If it gets below 40 degrees F at night any day of the year where you live then you need a 4-season tent, if not a 3-season tent is just fine for you.
The 4-season tent looks just like a 3-season tent except the no-see-em mesh walls are smaller or can be blocked with tent flaps. Also, the support structure is stronger to withstand blowing snow and ice and the weight of 2″ of snow on the roof. There are actually no government guidelines so I’ve established my own.
A 4-season tent is thus hotter in the summer since there isn’t as much mesh on the walls to allow for cool breezes to cool you – it’s a tradeoff. Hotter in the summer won’t generally kill you but too cold in below freezing weather can kill you.
You have to decide which tent you need. I’ve tried to pick one manufacturer to deal with that has a stellar reputation that will be here 25 years from now. I also picked a manufacturer that is NOT the most expensive since there is a good chance that the tents you buy will never be used. If you plan to do a lot of camping, my choices should be the minimum you buy and that you will probably spend double what I recommending since you have to pay for heavy-duty equipment.
There are not many 4-season tents that cost less than $400, most cost $800 and are designed for professional explorers that use them many days a year in blizzard conditions. I’ve had to ignore those tents since they are “overkill” for your purposes which are to use the tent just a few times in the next 25 years and probably not during blizzard conditions – but you need 4-season if it gets cold or can snow.
I’ve picked Eureka Tents as the standard manufacturer that can handle all the various sizes and options.
Please note that when a manufacturer says the sent “sleeps 3” that is really a 2-person tent since 3 people will be very very uncomfortable during the night.
I’ve not included a “Bivy” type tent since there is no room for an Infrared heater in winter conditions. The 1-person tent is designed just for 1 person and don’t think of stuffing another person in there.
4-6 Person Tent