Black Diamond First Light Tent Review

This compact two-person, four season tent weighs 1.5 kilograms and must be one of the lightest on the market?.. and is a real gem!

I?ve used it on three overseas mountaineering expeditions, each with different weather conditions, and its stood up to the test each time. In India last October it dealt with three feet of snow overnight without leaking or compressing under the weight. In Tibet the year before it dealt with 60km/hour winds and driving snow which flattened it to our faces, but didn?t seem to struggle.

The tent is built with EPIC (by Nextec) for the canopy and SilNylon on the floor. It packs down to approximately 15 x 30 cm and the poles and stakes are about 4 x 40cm It is small at 2.5 sq m so two large people may be less comfortable than me and my climbing partners. It has a bathtub floor and a single door. The door zips down with a screen flap that opens for ventilation. It also has a vent opposite the door. Outside, the tent has guy loops mid way up each of the four corners as well as stake loops on the corners. It also has small rain deflectors or hoods over the vent and the top of the door which allow the vent and door screen covers to remain slightly open during rain.

Pitching the Firstlight is very simple, the two poles setup inside the tent by fitting into a metal snap in each corner. There are also four hook and loop closures to keep the poles in place (one in each corner). My only fear when pitching the tent was the poles punching through the light Epic fabric. It is also really important to keep a hold on the tent when pitching as the lightest puff of wind will send it flying off down the mountain.
The design, based on the classic Bibler single shell tent has steep walls and a simple floor shape to optimize living space and increase headroom. I?ve really appreciated the tiny footprint when having to chop a tent platform in ice. In fact the weight of the tent and the space it takes up are comparable if not lighter and smaller than two bivi bags

With two people there is some condensation when temperatures get down below zero. I would also be reluctant to use the tent in persistent rain; in fact I got quite damp from a heavy dew in a West Coast river valley recently. It also takes some practice to live in comfortably for any length of time- you need to be organised. The fabric also seems fragile and although I haven?t torn mine yet, I?m waiting for the day.

If you are a weight conscious climber, as I am, and looking for a price-competive tent for multi-day mountain routes, particularly where its more likely to snow than rain, the First Light is a great way to go.