Travel light: how to choose a winter backpack tent

Travel light: how to choose a winter backpack tent
Pavlo Lysyy December 15, 2022 8 mins read time

Winter is coming, and for many of us, that means heading out into the great outdoors for some good old-fashioned backpacking. But before you hit the trail, you're going to need a good tent — one that can stand up to the cold, wind, and snow. 


Here are 10 things to consider when choosing a shelter:

1. Weight

A backpacking tent’s weight is the most important thing to consider for many tourists, especially for those who are traveling by foot. Items like that can add significant weight to a backpack, and in some cases can be the deciding factor between whether or not a trip is feasible.

To find the right balance between weight and comfort, it's critical to consider all of the factors that go into the final item weight. Take into account everything from the materials used in your temporary home, to the type of sleeping bag you're using. And don't forget about any extras you might bring along, like a portable stove or mosquito netting. The goal is to find that sweet spot where you get the most value out of your gear while minimizing overall weight of our backpack.

Since you'll be carrying pounds worth of groceries, water, clothing, and gear for your overnight backpacking trip, your shelter should be as light as possible. Backpacking models usually weigh between 3 and 10 pounds but there are some bulkier options when it comes to winter-resistant designs.

If you're going on a high-altitude mountaineering expedition, or plan to go camping in the winter, invest in a mountaineering model. Mountaineering items are usually single-walled (more on that below), are lightweight, and can withstand high winds and snow loads.

 winter backpack tent

2. Weather protection

This is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a backpacking tent for winter. Make sure the shelter you choose can withstand high winds and heavy snowfall. A good way to test construction’s weather resistance is by reading online reviews from other users who have used the product in similar conditions.

An all season backpacking shelter is the best way to protect yourself from the cold and wet outdoors. A quality product for all seasons can keep you warm, dry, and comfortable in any weather conditions. The most important thing to consider is the material used to make the item.

The materials used for the frames and the walls of the all season product will determine its durability and how well it will hold up over time. The most common materials for the walls are nylon and polyester. Nylon is lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. Polyester is also strong, durable, and light. As for the frame, it’s better if the construction is made with aluminum alloys. These are lightweight yet flexible and can handle bearing a heavy load. This factor is essential for winter camping trips when your haven will have to withstand strong winds, rain, and snow.

3. Insulation

When camping in the winter, there are some additional features to look for when selecting an all season backpacking tent. One of the most important aspects is insulation, which helps keep you warm and protected from cold weather conditions. Look for all season designs that have multiple layers of insulation or even an insulated floor, as this will help to maintain your body heat while camping.

4. Capacity

The model’s capacity is a very important parameter to consider. You need to be sure that the design you choose will fit both you and your equipment as well. This includes gear for cooking, sleeping, and everything else you might need. Find a winter haven that will allow you to comfortably sit up, stretch out, and move around in it.

Also make sure that there are enough pockets in your camping accommodation, so that you can store things like food, water, toiletries, and other items in them. This way they won’t get lost or stolen while you are away from them.

For family backpacking, consider buying a dome-style construction that provides more room but still packs down to fit on your backpack. A two-person tent is often the best option.

But for larger groups, it is best to get a three- or four-person model. These designs provide ample room for everyone to stretch out, and they are also spacious enough to accommodate gear storage and cooking areas.

5. Ease of Setup

When you're dealing with cold weather, the last thing you want is to be fumbling around with complicated poles and rain flies. So make sure you choose a haven that's easy to set up, even if you’re traveling solo. The quickest and easiest type of tent to set up is usually a pop-up or a dome model. These backpacking tents have a simple design that can be assembled in just minutes.

6. Ventilation

When you're camping in cold weather, you want to make sure your tent has adequate ventilation so you don't wake up covered in condensation. At night, your breath draws a lot of moist air into the tent. The air rises and hits the inside walls of the tent, where the moisture condenses into ice. These fine particles can get on you and your equipment. To counteract this, all season shelter manufacturers use double-wall construction, which promotes airflow by making the item’s body and flysheet two separate pieces. Plus, most models these days come with mesh paneling that allows for proper ventilation while still keeping bugs and other critters out. It’s also recommended to look for backpacking models with plenty of windows so that fresh air circulates throughout the place while camping during those cold months.

Finally, keep an eye out for the retractable vents, which can be opened to create a chimney-like effect and allow air to flow (you can also close them if the weather turns nice).

7. Packed Size

Packed size is fundamental when it comes to selecting your temporary home – a bulky item can quickly weigh down your camping luggage, making the outdoor adventure very uncomfortable instead of memorable. Such a product shoulde be easy topack down into your traveling backpack.

Choose one with the lowest packed size ratio possible. A well-designed packed size not only saves you energy while carrying it around but also dramatically reduces the amount of space needed in both your backpack and campsite.

8. Additional space for storage

Tents that can fit into your backpack are usually lightweight and compact, so there is unusually no additional space for storage. But if you’re camping with someone else, you can split the load and carry it in several backpacks. This way you can get yourself a shelter with a vestibule for additional storage space. This is often a good option for those who travel with a lot of gear.

Vestibules can become additional space for gear or even sleeping bags or personal items. They can also provide extra shade, which is useful when you’re camping in the mountains where the sunlight is very aggressive. While they do not offer complete shelter, they do provide overall protection from the weather. This can be a great feature to have when you’re backpacking with kids.

Like any storage space, a tent's footprint (how much of the floor space is taken up) is an important consideration when choosing a product. Smaller shelters may not provide enough room for all your gear, so you'll have to find other places to store things like food and water.

9. Windows and doors

The number of doors in a haven is an important thing to consider for backpacking couples. The most common type on the market is the single-door model. Such an item is ideal for those who prefer a more intimate experience and are looking for a more private accommodation. However, a double-door model is ideal for those who prefer to share the experience with their partner, as it offers more space.

10. Cost

Before you start looking for a backpacking camping home, make sure you know how much you are willing to spend. You can look at outdoor brands and review the price range of the products that are available in the market. If you are on a tight budget, then it is better to go for a lightweight model for a backpack that is compact and can be easily folded. If you’re planning to use a tent often or keep it for many years then you should consider investing in all season design. These products are manufactured specifically to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow and strong winds.

Backpacking with RBM Outdoors

All season tents by RBM Outdoors are made specifically to protect outdoor enthusiasts from harsh weather and extreme winter conditions, and that’s why these models are not extremely lightweight. Nevertheless, it’s a perfect investment in the comfort of your adventures. If you’re planning to travel with a company you could consider purchasing the all season RBM Outdoors product and carrying it in several backpacks or using it for your trip with a vehicle.

The most lightweight item in stock at the moment is all season design with stove jack ‘UP-2-mini’. It’s 35 lbs (15.8 kg) which is quite a little for the full package of a tent. It’s a perfect temporary accommodation for two people in sleeping bags with a stove and three people without a stove. An average person can stand freely inside it as its height is 71” (180 cm). The model has two windows, one door, and top-notch ventilation.

The frame of ‘UP-2-mini’ is made of aviation alloy B95T1. It’s a high-strength material that restores its initial shape after bearing a heavy load. The outer layer of the all season tent is manufactured from an innovative, and water-resistant material, Oxford 300 PU 4000, and the inner layer is manufactured from Oxford 210 PU 2000. The air space between two layers significantly decreases condensation and effectively retains interior heat.

If you choose this all season product, your future outdoor adventures will turn into the best memories you ever had on a camping trip.

If you are looking for super lightweight products specifically, here is our list of the most popular and easy-to-carry shelters for your backpack:

  1. 1. The North Face Mountain 25
  2. 2. The Black Diamond Firstlight
  3. 3. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
  4. 4. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX
  5. 5. The Marmot Tungsten 2P
  6. 6. The Kelty Grand Mesa 2
  7. 7. The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2
  8. 8. The REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus
  9. 9. The Wenzel Alpine

    backpacking tent winter,

Tips for backpacking in the winter

Backpacking during the winter months can be an incredibly rewarding experience if done safely and responsibly. By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to take on the outdoors in winter and enjoy all the beauty that comes with it.

  1. Winter outdoor trips can be a great way to experience nature in a whole new light. From fresh snowfall to ice-covered lakes, staying in the wild in the cold season brings a unique set of experiences. But camping in extreme weather comes with its safety considerations – such as staying warm and preventing hypothermia – that must be taken into account before heading out. Make sure you’re prepared for such tests and it’s something you would like to experience. If you’re not committed to such adventurous activity, you should have a ‘trial’ camping in your backyard or somewhere close to civilization.
  2. The most important thing when traveling in the winter is proper clothing and equipment. Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the conditions. Wear layers of synthetic or wool materials to keep your body heat from escaping and choose waterproof fabrics if possible. Hats, gloves, and thick socks are essential for keeping your extremities warm, too.
  3. It's also important to use a camping stove instead of a campfire in the winter. As snow melts, it can leave camping spots wet and muddy, making it difficult to start a fire with traditional methods. Having a portable stove will make cooking easier and more efficient as well.
  4. Be sure to bring extra supplies for your time outdoors in the winter too. You’ll need more food and water due to the cold temperatures, as your body will use up more energy trying to stay warm. And if you decide to take on an ambitious hike or trail run, make sure you have enough provisions for the length of time you plan on being away from civilization.
  5. Lastly, make sure that you have all the necessary camping gear for en route and camping in cold weather; this includes heavy-duty sleeping bags, warm clothing, snowshoes or ice tools for walking on frozen ground, and camping stoves. With the right shelter and equipment, camping during winter months can be a cozy and enjoyable experience!


🏕  Are backpacking tents different from other models?

These shelters are usually more lightweight than average products. They are more compact in a packed state so they can fit easily in your backpack.

📦  What kind of tent is the best for winter backpacking?

If you’re planning to camp in winter and extreme weather conditions, you should put your safety first. Look for an all season product that can keep you warm and dry during rain and snow.

💡  What is better – a lightweight tent or a hot shelter for winter?

This depends on the type of adventure you’re looking for. If you're going on a high-altitude mountaineering expedition, invest in a lightweight mountaineering model. If you’re traveling with your vehicle, you can choose something that is bulkier but more protective, spacious, and comfortable to stay in, for example, a dome shelter with a portable stove.


Haseeb Marks

Haseeb Marks said:

For a fan of hiking, this article is essential! Thank you so much RBM

Jenson Connolly

Jenson Connolly said:

So many amazing tents in this article, almost impossible to make a choice:)

Brogan Daniel

Brogan Daniel said:

Black Diamond is my go-to piece of gear!

Brooklyn Mckay

Brooklyn Mckay said:

make sure to take all safety measures in advance, bring extra clothes and heating devices, it’s v important!! dont be negligent!

Roman Suarez

Roman Suarez said:

Backpacking is so much fun!

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