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FR - Black Diamond Mirage tent - D.Baxter

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  • David
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2008
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      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!

      David

      HTML version here:
      http://tinyurl.com/5wgg4h

      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
      minutes.

      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
      rain fly.

      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
      wind-tunnel effect.

      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
      inside.

      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.

      SUMMARY

      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
      weather trips.

      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.

      TESTING STRATEGY

      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.
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