FR - Black Diamond Mirage tent - D.Baxter
- Hi there,
I've finished my field report for the Mirage tent. Sadly it was only
used twice so far because of the very late snow melt we have going but
it will see much more use before the final report!
HTML version here:
New text for the field report is included below:
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
In the past two months I have spent two nights in the Mirage tent. In
a typical year it would have seen more use but this has been a very
unusual year. We had a very mild spring and the snow hung around much
longer than usual. Because of this uncertainty in the conditions my
four-season tent accompanied me for added warmth more often. I did
test the Mirage tent snow camping though.
The first trip was in mid June to the ridge above Lake Ann, in the
North Cascades near Mt. Shuksan. We packed in on consolidated snow
from the end of the plowed road and set up camp on the exposed ridge
at 5000 ft (1524 m). Because of the promising forecast we camped as
high as possible with no wind protection. Temperatures ranged from
around 60 F (15.6 C) during the day to near freezing at night. There
was only a slight breeze. During the day we had high clouds but at
night the clouds dropped, fogging us in.
I also used the tent at the beginning of August camping on Cady Ridge.
We picked a site on a ridge, again at 5000 ft (1524 m), but this time
had some trees for shelter. It was sunny on arrival but again the
clouds dropped and it rained overnight. Temperatures were around 65 F
(18.3 C) during the day, dropping to about 40 F (4.4 C) overnight.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Since I made a mistake assembling the tent at home when I received it
I was concerned I'd do the same in the field. This wasn't the case.
I found it easy and quick to pitch at both camps. Practice likely
helped me avoid repeating my mistake of attaching the pole hubs upside
down. In both cases I simply unrolled the tent body, placed one stake
in its loop to prevent it blowing away, then assembled and attached
the poles. I clipped the body into place and staked out the rest
before attaching the rain fly. All of this was done in less than five
I did have trouble getting a taut pitch with the vestibule, both on
snow and dirt. I'd assembled the body then pulled out the vestibule,
attempting to insert the two required stakes at the front of the
vestibule. Both times I had to repeatedly unstake and restake it to
keep one side from being loose. The stakes slip into simple loops at
these points, while on other tents I have used they would use a
sliding tensioner to avoid restaking it. A similar setup would make
it much easier to pull out the vestibule. Interestingly these
tensioners are included at the points where the rainfly snaps into the
main body. They work very well here for creating a taut pitch of the
Use on snow:
The tent was very easy to setup on snow. First I leveled the site
with my snow shovel, then rolled out the tent body. I assembled the
tent as described above and staked it out with U-shaped snow stakes.
These stakes are much larger than those included by Black Diamond but
the stake loops are generously sized and the snow stakes fit well. I
attached the included guy line to a rear guy-out point and a snow
stake in case winds picked up.
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Mt Ann campsite">><<IMAGE GOES HERE.
ALT TEXT = "Tent setup view">>
When camped on snow I like to dig out the vestibule interior to
increase usable space and create a spot to sit with my feet down in
the hole. This was very awkward with the Mirage tent. Because the
body has a triangular protrusion into the vestibule area, with a
single door on one side, there is little space to dig out. I did
anyway, and it made for nice storage of my backpack, but I couldn't
put my feet down in the hole. The space between the vestibule and the
door just isn't large enough for this.
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Me in the tent">>
I was impressed with the warmth of the tent overnight. There was only
a slight breeze, not enough to test Black Diamonds claims of wind
resistance, but the tent kept it out better than other 3-season tents
I have used. The sides of the bathtub floor rise up fairly high and
are overlapped well by the rain fly, creating a nice wind buffer. At
first I was worried about ventilation due to this but I did not
experience any condensation. The vent at the rear foot is always open
and when combined with the roof vent above the door creates a decent
Use on dirt:
While the tent is likely meant more for camping off snow I found its
setup to be a little more difficult on hard ground. The main
difficulty was with the odd shape of the tent. With the main arching
pole running the length of the tent and into the vestibule it creates
five points of contact between the poles and the ground. This had me
reorienting the tent many times looking for a spot that would allow
all of these points to touch the ground. Think of it like a kitchen
table that needs something stuffed under a short wobbly leg to even it
out. Most often the two rear corners and the front point would be
level, while the side corners would have a seesaw effect side to side.
I attempted to stake it out anyway but this resulted in a saggy fit
to the rain fly. Eventually I found a combination that worked well
but it is easier with a more traditional four-cornered tent.
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Cady ridge camp">>
The included stakes worked very well and can be pounded in hard with a
rock without bending. Pulling them out of the ground is quite
difficult. They have downward facing looks at the top that are hard
on the fingers. I ended up using a free stake hooked under these
corners for leverage and they came right up. I'd consider this good,
despite the difficulty, since it meant the winds would not pull the
stakes out. At Cady Ridge we had some moderate wind gusts but the
tent did not move or flap, even when hit from the side. It also
rained overnight but I stayed warm and dry inside. Because of the
unexpected temperature drop we all sought shelter in the tents early
that night. There was plenty of head room for me to sit up near the
door to the tent. If I moved side to side or further down this
diminished quickly though. Even so I did not feel cramped as I
changed clothes, organized my stuff, and read my book.
Other notes on the tent:
Thus far I have only used the Mirage tent as a solo tent. This is not
for lack of trying though! I was the third-man out on our Lake Ann
trip so had to use my own tent. For other trips I made the offer to
bunk in the Mirage with another but was turned down. They thought it
would be too cramped for two. One of my friends, who is a little
claustrophobic, did not want to try it. While it is a little smaller
than some two person tents I believe it would serve two average height
hikers well, so long as they were not cooped up inside for long
stretches. Hopefully before the final report I will get two people
In the instructions Black Diamond shows a drawing with the front of
the rain fly and vestibule rolled up and secured above the door, along
the horizontal pole. It mentions tiebacks to hold it this way. I
could not figure out how this works though. The only tiebacks in the
area are the small hook and loop straps that secure the fly to the
poles. I was able to make it work by unclipping the front attachment
points of the fly and folding the vestibule area backward between the
fly and tent body, then reattaching the fly. This had the same effect
but prevented using the hook and loop fasteners.
I have spent two nights in the Mirage tent, one trip on snow and
another on dirt, and I have been pleased with its performance. In
both cases it was quick and easy to pitch, despite the fiddly anchor
points on the vestibule front. It looks good outdoors and the yellow
color is cheerful to spend time inside. Though I have only had it out
in a moderate rain it appears waterproof and well suited to poor
The interior provides enough room to sit up near the door but nowhere
else for an average height person. The vestibule is fairly small but
was large enough for my backpack and boots. The interior vestibule
eats up a large chunk of this useable space. It does seem to work
well for storing clothes and other things that need to stay clean or
free from bugs but when bulky items are placed here it blocks the exit.
Disassembly of the tent was very quick and simple. Everything can be
rolled up together and slipped into the stuff sack or rolled
separately using the divided compartments in the sack. The stakes
stow neatly into a sewn on pocket, keeping them from getting lost.
The trails are now mostly snow free and I will continue to use the
Mirage tent for backpacking. I wont use it again for snow camping
during the final test period but it will see more use on dry ground.
I plan to be out many times in the next two months to take full
advantage of what could be a short snow-free window for Washington.
Likely this will put me into the start of the rainy fall, testing the
waterproofing and wind stability of the tent. Because it is such an
odd year, with many lakes still frozen and some lingering snow, I
cannot say long term where I will take the tent but it will see use in
the near future.
I will also make a renewed effort to get a second person in this tent!
This concludes my field report for the Black Diamond Mirage tent.
Please check back in early October for my final report.