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REVIEW: Black Diamond Distance Tent with Z-Poles

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 UKC/UKH Gear 25 Aug 2020
Going light in the North Pennines with the Distance Tent and Z-Poles

At only around 820g, and pitching using trekking poles, the single-skin Distance Tent is not much heavier than a bivvy bag or a small tarp, yet it offers a lot more weather protection than either. Toby Archer asks: what's the catch?



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In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Just a wee note! Condensation IS an issue in the tent at times but the photo titled "Condensation is definitely an issue" isn't condensation, that was rain being blown under the cowl over the upper vent - it was when as I say in the review I had to get out and change the angle of the tent.

Interestingly there is a review on Outdoor Gear Lab which I didn't see until after I had written my review, but exactly the same happened to them on a testing camp. https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/ultralight-tent/black-diamond-distance-adaptor-tent Nice to know that it's not only on Kinder that you get annoyingly angled rain, but in the US mountains too!

 PaulJepson 25 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

For the price, there are far better options I feel, especially for anything in the UK (surely condensation is horrendous in this?!). Can't see BD elbowing in on the likes of the Tarptent Notch, which is both cheaper, lighter, and better. 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> For the price, there are far better options I feel, especially for anything in the UK

Well, it's a review. There may well be.

> (surely condensation is horrendous in this?!).

I discuss condensation extensively in the review. It is an issue when there is not a breeze but I wouldn't say "horrendous". When there is a breeze it is a suprisingly small issue.

> Can't see BD elbowing in on the likes of the Tarptent Notch, which is both cheaper, lighter, and better. 

Have you used them both?  I'm not saying that I wouldn't prefer the Notch, but I've not used one so I don't know if it is better or not. I don't see how it can be cheaper though. Tarptent's website says they are USD 314. This bloke bought the more expensive dyneema one, https://wildwalkinguk.com/2020/06/24/tarptent-notch-li/ and paid 50 bucks extra for delivery plus "customs duty of £42.25, VAT of £78.86, and a ParcelForce handling fee of £12. These extra charges came to a total of £133.11". It would be proportionately less for the cheaper model but I can't see how it would be cheaper. The Notch doesn't come with poles so is comparable to the Distance Tent Adaptor which a top UK backpacking shop is selling currently for GBP 219. Google shows me as well that if you wanted to buy the tent with poles that I reviewed, Hereford's leading (?!) outdoor retailer have them on their website at 25% off which is pretty hefty saving.

Weight wise they are similar, but its worth remembering the Distance is theoretically a two person tent. There is loads of space in it. The inner tent of the Notch at least looks a lot smaller although having two vestibules looks great. Where to put wet stuff was one of the big issues I had with the Distance.

 wbo2 25 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear: I also compared prices and thought the notch pricier.  2 layers is nice, but the notch also looks flappier.

Re. condensation, I use a single layer tent quite often (MH Direkt 2) and it's a factor, but not terrible, and you live with it.  All very light tents are compromised somewhere

 Basemetal 25 Aug 2020
In reply to wbo2:

I've been using a Black's Force Ten Vitesse single skin tent occasionally for years -a bit heavier at about 1kg, "Mark IV" shaped, walking pole support (internal) but single 'traditional' door and porch setup. Condensation is present but manageable but the biggest advantage over this BD  is that the conventional tent door can be open for ventilation, cooking, or just looking out without the rain running in. That BD door design is a deal breaker for me multi day use the UK. Even if It had hinged from the top there would have been scope to arrange some shelter with a prop or two.  

 PaulJepson 25 Aug 2020
In reply to wbo2:

I've had a notch above the treeline in 50+mph winds and had no issues with flappyness. 

In reply to PaulJepson:

How much did your Notch cost you with delivery, import taxes, VAT and so on? I would love a including-poles sub-kilo tent for bikepacking - I've mainly used a tarp so far but there are times when a tent is preferable - not least if you are on an actual campsite and want a wee bit of privacy!

In reply to Basemetal:

> That BD door design is a deal breaker for me multi day use the UK. Even if It had hinged from the top there would have been scope to arrange some shelter with a prop or two.  

Yes, that occured to me as well. I suspect they had a reason for it, but I couldn't for the life of me work out and advantage to having the attached bit of the door be at the bottom beyond possibly you can have the top of the door open for airflow. I think in all the places I've used the Distance so far, because your poles are holding up the tent, there weren't really any options for a prop though - i.e. a stick!

 bouldery bits 25 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

What an interesting product. Thanks 👍

 wbo2 25 Aug 2020
In reply to PaulJepson:Ah ha!  So you're an owner

 PaulJepson 25 Aug 2020
In reply to TobyA:

I can't remember as it was about 5 years ago but I think around £200 all in. Henry either reduced the value on the customs form or marked as a gift to save on the cost for me. He might not do that now they're a bit bigger. Amazing tent though; so quick to pop up- bomber with 4 peg points. Only ever used the apex lines in exposed places. Super roomy for a 1 man too. Done approx 3000 trail miles with it. 

 PPP 26 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I wonder what it’s meant for? 
 

It’s not super ultralight, it’s not super convenient and it’s not cheap. If you want truly ultralight, you can get Lofoten or similar. If you want convenient, there’s Telemark, Laser Comp, F10 Helium, Scarptent, etc. If you want cheap... plenty options . Looks like it would pass mountain marathon kit check, but then it doesn’t look like an ideal choice for it either. 

Not trying to be negative, but just can’t see who is it for! Also, I broke two sets of Black Diamond Alpine FLZ poles in 18 months, so I really would be careful relying on poles for the shelter! 

 MischaHY 26 Aug 2020
In reply to PPP:

Pretty much what I came here to say. Why would you use this when you could use the Lofoten 2 ULW which weighs 300g less? Sure, it costs a little more but it's a proper 2 layer tent and decent in wind. 

I'm definitely curious as to what BD were going for here. 

 PPP 26 Aug 2020
In reply to MischaHY:

Having Lofoten at home (not slept in it yet!), I do realise how thin and fragile it feels like. It just can’t be a car camping tent nor it should ever be considered for that. 
 

I could see this tent being an all rounder tent that is durable enough to be used for car camping, brought up a hill or a long distance hike. But then it doesn’t have the comfort features you’d want. 
 

I know a lot of folk want a do-it-all tent and it comes close to it. Some things would need to be sacrificed though. 

In reply to MischaHY:

A friend in Finland got a Lofoten 2 and said it was so ridiculously small it was barely usable as 1 man tent. Looking on their site, it's 40 cms wide at the foot, 55 cms cms wide at the head, so one Z-rest wouldn't fit in flat in this two man tent! The site also says it's 70 cms high at its highest point, I don't think that's enough for me to sit up in. The Lofoten 2 ULW RRP is also over 600 quid - quite a lot for something hardly bigger than hooped bivvy bag! 

Found Henrik's video I was thinking of:  youtube.com/watch?v=CrL9dzXJAT0&

This isn't a defence of the Distance tent, I think in the review I spent more time on it's quirks and downsides than on the ups, but all ultralight tents are compromises. It's just knowing what you particularly want and what you particularly don't want that is important. Like I said, BD have made a very "niche" product. It won't be what many people are looking for, but for some the compromises will be acceptable. 

In reply to PPP:

> It’s not super ultralight, it’s not super convenient and it’s not cheap. If you want truly ultralight, you can get Lofoten or similar. If you want convenient, there’s Telemark, Laser Comp, F10 Helium, Scarptent, etc.

I still would like to own a tent with its own poles that weighs (with everything) less than a kilo, particularly to take on my bike. I had a quick google for the F10 Helium, but they are 1.2 kgs which is just a tiny bit less than the really nice little Macpac I already have https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/camping/tents+bivvys/macpac_sololight_1-person_tent-11253 

The Distance at 820 grams is light  - if you were going to have poles with you anyway. In particular that's light for a tent that has so much space inside if you are on your own. But of course it's not light if you are doing something where you don't want walking poles and you had to take walking poles with you just to keep your tent up!

 GCO 26 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

It’s just possible that I fit into this ‘niche’ and I’m quite interested in this tent. But I’d want to use my own walking poles rather than splash out on new ones. I’m unclear how the adapter works with poles that don’t have the hole at the top of the handle. Can you say a bit more about that, please?

In reply to TobyA:

Thanks Toby for a comprehensive and fair review. Nicely done. That door would drive me nuts though...

I suspect we all have our favourite alternative - great to see competition in a previously niche market anyway. The Durston X-Mid 1p is just under 800g too, but twin skin, dual porch, and more spacious. 

I only have experience of the 2P model, shown  over at https://durstongear.com/product/x-mid-2p for the simple reason that it is actually a true 2 person, double skin, tent with two reasonably sized porches for 1100g. It's also strong and the designer, Dan, really knows his stuff and is happy to explain where the compromises are. My only criticism is that the inner is almost entirely mesh which makes it cooler/draughtier than would otherwise be the case, but Drop (who sell it) seem to be uninterested in making a fabric inner. We are trying to encourage them (it could be a 'winter inner' and sold separately). Irritatingly, the Drop site needs registration to get to the actual products with prices but it's a one off (and free). 

The 2P fits two full size mattresses (without end wall fabric flapping fabric on the face), has good headroom, and again a 4 peg pitch. USD280 is a good price but appreciate you may end up paying quite a lot more in the UK once taxes are added on (it's under the threshold in NZ so came in without duty). It's a tent I would happily use as a 3+ season tent in the UK in the mountains and a 4 season one if well pitch and not on the Cairngorm Plateau!

Z-packs do 48 inch carbonfibre poles @74g (x2) if trekking poles not used, BTW.

Cheers

b

 PPP 26 Aug 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Sorry Toby, my point was that you can’t have light, comfy and cheap. Sacrifices need to be made. So Lofoten is light but not as cheap or comfy (not much living space), F10 Helium/Macpac is comfier and cheaper but not as light, etc etc. 
 

BD Distance does strike a nice balance and not everyone wants or can afford multiple tents for different situations. I wonder if BD Distance is the case of being a jack of all trades, master of none? I haven’t tried it and it might just not suit my current needs, so I don’t want to be overly sceptical! 

In reply to GCO:

I've not seen them in the flesh (plastic?) but it seems the cross bar has extra sort of bracket things on them and then velcro straps. Rest the handle of your pole in the bracket-thingy, velcro then holds it firmly there. https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/images/products/1573816478-05844400.jpg

This is the version - quite a lot cheaper - although Ultralight don't have it in stock currently it appears: https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/equipment-c3/tents-shelters-c25/all-tents-c148/black-diamond-distance-tent-with-adapter-p13665 But if you get on google I bet you'll find one somewhere doing them for under 200 quid. 

In reply to PPP:

Totally agree. My favourite one man tent for camping in is super luxurious inside in terms of space, has loads of thoughtful little features in it, has a nice big porch to cook and store wet stuff and you can get for under 200 quid! Bargain eh? That's the MSR Elixir 1.

My least favourite one man tent for carry about is the MSR Elixir 1 because it weighs just over 2 kgs all packed up!

I've only done overnights in the Distance so far. For that I've managed in various conditions fine. But I'm in a Pennine Way walkers Facebook group after having done a bit last summer, and thinking of waiting out the current stormy weather, as lot of people on the walk currently are doing, even on a proper campsite in the Distance is a miserable thought! You get things a bit damp just opening the door in heavy rain to go out, and you've got nowhere sheltered to cook or store your wet gear.

So I might go for it being the master of the overnight lightweight trip, but not a jack of all trades! 

edit/p.s. I'll be interested to hear of what you think of the Lofoten when you do use it. Is your's a 1 man? And if so does it feel much different to a hooped bivvy bag? They just look so small!

Post edited at 12:25
 GCO 26 Aug 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Yep, I get it now, thanks. When I first saw that closeup photo I thought the hole was in the handle. But I can see now that it’s an extra section that fits on to the handle by the Velcro.

Thanks.

In reply to ben b:

Never even heard of them before but now of course I want one, damn you!  

I now have a good friend/old climbing partner who is back living back in the States, so it might be that if I was really serious about getting one, I could send her some money, then she could buy it and post it on to me as an Xmas pressie!  From memory, that or sending a friend who was travelling over for work or holiday with a very specific shopping list, was always the best way to avoid the tax issue! 

 MischaHY 26 Aug 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Maybe your friend is massive? Personally I fitted in it fine. Two would be a squeeze! 

I think the thing is that the Lofoten offers a lot more protection and functionality than a bivvy bag for the same weight. 

Have you used the carbon reflex? How does it compare size wise to the distance? 

In reply to MischaHY:

> Maybe your friend is massive? Personally I fitted in it fine. Two would be a squeeze! 

I think he said he's 175, so like me - just shy of 5'10. Not really tall at all. Having 40 cms at one end and 55 at the other and saying it's a two person tent does seem a bit bonkers. 

> I think the thing is that the Lofoten offers a lot more protection and functionality than a bivvy bag for the same weight. 

That's true I'm sure. 

> Have you used the carbon reflex? How does it compare size wise to the distance? 

The MSR one? In which case, no. I'd love one but too expensive for me and MSR have never asked for one to be reviewed. I have heard about some failures of the poles though - I guess that's just another compromise. I see that Terra Nova make lots of different version of the Laser now, including a 4 season one which I think has a stronger pole amongst other things. Seems a good idea if you know what you want!

 PPP 26 Aug 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> Totally agree.

Glad we got this!

> edit/p.s. I'll be interested to hear of what you think of the Lofoten when you do use it. Is your's a 1 man? And if so does it feel much different to a hooped bivvy bag? They just look so small!

Mine is a 2 man, but really it is a one man tent. I can’t get two mats in properly. The intention is to use it for OMM and some long distance fastpacking trips like Cape Wrath - potentially as a backup if bothies are too full or can’t reach one (when they reopen, of course).
 

It’s much more than a hooped bivvy which I had (Snugpak Stratosphere) and it’s just a bit heavier than Alpkit Hunka, but would certainly add more comfort. 
 

Will try and get it out in a week or two... 


In reply to TobyA:

And let's face it, who would want to travel to the US right now?

Drop only do mail order so it is a bit of a punt... I'd get her to put it up once in the garden then send it on as second hand/used. Ahem. Technically correct. With the Z-pack CF poles then all up it is sub 1kg (just), but big and solid despite that. There's an (impartial) review here too https://sectionhiker.com/drop-x-mid-1p-tent-review/ 

I think the 1P is about GBP170. The bit I like the most about the offset design (it's kind of hard to explain and I didn't really get it until I saw it in action) is that the fly zips are set away from the inner so none of that malarkey, where rain gets in the inner just because you want to open the door. Also the porches are pretty huge. Should you find yourself in NZ then I would be happy to lend you mine!

b

In reply to ben b:

Cheers Ben! There are some really interesting little tent makers out there - but it's quite impressive with this one though, that they seem to be thinking of keeping it at a quite affordable price.

In reply to TobyA:

The Trekker tent stealth probably fits the weight bill as well.

In reply to Dr.S at work:

They're the ones made in Scotland aren't they? Also sensibly priced I've always thought, although for bikepacking I'd have to spring for some poles as well. Have you got one of the Stealths Dr. S? If so, what are your thoughts?

1
 JB 31 Aug 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Nice review, thanks Toby. I travel light and always with poles but I think the lack of a porch makes this a no-go for the UK for me...even the small 1 man tents have got enough porch space for wet gear and to cook in. 

This really feels like something for use in drier (US/continental Europe?) climates really...


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