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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Distance Tent and Poles > Test Report by Alyssa Kimber

Black Diamond Equipment Distance Tent and Carbon AR Poles

Test Series by Alyssa Kimber

Initial Report - September 25, 2019
Field Report - November 25, 2019
Long-term Report - February 28, 2020

Tester Information
Name: Alyssa Kimber
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 10" (1.8 Meters)
Weight: 130 Pounds (59 Kilograms)
Email address: alyssakimber at hotmail dot com
City, Province, Country: Fernie, British Columbia, Canada

Backpacking Background: I started backpacking two years ago after moving from the prairies to the Kootenay region of British Columbia. I’m relatively new to backpacking but I have significant outdoors experience having enjoyed camping and day hiking for many years. My trip length is generally one to three nights and ranges from prairie hikes to mountainous terrain. I am a 4-season hiker and typically a 3-season backpacker. My pack weight varies depending on the trip, but I tend to sacrifice weight savings for comfort.

Initial Report

September 25, 2019

Product Information & Specifications
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
Year of manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer web site: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/

PackagingTent Specifications
Series: Superlight Series
Season: 3
Capacity: 2
Doors: 1
Average Packed Weight: 1030 g (2 lb 4 oz)
Minimum Weight: 650 g (1 lb 7 oz)
Actual Weight (including tent pegs, cross pole, and stuff sacks) - 812 g (1 lb 12.6 oz)
Dimensions:  147 x 241 x 104 cm (58 x 95 x 41 in)
Area:  2.4 m2 (26 sq ft)
Packed Size:  13 x 30 cm (5 x 12 in)

Pole Specifications
Series:  Mountain
Weight Per Pair: 388 g (13.69 oz)
Actual Weight: 391 g (13.79 oz)
Usable Length: 105-125 cm (41-49 in)
Collapsed Length: 38 cm (15 in)

MSRP from web site (tent and poles): $399.95 USD

 The Black Diamond products arrived in a compact and environmentally friendly package composed of cardboard and velcro. I appreciated the complete absence of plastic in the packaging that alleviated any difficulty cutting into the package and made for an environmentally-friendly design. The package included the tent with accessories, the carbon AR (accessory ready) trekking poles, and instructions for both products.

Stuff SackThe Black Diamond website describes the Distance tent as a two-person, three-season tent that utilizes a single-wall shelter. The structure is created using two Black Diamond Carbon Distance AR Trekking Poles and a small cross pole that inserts into and connects the trekking poles. There are four tension-adjustable stake-out points to anchor the tent. There are vents at both the peak and foot area and an optional vent on the door that can be zipped open or closed. The tent is composed of blue and black 30d polyester material. The guy lines are composed of a Dyneema core with a reflective polyester sheath. There is a mesh headlamp pocket located in the peak of the tent and an additional mesh pocket located on the opposite wall from the door. The tent and components came in a stuff sack about three times the size of a Nalgene bottle.

The Black Diamond website describes the trekking poles as multi-functional carbon poles with an "Accessory Ready grip designed to receive a connecting component" that enables the trekking poles to be utilized as structure poles for the Distance tent. The poles can be adjusted with a "FlickLock" which is a locking mechanism enabled/disabled with the flip of a plastic component. The collapsible design is similar to that of a tent pole or an avalanche probe. The pole breaks into three pieces, held together by a flexible rubber-like band inside the poles. The poles have adjustable wrist straps and interchangeable tips (carbide or rubber).

Reading the Instructions
The Distance tent came with a set of instructions which can also be found on the Black Diamond website. The instructions contain a written component as well as illustrations. The written instructions are straight forward while the illustrations take some interpretation. I've included some photos from my set up with instructions below. The instructions for set up are:

1. Spread your tent out and close the zippered door completely. Tent Components
2. Stake out the front and back corners, leaving slack in the rear stake out loop to allow tightening later.
3. If using the Distance AR poles, remove the cap from the top of each pole's grip. If using the Pole Adapters, attach them to the trekking poles grips with the hook-and-loop straps. Adjust the poles to 115 cm.
4. Extend Cross Bar and insert it into the top of each trekking pole. Cross Bar
5. Insert the tips of the trekking poles into the loops on each side of the tent.
6. Attach the clips on top of the tent to the Cross Bar; the clips should sit just above each pole grip.
7. Extend each trekking pole so that the tent is taut.
8. Tighten the rear stake out loops.Tent

The instructions were straight forward for me with the exception of the reference to the "rear" of the tent. I assumed this to be the foot of the tent but there was no clear depiction or illustration as to which end of the tent was the "rear".

The instructions for ventilation are:

1. Maintain adequate ventilation at all times. Leave the door vent open unless it is extremely windy.

For Care and Maintenance and Storage and Transport, the reader is directed to the illustrations. The illustrations include information such as: how to set up the tent in the wind (head of the tent into the wind with additional guy lines used on the sides of the tent), temperature range (70 to -62 C or 158 to -80 F), warnings to not cook in the tent, step on the zipper, block the vents, etc. The illustrations depict drying out the tent in the sun before packing it away, washing it by hand and line drying it, and storing it away from certain elements such as direct sunlight, moisture, chemicals, etc.

Trying It Out
I set up the tent in my spare room, following the instructions. It took me about 10 minutes to set up the tent. I used weights to help hold down the corners since I could not actually stake it out inside. The only piece of the instructions I had trouble with was removing the cap from the top of the trekking pole grip. I could not remove the cap using my fingers; I had to get a screwdriver to pry the caps off. I tried all the zippers which all ran smoothly and I found no defects with the tent or poles. I put my sleeping bag inside the tent to get an idea of the size. My sleeping bag took up more than half of the floor space which leads me to believe if I had a partner in the tent with me, our sleeping bags would likely overlap. There is a good amount of floor space for one person with a backpack. I had lots of spare space length-wise while laying down in the tent; I am 5'10" (1.8 m) tall and had at least 12 inches (30 cm) to spare in length. I also had enough room to sit up straight in the tent but I only had a few inches above my head to spare. I've included a few additional photos of the inside of the tent below.
Foot Vent    Headlamp Pocket

Initial Impressions
I'm looking forward to trying out the tent and poles in the backcountry. The tent is very light and compact compared to my three-person backpacking tent. I love the design of using the trekking poles as structural poles to save space and weight. The tent is easy and straight forward to set up and appears to be constructed of high quality material. My initial impression is that sleeping in this tent with a second person will be a tight fit but I think it will be roomy for one person with a backpack.

Field Report

November 25, 2019

Field Report Test Locations and Conditions

During the field test period I have used the tent and poles on two overnight backpacking trips and the poles on two day hikes. Trip conditions are listed below.

Location of Trip #1: Dewar Creek Hot Springs, Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, British Columbia
Length: 2 days, 1 night
Distance: 10 km (6 mi)
Pack Weight: 26 lb (12 kg)
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Precipitation: Trace amounts of rain
Temperature: 5 to 15 C (41 to 59 F)
Terrain: Muddy, wet trail. Dry meadow camping area.
Elevation: 1350 to 1550 m (4400 to 5100 ft)

Location of Trip #2: Fish Lake, Top of the World Provincial Park, British Columbia
Length: 2 days, 1 night
Distance: 6.5 km (4 mi)
Pack Weight: 20 lbs (9 kg)
Weather: Cloudy and snowy
Precipitation: Snow, 5 cm (2 inch)
Temperature: -5 to 0 C (23 to 32 F)
Elevation: 1600 to 1750 m (5250 to 5750 ft)

Location of Trip #3: Castle Mountain near Fernie, British Columbia
Length: Day hike
Distance: 9 km (5.5 mi)
Weather: Sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature:  3 C ( 37 F)
Terrain: Mainly dirt trail, icy patches
Elevation: 1050 to 1600 m (3500 to 5250 ft)

Compression Sack Location of Trip #4: Silver Springs Rim Hike, British Columbia
Length: Day hike
Distance: 5 km (3 mi)
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Precipitation: none
Temperature: 12 C (54 F)
Elevation: 900 to 1200 m (3000 to 4000 ft)

Performance in the Field

My first trip with the tent was to a natural hot spring in the backcountry. I noticed right away the difference in the volume and weight of my pack compared to when I pack my 3-person tent. On this trip, I packed the tent in a 5 L compression sack (see photo to the right), which was about the length of my 1 L Nalgene bottle and about twice as wide. I was a little shocked and pleasantly surprised that it fit into such a small sack. There was even a little room to spare and I could likely have compressed it even further with a smaller compression sack. It took up such a small amount of space in my pack that I easily fit in other "luxuries" like my hut booties and extra snacks! Setting up the tent was for the most part a breeze. There were two tricky points for me:

1. Standing both the poles upright and connecting them to the cross bar with just two hands. It was possible to do it on my own, but easier with a friend to help.

2. Snapping the caps off the trekking poles to insert the cross bar. For whatever reason this is very hard for me and I had to resort to using the tip of the other trekking pole to pry the caps off. I don't see any reason why the manufacturer would have to make this so difficult to do. Perhaps this will get easier once they are broken in a little.

The tent pegs were fairly easy to anchor in, especially with the help of a nearby rock. They are durable and strong as I took a rock to a few of them and no damage was done. Adjusting the tent is very simple. I adjusted the height of the poles until I was happy with the height of the tent and I also pulled the strings at the foot of the tent to pull the tent taught after anchoring. This was easy and effective.

CondensationThat night was cold and I opted to leave the window zipped up to keep the warm air inside. This likely contributed to the enormous amount of condensation inside the tent that greeted me the next morning. The inside of the tent was so wet that when I accidentally rubbed my sleeve or hair against it, I was immediately soaked in that spot and a little rain shower would fall on the rest of me. When I tried to dry the inside of the tent with the shirt I wore the previous day, the shirt mopped up some of the water but it barely looked like I had wiped the tent down at all. In a perfect world I would have dried the inside of the tent in the sun but the outside was also wet and needed to dry, and we didn't have all day to wait around! So, I packed up the wet tent and hiked out. When I arrived back home later that day, I removed the tent to dry it out and was greeted with a very foul, sour odour. I let the tent dry and the smell disappeared. See photos below of the tent set up and the condensation.

Dewar head    Dewar foot   

My second trip with the tent was similar to the first. However, it snowed and was very windy overnight so I was able to test the tent's limits in a winter scenario. The tent receives good marks for its ability to stand up to gusty winds (by my estimation, I encountered up to 40 km/hr [25 mi/hr] winds that night). It also receives good marks for its ability to shed snow, only holding a light layer and sagging slightly; pretty good for a 3-season tent. The tent received poor marks for no entrance shielding against precipitation, as you can see in the photo below that snow had accumulated in the tent entrance after just a few seconds of the door being open. In addition, I unfortunately had the same condensation issue as the first trip. So much so that when I unpacked the tent, a puddle of water spilled out onto the floor. I did not find any odour this time when I unpacked the tent.

Fish Lake Head    Fish Lake foot    Fish Lake entrance

In terms of space, I slept in the tent both nights on my own but had lots of space for my pack beside me and my boots at my feet.

Sleeping Bag and Pack

All four trips consisted of using the poles as trekking poles for the hike. The poles worked great each time and I have no complaints against them! The grip is comfortable and non-slip even with sweaty palms. The poles are easily adjusted for the appropriate height and break apart to fold away easily in 3 pieces. The wrist straps were handy to hold my poles while utilizing my hands for other tasks like eating or drinking. In addition, they are made of carbon and are super light and so far durable!

Long-term Report

February 28, 2020

Long-term Report Test Locations and Conditions

During the long-term test period I have used the poles on two day hikes and the tent and poles on one overnight trip. Trip conditions are listed below.

Location of Trip #6: Fairy Creek, Fernie British Columbia (poles only)
Length: day hike
Distance: 4 km (2.5 mi)
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Precipitation: None
Temperature: -10 C (14 F)
Terrain: Packed snow, icy
Elevation: 1000 m to 1150 m (3300 to 3800 ft)

Location of Trip #7: Montane Hut, Fernie British Columbia (poles only)
Length: day hike
Distance: 10 km (6 mi)
Weather: Cloudy and snowy
Precipitation: Snow, 1 cm (0.5 inch)
Temperature: -5 C (23 F)
Elevation: 1000 to 1200 m (3300 to 4000 ft)


Location of Trip #8: Burton Lake near Elko, British Columbia (tent and poles)
Length: 1 night
Distance: 1 km (0.6 mi)
Pack weight: 20 lbs (9 kg)
Weather: Sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature:  -10 C (14 F)
Terrain: Crusty snow
Elevation: 950 m - minimal gain


Performance in the Field

I used the tent and poles on a trip to Burton Lake, a small lake about 1 km hike off a forestry road. I set the tent up on a level, snowy patch above the lake. Because the ground was frozen and there was a significant amount of snow covering the ground, I could not utilize the tent pegs for holding my tent. I knew this would be the case however so I had brought plastic grocery bags with me to fill with snow and use as anchors over the pegs. The tent was a little saggier than usual as the guy lines could not be pulled as taut, but overall this strategy worked quite well.

This evening I slept with the door window zipped open to see if this would help with the condensation issue. It did help a bit but there was still some condensation on the inside of the tent in the morning. I think this is just an artifact of winter camping with a 3-season tent.

The poles worked well for the Fairy Creek hike as the terrain was packed snow and ice so the poles were not sinking into deep snow. On the Montane Hut and Burton Lake hikes, there was deeper snow and the poles did not work as well as they sunk through the snow in many places without snow baskets. I did research if I could buy snow baskets for the poles and I could have bought small snow baskets from the Black Diamond website but they were not available in my town so I didn't bother.

Overall, I liked the Distance tent and poles because they are so lightweight and proved to be durable over the 4 month test. I am looking forward to using the tent through spring and summer to see if the condensation is still an issue in these months.

Summary

Pros
1. Light weight and compact
2. Trekking poles double as structural poles for the tent
3. Quick and easy set-up
4. Stands up in gusty winds and light snow

Cons
1. The caps on the trekking poles are very difficult to remove
2. The amount of condensation that accumulates in the tent is very unpleasant
3. No shielding against precipitation at the tent entrance
4. Poles do not work well in deep snow without snow baskets

Thank you Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product. This concludes my long-term report.



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