User Review: Black Diamond Lighthouse
Design: tThree-season, freestanding, single-wall dome.
Ease of Setup: Difficult at first and easy with experience
Weight: 3 pounds, 3 ounces for the tent and 1 pound, 3 ounces for the vestibule
Price Paid: $300 tent & $100 for the vestibule
I am writing this review after using this tent many times over the last three months. I got it and the vestibule on sale.
I've rated the tent with four stars because I haven't yet had it out in really nasty weather. Yes, it's been in the rain and the wind but I have not weathered a really bad storm inside it. So far it is the perfect tent for me and my trips. I am also confident that it will handle the tough weather just fine.
My trips take place in the Pacific Northwest. 90 percent of them happen in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, Marble Mountain Wilderness, or Russian Wilderness. I am out a lot and trip length is usually two nights. Most of my trips involve just me and the dog.
This tent is a single wall, free-standing dome. The vestibule is exactly that, a vestibule and not a rainfly. It adds space to the front of tent. The door on this tent is huge and opens up one entire tent wall. There is a small window on the back of the tent. Normally, I only bring the tent itself and the vestibule stays home. If the weather indicates really bad weather, or if there is a second person, then I bring the vestibule. I have used the tent both ways.
Set up on this tent takes a little getting used to. The three poles go inside the tent. Two of the poles are flexed to the point that the pole ends go into snaps positioned in the reinforced tent corners. While this sounds awkward and, in fact, is awkward the first time through, it becomes much easier with a little practice. In addition, it means that in the event that you arrive at your campsite in the rain. You are setting up both the tent and the vestibule from inside the tent. That's a major advantage for me because I always seem to get to my destination minutes ahead of the rain.
Once the poles are in the snaps they are held in place on the upper part of the tent by velco tabs (lots of them). They are a pain but they work and takes only a couple of minutes to fasten them and, as I said before, it's all done while I am inside the tent and out of the weather. I just imagine with inside poles how you could make sleeves work in any easier way.
So far, I haven't experienced any condensation inside the tent at all and that was my main worry going into this purchase. Even with the tent door almost entirely buttoned up and two adults inside, the interior stayed dry.
There is an earlier review of this tent that gives it a very poor rating. Equipment should match your style of hiking, but I think the reviewer suffered from some basic misunderstandings of this tent especially as applied to his intended purpose. He was using it for motorcycle camping not backpacking and he admits that weight really isn't an issue for him. This tent makes certain sacrifices (single-wall design, etc.) to get its weight down. If weight is truly not an issue there are lots of tents in the 7-8 pound range that will do a nice job for around $300 or less.
Second, I don't know how you can do any research about this tent at all and not realize that the $300 price does not include a vestibule. I understand that most double-wall tents come with a rainfly which usually includes some type of vestibule. After doing my research, I bought this tent so that I didn't have to deal with the question of whether to put the rainfly on before I went to sleep because I love looking up and seeing the sky but don't like getting up at 3 a.m. to put the rainfly on when it starts raining. Now when that happens, I roll over and simply zip the solid door panel over the mosquito netting in the door.
As to not being worth the money, that's hard to say. To a motorcycle camper who doesn't care about weight, probably not. To a backpacker who wants a single-wall tent that is light, has a high-tech fabric that breathes well and is storm worthy enough to depend on when he is far from the car, then it is worth every penny.
I have never had my poles slip out of the corner snaps. My experience is that once they are snapped in they stay in. As to the poles not matching the tent structure, that is someone talking with no experience in setting this tent up. Once the poles and velcro are in place this tent sets up so tight that bugs hitting the walls can sound like someone tapping lightly on a drum.
The biggest single indicator that the earlier reviewer wasn't familiar with the tent was evidenced by his statement that "it didn't look or feel that different from your standard rip-stop nylon tent. " I've had quite a few tents over the past 15-20 years and the nextec fabric in the Lighting both feels and looks very different from any other tent I have owned.
This tent does have three drawbacks. First, it's expensive. Second, you do have to seam seal it yourself. Plan on spending a few boring hours when you seal the tent and the vestibule. I understand that there are other expensive tents that require seam sealing, but that doesn't make it right. Any tent this expensive should be seam sealed at the factory.
Third, the high, dome profile of this tent makes it a little difficult to set up in a strong wind. What's more, once it is set up it must be staked out immediately because otherwise it takes off in the wind like a kite. My tent has already gotten away from me once and I was lucky to have no damage. If you're not carefully you could be chasing this tent into a nearby river or lake.