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Gear Guy

Q:

Do single-wall tents perform as well as their double-wall counterparts?

I like the idea of single-wall tents such as the Black Diond Skylight for more room and less weight, but I worry about weatherproofing and condensation. What does one do in this world of tents? Benjin Moose, Wyoming

I like the idea of single-wall tents such as the Black Diond Skylight for more room and less weight, but I worry about weatherproofing and condensation. What does one do in this world of tents? Benjin Moose, Wyoming

A:

I really like the Black Diamond Skylight ($430; www.bdel.com), the latest of several single-wall tent designs from Black Diamond that break out of the dogma that a single-wall tent must be made from an expensive material such as Gore-Tex (or something similar). Instead, it uses fabric treated with the trademarked Epic process, which coats individual fibers in silicon. The result is an extremely water-resistant (not quite waterproof) fabric that also breathes well to remove condensation. And because it has single-wall construction, the Skylight weighs just under five pounds even though it sleeps three. Not bad!

Black Diamond Skylight tent

Skylight tent

Personally, I’d be willing to take the Skylight anywhere on the basis of its size-to-weight ratio alone. It’s true you have to seal the seams carefully (probably needing more sealer than BD provides). And you might have a slightly damp interior after a few days of heavy rain. But on balance, performance across a wide temperature range is very good, and the tent sheds wind well.

That said, double-wall tents still have some advantages. Mainly, they’ll be cooler in warm, sunny weather and warmer in cold conditions. That’s because the canopy and fly design creates an air layer that helps insulate the living quarters. And you typically have less condensation than in a single-wall of any sort. There are lots of variables that govern condensation, though—temperature, humidity, wind, your own moisture—so it’s tough to make a definitive statement.

Marmot’s Swallow ($359; www.marmot.com) is a good all-season alternative in a more traditional design. But the trade-off is that it weighs nearly eight pounds.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive tents section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

Filed To: Tents

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