Q:

Which three-season tent can handle occasional fourth season use?

I'm in the market for a tent and down to the Black Diond Mesa and the Marmot Swallow. I like the four-season convertibility of the Swallow, and the Mesa looks sublime. I trust BDs products, but I'm concerned about how warm the Mesa will be. My other concern is condensation. What’s your advice? Beth Stone Ridge, NY

Feb 7, 2007
Outside
Outside Magazine
Marmot Swallow Tent

Marmot Swallow tent

A:

If you want a tent for the occasional winter trip, then I think the Marmot Swallow 2P ($359; marmot.com) is the best choice. It’s technically a three-season tent, but extends into light winter use. That’s because its canopy is well-ventilated but has enough wind-resistant ripstop to retain some warmth, and its fly tucks right down to the ground. The pole design can shed a moderate amount of snow. Also, it’s fairly tall inside (40 inches at the high point), and its vertical sidewalls create a feeling of roominess (just in case you get stuck in there for a few days). It weighs just over seven pounds.

Black Diamond’s Mesa ($299; bdel.com) is an excellent two-person tent, but very much on the order of a classic three-season tent. Its lighter construction (five pounds) means it can’t quite take the wind and snow loads like the Swallow. And its canopy has an all-mesh top, so you might find it too well-ventilated during cold snaps. If it weren’t for your planned winter use, I’d go with the Mesa because of its relatively light weight.

Condensation is always an issue in tents, almost regardless of design. For the most part I’m always surprised at how well tents perform in regards to condensation. But on still, cool nights, when the dew point is just right, it’s inevitable that some moisture collects on the underside of the rain fly. Tents are designed so that this water drips down the underside of the fly and onto the ground, so it doesn’t drop on you. But, if you whack the tent, a few drops always seem to come down.

The key, of course, is ventilation. You want to position the tent so that it catches a bit of a breeze, and of course leave some zips open. It’s best to have ventilation up high so that warm air can rise and escape. But the laws of physics make a condensation-free tent a near-impossibility in some situations.

You’ve got your winter gear, now get outside and use it. Away.com’s ski and snowboard guide makes it easy to find nearby slopes just begging for fresh tracks.

Filed To: Tents

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