Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Four Season Tents

By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Monday May 3, 2021

Where We Tested


The majority of testing occurred from 2008 through the present, although reviews include our testers' experience with tents before then. Locations include all major ranges in the Lower 48, Canada (primarily in Alberta and British Columbia), Aconcagua, Alaska, Antarctica, Patagonia, and various other countries for shorter travel trips, like Turkey. More than a dozen people provided testing and feedback, as well as guide services, giving input on longevity and durability.

Our testing takes us to high and beautiful places. Here we test the...
Our testing takes us to high and beautiful places. Here we test the Black Diamond Firstlight at an alpine bivy, right next to a beautiful glacial field.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Testing Metrics



Weight and Packability


We spend the time weighing the components and total weight (ounces) of each tent to give you insight into how many ounces each will add to your backpacking set up. We also note if the tent can be modularized or stripped down. We also pack each up and measure how small it can get, and how it fits into a backpack.

We take the time to compare packed size and weigh all components to...
We take the time to compare packed size and weigh all components to see how they'll carry for your backcountry set-up.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weather Storm Resistance


We take these tents to the stormiest places in the world. Patagonia and Alaska are just two among the many. They've been precariously placed on ridgelines and endured some of the toughest winds, snow, and rain you can imagine.

We looked at each model analytically for its storm resistance but...
We looked at each model analytically for its storm resistance but also tested each tent in the field over several years. We compared them on how they handled snow loading, strong winds, and rain. Here the Black Diamond Eldorado is shown with its optional vestibule put to the test during an early season snowstorm.
Photo: John Miner

Liveability


Can you live inside for days on end? Here, we look at the headroom, length, and if each can easily be transformed into a kitchen. To test this, we camped out in each for days on end, noting which have better livability than others. We made sure to camp with our friends just to see how compatible space is for more than one person.

Photo: Ian Nicholson

Durability


In addition to reading online reviews, we assess and search for signs of wear and tear after our time with each tent. We also look at the construction and make-up of each and note if some require more care or maintenance than others.

In addition to looking for wear and tear after our testing period...
In addition to looking for wear and tear after our testing period, we assess key features that are imperative for a durable tent such as fabrics, pole thickness, and construction.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Versatility


Where can you set up your tent? When faced with rocky ridgelines and uneven footprints, we know that a versatile tent that can be set up anywhere or through any season is important. To test this, we erected each tent in some of the weirdest and wildest locals you can imagine.

For many adventures in the summer or winter, a tent's ability to be...
For many adventures in the summer or winter, a tent's ability to be set up on small ledges or in tight spaces is as important as weight and packed size. For many routes, a full-sized four-season tent isn't even an option. Cassin Ridge, Denali, AK.
Photo: OutdoorGearLab Team