If you live in an area that gets some fairly harsh winter weather, but you also don’t want to give up camping year-round, a good four season tent is a must-have piece of equipment you need in your gear pile. It’s not a purchase that you want to go into unprepared, though. You’ll want to look at various parts of the construction and features and go with the models that make the most sense for your needs.
First off, you’ll want to decide whether you need a single or double wall tent. The benefit of a single wall is that it’s lighter in weight. If you’re into going light and you’re doing a lot of long-distance backpacking, a single wall tent might be the way to go. Double wall tents have their benefits, as well. Namely, you get better insulation. The inner tent provides superior water resistance and condensation isn’t as big of an issue. The outer tent provides the weather protection. In general, double walls are more durable and warmer, so if you’re really planning to brave the elements when camping, a double wall is likely your best bet.
Pole design is also a major factor when choosing a four season tent. Designs will vary, but in general, the more pole intersections and higher the number of clips mean the tent will be sturdier. When looking at pole construction, you’ll want to opt for something that blends an ease in pitching with strength and durability.
Your rain fly is also an invaluable component to the four season tent. This is the piece that will essentially weatherproof your tent, shedding rain, snow, and ice. Rain flies vary slightly between single and double wall tents. Single wall rain flys are basically the outer wall of the tent itself, while a double wall tent comes with a spate “outer” tent, which is guyed to the ground for stability and makes for a stronger setup.
You’ll also want good ventilation in your four season tent. As you breathe, your warm, exhaled breath will rise. When this hot air hits the cold wall of the tent, condensation forms and it can literally soak you and your gear if you don’t have adequate ventilation. While some tents boast “breathable” material, what you want to look for are actual vents, and the more- the better.