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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Distance Tent and Poles > Test Report by Kurt Papke
Black Diamond Distance Tent with
Carbon AR Poles
|Height:||6' 4" (193 cm)|
|Weight:||230 lbs (105 kg)|
|Email address:||kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com|
|City, State, Country:||Tucson, Arizona USA|
The Black Diamond (BD) Distance tent with Z poles is a single-walled shelter supported by bundled carbon fiber trekking poles that have female sockets in the handles to interlock with the tent support/spreader bar. BD uses the "AR" label with these poles to stand for Accessory Ready, i.e. they are expressly designed to mate with accessory components.
Substituting trekking poles for tent poles can save weight for backpackers like me who commonly use trekking poles. Single wall tents like the Distance can save weight over double wall designs, but proper ventilation to prevent condensation can be a challenge.
||Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
||Distance Tent with Z Poles
|Country of manufacture
||"We warrant for one year from purchase
date and only to the original retail buyer (Buyer) that
our products (Products) are free from defects in material
||Three (not designed for winter use)
||Two people (2P)
|Weight with stuff sac and poles
||820 g (28.9 oz) + 380 g (13.4
oz) = 1200 g (42.3 oz)
||1251 g (44.1 oz)
|Tent weight w/o poles
||820 g (1 lb 13 oz)
||856 g (1 lb 14.2 oz)
|Pole (pair) weight
||380 g (13.4 oz)
||395 g (13.95 oz)
|Dimensions (tent only)
||147x241x104 cm (58x95x41 in)
Head Width: 24 in
Foot width: 28 in
||2.4m2 (26 sq ft)
|Packed size (tent only)
||13x30 cm (512 in)
||Gets smaller every time I pack it
The tent provides four stakeout points, one for each corner with reflective guylines for the two foot end stakeouts. A DAC crosspole hooks on to the two trekking pole handles and the top of the tent is clipped to the crosspole. There are no tieouts for the poles - the tent roof tension should keep them in place, and the tips of the poles are inserted into a loop attached to the tent floor.
Venting: there are vents at the peak and foot end, and a mesh
door can be partially or fully exposed by unzipping the
door. The user instruction hieroglyphics seem to indicate
that the tent should be set up with the head end pointing into the
wind to allow the breeze to flow in through the peak vent and out
the foot vent.
Storage: there is a headlamp pocket in the peak, but no vestibule of any kind for storage protected from rain.
Flooring: there is a bathtub floor. BD does not offer a
footprint, but a piece of Tyvek would do the trick if needed.
Of course I had to try it out. Photo 6 shows all the pieces
laid out on the ground, photo 7 the pitched tent. I am
awestruck by how easy and fast this tent is put up. I think
it took me all of two minutes to go from photo 6 to 7 doing my
very first setup.
I am really excited to get the tent out into the field packed in
my smallest backpack, and hike up the trail with these lightweight
||Total Pack Weight
|October 17-18, 2019
||Santa Catalina Mountains just north of
|Sunny, warm, windy at night, 60-85 F
|December 6-8, 2019
||Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
|Partly cloudy, one night of rain, 38-65F
|about 15 lbs
|about 25 lbs
I led a group of four (we started with five...) hikers from the Tucson Backpacking Meetup group on what I advertised as "Beach Camping in the Grand Canyon". On day one we hiked down from the Hermit trailhead to Hermit Rapids and set up camp on the beach. Day two was pretty relaxed, we didn't get going until after lunch and only had a short hike up to the Hermit Creek campsite. Day three we got up early after a night of rain and hiked out.
The Hermit Rapids campsite was close to the Colorado River. See photo above upper left. The camera lens makes the distance look even closer to the river, but we were on high ground and actually a bit of a distance.
I was very pleased once again with how quickly and easy this tent pitches. It is a camper's dream, just drive in four stakes, place the trekking poles with crossbar, extend the poles and I'm done! The flip side is that I experienced severe condensation problems that night, despite leaving the side window open all night long. See the photo above left of it dripping from the tent ceiling. The moisture dripped down onto my sleeping bag (see photo top right). Fortunately my bag has a waterproof breathable fabric on the outside, so the down didn't get too soaked. I swabbed down the ceiling and walls twice during the night with a bandanna, which I had to wring out several times during the process because it was saturated with water. The weather that night was cool and clear, the stars were out all night long. I believe the severe condensation was due to the humid, yet cold air on the outside of the tent, with very calm air, so there was no breeze to flow through the tent.
When I got up during the night to water the trees I again noticed
how warm this tent is on the inside. The fabric really keeps
the heat in.
I really like the dimensions of this tent. On night one I
felt I had plenty of room to change clothes, etc. It could
be a little longer or higher on the foot end though, as my toes
touch the tent ceiling with the loft of the sleeping bag on top of
them, causing a lot of wetness near the foot area.
My camp mates also reported condensation on the inside of their rain flies, but they did not get wet because they all had double-walled tents.
On night two we camped at Hermit Creek. I selected a site that was well above the creek, and had some tree cover to keep the tent from dissipating so much heat into space - see the photo at lower right. It rained most of the night, sometimes very heavily. The good news was no leaks, no spray blowing through the vents, though I had to keep the side window zipped tight all night long. There was almost no wind during the night. Once again I had condensation, but less than the night before. I had to wipe it down several times, but it did not drip.
We knew it was supposed to rain that night, so I stowed my
backpack horizontally on the left side of the tent. The
width of this tent makes up somewhat for not having a vestibule,
allowing some gear to be stored inside out of the rain.
I broke camp in total darkness, and I was pleased with how easy the tent sheds water when shaken out. The rain really beads up nicely on the tent fabric.
I learned better how to stuff the tent on this trip. If I fold it several times along its length, then roll it up starting at the head end, the air escapes from the foot end vent. Now that I have the hang of it, I find I can get the tent in the stuff sac in just a few minutes.
I liked using the carbon poles on this trip, though a few times I
"missed" the ground with them because they are so light.
|January 13-15, 2020
||Gila Canyons west of Kearny, Arizona
Scenic Trail - Gila Canyons passage
|Sunny, variable winds,
40-70 F (4-21 C)
|February 8-9, 2020
||Gila Canyons west of Kearny, Arizona||AZT to
||8 miles (13 km)
|Sunny, light to variable winds, 35-72 F
It is becoming an annual winter tradition for me to drive up to this beautiful section of the Arizona Trail. It's the perfect spot for winter backpacking: low elevation means the temperatures stay warm, great scenery, and good water access from the Gila River.
My night one campsite is the top photo in the above collage. The location was a high spot, bone dry, and well positioned to catch any breeze. I arrived in camp quite late, and was grateful for the easy and fast setup of the Distance tent. The lighting in the photo is deceptive, as it was taken with my new iPhone 11 Pro which with it's Night Mode can make a low light picture look like daylight - it was actually quite dark by this time. I retired soon after dinner, and noticed that not a breath of air was moving, zero wind. When I woke up around midnight there was a LOT of condensation on the tent interior. The wind started blowing at about 20 mph (32 kph) around that time (that might have been what woke me up). By the time morning came, the interior of the tent was bone dry.
My takeaway from this experience is: with this tent, a good wind means no condensation. This makes sense - when there is no air movement, no amount of ventilation will prevent moisture from my breath from condensing on the inner walls. When there is a good breeze, enough air will circulate through the vents to carry off the moisture.
My night two campsite is shown in the lower left photo in the above collage. It was at the bottom of the canyon, just above the river water level, and very protected from any wind. As expected, there was a fair amount of condensation, but not awful. I had an older sleeping bag with me on this trip that does not have a waterproof outer fabric, so the hood and toes got fairly wet. Fortunately I hiked out the next morning, so a damp bag was no issue for me.
Overall I was pretty pleased with the tent and poles on this trip. Gotta love the quick setup and light weight!
Same trail as my prior outing, just a lot shorter. My prior trip was a scouting mission for a trip I planned to lead with the Tucson Backpacking Meetup group, and this trip was that Meetup organized hike. I billed it as "beginner-friendly", which indeed it was: short hike with gradual elevation change and a scenic campsite with water and fire ring.
My tent was by far and away the fastest to set up. I was already having a snack when my companions were still wrestling with their tent rainfly.
The condensation at night was a real problem (see photo from
above collage at lower right). Sadly, the wind picked up
right at sunrise, and within an hour or so the tent interior was
bone dry, reinforcing my prior observation that a breeze is
required to ventilate this tent.
The only thing I can add to the Field Report summary is that I have concluded that pitching the tent where there is a good breeze can prevent condensation on the interior tent walls. I didn't do any warm weather testing, so I can't say anything about how much condensation might be an issue when my breath is not hitting cold tent fabric.
I have grown to really like the Distance poles. I am
accustomed to the light weight now, and it would be tough for me
to go back to my old heavy aluminum poles. The Flick Lock
adjustment makes it very easy to get proper tension when the poles
are used to support the tent. The poles have been durable:
the only indication of four months wear is some paint scratches
near the bottom.
The tent has held up very well in these four months. I never used a footprint beneath the tent, and I can find no pinholes or other leakage points when doing a visual inspection.
Bottom line: I have developed a love/hate relationship with this tent. I love the warmth, the light weight, the ease of setup, and the roominess. I hate the condensation. My guess is if this tent was used in alpine situations, where one would be assured of a dependable breeze to prevent condensation, it would be perfect. I will likely continue to use the tent in those situations where weight is a premium, and conditions are likely to be breezy.
The poles have become my go-to poles. I will use them until
they are worn out or broken.
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