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.
Black Diamond Mega Light Review
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
Compare to Similar Products
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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