Black Diamond Squall
Design: 3.5-season (Fall,Winter,Spring,Cool Summer Days) freestanding modified dome
Ease of Setup: No Wind=Very Easy : Light Wind (Breeze with gust up to 15+)=Easy : High Wind (20+ Sustained)=Moderately Easy
Weight: 8.25 pounds complete (Tent,Fly,Stakes,Guy lines,Bag,Ground Cloth)
Price Paid: $440 Delivered
I don't understand why this tent doesn't get more reviews? After doing a lot of research, this tent offers the best square footage to weight for a four season tent. The set-up looks funny, heck even intimidating but is EXTREMELY easy.
I saw the other review that said, "I think for 95% of people out there the Squall would be a great tent, but I wouldn't take this thing above tree line in the winter. Just way too much flex in the walls." I have to disagree... We have been doing the fourteeners in Colorado this summer (2010) and it has handled everything from high winds, freezing rain to light hail and nothing seems to phase the Squall. Yes, there is flex in the walls but all of the stress points are double sewn and the clips/guide sleeve is designed to take high winds.
There are a couple of reasons that I am giving this a 4.5. The Black Diamond Squall would NOT work on open direct sun during the hot summer days/morning/evenings... but then NO four season tent can. If you are going to be in the sun and you are sure there is no rain to be expected, you don't need the rain fly. The EPIC fabric can easily handle the morning dew and even a light rain.
I camped at Eleven Mile Reservoir with my Brother (not a fourteener weekend) and I didn't put on the rain fly, it rained that evening and the dog and I stayed dry during the entire night (brother and his gf slept in his own tent. In the morning, there was zero condensation inside but by 9am (yes, a lazy morning) the tent was getting hot with the direct sun shining on it.
Moving forward to other features, the tents vestibules are big, I store my Mystery Ranch Tactiplane in the back and it has remained dry on every trip, including heavy rains. We store, shoes, my girlfriends backpack, other misc items in the front vestibule and still have plenty room to get in a out of. The back vestibule is a little tight to get in and out of but works great to put or grab cloths, etc from the back of the tent.
There are four small pockets on both side/ends of the tent... they are not the biggest but works great for EDC (Everyday Carry) items: pocket knife, flashlight, licenses, small revolver/back-up firearm (it's the two legged animals we worry about). There are loops in the ceiling but the tent doesn't come with an attic, it should for the money (Black Diamond, please note this!!!). I did not get the ground cloth as I am building one that includes the vestibules and reaches about five inches beyond the tent, this allows my to tuck the tyvek up into the rain fly if we expect heavy rains.
The only thing I would like to see changed is two additional vents in the top or full vented doors, not just the top of the doors. Yes a little more weight but it would greatly expand the versatility. The other reason I rated at 4.5, is the front door is hard to close at the top right corner... yes, many tent doors are hard to close but this on 5 inch section on the squall is very hard when coming from the top to the bottom, what I do is close the top as far as I can without fear of breaking the zipper and then close the rest from the bottom, which works fine but even then it's a little tight. Overall a great purchase and very pleased with this tent, an investment worth making.
Here are some tips:
If windy conditions: If you put together the poles first and then try and put the tent together you will find the pole are to big to handle in windy weather. First, stake the ground cloth and tent. Then proceed placing the center pole (front door to back door) first, don't clip it in or put the front sides in, just simply push the center pole through. The reason for this is this will keep the tent from flopping around and the center pole is the easiest pole to put together and is heavy enough to keep the tent down. Then when you go to put the side pole in put in the guided sleeve-end in first and put the pole together, as you are guiding it through, leaving the clip (back-end) pole to dangle, not put together. As you are sliding the front half of the pole in putting the pole together this makes for a controlled situation, that puts you in the driver's seat.
As you progress to the back (clipping area) put the pole together and make sure this pole goes Under the center pole and then clip it in. All of this (front and back) time leaving the middle (the little section below the ring.) of the side pole out of it's seating end. Do the other side the same. Now you can push the middle of the side pole in, this will lift the tent up and seem tough but it will work and then do the other side. Now the tent is up you can clip the center pole to the back seating and the front door poles seating them. I have personally done this by myself a couple of times, with the entire process taking 8 minutes, tops.
Tip 2: Always loosen the rain fly's bottom clips to be as loose as they can be. When you go to put on the fly, put the side that is windiest first and set the clips. Then proceed to velcro in the less windy side and set those clips. Now proceed to back to the windy side and unclip one section setting the velcro and reclip, this time tightening the fly. If you are sure the wind/rain is going to remain from one side, this allows you to put the fly lower on that side. Now back to the less windy side and tight these clip making the entire fly taut (the correct spelling, thank you).
Tip 3: Always, roll the doors, door vents, vestibule doors and ceiling vents outside to the inside. Ie. the inside part of the tent is the inside of the roll. The reason for this, is if rain or condensation builds up and the roll does indeed get wet, when you un-roll the wet section is back on the outside of the tent, which allow for easier drying and less wetness to deal with inside the tent.
Tip 4: Don't stuff the tent to hard into the carrying bag. I found out the hard way. I stuff the tent too hard and put the pole in first, upon attaching to my pack I found that I created a small tear from the pressure of the pole pushing against the thin fabric. On that note, Black Diamond, please for the money being spent, make the carry back waterproof and thicker.
As a side note: Professionally, I think the industry needs to get its facts straight and focus on "seasons" as there should be the follow ratings;
Summer - Hot weather, very well ventilated. Can handle Summer squalls
Winter - Cold weather, little ventilation. Can handle medium snow, freezing rain, and high winds (sustained for the lighter/medium of all of these elements)
Spring/Summer/Fall - Geared toward chilly to warm temperatures. Light snow, cold rain, light hail but good ventilation for warmer daytime temperatures
Fall/Winter/Spring - Geared toward freezing to mild temperatures. Can handle medium snow falls, light hail, freezing rain (but not sustained of any). Have good ventilation for mild sunny days.
Expedition - Specialized tent to handle sustained heavy snow, high winds, hail. Small ventilation to reduce condensation from human breathing.
I will be uploading videos and images soon and showing the squall handling high winds. Oh, BTW the Aconcagua highest winds range is 45 mph to 60 mph... NOT 80 mph.
Seriously, you should consider this tent!!!
Price Paid: $400 USD
Saw a trip report of some guys climbing over 7000M using the Squall in the nastiest conditions imaginable, and it held up. Hard to tell how something will work in your yard. Mine replaces a Fury and seems just as capable.
Ease of Setup: easy
Weight: 8lbs 7oz
Price Paid: $513
Bought this tent and am returning it after setting it up in the yard. It seems to be a great tent, and would probably keep it, but it's not strong enough for my needs. Bought this tent for Aconcagua, but there is no way this tent would hold up in 80+ mph winds.
Was very roomy, easy to set up, good headroom, good venting in side, typically great construct found in all BD products, but when you get this thing anchored as tight as possible (guy lines too) it just doesn't seem that strong. The walls still flexed a lot when we had this thing strapped as tight as possible.
I previously had a Black Diamond Guiding Light tent, and I was able to get that tent to be more structurally sound than this one (really suprised me!). I would have trusted my Guiding Light in a storm more than this tent (and had to in a night of 80+ mph winds in Rocky Mtn National Park in Feb). I thought the partial pole sleeves would have really added to the integrity, but it didn't seem to at all.
I also have an MSR Fury, but this tent doesn't even come close. But the MSR is only 37 sq feet, and this tent was 48sq ft. I think the MSR might the strongest tent in the world (IMO). The MSR was stronger than the Squall without a single guy line or stake in the ground.
I think for 95% of people out there the Squall would be a great tent, but I wouldn't take this thing above tree line in the winter. Just way too much flex in the walls.