While not super versatile, it's the best bivy-style tent for fair weather trips and below treeline camping where its huge mesh door lets air circulate without letting the bugs in
Price: $450 List | $449.95 at AmazonPros: 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
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-weighted models.
Black Diamond updated this tent. Find more info below.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Since our test period, Black Diamond released an updated version of the HiLight. The new model, shown below in blue next to the green model we tested, sports dual vents along the ceiling of the tent, fully taped seams, and reflective guylines that are designed to be three times stronger than before. The updated tent also features a new 30D poly fabric instead of the previous model's nylon Nanoshield.
We're linking to the newest model above, but the review below still tells our account of the older version.
Hands-On Review of the HiLight
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 is that it is not entirely waterproof and performs just so-so in moderate to strong 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 two pounds 10 ounces for just tent and poles and three pounds two ounces 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 had vastly superior weather resistance, but 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. The HiLight and FirstLight are two of the most compressible models in our review.
Livability and Comfort
The HiLight is 27 sq ft; 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.
At this price point, it's one of the more reasonably priced 4 season tents in our review. Value is a little more relative because it's only ideal for certain types 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 it's a poor model to own if you can only have one 4 season tent.
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.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.