Updated Beta Light
In 2021, Black Diamond updated the Beta Light tent. The updated version is made from 30D polyester instead of the previous version's 30D nylon. The latest version also includes a bug skirt to keep insects out. Compare the two below; the model we tested is pictured first, followed by the 2021 update.
We're now linking to this new model, but the review to follow pertains only to the older tent.
Hands-On Review of the Beta Light
The Beta Light is one of the lightest tents that Black Diamond makes, making it a top contender in our ultralight tent review. Made of 30 denier SilNylon, and requiring two adjustable trekking or ski poles to set up, it is about as simple as a two-person shelter can get. It does well in weather with great livable space.
The Beta Light set up in Bhimtang, with the 8000m peak Manaslu towering above on the left. We found this tent large enough for three to hang out and play cards at night or while it was storming.
When it comes to Livability, we loved how much space this tent has on the inside. Not only is it plenty tall enough to sit up comfortably (even for a 6 ft man), but its long, rectangular shape allows two people to comfortably sleep side by side, with a couple of feet of room to spare by the door for storing gear or cooking. This means you can easily pack gear inside or cook with a little extra room. Not only that, but its complete enclosure also means it offers privacy.
That said, this is a single wall, floorless tent, so there are a few drawbacks when it comes to livability. You'll need a ground tarp for sleeping on the bare ground, and it does not have built-in bug protection. If the bugs are light, it is possible to erect the tent with virtually no gap to the ground, but this setup leads to condensation problems since it cuts out all airflow. Black Diamond sells a Beta Bug Tent modular insert, and this could be an excellent setup for short term protection when needed. However, the bug tent alone weighs over two pounds, making it considerably heavier than the tent by itself.
Elizabeth demonstrating the ample amount of room inside the Beta Light, and also how both front door flaps can be fastened back for greater airflow. With two interior poles, there are few options for adjusting the layout inside, but we didn't find this to be a problem.
Weighing in on our independent scale at a mere 1 pound 1.3 ounces (without the included stakes), it'll feel like you're carrying hardly anything in your backpack.
The stakes that it comes with weigh an additional 3.8 ounces, and while they are functional, they are not nearly as light as they could be; ultralight enthusiasts will surely want to replace them with stakes of their choice.
Everything that comes included with the Beta Light. Tent on the left, stakes and pouch center, and perfectly tiny stuff sack on the right. While this tent does come with stakes, we don't think they are very high quality, or lightweight, and would replace them. Also needed to complete the setup is two adjustable trekking poles.
A side by side comparison of the two smallest stuffing shelters in this review, the HMG Square Flat Tarp on the right, and the Black Diamond Beta Light (with stakes included!) on the left. These shelters define "Take anywhere."
With a two-poled pyramid design with a single wall and an open floor, this tent does well it most weather. It has seven different stake out points, four at the corners, two in the middle of the long walls, and one at the door, all of which you will need for optimal weather resistance. This design was one of the most stable in the wind, offering great functionality in the alpine where the weather can change quickly.
Unlike the UltaMid 2, the Beta Light is made of silnylon rather than Dyneema Composite Fiber. This fabric makes it slightly heavier, but also not as waterproof in heavy rain.
The snow storm is just beginning, and in order to fully seal this tent off from any wind entering, which is sorta hard to do, we chose to line the edges with rocks to pin it down. Over a foot would fall this evening at 15,000ft.
It also does not come seam-sealed, or give you the option of paying extra for seam sealing. We spent a couple of nights in this tent in the Himalayas when it snowed heavily on us, and this is one of the few designs in this review that is capable of functioning well as a four-season tent, rather than just during the warmer months. Its steep walls shed water, wind, and snow just fine. It's a favorite amongst guides for its reputation to really stand up to the "stuff".
After about an hour of snowfall, the SilNylon Beta Light has begun to absorb a bit of moisture and the fabric is stretching and sagging a bit, a drawback of SilNylon. Even if we hadn't put these rocks in place, there are few options for re-tensioning this tent except adjusting the location of the stakes.
Adaptability is primarily the function of a tent intended to be used in most situations or circumstances. Although it has a fixed method of pitching, and can only be set up in one way, we never-the-less thought of it as one of the most adaptable tents in this review. It is capable of withstanding the wind and snow loads of winter, making it a genuinely four-season tarp. Many expeditions like to take a floorless pyramid tent with them for use in base camp as a cook tent or hang out tent — and these designs can become a whole lot "taller" by digging out the snow underneath them until there is enough headroom for standing up inside. Setting it up on the snow and then digging out one side can leave a nice bench for cooking and sleeping on (with a waterproof tarp and insulated sleeping pad), and the pyramidal design easily sheds snow without risk of collapsing.
That said, the fixed design could not be set up in nearly as many ways as a flat tarp, and there is also the issue of no bug protection built-in. If the bugs are not terrible, resolve this issue by setting the tent up low to the ground; if you think there's potential to get eaten alive, we recommend using the Beta Bug Tent insert. We also wish that this tent had line locks and adjustable cinch cord for staking and guying out, but instead, it just has fixed length staking out cord tied in large loops in all the essential places. This loop is big enough for looping around massive rocks, or burying in the snow as a deadman, but is not as easily adjustable as those tents with line locks. Overall, though, this is indeed a tent that is adaptable to almost any circumstance or situation.
Either side of the Beta Light can be pulled completely back and fastened open, as shown here, if you would like more of an open tarp configuration.
Ease of Set-up
To set up the Beta Light, all one must do is stake out the four corners of the tent to the ground, then open up the door and insert the two adjustable trekking poles into the eaves of the fabric. Crawling back outside, one can then stake out the two sides and the door, and make any adjustments for tautness as needed. We thought that it was the single easiest tent to set up with one person in tough weather that used adjustable trekking poles, a virtue if you are trying to beat the inclement weather and stay dry.
The stake-out points on this tent have two fixed lengths — either very short and close to the fabric for staking it out flush with the ground, or long loops of cordage for staking it out with a gap above the ground, or for using rocks or deadmen as anchors.
We feel like the Beta Light is the single quickest and easiest shelter in this review to set up. While we are shown setting it up here with two people, it is also very simple for one. Simply stake out all four corners, then crawl inside and erect the two adjustable poles, as shown. Lastly, add stakes to the two sides and door.
While this system does work and is simple, it is not very adjustable or as easy as the cord lock systems.
The stake out points on this tent are not adjustable, but are rather fixed very short by staking out the black cordura shown, or by using the long loop of cordage tied on. Here Paulo is wrapping the cordage loop around a rock to hold tension in lieu of using a stake.
This tent retails at a low price, making it super affordable. It presents a fantastic value, especially for those seeking an ultralight tent that is spacious and adaptable, with uses throughout all four seasons. However, buyers should be aware that without a floor, they will also want to buy some form of lightweight ground cloth, will need two adjustable trekking poles, and will most likely want to replace the stakes with seven lighter weight and more durable ones.
Breaking down camp before heading up the Larkya La Pass, up the valley to the left, which at nearly 17,000ft. is the high point of the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal. The central valley leads straight up to Tibet.
The Black Diamond Beta Light is our Best Bang for the Buck award winner because it is one of the most affordable options that we tested, while also managing to perform better than most. It is especially easy to set up and adaptable to all sorts of circumstances, while still protecting well from the weather and providing plenty of space for interior comfort. For those looking for a small and lightweight backpacking shelter at a low price, we highly recommend this tent.
The Beta Light has a single door which is tall enough to easily crawl in and out of this tent. However, if ventilation is needed on a hot day, the right hand flap can also be held open.