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Gear Review: Black Diamond Skylight Mountaineering Tent

A strong, superlight two-person tent with lavish space
gear guide 2010 blackdiamond nitro 445x260Black Diamond Skylight (Brooks Freehill)

Lightest
“This much space, strength, and protection for less than five pounds? Unheard of in mountaineering tents,” pronounced our tester after riding out wild weather in this freestanding dome. From northern New Hampshire peaks to Wyoming’s Tetons, the single-wall hybrid withstood pounding rain and strong wind. Stability comes from the crossing poles and internal pitch (you erect the poles from inside), which creates a taut, wind-shedding exterior that also shaves a few ounces by dispensing with pole clips (the Velcro tabs take a few practice runs).

With 37 square feet and a 42-inch peak height, interior space is lavish: Two climbers and their gear fit inside in a storm, and even three people could crash snugly—if they aren’t more than six feet tall. The just-big-enough vestibule makes up for size with smarts; the drip line keeps water from running inside, and a hood and two-way zipper let testers vent the top of the door during a storm. Under clear skies, ventilation was excellent, thanks to the “skylight” feature: The waterproof/breathable fly rolls away to expose an all-mesh canopy for nearly half of the tent. But fully battened, the tent accumulated heavy condensation in all conditions. Tedious and time-consuming seam sealing is required for full weather protection.

And the vestibule’s low hood forced tall testers to hunch. But they concluded that the benefits—low weight, big space, rock-solid stability—outweigh downsides for ounce-counting alpinists. $400; 4 lbs. 3 oz.

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