Just a few musings really in follow up to my last post when I tested out the Lightwave T10. A lot of the responses to the post were centered around the statement that the T10 is a 4 season tent. How do you decide the season rating for a tent? Do we rely on the manufacturers ratings, a design concept (tunnel vs geodesic vs single pole), materials of construction or some other criteria?
For sleeping bags, there has been a similar question posed but I think that there is a more or less established standard now. I dont think there is one for tents. So, how do we rate our tents for season capability? Experience counts for a lot but that is often retrospective after the tent is bought and quite often when you are committed in the great outdoors.
A more fundamental question might have to be answered first which is the seasons themselves. Do we rate tents against UK seasons? Do we rate tents against US conditions and so forth? Do we use the normal 1 -4 range, or the 1 – 4 range with half stops such as Henry Shires uses (3, 3+ etc) or do we use the slightly more subjective 1 – 5 range?
An excerpt from Wikipedia gives the following guidelines for season ratings:
A tent required only for summer use may be very different from one to be used in the depths of winter. Manufacturers label tents as one-season, two/three-season, three/four season, four season, etc. A one-season tent is generally for summer use only, and may only be capable of coping with light showers. A three-season tent is for spring/summer/autumn and should be capable of withstanding fairly heavy rain, or very light snow. A four-season tent should be suitable for winter camping in all but the most extreme conditions; an expedition tent (for mountain conditions) should be strong enough to cope with heavy snow, strong winds, as well as heavy rain. Some tents are sold, quite cheaply, as festival tents; these may be suitable only for camping in dry weather, and may not even be showerproof.
The above “expedition” category would be alternatively classified as a 5 season tent and in fact Lightwave themselves use this rating.
Based on the above rating system, which is a fairly standard approach, this would tend to suggest that most backpacking tents fall into either the 3 or 4 season category. But, back to the question of the seasons themselves, a Scottish winter is much harsher than a Cornwall winter is it not and so on? So if we buy a 4 season tent are we buying one capable of Scandinavian conditions or just a bit of snow, cold and wind?
I dont aim to get a definitive answer in this post but just to pose and discuss the actual question, if that makes sense. For what its worth I think we can only use the season ratings as a guideline and so back to my original point that experience actually defines the performance reality. Again though, a small caveat to consider is whether mere “survival” in a tent constitutes a season rating or whether a more comfortable existence is a better measure. Also one person’s experience is often quite different to another’s. I am really interested to see what everyone’s perception and thoughts are on this subject and hence I am really just asking the question.
So, what do you think…? What season rating system do you use, what are your perceptions on ratings and different manufacturers claims and also how do you define the seasons themselves?