Home / Gear Reviews / Black Diamond Firstlight Tent: Long Term Gear Review

Black Diamond Firstlight Tent: Long Term Gear Review

made by:
Philip werner
Version:
1
Price:
369.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On March 29, 2011
Last modified:September 18, 2016

Summary:

I've owned and used a 2-person Black Diamond Firstlight Tent for 8 years now and it's the oldest tent that I own. I mainly use it for winter camping and car camping and still love it because it's lightweight, breathable, and very easy to pitch.

Black Diamond FirstLight Tent

I’ve owned and used a 2-person Black Diamond Firstlight Tent for 8 years now and it’s the oldest tent that I own. I mainly use it for winter camping and car camping and still love it because it’s lightweight, breathable, and very easy to pitch.

At 2 lbs 11 oz, the Firstlight is extraordinarily light for a 4 season tent. It’s a single wall tent made out of a breathable fabric called Epic with a silnylon bathtub style floor, reinforced in the corners. Epic is a breathable fabric made using silicon-impregnated fibers and was an evolutionary precursor to eVent fabric.

Structurally, the FirstLight is a self-standing tent. It uses two curved collapsible DAC poles, that cross inside the tent and are anchored in the corners with a metal snap to prevent the floor from tearing. Velcro tabs running along the inside tent seams curl around the poles and help keep them aligned.

As you can see, the walls of the FirstLight are very steep and the tent sheds snow very well, making it a favorite with climbers and mountaineers in winter conditions. The head room in the tent is also very high, making it possible to sit up inside or to hang a gear loft for drying wet gear.

Black Diamond Firstlight Tent

Ventilation is provided by a zippered, mesh lined rear window and a large mesh backed front door. Both the rear window and the front door have billed beaks over them with a pliable wire running through the outer seam. The beaks are handy for protecting the window and door from rain, so that you can keep them open at night.

At night, I try to keep the back window and door as wide open as possible, even in winter, to eliminate all internal condensation at night. Without the windows open, this tent does experience moderate internal condensation despite the Epic fabric walls. Honestly, I don’t consider this to be much of a problem in winter because every 4 season tent I’ve ever tried suffers from intense internal condensation if its doors, windows or porch are not left wide open at night to vent moisture.

Black Diamond First Light Tent

Space-wise, I use this tent as a luxurious single person shelter most of the time, although it can sleep two people in a pinch. If you use it this way, I would recommend that both sleepers position their heads as close to the door as possible, and leave the outer door open to vent their exhalation moisture. Care must also be taken not to run the sleeping bags up against the walls of the tent, to limit transfer of internal condensation to them.

Black Diamond First Light Tent

Pitching the FirstLight is very easy and I can usually have it up in less than 5 minutes. Plus, since It’s freestanding, I don’t have to worry about sintering deadmen before I can get a taught pitch. After tromping around in the snow all day, that’s a treat, because it means I can get inside a shelter and change into my dry sleeping clothes without having to stand around outside while waiting for the tent stakes to harden in place.

When packed, the body of the FirstLight makes a nice compact bundle that’s about the size of my down summit jacket, when compressed into a stuff sack. With all of the gear I need to carry in winter, having a small tent like this helps me get away with a smaller and lighter backpack, with a capacity of 4000 cubic inches (65 liters). The tent poles, packed in a separate silnylon sack, are easily jammed into my pack compartment or strapped to my external compression straps.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to buy one tent for 4 season use, I’d seriously consider the Black Diamond Firstlight. While it excels as a lightweight tent in winter, it is also sufficiently light weight (under 3 lbs) to carry the rest of the year. It’s freestanding design makes it very easy to pitch, and is equally suitable for car camping at campgrounds, sleeping on tent platforms, or stealth camping in the backcountry. Bottom line: This tent is a keeper and I’m going to hang onto mine for a long time.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.This post contains affiliate links

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13 comments

  1. Very good to know! My winter backpacking has mostly been with groups with low mileage and big packs, but I'm looking to go solo (or duo) in the near future. Tent is always difficult, since I have never owned a traditional free-standing tent. It's still hard to imagine using a tent that weighs more than three times as much as my usual summer shelter, but you're right– tarps do take time to set up in winter, and I'd rather use that time hiking if I'm going with one or fewer companions.

    Yet another piece of winter gear I need to find on sale sometime!

  2. It's definitely worth it. I have yet to find anything lighter for winter and it really is a breeze to set up.

  3. Had never seen this before. Definitely worth looking into. This even rivals some summer tents.

  4. You are absolutely right – it is lighter then MOST 3 season, 2 person tents.

  5. I've got the Lighthouse (slightly bigger with the door on the side) which my boyfriend and I use for backpacking, at 3lb5oz it's great. Not very roomy, admittedly, but we *could* fit 3 people (with gear not on floor). Even in PNW it hardly ever has condensation. To draw out condensation, close all windows and light a small candle (AWAY from fabrics)!

  6. Hello Philip! Excellent, excellent site, for gear reviews, advice and hiking/backpacking stories. Just a couple questions about the FirstLight. First, about the weight – Black Diamond’s website sayd the minimum weight of the tent is 2 lbs 13 oz, but packaged is 3 lbs 5 oz. Can you explain the discrepancy? I have a couple ideas but thought I’d ask. Also, I’ve read reviews that complain about its lack of waterproof-ness. Since I’d be using it mainly as a three-season tent, I’m curious if you’ve had issues using it in rain. I’m trying to get into lightweight backpacking for the season, so I’m also curious if this is a good start (I know tarptents can shave off some weight, but I’m not sure I’m there yet). Thanks for any help you can give.

    • If I had to guess it would be the weight without the tent stakes. I almost never carry stakes for the Firstlight because it’s freestanding. I just use sticks from the forest if I need to anchor it down or an ice axe, etc.

      I haven’t had issues with it raining. It doesn’t leak, but then again I did seam seal mine (though I doubt it mattered.) I use the Firstlight almost exclusively for winter camping and car camping.

      The material that the tent is made from is called Epic. It’s somewhat breathable but waterproof, and is a precursor to eVent. It does suffer from internal condensation unless I keep the door and window open. A tarpent doesn’t, because they usually have some uncovered mesh regardless if the vestibule is closed or not. I’d get the tarptent if you’re thinking about 3 season backpacking, especially because you can probably pitch it with trekking poles if you use them. It does save weight and more importantly pack volume.

  7. Great review, I have been looking for quite some time for a very light 4 season, 2 person tent and this one looks like it fits all my requirements…. so after reading your review and many others in the WWW I went to BlackDiamond.com and ordered one along with the vestibule. I will make our summit attemps much more comfy… Next major summit is Mt. Robson (BC, Canada) in late august 2012.

    Thanks for the review.

    • Robson – that’s a hell of a trip. Good luck!

      • Sure is, the Black Diamond firstlight will be appreciated as it’s a long and steep hike in. We did an attempt last August 2011 but had to turn around below The Dome due to high avalanche activity.

        I’ll let you know via another comment how the BD firstlight worked out in the snow, wind, rain, etc.. LOL

        Below is our planned schedule for this trip.

        Mt Robson summit schedule / plan

        August 23 – Flight from Ottawa to Vancouver
        August 24 – Equipment check, prepare and packing
        August 25 – Drive from Vancouver to Mt. Robson Provincial Park
        August 25 – Hike in to Whitehorn Camp
        August 26 – Hike in to Robson Meadows (Berg Lake)
        August 27 – Glacier travel to Rearguard Meadows via Extinguisher Tower (Low Base Camp)

        All dates after August 27th are +/- 1 day (weather dependent)

        August 28 or 29 – Summit The Dome (10,100 feet) via “Mouse Trap” (high base camp)
        August 29 or 30 – Summit Mt. Robson (12,972 feet) via Kains Face
        August 29 or 30 – Downclimb Mt. Robson via Kains Face to high base camp
        August 30 or 31 – Summit Mt. Resplendent (11,237 feet), downclimb back to high base camp
        August 31 or Sept 1 – Summit The Helmet (11,220 feet)
        August 31 or Sept 1 – Summit Mt. Waffl (9,482 feet), downclimb to low base camp
        Sep 1 or 2 – Glacier travel to Emperor Falls
        Sep 2 or 3 – Hike out to parking lot
        Sep 2 or 3 – Drive from Mt. Robson Provincial Park to Vancouver
        Sep 4 – Flight from Vancouver to Ottawa

        Robert

  8. I use a golite Utopia 2 which is similar. I find the removable floor a plus on the Utopia.

  9. Any thoughts on carbon fiber poles for the Firstlight.

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