you prefer? Are you ready to spend a little while setting it up or do you want it to pop up right away? Do you prefer campgrounds to wilderness or vice versa? Here are a few options for you to consider. Let’s go!
RBM UP-2 mini
Although UP-2 mini is an all-season tent (RBM does not make 3-season camps), it has become popular in North America’s backpacker community. It has a number of advantages that are common to 3-season canopies while being good for camping on a frosty and windy day.
UP-2 mini is a light-weight all-season shelter. It is very easy to set up and take down. The shelter features a quick-setup umbrella-type frame with bars made of aviation alloy B95T1. The canopy sports a double-layer design that is typical of 4-season shelters: the outer layer is made of the water-resistant and durable Oxford 300 PU 4000 material; the inner Oxford 210 PU 2000 layer is a little thinner. The layer of air between the two canopies provides effective isolation and prevents condensation.
Another great advantage is the possibility of using a woodstove. The tent features a stove jack – a device at the top that is intended for holding the smoke pipe. The stove jack is made of a high-profile heat-proof material, and the stove-area is equipped with a fire-resistant mat. With these at hand, you will stay safe and warm even when it is freezing cold outside.
UP-2-mini features high-quality zippers, which stay operational in any weather. The door, vents, and windows have nets and transparent PVC layers and meshes. The shelter can fit in a backpack and accommodate up to 3 persons without a stove and up to 2 persons with a stove.
Coleman Sundome Tent
In this product, Coleman has demonstrated their long-standing adherence to the ultimate goal of providing comfort to customers. This shelter sports simple yet effective solutions. It features a frame with welded corners, and a canopy with sealed seams. These help the shelter stand rock solid (almost like a cabin) in high winds and keep the interior dry.
The canopy has vents at the bottom and large windows. When opened, they maintain a constant air flow and keep the inside ventilated. Mesh coverings will prevent insects from getting inside. There is an E-port, through which you can run a cord from your vehicle or another source and provide lighting during night hours.
There are wall pockets, in which you can store your gear and accessories. This 3-season backpacking camp is big enough to house two persons, but 3- and 4-person modifications are available too.
Marmot Limelight 2-person Camping Tent with Footprint
This camp is very good for 3-season hiking, as it features a high-quality water-resistant canopy, which will last a lifetime. The frame includes poles and bars, and it is very easy to assemble even for a first-time camper. All seams are sealed properly.
The canopy is made of a material resistant to water, cold, and solar radiation. It will keep you and your companions warm at night or in cold weather, and cool on a hot day. The camp comes with a good set of poles, pegs, and guy ropes. Besides, it features a tub-style floor tray and footprint, which will prevent rainwater from soaking and provides an almost cabin-like foundation.
This camp can house up to two people, and there is a lot of space for gear. Most campers appreciate its compactness and light weight, and they say it is just the right thing to backpack with.
Teton Sports Vista Quick
This 3-season pop-up backpacking shelter is a pebble on the beach for someone who has walked miles to reach the campground and needs a little rest. There is no need to spend a lot of time and effort setting pegs and stakes into the ground and stretching guy ropes. This free-standing solo shelter will spring from your backpack.
Strong and glued seams ensure the integrity of the canopy that will secure you against rain and cold wind. Like many pop-up backpacking tents, this one is intended for use in spring, summer, fall, and winter, if it is not too harsh. The meshed ceiling gives a view of the sky, and you need to buy a rainfly separately (probably, the biggest downside of this product). There is a gear loft, where you can safely store your keys, food, lamp, and other stuff.
All zippers are made to move freely and last for years. The door and windows will keep your shelter ventilated. Teton Sports Vista Quick is a pop-up camp for solo camping, with which you can go hiking and backpacking nearly year-round (unless it gets very cold in winter in your area.)
Quechua Two Seconds Blackout
This 3-season pop-up tent is available thanks to Decathlon – a popular international online sports and recreation store that offers high-profile items.
Quechua Two Seconds Blackout is compact yet spacious enough to accommodate two or even three campers. The shape offers a good amount of headroom for even tall people. The pop-up canopy is made of a blackout material, so you can have a good sleep even in the middle of the day. You can use it as a 3-season shelter, as well as at festivals, presentations, and other outdoor events. The canopy is 2000 waterproof.
Setting it up is a piece of cake: unclip the pack, and your little makeshift home will pop up in less than a couple of seconds. Now you can either leave it free-standing or strengthen it with pegs and guylines, so it can withstand high winds.
It is relatively lightweight (4.2 kg) and therefore good for hiking and backpacking. Some users complain that it is a little hard to put it in a backpack
Choose a camp or cabin in such a way as to satisfy your and your companions’ basic needs and desires and can backpack it easily. Look for the best price/quality ratio. Always be sure why you want to buy this particular backpacking shelter!
🏕 What is a 3-season tent?
It is a shelter intended for hiking and camping in spring, summer, and in the fall. It is more lightweight than a 4-season tent, because it is made of lighter materials. Winter camps have more robust frames and thicker canopies and fewer vents.
📦 Can I use a 3-season tent in winter?
Most campers are okay with these shelters as long as they camp in temperate climates where winters are mild and frosts are not extreme. 3-season backpacking tents should not be used in areas where it gets extremely cold in winter or in mountainous areas with high winds.
💡 Are cabin-style shelters good for hiking?
These are much larger than hiking shelters and are more suitable for outdoor concerts, festivals, competitions, and other events. They have more complex frames and larger canopies, which can hardly fit in a backpack.