Gear Test: Float-testing A Tent

Contributing Editor John Harlin reveals groundbreaking tent-testing technique...in his swimming pool.
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Contributing Editor John Harlin reveals groundbreaking tent-testing technique...in his swimming pool.

At BACKPACKER, we're no strangers to unconventional testing techniques (watch Gear Lab to see what we're talking about). But BP contributing editor John Harlin raised the bar: After experiencing moisture on the floor of this tent while testing it in Alaska's Brooks Range, he wanted to determine whether it came from floor leakage or condensation.

His scientific method? Throw it in his pool, of course:

Here's a longer shot of the pool:

Harlin eventually concluded that the excess moisture came from condensation after all. All in a day's work for a man who's found consistently found novel ways to abuse gear over the course of a 25-odd-year relationship with BACKPACKER.

"I've left a sprinkler on a half-dozen single-wall tents for a month, left a tent to be stormed on and dug it out buried under 6 feet of snow, and isolated my dirty tester synthetic t-shirts in plastic bags so that my wife could sniff them individually but one after another," he said. "I've hiked many, many miles with two different boots on. I've put fuel canisters in freezers. I've worn rain garments in the shower and under showery waterfalls. I devised but never built a self-sprinkling system so that I could (in theory) hike in a perpetual rain."

Whoa.

Bravo, Harlin—but I have a suggestion. Next time, to fully assess the leakage points on the tent, I propose that someone should cannonball into the pool. I'd be happy to volunteer my services.

(Click here to see photos of Harlin's trip back to climb Alaska's Mt. Chamberlin with his 13-year-old daughter Siena—Harlin climbed it when he was 13 himself. You can read all about it in BACKPACKER's March issue, on newsstands now.)

—Ted Alvarez