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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Distance Tent and Poles > Test Report by Brian Hartman

BLACK DIAMOND DISTANCE TENT WITH Z-POLES
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN 
January 3, 2020

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME:Brian Hartman
EMAIL:bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE:44
LOCATION:Westfield, Indiana
GENDER:M
HEIGHT:5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT:160 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT 

Product Information

tent      tent2

Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Distance tent with Carbon AR trekking poles
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com
MSRP: $399.95 US
Listed weight: 2 lb. 4 oz (1.03 kg), includes poles
Measured weight: 2 lb. 6 oz (1.08 kg)
Tent dimensions: 58 x 95 x 41 in (147 x 241 x 104 cm)
Tent area: 26 sqft (2.4 sm2)
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Distance Tent details:
Capacity: 2 Person
Doors: Single door
Poles: Uses BD AR trekking poles for sidewall support
Pack size: 5 in x 12 in (13 x 30 cm)
Range: 3 season backpacking
Flysheet and Floor: High tenacity 30D Polyester with taped seams
Waterproofing: PU / Silicone coating (1500 mm)
Ventilation: Vents at peak, door and foot allow for cross ventilation
Pockets: Headlamp pocket in peak and one single sidewall pocket
Guylines: Reflective polyester / Dynex
Color: Distance Blue
One year warranty

Distance AR Trekking Pole details:
Weight per pair: 13.7 oz (388 g)
Usable length: 41 - 49 in (105 - 125 cm)
Collapsed length: 15 in (38 cm)
Construction: Ultralight carbon
Locking system: FlipLock
One year warranty

Product Description

IMAGE 3        stuff

The Black Diamond Distance tent (hereafter called the Distance or BD tent) is a three-season, ultralight, single-wall tent that Black Diamond describes as "built for weight conscious backpackers, thru-hikers and mountain adventurers".  It's designed as a fast pitch shelter, using four stake-out points to anchor the tent, and the Black Diamond's Distance AR trekking poles (along with a small DAC cross pole) to form the structure of the tent.  That's it, aside from two optional guy lines.  At 2 lb 4 oz (1.03 kg) including the trekking poles, the tent is incredibly lightweight for a two-person tent, and even more so, considering the tent poles double as trekking poles.  The exterior of the tent measures 58 x 95 x 41 in (147 x 241 x 104 cm).

The flysheet and tent floor are made of high tenacity 30D polyester that's been coated with polyurethane / silicone to give it a 1,500mm waterproof rating.  In addition to the waterproof coating, all seams are taped.  As mentioned above, the main supports for the tent are the AR trekking poles, which have a hole on the top of their grips that allows them to receive the cross bar shown in the photo above, which transforms them into structure poles for the tent.  When the trekking poles are not being used to hold up the tent, they can obviously be used for their original purpose on the trail.

The tent fits into a 6 x 12 in (15 x 30 cm) nylon stuff sack, while the accessories, including six DAC aluminum V pegs that are 6.3 in (16 cm) long, and two guy lines made with a polyester sheath and Dyneema core, come in a smaller stuff sack.  Setup instructions were included in the small stuff sack alongside the stakes and guy lines.  Because this is a single-wall tent, there is no separate flysheet to attach.  It's simply a matter of staking out the tent and then installing and adjusting the trekking poles for support.  The benefits of a single-wall tent are its light weight, quick setup, and the tent can be pitched in rain without getting the inside wet.  Honestly, though, I am a bit concerned as to whether the Distance tent will hold up to the elements, since 1,500 mm is considered the minimum standard for waterproofness, and things like abrasion (stuffing and unstuffing the tent from its sack) and UV light can degrade the waterproof coating.  In practice, several manufacturers apply thicker waterproof coatings to their tents, giving them 4,000 mm ratings and higher.  For now, I trust the manufacturer's decision, but of course I will put it through the paces and report on my findings.

Moving on, the Distance tent has a single large door on the side with two main zippers that allow it to be opened in various ways.  Inside the tent there is a mesh storage pocket opposite the door, which measures 3 x 11 in (7.6 x 28 cm) and mesh net on the ceiling, perfect for a small light.  Mesh vents are sewn into the top of the tent as well as on one end, near the footbed (see photo below).  Both vents are permanently open but fabric extends over top of them which hopefully will block any driving rain, so it doesn't enter the tent.  The door also has mesh that can be opened for cross ventilation or closed if the weather is bad.  

Trying It Out

IMAGE 5        inside

Setting up the Distance was quick and easy.  It took me less than 4 minutes to unpack the tent, stake it out, unfold the poles and adjust them to the proper height to pitch the tent.  Once pitched, the trekking poles were slightly wobbly, but I'm sure I could raise them further or add guy lines to the sides of the tent to provide better stabilization.  Once pitched I crawled inside the tent and found it plenty big for myself and my gear.  The door zippers were easy to use and didn't catch while opening or closing.    

SUMMARY

What I like:
Light weight design
Quick setup
Single-wall design prevents the tent from getting wet when setting it up in the rain
Mesh vents should prevent condensation from being a problem
Large opening to get stuff into and out of the tent

What I don't like:
I wish the waterproof rating were higher.  Time will tell if this is an issue
The tent does not have a bathtub floor design.  Not sure why.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Black Diamond Distance tent and poles. 



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1During the past two months I took the Distance on three multi-day backpacking trips for a total of eight nights.  My first trip was to the Hoosier National Forest where I spent two nights in the tent. The weather was cool and overcast with a high of 39 F (4 C).  My second outing was three nights in the Cuyahoga National Forest where I covered 11 miles (18 km) across moderately hilly terrain. My third trip was to Northern Wisconsin where the weather wasn't as nice with mostly mist and light rain.  I also used the Carbon AR trekking poles for numerous hikes.

Location: Hoosier National Forest
Distance covered: 13 mi (21 km)
Length of trip: 2 nights
Backpack weight: 34 lb. (15.4 kg)
Conditions: Overcast
Precipitation: None
Temperature range: 36 to 39 F (2 to 4 C)

Location: N Ohio, Cuyahoga National Forest
Distance: 11 mi (18 km)
Length of trip: 3 nights
Backpack weight: 28 lb. (13 kg)
Conditions: Cloudy and breezy
Precipitation: 0.25 in (0.6 cm) snow
Temperature range: 22 to 35 F (-5.5 to 2 C)

Location: NE Wisconsin, Devil's River Trail
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of trip: 3 nights
Backpack weight: 36 lb. (16 kg)
Conditions: Mist and occasional rain
Precipitation: 0.4 in (1 cm)
Temperature range: 25 F to 36 F (-4 to 2 C)


IMAGE 2

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

SIZE/WEIGHT: I really like the small size and weight of the Distance tent.  It fits in a 6 x 12 in (15 x 30 cm) nylon stuff sack, minus stakes and poles, and is incredibly lightweight at 2 lb. 4 oz (1.03 kg).  I also like that the tent poles can be used for hiking when they're not holding up the tent.   

SETUP: I found the Distance tent quick and easy to pitch, but somewhat harder to tension properly so the fabric was taut.  As can be seen in the photos above and below, the tent fabric was slack between the ridgeline and the ground and that caused it to sag in the middle.  I think I was more aware of this because my other tents are very taut, since they have an exoskeleton, formed by curved tent poles that pull the tent body out.  I tried raising the height of the trekking poles and moving the corner stakes out, but it only helped minimally so I will probably need to add guy lines to get the results I'm looking for.  The tent has held up well in fair conditions, but it hasn't seen heavy winds or rain yet so I'll reserve comment on its structural rigidity until I have the opportunity to pitch it in bad weather.  

Since the Distance tent has a small footprint and no rainfly, I was able to pitch it in under four minutes.  Taking it down was quick too; I simply unclipped the tent body from the trekking poles, removed the poles and tent stakes, then folded everything up.  I wish the stuff sack was larger in diameter and its inner fabric was slippery to help get the tent into the sack more easily.  Right now, it's a pain to get in the stuff sack.

INTERIOR: The inside of the tent had plenty of room for one person to sleep comfortably.  I was able to fit my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and backpack with no issues.  I was also able to sit up and maneuver inside the tent thanks to its high center poles.  This allowed me to changed clothes and get dressed without much hassle.  I wish there was a vestibule so I could leave my boots and wet raincoat outside the tent, but I understand that's not how it was designed.  Moving on, the door opening was large enough so I could get in and out of the tent with whatever I had.  Although the Distance is a two-person tent, it would only fit two people if their gear was left outside.  I had my kids crawl in for a few minutes and lay next to each other.  Afterwards, we decided we would forego the weight savings and bring a double-wall tent with a vestibule if camping together for more than one night.

BREATHABILITY: The Distance breathed fairly well for a single wall tent.  
Vents at the peak, door and foot allowed for cross ventilation, but there was still some condensation on the inner walls when I woke up in the morning.

WIND AND WATERPROOFNESS: So far, the Distance has only been in light rain showers, so the verdict is still out if it can handle heavy rains.  The same goes for heavy winds which I haven't experienced yet either.  Unfortunately, the tent only has a 1,500 mm waterproof rating which is the minimum standard, and it doesn't have a bathtub floor which is disappointing.  I will continue to monitor this category because of its importance.  Water leaking through the tent floor or roof would spell disaster for my sleeping bag and everything else inside the tent.

DURABILITY: The Distance is still in good shape after several months of use.  The bottom of the tent has some small marks and scuffs on it but that's to be expected when camping in the woods.  I've been using a piece of Tyvek as a ground cloth to protect the underside of the tent.  The tent has no holes or tears in it and the door zippers have operated without any issues. 

CARBON AR POLES: I've gotten a lot of use out of the BD trekking poles and really like them.  They're comfortable to hold and super lightweight.  In addition, they're fully adjustable to the proper size based on my height, and they fold up nicely when not being used so they take up very little space outside my backpack.  I've used them on hard packed surfaces as well as loose dirt and gravel and they always grip well.  They have some scratches and marks on them from use but are otherwise fine.  

image45     image45      

SUMMARY

So far, I am pleased with the performance of the BD tent.  It's lightweight, compact, and quick to set up.  There's enough room for one person and their gear, but I don't think I would try to fit two people in it since it doesn't have a vestibule to store backpacks and shoes.  I haven't yet experienced high winds or hard rain in this tent so I cannot comment on its structural rigidity and/or waterproofness in poor weather, apart from what I described above.

This concludes my Field Report for the Distance tent.




LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

tent12During Long Term testing, I used the Distance tent on two overnight backpacking trips.  My first trip was to Franklin County where I encountered dense fog and temperatures ranging from the upper-20s to mid-30s F (-2 to 2 C).  My second trip was to the Charles Deam Wilderness area in the Hoosier National Forest.  This time skies were clear, but temperatures were colder with a high of 24 F (-4.4 C).  I hiked approximately 21 miles (33.5 km) overall across mainly forested and hilly terrain.

Trip One: 2 day, 2 night backpacking trip in Franklin County, Indiana (IN)
Weather: Cool and foggy with temperatures ranging from 28 to 36 F (-2 to 2 C)
Elevation: 710 to 860 ft (216 to 262 m)
Distance: I hiked mostly off-trail through a number of fields and forests, and across several small streams. Total distance hiked was 9 mi (14.5 km).
Pack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg)

Trip Two: 2 day, 2 night backpacking trip to the Charles Deam Wilderness Area in Southern Indiana (IN)
Weather: Clear and cold with temperatures ranging from 19 to 24 F (-7.2 to -4.4 C). 
Elevation: 794 to 855 ft (242 to 260 m)
Distance: On this trip I hiked both on and off-trail for a total of 12 mi (19 km).
Pack Weight: 34 lb (15.4 kg)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this test period I slept in the BD Distance tent for four more nights and it performed well.  Pitching the tent was quick and easy, like my previous experiences, and taking it down wasn't difficult either.  One thing I did differently, though, on these last two outings was add guy lines to either side of the tent.  The guy lines kept the tent fabric from sagging on either side of the main poles and stiffened up the tent body.  Adding the guy lines made a big difference in windy conditions as they helped sturdy up the tent.  On my trip to Franklin County I had no problem pushing the V pegs into the ground to stake out the tent, since it was soft from previous rainfall.  However, the misty, foggy weather made me wish the tent had a vestibule where I could stash my wet backpack and shoes rather than bring them inside.  On the plus side the Distance had plenty of head and shoulder room for me to stretch out, even with my backpack right next to me.  The door opening was big enough that I could easily get gear into and out of the tent.  The vents at the peak and foot area provided enough ventilation so there was little moisture build-up inside the tent and only minor condensation. 

On my second outing I drove up an old fire road, parked in a gravel lot, and then set out on foot to the trailhead.  The trail was hardpacked, thanks to several weeks of cold weather, not muddy like it'd been the previous month.  After several hours of backpacking I found a nice campsite a few hundred feet off the trail and started setting up the tent.  I used a rock to pound the pegs into place since the ground was frozen.  After pitching the tent, I hiked down to the lake to see how far out it was frozen.  I had brought enough water for two days, so I wasn't concerned about busting through the ice to get more.  After hanging out by the lake for an hour or so I headed back to my campsite where I gathered firewood and then made dinner.  I turned in for the night around 10pm when my fire died down and slept well till early morning.  Late the next morning I packed up and headed towards a peninsula I knew of that had great views of the lake.  Getting the V pegs out of the frozen ground took some work, but I finally got them out.  It only took a few hours to get to the peninsula, so I was there by mid-day and had the rest of the afternoon to relax before setting up camp.  The second night was like the first, calm and uneventful.  Overall the tent and trekking poles performed well and were durable and I had no problems with either.

SUMMARY

The Black Diamond Distance has been a fun tent to test and one that I will continue to use in the future thanks to its lightweight design and compact size.  I found it had plenty of room for me and my gear and was stable in the conditions I experienced during the last four months.  Unfortunately, I experienced no high winds, heavy rains, or snow storms during testing, but if I get caught in those conditions in the future and the tent has issues, I'll post them in an addendum to this report.  In the meantime, this concludes this test series.  Thanks to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this tent.



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