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Black Diamond Beta Light Tarp Review

Black Diamond Beta Light Tarp Shelter
Black Diamond Beta Light Tarp Shelter

The Black Diamond Beta Light is a single wall, ultralight tarp shelter that weighs 19 oz. It’s also a very affordable ultralight shelter, with an MSRP of just $200, making it an excellent value if you’re trying to save money.

Black Diamond Beta Light Tarp Shelter

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Highly Recommended

The Black Diamond Beta Light is a single wall, ultralight tarp shelter (19 oz). Easy to set up and spacious, it's extremely wind and weather worthy, and an excellent shelter option for 4 season backpacking or backcountry skiing.

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The Beta Light has single front zippered door and a spacious interior with plenty of headroom and living space for two people. Set up is very easy, requiring two trekking poles or ski poles to hold up the peaks, and seven stakes to guy out. (In winter, you can also guy out the tent using skis, ice tools, or trekking poles.)

The Black Diamond Beta Light has a single front door that can be rolled half or completely open
The Black Diamond Beta Light has a single front door that can be rolled half or completely open

Made with 30d silnylon, it’s best to seam seal the Beta Light if you anticipate using it in wet weather. This isn’t a terribly complicated process, (see How to Seam Seal a Tent or Tarp) but one that will ensure your comfort.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 19 oz, not seam-sealed
  • Materials: Silnylon
  • Doors: 1
  • Stakes required: 7 (heavy shepards hooks, included)
  • Trekking poles required: 2
  • Dimensions :  249 x 203 cm, center x 112 cm, ends (98 x 80, center x 44 in, ends)
  • Usable Floor Space :  3.2 m² (34.7 sq ft)

The Beta Light has steep walls that shed snow well, which is one of the reasons why it’s popular with winter backpackers and backcountry skiers. Constructed with two adjoining pyramids, it’s also quite wind-worthy, making it ideal for use in exposed campsites with no wind breaks.

Being single-walled, it’s best to pitch the shelter with a gap between the ground and the bottom panels to encourage air flow and reduce any internal condensation. The front door can also be rolled back partially or completely in good weather. Being a floorless tarp, site selection is important so you’re not downhill when it rains (see 9 Campsite Selection Tips).

The Beta Light interior is quite spacious with plenty of room to sit up in, even when shared with another person
The Beta Light interior is quite spacious with plenty of room to sit up in, even when shared with another person

The interior of the Beta Light is quite large with plenty of space for two. There are lots of overhead loops to hang head netting from if you need bug protection and there’s plenty of room so you can sleep all night without rubbing up against the side walls.

The metal tips of your trekking poles fit into grommets positioned in the center of each of the apex peaks, which are also reinforced with extra fabric to protect against accidental puncture. If you detect some sag in the pitch at night as the silnylon fabric stretches, there’s no need to re-stake the tarp. You can simply lengthen your trekking poles slightly to take out any slack, from the warmth of your sleeping bag or quilt.

Your trekking pole tips fit into grommets in the Beta Light's peaks
Your trekking pole tips fit into grommets in the Beta Light’s peaks.

While the tarp reviewed here itself is available separately, you can buy an add-on inner tent, called The Beta Bug Tent if you want a bathtub floor and bug netting. It’s heavy though (29 oz) and there are many alternatives available that are significantly lighter weight.

Guyout webbing - Petzl elite shown for scale
Guyout webbing – Petzl elite shown for scale

The tarp’s guyout points have short sections of reinforced webbing instead of the adjustable linelocs you find on many cottage manufactured UL shaped tarps. This is actually by design for winter use. In winter, you’d add a 1-2 foot piece of cord to these loops, so you can pitch the tarp with skis and ice tools instead of buried deadmen snow stakes. That’s much easier in snow. For fair weather use, you could leave the webbing as is, tie in a cord with adjustment hardware, or gasp…tie in a cord and use an adjustable knot. Or if you can sew, you could even take out the webbing and sew in whatever adjustment system you want. I don’t consider any of these alternatives show stoppers, to be honest. This type of webbing loop is commonly found on hammock tarps and those guys (myself included) have all kinds of ways of making them work.

All in, the Black Diamond Beta Lite is a seriously good value if you’re looking for a four season ultralight tarp shelter for one or two people that’s wind and weather worthy. For example, if you’re looking at ultralight pyramid shelters because they’re so wind worthy, I’d recommend including the Beta Light on your short list of possible options. It’s definitely a contender in terms of weight, livability, weather-worthiness and cost.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.

Written 2017.

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36 comments

  1. Philip, how would you compare this to an MLD Duomid?

    • Funny you should mention that. I thought about putting in a comparison, but took it out.

      Anyway, this tarp is definitely a competitive offering to a Duomid.

      1) you can actually get 2 people into it
      2) they can both get out without crawling over each other
      3) longer so much more livable, no fabric 1 inch from your face
      4) doesn’t have the same factory adjustable guyout as the Duomid, so you need to do add line locks, tie an adjustable knot, or gasp, move your stakes to tighten up your initial pitch
      5) just as weather worthy as Duomid
      6) less expensive in silnylon
      7) Reinforced door zip with buckle, just like Duomid
      8) no peak vents but I was never convinced they worked on the Duomid anyway. What mattered more was ground separation gap.
      9) additional external loops to stake out tarp in super stormy conditions

      Yes, you could definitely hike across windy Scotland in the beta light

      • Thanks for comparing the two shelters.

      • Please expand on your opinion about peak vents. It seems counterintuitive.

        If the goal is to reduce interior condensation, I would expect that the duomid vent would help A LITTLE, and the tarps with two peaks and two vents, like the Tarpent Stratospire and the Skurka tent would help reduce the condensation A LITTLE more. Whether that meets your definition of “works”… I guess that is the question… perhaps being wind dependent means it doesn’t work? Or just dealing with adjusting the vent seems to be more trouble than dealing with an increase in condensation?

      • The reason why most shaped tarps don’t have peaks is that you can get the same effect by increasing the air gap between the floor and the sides of the tarp.
        That plus opening the door are the the best ways to rid moist air from a shaped tarp.

      • One point regarding the Duomid vs. Beta Light, the MLD tarp has a simpler pitch, with it’s single trekking pole. The speed in which I can have my Duomid set up has turned out to be my favorite feature of the tarp. Given a good site, I can have the Duomid up and get out of the weather in just a couple of minutes. Added bonus: If I go on a day hike out of camp I still have one trekking pole.

        Disclaimer: I use my tarp as a solo shelter, which makes a couple of your negatives less important.

      • I think pitch time is about the same. I used a Duomid for many years.

  2. Can this be pitched down to the ground if needed to?. What are the stakes attached to, are they adjustable tie outs?

  3. Are there peak vents? It looks as if there might be, but it’s hard to tell from the pictures. Also, are the internal hang loops along the ridge line or on the sides or both?

    Only downside I see to this tarp/tent are:
    – non-free-standing;
    – poles in middle of space;
    – single entrance at end;
    – big footprint (goes with having lots of space).

    • The internal loops are sewn into the descending peak seams and nicely positioned to hang netting over your head.

      No peak vents. See earlier comment.

      Trekking pole tarps aren’t freestanding….by definition.

      • Looks like we were both typing at the same time and our responses crossed. Thanks for the additional detail on the loop position – sounds perfect for my bivy bag.

        Yup, by definition it’s not freestanding, just noting. I know you often prefer the Black Diamond Firstlight in winter in part because it’s freestanding which eases setup.

        There is no perfect shelter.

  4. In windy conditions, is it a reasonable strategy to stake the windward side low to keep out the wind while staking the other side high to let out moisture?

    Have you thought about adding a value-for-money rating to your new star system?

  5. Just an observation: I believe the sagging saddle shape of the ridgeline between the two poles will drip condensation down on you when moisture collects during the night. I experience this same issue with my Mountainsmith tarp tent and have to give it a wipe with a bandanna once or twice a nite. It’s really my only complaint; otherwise I’ a big fan of tarp tents.

    • Kind of really depends on the weather, not the shelter – as in the temperature differential between exterior and interior skin which is the main cause of condensation. And since the ridgeline is not above “you”, since the poles are in the way, you wouldn’t get dripped on.

  6. The loop visible on the descending side seam in the second photo actually allows you to tie back the door to that point. There is is a piece of webbing and cord lock on the same seam inside that facilitates this. You can do this with either door, but not both together unless you add a guy out cord to the top loop. Maximum ventilation, but still quickly deployed if/when the weather changes. I never thought of it as additional guy-out, but it would certainly help stabilize the tarp during extreme wind.

    I’ve been using various BD ‘mids for at least twenty years through all kinds of conditions with no issues whatsoever.

    • Great point. There are two webbing loops at the top of the peaks that you can run a cord around and stake out. As Bill says you’d want to do that to open both doors up and keep the tarp from falling down. It’s not necessary with just half the door open.

      I messed around some to see if I could suspend the Beta Light from two trees using long lines attached those peaks loops but it was harder to pitch as a result and didn’t really work so good. I concluded that the A-frame pitch with trekking poles was in fact the easiest way to pitch the shelter

  7. Any recommendations for a specific bug net with a floor to accompany the Beta Light that is lighter than the Beta Bug Tent?

    • I use a UL bivy sack with a built in head net and piece of window shrink wrap. Comes out to about 8 ounces. Try Mountain Laurel Designs, Oooworks, or Bear Paw Wilderness Designs. They all make nests with floors.

  8. Thank you so much for the added pics, I have trying to decide on a way to lighten my summer load. I surrently have a six moons skytrekker. It was between staying pay with what I have, get a flat tarp, or this…..decisions.

    • I just bought one of these and am really happy with it, especially for how small it packs down and how easy it is to set up. Super light for 2 people, but even solo, you get a palace for very little weight. For the price I’m thoroughly impressed!

      • I was really blown away by it too. It’s really a fantastic alternative compared to the overpriced gear pumped out by many of the cottage manufacturers. Kind of old school, but still as relevant today as it was 5 years ago.

  9. If using as a winter shelter, would there be a ventilation problem if snow seals the bottom edge of the tarp and the ground?

    • Definitely, but sometimes you want to close it off and sometime you don’t.
      Remember, you’re not actually on the ground anymore, but on top of a layer of snow.
      You can always dig under the bottom of the side of the tarp to reopen ventilation or open the door if it’s not pointing into the wind.

  10. Any idea how this compares to the golite (mytrails) version ?

    • MyTrailCompany doesn’t make a shaped tarp like this.

    • Go-Lite made a version of this called the Shangri-La. The main difference was that on their tent the door was a reverse C shape (kind of like the doors on most small side entry tents). So with that the entry couldn’t be opened really wide like the Beta-Lite. I think that the Go-Lite one was also a little heavier, but roughly the same size.

  11. We’ve had a Betamid (ancestor of the Beta Lite) for about 15 years, and used a fair amount. Sturdy, lots of space, and the setup is straightforward compared to actual tarps. My wife used her sewing skills to add several useful features:

    – a webbing tab on the lower edge of the back panel, to provide an additional tie-out point;

    – a skirt of mosquito netting along the lower edge. Held down by rocks this keeps insects out – mostly;

    – a tunnel vent as are found on mountaineering single-wall tents.

    In use we’ve found the “tent” to be pretty straightforward to set up, with the spacious interior only marred by the two poles along the centerline. I have no trouble sitting up inside. The webbing tabs at each peak are useful for guying out in high winds. We have also used the tab nearest the door to attach a siltarp which we pulled out over the door as a sort of vestibule. Without it, opening the door can let in the rain, although the “tent” is long enough that the rain isn’t as big an issue as it could be.

    Someone hypothesized that you could pitch the windward end low to the ground to limit the wind moving under the tarp. We haven’t found that this works very well, but we try to pitch the end opposite the door to windward, and have wrapped a tarp around the windward lower edge to keep out the breeze. This worked on a truly windy night, and I think we’ll cut a silnylon strip around 1′ width to wrap around on those windy nights.

    To sum up, for people like me who lack tarp expertise, the Betamid (and its silnylon descendent) offers a simple and lightweight shelter solution. We’ve camped in rain with ours, and stayed dry. We’ve camped in high winds, and stayed comfortable, and our shelter didn’t blow down. Setup is straightforward. I think we’re ready for an upgrade to the lightweight version.

    • Awesome mods? Do you have pictures of the vent mod, or can you point me to a tent having a similar feature?
      Thanks!

      • The vent is a little cylinder sewn on to the sidewall near one of the peaks. It has mosquito netting in the end, and a drawcord around its perimeter to close it when it’s cold and windy. It’s a type of vent that used to be used on single-wall tents; if you can find photos of older Bibler or Integral Designs tents, they use them. Honestly, I’m not sure the vent helps much help with ventilation. The skirt of mosquito netting is actually more useful because, as someone noted, the easiest way to improve ventilation is to raise the shelter a bit. Also we use the extra guy-out webbing tab, which really helps stabilize the shelter when it’s windy.

        MSR make a similar shelter called the Twin Sisters (https://www.msrgear.com/tents/twin-sisters-2-person-tarp-shelter) that has better ventilation features – two peak vents AND a door at each end. These should improve ventilation a lot. However, the Twin Sisters is about twice as expensive as a Beta Light.

  12. I do have a question about set in the snow though. I know how to anchor the perimeter guy outs, but how do you keep the pole ends from sinking into the snow?

  13. Thanks for an interesting review. I’ve been looking at the dimensions for beta light and the bug net and it’s exactly the same, it can’t be right? The beta light must be longer and wider then the bug net!

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