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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.