Reviews You Can Rely On

Black Diamond HiLight Review

One of the best bivy-style tents for fair weather trips near and below treeline camping where its huge mesh door lets air circulate without letting the bugs in
black diamond hilight 4 season tent review
Credit: Black Diamond
Price:  $500 List
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 11, 2022
64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 17
  • Weight - 27% 10.0
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 3.0
  • Livability - 18% 7.0
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 6.0
  • Durability - 10% 5.0
  • Versatility - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond HiLight is the 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. The Firstlight is about as weight-focused as it gets, while the HiLight features a short third pole to create more headroom and sports a massive door that makes up the entire side of the tent, complete with a mesh screen. While this model ranks among the lightest in our review, it isn't entirely waterproof. If it rains hard, you'll get wet.
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Extremely compact
Tons of ventilation
Big side door
Decent headroom for a bivy-tent
REASONS TO AVOID
Least storm resistant model in our review
Fabric isn't waterproof
Just so-so in moderate winds

Compare to Similar Products

 
black diamond hilight 4 season tent review
Awards   Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $500 List$500 List$626 List$449 List
$449.00 at REI
$450 List
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Pros Lightweight, extremely compact, tons of ventilation, big side door, decent headroom for a bivy-tentVersatile, handles moderate snow loads well, giant vestibule, roomy interior, easy to set-up, the vestibule is removable and can be left behind to save weight, handles condensation wellBomber, light and compact, small footprint lets it be pitched anywhereLightweight for a double wall tent, inexpensive, versatile, easy set-up, interior fabric handles condensation well, and longer-than-average dimensions make this a better option for taller peopleCrazy lightweight, most packable in our review, fits anywhere two people could lay down, features bug netting
Cons Least storm resistant model in our review, fabric isn't waterproof, just so-so in moderate windsRespectable size and weight for how spacious it isNo bug netting, not very breathable, only 24 square feet of interior spaceTiny vestibule, one of the weakest 3(.5)-pole designs in our review, only one doorNot waterproof, not as strong as many other options we tested, small interior living space
Bottom Line One of the best bivy-style tents for fair weather trips near and below treeline camping where its huge mesh door lets air circulate without letting the bugs inIt converts nicely in both 3-season and 4-season conditions, and has a huge vestibule and spacious dimensionsPerfect for trips where weight and packed volume are at a premiumA solid 4-season shelter at an excellent price. Great for summertime mountaineering or winter camping near treelineA fantastic bivy tent for alpine climbing or multi-day ski touring, as long as the weather is decent
Rating Categories Black Diamond HiLight Sierra Designs Conv... MSR Advance Pro REI Arete ASL 2 Black Diamond First...
Weight (27%)
10.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
10.0
Weather/Storm Resistance (25%)
3.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
Livability (18%)
7.0
5.0
3.0
7.0
7.0
Ease of Set-up (10%)
6.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Versatility (10%)
6.0
10.0
3.0
8.0
4.0
Specs Black Diamond HiLight Sierra Designs Conv... MSR Advance Pro REI Arete ASL 2 Black Diamond First...
Minimum Weight (only tent, fly & poles) 3.75lbs 5.88 lbs 2.88 lbs 5.75 lbs 2.8 lbs
Floor Dimensions 82 x 50 x 42 x 40 in 84" x 55 in. (at head) x 49 in. (at feet) 82" x 42 in 88 x 57/60/44 in 82 x 48 x 42
Peak Height 40 in 43 in 44 in 43 in 41 in
Measured Weight, with tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag 4 lbs 4.1 lbs 3.22 lbs 6.25 lbs 3.15 lbs
Type Single Wall Double Wall Single Wall Double Wall Single Wall
Packed Size 6 x 9 in 7" x 15.75 in. 6 x 18 in 6 x 6 x 20 in 6 x 9 in
Floor Area 27.3 sq ft 30.3 sq. ft. 24 sq ft 32.9 sq ft 27.3 sq ft
Vestibule Area N/A 16.4 sq. ft. 0 sq ft 8.7 sq ft N/A
Number of Doors 1 0.32 in. 1 1 1
Number of Poles 3 1 1 4 2
Pole Diameter 8 mm 9 mm 9.3 mm 8 mm
Number of Pockets Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0 Side: 2 Ceiling: 2 Side: 2 Ceiling: 0
Pole Material Aluminum Yunan UL Aluminum Easton Syclone Aluminum Aluminum
Rainfly Fabric NanoShield 20D Nylon Ripstop, Silicone/1200mm PeU 20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm Nylon ripstop NanoShield
Floor Fabric 70-denier polyester 68D 210T Poly Ripstop DWR/2000MM PeU 30D ripstop nylon 3000mm Durashield polyurethane & DWR Nylon taffeta 70-denier polyester

Our Analysis and Test Results

Hands-On Review of the HiLight


The Black Diamond HiLight is a super lightweight shelter that offers better livability and more ventilation than most other "bivy-style" tents. That said, it isn't completely waterproof and fairs poorly in moderate to strong winds. It's fine for short-duration rain or afternoon thunderstorms, but you'll likely get wet in prolonged rain and snow.
black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the hilight has great headroom and ventilation and is one of the...
The HiLight has great headroom and ventilation and is one of the lightest and most compressible models in our review. The only downside of this tent is that it's not nearly as storm worthy as most other models. This review contains photos from both the old green version and the newer blue one. These models feature different fabrics but are dimensionally the same.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Set-Up


The HiLight requires a similar set-up to other single-wall tents. You pitch from the inside, and the poles are secured by little velcro loops and supported by the body of the tent itself. All the tents in our review that pitch from the inside was the hardest to set up. That said, an internal pole set-up should is not a deal-breaker and all of our testers got better at pitching them with practice.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the hilight has a lot of advantages such as being light, compact and...
The Hilight has a lot of advantages such as being light, compact and offering reasonably 3-season performance but the ease of pitching is not one of them. This tent requires it to be pitched from the inside which we found is best done from a standing position. It should be noted at care needs to be taken not to damage the poles or the tent particularly if pitching it in stormier conditions.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Most of the single-wall models that are pitched from the inside only have two poles. This one has a third half-length pole that slides in a while you stand on the outside of the tent after inserting the two primary poles. It's easy to put in but occasionally tricky to get out, particularly in windy conditions. The Hilight offer several advantages, but a hassle-free setup isn't one of them.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - this tent pitches from the inside, which is slower and takes a...
This tent pitches from the inside, which is slower and takes a little more time to get proficient at. To pitch this model you climb inside and place the ends of the poles in the reinforced corners. The poles are held in place by the shape of the tent itself and also these small Velcro flaps shown here.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weather and Storm Resistance


The HiLight uses the same proprietary NanoShield fabric as the Firstlight, which is water-resistant and not waterproof. In light rain or passing thunderstorms, this model offers reasonably water-resistant. In any sort of sustained rain or damp snow, the tent walls become completely saturated, quickly soaking anything that touches them.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the hilight only has four guyline points and barely comes with...
The HiLight only has four guyline points and barely comes with enough cord to make these four guylines. They certainly help and should be considered mandatory to put on for anyone traveling above treeline in this tent.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The HiLight is a 4 season tent, but only barely. It is not as wind-resistant as the Firstlight and is the least strong tent in this review. 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. The tent's four primary guy points help, but this is not a tent for stronger, sustained winds.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - this tent didn't have great wind resistance. the pole on the awning...
This tent didn't have great wind resistance. The pole on the awning acts as a sail in high winds and strains the main poles
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The advantage of the HiLight is that it has far better ventilation and headroom options for the majority of the time when the weather is nicer. One entire side of the tent zips open, exposing a huge mesh door. The top 1/3 of the non-door side opens to expose a mesh panel. It has as much ventilation as you could possibly need. In light rain, the third pole creates two awnings to allow its occupants to keep the top of the door open without letting rain in.

Weight and packed size


At three pounds 8 ounces for just the tent and poles and three pounds 15 ounces for the tent plus the essentials (stakes, guylines, pole bag, etc.), the HiLight is in line with the lightest tents in our review. While a lot of the models were more-or-less identical in weight and had vastly superior weather resistance, they didn't have near as good ventilation or as much headroom as the HiLight.

While the HiLight has a number of models that were similar in weight, it, along with the FirstLight were the two most compressible models in our review and were at least 25% smaller than the next closest model and packed into a size smaller than a 1-liter Nalgene (excluding the poles).

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the sweetest part about the hilight, at least during nice weather...
The sweetest part about the HiLight, at least during nice weather, is its huge door that allows one whole side of the tent to be zipped open. There is a second large vent the same width as the door that only unzips about halfway down the tent.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Livability and Comfort


The HiLight features 27 sq ft of interior space, and 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 particularly nice for sloping platforms where both people will likely want their heads on the uphill end. We tried 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.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the sweetest part about the hilight, at least during nice weather...
The sweetest part about the HiLight, at least during nice weather, is its huge door that allows one whole side of the tent to be zipped open. There is a second large vent the same width as the door that only unzips about halfway down the tent.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

One of the main reasons to buy this tent is its full side door which drastically increases the livability and comfort of this tent. And it's just plain sweet. Even when the mesh door is closed to keep the bugs out, this tent feels a lot more spacious because the door zips open to the ground. The opposite side of the tent features a second half-sized bug screen flap window that is well covered by an awning. It can be used in light rain with the door partially open to create excellent cross-ventilation.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the hilight has a third pole that creates an awning for the door and...
The HiLight has a third pole that creates an awning for the door and the vent, letting you ventilate during rain or snow storms. This worked great as long as it wasn't windy. If it was windy, this awning would act as a mini sail, and this tent would get pushed around a bit.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Adaptability and Versatility


Unlike several of the other super-light bivy-style tents in this review, the HiLight features a lot of bug netting to facilitate 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.

While the HiLight's inability to completely seal out the elements and generally poor strong wind performance keeps it from being super versatile, it is far better in 3-season conditions than the majority of single wall tents.

Should You Buy the Black Diamond Hilight


The Hilight is best suited for mostly fair-weather adventures. It shines if you are "pickier" about the weather and rarely face storms. It's among the lightest and most compact models we tested. It has excellent ventilation and decent livable space (for a bivy tent). It is one of the better single-wall tents for lower elevation or warmer nights. The large mesh door and window let air circulate while keeping the critters out. That said, it is not all that versatile due to its poor performance in wetter weather or strong winds. It's a great option if you are frequently using it in 3-season conditions below treeline. If you're at higher elevations and expect moderate to strong winds or heavy precipitation, get something else.

black diamond hilight 4 season tent review - the hilight isn't the most versatile tent but for those embarking on...
The Hilight isn't the most versatile tent but for those embarking on trips where they can be more selective about the weather and weight and packed size are at a premium this tent is a great option with a lot more "comfort and livability" than a Firstlight.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

What other 4-season tent should you should consider besides the Black Diamond Hilight


For most people, the Black Diamond Eldorado is going to be better. It is double the price and heavier but is a true 4-season tent. If you want to go lighter yet (and less versatile), the Black Diamond Firstlight is a few ounces lighter and a little more packable. You lose a little headroom and a much smaller door, but it is lighter weight. It shares the same mediocre storm performance. If you like the overall design of this model but want something waterproof, check out the slightly bigger and far more storm-resistant Black Diamond Ahwahnee. The downside of the Ahwahnee is it's over 2 lbs heavier and much more expensive.

Ian Nicholson
 
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