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Black Diamond Mega Light Review

This huge tent is an affordable choice for backcountry basecamps.
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Price:  $320 List | $219.93 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Huge but still lightweight, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Silnylon absorbs water and stretches, you'll need to seam seal it yourself
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Amber King & Matt Bento  ⋅  Oct 29, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 19
  • Livability - 30% 8
  • Weight - 25% 3
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Adaptability - 10% 8
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Mega Light is a workingman's ultralight tarp shelter. As guides, some of us have logged hundreds of nights in one of these simple tents, waiting out storms and keeping loads gear dry for the next day. We appreciate them for their livability, adaptability, and value. Oh, and the Mega Light is enormous! We can spend weeks in this tent because of all the space for gear and cooking, and it fits four with room to spare. On spring ski tours, this tent becomes the roof a snow palace you can stand up in while you stay out of the wind or hide from the retina-frying sun. The Mega Light has its flaws, and it's one of the heaviest tents in the ultralight category.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $219.93 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Huge but still lightweight, relatively inexpensiveAmazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doorsGreat weather protection, lightweight, adaptableRoomy, easy to setup, fully enclosed, affordableUnder a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included
Cons Silnylon absorbs water and stretches, you'll need to seam seal it yourselfExpensive, doesn’t include necessary stakesExpensiveHeavier, design not quite as wind stable as double vestibule optionsExpensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
Bottom Line This huge tent is an affordable choice for backcountry basecamps.Ample space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelter.This is the shelter you want when waiting out a storm.An affordable fully enclosed single person shelter that we love.Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Mega Light ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade Tarptent StratoSpire Li Gossamer Gear The One Tarptent Aeon Li
Livability (30%)
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8
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8
Weight (25%)
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9
Weather Resistance (25%)
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7
Adaptability (10%)
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Ease Of Set Up (10%)
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Specs Black Diamond Mega... ZPacks Duplex Flex... Tarptent... Gossamer Gear The... Tarptent Aeon Li
Type Floorless Pyramid Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ removable floor and bug netting Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor
Weight with all components 2.46 lbs 1.8 lbs 1.60 lbs 1.68 lbs 1.09 lbs
Measured Weight of All Included Shelter Parts Total: 2 lb. 7 oz Tent: 24.3 oz, Pole: 11.5 oz, Stakes: 3.5 oz Total: 1 lb. 5 oz Tent: 19.7 oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz. (Flex upgrade: 11oz) Total: 1 lb.10 oz, Floor and bug net: 11.5 oz, Fly: 14.1 oz Total: 1 lb. 6 oz., Tent: 1 lb. 5.1 oz., Extra tie outs: 0.5 oz., Stuff sack: 0.4 oz., Optional aluminum poles: 5.7 oz. Total: 1 lb. 1 oz., Tent with Bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz., Stakes: 1.7 oz.
Stakes Included? Yes No Yes No Yes
Poles Needed for Set-up? Yes Yes w/o flex kit
No w/ flex kit
Yes Yes Yes
Capacity 4 person 2 person 2 person 1 person 1 person
Max Floor Dimensions (inches) 86" x 86" 45" x 90" 86" x 45" 88" x 34" 88" x 30"
Peak Height (inches) 57" 48" 45" 46" 47"
Fabric 30D SilNylon .51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric Dyneema Composite Fabrics 7D high tenacity nylon-blended sil/pu coating Dyneema Composite Fabrics
Packed Size (inches) 5" x 10" 7" x 13" 16" x 4" 6" x 9" 14" x 4"
Floor Area 50.7 sq ft 28.13 sq ft 26.88 sq ft 19.55 sq ft 18.3 sq ft
Doors 1 2 2 1 1
Interior Pockets 0 2 2 1 1
Number of Poles 1 4 2 trekking poles 2 trekking poles 1 trekking pole
Number of Tie Outs 8 8 8 10 7
1-person version? No No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Mega Light can't match the weather-resistance and weight savings its competitors constructed from Dyneema composite fibers. Dyneema is lighter and waterproof, and it doesn't stretch when wet, while SilNylon tends to stretch when it gets wet. It can easily be set up high for increased airflow or guyed tightly to the ground to block rain and wind, or for a little extra privacy.

Performance Comparison


Bring along some extra cordage and the Mega Light becomes a very adaptable tent  allowing you to use boulders  trees  and logs as tie-down points.
Bring along some extra cordage and the Mega Light becomes a very adaptable tent, allowing you to use boulders, trees, and logs as tie-down points.

Liveability


Fifty square feet of living space is pretty posh for an ultralight tent; one or two can inhabit this area with plenty of room to spare for gear and cooking space. No tent manufacturer recommends cooking inside a flammable, meltable tent, but in bad weather, it can happen. Without a floor and a high center, we feel decent preparing meals inside this design, especially in windy conditions. There aren't many bells and whistles attached to this pyramid, but there are a few features that score it some liveability points.

At the apex of the tent is a large hole for ventilation (keeps the condensation down from all that cooking) with a hood to keep the rain out. This tent doesn't have any pockets, but there are a few tie-in points on the interior at the top of the tent. We like to string p-cord through the tie-ins for a place to hang socks, jackets, or anything else we need to dry. It has one huge door that can be rolled back and secured open for plenty of ventilation.

This tent packs away very small. You can use a trekking pole or a ski pole to support the center point instead of bringing the dedicated aluminum pole  but you'll either need to use two poles together or a pole on top of a rock to achieve the proper height. The Mega light includes some straps to so you can easily use two trekking poles together.
This tent packs away very small. You can use a trekking pole or a ski pole to support the center point instead of bringing the dedicated aluminum pole, but you'll either need to use two poles together or a pole on top of a rock to achieve the proper height. The Mega light includes some straps to so you can easily use two trekking poles together.

Weight


This tent packs down tiny in its included stuff sack, but combined with its single pole and stakes, it weighs 2.81 pounds, or 44 ounces, making it a heavy option for the ultralight category. If you carry trekking poles, you can use them together with the included pole connector and save money without carrying the pole. For ski touring, we like to bring the pole, as the Mega Light makes a great base camp tent that we like to leave up for days.

There isn't much in the way of bug protection unless you purchase the additional floor and bug net, doubling the price of this beast. If you set it up low to the ground, and keep the door closed, it's way better than sleeping out in the open, as our testers found while camping the buggy woods of western North Carolina.

Here our testers used some boulders to reinforce the stake placements in the shallow dirt. In snow  we would have used stuff sacks filled with snow or rocks and buried them.
Here our testers used some boulders to reinforce the stake placements in the shallow dirt. In snow, we would have used stuff sacks filled with snow or rocks and buried them.

Weather Resistance


With some strategy and rigging practice, it is an effectively weather-resistant option. Without a floor, you'll need a lightweight nylon tarp or a piece of Tyvek to keep your stuff off the wet ground. After spending many rainy nights under this tent in the forests of western North Carolina, our testers have a few techniques for staying dry without the optional floor. The key is selecting a site that's not in a depression, ideally at a slight angle, and then dig a shallow moat on the uphill side of the tent, causing water to flow around the tent.

Equally crucial in pre-rigging some adjustable guy lines to the tie-off points located on the exterior of the tent wall; then, you'll be able to tighten them if the silnylon starts to stretch. The seams need to be seam-sealed, and Black Diamond does offer a pre-sealed option. We know this may sound like a lot of work, but we feel like the cash saved makes up for it.

This tent is so big there's room for four  or room for one person to spawl or house lots of gear. With no floor and great ventilation  its also safer to cook inside the tent than other models  though this isn't recommended by the manufacturer.
This tent is so big there's room for four, or room for one person to spawl or house lots of gear. With no floor and great ventilation, its also safer to cook inside the tent than other models, though this isn't recommended by the manufacturer.

Adapatability


This tent can only set up if it's staked down or tied to some type of rock or snow anchors. Aside from not being freestanding, it is one of the most adaptable tents reviewed. It is great for snow camping, allowing you to dig out the snow underneath to construct a bench for sleeping. The Pyramid design sheds snow, but be sure you've guyed out the sided with adjustable lines in heavy snow.

This tent is very easy to set up. Just stake out the four corners and set up the center pole. However  it's difficult to re-tension the tie down points unless you make your own guy lines.
This tent is very easy to set up. Just stake out the four corners and set up the center pole. However, it's difficult to re-tension the tie down points unless you make your own guy lines.

Ease of Set-up


Stake out the four corners, crawl inside, set up the center pole, head back outside to adjust the corners, and you're done. That's the scenario when you have a good surface in which to drive the stakes. On bare granite, you can still set up the Mega Light provided you bring some extra cord to tie around rocks or stuff sacks filled with rocks. The corners have short, fixed loops for staking, but they aren't big enough for attaching to large rocks or logs, so we recommend carrying some supplemental cordage to expand your set-up options.

Value


This tent is a great deal for a huge and a lightweight shelter. Given its huge size, it's a great backcountry base camp with lots of room for gear and cooking. The value is definitely worth the price.

Our testers have been using some version of this tent for years due to its adaptability  relatively lightweight and enormous size  making it an excellent choice for guiding and basecamp situations.
Our testers have been using some version of this tent for years due to its adaptability, relatively lightweight and enormous size, making it an excellent choice for guiding and basecamp situations.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Mega Light is an affordable ultralight tent that several of our testers have used professionally for years. The simple design is very adaptable, and with some extra cordage and a little practice, you can set it up almost anywhere.


Amber King & Matt Bento