The debate between bigger and lighter ends here. On an early-fall trip in the Wind River Range, Black Diamond's Skylight performed like a big top, allowing a pair of testers (one over six and a half feet tall) to stretch out and stay dry. The shelter weathered a gusty rainstorm with no dripping or swaying and stowed overflow gear without causing clutter claustrophobia. Then it packed away like one of those lilliputian ultralights.
Black Diamond Skylight (4.2 lbs) $430 www.bdel.com
1. With its generous interior and 42 inches of headroom, the Skylight is billed as a three-person shelterand could fit three go-light martinets. But we peg it as the perfect two-and-a-mutt tent, affording castlelike quarters for a pair of big guys but capable of housing three in a pinch.
2. Most single-wall ultralight tents use nonbreathable waterproof nylon. But BD wrapped the Skylight in a silky, highly water-resistant, breathable fabric that has no trouble rebuffing a pounding thunderstorm. In fact, we got the material to weep water only when we held a hose to it.
3. The Skylight is a hybrid: a single-wall tent in back and a traditional double-wall shelter in front, simultaneously reducing weight and increasing ventilation. That, plus smart roof vents, keeps air circulating. Even after windless, dewy nights, my tentmate and I woke up to chalk-dry inner walls.
4. The single large door does its job, and other details are spot-on: a big vestibule, four storage pockets, corners beefed up with packcloth, and plenty of guy-out points. Cool feature: Roll back the fly for stargazing, and cover up faster than you can say "rain" if a squall suddenly materializes.
5. The internal pole pockets make setup fussy, but the hassle is a bonus in a storm: Stake out the corners first, dive in, and pitch the tent from inside. The Epic fabric can't be taped, so you'll need to seam-seal the Skylight. (It's a simple taskjust don't put it off until the night before your first trip.)