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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Stormtrack 4 Season Tent > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

BLACK DIAMOND STORM TRACK TENT
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 28, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: TheMiddleSister@usaring.com
AGE: 58
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.63 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

I started hiking in 1998 after an eye-opening climb up Hahn's Peak in Colorado. Hooked, I return to Colorado often. I've hiked/snowshoed glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in domestic and exotic locations, including Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. At home, I plan for 2-3 hikes of 6-8 mi (10-13 km) weekly and one weekend hike monthly. Weekday hikes take place in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, a mixture of heavily-wooded moderate hills and flat terrain. Weekend hike locations vary. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) including food and water


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bdel.com
MSRP: N/A
Color: Marigold/Gray
BD Stormtrack
Black Diamond Stormtrack Tent

Listed Minimum Weight: 6 lb 8 oz (2.96 kg)
Listed Packaged Weight: 7 lb (3.18 kg)

Measured Weight of Stuff Sack: 2 oz (57 g)
Measured Weight of Cord: 2 oz (57 g)
Measured Weight of 9 Stakes: 4.5 oz (128 g)
Measured Weight of Poles: 1 lb 14 oz (0.85 kg)
Measured Weight of Fly: 2 lb 3 oz (0.9kg)
Measured Weight of Tent: 2 lb 7 oz (1.1 kg)
Measured Weight of Tent /components in Stuff Sack: 7 lb 0.5 oz (3.1 kg)

Listed Pack Size: 7 x 22 in (18 x 56 cm)
Measured Length of Tent /components in Stuff Sack: 20.5 in (52 cm)
Measured Circumference of Tent/components in Stuff Sack: 26.5 in (67 cm)

Listed Dimensions: 150 x 61 x 46 in (381 x 155 x 117 cm)
Listed Floor Area: 35.6 sq ft (3.3 sq m)

Other Details from the Included Black Diamond Literature

"1. Freestand double-wall, two-person design
2. Three Poles
3. Two fast-pitch hubs
4. 50/50 sleeve/clip design
5. Double end doors and vestibules
6. Adjustable front, rear and top vents
7. Seam taped 2000 mm fly and 5000 mm floor"

Limited Warranty
"We warrant for one year from purchase date and only to the original retail buyer (Buyer) that our products (Products) are free from defects in material and workmanship."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - Nov 08

Seeing the Stormtrack Tent for the first time, my first thoughts were; "Wow, the Stormtrack Tent is sort of big." It's also sort of heavy and very ORANGE. Black Diamond may call it "Marigold", but I call it ORANGE!

Not having any advance information since the Stormtrack is not yet on the market, I had no preconceived notions as to what the tent would be like. To add to my ignorance, I've never had a free-standing, 4-season tent, either. This test will be a totally new experience for me.

Taking the pieces apart to be weighed was my first order of business.

Stakes
9 Stakes on Exterior Pocket
The components of the Stormtrack are neatly stored in a same colored orange stuff sack. The empty, stretched-out sack measures 25 " (6.5 cm) long and is self-hemmed creating a drawcord pouch to cinch the sack closed. The draw cord is secured with a barrel lock closure. The sack is unique (to tent stuff sacks I've previously owned) in that it has an outside slotted pouch which holds 9 tent stakes, a bundle of thin black cord, a sample of the tent fabrics, a Featherlite (poles) hang tag and a sheet of set-up directions. The directions are in small print, various languages and include graphic illustrations - none of which looked like English to me!


The 9 tent stakes measure almost 7 in (18 cm) and appear to be titanium. I'm guessing titanium since my husband couldn't bend one in his bare hand. (Hey, he works out 3 times a week!)

Inside the tent stuff sack is an open-topped pocket for the tent poles to be stored. No rubbing of poles against the body of the tent for BD. Neat! The tent poles are bundled into 3 pieces, are shock-corded and folded into 15" (3 cm) sections. They are black with silver. Two of the bundles have funky "circle" connectors in the middle of the sections and the third bundle had two obviously curved sections.
Y Connector
Ring of Y Connector

Curved/Top Pole
Curved/Top Pole Bundle
Straight Pole Bundles
Two Straight Pole Bundles

The tent itself is gray with the bathtub bottom a darker gray than the top. The floor rises 5 in (13 cm) from the ground up the sides. Orange (or Marigold) sleeves crisscross over the top of the tent for the poles. There are six grommets, three on each side, at the base of the tent for the ends of the poles. In addition, on the same tab as the grommets, there are corded loops for the stakes.

A very nice "Black Diamond" and their logo are stenciled on the front and back doors in black. The front door is a "C" configuration and the back door is same. The doors open with two-way zippers which have corded pulls. The doors open almost the complete width and height of the tent for a very easy entry. An interior zipper complete with its own corded pull allows approximately one-fourth of the top of the door (both front and back) to be opened for ventilation with a no-see-um mesh window. Additional ventilation is gained via two approximately 16 x 14 x11 in (41 x 36 x 28 cm) triangles on the roof of the tent near the front. When opened, the flaps from these triangles can be rolled and secured with a barrel and loop fastener.

The fly is all orange with just a bit of gray over the front top of the vestibule. There is also a "Black Diamond" and logo stencil on it.

When staked out, there is a generous size vestibule at both the front and back door just about big enough to fit my backpack and boots. The door to the back vestibule is rather smaller than the front though. The cord-pull zipper closure is a two-way zipper from right bottom to the top and then across the top to the left (from the outside).

The fly attaches to the tent by way of clip-type buckles that correspond to the pole grommets and the stake-out tabs. At the front door, there are additional hook and loop tabs that wrap around the front poles to pull the vestibule taut.

Two other nice interior features are the four 10 x 5 in (25 x 13 cm) mesh storage pockets located just above the bathtub floor. There are two pockets on either side of the tent, one in the back and one in the front. A fabric loop at the top of the tent near the front door will allow me to hang a light conveniently.

The Stormtrack appears to be well-constructed with no loose hardware or threads or any kind. All seams are tight and straight and I could find no blemishes, snags, stains or any other defects.

My initial impression now that I have examined the BD Stormtrack is "It's a keeper!"


READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

With the Stormtrack tent, Black Diamond (BD) provides two different bits of literature to read. One was the aforementioned "small print sheet" for set-up and the second is in the form of a hangtag booklet. The booklet lists all the models of tents available in BD's "Doublelight" line of which the Stormtrack is one of two 4 season tents.

In the hangtag booklet, there are instructions for the "Use, Care and Maintenance" for the tent. These instructions are repeated (in larger print) on the website. They cover common sense things such as "As always stake out your tent using all the points provided," and "YES, your tent can easily be dragged by modest winds." (!!) Attaching the optional ground cloth (which I plan to order); care and cleaning of the tent body and the various components are also covered

As I previously indicated, the set-up directions are in small print. My husband, the engineer, opined they were clear enough, but I trembled at the very idea of reading them. I thought I'd discovered an easy way out when I stumbled upon a video demo for the Bibler line of Black Diamond tents on the BD website. No luck there as the videos never loaded on either my or my husband's laptops.

Finally, I grabbed a cup of tea and my magnifying glass and worked my way through the set-up instruction sheet. Once I ignored the French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and German portions, I found the directions to be quite short and clear. Now I just had to put my new knowledge into practice!

TRYING IT OUT

After studying the directions a bit, I took a deep breath and gathered all the Stormtrack components together and went outside to attempt my first solo set-up. It was a beautiful fall Colorado day; lots of sunshine with the temperature about 60 F (16 C). However, there was a steady breeze blowing 10 to 15 mph (16 to 24 kph) with wind gusts of 22 mph (35 kph). I was just hoping I wouldn't end up in Kansas!

While I'm sure my husband was laughing his head off watching me from afar, I was determined to "do it myself" and I did!

Once I had the tent spread out on the ground, I realized I should have put the poles together first. It was intuitive as far as the assembly of the poles, but since I was trying to hold down the now billowing tent with my knees, it wasn't easy. The shock cords pulled the pole sections together rather gently, I thought, not like some I've used where I could have lost a part of my finger if I didn't move fast enough. I had no difficulty at all with seating the connections firmly.

Inserting the poles into their respective reflective sleeves (which will be interesting to test at night in the future) went without a hitch once I found exactly which sleeves were which. That only took two tries. The tension required to anchor the ends of the poles into their proper grommets was not overly heavy, but I was nervous about the amount of pulling I had to do to get the supporting plastic-like clips into place.

Now that I had a fully constructed tent, I realized I had to work my way around the tent, holding on for dear life in the wind, to get to the front of the tent where I left the tent stakes! That was fun.

I was relieved to find pounding the stakes into the hard ground didn't cause the slightest bend in them. I used a handy rock and anchored them in tightly. I was a bit skeptical abound the thin cords used for the stakes. They don't look very strong.

Once all the stakes were in place, I checked out my handiwork and was pleased to see the results. Ta Da!
Side View of Stormtrack
Stormtrack Side View


By the way, it took me 20 minutes to complete the set-up for the first time and most of that time was spent just hanging onto the tent until a gust of wind died down. I will be checking my time as I continue to test to report my improvement.

Stake-out tab
Stake out Tab w/Fly attachment
Next it was on to the fly. This was quite a challenge! The wind wouldn't stop gusting and I was sure I was going to take flight and end up being shot down! (Fort Carson is to the east of me and the SuperMax prison is to the south.) In a short minute's lull, I quickly clipped in the four corners of the fly to the buckle ends on the grommet and stake-out tabs. .

Once I had things nominally secured, I went around to buckle up the remaining buckles and then staked out the vestibules. One stake for the one in the back and two in the front. Securing the hook and loop tabs in the interior of the vestibule was rather difficult and I can see why the BD directions put that as a first step. I will be sure to follow those directions when it is less windy, but at least I know I can do it sort of backwards

After a suitable gloating over my achievement, it was time to check out the interior of the Stormtrack. VERY ROOMY! Can't wait to try is out on the trail this weekend!

SUMMARY

This concludes the Intital Report of my Black Diamond Stormtrack Tent. Please see below to read the results of my first two months of testing.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS - Jan 09

Pike National Forest view
Sunset View from BD Stormtrack
During my first two months of field testing the Black Diamond Stormtrack tent, it was in use for a total of 3 nights in south central Colorado. The daytime weather was warmer (75 F/21 C) than I expected it to be at that time of year, but the night temperatures still got down to just about freezing. The skies were clear, all nights, with minimal humidity. The winds were rather constant in the early hours of the evening, blowing easily 15 mph (24 kph), according to the local Weather Bug. By midnight or so, the air stilled.

The area chosen for this particular trip is in the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands adjacent to the Pike National Forest in Colorado. Terrain is mostly scrubby juniper and cactus with some valleys of prairie grasses. At higher elevations (8,000 ft/2400 km), the vegetation turns to aspen groves and the taller varieties of pine trees. The terrain is generally shale and easy to bushwhack with wide passages through the trees. There are sections (which I avoid) of steep granite, but for backpacking, it's a pleasant place to "get lost". Sometimes, though, it is not the easiest place to stake a tent.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Getting packed up to venture into the forest is a chore I'm not crazy about. I always worry about forgetting something. (I really gotta make a permanent list to work from.) It was really reassuring to know, at least, all my shelter components are stored together in one bag and all it takes to gather stakes, poles, fly and tent is a grab-and-go of one bag!

The BD Stormtrack is larger than my previous 3 season tent, so I chose to delegate the carrying of the tent to my husband's pack which is bigger than the one I had planned to carry on this trip. He easily secured it to the outside of his pack with the crisscross lashings. The trade-off for this was I had to carry the water. I think next time; I'll carry the tent because the water was by far heavier going in!

As a couple of weeks had passed since I had set-up the Stormtrack for my Initial Report, I was curious to see if I would remember how to assemble it in the field. Hey, I can't usually remember where I put my tea cup! To my consternation, I forgot the instructions, too. Thankfully, all my worry was for naught, because I had no trouble whatsoever. The set-up is really rather intuitive and easy after the first time. And on this trip, I had my husband to help which was great as the winds were a-blowing. None the less, we had the tent erected, our sleeping bags unrolled and all our left-over gear stowed in the two vestibules in less than 20 minutes.

Both my husband and I marveled at all the space in the Stormtrack tent. As can be seen in the picture at right, I can sit fully upright and still not scrape the ceiling of the tent, a very good thing. We were able to lay side-by-side without clobbering each other when shifting sleeping positions. Most times, if I didn't hear the zipper opening, I wouldn't have known John was leaving or entering the tent. There is that much room, being somewhat careful, of course.

The vestibules were generous enough to store our packs and boots at night. However, the rear vestibule is not large enough to use for storage as well as use as an entrance/exit at the same time.

We were quite comfortable and snug in the Stormtrack even though the winds picked up. Thankfully, the tent held its ground and no stakes were pulled out of the hard-to-penetrate ground. The fly flapped a bit more than I liked the first night, but an adjustment of the staking took care of that the next day. I was happy to see little dirt (if any - what I saw could have been brought in on us) was blown in through the mesh. There wasn't any noticeable condensation, either, but the air was very dry at that time on the trail.
Interior of Stormtrack Tent
Interior of Stormtrack

I found the side pockets handy for my cell phone, mini-flashlight and some small personal items and the loop on the ceiling was perfect for a lantern overhead.

Breaking camp was a cinch. I simply pulled everything out and apart, shook out the fly and tent, rolled it all up and done! Happily, I had no trouble getting everything back in the carrying bag, albeit, not as neatly as when the Stormtrack was delivered.

Now that the first bit of testing is done, I am anxiously waiting for the next and hoping for a good snow storm to really test out the fourth season feature of the Black Diamond Stormtrack Tent.

SUMMARY

I am really excited about this tent as it extends my overnight hiking experiences to four seasons. I have two trips planned for weekend fun in February already with at least one more scheduled in March.

My Long Term Report is posted below.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

February 6-7: At night, the trail at the Tennessee Pass was a very pleasant 28 F (-2 C) when we started and a still pleasant 14 F (-10 C) when we stopped. Clear skies, little or no humidity and no wind at all made it a gorgeous trek. We started at an elevation of 10,500 ft (3200 m) and had a slight, but constant elevation gain to 10,800 ft (3292 m). The trail was hard-packed and meandered through a tall growth pine forest.

The next day, we were on the same trails, but it was sunny and 32 F (0 C). Still, no wind and very little humidity were present.

February 20-21: Ridgway State Park and Reservoir, including the Uncompahgre River trails. Elevation started at 6880 ft (2097 m) and rose to 7000 ft (2134 m). Temperatures were from a low of 33 F (0.6 C) at night to 54 F (12 C) in the bright afternoon sunshine. There was, at most, just a light occasional breeze. Terrain varied from sandy beach shore to medium size rocks to very large rocks at the reservoir's edge, then changed to dry hard packed dirt to mud to icy snow patches in the offshore higher treed sections of the trail. The mileage for the entire east side trail was 7.5 mi (12 km).

March 3-5: Hike and camp in the Bureau of Land Management properties in the Royal Gorge area of Colorado (Cooper Mountain range, included). Elevation started at 5400 ft (137 m) and gained about 200 ft (5 m). Daytime temperatures were a pleasant 50 to 67 F (10 to19 C) and nighttime temperatures hovered from 18 to 34 F (-8 to 1 C) from Tuesday to Thursday respectively. A pretty steady wind of 10 to 15 mph (16 to 24 kph) was present most of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Wind gusts were plentiful and blew as high as 35 mph (56 kph). The terrain was very dry. We were (and still are) under "red flag" warnings for forest fires. Vegetation was sparse juniper and pinon pine eking out a barren existence on powdery dirt to granite slabs. Desolate, but very beautiful against the brilliant blue sky!

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

After setting up the BD Stormtrack over 7 times, I think back to being perplexed as to the directions for set-up and laugh. In hindsight, it's so easy and intuitive, directions are really not necessary and set-up can be accomplished handily by one person even with moderately windy conditions. Here in Colorado, winds are an almost constant weather condition and I had to quickly devise a method for securing the Stormtrack tent before it headed for the (higher) hills.

I put all the support poles together first, spread out the tent on the ground and put the support poles on top in the positions they are eventually going to go. While the weight of the poles isn't great, it does help keep the tent on the ground a bit. Working quickly from side to side, I get the poles into their proper sleeves. I've come to really like the plastic clips which attach the tent walls to the support poles. Not only are they very easy to attach and detach, but they make the Stormtrack walls so much higher and roomier than some other tents I've used.
Setting Up Fly on Stormtrack tent
Setting up the Stormtrack Fly
Once the tent is erected, putting the stakes in is a breeze - if I can find a rock that doesn't fall apart when used as a hammer. (We have a lot of limestone/shale around here.) Putting on the rain fly is usually, umm, interesting with the wind fighting me for possession of lightweight material. But I am able to do it all by myself. Gee, I sound like my four-year-old granddaughter!

During this last period of testing the Stormtrack Tent, I used it an additional 4 nights. As can be seen from the pictures above and below, we have been blessed with some of the most unseasonably mild months this winter. I tried to plan trips where I might encounter bad weather, but it just didn't happen for me. While the Stormtrack did see action on some cold nights and was set-up on packed snow of 2-3 ft (1 m), most of my testing was on dry ground with just as dry air.

This meant no issue with condensation inside the tent. Even on the coldest nights, I didn't even have the damp top-of-sleeping-bag syndrome I had been previously used to when camping in Michigan where humidity is ever present. And because of the lack of humidity, I didn't have need of venting the Stormtrack. I actually kept all the zippers fully closed at night with no ill effects. In the morning, when not breaking camp, I would roll open the doors, vestibules and "roof" windows and air the tent out.

When breaking camp, it was a cinch to pack all my gear, pull up the stakes, lift the tent up, shake out any debris, then dismantle the tent for packing. Wonder of all wonders, I was always without any fuss able to get the Stormtrack back into its provided stuff sack!
So light I can pick it up with one hand!
Stormtrack is so light, I can pick it up with one hand!

Stormtrack Entry
Stormtrack entry and Vestibule
I can't say enough good things about the spaciousness of the Stormtrack. There is easily enough room for two adults and while it is a close fit, we can actually take our 7-year-old granddaughter in the tent with us. When it's just the two of us - most of the time - we can take most of our gear into the tent minus our packs and still not be squashed. Usually, we stashed our packs in the rear vestibule which is not very big at all. Two 1600 cu in (26 l) to 3900 cu in (63.9 L) packs will take up all the available space and render the door useless for entry or exit. I would say, the limited space of the rear vestibule is probably the only quibble I could come up with when evaluating the Stormtrack and the pluses way outnumber this minus. We just use the rear vestibule as storage and the front vestibule as our "door".

As of yet, I have had no problems with seams failing, stakes bending/breaking, or any other material failures. I have not had to repair or replace any parts, even though I was initially very worried about the plastic clips that attach the side walls of the tent to the support poles. Even with the cold, the integrity of the clips remains intact. As I mentioned above, when breaking camp, I shake out the tent. I also make a cursory attempt at brushing off any debris on the bottom of the tent before rolling it up to pack it out. When I get home, I shake the tent out again and use a damp cloth on the bottom of the tent if needed to remove any mud. So far, that is all I've had to do before hanging the tent up to dry/air out. I keep it stored loosely folded in one of those all-purpose rubber-like storage bins.

SUMMARY

This is one super tent! After my very first set-up, I found the tent sets up easily even with one person in moderate winds. Taking it down and storing it for backpacking is just as easy. The tent has ample room for two adults and, while it's a cozy fit, adding one small child is still do-able. The headroom is particularly spacious correspondingly to the floor footprint than some other tents I've used. However, the back vestibule is not very large or useful in my opinion.

The Stormtrack performed flawlessly in keeping the winter elements at bay, albeit, a mild winter here in Colorado. I will be most interested in seeing how the tent performs in the heat of the summer.

All in all, the Black Diamond Stormtrack Tent will definitely be my "go-to" tent from now on!

Thank you to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this neat product.

Kathleen Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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