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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written 2014. Updated 2017.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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