In a previous article, I extolled the virtues of a shelter I purchased this year: A Black Diamond Firstlight.
A sub-3lbs (without stakes) tent for winter use.
And I do mean a winter tent.
Based on other reviews of this tent, many people get excited being able to purchase a free-standing tent under 3lbs. Then they are disappointed.
This tent is not really meant for rainy or muggy and warm conditions.
It is a tent meant for cold and typically dry snow. Alpine areas essentially. Anyone who buys this tent expecting a solution for all-seasons will be disappointed.
The fabric is not waterproof; it is water resistant. In cold and dry conditions, this is a plus I find as the fabric breathes more efficiently.
And while this tent is meant for winter, it is not the tent I’d want to make base camp in or be spending many hours waiting out a storm. A traditional four-season dome or similar tent would be much more efficient for that type of use…if at twice as much weight or more versus the Black Diamond Firstlight.
Finally, while the tent claims space for two, it would be a tight fit. Especially if bulkier winter gear is brought.
So what is the Black Diamond Firstlight meant for exactly?
It is a tent meant for quick setup and that is a compact and light carry for the solo traveler.
And how does the shelter perform with these parameters?
It is indeed a quick shelter to set up.
Once the idea of setting up the poles inside the tent itself was realized, I could get the shelter set up in about five minutes. The tent itself stuffs very small. And sub-3lbs for a free-standing winter tent? Amazing.
The name itself is the key to the proper use of the tent: Travel all day, set up shelter, make dinner, go to sleep, break camp in the morning, ski out.
There are lighter and more spacious alternatives for a winter shelter such as many pyramid style-shelters. But in winter, sometimes a person just wants a shelter to be set up quickly and efficiently. A home for the end of a long day when there is not much daylight left. The tent is very much designed as such with ample-sized loops for skis and poles to serve as anchors. The designers realize that the principle user of this tent will not be spending a lot of time in camp and socializing.
The key with the Firstlight is to vent the back a bit and the front as well. I find a candle lantern lit in the first hour or two of tent use helps cut down on condensation as well. A bit of luxury item, but a useful one.
The tent is not perfect. A traditional double wall tent will breathe better and be more comfortable for extended tent time. A pyramid shelter is more spacious for its weight.
It is really an ample sized tent for one in winter. A shelter for the person who wants to make camp and then get up the following day.
While a vestibule can be bought for this tent, at 21 oz the vestibule adds enough weight where it may make more sense to use a larger tent instead. When solo, I find all my gear fits in the tent anyway.
The Firstlight is a bit pricey at $370 at Backcountry.com. But look for Backcountry.com’’s sales at the end of the season(s) and combine it with a twice yearly 20% off any item coupon. It can save a lot of money and make the tent much more affordable. Be patient, time it well, and a good amount of money will be saved.
Overall conclusion: A great winter tent for those traveling in the winter, want to make a quick camp and then get up in the morning to ski again. Better for one person. Be sure to vent and not zipper all the way up.
Disclosure: This shelter was purchased with my own funds.
FYI, I believe this tent is currently on sale through “Massdrop” until tomorrow, 10May2016. $250+$9 shipping. https://www.massdrop.com/buy/black-diamond-firstlight-2p-tent?utm_placement=7&referer=EJMWLH&mode=guest_open&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Automated%20Daily%20Promotional%202016-05-09&utm_term=Daily%20Promotional
That’s a very good price. Perfect time of the year to buy it too for a discount. (I would not use this tent EXCEPT for winter personally)
It’s not really a great 3-season tent although I use it for car camping since its so fast to set up. I have found that seam sealing it also makes it watertight in rain. Been using it going on 10 years. Rocks for winter.