Typically, single wall tents don't excel in warmer and moister three-season conditions as well as their double walled counterparts, yet this is precisely where this model shines. It still works well for a majority of winter camping and mountaineering endeavors, but also works better than most double walled 4 season tents (and nearly as well as a 3 season tent for warmer or wetter summer trips). The Black Diamond Ahwahnee is inuque. Due to its two massive doors, a significant amount of headroom, and its large awnings that allow for ventilation, we think the Ahwahnee is the best quiver-of-one tent for three and four season use. However, it isn't as good in super windy conditions as some other contenders because of the design of the awnings. If you're heading to a windy destination, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Hilleberg Jannu instead. This model also has the most headroom of any single wall tent; taller folks will appreciate its large footprint over most other options.
Black Diamond Ahwahnee Review
Cons: Heavy for a single wall tent, ventilation awnings can catch wind during stormy weather, cross pole is hard to insert, doors can get in the way when entering or exiting the tent
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
#9 of 19
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For years the Ahwahnee was green, but Black Diamond recently changed the color to yellow to make it more in line with the rest of their 4 season tent lineup. While all of our testing photos still feature the green version, rest assured that there is no difference other than color between the green and yellow models.
The Black Diamond Ahwahnee is a versatile single wall model with excellent ventilation, large doors, roomy dimensions, and it sports the most breathable exterior fabric of any single wall tent in our review. This shelter blurs the lines between a 3 and 4 season tent; while not the best for the harshest conditions, it works great for more moderate four-season conditions and will work better than most options for lower elevations and in rainy conditions. Those camping and climbing in places like the Wind Rivers, Bugaboos or the Canadian Rockies will appreciate this model because they likely have a lower elevation approach, where bug netting and large dimensions are welcome perks, but this tent is still robust enough for camping above treeline. The Ahwahnee is perfect for someone who wants a spacious single wall tent that will work well in a broad range of conditions, but who doesn't expect to be in very harsh climates like climbing on Denali or Mount Rainier in winter.
Ease of Set-Up
This model is not as easy to set up as most other 4 season tents. Like the rest of the Black Diamond/Bibler tents, there is a little bit of a learning curve; however, with a little practice, it's not that bad. With this contender, you have to get inside the tent or pull one corner over yourself to set it up. Another small complaint, which was voiced by all testers, was the small and slightly flimsy plastic twist-tie style pole clips. These are thin and harder to use than the Velcro on the Black Diamond Firstlight. The Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu both use a combination of nylon sleeve and alternating clips and have, without question, our favorite pole attachment method.
Like all Bibler series tents, this one pitches from within, which we don't like as much as those that pitch from the outside. There are many advantages to an external pitch: increased storm protection (rain and snow will not get in the tent), enhanced durability (you can't accidentally send the pole through the tent wall), and ease of set-up (crawling inside to fasten clips is more difficult than standing up outside). Because most 4 season tents will have some snow and ice in them, at least on multi-day trips, the most serious of these issues is durability. Pitching a tent in powerful winds is challenging enough. Adding another element, like inserting sharp poles into small snaps, is asking for trouble. Yes, most people do it safely, but a simple error could puncture the tent wall and leave you with an expensive and time-consuming repair.
While this tent did a solid job in the pouring rain and performed better than all other single wall tents in these conditions, it did score lower than average in strong winds when compared to most of the other 4 season shelters reviewed here (but still better than nearly all 3 season tents). The Ahwahnee's pole design, which gives it above average adaptability and versatility, presents its greatest disadvantage in severe winds. If oriented incorrectly to the direction of the wind, the cross pole that creates the awnings will collect wind like spinnakers. This design is ill-suited to high winds, making the Ahwahnee great for lower-48 style four-season use rather than Alaska Range type adventures.
Furthermore, if you are forced to close the doors because the wind is blowing whatever form of precipitation strongly, there are no additional vents. Unzipping the tops of the doors is the only way to manage condensation aside from the breathability of the fabric.
Luckily, the ToddTex fabric makes this semi-successful, as it handles moisture and condensation as well as any single wall tent out there.
Of all the tents reviewed here, the Ahwahnee has the most headroom. Two six-foot (or taller) people can sit up with ease, face each other, and hang out. The tent has two poles that cross corner-to-corner, crossing once in the center. A third half-length pole supports two awnings that provide cover for ventilation in foul weather. The interior floor is 33 sq ft and provides more than adequate space for two (even two tall 6'4"+ people fit great). Two large half-moon shaped doors give each person their own entrance.
The greatest selling point is that it's super versatile and just plain comfortable to hang out in, especially considering it's a single wall tent.
Every tester who used the Ahwahnee absolutely loved the giant doors, but because the door ends up on the ground, we had to take care not to get mud and snow on them when we entered and exited the tent.
The ToddTex fabric means that this tent is one of the tougher models out there; as long as your tent doesn't get destroyed in a storm, the fabric will last for many years and will likely outlive many other single wall tents. We have found that the ToddTex is both more resistant to solar degradation and holds its water resistance longer than other single wall tent fabrics.
The Ahwahnee weighs 6 lb 15 oz and is heavier than all of the other single wall tents, as well as a handful of some of the double wall tents. It is 1-2 pounds lighter than many other 4 season tents that work comparably as well in 3 season conditions.
Along with comfort and livability, this is one of the Ahwahnee's best attributes. It performs better in three-season conditions and mild four-season conditions than in burly four-season expeditions. We'd take this tent alpine climbing in places like the Cascades or the Tetons, or backpacking or kayak camping in a second, but likely wouldn't take it on a trip up Denali or as a base camp tent in an area where we knew it was going to get pounded.
The Ahwahnee's ToddTex ePTFE shell material handles moisture and condensation far better than any other single wall tent in our review. ToddTex is covered with tiny hairs on the inside that do a fantastic job of encouraging moisture to "wick" through the tent. This model also offers pretty solid ventilation abilities as long as it's not too windy. We mentioned how both of its doors unzip all the way for fantastic ventilation during fair weather, but even if it's raining, the Ahwahnee features a short third pole that creates two awnings at the tops of the doors that allows them to be left partway open, which helps moisture circulate. If you buy the vestibule, you can leave the vestibule side interior door open for fantastic ventilation.
The Ahwahnee is an excellent option for summertime mountaineering adventures where you might have a lower elevation approach. This is when the huge mesh windows will be an advantage. In places like the Cascades or the Wind River range, you might spend one or more days on a warm and buggy approach hike before getting above treeline. This option lets you stay cool at night while still keeping the critters out. Overall, the Ahwahnee is excellent on these types of outings and is the best single wall model for warmer three-season applications. It isn't the best for high-mountain alpine climbing as it's not strong enough in high winds.
At $760, the Ahwahnee is on the more expensive side. With that in mind, we still think this model brings solid value to the table. Among single wall models, the Ahwahnee offers the most versatility across weather conditions and is the best for three-season applications. It's a comfortable single wall model, with a large floor space and high ceiling. It is durable and will last most people many years of use. While it's more than the Black Diamond Eldorado ($700), our Top Pick for All-Around Alpine Performance, it is more versatile, and we think of it as a more specialized tent for trips that blur three and four season conditions. The same could be said about the more expensive Fitzroy ($800) as it specializes in performing in the fiercest weather imaginable. Black Diamond sells an optional hooped/poled vestibule for $170, bringing a potential total to $930.
The Black Diamond Ahwahnee is designed to be a versatile year-round tent for everything from spring backpacking to summer alpine climbing to winter mountaineering. It's not the best option for heavy duty four-season use or base camping in a harsh alpine environment. It's also a little heavy for use as a bivy tent. It is a decent option for places like the Cascades, Sierra, and Tetons where you could encounter any conditions from cold fronts to rainstorms to bluebird skies.
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Most recent review: April 9, 2018
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