3 Season Vs. 4 Season Tents – Which Should You Be Looking At?

two people wearing snow boots in a tent

Not sure whether you should buy a 3 season tent or a 4 season tent? By the end of this article, the answer will be clear as day.

First, we’ll talk about camping tent season ratings and what they mean.

Next, we’ll take a closer look at 3 season tents and 4 season tents, and what each of them has to offer.

Finally, we’ll discuss how to decide which tent is right for you based on your needs.

Ready?

Let’s get started.

Tent Season Ratings Explained

Now, listen up – this part might seem self explanatory, but it isn’t. These ratings can actually be quite deceiving if you’re not familiar with what they really mean.

You might think a 4 season tent is a tent you can use all year round. While you technically can, these tents aren’t exactly recommended for use in warm weather.

But hang on, how is it a 4 season tent if you can’t use it in the summer? Doesn’t that make it a 3 season tent?

Well, no. You see, a 3 season tent indicates that it isn’t suitable for use in cold weather.

Tents that are made for use in extreme weather conditions are rated 5 season tents. Finally, 1 or 2 season tents are designed especially for use in warm weather exclusively.

tent season ratings chart

The Characteristics Of A 3 Season Tent

tent in the forest surrounded by fall leaves

A 3 season tent is also known as a backpacking tent. This is because it’s a lightweight tent, with a focus on portability and breathability.

That being said, there are some that are heavier. These are worth looking at if you’re car camping, because they provide better weather protection. Still, they won’t shield you from extremely cold weather.

The main objective of a 3 season tent is to provide protection from insects, as well as light wind and rain.

They’re made to be used in summer, spring or fall. In other words, you can use them when the weather is warm, and when it gets a little bit chilly. For anything colder, you’ll want to look at getting a 4 season tent.

Most of the time, a 3 season tent will have an inner tent and a separate rain fly. These tents aren’t water resistant until the rain fly is attached. In the summer, you might not even need it. In spring though, and especially fall, you’ll definitely want to put it on for protection against the elements.

3 season tents generally tend to be more affordable than 4 season tents.

The Characteristics Of A 4 Season Tent

tent on a mountain in the snow

A 4 season tent is also known as a winter tent or a mountaineering tent. This is because it’s designed to endure high wind and heavy snow.

They’re made to be used in winter, spring or fall. That’s right, also only 3 seasons. They’re too thick for use as a summer tent, as it’d be too hot inside to sleep comfortably.

The main purpose of a 4 season tent is to protect you from the elements and prevent condensation from collecting inside the tent.

The tent body will often have double walls. This is because a double wall tent retains more warmth in the space inside than a single wall tent does.

Still, all tents need to be breathable. That means that if you’re camping in extremely cold weather, it’s still going to be cold inside the tent. You’ll just be protected from the heavy wind and snow outside.

To stay warm in your tent, you’ve got to have a good sleeping pad and sleeping bag, and the right kind of clothing. Make sure that your sleeping pad and sleeping bag have got an adequate temperature rating for the kind of weather you’re expecting.

4 season tents are usually pricier than 3 season tents. That being said, there are some excellent 4 season tents out there that are reasonably priced.

Which Tent Is Right For Me

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the weather conditions you plan on using your tent in. For most weather conditions, a 3 season tent is what you’re after. It’s great for use during the summer, but it can also withstand reasonably strong winds, moderate rain and even light snow.

The only time you’d want to look at getting a 4 season tent is if you’re going to be camping in extreme winter conditions.

If you’re camping at high altitudes during the winter, a good 4 season tent will provide you with the protection you need.

In all other cases, a 3 season tent is the way to go.

If you’re going on a long term camping trip and you expect the weather to change significantly, it would be best to have both a 3 season and a 4 season tent.

The Bottom Line

Now you know all there is to know about 3 season vs 4 season tents.

Both of them can be used in the spring and fall.

Contrary to what the name suggests, a 4 season tent is ideal for winter camping, but it isn’t great for use in summer.

For summertime camping, you want a 3 season tent.

But don’t use it for camping in cold winter weather!