The Black Diamond Firstlight is a fantastic bivy tent for particular applications and conditions where its low weight and exceptional packed size become the most critical aspects. It's great for alpine climbing, multi-day ski touring, or any trip where packed size and minimal weight far supersede comfort and livability. It's decent for short afternoon thunderstorms but is not ideal in the rain. It's one of the lightest tents in our review and packs up smaller than a Nalgene bottle (not including the poles). It performs best in dry or below freezing conditions, where all precipitation is frozen. Along with the Black Diamond HiLight, it's also the only tent we tested that's not wholly waterproof.
Black Diamond Firstlight Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Crazy lightweight, most packable in our review, fits anywhere two people could lay down, along with the HiLight it is the lightest model to feature bug netting
Cons: Not waterproof, not as strong as many other options we tested, small interior living space
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Despite some new competition in the market, the Black Diamond Firstlight is still one of the best bivy tents out there. While it doesn't do everything incredibly well, it's a fantastic option for trips where the weather is likely to be good, and weight and packed size are your top priorities. It's one of the absolute lightest models and compresses down to the smallest size of any model we tested. It isn't waterproof — you'll get dripped on in a storm — and the walls will become thoroughly saturated, soaking anything that touches them. It can decently handle wind but isn't nearly as strong as most of the models in this review. This is not our first pick for spending lots of time inside; however, it's a reliable option for fast and light trips where weight and packed size matter the most.
Ease of Set-Up
This 4 season tent pitches from the inside, with the ends of the poles inserted into reinforced corners, and Velcro strips that wrap around the poles. These strips are located at various points in the tent to help keep them in place. As a whole, the tent walls support the poles well. Set up can be tough to learn, but it gets easier the more you practice.
If it isn't super windy out, we like to set it up while standing up - versus getting inside of the tent. Because of its size, this model is a little easier to setup than the cramped Rab Latok, which has a similar design but is even smaller.
Weather resistance is the biggest trade-off with this model.
This contender uses fabric that is highly water resistant, though not waterproof. It performs best in dry conditions or when it is well below freezing (if it's precipitating), as the drier snow won't saturate the fabric as quickly.
The Firstlight is okay when used in light rainstorms, but with heavy rain, wet snow, or extended rainstorms, the fabric will become thoroughly saturated, and you'll get some (or a fair amount of) dripping on the inside, no matter how well you seam sealed it.
For milder weather conditions, the fabric on this model is more breathable than others. You can also leave the door partially or fully open. It does okay in moderate wind, but with its basic design and minimal guy points, it's straight-up not as robust in the wind as the BD Eldorado.
Bivy tents are relatively cramped and uncomfortable. We don't recommend them for anything but alpine climbing, multi-day ski touring, or any other trip where the user is willing to sacrifice comfort for weight savings and maximum packability.
This tent used to be considered micro, with only 27 square feet of interior floor space. Now it's small, but not tiny. While 27 square feet isn't big, you can still fit two regular-sized pads side-by-side with no problem., however people taller than six feet will have their heads and feet touch the ends of the tents.
No ultralight tent, especially one this light, is that durable. The reason to buy a tent like this is for its low weight and minimum bulk, rather than longevity and toughness.
If you like it, but want something a little (or rather a lot, in this case) more durable, consider the marginally larger Black Diamond Eldorado (5 pounds 1 ounce). If you're careful with this investment, it can last a hundred days of use or more, but you have to put in a little extra effort to keep from tearing it.
The Firstlight has a relatively fragile sil-nylon floor that doesn't hold up to rocks or sharp pine cones well; take care when pitching it in particularly rocky places. The fabric is not waterproof even to begin with, but it does keep the water resistance over a decent amount of time, provided that care is taken to dry it out and keep it clean.
Without guylines, this model weighs a mere 2 pounds 13 ounce and 3 pounds 5 ounce with everything you really need to make it functional (guylines, pole bag, etc.). When it came out, it was game-changing, thanks to its low weight.
Minimal weight and crazy small packed size are why you buy this tent. In some cases, it is even half the size of most other single wall tents! Seriously, the body packs up smaller than a Nalgene bottle, and the poles break down to some of the shortest in the review!
This tent isn't super adaptable or versatile, mainly because it's not waterproof, not super strong, and tiny. However, it performs well in desert climates because its relatively cool and can provide a nice place to hang out while being protected from the sun.
It does have bug netting, allowing you to ventilate when the bugs are horrible, which we felt was a HUGE advantage for climbing in the lower-48 and Southern Canada and a feature that one of this model's closest competitors, the MSR Advance Pro, doesn't have. In an alpine environment, this tent rarely has the problem of finding a site (or ledge) big enough to set the tent upon because of the small footprint which can be pitched almost anywhere that two people can lay down.
While this tent doesn't have a lot of extra features, it prioritizes low weight and minimum bulk. It does offer a small vent on the back and a little awning on the front to help with ventilation. It features a bug screen mesh door on its only entrance and two small pockets. That's about it, but did we mention how small this tent packs up?
This tent is a great value. If you have the cash to push the performance envelope and want a marginally more versatile bivy tent, we think it's worthwhile to cough up even more to invest in the MSR Advance Pro.
The Black Diamond Firstlight is pretty sweet for what it's designed for; fast and light trips where weight and packed size matter the most. If you want a tent that will hold up in storms, is more versatile or is just comfortable to hang out in, regardless of the length of the trip, we recommend considering a different model.
— Ian Nicholson