Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Easy to pitch tight, steep walls shed snow, strong, buckle relieves stress from zipper,
Cons: Very low quality stakes, no vents, guylines are not adjustable,
Best Uses: Everything
The Black Diamond Beta Light is a midsized two-pole silnylon pyramid tarp suitable for everything from fun summer backpacking trips to ski touring and mountaineering. The Beta Light has been around for a while, performs well, but would benefit from the addition of a vent on each peak and adjustable linelocs on the ground-level perimeter tieouts. Black Diamond hasn't updated any of their tents or shelters in ages
Pyramids are best for use in winter or very exposed areas. The Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid is our favorite all-purpose mode. Check out our Ultralight Tent Review to see how the Beta Light compares to the SuperMid and other shelters tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Beta Light provides two people with plenty of space for most trips. It's smaller than many two-pole mids, such as the GoLite Shangri-La 2 and MSR Twin Peaks but it's also considerably larger than the Mountain Laurel Design DuoMid. There's more than enough space for two people to sit fully upright and to store some gear along the perimeter. The main difference between the Beta Light and other mids is the peak height; the Beta Light has a lower ceiling that makes it slightly less pleasant for extended stays. Even so, there's much room than most backpacking tents.
In addition to winter travel our testers like to use the BetaLight as a cook tent for remote basecamps. It can also be pitched on top of a picnic table for rainy weather protection in a campground. A single smallish door on one end lets you enter and exit. A larger door such as the one found on the Shangri-La 2 would make it easier for two people get in and out. As is, one person needs to move over a bit in order to the other person get out at night- a relatively minor drawback.
The Beta Light's greatest drawback relating to livability is its lack of vents (there are none), which is unfortunate because of all the types of floorless shelters, mids are the most vulnerable to condensation. The Beta Light accumulates condensation easier and faster than any other tent or shelter we've tested. Depending on where and how you camp it can be useful to use a plastic ground sheet to block evaporation from the ground or raise the leeward side of the shelter to promote airflow.
The Beta Light uses a 30 denier SilNylon that's competitive with the fabrics used on other top-tier shelters. It's considerably a stronger and more durable than many of the fabrics used in double wall self-supporting backpacking tents. This is a significant advantage regardless of the type or duration of your intended use.
The Beta Light's aggressive catenary curve makes it easy to pitch very taught. Many mids have less aggressive rooflines that don't drop as low- they provide more space but don't pitch as tight as easily. The four walls stop wind, rain, and snow from all sides and make the Beta Light a full on four season shelter that can go anywhere anytime of the year, another significant advantage over backpacking tents.
The door zipper is reinforced with a plastic clip that reduces tension on the zipper. This is a basic and important feature found on all storm worthy shelters and four-season tents.
Weight and Packed Size
The Beta Light packs down to the size of a grapefruit and fits in an included sack cut from the same material as the canopy. It weighs 19 ounces, which makes it one of the lighter silnylon mids we've tested. Although this is lightweight, A-frame and flat tarps can weigh as little as six ounces.
Mids are the least adaptable type of shelter and the Beta Light is no exception. It must be pitched in the same way every time. That is, it doesn't respond well to campsites that require a suboptimal pitch; you must hike on and find somewhere that can accommodate it. Not that this is very challenging in most environments…for many people this will not be a serious drawback. Long distance thru-hikers may prefer a more adaptable type of shelter, such as an A-frame or flat tarp, that provides more flexibility with campsite selection.
The lack of vents is a significant drawback that leads us to prefer other mids in condensation prone areas or for extended trips. This is an unfortunate and critical omission that reduces the livability of the tents and can lead to loft-loss in down sleeping bags (moisture vapor accumulates and reduces the amount of loft or warmth). Even the company's larger, single pole Mega Light has a vent. This is more of a nuisance than a make-or-break issue. The Beta Light performs very well in all conditions.
The Beta Light comes with terrible quality stakes that aren't even worth keeping. They are ultra cheap, very weak, and difficult and unpleasant to use. You can bend them with bare hands!! We highly recommend upgrading stakes and specifically suggest considering one of the models from the right side of the photo below.
Stitching on the guy points good but not awesome. We haven't had any trouble with the seams under load but we believe that larger box stitching found on other shelters would hold up better under severe stress.
Adjustable linelocs would be much better than the Beta Light's perimeter loops because it would allow you to pitch the shelter easier and better in uneven terrain. The loops that ship with the shelter only work well in ideal campsites with soil that holds stakes well. Linelocs also make it easier to pith a shelter at ground level and to deal with the unavoidable sagging of silnylon in wet weather (instead of getting out of the tent just reach one hand out from underneath and tighten). This would bring the Beta Light close to the construction quality of Mountain Laurel Designs mids and it would significantly increase functionality for backpacking. Black Diamond should make linelocs a standard feature on the Beta Light. DIY Gear Supply has all the things for you to do it yourself.
From casual lazy summer backpacking trips to fast and light travel in exposed winter areas the Beta Light is capable of all types of activities in all conditions.
We plot retail prices and our scores for each tent in a Price Versus Value Chart.
The Black Diamond Beta Bug Shelter, $140, features a bathtub floor and bug netting for added protection.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: September 9, 2013
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