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Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight???
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Freestanding Tent on 12/19/2010 21:03:04 MST Print View

While we're now debating designs, I find it interesting how many here are dead-set against the Firstlight/I-Tent "freestanding" (yes, they need stakes too, we all know that), when some of the biggest mountains in the world are being climbed by people carrying them.
Steve House has been all over the Himalaya and Patagonia carrying a Firstlight or I-Tent. I have to trust his judgment.

A pro BD team using the Firstlight at +18,000 ft. in Nepal:

I-Tent on Denali expedition:

Guiding Light (4 man version) on K2:


Sorry, but when pros are using this design all over the world in conditions more severe than anyone on this site will ever see, I'd wager it'll do just fine in a storm at 4,000 feet Joshua Tree National Park...

Flame on.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Freestanding Tent on 12/19/2010 21:25:02 MST Print View

N/ need to carry on here...

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
first light on 12/19/2010 21:25:13 MST Print View

colin haley uses it it ... he's the premier US light and fast alpinist of the new generation

on denali ... he did the cassin ridge in 17 hrs ...

i think there is a bias on this board to certain things ... which exists on all forums ... just my opinion

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/19/2010 21:27:00 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Freestanding Tent on 12/19/2010 21:25:32 MST Print View


why do I keep accidentally posting here...

Edited by xnomanx on 12/19/2010 21:26:21 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Freestanding Tent on 12/19/2010 22:03:10 MST Print View

I know it goes against the entire spirit of my initial post on this thread, but my interest is perked with the MLD Trailstar as an UL option. Comparatively, the Shangri-La 3 isn't too much heavier, but it is taller and the cut/pitching options of the Trailstar seem more wind-worthy and versatile...

....providing good buried anchors at 10 points, ala Roger Caffin: 2 shoes, 2 socks, my cookpot, 2 stuffsacks, a pair of underwear as a parachute, a t-shirt, and two sand-filled water bladders for good measure.

"$hit, where's all your gear, man...?"

Edited by xnomanx on 12/19/2010 22:07:26 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Freestanding Tent on 12/19/2010 22:04:42 MST Print View


Nice pics!! But was yours a dry, powdery snow storm? Or a wet, rainy one? Different tools for different occasions. But in any case, given your height, it's a moot point. Worst combo IMO is a single-wall tent that isn't long enough for you to keep your bag away from the walls all around.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Freestanding Tent on 12/20/2010 02:56:14 MST Print View

> when pros are using this design all over the world in conditions more severe than anyone on this site will ever see

I wouldn't bet on that ...

But note just how deeply some of those tents are dug into the snow - the 'Firstlight at +18,000 ft. in Nepal' is almost inside the snow bank. That sort of digging-in really does help to protect the tent. And also note that they are using their ice axes as anchors!

I will add that when you at 18,000' in Nepal you may be slightly more willing to put up with some serious cramped discomfort during the night. Just being out of the wind can be fantastic! Whether you want to suffer as much at home ... hum.


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/20/2010 08:59:24 MST Print View

Craig - you will have the same, if not more of an issue setting up the Trailstar.

@Eric - I agree.

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Freestanding Tent/Tall tipis on 12/20/2010 10:24:06 MST Print View

In my opinion, tall tipis do well in the wind. Most of the surface area that the wind hits is down low, and the top area of a tipi has very little surface area for the wind to hit.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Freestanding tent bias on 12/20/2010 10:27:58 MST Print View

Hey, I don't think there is a bias against freestanding tents - well only in light of the fact that people hear gravitate toward the lightest gear possible, and thus freestanding tents often lose out on the scale. But freestanding tents are terrific, and many times the appropriate choice.

I have a freestanding tent. It works fine. I think we diverged on the tangent that if not staked down, a freestanding tent in the wind is at greater risk of becoming a true piece of multi-use gear - both a tent and a kite. It is often tempting (and I know I've done it), to bypass the stakeout process because they weather is great, the wind is minimal and everything is peachy. Then you wake up at 2:30 and it's howling outside and your tent is being deflected terribly and acting like a sail and attempting to get you airborne (lucky I am heavy enough).

Setting one up in heavy winds without stakes is tough, especially if your gear isn't particularly heavy. Trying to keep the tent taking off on you is a bit of trick. That's all.


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/20/2010 14:10:11 MST Print View

I wouldn't recommend the Ahwahnee since it weighs about 7 pounds. For a little extra length, you could check out the BD Eldorado; adds 5 inches in length to an I-tent, weighs 5 pounds. The fabric is WPB.

How about your seasonal use of the tent to be? I've found WPB tents to be pretty darn steamy in the summer months. Haven't used the Nanoshield in the field, but the Epic wasn't ultimately waterproof... have heard reports of people getting wet in sustained heavy rain. I suspect it would be worse if your bag was shoved into a wall.

Edited by 4quietwoods on 12/20/2010 14:20:03 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/20/2010 14:30:02 MST Print View

wouldn't recommend the Ahwahnee since it weighs about 7 pounds
Yes , I was thinking of size rather than weight...( at 5'7" the Firstlight is too small for me, that is why I bought the Lighthouse...)
Forgot about the Eldo.. (they have disappeared from the local scene)

Edited by Franco on 12/20/2010 17:16:57 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Freestanding tent on 12/20/2010 16:52:38 MST Print View

What about the Scarp 1 or 2? Or were these already mentioned?

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight???" on 12/20/2010 21:56:07 MST Print View

Craig mentioned the Scarp in his OP.

Nice Pix from you and others. Thank you.

Was trying to decide whether to use some Epic Malibu, the same fabric that was used on the BD's, for a new tent project (freestanding).
So, spent megatime on the web reading reviews.

As here, there was both good and bad, including some awful failures. It was odd that people reported totally different water resistance in similar wet conditions.

But noticed that none of those reporting having actually observed and experienced failures affirmed that they had carefully seam-sealed. Not sure that many even realized the early BD Epics were not seam-sealed, since most products from the larger companies have been seam taped for some time.

Also, considering the jacket reports, noted that the fabrics used for jackets were not the same as the Malibu used by BD. Also had an Epic pull-over myself that wetted right out in heavy rain.

Noted also that BD's Malibu changed. The later version appears to be calendered on the inside, while the earlier is fuzzy on both sides. (Observed that BD put the calendered side on the inner).

Liked the qualities of the Malibu in other respects: Flexible and non-noisy, but doesn't sag due to the polyester. Under 2 oz/sy. Definitely does MVT in many conditions. So decided to risk using it for the half of the tent above the sleeping areas, but make a .5 oz Cuben half-fly to cover it just in case.

Am inclined to think that BD would not have shifted to the NanoShield were it not more water resistant, especially after the negative reports on the Epic. Have not been able to find any reliably negative reports about the water resistance of the newer NanoShield version. Would definitely get one were I not biased aganst the inside pole setup. Many report that it is not a problem though, and easy to get used to.

If you are serious about going up to 5 lbs, you might take a look at the Luxe Tiger Moth, which is 5 lbs, and is definitely a 2 person tent. The design, like the Firefly's, is uniquely suited to using stiffer carbon poles that would drop about 3/4 lb. But the BD's are obviously more space for weight, if you don't mind the internal setup; plus with some practice, they will go up in the rain without water entering the bathtub floor.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Freestanding tent recommendations: BD Firstlight??? on 12/21/2010 09:45:40 MST Print View

Hi Franco, yeah, I figured... :)

Still waiting for a diagram or string structure from you showing how to pitch the Scarp w/poles inside (wait, actually, do I remember something along that line?)

Another potential option is the SD Convert. Discontinued, but I'm sure you could still find it online. Nice points: while single-wall, the poles feed from the outside into sleeves, so no futzing w/velcro or clips inside. Also has the corner reinforcement poles, & removable vestibule. Minimum weight about 4.5 pounds, tho packed weight is ~6.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Trailstar v. Firstlight on 12/21/2010 12:55:48 MST Print View

(back to the original question..)

Craig, I own both of these. Here are some thoughts:

The TS is really wind resistant, if you can stake it down very well. From your description, it might have driven you mad on that night. Last month I spent a windy (gusts to 60+ mph) on a gravel beach in Glacier NP. I arrived at the site well after dark, with the wind pummeling the beach. The only other terrain for quite some distance was a 50 degree hill and dense willow thickets. Long story short, I spent 90 minutes ranging far and wide collecting big rocks and logs (100+ pound) to use as guy points. Burying sticks in the gravel didn't cut it. They'd get shifted around and eventually pull out. Once I got all the guy points of the TS cinched, they spread the load very well and while the sides flapped a fair bit, kept the shelter together and the rain squalls off my head.

Had I brought the Firstlight, I probably could've gotten by with six anchor points (four corners of the tent, two windward guy points) rather than ten. Stability would have been comparable, provided the anchors held. I think your intuition that something like a Firstlight would've been a bit less fuss in those conditions is correct.

What I really wanted was a bivvy, to just curl up out of the wind with little fuss. Should I have planned a bit better? Probably. Sometimes you're the nail.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Trailstar v. Firstlight on 12/21/2010 19:17:59 MST Print View

Thanks David, good comparison...I've been wondering about the Firstlight vs. the Trailstar in wind.

I'm currently stuck between the two, with Eugene and some others getting me to really consider a Trailstar. Problem is, it's so close to my Shangri_la (though the Trailstar looks much better in the wind and more versatile in pitching options) it's close enough to that I have a hard time justifying the cost.

The Firstlight fills a hole in my current gear much better: I don't have a lightweight, solid winter shelter other than a double-walled, two man, 4-season Walrus tent that weighs in at 7 pounds. It's a complete bomb-shelter...but can't even by carried by either of my UL/LW packs (a Jam2 and Vapor Trail for winter).

The last source of confusion I have here is the Firstlight vs. the Hilight. I've found them both for the same price, but I like the Firstlight with vestibule better...The Highlite looks like it has better venting/views, but I don't care for the tapered foot. One disadvantage of the Hilight that I could foresee: the vestibule is on one of the large sides...yet you'd want to pitch the foot to the wind, making them adjacent. I could see this making it harder to keep your door/cooking area out of the wind. The Firstlight, by comparison, with foot pitched to wind, puts the entrance/cooking area on the opposite side...Don't know if this is an issue. The Highlite looks much easier for two people to get in and out of, but I'll likely be carrying this solo so it doesn't matter.

Comparing the sizes, they're really similar.
Hilight: 82"long, 50" tapering to 42" wide, 40" tall. It's diagonal is ~7'10". 27 sq. feet.
Firstlight: 82"long, 48" wide, 42" tall. It's diagonal is ~7'11". 27.3 sq. feet
That's a very minimal difference in size on paper. I'm guessing it might simply feel roomier due to a larger door?
But for a 6'2" sleeper like myself, I don't see the difference when laying down.

I'll likely go with the Firstlight...I think I like the igloo-style vestibule/front door better.

The Firstlight is going for $299 everywhere I see it. Anyone got a coupon code :) ???

Edited by xnomanx on 12/21/2010 19:18:58 MST.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Trailstar v. Firstlight on 12/22/2010 11:57:29 MST Print View

I went through the HiLight vs. Firstlight and am pleased to have ended up with the former. If I expected to find myself on very narrow ledges on steep headwalls, the latter would be preferable because of the medial entrance.

The following photo shows the 'wings' on the Hilight, which theoretically provide additional wind-stability. In addition, these act as vent covers and provide for a much more substantial covered entrance. As you can see here, I did not bother using the guy-lines even at this somewhat exposed camp. Don't forget about the larger discontinued Lighthouse, if you are comfortable using Epic. One report here observed the Epic to be more durable actually.

HiLight Rainier

Edited by biointegra on 12/22/2010 12:00:25 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
geat photo on 12/22/2010 12:20:14 MST Print View

Love the background of clouds and mountains to the rear - maybe Adams and Hood?

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: geat photo on 12/22/2010 14:03:44 MST Print View

Yes, that is Adams and Hood from ye old trusty crusty iphone.