Winter camping requires some additional accommodations that regular 3-season jaunt don’t. While a good 4-season tent is the gear of choice for most trips, and light weight and packability matters on long and light expeditions, there are times where you may look into getting away with insulated tents for extra warmth and comfort.
Why an insulated tent? Won’t a regular 4-season tent work fine with its thick walls trapping in a lot of heat, and your 0-degree sleeping bag keeping you toasty all night? Sure, in most situations that works fine. But some people just like the extra warmth and comfort of an insulated tent. When you’re spending long periods of time outside in extreme frigid temperatures, they can serve as cozy basecamps that will not only offer some respite from the cold but might actually be a place you look forward to returning to after a long day in the cold.
Now, choosing the best insulated tent actually shouldn’t be too difficult; there really aren’t a lot of options out there. The ones that are, however, are excellent options, and all worthy contenders. They aren’t cheap, but they’ll keep you warmer than you could have imagined when the temperatures drop to mind-numbing depths. And most of them come from Crua.
Crua used to be known as Thermo Tent, a more obvious name for a brand building tents like these. Crua’s founder Derek O’Sullivan felt there was had a to be a way to create a tent insulated both for retaining heat and blocking out sound, and he was right; Crua tents are great at doing both. They’re even designed to help cut down on condensation, while still remaining light and packable, with as little bulk as possible.
Currently, Crua makes three families of insulated tents: the classic Tri, the Cocoon, and the Loj.
The Tri is Crua’s first insulated tent and their flagship design. As the name implies, it sleeps three people, using a two-compartment design; the main bedroom that fits three people and the 3’ long outer porch, providing a large vestibule for extra protection from the elements.
The Tri uses Crua’s TTInsulate design, which is comprised of three layers: a breathable 80:20 poly/cotton blend on top and bottom, with a layer of Durabreathe microfiber sandwiched in between. Durabreathe has an R-value of 9, providing excellent insulation that traps in your body heat and keeps the cold air out. Crua says that’s 13 times the insulating power found in a regular canvas or polyester tent wall (and 50% more than your home mattress might provide). It’s also excellent acoustic insulation, keeping your own voices inside and making it just a little easier to fall asleep when that group a few tentsites away won’t stop shouting and playing music at 1 AM.
DuraBreathe is also water-repellent and breathable, which ensures that condensation can escape and prevents it from building up inside the tent; this is often-overlooked but a huge part of any tent design, as moisture form your body heat and breath can frequently cause condensation to build up inside the tent. Paired with this is a poly/cotton flysheet that features waterproof TPU laminate on the underside for when storms pop up, and there’s a built-on groundsheet.
They don’t skimp on the features and design, either; there are large side windows that can zipped open or closed, and large mesh screens throughout providing plenty of ventilation, which helps with the condensation and breathability. Under the front door is a zippered slot, through which you can run cables for hooking up to a generator or other power source. As for the poles, they are made of “aerospace grade” aluminum, 1” in diameter and designed to maximize strength when compared to weight.
All in all, it’s a heavy-duty tent with heavy-duty warmth. If staying warm and comfortable on long trips is your priority, the Tri is an excellent choice. The only drawback is weight; at 48 lbs, it’s not something you’ll just be throwing on your back and lugging down the trail to the next campsite. It’s meant more for longer expeditions and car camping, where the weight of thick, insulated tents tends to be more worth it.
With all that being said, if you think the Tri is heavy, you haven’t met the Crua Loj, it’s larger counterpart. With enough room for 6 people, it measures a massive 14ft by 24ft and weighs a whopping 202 pounds. That’s definitely not something you’re going to be bringing backpacking with you, but there are still definitely uses for it. There’s a total 406 square foot of interior space, with an extended porch space 5 feet long, good for large groups in cold weather.
Other than that, it’s essentially the same thing as the Tri, but with more windows appropriate to the extra length, and an insulated carpet for extra ground warmth. The insulation and sound dampening are second to none for an insulated tent, and it’s designed to withstand serious snow and wind, too.
Going hand in hand with the heavy weight is a massive price tag, of $1,995. This is not a tent your purchase on a whim but is definitely worth making the investment if you have need for an insulated basecamp for large groups.
The Crua Cocoon is the insulated tent you’ll be reaching for when weight matters. It weighs only 15 pounds, compared to the Tri’s 48, with enough room for 2. It’s much simpler than the Tri, as well, featuring a shell of breathable polyester paired with 450 gram insulation. It’s not waterproof but makes up for it with it’s simplicity; simply pitch a tarp or fly overhead if rain is expected. It’s also designed to fit inside the Crua Duo, which provides a layer of waterproofness, and you can set it up in other larger tents.
It’s supported by an airframe, which must be pumped up to setup; it’s also fire retardant, comes with a bug mesh, and jumbo zips. If you’d like the warmth and insulation Crua insulated tents offer but don’t want the size and weight of the Tri or Loj, the Cocoon is the best option you have.