Is a four season tent okay for summer use, or will it be too hot? Find out how four season tents fare in the summer heat here!
You can use a four season tent in summer, but you might need to pay extra attention to the temperature in the tent. Many four season tents are made to keep you better protected from wind in more extreme winter conditions, so you may need to spend time cooling them down to camp comfortably.
What more do you need to know? Are 4-season tents really all that different from 3-season tents? Which is better for the summer? Do you actually need a 4-season tent if you like to go out on winter camping trips? Read on, and you’ll find the answers to these questions and more.
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Can You Really Use A 4 Season Tent In The Summer?
If you already have a 4-season tent, you may not want to spend more money on a tent for summer use. After all, it is a tent designed for 4 seasons. As the name implies, you certainly can use a 4-season tent in the summer, but it may not always be the best choice.
If you live in Texas for example, where it gets up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit in May (like it did yesterday), then your 4-season tent is not a good idea at all.
To determine how your 4-season tent will function in the summer, you may want to take a look at a few features of both the tent and where you’re camping. Some 4-season tents are made with double walls. Naturally, these tents are often made to keep the heat in during the winter.
Because of that, they may have less airflow than tents designed for 3 seasons or less. In the summer heat that can leave them quite stifling.
The nice thing about double-wall tents is that the external wall is often removable. If you are sleeping under open stars, then you may be lucky enough where you can remove the outer wall altogether–this would work just fine.
That’s not to say you can’t cool them down with other means. By leaving a door open (mosquitoes!) for a while before bedtime, or a window if your tent has one, you can get things back to a workable temperature in time for bed. Making sure to set up your tent in a shaded area can also help a lot.
In short, you may need to be prepared to take a few extra steps to keep your 4-season tent comfortable. However, it can certainly be done. There isn’t really any reason that a 4-season tent would be unlivable in the summertime.
Even if you’re camping in a well-ventilated 3-season tent, camping in summer can still get quite hot! On top of that, you may not always have access to any kind of air conditioning, or even access to an electric fan. In those instances, you’ll need more methods on hand to keep yourself and your family cool. In our article here, you’ll find the tips you need to keep cool without electricity.
4 Season Tents Versus 3 Season Tents: A Comparison
The best way to determine what kind of tent you need is to compare 3-season and 4-season options side by side.
To aid in this, I’ve put together some information on two different tents for each section, one in a lower price range and one that is on the more expensive end. That way, you can see what similar budgets will get you when it comes to both 3-season and 4-season tents.
Examples Of 3 Season Tents
3-Season tents are still no slouch when it comes to keeping you comfortable in a huge variety of weather conditions. After looking through a variety of camper opinions, articles, and the details on specific tents, I’ve come to the conclusion that a solid 3-season tent can handle pretty much everything but a winter storm.
Options like REI’s Quarter Dome SL2 are more than capable of dealing with normal weather patterns, rain, and even hail. They allow a little more airflow than other options because they aren’t designed to hold in your heat as much as possible.
The MSR Hubba 2 by MSR comes in at a higher price, offering a bit more quality. However, this is also a tent that isn’t designed for extreme winter weather.
Both of these tents are durable and extremely lightweight, as they are recommended for the purposes of backpacking.
Examples Of 4-Season Tents
Unlike 3-season tents, 4-season tents are designed to handle absolutely anything the weather can throw at them, save for being struck by lightning.
Many of these tents are also highly lightweight so that they can be carried long distances by hikers and mountaineers. Some 4-season tents offer double walls to aid in durability as well as heat retention. However, 4-season tents like the Black Diamond HiLight use an extremely durable single-wall design instead.
What Are The Differences?
According to the REI website, each of the tents I’ve taken a look into includes a recommended use. If you take a look, you’ll be able to see that the 3-season tents I’ve included are recommended for “backpacking”, while the 4-season tents are recommended for “mountaineering”.
This, in itself, can give you a good idea of what kind of tent you should be using. Essentially, if you know you’re going to be in frigid, snowy weather, then a 4-season tent is needed. Aside from that, a 3-season tent will work well in most cases.
I can attest to my own experience, having slept in temperatures in the 30s and 40s (Fahrenheit), that a 3-season tent can work for these scenarios if all you’re dealing with is rain.
Remember, the tent is designed to keep out the wind and rain, you still need solid sleeping bags or quilts, sleeping pad, and potentially more insulation (sleeping bag liners for instance) to stay warm.
Both of these kinds of tents are highly durable, reliable, and lightweight. The main difference is that 4-season tents offer an extra step up in durability and design, just in case it should end up covered in snow.
Do I Need A 4-Season Tent For Winter Camping?
When you’re considering whether or not a 4-season tent is worth the purchase, think about where you’ll be camping in the winter months. There’s a huge difference between camping in a Californian winter and a winter in Wisconsin.
Camping in the former may bring you a few showers at best under normal circumstances, while the latter may mean you end up trapped in a blizzard.
There’s no denying that the warmth many 4-season tents are designed to provide can be helpful for camping in the winter no matter what state you’re in. That said, that doesn’t make them absolutely necessary if you’re camping in an area with very mild winters.
However, if you expect snow (or at least very cold temperatures), it’s probably worth opting for a 4-season tent. They’re more durable under the weight of snow and to minimize excessive ventilation and therefore are better equipped to keep you warm.
While an outdoor temperature of 40 degrees may not warrant the need for a 4-season tent by itself, you’ll still need to keep warm! Check out our article on the subject here for a number of tips to keep you warm when you’re camping in cooler temperatures.
When A 4-Season Tent Is Helpful
4-Season tents are typically designed with an incredible amount of durability. Unlike the typical tent, they are created to withstand the kind of wind and snow you’d find on a mountain.
Consider for a moment just how much strength that would require. When climbing a mountain, you could find yourself in blizzard conditions quite easily. A foot or more of snow could be left on your tent, and the winds could be incredibly harsh.
As a result, you may not need to opt for a 4-season tent in most normal conditions, but if you’re planning to camp on a mountain, it’s a necessary choice. Otherwise, they can also be helpful if you’re camping in extreme winter conditions at ground-level.
When You Should Choose A 3-Season Tent
While 4-season tents may be built for the most extreme conditions, 3-season tents aren’t exactly fragile themselves. These tents are made to handle just about everything short of a blizzard. Rain, wind, and even small amounts of snow are unlikely to be too much of an issue when it comes to durability.
However, keep in mind that the seams on 3-season tents may not be quite as reinforced as those on 4-season tents. They’re still going to be highly durable, but don’t expect them to be good mountaineering shelters.
When it comes to summer, 3-season tents are a superior choice. While a 4-season tent can be used in the summer, you may find yourself overheating due to their heat-trapping design. Meanwhile, 3-season tents provide a bit more airflow so you can stay cool when the temperatures are rising outside.
In short, 3-season tents are ideal for essentially everything other than freezing winter temperatures and large amounts of snow. So if you don’t plan on camping in the winter, these tents are a perfect choice.
If you’re a fairweather camper only, you can opt for something like a 2-season tent. However, it’s typically wise to be prepared for the possibility of a spring or summer shower. 3-Season tents do this best.
If you don’t need a 4-season tent in the summer, do you need a sleeping bag? After all, the temperature promises to be comfortable, and a light blanket or two might be enough. In our article covering this subject, you’ll gain the information you need to decide whether or not a sleeping bag is essential for summer camping. Check it out here!