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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Mesa Tent > Test Report by Andrew Buskov
Black Diamond Mesa Tent
The Mesa is Black Diamond's two person double-wall tent.
Initial Report - March 19, 2007
Field Report - June 9, 2007
Long Term Report - August 14, 2007
Tester Biographical Information
I started backpacking and became hooked on the outdoors. I realized that I enjoyed the colder weather and solitude of deep backcountry, and have hiked various environments from the green mountains of the Appalachians to the barren desert of Arizona. My hiking season starts early September and ends early June. I’m usually a moderate weight hiker, but as an Emergency Medical Technician I’m trained to be prepared, so my pack usually weighs between 30 to 40 lbs (13 and 18 kg) while solo, to 60 lbs (27 kg) when leading. Information about the author can be found at http://www.corridor9.net.
Product Description:(from packaging)
"With an amazing amount of head room and floor space, along with 360 degree views, the Mesa provides five-star outdoor accommodation. Its unique pole bundle system incorporates the entire frame structure into a single unit, making pitching incredibly easy. Whether the destination is a spring-season trek in the desert, a trail-breaking ski trip in winter, or just base camp at the crags, these tents provide the built-in versatility you need."
(Paraphrased from website)
Initial Impression:This tent arrived straight to my door in a plain brown shipping box. Inside I found the tent sealed inside a plastic bag that provided protection to the stuffsack. I also found a ground cloth that Black Diamond had included for the testers to use. Within the stuffsack I found a complete and intact tent that included: 1 Mesh Tent, 1 Rainfly, 1 Pole system, 8 Stakes & Lashing Cord in small Stuffsack, 4 4 x 4 in (10 x 10 cm) pieces of material (1 of every fabric type), 1 Retail Hang tag, and 1 Pitching Instruction manual.
Black Diamond's warranty information is also listed in the manual:
"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 and workmanship. If Buyer discovers a covered defect, Buyer should deliver the Product to us at the address provided. We will replace such Product free of charge. That is the extent of our liability under this Warranty and, upon expiration of the applicable warranty period, all such liability shall terminate."
After removing this tent from the box, I immediately weighed all items individually and as a whole to get some of the logistical stuff out of the way. After that, and since I was planning on going out that night, I took the tent out into the front yard to set it up and check for completeness, manufacturing defects, or damages that may have occurred during shipping. I found the tent to be in excellent condition and found no problems at all. I snapped a number of pictures to help document some of the tent's features so that I can more easily describe them throughout this report.
Throughout the entire initial setup one thought kept running through my mind; this tent is BIG! It's between 1-2 lbs (.45-.91kg) heavier than my other 2 person tent, but the additional weight can be seen in the dramatic size difference. The Mesa is approximately 5 sq ft (.46 sq m) larger. While it may be hard to see 5 sq ft in one's mind, I can easily equate that to the size of my 6 year old daughter. On a couple of camping trips, my wife, my daughter, and myself stayed in my other two-person tent. Having this additional room will make it that much more comfortable for all of us.
There is also a lot more headroom due to the way the poles are attached to the tent. The center hub, which connects all 6 poles, has 2 short poles that connect to the sides of the tent above the doors. This causes the tent to stretch outward like an arch rather than creating a straight pitch like a pup tent. Again, I quickly noticed this additional headroom when I was able to sit inside the tent with my wife and neither of us were hitting our heads on the top of the tent.
I was exceptionally pleased with the heavy duty construction around the pole clips. Over the years I've had a couple of other tents with pole clips on them and I've never cared for the way they attached to the tent. They were all weak and I'd ripped a few of them out over time in windy conditions or simply from the constant pressure from being attached to the poles. It will be good to see how well this additional reinforcement holds up over the testing period.
The ties that hold the fly or the doors open are different than any other design I've seen. There is a single strap with a quick release slider that allows the user to pin the door back loosely or firmly. These ties are all over the tent. While the uses for most of them are apparent, there were 2 sets of ties that I simply couldn't figure out a use for. I emailed them with my questions and waited for a reply. I didn't expect a response for a couple of days and was surprised when I received a response within 6 hours. They apparently took the tent and set it up in their showroom to try and figure out exactly what I was asking. To me this shows exceptional customer service.
This tent will be my primary shelter throughout this testing period. I've already scheduled backpacking trips to Mammoth Cave National Park, Land Between the Lakes Recreational Area, as well as a canoe camping trip along the Buffalo National River. I will document my experiences with this tent, any problems I have found, as well as items I feel could be improved for the end user.
I would like to thank Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to test the Mesa tent.
Field Report - June 9, 2007
Field Locations:During the past 2 months I have been able to use the Mesa on a couple of my trips for a total of 4 nights.These areas were in a forest area behind my house and campground close by. The other area was the South Cumbarland Recreational Area. The elevations of these areas were roughly 475 ft (145 m) and 1825 ft (556 m) respectively with all three being fairly dense forests. There was no precipitation during the two outings, and little to no wind.
Performance:Unfortunately I have not been able to use this tent with another person throughout this testing period. I will be using this extensively with my wife the next two months while camping out at the lake, but situations at the fire department have hindered my camping the last 5 weeks. That being said, I have used this a few times as a solo tent and absolutely love the extra room this larger two person tent gives me. I now have the ability to roll, scoot, and sprawl all over the floor of the Black Diamond Mesa without kicking or rolling into the gear stowed alongside me. This is such a wonderful feeling, and definitely something I have not had in my other two person tent.
I have found that while not impossible, the fact that the poles have a tendency to slip out of the grommets make setting up this tent a pain. I would have one pole in both grommets and then try to insert the other pole into the first grommet only to have one end of the first pole slip out of its corresponding grommet. Because of this, setup time remains around seven to eight minutes. I do love the fact that I don't have to stake the tent out to achieve a good deal of floor space like my other model. The Mesa is so big that the space lost by not staking it out fully isn't really noticeable to me. While it hasn't been exposed to a great deal of wind, the tent was fairly stable with the breezes it did receive even when not staked down. The fly is also easy to attach with the four clips on the corners and the only stakes I absolutely have to place are at the bottom of the vestibule. This is great when I want to keep all my options open during a bright starry night, and even with the fly closed up I've not had a problem with condensation yet.
Even though the tent didn't ship with a pole repair section, I don't have any fear of getting stuck with a broken pole. The design of the variable pole is exceptionally strong and doesn't have any weak points that I thought it might when first looking at it. The poles are a bit hard to get together and apart in their stock condition. There are such tight tolerances between the two poles that they have to be jiggled at times to fully seat. More than once I've found myself trying to assemble the tent without having a pole fully pieced together. I may try to put a bit of soap on these prior to the next trip out to see if that handles it.
I'm still very pleased with the way the tent clips to the poles and have not found any tearing or stretching of the fabric around the clips. The clips are a bit narrow though and are hard to get onto the poles at times. This is especially true because the pole clips happen to be placed right at the joints between two pole sections in a number of places. Since the pole joints are larger in diameter than the rest of the pole, it's even that much more difficult to get the clips over the poles.
The zippers slide nice and easy throughout their full range of motion and don't grab on any fabric throughout their journey. However, as with my other tents, sliding the zippers singlehandedly is still a problem. The fabric bunches up in front of the zipper and doesn't allow the teeth to slide easily through the pull. This happens when sliding the zipper in both directions, although it is more noticeable when sliding the zipper from the bottom to the top. It hasn't become a problem for me yet as I usually have 2 free hands, but I've run into problems in the past when sharing a tent with someone else. I'll definitely keep an eye on this throughout the LTR phase.
Long Term Report - August 14, 2007
Field Locations:Unfortunately with this extreme heat wave we've been having the last month, anything but day trips were out of the question. It's simply too hot to safely take any sort of long distance hike. I was able to use this tent during another family outing in the Pennyrile State Forest though. The elevation for the area is between 400 -700 ft (122 - 213 m) with slow rolling hills and steep cliffs in some areas. The temperature was roughly 85 F (29 C). While there were a few sprinkles during the nights, there wasn't even enough precipitation to wet the fabric completely. I didn't even have to put the fly in place.
Performance:Over the life of the test I have been able to experience the full effect of a tent this size in both its positive and negative aspects. I've been able to keep all my stuff from potential rain but still have the room to stretch out and relax. I've had wonderful views during the nights that were dry, and I've been able to fit 3 people in the Mesa during an outing with my kids. In all, I've been exceptionally pleased with the Black Diamond Mesa tent.
When I first received this tent one of the things that struck me as peculiar was the number of ties located all over the tent. While it's easy to understand how the standard door ties are used, I found a number of them on the fly that I was unable to fully understand how they were supposed to function. In the IR phase I contacted Black Diamond trying to get information on exactly how the designers expected these ties to be used. As I stated above, the email came back quickly, but I decided to leave out the information I received from them. While they took the time to setup the tent, the information they sent me left a bit to be desired. I was told that the various ties located on the fly were there to allow the user to figure out various configurations. This seemed a bit cryptic to me; I wanted to know how they were supposed to be used.
Without a clear answer I set out to try different configurations over the test period. I wanted to see which ones work While I'm sure I haven't found all the configurations possible, I was able to find three that worked really well for me during my outings. The first one, and the one that I've found myself using the most, is to leave the guy lines at the bottom of the doors on the tent stakes and remove the clips from the four corners of the tent. This allows me to have the fly running crossway along the top of the tent which gives me great circulation, wonderful views, but quick and easy conversion if the rain comes. All I need to do is clip the four corners together again then back in the tent for a dry night.
The other way that really worked well for me was to leave one side clipped and remove the other side. This provided quick access if the rain came, but also provided me with a bit of wind protection. And lastly, I removed only a single corner clip, allowing the fly to drape diagonally across the tent. While this was the quickest to setup in the event of rain, I wasn't pleased with the ventilation or the views from this configuration.
In addition to the various ways of connecting the fly, I also tried various ways to connect the footprint. Because it's longer and wider than the tent, it has more slack when connected to the poles with the tent. One of the problems I have is that it would almost always fall off due to this extra slack. I found that the best way to connect the footprint to the poles was to connect it first. This seems contradictory, but it really works. Because the footprint is meant to be used in conjunction with the poles as a tarp, it's designed to fit over the pole ends just like the tent is. If I began setting up the tent like I would a tarp, the poles gave enough tension to hold the footprint in place. All I had to do to complete the setup was lay out the tent on top of the footprint, connect the corners to the ends beneath the footprint, and connect the clips to the poles. It's a bit hard to understand but the picture shows what I'm talking about.
As I mentioned above I was able to take my two girls, age 6 and 11, out a couple of nights with the mesa. While I did have to stake out the tent for maximum floor space, we had a good deal of room and I didn't feel confined at all throughout the night. This was surprising due to the weather. Even though the temperature that night had been 85 F (29 C), the humidity was high and I was sticking to my sleeping bag. I don't like feeling sticky, much less feeling sticky and confined. Around 2 am the temperature finally dropped enough that I felt comfortable, but as I stated above, there was enough room that I wasn't miserable.
While I've used this on a number of occasions as a solo tent, I don't think I'll be using this as a solo tent anytime in the near future. I loved the space that I had. However, the setup was more difficult for one person, and the weight of the tent makes it hard to justify during solo outings. I'll definitely be using this during car camping trips and two person hiking trips due to the mass amount of space for relatively little weight, but for solo trips I'll definitely be looking for a lighter tent.
I'd like to thank Black Diamond and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me to participate in testing the Mesa tent.
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