When a piece of gear is close to perfect, the hardest thing to do is avoid mucking it up. So blessed be the engineers at Black Diamond, who knew a good thing when they saw it and only tweaked and modernized it. For 40 years, the Mega Light has been the difference between a good outing and a great one—and an insurance policy against a bad one altogether. Why? Because the major downer of cold-weather trips is all the time spent horizontal after the sun goes down.
The Mega Light lets us hang out, cook, and move around out of the weather (and our tents). The design’s provenance dates from the first American camping boom of the early 1980s, and couldn’t be simpler: A conical shape protects 51 square feet of floor space, and is supported by a single central pole (or a pair of ski poles and the included nylon connector). Those are the bones, but the floor layout is restricted only by snow depth and imagination. (Tips: Whatever design you go for, dig a rough pit first, then pitch the shelter; use a flat rock to keep the pole from digging into the snow.) The cone is steep enough and the silnylon slippery enough to shed snow accumulation (note: seam-sealing is DIY), and ample tieouts don’t budge under high winds (in howlers, dig the foundation deeper to reduce the profile). The Mega Light lacks snow flaps, but snow berms seal out spindrift just as handily. If there’s one tiny improvement we might suggest: The door needs a two-way zipper to increase venting. With all the people that fit inside, condensation is a given.