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christos nicolaou

Hunter Bierce
Outdoor geek
Hunter Bierce is a PSIA Ski Instructor and multidisciplinary outdoor professional.

PRODUCT REVIEW

Black Diamond Mega Light

The iconic Black Diamond Mega Light is a teepee tent that has been around in some form or another since the ’80s. Due to its spaciousness, resilience, and packability, the Mega Light has developed quite a reputation among ultralight backpackers and mountaineers. The pyramid shape is about as classic as it comes for a teepee, and the switch to a silnylon body from coated polyester makes the Mega Light a leader in both weight and ventilation. It’s highly-modifiable and beloved by basecamp builders and backcountry minimalists from the mountains to the valleys.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Reasons to buy

  • Top of class space-per-weight
  • Wind resistant construction
  • Comfortably sleeps two with plenty of room for your gear
  • More affordable than similar technical options

Reasons NOT to buy

  • A very minimalist take on a teepee tent with no floor or bug mesh
  • Difficult to set up on a hard or rocky ground
  • Doesn't come factory seam sealed

If you’re curious about how the Mega Light stacks up to similar tents, take a look at our best teepee tent article.

Weather Resistance

For something with such an open-air concept, the Mega Light does an admirable job of keeping the weather off of you. You need to do some work upfront with the seam sealing, but I never had any issues after a single thorough home coat. When Black Diamond made the switch from the Mega Mid to the Mega Light, they opted for a lightweight silnylon instead of the more durable (but notably heavier) coated polyester they had used in the past. Alongside the hit in durability, silnylon is more prone to seeping over prolonged exposure to moisture.

It took some pretty careful staking and additional adjustment with guy-lines, but I was able to keep my Mega Light standing for close to two months with only minor adjustments as the fabric stretched. I never once had water seeping issues from the seams or the zipper despite being in a rainforest that receives an annual average of 20 inches of precipitation every November.

This stood true no matter how hard or long it rained (and trust me, it rained both long and hard.) I’ve also found that the conical/pyramid shape of the Mega Light is resilient when the wind picks up. The aggressively sloped faces of the tent don’t give any breeze a good foothold to uproot it. With a little careful attention to the direction of the wind, you can have confidence in just about any pyramid shape to excel when there’s little other protection offered.

For all of the overhead benefits the Mega Light offers, there is nothing in the way of ground protection. Foregoing a floor means you’ll want to bring some ground protection to keep your sleep system from getting torn up. In addition to this, setting up the Mega Light requires a little intentionality—any place water could potentially flow is a no-go. Black Diamond sells an additional interior bug net with an integrated bathtub floor called the Mega Bug, but it’s expensive and adds significant weight.

For this reason, the Mega Light is one of the most commonly modified teepee tents that I’ve seen. Black Diamond die-hards commonly add snow skirts, minimalist budgets, and additional guy-off points to the Mega Light. I’ve even seen plans online for a stove jack.

The Mega Light really pushes the boundaries of what we would contemporarily call a four-season tent. It’s pure practicality, but it requires a high degree of foreknowledge about the place you’re going and creativity in how you set it up. But with a little bit of practice, you can fully embody the “less is more” spirit of the Mega Light.

See the complete list of the best Teepee Tents here!

Black Diamond Mega Light Weather Resistance

Black Diamond Mega Light: Key Specifications

  • 30D SilNylon
  • Holds up to 4
  • Single full-length zippered door
  • Carbon fiber center pole
  • Pole Link Converter for a lightweight setup
  • Ultra bug netting and bathtub floor available
  • Requires additional seam-sealing
  • Packed weight 2lbs 13oz

Where to Buy:

Weight and Packability

An undeniable draw to the Mega Light and pyramid-style tents as a whole is the space-to-weight ratio. Though the Mega Light is definitely on the heavier end of things (particularly when compared to other floorless designs) at a packed weight of 2lbs 13 oz, it’s still an admirably light four-person option. You can further reduce weight by using the included Pole Link Converter if you plan on using trekking or ski poles during your backcountry travel.

For those really concerned about weight, you can forego poles altogether and use the reinforced loop at the apex of the tent as a tie-off point. This brings the total weight down to just under 2lbs and makes the interior even more spacious when you remove the center pole. The only caveat finding a good tree to tie off on.

If you look at the competition, there are shelters in a similar style that weigh far less than the Mega Light. You’ll have a hard time finding anything with as much internal space at the price of the Mega Light. Ultimately you’re getting a great deal on space and weight. People who prioritize utility are likely going to be the most drawn instead of those searching for an all-in-one long-distance shelter (look toward freestanding tents).

Living Space

With a measured usable floor space of 50.7 sq feet, there’s plenty of space on the inside for three comfortably, four if you really like each other, or a veritable garage for a solo backpacker and their gear. There’s also a ton of overhead space. I certainly can’t stand up when it’s set up on dirt, but the few times I’ve taken it out in the snow, it’s easily converted into a shelter that’s spacious enough to stand comfortably. With the carbon fiber pole extended all the way up, peak height is right around 66in.

My experience with the Mega Light was mostly solo. Used as both a shelter while backpacking and ski touring with groups, I found the inside to be spacious and breathable, and the only time I’ve stretched the internal capacity to a full four have been in the snow when I didn’t mind the extra body heat.

As a solo shelter, I had room to have a sleeping area, a “closet” that consisted of an exploded backpack and a couple of tarps, and a full staging area where I could put my crusty work boots on and not worry about getting my sleeping bag or dry clothes dirty. I was able to rig up some paracord crosslines to hang things up to dry.

I’m a big guy, and I never had issues with space. My experience has been mostly with tiny ultralight tents, so my expectations for interior volume are low. But even after trying out many different mids and dome styles, I’m still impressed with how much the Mega Light feels like home despite the simplicity of the interior.

The only issue is the pole. On the one hand, it’s an effortless way to divide space between people inside the tent. But on the other, having vertical support in the middle of the tent will have a major impact on usable space overall. This counts for all teepee tents. As I mentioned, you can circumvent this issue by tying off the tent’s top to an overhead branch, but this necessitates a tree.

Black Diamond Mega Light Living Space

Ventilation

By design, ventilation is a major competitive factor for the Mega Light. ” With a generous vent centered around the top of the tent, rising air can easily escape from the tent. Apex ventilation like this is also great for preventing moisture buildup. Water vapor is free to escape from the top of the tent, and what’s left inside is free to trickle down the steep walls to the tent’s open bottom. Improved ventilation is indeed one of the few perks of the floorless design. Air moves around freely within the structure, and you can handle any additional ventilation need by rolling the door back.

This leads to the point of cooking. Just about every manufacturer and distributor warns against the dangers of cooking in your tent, but that’s never stopped me. One of the reasons I like the Mega Light is the usability of the internal space. Because it’s so spacious and so well-ventilated, it makes a perfect cooking or staging shelter. This is particularly true if you are on snow and dig down a little to build tables and add some standing room.

You no longer need to totter on the slippery slope of vestibule cooking from your sleeping bag and potentially going up in a spectacular blaze of compressed gas and synthetic materials.

Durability

The original Black Diamond Mega Mids were made from a coated polyester that Black Diamond has long-since eschewed in favor of silnylon. While less durable and more prone to stretching, silnylon retains tear-resistant properties and is what makes the Mega Light so “light.” Durability plays largely into the cultish following of the Mega Light. There are plenty of the original Mega Mids still kicking around after decades of use.

30D SilNylon is notably thinner than most tents in the backpacking category. However, it is worth noting that the only tents that tend to be thinner also floorless and pyramid-shaped. This lack of floor is what saves you a lot of trouble in the long-run. With no floor to punch through and no mesh for rodents to chew through, I think many of the common wear and tear issues that I’ve had with tents in the past are much reduced at the cost of the occasional visitor.

There are a couple of durability-minded features that protect vulnerable parts of the tent. Barring extreme circumstances, the only way to damage the Mega Light is during setup. The tent’s peak has a webbing catch to protect against the pole rub (webbing is much easier to replace than the impregnated nylon). The only other major potential point of failure to watch is the zipper, which is pretty common for outdoor gear. Fortunately, you can compensate for this with the bottom buckle at the end of the zipper track. This seemingly inconsequential feature effectively relieves the zipper and makes it less likely to blow while you fiddle around with tension and pole height.

Black Diamond Mega Light Durability

Setup

In a perfect world, setting up the Mega Light should be as easy as locating a suitably flat patch of ground, staking out the corners, sticking the central pole in. Sometimes that’s all there is to it for teepees. The Mega Light has the potential to simultaneously be the simplest and the most difficult tent that you’ll ever set up; it’s very dependent on context.

Like any other non-freestanding tent, successfully deploying the Mega Light requires some means of fixing the corners to the ground. This isn’t easy if the ground is too hard or too soft to drive stakes. In snow and sand, you’ll definitely need to anchor the tent down with either a “t-trench” or some additional buried support to keep stakes from popping when you extend the pole. I carry paracord to fashion a pseudo-deadman anchor on rock pans or places where getting support into the ground isn’t an option.

The additional guy-off points are useful when the wind picks up. I can either stake these down or tie them off to a tree or rock to give the structure a little more rigidity. Though there’s not a lot in terms of the tent’s structure, it’s surprisingly resilient once you get it standing.

Alternate Versions

Sierra Designs makes a 4 season Mountain Guide Tarp that is a couple of pounds heavier than the Mega Light, but is made of nylon with twice the Denier rating and has built-in snow-flaps. Hyperlite’s Ultamid 4 Pyramid comes in at only 1.5 lbs but costs more than twice as much as most things on the market. There are a ton of other takes on ultralight shelters, but they don’t often come as big as the Mega Light. If you’re looking for something in the pyramid/teepee category I’d point you toward our best teepee tents article for a wider and sturdier selection.

Black Diamond also makes the Beta Light, a 2-person floorless tent that substitutes 2 trekking poles for the lightest possible packed weight. If you’re looking for something like the Mega Light but smaller, there’s really no alternative. Black Diamond also makes a couple of mountaineering tents, most notably the Fitzroy. It’s perfect if you have any concerns about the Mega Light not being sturdy enough for you.

Black Diamond Mega Light Alternate Version

Who is it for?

The Mega Light is a versatile and practical piece of equipment that will serve you well in most of the situations it into. But even though it’s a great tent, you might not want it to be your only tent.

For light and fast jaunts, snow-based camping, and as an auxiliary shelter in your basecamp, the Mega Light is an awesome option. But without a bug net and floor, you’ll have to have a really high tolerance for sharing space with arthropods and pay more attention to where you decide to set up, particularly if you’re expecting water to be running in any capacity.

The Mega Light would best serve people who plan on doing a lot of expedition-based travel. It’s a great shelter for people who want to leave their tent standings and have a little bit of an established base camp but don’t necessarily plan on spending any more time than necessary in their tent. Some ultralight backpackers may also be tempted by the relatively low-packed-weight and spacious interior, but keep in mind that you sacrifice many basic amenities in exchange for those benefits.

Summary

Ultimately the Mega Mid will give back what you put into it. Some folks see this as a pain, and rightfully so. Why would you buy a tent that lacks so many basic features now commonplace in even the lightest tents and potentially requires so much work to get it set up? To others, the adaptability and staunch plainness of the Mega Light ARE the features, and if you can stomach the work and planning it takes to make the best use of the Mega Light, it’ll serve you well anywhere you can pitch it.

See the complete list of the best Teepee Tents here!

What We Like

  • Top of class space-per-weight
  • Wind resistant construction
  • Comfortably sleeps two with plenty of room for your gear
  • More affordable than similar technical options

What We Don’t Like

  • A very minimalist take on a teepee tent with no floor or bug mesh
  • Difficult to set up on a hard or rocky ground
  • Doesn't come factory seam sealed

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Black Diamond Mega Light

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    How to waterproof/seam seal my tent?

    Seam sealing your tent is quickly becoming the post-factory standard for many lightweight and tarp-based designs. Learning to reapply sealant and waterproofing can breathe a significant amount of life back into your tired old tent as well. For Black Diamond tents such as the Mega Light, you’ll want to use a silicone-based sealant.

    How to seam seal a new tent:

    • Set up your tent somewhere dry and preferably with good lighting
    • Mix up seam sealant (you can buy it premixed or make your own)
    • Apply sealant to the inside seams of the tent
    • Apply sealant to the outside of the tent
    • Let it dry in a well-ventilated place

    If you’re reapplying a seam sealer to an older tent, make sure to strip the old, leftover silicone off the tent before applying a fresh coat. Seam sealing takes patience, and you should be sure to test your coat before taking your tent into a potentially wet situation.

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    Are Black Diamond tents any good?

    Black Diamond makes vertically-minded gear in just about every category. From the classic Mega Light to bomb-proof expedition shelters like the Fitzroy, their tents cover the whole spectrum of backcountry travel needs. If mountaineering is your forte, look to Black Diamond to help you keep sheltered.

    Our favorite Black Diamond tents:

    • Black Diamond Mega Light
    • Black Diamond Beta Light
    • Black Diamond Firstlight
    • Black Diamond Fitzroy
    • Black Diamond Ahwahnee FR
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    How do you pitch a teepee tent?

    Pitching out a pyramid-style tent, alternatively referred to as a teepee tent or a mid, is an easy skill to learn but takes a lifetime to master. The most important part about setting up your teepee tent is choosing the right place. Beyond that, there are only a few steps, depending on the surface.

    How to pitch a teepee tent:

    • Find a suitable patch of ground, and make sure that the door is zipped
    • Stake out the corners of the tent, plan to make adjustments later
    • Place the pole in the apex of the tent and adjust it to the desired height
    • Stake out the additional edges as desired, add guy-lines if necessary
    • Adjust the lengths of the staked tie-downs until the tent is even and taut

    Setting up your teepee tent can take some creativity, depending on the situation. But as long as you can get the corners down, be it from snow anchors or stakes, you can pitch them pretty quick in a pinch. To see what our favorite options are in the category, take a look at our best teepee tents page for a list and buyer’s guide.

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    What are the best teepee tents?

    There’s a ton of variation within the realm of pyramid tents, and finding the best teepee tent for you is largely dependent on what you want to use it for. Lightweight classics such as the Black Diamond Mega Light are great for using as a home base while exploring deep in the mountains. In contrast, frontside-oriented options such as the Vidalido Family Teepee are perfect for camping with the kids or as an easy-to-spot shelter at a festival.

    A few of our favorite pyramid tents:

    For more of our favorite teepee tents and to see how they compare, be sure to take a look at our overview page.

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    When to use a pyramid tent?

    Pyramid tents are noted for their versatility and their capacity to be adapted or modified to fit almost every situation. The only issues with pyramid tents are the same as they are for any freestanding shelter. If you can’t get stakes in the ground or some alternative to tethering out the corners and tie-downs of the tent, you won’t be able to get it to stand.

    Due to their robust design, pyramid-style tents or teepee tents make great shelters for exposed or unprotected areas. In the alpine, in the desert, or other places where the relentless wind is a concern are perfect. With modern materials like silnylon and cuben fiber, contemporary pyramid tents tend to be a lot lighter than in the past, making them a popular option with the ultralight crowd.

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