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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Stormtrack 4 Season Tent > Test Report by arnold peterson

BLACK DIAMOND STORMTRACK TENT
TEST SERIES BY ARNOLD PETERSON
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 27, 2009

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 70
LOCATION: Wilmington Massachusetts USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
TORSO: 19 in (48 cm)

Backpacking Background: Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.bdel.com
MSRP: US$ not listed
Listed Package Weight: 7 lb (3.2 kg)
Measured Weight: 7.3 lb (3.3 kg)
Floor Area: 35.6 sq in (3.3 sq m)
Measured Floor Area 35 sq ft (3.25 sq m)
Pockets: 4
Pocket Size: not listed
Measured Pocket Size: 5.5 in (140 mm) x 8.5 in (216 mm)
Tent Type: Doublelight
Model: Stromtrack
Color: Marigold/Gray
Season: 4
Materials:
Poles: DAC Featherlite NSL
Stakes: 9 "X" style anodized aluminum
Other details from literature:
1. Freestanding, 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. Seamtaped 2000 mm polyester fly and 5000 mm nylon floor
Optional Accessories: Fitted ground cloth
IMAGE 1
packaged Stormtrack

IMAGE 2
poles, stakes, and cord

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I find the colors very attractive. The material appears to be strong and durable. The zippers work well and when material does get caught, it is easy to remove. I really like the hub design for the poles as it eliminates any confusion over figuring out where the poles are to be positioned. It is a great idea to have the stake pouch be a part of the stuff sack. This almost eliminates forgetting the stakes during packing. I like that the clips are rigid, but formed in a way that they slip on easily, but securely. The DAC Featherlite NSL poles are strong and easy to assemble. There are small reflective patches around the tent so it is easy to spot with a low level light when it is dark.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Both a leaflet and a booklet contain instructions. The leaflet has instructions for pitching the Strormtrack and Squall tents. The pictorials are well done and relatively easy to follow. Instructions are given for attaching an optional ground cloth.

The booklet contains product specifications and instructions on use, care, and maintenance. The instructions remind us of the importance of staking, of keeping sharp objects from making contact with the tent, and of always storing the tent dry. Cleaning instructions for light soil can be summarized as using only warm water. Damage due to mildew is not covered by the warranty and well as normal wear and tear. There is also mention of the uses of the optional ground cloth. A limited warranty covers defective material and workmanship.

TRYING IT OUT

Colder weather arrived with the arrival of the Stormtrack tent. Since it was late in the day I decided to wait till the next afternoon to set it up. It was sunny, 20 F (-7 C) with occasional gusts of wind. I spread out the tent and inserted the long leg of one of the fast-pitch hubs into the front reflective sleeve of the tent. The other long leg was inserted into a grommet on the opposite corner of the tent. The pole was rigid enough so I could do this while standing up. I inserted the short leg into the grommet on the opposite wall in the center of the tent. I repeated this for the other fast-pitch hub on the other side of the tent. The third pole is "T-shaped" with the long part going along the ridge of the tent. I inserted it into the sleeve and placed the short ends of poles into grommets at the front of the tent. When I went to the back of the tent I noticed when I tried to insert the remaining end into a grommet the ridge sleeve was slack near the back. It then occurred to me that the ridge pole should be on top of the other poles. My first thought was I needed to take everything apart. I did not expect it to be so cold, so I collapsed a couple sections of the ridge pole, slipped the ridge pole onto the top, reassembled the ridge pole, and inserted the pole into its grommet. As a result, the slack in the reflective sleeve was gone. I then went around and secured all the clips to the poles. Then it was time to put the fly on. This is my favorite part of setting up a tent. I like to position myself so that when I toss the fly over the tent, any wind will assist me. This time I was fairly lucky and it was close enough to start securing the fly to the tent. I aligned the fly to the gray awning at the front of the tent. From previous experience with double wall tents, I started at the center and secured the hook and loop attachments to the poles. I then secured the buckles along the ground level at the side centers and corners of the tent. I then staked out the back vestibule with one stake and proceeded to the front vestibule and staked it out with 2 stakes. The remaining six stakes were used to stake the side centers and corners of the tent. The loops are made with the same type of black cord material provided in the stake pouch. This means that if this cord gets damaged or breaks it is easy to replace. I have been in strong winds and know the importance of the stakes and loops in keeping the tent intact. In the field, I will be using Tyvek for a ground cloth. I entered the tent from both ends and was pleased at how well the zippers performed. The tent material was stiffer than it was in the house as it was much colder outside. The back vestibule is a lot smaller but has all the features I would expect in an entryway. I liked the ability to keep the entry open, and secure it without the use of the zipper. I found the front entry is large and makes entering and exiting easy. The inside reveals a generous area for 2 people. The wall slopes are quite steep providing more volume inside the tent. Each corner has a small storage pouch. The bottom of the storage pouch just touches the floor of the tent. I then looked at the 4 adjustable vents. The two in the roof are located near the apex toward the front of the tent and are easy to adjust. I have some concern about the small size of the vents on the doors of the tent. This could be a problem in hot weather when there are insects. Other than that I am very pleased with this tent. The seams appeared to be very well sealed. The ceiling has 5 small loops for attaching items. These loops can be very handy to set up a line for drying items.
IMAGE 3
Stormtrack without fly

IMAGE 4
Stormtrack with fly

IMAGE 5
front entrance

IMAGE 6
rear entrance

SUMMARY

I am impressed with the overall quality of the material. The Stormtrack has more volume than I expected for a 2 person tent. Entry through the front is easy and there is a lot of space for backpacks and shoes. Entry through the back is more difficult and there is less space for storage. There was a slight odor in the tent probably from a manufacturing process. I did have a slight problem attaching the hook and loop attachments on the poles. It might be me, because I have that same problem with other tents. I am looking forward to using the Stormtrack in the cold and windy months ahead.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank Backpackgeartesters.org and Black Diamond for the opportunity to test the Stromtrack tent.

This report was created with the BGT Report Generator.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I backpacked 7 times, each time for one night, in a forest of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. This forest is flanked on the east side by the railroad and on the west side by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal there is a swamp used as an aquifer for the town water wells until they were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. The temperatures for these backpacks ranged from a low of 10 F (-12 C) to a high of 59 F (15 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I started all my backpacks during this period shortly after sunset and I broke camp about 5 am. The sleeping bag I used seems to cool during the night and after about 8 hrs I usually feel it is time to get up and break camp. The ground was frozen or partially frozen each time except for the night that started with a temperature of 59 F (15 C). As long as I did not hit a rock, I did not have any problem pushing the stakes into the ground. I use the bottom of my boot to push the stakes down and this has worked well for me so far. With the weight of the tent, my pack weight was about 26 lb (12 kg). I used a 0 F (-18 C) sleeping bag to keep the weight down. This is probably why I felt cooler as the night progressed. For a ground cloth I used 2 sections of Tyvek, 7 ft (2 m) by 20 in (51 cm). Pitching and packing this tent was easy and quick except when there was wind. The material is light and does become airborne easily. With a little patience I was able to make it work and I was satisfied with the results. Getting settled at night and ready in the morning is significantly more easy and rapid with the extra space inside the tent.

The outside temperature on the first backpack was about 18 F (-8 C) and there was a slight wind. The slight wind did not cause me a problem when I pitched the tent. Even though the ground was frozen, I had no problem staking the tent. Once inside, I decided to open the top vents fully and the door vents halfway. My digital thermometer was not working, so I did not get a temperature inside the tent. The tent quieted the sound of the winds and I slept well. In the morning the inside of my tent and all surfaces were dry. I had cooled down and found out later the outside temperature had gone down to about 10 F (-12 C). The wind had gone by morning, so it did not hinder packing the tent.

It had rained most of the day of the second backpack and the temperature was about 45 F (7 C). I was able to leave after sunset and pitch my tent between showers. The rain was predicted to fall all night and into the next day. Anticipating a high humidity, I opened all vents fully. The rain stopped during the night and the temperature dropped to 20 F (-7 C) by 5 am. Although it rained heavily during the night, I slept through most of it. The inner walls of the tent were completely dry, but there was some condensation on my sleeping bag. Since I felt uncomfortable, I broke camp and headed back before sunrise. Almost all the moisture came off the fly with a little shaking. The tent itself was almost completely dry. The ground cloth helped prevent dirt and moisture from sticking to the bottom of the tent. The tent and fly dried very quickly once inside my house.

The forecast for the third backpack was for rain/snow during the night. I was setup and ready for sleeping at 9 pm. Inside the tent, the temperature was about 37 F (3 C). Thinking the temperature was decreasing, I closed the door vents and left the ceiling vents open. When I woke up 4 hours later, I was warm and a bit damp and the outside of my bag was wet near where I was breathing. I noticed that the temperature had risen to 39 F (4 C). The ceiling of the tent was also slightly damp. Small droplets on the ceiling sparkled like tiny diamonds. I opened the vents on the doors fully. I also opened the foot end of my sleeping bag enough to get some ventilation. When I woke again about 4 hours later, I was dry but feeling a bit cool. Both the ceiling of the tent and the outside of my sleeping bag were still a little damp. I noticed the inner temperature had dropped to 35 F (2 C). Since it was about 5 am, I decided to pack up and leave. The nice thing about the headroom in this tent is that I can pack up without having to brush against the damp surfaces of the tent. When I opened the door to leave, I noticed ice crystals on the inside of the tent fly. As I set down my thermometer while packing, I noticed it had not snowed during the night. The outside temperature was now 29 F (-2 C). This explained why the inside of my tent could be damp and the outside frozen.

The forecast for the fourth backpack was good for winter weather. There would be no snow or rain, just cold weather. I now knew to pay closer attention to outside as well as inner tent temperatures. When I finished pitching the tent the outside temp was 32 F (0 C). I was not expecting much of a change in temperature during the night, so I opened all the vents fully. I got setup for the night and read for a short time. When I checked the temperature in the tent it was 37 F (3 C). The tent and my sleeping bag stayed completely dry during the night and I was more comfortable. I noticed the inside temperature had increased slightly to 39 F (4 C) and the outside temperature was 34 F (1 C). It was really nice not to have to deal with wet surfaces. Getting in and out of a dry tent is also a lot nicer.

The fifth backpack proved to be the warmest of this test period. The outside temperature was 59 F (15 C) and it was windy. In pitching the tent I used rocks to hold things down during the process. The unexpected gusts had to be waited out for a calmer moment. After getting settled inside, I noticed the temperature was 66 F (19 C). Once I was inside the tent, the sound of the wind was reduced more than I had expected. I left all the vents open and I had no problems with moisture. When I woke, the inside temperature had dropped to 46 F (8 C) and the outside temperature was 42 F (6 C). Something I did not understand is why there was some moisture on the outside of my sleeping bag, but only along the zipper. Everything else in the tent was dry.


The forecast for the sixth backpack was for snow, which did not materialize. The temperature was 28 F (-2 C) outside and 34 F (1 C) inside. Although the outside temperature dropped to 24 F (-4 C), the inside temperature only dropped to 33 F (1 C). There was a small amount of moisture on my sleeping bag and the ceiling of the tent. When I opened the front of the tent, I noticed frost on the underside of the fly.

A storm gets my tent

We have had two snow storms, on Friday and again on Sunday. On Friday, I knew it was going to snow that night and thought it would be a good test. I pitched the tent under some evergreen trees. Predicted temperatures were in the 15 F to 30 F (-12 C to -1 C) range. I did not think these temperatures would cause me a problem since I had been out previously with this system at 10 F (-12 C). I heard snow sliding off the roof a few times during Friday night. When I got up Saturday morning, there was at least 8 in (20 cm) of snow on the ground and it was quite windy and still snowing. I was concerned about ripping the fly on branches with the winds gusting and swirling. I had not brought out snowshoes, so I decided to return home with a few things, then come back with snowshoes and get the rest. I could not go back to the tent until after the storm on Sunday. When I returned on Monday, I saw that the tent had collapsed.

What I believe happened was that, at some point, some snow had accumulated on the branches and it may have released all at once. The snow fell on the back part of the tent. A segment of the pole broke and the sharp end penetrated the fly. This caused the larger of 2 rips. I could see this pole sticking upward into the air. I was not aware of the second rip until I came home and inspected the fly completely. As I was dismantling the tent at the camp site, I discovered hard chunks of snow. I had thought there had been sufficient wind to keep large amounts of snow from accumulating on the tree branches. The ridge pole appeared to be in good condition. The other 2 poles with hubs each had one broken section. It also appeared that the tent did not have any damage that I could see. I had not anticipated chunks of snow falling that would be heavy enough to cause such a problem. This probably would not have happened if the tent had been placed about 12 in (30 cm) forward. Since I wanted to continue my testing of this pre-production tent, I went through the channels at BGT to contact Black Diamond. I now have received replacement poles and material to patch the fly. I will write about the results in the Long Term Report. When this tent is in production, customers may have a different experience with customer service.
IMAGE 1
late fall

IMAGE 2
snow conditions

SUMMARY

I have found a lot to like about this tent, especially being comfortable inside the tent. I am comfortable in this tent because it is large enough, and it is warmer and easily ventilated. It is quieter in heavy rains and winds. The size of vestibule and door make for easy entry and exit. I have found the Stormtrack very durable despite the unusual mishap that I had. Although the tent adds weight to the backpack, the benefits it provides for the winter conditions make it worthwhile.

TESTING STRATEGY

As soon as I have repaired my tent, my plan is to continue testing mostly in New Hampshire where I have located 3 possible sites.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank Backpackgeartesters.org and Black Diamond for the opportunity to test the Stormtrack tent.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I backpacked 2 times, each time for one night, in a forest of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. This forest is flanked on the east side by the railroad and on the west side by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been
restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal there is a swamp used as an aquifer for the town water wells until they were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. The temperatures for these backpacks ranged from a low of 33 F (1 C) to a high of 55 F (13 C).

I backpacked in a forest in southern, New Hampshire. It is relatively flat, with a lot of rocky hills and several ponds which were ice covered. The trees are a mixture of hardwoods and mostly pine. The temperature was between 19 F (-7 C) and 38 F (3 C). The ground was covered in crusty snow that collapsed under foot.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Repair and recovery.

As mentioned in my previous report, I had made arrangements with Black Diamond and I would be receiving poles and patch material to repair my tent. When the materials arrived, I found that the sewing machine needed adjustment. After getting the sewing machine adjusted, I got someone to help with the sewing. Final adjustments to the sewing machine were made with a test portion of the patch material. The first step was to cut the patch material about 2 in (5 cm) beyond the rip. The tent was cleaned with alcohol and allowed to dry before sewing the patch. The patch was sewn to the underside of the tent. The outside of the tent is coated with silicon (slippery) and the inside is slightly sticky. The slippery side was placed down against the inside of the tent. A double row of stitches was sewn fairly close to the rip. The outside edges of the patch cloth were turned under before sewing along the edge. The corners of the patch were cut at a diagonal so that when the patch was turned under the material would remain the same thickness all the way around the circumference. A double row of stitches was used for the outside edge. At this point, I turned the tent over and inspected the outside of the tent. I was now satisfied that it was time to apply the seam sealer to the stitched area. This was done on a flat surface and allowed to dry for over 20 hrs. The tent was turned over and the procedure was repeated for the inside and allowed to dry for 20 hrs. Both times the sealed areas were completely dry to the touch. See pictures below.
IMAGE 1
smaller rip

IMAGE 2
larger "L" shaped rip


Backpacking in Middlesex County after repairs.

The tent was ready and a rain storm was predicted for the night. I arrived at the campsite before sundown. The temperature was still a warm 55 F (13 C) with a slight breeze. In the sunny areas, the ground was muddy and wet. In the shady areas and under the trees, it was icy and the snow was crystallized. I set up the tent under the trees where I would have no trouble with water or mud. I had no problems even though the ground was still slightly frozen. I went for a walk and when I returned, I found the outside temperature was 44 F (7 C) and the inside temperature was 39 F (4 C). I could feel the humidity in the air and I was sure it would rain during the night. I read a little and quickly went to sleep. When I was ready to leave in the morning, the inside temperature had dropped to 36 F (2 C) and the outside temp was 41 F (5 C). The inside of the tent was completely dry and there was a small amount of moisture on my sleeping bag from my breath. It had not rained during the night.

Fortunately another rain night was predicted and this test period was coming to an end soon. This time when I arrived at the camp site the temperature was 39 F (4 C) and the ground was slightly frozen. The shady areas had areas of ice and crystallized snow. When I got set up, the inside temperature was 36 F (2 C). I read a little and went to sleep. When I woke 6 hours later, the inside temperature was 37 F (3 C). I went back to sleep for another 2 hours. When I woke the second time, the inside temperature was 35 F (2 C) and the outside temperature was about 33 F (1 C). There was a small amount of moisture on my sleeping bag near where I breathe. Although it did not rain during the night, there was a lot of wind that was very gusty. I could hear the fly moving in the wind but I could not detect any movement in the tent. There was one gust of wind that did shake part of the base of the tent very briefly.

Backpacking in southern New Hampshire.

I backpacked in a forest east of Manchester. The area is fairly flat with some rocky outcrops, several small ponds, and a mostly hardwood forest. At the time I backpacked, the snow was compacted and crunchy under foot. It was about 39 F (4 C) when I arrived and set up the tent. I set up the tent in an open area near a pond. The ground was harder under one stake and I needed a rock to get that stake into the ground. This turned out to be the hardest stake to remove. I left all the vents open and noticed there was no temperature difference between the inside and the outside. When I woke in the morning, I noticed a small amount of moisture on my sleeping bag and the rest of the tent was dry. The temperature was 19 F (-7 C) and I was not feeling warm enough to stay any longer. The outside of the fly was covered by a light frost. Packing was quick except for the one stake where I had trouble in the hard frozen ground. The ground freezes harder in the open.
IMAGE 3
in southern New Hampshire


General comments

I found the stakes to be durable and fairly easy to insert into ground that is frozen fairly solid. Removal of the stakes is slightly more difficult. There are some small features that make setting up the tent and taking it down easier. The preformed curved hook and loop tabs on the fly are easier to attach to the tent poles than non preformed tabs. The curved plastic hooks are easier to attach and detach from the tent poles than non curved plastic hooks. The tent tensions well so that the action of the zippers is smooth. I found that setting up the tent and putting my gear into the tent before setting up the fly made for a quicker set-up. Reversing this order for breaking camp was also a little quicker. Although I did not get to use the tent in the rain after the repairs, I am confident that it should keep the moisture out during a heavy sustained rainfall.

SUMMARY

Best of all, I like the amount of space available in the tent. Second, I like the ease of setting up and taking down the tent. Third, I feel this is a well built tent that should last a long time. I do think there could be more ventilation area in the front and back doors to the tent. In the warmer weather, it may be difficult to get air moving in the lower part of the tent.



CONTINUED USE

I hope to be using the Stormtrack tent for backpacking as well as for car camping for many years.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Black Diamond for the opportunity to test the Stormtrack tent.

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

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