Winter camping, especially snow camping, can be amazing as much as camping during the warm seasons. The landscapes are beautiful, the trails are definitely less crowded than in summer, and you will not have to worry about mosquitoes or other bugs.
But while a weekend of camping during the summer can certainly be improvised, even by those who have never planted a stake and the worst that can happen is you find yourself soaking wet due to a sudden downpour, winter and snow camping trips must be planned and organized very carefully.
Paths, weather, clothing, gear, food, every detail must be studied and planned in advance if you don’t want to have a dreadful experience.
If you want some tips on how to prepare your camping trip on the snow you can read this winter camping and backpacking tips article.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Pop Up Tents for Winter Camping
I’m a huge fan of pop up tents. You can use them almost everywhere and almost in every weather conditions… except for winter camping and snow camping.
In fact, the main features, that make pop up tents so versatile in spring, summer and even in autumn, their lightness and flexibility, instead become weaknesses when it comes to using them in very extreme conditions such as those that you may encounter during a hiking trip to high altitudes.
Their flexible structure and the lightness of their materials makes pop up tents unsuitable to withstand the weight of snow or heavy rains of winter.
Most pop up tents are single layer and even if they are waterproof, winter rains and snow are quite another thing than the spring rains or even summer storms.
The poles used in pop up tents are usually made of carbon fiberglass. Yes, they are very flexible and can withstand strong gusts of wind but they can easily break under the weight of a large snowfall.
That’s why I don’t recommend using pop up tents for winter camping. What kind of tent should you buy then?
The Best Choice for Winter Camping
The best tent you can buy for winter camping or snow camping is a four season tent. This kind of tent is designed specifically for withstand the worst weather conditions. You can find two kinds of four season tents, single layer and double layer.
The single layer or single wall tent has one layer of water resistant or waterproof fabric. It is lighter than a double layer tent and usually faster and easier to set up. On the other hand, they are colder and less roomy than a double layer tent.
You should choose a single walled tent for shorter trips, where moving light and fast is a priority like long ski tours or lightweight alpine climbs.
A double layer four season tent provides better weather protection than a single walled because it is made with two layers of fabrics.
Double Layer Tents
The inner tent is usually breathable and water repellent to make the vapor pass through, reducing the possibility of raining back down on your head. The outer tent is waterproof and protects you against the icy winds, snow and rain.
A double layer tent is heavier than a single layer but it is warmer and more comfortable. You should choose a double layer tent for trips where you will be in the same camp for several nights.
Four season double-wall tents are equipped with vestibules, usually made of the same waterproofed fabric of the outer tent which provide a dry space for entry and exit the tent and store gear and boots.
Another detail to think about when choosing a four season tent is ventilation. Staying inside a tent involves the formation of condensation due to the humidity of our breath. The greater the number of vents in the tent, the lower will be the formation of condensation.
The Bottom Line
Whatever the tent you buy, it is best practice to mount it several times before using it on your trip, maybe in your backyard. This will allow you to be familiar with all the steps in order to be faster and more secure when necessary.
Regarding the price, four-season tents are much more expensive than three-season tents. This is due to the higher quality and cost of the fabrics and poles. They can range from 250 up to 5000 dollars.
Some of these tents are intended only for the professionals for extreme hiking or for expeditions in the high mountains, others are more affordable even for amateur hikers.
That’s another reason why winter camping trips must be planned properly.
It would be quite annoying discover, in the middle of a snowstorm, that the tent you bought for a bargain is not as solid and comfortable as you expected.