Preview: Black Diamond Distance Tent || Got ventilation?

The BD Distance Tent is new for spring 2019, and the first BD tent that uses trekking poles for support. It’s full sided, fully enclosed, and weighs about 1.5 pounds.

Nearly all backpacking shelters from cottage manufacturers use trekking poles for support, e.g. MLD SoloMid, TarpTent Notch, and ZPacks Duplex.

The explanation is simple: This saves weight over geometries that require dedicated pole sets, e.g. Big Agnes Copper Spur, REI Quarter Dome. Some of the weight must be given back to achieve a minimum of interior space — extra fabric or lightweight struts help to counter sloping walls and near-useless perimeter space — but the savings are still considerable.

In the brick-and-mortar and online retail channel, however, shelters supported with trekking poles have gained little traction. Big Agnes offers just one model; MSR, three; Nemo, one; REI, none; Sierra Designs, one. Is this a reflection of consumer preferences or the result of slow innovation? I think it’s probably both.

Preview: Black Diamond Distance Tent

So I was pleased to find the new Black Diamond Distance Tent at Outdoor Retailer. It’s a full sided, fully enclosed single-wall design that uses two trekking poles for support. It reminds me most of the LightHeart FireFly ($275, 1 lb 13 oz), which similarly uses a short ridge pole to increase interior volume in the peak area.

When paired with Black Diamond’s new Distance Carbon AR (“accessory ready”) trekking poles, the Distance Tent weighs 1 lb 7 oz. If you already own trekking poles, you will need two 1-oz pole grip adapters, bringing the total weight to 1 lb 9 oz. It will retail for $400 with the Distance Carbon AR poles, or a reasonable $250 with the adapters.

The Distance Tent is designed to work specifically with the new Distance Carbon AR trekking poles, which have a special female piece in the grip.

If you already own poles, BD will include two 1-oz adapters and knock $150 off the $400 MSRP.

The fly and floor are made of 30d coated polyester, which stretches less than silicone- and polyurethane-coated nylons.

The Distance is described as a 2-person shelter, but I think it’s more suitable for one: it has just 26 square feet of interior space, no vestibules, only one door, and sloping (not vertical) side panels. For context, the FireFly — which LightHeart describes as “a roomy 1-person” shelter — has dimensions of 105″ x 55″ x 45″ (length x max width x height), whereas the Distance is 95″ x 58″ x 41″.

My prediction: A sweat box

I want to like the Distance Tent, and I want Black Diamond (and other brands) to utilize trekking poles in more of their shelters. But on the showroom floor, the Distance Tent seemed fundamentally flawed. Why? Because its ventilation is woefully inadequate.

The Distance Tent has just two small vents, at the peak and at the foot. Both are covered with no-see-um bug mesh, the air permeability of which is shockingly low — without at least a moderate breeze, air does not push through. There are no vents along the bottom perimeter, and the side door does not have a separate mesh panel.

Peak vent

Foot vent

The Distance Tent does not have any vents along the bottom perimeter, and the door does not have a separate mesh screen.

So if it’s raining or buggy, the Distance Tent will need to be zipped tight. In most environments — where nights are generally calm and low temperatures approach the dew point — I think the two vents will be quickly overwhelmed. As configured, the Distance Tent may perform adequately in arid and bug-free areas.

Black Diamond has six months to remedy this design. A door awning and mesh door would go a long way. While they’re at it, I also hope they rearrange the door zipper so that the door does not fall in the dirt/sand when the shelter is opened, which will reduce the lifespan of the zipper.


  1. CJ on July 31, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Great thoughts. And after looking at the pictures I think you are probably pretty correct in your assumptions on all fronts.

  2. Dan Durston on July 31, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Agree with all your comments here re. sweat box.

    Nice to see the polyester though. The no sag is great for trekking pole supported shelters. Once you emerge from a poly tent after an all night rain and find the fly still looks great instead of sagging and sticking to the inner, it’s hard to go back to nylon.

  3. Bill Brokob on July 31, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Seems like a tent that works best when you do not need a tent

  4. Walter Underwood on July 31, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    If they used a mesh with better airflow, heat convection might work. There might be some flow from the low vent at the feet to the tall vent at the head.

  5. Langleybackcountry on August 1, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Ugh. So much wrong with that door.

  6. richard on August 3, 2018 at 9:12 am

    I liked tents because that was all I knew. The problem, from a disaster recovery perspective, is there is so much more that can go wrong. Darwin broke 3 sets of poles during his PCT hike; so far. And a tarp can be replace at any hardware store.

    Seems like black diamond is just trying to sell more poles.

  7. Bob on March 10, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    One of the worst ideas the tent industry got was the rainbow style door. Seem to recall the MSR Missing Link was the first…but there may have been ones before. It is absolutely stupid to have to drag the door in the dirt when a D door will work just as well.

  8. Herbert on May 20, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Its a quality tent…doesn’t breath as well as most..but its completely waterproof….its serving me well!

  9. Lisa Brin (Erikson) on August 20, 2019 at 9:30 am

    So Skurksies- For those of us that are frugal (and our old shit wont break)….Is this Z Pole (circa 2012) compatible?

    Hemi (and my pocketbook) want to know.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 20, 2019 at 9:56 am

      No, the pole needs to be the “AR” version. If you don’t have AR poles, then you need the pole adapters.

  10. langleybackcountry on July 14, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    A friend of mine just used it. Sounds like you nailed it:
    “doesn’t breath at all. It got really damp inside…Ok for a night but that is about it.”

  11. Lawrence Constantino on September 13, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Looks like the sixmoon skyscape trekker.

  12. txac on November 2, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Black Diamond distance tent (a pesar de haber puesto mosquitera en la puerta)

    Esta tienda condensa agua en su interior aunque dejes todos sus huecos de ventilación abiertos. No sucede siempre, no sé si ocurre cuando bajan mucho las temperaturas y ha hecho calor durante el día (esto es una hipótesis). A mi me ha pasado como la mitad de las veces que la he usado (unas 3-4 veces este verano).
    No es una condensación de cuatro gotitas, se moja en su totalidad y caen hilillos de agua por todas las paredes. Moja todo y se nota la humedad incluso al respirar
    La he estrenado en travesía y conmigo había gente que estaba dentro de una quechua. En la Quechua estuvieron estupendamente y en la Black Diamond se condensó todo en el tiempo entre que la montamos, cenamos y nos metimos dentro. Fue super desagradable porque estábamos dos personas dentro y todo se nos mojaba (la cabeza, el saco, … todo lo que estaba en la tienda)
    La he utilizado más adelante y se volvió a repetir el tema. Lo comenté con la marca y sólo me dicen cosas como (monta en lugares donde haya árboles, estira bien la tienda, deja ventanas abiertas…). Lo que dice la marca lo hemos hecho siempre bien; excepto lo de acampar siempre debajo de árboles porque en travesía esto no siempre es posible
    Me parece un producto poco interesante porque te deja vendido en una travesía y la marca no se ha hecho responsable de nada ni ha mostrado el mínimo interés por conocer bien el tema y mejorar la calidad del producto.
    Para dos personas es super justa… Si tienes que meter mochila y botas ya ni te digo. Dos chicas de 1,60 ya estábamos justas
    El peso y montaje de la tienda son super prácticos pero la verdad es que si su habitabilidad te deja vendido en la montaña, es un peligro… Sobre todo si la usas en invierno porque es más complicado secar todo y seguir camino.
    Ah… y el color es un cantazo en la montaña
    No la recomiendo en absoluto

    • Andrew Skurka on November 2, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      Translated from Spanish:

      Black Diamond distance tent (despite having a mosquito net on the door)

      This tent condenses water inside even if you leave all its ventilation holes open. It doesn’t always happen, I don’t know if it happens when temperatures drop a lot and it has been hot during the day (this is a hypothesis). It has happened to me about half the times I have used it (about 3-4 times this summer).
      It is not a condensation of four droplets, it gets completely wet and trickles of water fall down all the walls. Wet everything and you can feel the humidity even when you breathe
      I have premiered it on the crossing and with me there were people who were inside a Quechua. In the Quechua they were great and in the Black Diamond everything was condensed in the time between we mounted it, we had dinner and we got inside. It was super unpleasant because we were two people inside and everything got wet (the head, the jacket, … everything that was in the store)
      I have used it later and the theme was repeated. I mentioned it to the brand and they only tell me things like (ride in places where there are trees, stretch the tent well, leave windows open …). What the brand says we have always done well; except for always camping under trees because when hiking this is not always possible
      It seems to me an uninteresting product because it leaves you sold on a journey and the brand has not been responsible for anything or has shown the slightest interest in knowing the subject well and improving the quality of the product.
      For two people it is super fair … If you have to pack a backpack and boots, I won’t even tell you. Two girls of 1.60 we were already fair
      The weight and assembly of the tent are super practical but the truth is that if its habitability leaves you sold in the mountains, it is a danger … Especially if you use it in winter because it is more difficult to dry everything and continue on your way.
      Ah … and color is a great song in the mountains
      I do not recommend it at all

  13. Joe Kenny on July 4, 2023 at 10:16 am

    I was pretty happy on my first trip with the newer design (includes a mesh door) in Utah recently, but after three nights on slickrock with moderate winds one of the struts at the foot end is wearing through the bottom of its pocket in the shell already. Maybe it would fare better on a different surface, but it seems like a fundamental weak spot in the design. Disappointing because it checks a lot of boxes for me.

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