Q:

What’s the best ultra-light waterproof/breathable tent out there?

I have a Bibler Ahwahnee, which is a brilliant tent, but I see new options for tents that are a kilo or more lighter. Having compared Black Diamond’s HiLight and Nemo's Nano, they look sturdy and light. But how can I check for breathability to match my Bibler?
—Ian
Johannesburg, South Africa

Mar 4, 2010
Outside
Outside Magazine

The HiLight

A:

That shouldn’t be that hard to do, Ian, and for one simple reason: The material in the Black Diamond doesn’t claim to be “waterproof." The materials in the Ahwahnee and the Nano do. And there is no way that a waterproof material can be as breathable as one that’s billed as “highly water-resistant."

Here’s the breakdown: The Bibler Ahwahnee ($650) uses a material called ToddTex (eponymously named after the founder of the company, Todd Bibler), which is chemically similar to Gore-Tex. So, it's waterproof and breathable. (And now that Bibler and Black Diamond are the same company, it might be a matter of price; the Anwahnee is $280 cheaper than the HiLight.)

Nemo, meanwhile, uses ventilation to get moisture out—its fly material is waterproof but not breathable, which is not a bad strategy, as any tent sweats in the right conditions. Besides, the new Nano Elite ($390) comes in at just under three pounds (1.3 kilograms).

Then we come to the Black Diamond HiLight ($370), which is essentially a newer version of the Lighthouse I have used for several years, which is a lower-priced version of the Ahwahnee. At first the HiLight was made with a material from Epic called Nextec. Not waterproof, but very water-resistant and fine for all but days of downpours (I never have gotten wet in mine). For whatever reason (probably price) Black Diamond has gone with their own material, called NanoShield, which like the Nextec is said to be very water-resistant.

I will say the HiLight looks very appealing. A small two-person or large one-person tent, it weighs in at a mere 1.42 kilograms (3 pounds, 2 ounces), just a touch lighter than the Lighthouse. The larger Ahwahnee is six pounds (it came out at a time when that was very respectable).Myself, I like the HiLight, barring trips in tropical deluges. It’ll keep you dry AND comfortable, at a good price and the right weight.

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