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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Black Diamond Mesa Tent > Test Report by Andrew Priest

BLACK DIAMOND MESA TWO PERSON TENT
Combined Test Report
Initial Report - April 1, 2007
Field Report - June 15, 2007
Long-term Report - August 29, 2007
 

Black Diamond Mesa pitched

Authored by

Andrew Priest
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
aushiker@yahoo.com.au
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Andrew, the tester:

I am a 46 year old male, 180 cm (5' 11") in height, I weigh 112 kg (247 lb). I have been bushwalking in Western Australia for approximately five years. For the past four years I have been regularly walking and leading on and off-track pack carries with the Perth Bushwalkers Club. I have also got into geocaching. I consider myself as moving towards being a lightweight tent-carrying bushwalker with my pack base weight in the 8 to 12 kg (18 to 26 lb) range. I have completed my End to End of the Bibbulmun Track (2003), the Cape to Cape Track (Nov 2001), the Coastal Plains Walk Track (numerous times), the Larapinta Trail (July 2005) and Fitzgerald River National Park (April 2006).

I have had experience with a number of tents including a four-season Wilderness Equipment Second Arrow (tunnel design), and three three-season tents: a Coleman Peak 1, a MSR Missing Link and a Big Sky Products Evolution 1P.  I tested the MSR Missing Link and Big Sky Products Evolution 1P for BackpackGearTest.org.

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Andrew's testing playground:

The bushwalking environment of the south-west of Western Australia allows for bushwalks and backpacking from coastal plains to forest. Elevation ranges from 0 to 585 metres (0 to 1,920 feet). Within this region, I walk in varying conditions from forestry roads, to sandy tracks to single-purpose walking trails, to rock hopping, to beach walking to completely off-track walking through open and dense country.

 

 

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The testing environment:

During the summer period, daytime temperatures average 30° C (86° F), whereas from March through to December the daytime average temperatures range from 15° C to 26° C (59° F to 79° F). During the autumn, winter, and spring periods the normal weather pattern is fairly wet with frequent heavy rainstorms evident. It does not normally snow in Western Australia.

According to The Times Atlas of the World (Concise Edition - Revised 1997) our weather is described as being "Mediterranean - rainy climates with mild winters, coolest month above 0° C (32° F), but below 18° C (64° F); warmest month above 10° C (50° F)." The atlas depicts the coastal area north of Los Angeles, California, United States, as having the same climate.
 

Product Details:

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Specifications:

  • Manufacturer's specified weight: 2.32 kg (5 lb 2 oz) as packaged + ground sheet - 275 g (10 oz)
  • My weight: 2.4 kg (5 lb 5 oz) as packaged + ground sheet - 274 g (10 oz)

Initial Report
April 1, 2007

Black Diamond Mesa InteriorItem Receipt:

I received the Black Diamond Mesa fly and inner, set of poles, set of eight pegs, a roll of un-cut tie-out rope and the Mesa footprint (ground sheet).  The poles and pegs came in their own stuff sack. Also included was a small information booklet of little value in my opinion and an instruction sheet explaining the pitching of the tent. I found the instruction sheet is easy to read, easy to follow and helpful.

First Impressions:

Black Diamond Mesa centre connection pointMy first impression upon receipt was that this a much "larger" tent than I imagined it would be. What I mean by larger is really a reference to the voluminous interior space. On the downside I expected from what I had seen on the website that the vestibules would be bigger than they are. Testing will show if the vestibules are usable or not. My other "surprise" was the thickness of the fly. Having had experience with another silicone coated nylon tent I expected a much thinner material.  So overall I got a two-person tent and I expected to get a two-person tent. Okay on to the tent itself.

The Mesa is what I would describe as being a free-standing three-season tent of a two-door rectangle shape with two wings (vestibules) on the east and west sides. It has what Black Diamond refer to as steepened walls which are designed to provide "incredible interior space." My first impressions following two pitches of the tent and a crawl-through or three is that there is indeed a lot of usable interior space. I found I could easily sit up in the tent, two people laying down seems to suggest "space" for both and the angle of the walls suggest good clearance. I will of course report more fully on this aspect in the Field and Long-term sections of this report.

Black Diamond Mesa short pole connectorsThe tent in its standard configuration (no ground sheet) is pitched inner first.  The inner is laid out, then the poles are inserted. The pole system is a single hub system with the shorter pole arms running across the tent and two longer poles running the full length of the tent. The pole assembly is a single hub system. What this means is that a hub centres in the middle of the tent and the poles radiate to the four corners and sides of the Mesa. The hub and poles are a single unit. First impressions indicate that this is a simple system which reduces any confusion with varying pole lengths and keeping the poles together.

The inner of the tent is clipped to the poles via a series of hooks.  The Black Diamond Mesa inner attachment to the polesshort side poles hook into straps to help create the steepened walls effect.  Once the inner is up the fly is attached. The silicone coated PU nylon fly must be attached correctly, i.e. the ends of poles running the full length of the tent are matched to the inner. To ensure that  this occurs one set of attachment points are coloured orange and the other black.  The fly is attached to the inner at the four corners via tensionable side release buttons and to the poles via a single hook and loop fastener on each pole branch. Eight pegs are then used to peg out the inner, the fly and the vestibules.  The Mesa also has four tie-out points and cord is supplied for this purpose but no pegs.

Black Diamond Side Release buttons where fly is attached to innerMy preliminary at home pitching of the tent suggests that outer first pitching (something considered normal here in Australia and New Zealand) is not practical in the standard configuration. As the Mesa can be pitched fly only when using the footprint this maybe an option which I will explore further in later sections of this report.

Returning inside the tent, as mentioned earlier, the Mesa has two doors, exiting out through the vestibules.  The vestibules appear to be on the small side and I question their usability. This will be explored further later in this report.  Initial at home crawl tests suggest the doors are of an adequate size.  Inside there are four small pockets in the four corners of the tent and four ties points in the roof. No cording or clothes line has been provided but it may be possible to put up a drying line using the tie points.

Black Diamond Mesa ventilationWhat has impressed me initially is the way the Mesa is designed to have steepened tent sides which make the interior space at least appear large and usable. Again initial crawl testing does support this impression.

This leads me to my last observation ... ventilation.  The Mesa has two ventilation points built into the fly (vestibule) doors. There is a fixed wire half-moon loop in the fly which causes it to lift out from the fly surface. This is located over the door zip. The idea is that to have ventilation, one unzips the upper portion of the fly (see photo). A tie back loop is provided to allow the fly flap to retained in the open position. The effectiveness of this approach to providing good ventilation will be reported on in later sections.

 

 

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Field Report
June 15, 2007

Mesa pitched at Shannon National Park campgroundDuring the field testing stage I have used the Mesa on three nights. The first night was a dry cold night at Shannon National Park campground, the second night was after walking in to Woolbales campsite on the Bibbulmun Track, a 16 km (10 mi) walk, and the third night was after a short walk of about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) into the Mt Dale campsite, again on the Bibbulmun Track. On the first two nights in the field I camped in dry but cool to cold conditions. On the last night in the field it did rain, in the early part of the night.  I was not able to record temperatures but the average minimum temperature in the Shannon/Woolbales area in May is 9 C (48 F). All three pitches where done in the dry, however the first night's testing at Shannon National Park was a night pitch. An interesting experience being my first field pitch of the tent and in the dark! Finally, all three nights have seen solo use of the Mesa (not as planned, but life interfered.)

All up I very pleased with Mesa's performance to date, however I do find it takes up some real estate in my pack and the vestibules are on the small side for me.

First the negatives with the Mesa. I have two things that I dislike about the Mesa. The first is the amount of real estate it takes up in my pack. The stuff sack for the Mesa is a long narrow cylindrical shape, so I find I am having to pack the Mesa in a top to bottom fashion (vertical) rather than near the top (horizontal) where I prefer (horizontally allows me to get the tent out first and up quickly in adverse weather). So why not pack it on the outside? Well "real" bushwalkers here down under don't pack gear on the outside, especially when off-track walking, as gear has a tendency to snag and get damaged. Is this a huge issue, no and it is one I can live with.

My second and more significant concern is the vestibule size or rather lack thereof. For me and my large packs (in the 80 litre (4900 cu in) range) I find that I am not getting enough tent over the pack outside and that the pack takes up exit space. Now running solo the exit space is not such an issue as I can use the other door, but my experiments getting out the tent over the pack suggest it could be more of an issue when sleeping two up.

The second issue with the vestibule was the level of rain protection. I estimate the gap between the edge of the fly and the ground when pitched is around 100 mm (4 in), which is great for ventilation but it does allow rain in under the fly.  On my last night of testing when it rained I found the outer side of the pack got wet and even my shoe on the other side of the tent and placed near the vestibule edge got wet.  Now I was lucky on this night and the rain whilst heavy for a short while did ease off and so the wetness was not a big issue.

An alternative could be bringing the pack inside the tent or using a pack cover over it, but then it sort of defeats,  as I see it, at least in part, the purpose of the vestibules.

On the subject of the rain, the first positive is that it did not leak and even though I had left the vents closed, condensation was not an issue. My early testing suggests the Mesa ventilates quite well for me running solo.

This leads to my second positive. Pitching. I found the Mesa an easy tent to pitch. I like the colour coded connectors on the four corners which ensure I line up the fly properly with the inner.

Andrew pitching the Mesa at Mt Dale campsiteMy approach is to layout the inner (I realised on the second night it has a wide end and a narrow end, doh!), peg it out, then I work through the process of putting in the poles. I like the poles being one complete unit. It really makes it easy to keep in all together and get it right, particular in the dark. Not so good, mind you for getting them back in the stuff sack. Why are some stuff sacks made so small? A little bit extra material would make all the difference! I digress. Once I have the poles up and the inner connected, the Mesa has its shape. I then throw the fly over, plug in the corner connectors and finish pegging out the fly. Voilą! the Mesa is pitched and all done well within five minutes. Pulling it down is just the reverse.

My only concern is that the Mesa is an inner pitch first tent. Not so hot in wet weather. It does look like it may be possible to pitch out first when using the footprint. I will explore this aspect further in the long-term testing stage.

Internally, the Mesa has a couple of handy pockets on the side walls which I have found useful for storing my glasses, watch, etc over night. I do however miss it not having a clothes line inside. Clothes lines are great for hanging those wet socks etc overnight (beats sleeping with them).  I have found the interior space very usable but again keep in mind I am sleeping solo at present.  I have not had issues with the floor being slippery or any damage to same.

So in summary the Mesa has performed well for me, it has not shown any signs of wear or tear or malfunction and I look forward to continuing to test it.

Things I like about the Mesa:

  1. Ease of pitch;

  2. Spaciousness of the interior;

  3. Does not leak (I have had a tent that leaks, it ain't nice!)

  4. No condensation issues so far.

Things I don't like about the Mesa:

  1. Vestibules are too small in my view. I would like to see them being able to be pegged out about 100 mm (4 in) further from the inner;

  2. Pole stuff sack is to small for the poles;

  3. Packed size or rather packed shaped when using the supplied stuff sack.

This concludes my Field Report. 

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Long-term Report
August 29, 2007

Mesa at St Mary's CampsiteDuring the long-term testing stage I have used the Mesa over three nights for a total six nights over the test series.  The long-term testing was done on a geocaching road trip in the Great Southern region of Western Australia during July 2007.  I camped at St Mary's Inlet, Fitzgerald River National Park; Thomas River in the Cape Arid National Park and at Moingup Springs in the Stirling Range National Park. With the exception of the first night at St Mary's Inlet where some rain was experienced the other nights where all dry.

My experiences with the Mesa as reported in the Field Report are pretty much the same experience I had with the Mesa during the long-term testing phase. Overall I am happy with the Mesa and will continue to use it as a car-camping/base camping tent.

My only negative experience during the final stages of testing is that I managed to rip the stuff sack for the tent. It seems I caught the sack on the poles ripping a nice hole in the bag. Not life threatening but a reminder to be careful with the tent material.

Other than ripping the bag my use of the Mesa has been uneventful. It has shown to be a solid tent, roomy but a bit bulky in terms of taking up space in my backpack and maybe a bit on the heavy side.

So inconclusion the Mesa has performed well for me, it has not shown any signs of wear or tear or malfunction other than my ripping of the stuff sack and I plan to continue using it as a car-camping tent.

Things I like about the Mesa:

  1. Ease of pitch;

  2. Spaciousness of the interior;

  3. Does not leak (I have had a tent that leaks, it ain't nice!)

  4. No condensation issues noted during testing.

Things I don't like about the Mesa:

  1. Vestibules are too small in my view. I would like to see them being able to be pegged out about 100 mm (4 in) further from the inner;

  2. Pole stuff sack is too small for the poles;

  3. Packed size or rather packed shaped when using the supplied stuff sack;

  4. The ease with which I was able to rip the stuff the sack.

My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Black Diamond for being able to participate in this test.

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