We have at GO what I consider to be some of the very best tents on the market, from the casual Kelty Grand Mesa, to the ultralight Easton Mountain Products, to the bomb proof Hilleberg tents. And they range in price from a few hundred dollars upward of a full thousand dollars or more. One of the questions we get asked most about our tents, is what is the difference between a 3 and 4 season tent?
The answer, really, is a little hazy. Especially considering that some 3 season tents might suit your winter hunts or winter adventures perfectly.
The easiest way to distinguish a 3 and 4 season tent really comes down to what it was designed to do.
Three season tents are usually designed to be as lightweight and ventilated as possible. They’re often built with a lot of mesh for this purpose. And the parts of the tent that aren’t made of mesh will often use a light weight nylon or polyester material. Three season tents will withstand moderate to high winds and can keep you dry in pretty torrential rainfall. What they don’t do well, however, is withstand snow buildup, and could collapse on you should you find yourself in heavy snow. They also don’t do well at maintaining a warm inner “micro-climate” created by your body as you hideout in the tent.
A four season tent, on the other hand, should really be thought of as more of a winter tent. They are built with much more durable material, a polyester with larger and more threads per inch than 3 season tents. They’ll have full “bathtub” floors, meaning the bottom of the tent wraps up the side without seams, and is a highly durable material. The design of a 4 Season tent is meant to withstand snow buildup and extreme winds. So you’ll often find steeper sidewalls, more and larger tent poles, and significantly more attachments for guy lines to secure the tent. Because 4 season tents are meant to be used in cold weather, it’s important that they’re designed with large vestibules (the area of the tent that’s covered by the rain fly, but not actually part of the inner tent) for cooking and storing gear, and be able to move air and humidity around through smart placement of the vents.
Which tent is right for you?
For most hunts in the southwest, even some January archery deer hunts, you can probably get away with a good 3 season tent like the MSR Hubba Hubba or the EMP Kilo. But if there’s the possibility of snowfall, or you might travel to Alaska or another northern state to hunt, nothing will end your trip (and quite possibly put you in serious danger) than a collapsed tent in a snow storm.
On more than one occasion I’ve found myself hunting in Coues deer in December in central Arizona, and have woken to find 10 inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground. On those occasions, I’ve never regretted spending the money for the Hilleberg Soulo.