Black Diamond Distance Tent with
Carbon AR Poles
Test Series by Kurt Papke
Long Term Report March 2020
|| Kurt Papke
|| 6' 4" (193 cm)
|| 230 lbs (105 kg)
|| kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
|City, State, Country:
||Tucson, Arizona USA
I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get
up into the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and my old stomping grounds
in Northern Minnesota. I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes
to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to
extremes. I typically use double-wall tents or hammocks as
shelters when camping.
Product Description and Facts
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
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
Photo 1 shows the system in its packaging as it arrived from the
manufacturer. Photos 2-5 show the product feature
documentation on the cardboard packaging.
|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 measured pole weight is just a little more than the
manufacturer's spec, but that might be accounted for by the weight
of the rubber versus carbide tips. The measured weight of the
tent is a fair amount over spec, but that could be due to the extra stakes and guy lines which I
included in my numbers.
Perhaps I did not stretch it taut enough, but my measurements of
length and width are a bit smaller than the manufacturer's numbers.
The manufacturer's numbers above are from their website. The
tent length indicated on the packaging is only 90 inches (229 cm),
which is much closer to my measured length.
The geometry of the floor area is a bit complicated, and I did not
take the time to figure out the result from my measurements. I
am getting better repacking the tent, having done it a few times,
but I still cannot manage to get it completely back into the stuff
sack with the poles and stakes inside the way it was originally
packaged, so I did not report a measured packed size in the above
table. Part of the challenge of compactly rolling or folding
up the tent is the presence of the sewn-in hoop and two poles that
have to be accommodated in the stowing process.
As reported in the table above, the tent width at the head end is
only 24 inches (61 cm), which is too narrow for two people, unless
one or both are substantially shorter than I am!
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
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.
The first thing I tried out was the user instructions. This
was somewhat helpful, but in their attempt to internationalize the
document and avoid a lot of text translation much of the content is
in the form of diagrams, which I had some problems
interpreting. Hieroglyphics were never my strong point.
There is one paragraph with 8 instruction items for setup.
My first effort was to assemble the trekking poles, as they are
required to pitch the tent. Wow, they are really light.
They snap together quite easily, and lock into place when the top
two sections are pulled apart. The accessory sockets are
easily exposed by flicking off the top cover. The poles come
with rubber tips installed, but metal tips are supplied and require
a pliers to install.
The top spreader pole and stakes were rolled up in the tent. Six stakes are supplied, and two
additional tieout cords are in the packaging. With two extra
stakes and two extra guylines, I would expect that there are
optional tieout points, but I didn't see anything mentioned in the
product literature or user guide.
Trying it Out
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.
Photos 8 and 10 show the vents at the top and foot end
respectively. There are three sewn-in poles for these vents,
one hoop for the apex, and two short/straight poles for the foot
vent. Photos 9 and 11 show the storage pockets. Photo 11
is the apex headlamp storage described in the product documentation,
but I don't recall mention of the side pocket in photo 9. The
latter will be handy for my cell phone, etc. I'm going to have
to cut off the annoying fire warnings attached to that side pocket.
The apex vent looks like it will let in a fair amount of
ventilation, the foot vent not so much.
I was reasonably pleased with the length of the tent as shown in
photos 12 and 13. If I center myself well, my head should not
touch the tent wall but my feet may when the length and loft of my
sleeping bag are added in. Head room is good as shown in photo
14. If I scoot up so that when sitting up my head is at the
peak I don't touch the tent - that is unusual for me as I am both
tall and long-waisted.
Given how narrow the head and foot end of the tent are, it's not
clear I could fit a second occupant in the tent with me. This
is not unusual with my encounters with 2P tents. Since I
never have a companion in my tent, this will not be a problem for
me. I will have some room on each side for clothing and other
gear, but not enough room to store my pack inside the tent out of
Photo 15 shows the details of the spreader pole insertion into the
accessory holes in the poles, and also shows the hooks that hold the
tent onto the spreader pole. This all worked easily and
smoothly. The pole does not "click" into the socket in any
way, it is held in by the clips and tent pulling down on the pole.
Photos 16 and 17 show the details of the mesh door vent. It
has its own zipper independent of the door zip, and there is a
tiedown to hold the rolled up inner door in place.
The tent comes down even quicker than it goes up: telescope the
poles down and pull them out of the spreader pole and the whole
thing collapses. Pull out the stakes and its ready to be
Getting it back in the stuff sac was not as easy as taking it out
(is it ever?!) Problem is, the tent walls are airtight, and
act like balloons when rolling or folding up the tent, kinda like an
air mattress. It's going to take me a few tries before I
figure out the easiest way to get all the air out before stuffing.
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
- Both the poles and the tent are very lightweight and compact
- Easy and fast to pitch and tear down
- Roomy for one person
- Ventilation looks modest
- No door protection from rainfall - when the door is opened it
seems like rain would hit the floor
- Some learning required to stuff back in the sac - not easy to
get all the air out
Poles - Setup for Use
Before using the poles for the first time I needed to adjust the
wrist strap and replace the rubber tip with the supplied carbide
tips. Adjusting the strap is easy to figure out and do: just
undo the hook-and-loop adjustment and loosen or tighten the
strap. I consulted the supplied user guide that was packaged
with the tips (turns out this is the user guide for the poles as a
whole), and it appeared pretty easy: just turn the existing tips
counter clockwise a few times with pliers and unscrew the current
tip, then hand-screw the new tips on and tighten with the
pliers. I followed the clear instructions and the job was
complete in about two minutes. The new tips seemed snugly
mounted and I have no concerns about them falling off.
I adjusted the lengths of the poles to the maximum amount, and they
are just barely long enough. If I was any taller they would be
|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
Since this product is useful for ultralight backpackers to reduce
their pack weight, I am recording my base (no food or water
included) and total pack weights in the table above.
I was pretty pleased with my base weight on this short trip - I
didn't even come close to using all the room in my backpack.
My total pack weight might seem a bit high, but I was carrying a lot
of extra food that I was using to get some footage for a backcountry
cooking video I am working on. It was a joy to sling my pack
over my shoulders and not have it feel heavy.
During the climb to my campsite I noticed just how light these
trekking poles are. A few times the tips of the poles missed
the ground completely - they are so light that they don't fall back
down to the ground easily at the end of a stride. I am not
complaining, I really like how light the poles are, but they will
take a little getting used to.
The photo in the above set at upper left shows my campsite - it was
beneath a grove of oak trees with lots of leafy loam soil
beneath. The stakes went easily into the ground, yet they held
well. It is a testament to the design that the tent is so
sturdy, yet puts little stress on the stakes. It was pretty
breezy, so I thought it might be a good idea to tether the two tabs
to the trekking poles as shown in the photos above at upper and
lower right. These tabs look like they are there more for
nighttime visibility, as they reflect the light of a headlamp, but
it worked out quite well to have the sides of the tent pulled toward
the poles so they wouldn't flap in the breeze. No need to
stake them out, as they can't go any further than the poles
anyway. I used some hook-and-loop ties that were part of the
packaging to do the attachments, and they held all night long.
The red arrow shows where the tab is located on the tent & poles
on the right side of the shelter.
What really struck me as I was pitching the tent, and later taking
it down, is just how fast and easy this tent goes up and down.
It's literally a matter of a few minutes: stake out the corners, put
up the trekking and cross-poles, extend the poles as high as
possible and I was pretty much done. Plus I don't have to
worry about pitching in the rain, the interior is never
exposed. Pretty sweet for a tent that uses trekking poles for
support, with no tie-outs for the poles
It was fairly warm when I retired, but I noticed a palpable warmth
when I entered the tent. The airtight polyester tent fabric
really keeps the warmth in, so warm that I lay on top of my sleeping
bag for the first hour or so. I used the apex headlamp storage
pocket to hold my lit lamp both when changing into my sleeping
clothing at night and changing out of them the next morning.
This is a nice feature, as it allows me to pull shirts on/off over
my head and not have my headlamp caught up in my clothing.
I slept all night with the window flap unzipped for maximum
ventilation. It got a little drafty from time-to-time when the
wind blew from just the right direction, but there was zero chance
of rain so I had no concerns about getting wet. When I awoke
in the morning I had zero condensation on the tent, inside or
outside. The tent made a few noises when the wind gusted, but
overall it had almost no annoying flapping.
Overall I would rate this a very successful outing. I did have
ideal conditions, warm and dry, and a near-perfect campsite where I
was sheltered from the wind and had tree cover to minimize tent
fabric cooling and condensation, but I think this outing showed how
successful this tent can be.
Hermit Trail to Rapids
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
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
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.
- Lightweight, leverages the trekking poles for even less
- Easy/fast pitching and tear down.
- Roomy for one person.
- Waterproof, no leaks, no blow-in through the vents.
- Easy to shake rainwater off when breaking camp, rain beads up
on the fabric.
- View of the stars through the window on clear nights.
- Warm tent on cold nights.
- Headlamp storage near the top of the tent is convenient for
doing chores inside the tent.
- Trekking poles were comfortable to carry and performed
Not so good things:
Check back for my Long Term Report in about two months when I'll
tell you my final conclusions.
- Condensation. In all my years of camping I have never
experienced as severe condensation as I had with this tent.
- Toes touch the ceiling at the foot end, making the
condensation issues even worse.
Many thanks to Black Diamond and
BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.
Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke