The Black Diamond Beta Light is a single wall, floorless tent that uses two adjustable trekking or ski poles to set up. It scored near the top of every metric that we assessed for, and was thus the second highest scoring tent in our review. With an incredibly low price of only $200, it was a no brainer for our Best Bang for the Buck award. Its most notable features included packing down smaller than any other tent in this review, and having plenty of living space inside for two people and their gear, not to mention room for cooking or an extra person to hang out during a storm. While we can think of a couple of things to complain about, that doesn't take away from the fact that this adaptable tent really can do it all, and comes highly recommended.
Black Diamond Beta Light Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Plenty of room for two people plus gear, adaptable for four season use, very affordable
Cons: Does not come with floor or bug protection, single wall means potential condensation problems, needs to be seam sealed
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Weighing in at a mere 1 pound 5.6 ounces, including the tent and stakes, the Beta Light is the lightest tent 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, and was the easiest tent in this review to set up. There's plenty of room inside for two people to sleep, as well as store gear, or even cook inside if it is stormy out. It also has the adaptability of being set up with a gap above the ground for increased air flow, or low to the ground to create a better seal if the wind is whipping. We also found it to be one of the most stable tents in the wind. All these great features (plus the fact that it was the second most affordable tent in this review at only $200 made it a natural choice for our Best Bang for the Buck Award. For reference, this tent is $515 cheaper than the other single wall pyramid we tested, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2.
All the positives aside, there were still a few things we felt could be improved with this simple tent. It doesn't have built in bug protection, and the Beta Bug Tent insert that Black Diamond sells for it, which also includes a bathtub floor, will set you back another $165, but even worse weighs over two pounds by itself. As a single wall tent, we found that condensation was indeed an issue, especially if you set it up low to the ground to protect better from the wind. Two trekking poles are needed for set-up (Black Diamond does not sell modular poles to be used instead of trekking or ski poles), and the dual interior pole design somewhat limits the options for different internal arrangements, especially for one person. Lastly, it does not come seam sealed (we recommend that you do this on your own before using), and the included stakes are a bit heavy and not as durable as we'd like. When added together, these complaints are minor and can be overcome; we still feel that this is one of the best ultralight tents available today - at a fantastic low price.
The Beta Light is a two-poled pyramid design that has a single wall and an open floor. It has seven different stake out points, four at the corners, two in the middle of the long walls, and one at the door, each of which has to be implemented for optimal weather resistance. This design was one of the most stable in the wind, right up there with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2, which was its most similar competition.
Unlike the UltaMid 2, the Beta Light is made of SilNylon rather than Dyneema Composite Fiber. This makes it slightly heavier, but also not as waterproof in a heavy rain.
It also does not come seam sealed, or give you the option of paying extra for seam sealing, like some of the smaller manufacturers do, like we had done for us on the Six Moons Designs Haven Tarp. 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.
When it comes to Livability, we loved how much space the Beta Light has on the inside. Not only is it plenty tall enough to sit up comfortably inside, 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. Except for the UltaMid 2, this was the most spacious design we tested, and 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. A ground tarp is needed 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 larger condensation problems since it cuts out all airflow. Black Diamond sells a Beta Bug Tent modular insert for only $165, and this could be a great setup for short term protection when needed. However, the bug tent alone weighs over two pounds, making it considerably heavier than the Beta Light tent by itself. Although it has lots of interior space, at the end of the day this tent was not as comfortable as our Editors' Choice winning Zpacks Duplex, which was also comfortably roomy inside and had built in bug netting with a floor.
Weighing in on our independent scale at a mere 1 pound 1.3 ounces (without the included stakes), the Beta Light was the third lightest tent in this review. The stakes that it comes with weigh an additional 3.8oz., 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.
Only the two tarps in this test — the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp and the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo — were lighter than the Beta Light but did not offer either the same level of weather protection or the enclosed privacy. It also has the distinction of packing down into the smallest sack of any tent we tested, so there are a lot of attributes to love about this pyramid.
Adaptability is primarily the function of a tent to be able to be used in the most possible different 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 that the Beta Light was one of the most adaptable tents in this review. Like the HMG UltaMid 2, 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 head room for standing up inside. Setting it up on 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 the HMG Square Flat Tarp, and there is also the issue of no bug protection built in. If the bugs are not terrible, this issue can be solved 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, just has fixed length staking out cord tied in large loops in all the necessary 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.
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. While this system does work and is simple, it is not as adjustable or as easy as the cord lock systems found on the HMG UltaMid 2, or the MLD Grace Tarp Duo. We found this tent to be about as easy as the Nemo Hornet 2P, which is a dedicated-pole double wall tent, to set up.
Due to its very light weight, the Beta Light could be considered an ultralight option for one person or two. It is spacious and adaptable and is a great choice for thru-hikers wanting privacy, or for backpackers that like space but don't need a floor. It is also a good option for winter camping as long as the rest of your kit is up to the task. As a base camp option, users should beware that two poles will need to be dedicated to keeping the tent erect, so it makes a better tent for ski touring than ski base camping.
This tent retails for $200, making it the second most affordable option in this review. Since it scores so highly in our comparative rankings, it was an easy choice for our Best Bang for the Buck award, and we think it presents a fantastic value. 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.
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 very small and lightweight backpacking shelter at a low price, we highly recommend this tent.
— Andy Wellman