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Imperfections: A self-critique of the Sierra Designs High Route Tent

It’s not perfect, and — depending on your trip conditions, personal preferences, and recreation budget — it may not be the most appropriate shelter for you. In a perhaps refreshing change of tone, I’d like to discuss real and perceived flaws of the Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL, and in some cases explain why they exist.


What are you willing to sacrifice to save weight? Space, storm resistance, condensation management, modularity, price? The ZPacks Hexamid weighs half as much as the High Route Tent.

What are you willing to sacrifice to save weight? Space, storm resistance, condensation management, modularity, price? The ZPacks Hexamid weighs half as much as the High Route Tent.

1. Not a featherweight

At 22 ounces for the fly and 14 ounces for the inner tent (2 lbs 4 oz total, or 1020 grams), the High Route Tent FL1 (HR1) is notably heavier than one-person ultralight shelters like the ZPacks Hexamid Solo or a Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Grace Tarp + Superlight Bivy, which both spec at less than 16 ounces (450 grams). Frankly, if I were doing a long-distance trip with relatively benign conditions like those encountered on the Pacific Crest or Continental Divide Trails (i.e., few storms, low humidity, bug-free nights, and dry campsites), I would find the potential weight-savings very attractive.

But (you know there’d be a “but,” right?) the HR1 was designed for nastier conditions: extended rain, strong winds, intense bugs, heat and high humidity, and moderate snowfall. As extremes, imagine replicating the Alaska-Yukon Expedition, partaking in the TGO Challenge, or thru-hiking the Wind River High Route. For such endeavors, I would consider the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid + Solo InnerNet a better standard. Here, the HR1 is more competitive: it is still 6 oz heavier, but it offers more usable space, better ventilation, taped seams, and $125 cost savings. (BTW, I have been a longtime user of MLD shelters. If you decide to support another brand besides Sierra Designs, MLD would be a good choice.) Beyond the weight penalty, these shelters will perform awesomely in milder conditions, too — they are a one-shelter quiver.

Among conventional manufacturers (i.e. you can buy its products at REI), the High Route Tent is unique. Any lighter solo tent entails major sacrifices. For example, compared to the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1, MSR Carbon Reflex 1, and Nemo Blaze 1P, the HR1 has up to 50 percent more protected square footage, uses fabrics that are up to 2x as waterproof, and costs $50 to $100 less. The REI Quarter Dome is more similar in weight (it’s 2 oz less), but the HR1 still has 25 percent more protected square footage. Versus all of these shelters, the HR1 is also more storm-worthy and more modular, in the sense that its fly and inner tent are designed to be used together or independently, perhaps in conjunction with other components, e.g. ground sheet or bivy sack.


While the fly is generously sized, the inner tent is more modest, at 30" x 90" x 43" (W x L x H). Some might wish it were bigger, for a roomier living area and maybe even room for two.

While the fly is generously sized, the inner tent is more modest, at 30″ x 90″ x 43″ (W x L x H). Some might wish it were bigger, for a roomier living area and maybe even room for two.

2. Modestly-sized inner tent

The High Route’s fly is 48” x 108” x 48” (W x L x H) and protects 36 square feet of floor space, enough for one big person, one person trapped in their shelter by weather, one person plus a dog or a lot of gear, or two people snug. For comparison, the fly on the Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2 protects 34 square feet of space; it’s not as tall and it has sloping side walls, too. (BTW, with all this room, who cares about vestibules?)

The HR1’s inner tent, however, is relatively modest, at 30” x 90” x 43” (W x L x H) with only 18.75 square feet of floor space. Some may wish it filled the fly, for more living area and perhaps even room for two. I opted otherwise, however: First, the smaller inner tent is lighter. And, second, the smaller footprint leaves 17.25 square feet of utility space for cooking dinner, and for storing wet gear and dirty shoes. Choices and trade-offs…


You've never seen (or pitched) a shelter like this one before. It's straightforward, but it should practiced before going into the field.

You’ve never seen (or pitched) a shelter like this one before. It’s straightforward, but it should practiced before going into the field.

3. Unique pitch

I know of only two other shelters that share the High Route Tent’s diagonally positioned poles, and neither shares the same footprint shape. So the HR1’s pitching sequence is truly unique, and not immediately intuitive. Pre-trip backyard practice is highly recommended.

Thankfully, the pitch is straightforward and easy to learn. Like a conventional mid, such as the Black Diamond Mega Light, the HR1’s footprint should be tensioned as a perfect rectangle and with equal force, i.e., 90-degree corners and ~45-degree tension lines. And like any A-frame tarp or pup tent, such as the Big Agnes Scout, the HR1’s ridgeline must be tensioned at both ends, using stakes or natural anchors.

Once the fly is pitched, the inner tent can be placed inside. This is the more difficult order (versus pitching the inner tent first, and the fly second) but at least if it’s raining you won’t have puddles in your bathtub floor before you even get inside.

Read my pitching instructions and tips.



Tensegrity Wind Tunnel from Sierra Designs on Vimeo.

4. Vertical side doors

Some have speculated that the High Route’s vertical side doors compromise its storm-resistance. Indeed, versus a sloping side panel, these barn doors are certainly not as aerodynamic.

Two years ago this was a concern of mine, too (and, in fact, our first prototype had sloping sides). But it no longer is. First, the Sierra Designs Tentsegrity, which has similarly shaped sides, withstood 40 mph blasts in a wind tunnel test. And, more importantly, I tested the HR1 in the exact conditions for which it was designed. The sides were never worrisome in high winds, mostly because they are reinforced by trekking poles.

Furthermore, I feel that the vertical sides are among the HR1’s best features. They preserve its rectangular footprint, which makes for an easy pitch. They maximize the usability of interior space, because perimeter space is not lost to low-angled walls. They create a dry entry and exit, i.e., when you open a door, nothing gets wet. And they allow for excellent ventilation even when it’s raining (when humidity is usually highest), without sacrificing any of its 36 square feet of protected space.


Footprints of the StratoSpire 1, Yama Swiftline 2, and High Route Tent 1FL

Footprints of the StratoSpire 1, Yama Swiftline 2, and High Route Tent 1FL

5. It looks like a Stratosphire or Swiftline

As I said earlier, I know of two other shelters that share the High Route’s diagonal pole positions: the Tarptent Stratosphire and the Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline. Some seem to think that the HR1 should be docked points for this, as if the idea was copied.

The truth is that we didn’t know about the existence of either shelter until we had our second prototype in hand. With the HR1 I was trying to avoid the pitfalls inherent to conventional mids and A-frame tarps (under which I’d slept hundreds of nights), notably: poles in or blocking the sleeping area, low-angle walls, wet entry, and limited ventilation in a storm. If you want to save weight by using two trekking poles to support the shelter, the diagonal positioning is pretty obvious.

Besides their pole orientations, the three shelters were taken mostly in different directions. Look at their respective shapes, dimensions, and fly/inner tent connections for examples. Overall, there is much greater variation among these tents than among, say, A-frame tarps or freestanding dome tents.


Disclosure: I co-developed the High Route Tent with Sierra Designs. This post contains affiliate links, which helps to support content on this website.

41 Responses to Imperfections: A self-critique of the Sierra Designs High Route Tent

  1. Martin Rye June 22, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    Well done on the design. It looks very capable of dealing with the TGO Challenge weather. Not the lightest, but it is solid in bad weather and affordable. Get SD to talk to Bob at Backpacking light UK http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/ about importing and stocking them and other SD kit. Need a UK outlet.

  2. Brad R. June 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    This looks like an interesting design. I currently use a MLD solomid so this is a little heavy for me, but it might be a nice shelter for my Dad who may be looking for a roomy solo shelter for Alaska.

    Its nice to see a comparison to the Tarptent and Yama too as initially they look very similar but there are more differences than meets the eye.

  3. Chris B June 23, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    It’s been interesting to read about the journey you’ve taken in developing the tent. Designs are always an interesting trade off, cost of materials and manufacturing costs vs pice point, nice to have features vs need to have. Add to that the struggles of marketing a new concept to a world of Internet shoppers and dwindling floor space in big box stores. It wasn’t that long ago when we would see people setting up different tents in stores before deciding which one would work best for them. These days people are relying on blog posts and YouTube.

    I like the direction Sierra Designs is taking by looking at the business but more importantly the way people are using their gear.

    Thanks for posting the journey best of luck on the launch.

  4. Jim June 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    This is the most practical ultralight 1-person shelter I’ve seen in a while. Sure, there are always lighter options however the all-around functionality of this is really nice, and the price is excellent. It’s also nice to know that water isn’t going to be pushed through the floor and it won’t require an hour of seam sealing. I must admit I struggle with exposed zippers however due to their vertical nature I understand why a storm-fIap would be redundant. I would love to see a video showing different views, and how to pitch it properly. I think this shelter will take a step in putting Sierra Designs back on the map for long-distance hikers. I must say however to this day I’ve never seen a shelter perform better than a Light Year in heavy Appalachian rains, so hopefully with your input Andrew SD can reintroduce it with a smarter design and lighter weight.

    • Andrew Skurka June 27, 2016 at 8:05 am #

      The SD Light Year and Clip Flashlight are both returning to SD’s line for Spring 2017, with an updated design and materials.

      • Russ August 15, 2016 at 11:16 am #

        My old clip flashlight 3 CD still has a better space to weight ratio than any double wall tent I can find 15 years later.

        Will an improved 3 man version be introduced?

        • Andrew Skurka August 15, 2016 at 11:22 am #

          I struggle to believe that, simply because of the advancements in fabrics since that time. If the same shelter were to be made today, it would definitely be lighter. In fact, we experienced this exactly when SD recently updated the 1P Clip Flashlight and 2P Lightyear — the new versions are bigger but considerably lighter.

          To specifically answer your question, a new 3P SD shelter is not currently in the works.

          • Russ August 15, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

            Let me check myself, what I wrote was wrong.

            Maybe I should have been more reserved with the “any I can find”…

            When I did the comparison I looked for something 1) just as big/long as the Clip 3 CD (I push out the ends head and foot of many tents lying down) to preserve why I like the Clip 3 so much 2) Set up in the rain friendly (which would be an improvement on the Clip 3) and why I was looking for a different tent.

            Everything I found a few months ago when tent shopping that is lighter (that does in fact have a better ratio) is also smaller.

            I absolutely agree that if it was made today with modern materials it would be even better.

            Clip flashlight 3 CD:
            44 sq ft and 4 lbs 15 oz.
            0.55 kg/m2

            Example tent I compared a few months ago when I was tent shopping

            Cottage with trekking pole support:
            Tarptent Stratospire 2
            33 sq ft and 46 oz
            0.45 kg/m2

            A 40+sq ft inner high route would be awesome btw.

            Spurred by your comment I did a quick check of tents on REI without considering rain friendly setup and (at $500!) the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3/4 beats it

            44 sq ft and 4 lbs
            0.44 kg/m2

            57 sq ft and 5 lbs 12oz
            0.49 kg/m2

            I ignored tents like those 4 months ago when I was searching for a replacement for the SD Clip 3 CD because they were no better about setting up in the rain.

            Absent the rain friendly setup requirement 15 years has resulted in a decrease in weight by 1lb/20% using the Copper Spur 3 as an example.

            I ended up focusing on the rain friendly aspect and dropping the double wall requirement and getting a Tarptent Cloudburst 3, it is definitely lighter but smaller and shorter. I thought with the steeper walls the functional length would be better than the stratospire but I hit the ends and condensation is annoying if battened down.

            Cloudburst 3
            36 sq ft 52 oz
            0.44 kg/m2

  5. RichE June 28, 2016 at 3:28 am #

    I’m intrigued by the “Imperfections” title.
    Your thinking on design choices seems clear and I’m sure both you and the SD design team had a very clear (corporate buzzword alert) “use case” in mind for this tent. For which it is closer to perfect than not.

    So perhaps it’s not meant for the weekend warrior who gets out a few times a year and picks and chooses the weather, but someone who is prepared to carry a little extra for weathertightness and durability over many weeks of use

    It would be interesting to see a back of the envelope (or fag packet if your a pom) estimate on the weight and cost of a dyneema fly and bug floor. I’m guessing ‘halved’ and ‘doubled’ or more. Terra Nova offer such options.

    Anyway, very well done. And enough of the self-flagellation 🙂

    Richard
    North Canterbury, New Zealand

    • Andrew Skurka June 28, 2016 at 5:44 am #

      Re DCF, yes, probably about half the weight and twice the expense. I know that some would pay this, but not SD’s core customer.

  6. RichE June 28, 2016 at 3:31 am #

    It always amuses me to see those who will pay $700 per kilo to “save weight” whilst lugging around a small fortune on their gut 🙂

    • Andrew Skurka June 28, 2016 at 5:39 am #

      Indeed, very true. It does not matter the source — extraneous weight makes hiking harder, especially when vertical climbing is involved. It is a simple power-to-weight issue.

  7. Luke June 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Good job on taking the design copying accusations head on. I am pretty sensitive to to design “borrowing” (in general I am very critical of it) but it doesn’t take much to show that this is in fact a unique design. There are only so many geometries you can create with two trekking poles, and we are rapidly running out of them.

    • Andrew Skurka June 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm #

      In general it’s pretty rare to see a truly unique or revolutionary product, i.e. it created a new category of products, or relegated everything else obsolete. SPOT, Jetboil, and the NeoAir come to mind for recent products; for other generations, it was Gore-Tex, Dick Kelty’s original backpack, and wax-coated canvas. Everything else — including the HR1 — is at best an evolution in existing design, offering something different and somehow better (though not necessarily across-the-board better). I was a little surprised by the comments over the Stratosphire and Swiftline, as if those two shelters owned the idea of making the ridgeline diagonal to the sleeping area or that they represented the extent of design possibilities with this configuration.

  8. Michael July 1, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    Looking at the dimensions of the inner, it looks like if you have the inner nest in, you don’t have a ton of room on under the fly, about 9 inches on either side? I’m assuming because the vestibules are vertical you would have enough room to prop your pack upright outside the inner tent?

    • Andrew Skurka July 1, 2016 at 9:02 am #

      The fly is 48″ wide; the inner, 30″. So if the inner is centered perfectly, yes, 9 inches on either side. You can scoot the fly left/right and fore/aft to consolidate some of this space, with a realistic max width of about 15 inches, enough width for a pack.

      Personally, I often use my backpack as part of my pillow, or as a knee rest (to prevent my knees from feeling hyperextended; I’m a back sleeper). If you only a short pad, it offers some foot insulation, too. In addition to the improvement in sleeping comfort, this also solves the problem of what to do with your pack at night. Some people use their pack for storage at night, but I always unpack it completely so that I can get a fresh pack-up in the morning.

  9. Brandon Smith July 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    Andrew,

    Can you explain some pros/cons between a tarp/bivy setup (such as the MLD Grace tarp/Superlight bivy) and the SD High Route dealing specifically with bad weather. I’m talking about high winds, downpour, thunderstorms, snow, etc … It’s obvious that the SD High Route is more comfortable in these conditions (assuming you’ll be sitting in it for long periods of time waiting out a storm). Other than the space and comfort, how does the SD High Route fair against a tarp/bivy setup in bad conditions?

    • Andrew Skurka July 11, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      A tarp/bivy setup is my go-to for low- and mid-elevation routes in the American West, where 3-season conditions are generally very favorable (rarely stormy or windy at night, and no or few bugs in the brisk overnight temps). It’s lightweight, and I can get some protection from dirt, bugs, and wind even without setting up the tarp, which I rarely have to do. Although, a tarp/bivy is not for everyone, even in these ideal conditions — many people find a bivy too claustrophobic, or simply want more protected living space.

      The High Route Tent is much better for more inclement conditions: moderate or heavy rain, wind, snow, or bugs. The steeper wall angles and shorter ridgeline (versus an A-frame tarp) will better handle precip, and the full-sided coverage will better handle winds. When the bugs are bad, they’ll be at least 12 inches from your ears, which is way better than the 1-2 inches in the bivy.

      Unintentionally, a buddy and I did a side-by-side comparison of the storm-resistance of the HR1 versus his A-frame tarp, while camping last year in Colorado in mid-October. Here are the results:

      Noel's A-frame tarp after a 4-inch storm

      The Route Tent Tent after a 4-inch storm

  10. Tommy July 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Greetings, just discovered you and greatly appreciate your advice and content. This is a great article; the features discussion is very helpful. It sounds like it would be great for my first big long-distance excursion. I am planning to do NC’s Mountains To Sea Trail next summer when it will be hot, humid, and buggy. Not my ideal time of year, but my wife is a teacher and that is when I am able to go. When will this product be available? Thank you, and keep up the good work! Cheers, ~Tommy.

    • Andrew Skurka July 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      There is a limited release (110 units) later this month, and full production and distribution will hit in Spring 2017. If you’re from NC, you might be able to find one at GOPC; I’m not expecting REI to pick it up, a bit too niche.

      Not sure if you’re committed to sleeping on the ground, or buying a shelter that you can use year-round and out West, too, but frankly back East I generally recommend a hammock, especially in the Appalachians where there are few “good” camps available.

      • Tommy July 15, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

        Thanks for the info! I Am open to the idea of a hammock but concerned about places on the MST where there are no trees or other structures to hang a hammock. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

        • Andrew Skurka July 16, 2016 at 10:41 pm #

          A disclaimer: I haven’t been on the MST. I’ve only been on trails like it in the western part of the state. I also went to school in Durham.

          I can’t imagine that you will struggle to find suitable hammock spots, however. It does not seem like you can go very far without encountering trees. Even in the agricultural areas of the east, trees probably line the edges of fields and all of the waterways. I would think that the concern would be the opposite: Can you find enough flat and non-brushy areas to lay down a tent?

          • Tommy July 16, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

            Clad to hear you have some NC roots! Good points on hammock vs. tent spots. My only concern with the hammock option on the MST is the coastal & outer banks section. After reading the excellent 3-part hammock article by Alan Dixon I need to lezrn about modifying the hammock to a ground setup in which I could survive rainy weather.

  11. Steve July 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Kudos! Well done Andrew! I appreciate the honesty!

  12. Brad July 20, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

    Andrew,

    Could you give your thoughts on the functionality of the HR 1 versus the Tensegrity Elite. I have the two-person version of the Tensegrity, which I really like, and was considering getting the one-person model which is lighter than the HR 1. Pros and cons?

    Thanks,
    Brad
    Washington State

    • Andrew Skurka July 21, 2016 at 7:30 am #

      The Tentsegrity is lighter and simpler.

      The High Route is double-wall, (more versatile, and better manages condensation), easier to pitch, and bigger.

      Both are well ventilated and very storm-resistant (for their weight).

  13. Juha Ranta August 27, 2016 at 1:58 am #

    I have a Tarptent Stratospire, which I like. It’s actually the only tent that I own – I’m kind of trying to get more experienced in hiking with gradual research and experimentation. The High Route Tent looks very nice as well. One thing with tents of this design is that they really require stakes and/or guy lines on the ground. While this is usually not an issue on soft ground, I can see how it could become more of an issue on sandy beach, rocks, snow and so on, at least compared to self-supporting tents.

    • Andrew Skurka August 27, 2016 at 6:30 am #

      There are some solutions to pitching a non-freestanding shelter on the soils that you mentioned:

      * Find another campsite.
      * Tie-off to natural anchors or heavy objects like trees, roots, downed logs, and large rocks.

      But these are not ideal solutions. And I’d say that if you are planning to camp in such areas regularly, the extra weight of a freestanding shelter may be worth it. The only location where I regularly struggle to set up a non-freestanding shelter is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. The sand is deep and fine there.

      • MarkL September 20, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

        It is also worth noting than even most “free-standing” shelters require at least a couple of stakes to tension the vestibules/entry areas. Without doing that you can easily compromise breathability, wind performance, etc.

      • John October 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

        Also, river side camping can be tough, and esp if no trekking poles b/c kayaking. What freestanding shelters do you like?

        • Andrew Skurka October 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

          I don’t own any freestanding shelters, so I can’t offer any first-person recommendations. Freestanding tents from BA, REI, and MSR seem to be most popular, and I would start there.

          • MarkL October 20, 2016 at 12:17 am #

            REI’s tents routinely show up as being very good and an excellent value. I would beware of going ultralight, especially with floor fabrics. River banks tend to have a lot of rocks. Ground cloth of some sort for sure. Nemo and Mountain Hardware have some good designs as well. Mountainsmith are very reasonably priced and use heavier fabrics but the designs are limited and so-so. Kelty is another decent budget brand (or so I’ve read), but don’t expect quite the same level of quality.

  14. Gary Liberty September 27, 2016 at 10:13 am #

    I’m very excited by this design. I found a SD Mirage 2 for a fantastic price for my car camper and can attest to both the quality and functionality of the inner tent design. Well done Sierra Designs and Andrew.

  15. Boyan January 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    My High Route arrived today, pitched in on the grass in the park, here are a few impressions

    The good stuff

    1) Easy to pitch: if you can eyeball 45 and 90 degrees you can pitch this on ground that holds stakes well

    2) Can be pitched as a unit. I have seen some people say that the attachment of the inner is fiddly. I did not find it troublesome, but if you do just leave the bottom attached to the fly, it pitches well that way.

    3) Fantastic build – unlike the UL tents this one has a solid feel to it, not like something that will rip in the first wind gust. Sure, you pay the price in weight but that is a great tradeoff. The seams and the tape job is immaculate.

    4) Spacious – I am 6’1″ and found the inner of sufficient height and length

    5) No fuss cording – Andrew recommends that you cut it off 🙂 but if you do decide to keep it I found it pleasantly solid and simple.

    Things that could use improvement

    1) The pockets that the poles fit into are not substantial enough, at least IMO. With the current design they are VERY unforgiving with respect to non-vertical poles. If your pole is as little as 1″ off vertical along the short side, the pole has a tendency to slip out of the pocket, even when secured with the velcro. Along the long side the design seem to imply that the pole should not be vertical, since if you want it strapped to the sidewall the pole needs to be slightly tilted – or maybe this is user error
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxMbtrAZYEMocXp5ZlpLMHdqdkU

    2) The inner is saggy and unnecessarily constricts the living space. It would have been great to provide additional nylon loops for optional shock cord to keep the sides more vertical
    Here
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxMbtrAZYEMoT2RLSzNIWDJUMFE
    And here
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxMbtrAZYEMoTzY3T2ZEMlNSTEk

    3) The horizontal section of the zippers on the inner doors should have been 20cm longer. Some of us are not entirely flexible and that would have made ingress/egress helluva lot more pleasant in the morning.

    4) There should have been two more loops midway along the lower edges of the outder doors to allow the long doors to be put under some tension. This would be fiddly to do on both sides, but at least it would allow one of the sides, which is likely to be more exposed to be tied down to reduce floppiness

    5) Seems like you have to be somewhat wind tolerant with this design. I could not get the fly closer than 2 inches to the ground. To do that I needed to keep the pole length to around 120cm and use the guy lines to provide tension. As a result the inner also came low, and the minimal tub was essentially lying on the ground providing zero wind protection. SD should really offer a semi solid inner for those of us who are not hard core masochists and want some creature comforts 🙂

    Unknowns

    1) Seems like it will be difficult to pitch in the desert on rocky and sandy soil. I will drive out to the desert tomorrow to try it out.

    Fundamental issues

    1) Vertical sides result in complete elimination of vestibule space. There is enough room to put muddy boots inside, but to keep them away from potential backsplash you have to press them against the inner and potentially muddy it. This can be mitigated with some type of a partial ground cloth but it gets fussy. And forget cooking inside – It may be possible but I would not want to do it. Andrew has stated that the HR1 started out with sloped sides, I wish it had stayed that way. Would have been a more useful general purpose tent.

    2) The vertical sides are difficult to get taught. The moment you open the doors things tend to get floppy. I thought that it may be possible to support them somewhat by pulling out the poles an inch or so, but this is when I discovered how unforgiving the design is with respect to lateral pole misalignment.

    Overall it is a nice tent, but I am not sure yet if I will keep it.

    • Andrew Skurka January 9, 2017 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Boyan –

      Based on our correspondences I am not surprised by your detailed assessment. I appreciate your thoughts on everything. Some thoughts and responses:

      Good stuff

      2. It is best pitched without the inner tent attached to the fly. If you do pitch it together you should loosen the connections so that the fly can re-pitch to the contours of the new campsite, which may not be like the last.

      Improvement:

      1. The shelter does not appear to be properly set up. The pole needs to be extended more in order to remove all the slack out of the door panel. On a hard office floor, it’s 120 cm, but in the field it’s going to be 125 after accounting for some fabric stretch and some sinkage of the pole tip into the ground, or even 130 if you leave slack in the guylines and let the shelter lift off the ground. So long as the pole is extended “fully,” the grip should not pop out of its cone — there will be too much tension for that to happen. That said, maybe we’ll look at increasing the cat cut on the ridgeline to make it even more pronounced, or trying to create some type of inner pocket for the pole rather than using the Velcro strap.

      2. The inner tent is purposely not a palace. I use it for 6 weeks per year, and only need something fairly minimal. But it shouldn’t be saggy. It doesn’t tension beautifully like the inner tent of a poled tent, but your photo suggests there is lots of slack in the pitch that shouldn’t be there.

      3. Noted

      4. We considered this, but decided not to because you lose functionality of the door. Maybe we’ll reconsider.

      5. For max wind protection, stake the guylines as close to the shelter corners as possible while still removing all the stretch from the fly perimeter, so that there is minimal “lift” of the fly. The poles will have to at least be 120, but they’ll probably need to be a little longer in order to remove all the slack from the door panels. In its lowest pitch, the inner tent should still properly tension — we built it for that height, and added allowance for taller pitches.

      Unknowns

      1. It will be as difficult to pitch as any non-freestanding shelter. For regular backpacking in sandy environments, I would suggest a freestanding tent.

      Fundamental issues

      1. If this tent had vestibules, you would lose the simple pitch, dry entry/exit, and ventilation in a storm. Not worth it. If you want more room inside the fly when the inner tent pitched, you can adjust the corner connection lengths in order to “shift” the inner tent around inside, like more flush to one side. That will give you more room, although admittedly it does not feel nearly as palatial as when used with the fly-only. Another option is to porch one of the side doors, so that you can ventilation and extra room.

      2. Try putting more tension on the doors by lengthening the poles. I know the official height is 120 cm, but really you need to lengthen the poles to whatever length necessarily until you can’t extend them any more. If you do this, I think a few of the other issues will go away, like the grips wanting to pop out of the apex and the inner tent being saggy.

      If you want to send me more photos of your setup, I’d be happy to critique.

      • Boyan January 9, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

        Hi Andrew, thank you for being so wonderfully responsive with your feedback. A few quick clarifications:

        Improper setup – the image is with the poles at 130cm, I still had a problem with the poles moving around, I need to practice more. I was limiting what I do because until I decide I want to keep the shelter I need to keep it clean and without signs of use. Inner pocket for the poles will be helpful to increase success with non-expert users. Also maybe some type of a “quick start” sheet inside, since some of your customers may have never had a pole supported shelter before? For example, little things like making sure that the handles of the poles are oriented properly, with the “beak” of the grip pointing outward towards what appears to be a pocket designed explicitly to hold it?

        Inner tent not a palace – the size of the inner is fine. It is the lack of tension on the mesh that I am highlighting. The design inherently cannot put much tension on the mesh to keep it taught, and for someone 6ft and over the fabric starts to hang a bit too close to the face, at least for my liking. If I am lying on my back trying to read that can get bothersome. All I was suggesting is adding some nylon loops along the outside ridges of the tent and corresponding loops on the inside ridges of the fly to allow those like me, who like the space, to pull up the first 10-15 inches to keep the mesh out of their face. Most people would probably not bother using them, I would and if I keep the shelter I will most likely sew my own.

        Door functionality – absolutely, the moment you stake it down it becomes unusable. However in challenging weather it may be possible to position the tent so that one but not both doors are protected, particularly in shifting winds. In that case the ability to stake down one door would be useful.

        Shifting the inner tent to one side – hmm, the provided tension lines to dot seem to accommodate this. In order to connect to all four corners I need to have them fully extended, and then there is practically no slack to move the shelter around.

        P.S. I am replying to your blog so that your answers can benefit others too. If you prefer to have this discussion over email just let me know.

        • Andrew Skurka January 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

          This is the best place to have the conversation, let’s keep it here.

          Re the lengths on the inner tent corners: How long are your lengths? I’d like to compare them with spec. They were spec’d to be long enough so that the inner tent could be shifted around.

  16. Boyan January 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    12 inches fully extended. Dusting for off my pocket protector and RPN calculator, with an 18 inch differential between the tarp and nest, for a fully centered nest I get corner-to-corber distance of sqrt(9^2+9^2)~12., I did find it odd how tight the fit was. In order to allow full motion of the nest left to right the correct length is sqrt(9^2+18^2)~20 inches. Either SD is not following your spec or the spec was set incorrectly. Now if you REALLY want to deter spammers from your blog you should make them solve problems like this, instead of the multiplication table stuff you have 🙂

    • Andrew Skurka January 16, 2017 at 9:29 am #

      Can you send me a photo of the guyline lengths for the inner, ideally next to a ruler? They should be 21 inches long. If it’s 12 that’s a problem.

  17. Brad February 7, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Andrew,

    If you have hiked the West Coast Trail, I’m curious how you think the High Route would perform or if you have a different recommendation. Maybe some readers out there who have hiked the trail have some input. Other than not being freestanding with possibly some camp locations being located on the beach, it seems like it would be a good design.

    Thanks,
    Brad

    • Andrew Skurka February 7, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

      I have not hiked the West Coast Trails, but I have enough experience in the Pacific Northwest and in southeast Alaska to extrapolate its performance.

      If you want to use a ground-based shelter, I think it would perfect excellently in the humidity and precip that is common to that part of the world. It’s oversized, so it won’t become a coffin in consecutive days of wet conditions. And it ventilates well even if it’s raining outside.

      I’m not as familiar with the bug season here. If it’s not buggy, I would not take the inner tent. Instead, I’d just bring an emergency blanket (maybe two, for extra waterproofness) and put all of my gear on top of it.

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