Black Diamond First Light Tent Review

Objectives: I was looking for an ultralight, weatherproof, small two-person, no-frills mountain tent.

Description: According to BD: “Made with EPIC by Nextec and SilNylon fabrics weighing a scant two pounds eleven ounces, the Firstlight is equally at home on hot desert or cool summer alpine trips. Its cool door design peels open to the floor, allowing easy access, while door netting and a back window provide plenty of cross-ventilation. The Firstlight can fit on sofa-sized ledges, packs down to the size of a grapefruit and is the right tent for climbers and others looking for an ultra lightweight and packable tent.”

One reason you might not want to buy this “first light” (last waterproof?)
tent.

Experience: I borrowed this tent from a neighbour who had meticulously waterproofed all of the seams by applying liberal amounts of seam sealant to all off the seams. It appears this is necessary due to the fact that Black Diamond did not think it worthwhile to do a proper factory job of this themselves.

The first night we used the tent I was pretty ecstatic. It is advertised as stuffing down to the size of a grapefruit, and though I’d say it would have to be a pretty large grapefruit, this thing truly is TINY. Another pleasant surprise is that, considering that I am 6’2″ tall and like to have my space, I thought that it was totally adequate size-wise for my wife (5’6″) and I to comfortably spoon.

However, on the second day we set up the tent just before a storm hit us, and spent about 3 hours snoozing and waiting for the storm to pass. When we woke up we were astonished to see water streaming down the sides of the tent and collecting in massive puddles on the tent floor. Yikes…

Now, the friend who lent us this tent claims he has weathered several storms successfully with this little shelter and is as bewildered as us at its underperformance (of course he’s also sponsored by BD…). Close inspection of the seam sealant (the “Seam Grip” that BD supplies with the tent for this purpose) shows that it is beginning to crack in a few places. But the tent, and its seam sealing, is only about two months old.

photo 1
Too good to be true sometimes means too good to be true

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Needless to say I am yet to be convinced that this tent is really trustworthy. I would highly recommend that Black Diamond factory seal the seams on this and all of their single wall tents. I would gladly spend another $100, heck $200 to have the job done right and never have to worry about constantly touching up the sealant.

Problems: This tent is NOT ACCEPTABLE. It was not even remotely weatherproof. Despite meticulous seam sealing with the cheesy “Seam Grip” that Black Diamond provides with the tent (the nerve!) this thing let in about 1.5 L of water during a 3 hour moderate shower.

Granted, the seam sealing was cracking in a few places, but these tents need to be factory seam sealed for life to be worth my consideration. It should be noted that the sealing job was only about 2 months old…

EDIT: Sept 26, 2018. I found this old review and figured I should give it an update. I’ve used this tent for many years now. I use it in the winter. I never use it in the rain. It works fine for a ski mountaineering style tent, single person. Sometimes I use it when I go camping with one of my kids. Overall I’d say it’s an OK tent given the caveats.