Field Tested: Black Diamond Mega Light Tent Review

A classic design combining simplicity, durability, and lots of space

john nestler mega light tent

The Mega Light in action on the Nahanni River. Credit: John Nestler

Mega Light: $289.95
Mega Bug: $289.95
http://blackdiamondequipment.com

Pyramid tents have been around for decades, and there's good reason for it. The Mega Light continues the heritage of the Mega Mid, which originated with Yvon Chouinard's designs in the early 1980s. The Mega Light is a lightweight tarp shelter, which utilizes a single-pole design to enable set-up in a variety of conditions. It achieves its light weight by eliminating the bathtub-style floor found in most modern tents as well as greatly reducing pole weight. The functionality is identical to the older Mega Mid, but the tent material has been updated to silnylon to shave additional weight and bulk. For those who wish to have bug netting, the Mega Bug, which is sold separately, nests inside the tarp design to provide complete protection from flying critters as well as a durable floor.

john nestler mega bug

The Mega Bug keeps insects at bay while allowing for ample ventilation. Credit: John Nestler

The Mega Light combines the advantages of a tarp system with the comforts and simplicity of a tent. It provides 81 square feet of floor space, which sleeps 4 easily and the high ceiling allows you to sit-up inside, a luxury that some tents don't have. The carbon fiber center pole is also easily swapped for a hiking pole or 1/2 a breakdown paddle if space and weight are at a premium on an expedition. Much like a traditional tarp shelter, setting up the Mega Light is simple, yet it's an art. Whether you're staking it down, tying it to rocks, or using guylines, there are endless possibilities. One night on a multi-day sea kayaking expedition in Newfoundland we decided to camp on a remote, rocky island. Smooth cracks ran across the granite surface, so a friend set up cams in the cracks and pulled the edges taught. It turned out to be a bomber setup, and affirmed the ingenuity behind the design. Whether you’re snow camping, mountaineering, or self-support paddling, there’s a good argument to make for bringing the Mega Light along.

john nestler mega light newfoundland

With a little ingenuity you can set the Mega Light up anywhere. Credit: John Nestler

While the bug net functions perfectly, it does add a considerable bit of heft to the tent setup; the bug netting and floor pack down to a size larger than the Mega Light itself. While it would have been nice to see Black Diamond incorporate a lightweight bug net attachment to the bottom of the shelter, the Mega Bug accomplishes its purpose and serves as a supreme refuge from mosquitos and black flies. One distinct advantage to the Mega Bug is its ability to be setup as a stand-alone unit, which is perfect for breezy summer nights. While the two-tent setup adds some weight to a trip, it's almost always worth it for versatility and comfort.

The silnylon of the Mega Light is certainly lighter than previous nylon iterations, but it's hard to tell how the durability will stack up to the Mega Mid, which often had a 10+ year lifespan. I can attest to its construction though, as I fashioned a sail out of it to cruise the flatwater while exiting the Nahanni River onto the Liard River in the Northwest Territories.

Few tents combine the versatility, durability, and simplicity of the Mega Light. It truly meets the needs for 95 percent of my time in the backcountry, and allows me to camp in style without the weight of a larger structure. This design is true to its roots 30-plus years later, and only goes to show that classic tent designs still hold their own against modern shelters.

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