Villmarksliv puts 4 season tents to the test

Helsport’s Fjellheimen X-TREM 3 Camp was crowned Editor’s Choice in this extensive review of 4-season tents in Villmarksliv Magazine.

Brief summary

Solid construction. Easy to pitch, even when using mittens. Inner and outer tent pitches simultaneously. Ample guy lines. Three efficient vents results in very little condensation. Ample space in the vestibule, perfect for cooking. Getting the outer fly taught can be tricky on uneven ground. Stuff sack is on the small side.

How the test was performed

Five testers used the tents for 9 months, in different seasons, at both low and high altitudes. All the tents were pitched in the same “test camp” for 10 days, to directly compare stability, quality, water permeability, how quickly they dry etc. Tents were checked once or twice a day and adjusted daily as needed (guy lines tensioned etc.). The tents were pitched and packed away several times to check if the stuff stack was suitable. The test camp was located in forested terrain, 400m above sea level. Test period weather conditions were moderate winds, about 10oC, and a lot of rain.

Four factors evaluated by the test

Pitching: How long does it take to pitch the tent, and can you pitch it whilst wearing mittens? Can you pitch it by yourself, in strong winds and poor light? 30% towards final score

In use: How is the space layout? How much room for gear, and cooking? Can the vents be opened from inside the tent? Length, height, number and size of doors, other practical solutions. 30% towards final score

Construction: Stability, water repellency, quality of poles, pegs, seams and reinforcements. Everything should be operable while wearing mittens. 30% towards final score

Standard equipment: Stuff sack, peg quality, mosquito mesh in doors and vents, repair kit, number of guy lines, pegs and storm flaps. Although some tents have extra equipment available for purchase, all tents where reviewed in their standard configuration. 10% towards final score

Purchasing advice

  1. The tents in this review are meant for the harshest conditions, and how they fare during winter determines if they can rightly claim to be a 4-season tent. If you’re not going head to head with winter storms, you’ll probably be better off looking at tents that are cheaper and lighter than the ones reviewed here.
  2. A robust tent weighs more, so don’t get too hung up on weight when buying a 4-season tent. That being said, there is of course a correlation between price, quality and weight. A tent for winter use should have storm flaps along the bottom. When using these, it’s important to have enough ventilation to ensure air flow.
  3. The outer fly should have a water column of at least 3000-4000mm, and 4000-5000mm for the floor. Tent construction also greatly affects water resistance, and dome tents in particular are prone to water-permeating pressure areas along the pole lengths.
  4. Tear strength is hard to review without using the tent for an extended period, but all tents in this review seemed robust.
  5. Guy lines should be attached to the tent in a way that disperses the acting forces as evenly as possible, and not directly to the attachment point. Guy line adjustment should be simple, even when using mittens, and shouldn’t loosen on their own. Peg loops should be adjustable, allowing skis to be used as pegs during winter.
  6. Stuff sack must be roomy and sturdy. Compression straps are not so important.