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Black Diamond Firstlight Tent: Long Term Gear Review

Black Diamond FirstLight Tent

The freestanding 2-person Black Diamond FirstLight Tent the oldest tent that I own. I mainly use it for winter backpacking and still love it because it’s lightweight, freestanding, and fast to set up.

Black Diamond Firstlight Tent

Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Packed Size


The Black Diamond Firstlight is a freestanding tent that pitches quickly. It's ideal for winter conditions when you want to get out of the cold quickly. Weighing under 3 pounds, it's one of the lightest weight and most compact winter tents available today.

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At 2 lbs 11 oz, the FirstLight is extraordinarily lightweight for a 4 season tent. It’s a single wall tent that packs up small but is strong and provides excellent wind resistance in harsh conditions.

Structurally, the FirstLight is a freestanding 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.

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 headroom in the tent is also very good, 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 internal condensation at night. Without the windows open, this tent does experience moderate internal condensation despite breathable 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 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 the 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 dead-men before I can get a taut 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.

Comparable Four Season Tents

Make / ModelPeopleDoorsMin WeightPrice
Black Diamond FirstLight1-212 lbs 9 oz$370
Black Diamond El Dorado214 lbs 8 oz$730
NEMO Kunai 2213 lbs 14 oz$500
Hilleberg Soulo114 lbs 7 oz$735
NEMO Tenshi 2113 lbs 14 oz$700
Hilleberg Unna114 lbs 7 oz$715
Mountain Hardwear Outpost 2224 lbs 13.5 oz$600
Big Sky Chinook 2224 lbs$550
SlingFin Portal 2222 lbs 13 oz$485
Black Diamond Beta Lite211 lb 3 oz$220


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 lightweight (under 3 lbs) to carry the rest of the year. Its 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.

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  1. Hi Philip,

    Just bought this tent on sale and excited to use it. I was reading some user reviews on the product page, and they were saying that they needed to seam seal the tent before use. I’m not new to that, and it’s really not a problem to do so. But, the tent is advertised as seam taped by the factory. As a longtime owner of this tent, do you seam seal your First Light? Did you do so before you first used it? Any feedback from a longtime owner such as yourself would be greatly appreciated.

    • Vince – I seam sealed mine. It’s never leaked since. I can’t remember if it’s seam taped or not. Many people claim that the First Light is not waterproof, but I’ve had mine out in many torrential downpours and it’s never leaked. I suspect it’s because I seam sealed it. It’s a great tent, especially for winter, which is when I use it almost exclusively.

      • Awesome. Thanks Philip. I’ll be sure to seam seal mine then, and hope to get many years of use out of it.


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