The Black Diamond HiLight is the marginally more three-season oriented and more livable cousin to the popular Black Diamond Firstlight. The two use the same super lightweight and ultra compressible fabric and are both pretty comparable in overall weight. The Firstlight has a pretty minimal two-pole design with one tiny door, while the HiLight features a short third pole to create more headroom and sports a huge door that makes up the entire side of the tent, complete with a mesh screen. The Firstlight handles wind a little better because it doesn't have the third pole, which can act like a sail and cause some severe stress on the HiLight when winds get much stronger than 35-40mph. While both of these models are among the lightest in our review, it's worth noting that neither one is entirely waterproof. If it rains hard enough, the fabric gets saturated, and water will drip through onto you. However, for fairweather trips where the worst weather you might expect is an afternoon thunderstorm, the HiLight is far nicer to hang out in compared to the burlier but equal weight models. For example, the MSR Advance Pro is about the same weight and far more storm worthy, but has a smaller interior space without the bug netting, which can be a bummer for nights spent below treeline.
Black Diamond HiLight Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, extremely compact, tons of ventilation, big side door is sweet, descent headroom for a bivy-tent
Cons: Least storm resistant model in our review, fabric isn't waterproof, just so-so in moderate winds
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond HiLight has decent headroom and excellent ventilation and is among the lightest and most compressible models in our review. The only downside of the HiLight is that it is not entirely waterproof and performs just so-so in moderate to stronger winds. This tent is best suited for mostly fair-weather adventures, where the worst weather that one might encounter is a few hours of light rain or a short afternoon thunderstorm. Luckily, these are the type of trips most people embark on and when not faced with gnarlier weather the HiLight excels because you get a lightweight tent with top-notch ventilation and descent livable space (at least for a bivy tent).
Ease of Set-Up
The HiLight is similar in its ease of set-up to other single wall tents that you pitch from the inside. All the tents in our review that pitched form the inside were not as easy to set-up as models that pitched from the outside, but we did get better at pitching them with practice. Most of the single wall models that pitched from the inside only have two poles, but this one has a third half-length pole. It doesn't add much of a challenge, as you slide in through while standing on the outside of the tent after inserting the two primary poles. Our testing team found this pretty easy to put into the two grommets that hold it in place, but occasionally felt it was tricky to get out, particularly in windy conditions.
Weather and Storm Resistance
The HiLight uses the same NanoShield fabric as the Firstlight. NanoShield is Black Diamond's proprietary water resistant/breathable single-layer fabric. While reasonably water resistant at first, after plenty of days of use, it did a poor job of keeping us dry. The fabric becomes 100% saturated in wet snow or a rainstorm, and if it's really pouring the water will drip through onto you. If you brush up against the sides you'll get wet as well. In high humidity environments the NanoShield fabric was not very breathable either, and with two people inside you'll get a fair amount of condensation.
The advantage of the HiLight is that it has far better ventilation options for nice weather, with the big mesh door, and in poor weather the large awning keeps the top of the door covered.
The HiLight is also not quite as wind-resistant as the Firstlight and overall is likely the least strong tent in this review. We think the HiLight is indeed a 4 season tent, but only barely. Its 1/2-length third pole acts as a mini sail and can strain the rest of the poles in winds of only 35-40 mph.
Weight and packed size
At 2 lbs 10 ounces for just tent and poles and 3 lb 2 oz for the tent plus the essentials (stakes, guylines, pole bag, etc) the HiLight is one of the very lightest tents in our review.
Several other tents were more-or-less identical in weight and had vastly superior weather resistance, like the MSR Advance Pro, but it didn't have good ventilation, as much headroom, or as much floor space as the HiLight.
One of the best parts of the HiLight is how compact it is. This and the Firstlight are the two most compressible models in our review, and even though they are similar in weight to the MSR Advance Pro, they pack down about 25% smaller.
Livability and Comfort
The HiLight is 27 sq ft, the same as the Firstlight and The North Face Assault 2, but all of our testers agree that the HiLight feels a little bigger than them.
Unlike most two pole bivy tents, the HiLight is not designed for its occupants to sleep head-to-foot. Instead, it features an asymmetric design with one end being much wider than the other to help better accommodate people both sleeping with their heads at the same end. This can be particularity nice for sloping platforms where both people will likely want their heads on the uphill end. We did try sleeping head-to-foot in this tent on several occasions, and while there is marginally less shoulder room on the narrower end for the person whose head is down there, it wasn't too bad at all.
One of the main reasons to buy this tent is its full side door. Even when the mesh door is closed to keep the bugs out, but the main door is left open, this tent feels a lot more spacious. There is also a second-half sized bug screen flap that is well covered by an awning and creates excellent ventilation.
Adaptability and Versatility
Unlike several of the other super-light bivy-style tents in this review, the HiLight features bug netting and tons of ventilation. If we knew we were going to bring this tent backpacking occasionally, or we lived someplace with generally nicer weather like the Sierras, we'd much prefer to have the HiLight over the Firstlight.
This is a sweet tent, but it's not as good for a wide range of conditions and applications. If your weather outlook is pretty good, it's a nice and light option that is more, comfortable to hang out.It's best for summer-time mountaineering. If you like the design of the HiLight but wish it was more versatile, be sure to check out the Black Diamond Ahwahnee, which is heavier, but far more storm worthy.
We've used the HiLight many times on multi-day ski tours and alpine climbs, and it works great so long as the weather is relatively good. If you anticipate significant precipitation or wind, this tent isn't the best. If you are sleeping in it by yourself, you can stretch the conditions you can use it in because you aren't necessarily forced up against the walls and can situate yourself in the middle of the tent to minimize the amount you'll get dripped on or slapped with flapping wet fabric.
At $400, this is one of the more reasonably priced 4 season tents in our review. Value is a little more relative on the HiLight because we feel that its only good for certain type of fair weather trips. On these types of trips its a lot nicer than many other single wall models because of its large mesh vents and small packed size, but its a poor model to own if you can only have one 4 season tent. If that's the case, The North Face Assault is a better option. It's marginally heavier and less compressible, but is more versatile and completely waterproof, with decent ventilation and a vestibule. The only models that cost less than the HiLight were the slightly more wind resistant ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 ($350), and our Best Buy for a Double Wall tent, the REI Arete ASL 2 ($360).
The Black Diamond HiLight is super light and compact, and while it is great for certain types of trips, it isn't super versatile overall. If you're using it as a solo tent or you don't expect much more than the occasional afternoon squall, then it works great. If you're at higher elevations and expect moderate to strong winds or heavy precipitation, look for something else. It's the best tent for lower elevation or warmer nights because of its large mesh door and window that lets air circulate while keeping the critters out. If you like this tent but wish it was a little more versatile, check out The North Face Assault 2, our Best Buy for a Single Wall Tent winner.
— Ian Nicholson