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Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight???
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/18/2010 11:51:32 MST Print View

Sleeping in my Shangri-La 3 last night, completely pummeled. Do to really poor visibility and weather, I had to find some higher ground to set up on in the dark. The ground was complete sand/loose dirt, no rocks were to be found, with very little cover from the wind. I only had 6 Y stakes with me as I wasn't expecting to fight this much wind. Needless to say, it was a seriously crappy, cold night. I literally had to use my body weight on the windward side, tucking the shelter under me, to help hold it down. My stakes were getting pulled about once every hour or two by gusts.

So I know I could've done much better with my site selection, but sort of got caught and pinned down in the dark/weather. I wasn't too up for exploring because I heard a small flash flood about 30 minutes before I set up camp and was in a complete white-out...headlamp was useless unless it was 1 foot off the ground. I went out searching for rocks and actually got lost within 40 yards of my shelter.

So...all these issues aside, it sure got me thinking about getting a freestanding shelter again. I don't currently own one with the exception of a 7lb. traditional mountaineering tent. I've been wanting one for winter/bad weather and last night solidified my desire.
Looking for: freestanding, quick setup, good snowload ability, good in strong wind/rain.

I'm looking foremost at the Black Diamond Firstlight. Only drawbacks I see here are no integrated vestibule (creating an issue for cooking in the rain/snow) and concerns about the new Nanoshield fabric. Good for rain? Haven't heard much about it, most reviews are on the older version.

What's up with the Toddtex fabric on the I-tent? WP? WPB??

I prefer single wall, like the ability to set up from the inside, and really like the simple Firstlight/I-tent design.

Anything else I should be looking at? The Scarp looks cool, but seems to have too many poles and things to fiddle with during setup in winter/bad weather mode vs. the BD design.

I'm willing to carry up to 5lbs. and want a two-man design.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/18/2010 12:15:14 MST Print View

I have been pleased with the HiLight and the optional vestibule. It has been through a couple of burly storms at about 3500m in the Anatolian highlands and did fine on Rainier, both on snow and dry ground elsewhere. Ventilation is adequate for most circumstances, but I am yet to have it in fierce rain - only hail and snow thus far. In winter, it can be snug with two, but I am actually yet to use it solo. I much prefer the large side opening to the smaller door of the First Light; especially in fair weather.

ToddTex in the non Flame-retardant version has always performed admirably for me in all conditions as well, but there is a weight penalty compared with the Nanoshield.

hilight 2

hilight 3

Edited by biointegra on 12/18/2010 12:17:39 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
GoLite Utopia and Xanadu tents on 12/18/2010 12:31:04 MST Print View

You might look at GoLite Utopia and Xanadu models, which are discontinued, but some new stock is still around, as well as used. The structure is basically the same, but the Xanadu has a side entry and vestibule vs. the Utopia's simpler and lighter end door.

Caveat: many tents are touted as free standing, but that doesn't mean you won't need a handful of stakes to get them properly pitched. I bought a Big Agnes Seedhouse and found that it needed TWELVE stakes for a proper pitch. I think that is ridiculous for a one person tent. My SMD Gatewood poncho/tarp needs only six.

My GoLite Utopia 1 needs one on each corner, two for the sides, two more for the vents and has high wind options for another four-- twelve stakes in the extreme, and eight for the basic pitch. On the other hand, none are truly structural, but they contribute to the ventilation and weatherly-ness of the tent. I could get by with rocks and get a decent pitch and not have it blow off the mountainside.

Caveat: some of the BD fabrics (Epic) are not completely waterproof, which is a real puzzle to me. I manage to get by in a one-person single-wall shelter that has large vents built in; you will find the DB design to be light on the ventilation side and compounded with two breathing bodies inside. It's gonna rain condensation in there.

Henry Shires has the Double Rainbow in current production and would top my list. 41 oz, 6 stakes and/or two trekking poles to complete the free-standing option. It is also bug free and nicely ventilated. At $260 it is also about $40 less than the street price on a BD Firstlight 2. http://www.tarptent.com/doublerainbow.html

Michael Febbo
(febbom)
Firstlight is small on 12/18/2010 14:52:12 MST Print View

The Firstlight is a rather small tent- if you are too tall or really want to fit two people, I'd size up. I use the older Lighthouse and have to sleep diagonally at 6'2".

Also, you say you like the internal set-up, but I have always had trouble with it in high winds or when the snow is really coming down. There is no way to keep the weather out of the tent during set-up and struggle with the poles and fabric is a recipe for a punctured tent...

How about this? http://brooks-range.com/rocket-tent.html

Russell Adams
(rradams@q.com) - F
size matters on 12/18/2010 15:57:39 MST Print View

+1 on the Highlight size. When I went to our local dealer to purchase a Highlight, the salesman took one look at me and said, "You want the Lighthouse". At 6'-2" tall with puffy sleeping bags, the Lighthouse is just about perfect. Mine is an older version with Epic. While Epic is not technically waterproof, it must be really close. Mine has been thru a number of rains with no issues. BTW, I have never had a tent with less internal condensation than my Lighthouse. One of the upsides to the Epic fabric is the breathability.

Edited by rradams@q.com on 12/18/2010 15:58:58 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/18/2010 16:29:38 MST Print View

Craig
The Todd Tex in the Bibler tents is a type of PTFE "fabric" like Gore-tex (Todd Bibler.. Wilbert Gore ) . Ripstop on the outside, Teflon core and fuzzy Nextec on the inside to absorb moisture/condensation.
Heavier but more waterproof than Epic and Nanoshield.
If you like that design you could look at the Awanee if you have a self contained gas cooking system (like the JetBoil or Reactor)
( not recommended to accident prone people...)
Now the Tarptent bit (this under franco@tarptent.com...)
"The Scarp looks cool, but seems to have too many poles and things to fiddle with during setup in winter/bad weather mode vs. the BD design."
I can set up a two pole Bibler or BD faster than the Scarp with extra poles, however not if I had to add a vestibule to the Bibler/BD.
What I do with the Scarp is to set it up normally pegging down the four corners, then add the poles .
This may sound silly on a "freestanding" tent but in the end you need to peg them all down and the design of the Scarp allows for .
The extra poles come useful for snow handling and wind stability.
In the situation you described above (and that is one of the situations I was alluding to when I questioned the enthusiastic endorsment of that design for ALL situations in a previous thread...,)
then I would insert the standard hoop pole first (as usual) then the two extra poles (about 2 minutes/3-4 in wind or snow wearing gloves) , then you can move it about to find a suitable spot. Piling rocks on the corner tie outs works well to keep it up .
No need to add extra guylines there. (but I do reccomend to add and use the main pole guylines )
Franco

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Do you reeeally need a mountaineering tent for SoCal winds? on 12/18/2010 17:59:15 MST Print View

For dealing with wind how about a waterproof bivy? You could also carry something that sheds wind better like a Trailstar or just take your SL3 too in case things aren't too bad. I assume you aren't dealing with sustained all night rain just crazy wind and poor holding in the ground. Another idea might be some kind of bivy/shelter like something from Nemo or the ID Wedge, but I think an ID or MLD eVent bivy sack would be best. Lighter and cheaper too.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight???" on 12/18/2010 19:33:05 MST Print View

Up to 5lbs.? Ouch. There's gotta be a middle road somewhere. Like the above poster mentioned, what about the MLD Trailstar? I've read only nothing but praise for the MLD Trailstar in managing sustained heavy winds and shedding heavy rain and moderate snow loads.

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/18/2010 20:02:18 MST Print View

I think the main question the OP is asking is "what is the best design for a sturdy shelter with quick setup in a worst case scenario?"

Low visibility, tired and cold, high winds, exposed, stakes pulling out

I'm not sure what I would choose either. Maybe we need to take a poll.

Ryan

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight on 12/18/2010 20:17:48 MST Print View

Under the conditions Ryan states, and without the threat of rain or snow, I'd think a good bivy sack would be the best. Fast deployment, totally windproof, and you don't need to see very far to set it down.

If the wind is blowing so hard that it tosses you and the low-lying bivy sack, you can be pretty sure there's no tent made that could withstand it. You can also be certain that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

cathryn robertson
(chicken) - F
itent/ahwahnee/el dorado/first light on 12/18/2010 20:24:40 MST Print View

The I Tent, and big brothers el dorado and Ahwahnee are without comparison, IMO. Less condensation than most other single wall shelters (i heart todd tex), and a simple two-pole design that can be set up from inside. I've spent 100 nights in one or the other, including, um, wicked california winter storms. ;)

The design is great, just throw it on the ground, huck your items inside along with the poles, keep one door open to bow the poles, and you will have it set up in about two minutes.

The thing is as tight as a drum, there is no need for stakes at_all to get a good pitch.

Of course, the first light is the same design but lighter...

The vestibule is kind of a pain, though, and the little hooks are plastic.

-Kate.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/18/2010 20:26:11 MST Print View

No direct experience, but I've heard of complaints about the awkwardness of crawling inside a BD tent to install the poles when the winds are howling... Maybe actual users here can confirm -- or refute.

Another option would be a one-piece, freestanding tent with external poles that use pole clips -- like the Big Sky Mirage (I have the 2P version). It's easy to stake out one or two corners first -- then clip the one-piece tent to the poles, and finally staking down the vestibule. In strong winds, I find this easier to do then threading poles through pole sleeves -- or deploying a fly separately.

jon kre
(whitefro) - F

Locale: Puget Sound
BD Hilight on 12/18/2010 20:39:30 MST Print View

I also have the BD Hilight. I use it for a solo shelter, Im 6'2 and fit perfectly. I have had it in a 2 day downpour in the cascades with very little condensation and no leaks. Setting up the tent in inclement weather is annoying until you learn the tricks to setting it up (ie lay the tent out, climb in, and deal with the poles with the tent roof resting on your head, awkward but doable and gets easier over time. Once your really good at it there will be little to no water/snow in the tent once set up.)

Edited by whitefro on 12/18/2010 20:40:51 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: BD Hilight on 12/18/2010 23:43:15 MST Print View

Thanks for all the ideas so far. I'm thinking the Hilight might be worth looking into instead as I'm 6'2".

I'll look into some of the other tents mentioned.

As for a Trailstar + bivy, I've done the bivy/tarp combo in some bad weather and I know it'll keep you dry and warm with proper site selection, but it really sucks when that's all you've got and you know you're going to be tentbound for 12 hours...not exactly cozy to relax and read a book for hours. I'm inclined to get something fully enclosed like a Firstlight just to reduce all the fiddle factor and have a nice, cozy, sealed shelter. I've done floorless for a long time and know the advantages of tarps/mids, etc...If I had to have a single shelter, it would be a mid. Only drawback with tarps and mids is that site selection is a bit more crucial. Something that can be quickly put down just about anywhere is appealing; no spray worries, no drafts, no groundsheets, minimal worry about rock hard or sandy ground...

Maybe the ease is worth the weight sometimes?

Then again, maybe I shouldn't be such a knucklehead and go out into a storm in the desert in the dark without carrying some sand stakes and extra guylines?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: BD Hilight on 12/19/2010 00:11:25 MST Print View

Craig:

6'2"? That likely means your sleeping bag is sized up to 6'4" or 6'6", correct? Methinks both HiLight and Firstlight are too short for you. I am 5'9" with a Montbell bag sized only to 5'10" -- and when I tried out the Firstlight, I had to be very, very careful how I moved at night to prevent one end or the other from coming into contact with the inward-sloping walls! Sleeping diagonally didn't help all that much either.

As well, if you are looking for a tent for use in inclement weather -- I would also look away from merely "water resistant" fabrics and focus on truly waterproof ones -- unless you are talking about fast-moving Colorado storms or dry Alpine snow storms.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/19/2010 00:51:04 MST Print View

> I think the main question the OP is asking is "what is the best design for a sturdy shelter with quick
> setup in a worst case scenario?"
> Low visibility, tired and cold, high winds, exposed, stakes pulling out

I think we may be missing the entire point here.
* First of all, under those conditions a light-weight 'free-standing' tent is a useless concept. Most light-weight 'free-standing' tents are designed for very mild conditions, with little wind.
* Second, the idea that you can pitch ANY tent under those conditions without (lots of) good stakes is just plain daft.
(What about my tunnel tent? Not even that without some good bomb-proof anchors at the windward end. No way. And I would want some good guy-rope anchors as well.)

My apologies (for being blunt) to the person (Craig) asking the original question, but very seriously, you stuffed up. When you saw the weather approaching at that altitude you should have turned around and headed downhill fast. The gear you were carrying was clearly inadequate for those conditions. You came close to being an SAR statistic.

This is a personal opinion and in saying this I am not representing BPL at all. I just don't want casualties among our readers!

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 12/19/2010 00:52:05 MST.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/19/2010 01:26:27 MST Print View

"Second, the idea that you can pitch ANY tent under those conditions without (lots of) good stakes is just plain daft."

+1 Roger. Completely agree. Stakes or other anchors are crucial. Rather discouraging to see your tent convert into a kite.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/19/2010 02:27:39 MST Print View

> Rather discouraging to see your tent convert into a kite.
Yeah, but even worse when you are still inside it!

Cheers

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/19/2010 02:45:46 MST Print View

Cheers indeed! That could be quite the ride and of course freestanding tents do make far better kites ;) (especially those air-beam ones - think paragliders) But...

"* First of all, under those conditions a light-weight 'free-standing' tent is a useless concept. Most light-weight 'free-standing' tents are designed for very mild conditions, with little wind."

Not at all useless, especially if you have appropriate stakes. The BD line (as well as ID, Rab and Bibler(BD)'s similar models) are designed for alpine conditions. I would consider the classic I-tent design (along with siblings) as almost ideal for the above described circumstances because:

- can be set up from inside
- requires less anchoring (quality + quantity of stakes)
- smaller footprint for choosing
- less deflection and pull on stakes
- integrated fly + floor *key for best stability with least staking*

I have a well appreciated Hilleberg 3-pole hoopty (:P) that would not fare as well here for the simple reason that it's structure and wind-worthiness is dependent on a higher quantity and quality of stakes. It applies relatively more tensile pull on those stakes, especially at the windward guy-out points (because it doesn't have any inherent structure helping to ease the load. The same would apply for a 'mid, although to a slightly lesser degree. Case in point: I have been in a perhaps two similar situations as the OP with a Bibler Fitzroy and Tempest, respectively. Both times we only managed two decent anchor points yet my wife and I managed a comfortable night's rest. The tent structure did much of the work and our bodies helped weigh it down, along with the stakes keeping it low. Build up of snow (to a fairly generous extent) can actually be your friend here.

"* Second, the idea that you can pitch ANY tent under those conditions without (lots of) good stakes is just plain daft."

Given the conditions described by the OP: "The ground was complete sand/loose dirt, no rocks were to be found, with very little cover from the wind." I would rather have only a few very good (read: appropriate for the conditions - i.e. sand/snow stakes or deadmen) stakes with a tent that requires few rather than lots of mediocre (inappropriate for the conditions) anchors and a tent that requires many to stay upright. Sometimes it can be helpful to spread the load with lots of stakes, but other times, it can result in a zipper effect. This is a matter of tent design that seems to be often overlooked.

Ingenuity may be the order of the day under the circumstances (equipment included). Burying a section or two of trekking pole, backpack stay, sand-filled stuff sack, etc. could have made a tremendous difference, for example. However, I wasn't there and I'm sure that under the stresses of the moment, Craig did his best and perhaps better than me or others here would have - we'll never know. Hindsight? Well, that's what we are here for :)

[edited for spelling and strange computer anomaly that resulted in quadruple post]

Edited by biointegra on 12/19/2010 02:52:50 MST.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Re: Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/19/2010 02:48:14 MST Print View

[computer anomaly]