When we need to buy a good thing, we have to do a lot of work deciding which one is the best. Camping shelters are no exception. There are scores of products available for sale, and the choice is literally overwhelming.
There seems to be just one universal solution: buy the best camping tent you can afford. In other words, you need to know what you want from your shelter and how big a price you are ready to pay for it. In fact, deciding which product is the best is the hardest part of it. This guide should help you answer the toughest questions that arise as you browse and research. For example, it will help you decide whether or not you need a four-season shelter. There are a good number of criteria and characteristics you should take into account. Let’s see what these are.
What are the criteria of choice of the best 4-season camping tent?
There are lots of things campers should consider before making an investment. Price seems to be a number-one thing. However, given the diversity, the price range is tremendous. And you should know quite so well what you are paying for.
Size and weight
Tents vary in size and weight. This appears to be one of the paramount criteria of choice. You need to be sure how you are going to camp, how many people are going to come with you, and whether you are ready to transport a large and heavyweight product. It would be advisable for you to have a good-sized shelter (to accommodate 6 persons and more) if:
- You are planning to travel with your whole family and friends
- Car camping is your preferred style, and you are going to transport your gear in your vehicle
- You are planning to camp for several days and take a lot of gear with you
- You are an ardent fisher or hunter, and you prefer to fish and hunt in a team
- You are a four-season camper.
There are size recommendations, which you should follow based on how many people you are going to take with you. When choosing the best waterproof tent for camping, it is advisable to buy one with a size margin. For example, for a family of four, a six-person shelter will be okay. Likewise, for a family of six, a ten-person home will be great. The space margin will help you place sleeping pads, air mattresses, and ensure a comfortable sleep for everyone. Not unlikely, some of your companions (e.g. kids/teenagers) will want a little privacy. You can buy a shelter with a removable divider or with more than one door, each leading to a separate room.
Small-size products are good for backpackers, solo campers, and couples. They are compact enough to fit in a backpack and light enough to be carried without using a vehicle. Finally, there are ultra-compact camouflage shelters for solo hunters and wildlife photographers. They are designed to help you get closer to a wild animal and stay unnoticed.
Seasonality: Should I buy a four-season shelter?
Because most campers prefer to camp during three seasons — spring, summer, and fall, — three-season waterproof shelters are the most common ones. They are designed to withstand summer heat and can keep you safe and warm on a hot, damp, windy, or cool day, and get you through a moderately chilly night in early spring or late fall. Many campers say they are okay with their three-season shelters during a light frost.
As a rule, the best waterproof three-season tents feature canopies made of high-quality materials and a sturdy, easy-to-set-up frame. Besides, three-season shelters are made of lightweight materials, so they are popular among backpackers. Car campers appreciate these for not taking up too much space in the trunk. Most three-season shelters feature a two-layer canvas with a mesh top. This type of design ensures sufficient ventilation and prevents excessive condensation. Three-season shelters come with a rainfly, which is made of a solid material and covers the mesh part. It is velcroed, clipped, or tied to the rest of the structure.
Best waterproof three-season tents for camping can withstand brief showers, continuous mild rains, and light snowfalls. However, they are not good for camping in the uplands or harsh climates. Four-season shelters feature canvases that are made of sturdier and stiffer materials. They are designed to withstand heavy rainfalls, strong gales, and heavy snow loads. For example, the “UP-5” All-Season Premium Outfitter Tent with Stove Jack sports a two-layer canvas, the outer layer made of waterproof Oxford 300 PU (polyurethane) 4000, and the inner layer made of Oxford 210 PU 2000, which is thinner. The space between the two layers improves insulation and keeps the interior warm for a long time. Frames are made of stiffer alloys and last much longer. For example, the UP-5 features a frame made of a sturdy and durable aviation alloy B95T1. This and other four-season shelters have frames with a more complex geometry and can be a little harder to install for a novice.
On the other hand, buying even the best four-season waterproof tent for camping is not a smart choice for summer camping. Most such products are designed solely to protect you against frost, wind, and snow, and ventilation is not their strongest point. Most of them are single-walled and have little to no mesh. Four season shelters are great for winter hunting, winter fishing, and mountaineering.
Shape and design
Most likely, you know what type of product you prefer, as you may feel more comfortable setting it up and staying in it. Some shelters are spacious enough for you to stand and walk inside. On the other hand, they may be more challenging in terms of pitching. There are several most common types, including, to name a few:
A cabin tent is the best option for those who appreciate space and freedom of movement inside. They have vertical walls and are quite tall at the peak, allowing dwellers to stand tall and keep a lot of gear inside. They range in size from four- to twelve-person, feature large windows, and large hinged doors. Cabins are fitted for most campgrounds, and they are also waterproof and therefore good for camping in the wild.
Dome tents are more compact in size than cabins. They range from small to medium-sized and accommodate 2 to 4 persons. There are four-season options. Dome shelters have sloping walls and therefore cannot provide enough space for free movement inside. However, they sit firmly on the ground and demonstrate stability on a windy day. If you are a tall person, a cabin will be a better option for you anyway.
The classic A-frame design solves the weight problem. It is strongly appreciated by backpackers, as they are easy to carry and set up. They cannot provide good headroom, but they can be the best camping tents for solo campers and couples. One of their biggest advantages is stability during fierce winds and waterproof materials they are made of. To ensure stability, it is necessary to stake the shelter and strengthen it with guylines properly.
Tunnel tents are increasingly popular, as they are waterproof and offer a good amount of space and headroom. They can accommodate a group of campers and quite a bit of gear, and there are four season versions. Many campers appreciate their elongated shape and user-friendliness. They are easier to set up than domes and cabins, and intense airflow inside guarantees effective ventilation. However, you should take the wind thing a little more seriously with a tunnel shelter. A long canvas is quite exposed to gusty winds and may bow if it blows really hard. Not unlikely, you are going to have to use extra poles, pegs, and guylines. However, if used properly, it can be the best 4-season camping tent for four or more people.
Prior to starting out to your chosen area, check weather forecast for the location and take wind direction into account. Pick an area with natural wind breaks (hills, rock outcroppings, shrubs, bushes, etc.). Do not pitch near trees because a wind may break off a large branch or even send the whole tree tumbling right down on your shelter! Place your shelter parallel to the direction of the wind and with the door opposite to it. Putting it at a slight angle to the wind will be a good thing to do too. Thus you will ensure that the wind pressure will spread evenly across the canvas, and it will remain stable.
The tepee design pretty much mimics shelters, which were used by Native Americans, and they have inherited a lot of good things from those. These shelters demonstrate a beneficial space/weight ratio, effective ventilation, and user-friendliness. More often than not, it takes just one or two persons to set up a teepee-style shelter. They have a conical shape, as they rest on one tall pole and diverging guylines that are attached to pegs hammered into the ground. The shape is conducive to effective ventilation and effective use of a wood stove. That is the reason why tribesmen were so well-off heating their tepees with fire. Many modern tepee-style shelters feature stove jacks and can prove to be best 4-season camping tents.
Other choice tactics
Now that you know some specifics, you can try some options and see how it works. For example, you can rent a product that looks good to you instead of buying and test-running it. There are stores that allow users to use products for a little while and have a little practice. You can touch the canvas, check zippers, poles, pegs, guylines, and other accessories, which you will need during your camping trip during all 4-seasons. Practice is the best way to get experience and check the product’s strong and weak points.
There are numerous written and video tutorials online, so you can check information about a particular brand and view the setup process. Now that you have learned the algorithm, it is about time to practice it in your backyard. Be sure that all poles and pegs are sturdy, and guylines attach firmly, especially if you are testing a four-season shelter. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Always check waterproof ratings that are measured in millimeters and range from 800 to 2,000 mm. For example, a shelter with a rating of 1,500 mm won’t leak until a column of water pouring down on it exceeds the length of 1,500 mm.
🏕 What camping tent is the best for me?
Tents come in a variety of styles, designs, and sizes, and there is no universal type of shelter to satisfy all possible needs and preferences. Your choice should depend on your and your companions’ needs and goals. Buy the best product you can afford and be sure it is waterproof enough to protect you against rain and other natural factors.
📦 What is a four-season tent?
It is a kind of shelter designed to withstand and secure you against severe frosts, snowfalls, blizzards, and other extreme weather factors. These shelters are made of sturdier and more durable materials than three-season shelters that are intended to use in spring, summer, and fall.
💡 Should I buy a 4-season shelter for year-round camping?
These shelters are great for use in winter, but not the best for summer camping. They utilize thicker materials and lack ventilation.