What tent can take Southeast springs and Northeast winters?

I need a two-person tent that provides plenty of ventilation for fall and spring Southeast backpacking trips, but that’s also good for below-tree line trips to the Northeast in winter. I like the Black Diond Skylight, but concerned about how it will hold up to snow. How does the Skylight stack up to other tents in the se weight and roominess categories? Rich Decatur, Georgia

A: Black Diamond’s new Skylight ($430; is an exceedingly interesting tent. Most of it is a single-wall tent that uses Nextec’s Epic fabric, an almost-waterproof breathable material that is cheaper than other fabrics used in single-walls, yet can hold up to all but the very worst rain. The front third is a mesh-and-fabric construction like regular tents, so you can roll back the fabric and watch the stars through the mesh. Very clever. It’s also light (just over 4 pounds) and can sleep three, or two very comfortably.

Black Diamond Skylight Tent

Black Diamond Skylight

Here are two issues to consider. One, while it has a lot of mesh around the head of the tent, the Skylight is otherwise solid-body. So on a warm night you might not get much “flow-through" venting. Not having used one in warm weather, I cannot tell you whether this really would be a problem. And for winter use, well, single-walls simply aren’t as warm as traditional canopy-and-fly tents, which can take advantage of a trapped air layer to add a little warmth. Again, under certain conditions that may not be an issue. As for snow, it will hold up as well as any other tent—meaning you’ll need to kick the snow off if it’s falling continuously.

The alternative is a traditional “convertible" tent such as Marmot’s very fine Swallow ($360; But alas, the Swallow also weighs just over 7 pounds, which makes the Skylight even more appealing. In short, the Skylight offers a very attractive feature set with some very minor drawbacks. So overall, I think it’s a winner.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the Skylight.

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Filed To: TentsSnow Sports
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI
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