Best Mountaineering Tents for Alpine Adventures

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If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best mountaineering tent is, we recommend the Black Diamond Mission 2 tent.

Mountaineering can be tough work. Blustery winds, freezing temperatures, and thick snowfall are common occurrences in alpine climates, which is why we often talk about the importance of a solid pair of mountaineering boots, layering clothes, and a set of crampons.

However, just as important is where you’re going to be sleeping at night. In the mountains, especially during the colder months, not just any tent will do. You’ll need one of the best mountaineering tents to keep you safe, protected, and relatively warm on those frostbitten nights.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best mountaineering tents:

Why Get a Mountaineering Tent?

red tent door looking at snowy mountains

Mountain climates are some of the harshest on earth. Strong winds, sudden weather changes, and heavy snow are just a few of the obstacles that you’ll face when mountaineering. If your tent fails you in such an extreme environment, your fun excursion will quickly turn into a battle for survival.

So, why get a mountaineering tent? Unlike most 3 season tents, mountaineering tents are designed with a strong pole structure and more waterproof materials. They’re also more aerodynamic, allowing them to withstand stronger wind gusts without collapsing or blowing away.

The downside is that they’re also a lot heavier than your typical 3 season backpacking tent. However, during summertime when the winds aren’t as strong, and there’s little to no risk of snow, there’s no need to go overboard with a mountaineering tent.

3 Season or 4 Season?

While many mountaineering tents are 4 season shelters, a common misconception is that all of them are that way. And hey, it’s a fair assumption. When you think of mountaineering, you probably picture someone hiking through brutal, wintery conditions up a steep route filled with rock and ice. Many times, that’s exactly what’s happening, and the mountaineer will want a 4 season tent to battle against the elements. However, a blustery winter environment isn’t the only climate that they’ll experience at elevation.

During summertime, it isn’t uncommon to find yourself backpacking up a mountain in 60-degree weather (or warmer), wearing nothing but a T-shirt and shorts. At night, perhaps the temperature dips into the 40s, but the weather is otherwise calm and peaceful. Do you need a 4 season tent, and all the weight and thick insulation that comes with it? Definitely not. In fact, you would probably regret bringing one, instead of a lighter, better ventilated 3 season tent.

Single or Double Walled?

several tents at dusk on a snowy mountain

There aren’t very many single walled tents out there, in comparison to double walled tents. However, they do exist, and we’ll be talking about one in our review below – the Black Diamond Eldorado. But what’s the difference between the two styles?

Well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. A double walled tent has two walls, usually in the form of a mesh, inner layer and a rainfly on top. On the other hand, a single walled tent doesn’t have a rainfly, which makes it less waterproof and creates problems with ventilation. You’ll also lose the option to have a vestibule.

However, single walled tents are lighter weight, easier to pitch, and perform well in cold, dry climates. So, if you don’t expect to see much moisture, I’d recommend going with one of these for your next mountaineering trip.

Weight

Climbing mountains is hard work. Why make it harder than it needs to be by bringing along a heavy tent? Keeping your pack weight to a minimum is essential when mountaineering, and your shelter is one of the primary items that adds the most poundage.

Unfortunately, double walled, 4 season tents are hardly the lightest shelters that you’ll find on the market. With all that extra insulation, there’s no getting around the added weight. One way to hedge against this is by getting a smaller tent, especially if you don’t plan on sharing it with anyone else. A two person tent for personal use is a luxury, but it’s unnecessary if your primary goal is to cut back on weight as much as possible.

Ventilation

If the best mountaineering tent is supposed to protect you against the raging elements, you might think that ventilation is counterproductive. However, every shelter worth its salt will have some measure of ventilation in place; the scope and overall effectiveness of said ventilation is what will vary based on a 3 or 4 season design.

Your average 3 season tent is going to make extensive use of mesh, have plenty of windows, a couple of roof vents, and maybe some ground vents. All of these will help you stay cool in the stifling summer heat, and prevent the buildup of condensation as much as possible. 4 season tents don’t need to provide airflow as a form of air conditioning, simply because it’s not needed in the winter. But condensation in a year-round problem, so some measure of ventilation is required. Don’t expect to be impressed by it though, as cold weather tents still need to keep these openings to a minimum for insulation purposes.

Ease of Setup

orange tent on rocky ground in snowy mountains

Ever tried to set up a tent on a mountain, especially close to sunset? The wind will practically knock you off your feet, so imagine how difficult it would be to piece together a really complex and clunky tent.

Most backpacking tents come with a hubbed pole system. Fit the poles together into one, big unit, slot the ends into the grommets at all corners of the tent, and attached the clips to the poles. It’s a very streamlined and efficient process that’s easy to accomplish in extreme weather, making it ideal for mountaineering.

Space and Storage

Just because your tent is small doesn’t mean that it needs to be hard to store you and your gear. Look for a mountaineering tent with internal pockets, loops, and perhaps even a gear loft. These will help you find a home for your smaller, personal belongings that you want to have close by during the night.

All of the mountaineering tents that we’ve mentioned below have a vestibule, other than the Eldorado. Vestibules are great because they offer sheltered, outdoor storage for your large (and dirty) items that you don’t want to bring into the tent itself. This keeps them from getting soaked during a rainstorm, while keeping your main shelter relatively open and clean.

The Best Mountaineering tents – Reviewed

Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 Tent

  • Tent Material: Nylon
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 9.5 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 38 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

One of the more popular 4 season tents on the market, the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 tent is perfect for harsh, alpine environments. Though it’s pretty heavy for a 2 person tent, that’s just one indication that it’s a shelter designed to take a beating in windy conditions with heavy snowfall.

Thanks to the minimal amount of mesh used in its construction, the Trango has superior insulative properties. It’s exactly what you’d hope to find in a mountaineering tent, or even a desert tent, where you have both cold nighttime temperatures and blowing sand to contend with. It does make ventilation a problem, but that comes with the territory when you’re looking at 4 season tents.

Like to sleep in past sunrise? The solid walls work wonders at blocking out those morning rays, allowing you to catch a few more winks before getting on with the day. You’ll also find that it’s pretty spacious for a 2 person tent, giving you more than enough room for you and a friend to spread out and stay comfortable. Storage options are plentiful, both inside and outside, in the form of pockets, gear lofts, and vestibules. If nothing else, you should have no problem finding places to keep your belongings.

Though it’s something of a hassle to put together and take down again, it has enough other redeeming qualities where I’m willing to overlook this aspect. In terms of sheer toughness, you’re not going to find many options that do it better than the Trango.

Pros:

– Bombproof
– Roomy interior
– Plenty of internal storage
– Large front door vestibule and smaller backdoor vestibule
– Solid walls

Cons:

– A little heavy

REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent

  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 17 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 60 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

Rugged and roomy, the REI Co-op Base Camp sports a geodesic design that provides the strength and support you need in wintery conditions. Blizzard coming your way with strong winds and heavy snowfall? Don’t worry, the Base Camp isn’t going to let you down. Even if the situation is looking pretty dire, it would take a lot of weight before you need to start worrying about the roof collapsing on you.

There’s a minimal amount of mesh, keeping the shelter well insulated, even without the rainfly on. But once you toss on that extra layer, the entire tent seals up nicely, trapping all that warm air inside. In fact, it’s so effective at trapping heat that you would probably never want to use it during the summer. There are a few vents here and there, but they aren’t nearly enough to cool down the inside of the tent during the warmest season of the year. So if you truly want to get 4 season use out of the Base Camp, I’d recommend investing in a tent air conditioner.

Though it’s too heavy for backpacking, you can use it as a solid base camp, as the name implies. Despite the weight, it’s a fairly easy shelter to put together by yourself, going up in a matter of minutes once you have a little practice under your belt. Large vestibules give you plenty of storage space to keep your dirty boots and backpack, and internal pockets give you room to store your phone, a snack, or a notebook.

Pros:

– Very durable
– Holds up well in bad weather
– Well insulated
– Spacious vestibules
– Easy to setup

Cons:

– Lack of ventilation

MSR Access 3 Tent

  • Tent Material: Nylon
  • Pole Material: Silicone
  • Weight: 5 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 47 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

With a streamlined, trapezoidal design, the MSR Access is the ideal shelter for high wind situations. The downside, of course, is that it only fits two people comfortably, and three people snugly.

Now, mountaineering is different from other types of camping in the sense that you’ll likely want your own shelter anyway. It’s not the sort of hobby where you’ll take the whole family out for an extended weekend, at least when compared with regular camping and backpacking.

In terms of weather resistance, MSR isn’t always my first pick, but I have to say that the Access does it well. The trick is to stake it out properly and make sure all of the materials are taut, which is something you should be doing with any tent. While it’s not ultralight, that’s not necessarily what you’re looking for in the best mountaineering tent anyway. At 5 pounds and some change, it’s still light enough to keep your shoulders from getting too sore after a long day of hiking. The 47 inch peak height also makes it pretty luxurious for a three person tent.

Generally speaking, I only have one real complaint about the Access, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with the tent itself. The carry bag is pretty large for a three person tent, adding unnecessary bulk and weight to your mountaineering backpack. If it’s a bother for you, I’d recommend getting a smaller bag to carry the tent in.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– A tank in wind and rain
– Tall peak height for plenty of headroom
– Comes with a fairly large vestibule
– Easy setup
– Comfortable

Cons:

– Stuff sack is a bit too big
– Tent materials feel a somewhat delicate

Black Diamond Equipment Mission 2P Tent

  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Pole Material: DAC Featherlight
  • Weight: 10.25 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 46 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

Well known in the outdoor community, especially among rock climbers, Black Diamond is a quality brand that also makes mountaineering tents. The Mission is something of a special ops tent, in my book. Designed to go anywhere in the world, the tunnel/dome hybrid shape works wonders at creating an aerodynamic tent that can weather the raging mountain winds.

If you find yourself needing to pitch the tent in those same raging winds, don’t worry, it won’t be as hard as you think. The hubbed pole structure, pre-attached to the tent material itself, makes it easy for one person to put the tent together in no time at all. However, I’d still recommend pitching the tent with the help of a friend, if one is available. The extra muscle will also be nice to have for carrying the shelter up the mountain, since it does weigh just over 10 pounds.

With a double walled construction, the Mission is a tank that can take a beating. Heavy wind, rain, snow…it doesn’t matter. You’re really not going to find a more secure tent than this one. There are eight storage pockets on the inside, as well, which is more than you get with most 2 person tents. The large vestibules also give you plenty of space to store your gear outside the tent, when you don’t want to track in dirt, mud, and slush.

Pros:

– Hybrid tunnel/dome shape
– Very good at blocking out the weather
– Extra length and height for taller campers
– Reasonable weight
– Easy to pitch in rough conditions

Cons:

– Expensive

The North Face Assault 2 Tent

  • Tent Material: Nylon
  • Pole Material: Carbon-fiber Easton Syclone
  • Weight: 6 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 41 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

The North Face is well known for their extensive catalog of apparel. Personally, I like their winter boots, which I use quite often here in Minnesota. However, such a large brand is much more than a one trick pony, having broken into the camping space as well.

In particular, The North Face Assault tent is a well-designed shelter that’s suitable for some mountaineering purposes. It’s a 4 season tent, like others that have been mentioned up to this point, so it can be used in places where heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures are expected. And for summer mountaineering, it’s breathable enough for you to stay comfortable in warmer temperature too.

One vestibule (which is removeable) gives you adequate outdoor storage for your gear, and a few internal pockets provide convenient places to keep your phone, headlamp, and other smaller items. Filled with mesh, it’s a nice change of pace from something like the Trango 2. Ventilation is exceptional, refreshing the stale air inside the tent, and wicking moisture away to prevent the buildup of condensation.

Simple to piece together, it should only take you roughly 5 minutes to setup, once you’ve got some experience under your belt. It’s a handy feature, especially when you know there’s a storm about to blow through any minute and you need shelter fast. Once it does start to rain, the material does a pretty good job of keeping the inside of the tent dry, even through heavy downpours. It’s also fairly aerodynamic, cutting through strong wind gusts with ease.

Pros:

– High-low ventilation system for airflow
– Holds up well against the elements
– Plenty of pockets for storage
– Effective 4 season tent
– Roomy vestibule for gear storage

Cons:

– A little on the short side

Marmot Tungsten 2P Tent with Footprint

  • Tent Material: Polyester
  • Pole Material: Velocity HD
  • Weight: 4.9 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 42 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 2

The Marmot Tungsten is one of the brand’s best sellers, and it’s not hard to see why. Generally speaking, it’s above average (or hovering around “average”) in all of the areas that you should care about. For a two person tent, it has more interior space than you’re probably used to. While the extra space does increase the weight, it still remains fairly low, hovering at roughly 4.9 pounds. Not too bad when you consider than an equivalent 4 season tent would be nearly twice as heavy.

I’m a big fan of the vertical walls, which really help open up the amount of useable space inside the tent. It’s also freestanding, which makes it easy to pitch and move around. While I wouldn’t say that it’s great in heavy snow, it still falls into the “3.5 season” category, as far as I’m concerned. It’s pretty well insulated, and the durability is good enough to withstand buffeting winds, torrential rains, light snow, and sleet. Overall, it’s probably the most weatherproof tent in our list, aside from the 4 season ones.

Like any good two person tent, it’s very easy to piece together and take apart. A few pockets on the inside of the shelter will give you space to store your belongings, while two large vestibules provide enough room for your boots and backpack. While ventilation could be better, it’s something that you learn to deal with when you value insulation more.

Pros:

– Vertical walls for extra space
– Durable and strong against weather
– A large vestibule
– Well insulated
– Easy to put together

Cons:

– Ventilation needs improvement

REI Co-op Arete ASL 2 Tent

  • Tent Material: Nylon
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 6.25 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 43 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

Like the Tungsten mentioned above, the REI Arete isn’t really a 4 season tent. However, it does do better in wintery conditions than a normal, 3 season tent. The lightweight design means that it isn’t suitable for subzero temperatures, due to a lack of insulative ability, but that doesn’t mean it fails in this regard entirely. Overall, it only uses a small amount of mesh, keeping airflow to a minimum. Naturally, this keeps warm air trapped inside the shelter as well, especially when you have the rainfly thrown on top.

What I like about the Arete is that it’s about the average weight of a normal 2 person tent. We know that most mountaineering tents are heavier than average, because there’s a lot of insulation and support that goes into them. While the Arete isn’t going to be as tanky as the Black Diamond Mission, it will still see you through moderate winter conditions without too many problems. Weight only 6 pounds, sometimes it will be worth the tradeoff.

The rainfly is very waterproof, as is the tent floor, keeping unwanted moisture at bay. In the past, there were some issues with the fly delaminating, but it seems like REI has taken steps to fix that problem. Ventilation is surprisingly adjustable, which is yet another reason why this tent has garnered brownie points from me. It’s not perfect, but it will prevent the buildup of condensation much better than most of the other shelters in this review.

Pros:

– Very lightweight for a winter tent
– Durable and sturdy
– Does a good job of keeping water out
– Great ventilation
– Plenty of storage space

Cons:

– Rainfly might need resealing shortly after purchase

Black Diamond Equipment Eldorado Tent

  • Tent Material: Todd-Tex
  • Pole Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 5 Pounds
  • Peak Height: 43 Inches
  • Number of Doors: 1

As the only single walled tent in our review, the Black Diamond Eldorado isn’t for everyone. However, for lightweight mountaineering in relatively cold and dry climates, it’s one of the best options out there.

The problem with most single walled shelters is in the name – they only have one wall. This means that you don’t have a rainfly to keep the inside of the tent free of water. That single wall is going to be responsible for preventing wind, rain, and snow from entering the tent, and you also have the tricky matter of ventilation. However, in terms of waterproofing, it does surprisingly well for a single walled shelter.

I won’t say that it’s bombproof, but it sure does come pretty close. As a two person mountaineering tent, it only weighs in at 5 pounds, which is about average for a typical tent of that size. Bringing it up a mountain won’t feel like a chore at all, especially if you’re used to any of the other shelters in this review. Ventilation is also fairly effective, as far as these things go, considering the variety of vents spread around the tent. Don’t expect it to be like The North Face Assault, but it does better than most 4 season tents.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Waterproof
– Holds up well in the wind
– Decent ventilation
– Fairly spacious

Cons:

– Not really any outdoor storage option
– Price

FAQ

Why Do Mountaineers Use 2 Person Tents?

Mountaineers often limit their shelter capacity to two people because it’s too risky to pitch anything larger than that. The side of a mountain can be a dangerous place, and a large tent will either catch the wind or be unable to fit properly within a limited space.

The best mountaineering tents are subjective across every person. However, there are some key features that any mountaineer should keep an eye out for: strength, insulation, and durability being a few.

That being said, the Black Diamond Mission tent is one of the best mountaineering tents to buy. It’s a tank in harsh alpine conditions, if not a little bit heavy to carry long distances by yourself. The Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 is another 4 season tent that holds up well on mountaineering expeditions.

Final Thoughts

When you’re trekking through the mountains, few things are more important than where you’re going to sleep during the night. A tent that collapses under the weight of snow, or one that does nothing to stop the freezing winter air from entering is going to put you in a tricky place. If you lose your shelter in a cold, alpine environment, you’re starting to play a survival game.

That’s why the best mountaineering tent needs to have a solid pole structure, waterproof fabric, and an aerodynamic shape. All things considered, we believe the Black Diamond Mission tent does it the best. With a hybrid tunnel/dome shape, it cuts through the wind easily. The solid structure can handle a large amount of weight, and the multilayered design provides more than enough insulation.


Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes to have fun and stay active in nature.

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