Can You Use a 4 Season Tent in The Summer?


Can a 4-Season tent be used in the summer or will it be too hot? That’s a question most campers ask themselves when thinking about buying a new tent. The name implies that 4-Season tents can be used all year long, but that doesn’t doesn’t mean it’s a going to actually work.

Yes you can use a 4-Season tent in the summer, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They’re designed to keep out wind so your tent won’t have proper ventilation in the summer and you will get hot. You will need to work on improving airflow so you don’t run into condensation problems.

You can technically use a 4-Season tent in the summer, but it’s not ideal. The rest of this article explains the problems you’ll run into and how you can modify your setup to make a 4 season tent work in hot weather.

Can I Use a 4-Season Tent In The Summer?

They might look the same, but 4-Season tents are very different than 3-Season. Although you can use them in the summer you’re better off purchasing a 3-Season tent.

Even a budget priced 2 Person Coleman Tent will be more comfortable and lighter than a premium $1000 4-Season tent. I just don’t think it’s worth the aggravation. There are 3 main barriers to using a 4 season tent in hot weather.

  • Poor Ventilation: A 4-Season tent is designed to keep wind out and not let it in. So your tent will get stuffy and hot in the summer. This isn’t a big deal on 70 degree days, but you’ll have trouble in especially hot weather. Sleeping in a closed up tent is like trying to sleep in a hot car.
  • Condensation Issues: This kind of falls into the same category as poor ventilation, but it’s worth mentioning separately. With extra heat you will always run into condensation problems. There’s not much you can do other than trying to air out the tent and eliminate outside water sources.
  • Heavier Designs: Weight might not be a problem at campgrounds, but backpackers will want lightweight designs. A 4-Season tent is twice the weight of your average 3-Season tent.

With that being said, it’s called a 4-Season tent for a reason. You can obviously use it all year round without any problems. You’ll have to make some basic changes, but you will get by.

It’s just like any other piece of camping gear you purchase. You need to buy gear for what it’s going to be used for. Only purchase a 4-Season tent if you plan on regularly camping with heavy snowfall.

If there’s light snow you can usually get by with a 3-Season even in the winter. Just knock off snow as it starts to accumulate and bring a sleeping bag with the right temperature rating for the conditions.

Here’s a post to help you figure out a sleeping bags temperature rating.

You can throw a lot of money into outdoor gear if you’re not careful. Just buy a mid-priced 3-Season tent if you don’t plan on camping in the winter. You’ll be slightly restricted in the winter, but do you really plan on camping in a blizzard?

You Can Usually Cool Down a 4-Season Tent in Hot Weather

You can almost always cool down a 4-Season tent, but you’ll never be able to protect a summer tent in the winter. They’re completely different products designed for different purposes.

All season tents are designed to both keep out and stand up to wind(plus hold snow). That’s not gonna happen with a summer tent. To get a sturdy tent you’ll have a lot of extra weight.

To keep a tent cooler in the summer try to find a shady spot and open up the vents and windows. I’ve used a 4-Season tent on countless summer camping trips and it’s not ideal but it does work.

Just get up before the sun comes up and make a cup of coffee on the stove or campfire.

Should I Use 4-Season Tent in The Summer?

You can use a 4 Season tent in the summer, but should you? Honestly, you’re better off buying a cheap tent to get you through the summer. Is it really worth the battle just to save a few bucks?

Head down to your local Walmart and check out their lineup of Ozark Trail Tents. The last time I checked you could buy a 2-Person Ozark Trail tent for $25. They’re basically disposable tents meant to last 1-2 seasons, but you’ll be much more comfortable.

If you plan on camping in the winter or already have a 4-Season tent it will be fine in the summer. Not everybody can afford to buy 2 nice tents. So buy something cheap and start saving. It’s kind of like the saying “Use What You Got, To Get What You Want”.

Find a way to work around the ventilation/condensation issues and cut unnecessary weight in your pack. Is 3 extra pounds in your pack gonna kill you? You won’t notice the difference with a 30+ lb base weight.

Lightweight and Ultralight backpackers will obviously need to buy a lightweight tent. When your entire pack weighs less than 10lbs you can’t get away with a 7 lb tent.

Here are the 3 main problems you’ll run into when trying to use a winter tent in hot weather.

1) Poor Ventilation For Summer Camping

Look at the inside of my Mountain Hardware tent pictured above. It’s a great winter backpacking tent since it only weighs 4lb 14oz but it cost me like $700.

After spending that much money on a tent I would love to use it all year round, but it doesn’t have any windows so there’s minimal ventilation.

A 4-Season tent will definitely get hot in the summer. You won’t find a tent that will work in both the desert heat and winter mountaineering. That’s just not going to happen!

Those are 2 completely different extremes, but you can usually get by on a summer family outing. Is using a winter tent in the summer optimal? No, obviously not, but it will work.

A 4-Season tent isn’t designed to let breezes blow through. That’s great in the winter, but you’ll be hot in the summer. It’s like sitting in a hot car when you have the windows/doors closed.

There are ways to improve ventilation, but it won’t be optimal. Setup your tent in the shade and make sure you keep all the windows/doors open. Plan on waking up early in the morning so you’re not inside when the temperatures rise around 10 am.

2) They Get Condensation in Hot Weather

Battling against heat means you’ll lose the fight against condensation. Condensation can get really bad inside a tent without proper ventilation.

I’ve woke up to what I thought was rain dripping down from the inside of my tent. It was just condensation, because I slept in a little too late.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely beat condensation in the summer. You’re trying to slow it down so your sleeping bag, clothes, etc don’t get wet.

Work on getting airflow through your tent and eliminating outside water sources. Hang wet gear outside and try not to track water into the tent. Every night you release 2 Liters of water through your breath so it’s impossible to completely eliminate condensation.

For more info check out my post on preventing tent condensation. You won’t eliminate condensation completely, but it will definitely help.

3) Heavier Designs Will Be Harder to Carry

These tents are designed to be used in the winter so they have heavier poles and use heavy duty wall material. That makes sense in the winter with heavy wind and 10-20 lb snow load, but it doesn’t make sense in the summer.

If you’re a backpacker weight is going to be your primary concern. You can open doors/windows to get a breeze flowing, but you can’t shave off additional weight.

A small 2 person 4-Season tent is going to weigh at least 6-7 lbs, and Cheap 4-Season tents can weigh up to 10 lbs. Even the low end of that scale is double the weight of your average backpacking tent.

Backpacking tents get lighter every year. A mid range backpacking tent weighs 2-3 lbs (sometimes less). That’s a huge difference in weight over a long hike.

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