Generally speaking, summer camping does not require a 4 season tent. Even if there is a heavy downpour, the use of sleeping pads combined with adequate planning should keep everything fairly dry. The important thing is to not camp at the bottom of a hill, to make sure the rain fly is secure, and to take advantage of natural cover.
But, if you have the extra money to invest on one, or if you are foreseeing camping in very harsh conditions, a 4 season camp can turn an average camping experience into a superb one.
Basically, the difference between 4 season tents and regular tents is that a 4 season tent is tighter, with heavier outer walls. Once it is closed and properly zipped up, elements have no way of getting in.
In addition, 4 season tents are often more stable so that they can resist extremely heavy storms if need be. But keep in mind that 4 season tents can be used in nice weather as well. A lot of the 4 season tents have flies you can zip and unzip to regulate the inside temperature, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
You will be impressed by the different features available on some of the 4 season tents designed for really extreme conditions. For example, you probably would not want to use a mountaineering 4 season tent for average summer camping.
For one thing, it has very small ventilation vents which cause it to become very warm and stuffy in hot weather. Also, the material they are made from is heavier and sturdier, and it can make normal camping a bit awkward.
And cost itself is sometimes a bit hard to meet, since they run around $500 for a good 4 season tent. Compare this to a 1-2 person summer tent that you might buy at your camping store.
You can buy a regular summer tent for around $30, and while it doesn’t do much to keep you warm, the mild temperatures combined with a decent sleeping bag should keep you comfortable enough.
Before rushing out and buying mountaineering equipment, or a 4 season tent you will probably not need, you need to think of the type of camping you are buying these for. You should pick your equipment depending on the type of camping experience you are gearing for.