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Two snug: Can the High Route Tent 1FL be used as a 2-person shelter?

Our camp below James Peak, a 13'er. To use the High Route 1FL successfully as a 2-person shelter, it's best to have a protected campsite and friendly weather. We had neither, but still managed.

Our camp below James Peak, a 13’er. To use the High Route 1FL successfully as a 2-person shelter, it’s best to have a protected campsite and friendly weather. We had neither, but still managed.

For a one-person backpacking shelter, the Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL is palatial. Its footprint is 36 square feet and its minimum peak height is 48 inches.

In comparison, the two-person Big Agnes Copper Spur 2UL has a 38-square-foot footprint, with a maximum interior height of 42 inches. And the two-person MSR Carbon Reflex 2 has a 43-square-foot footprint with a maximum interior height of 34 inches.

Tangent: Some might say that the High Route Tent is too big. For some backpackers, it will indeed be overkill. But I’d broadly say that modern standards for sleep capacity are pathetically stingy (Just 34 inches tall? Really?), and that the High Route Tent offers an appropriate balance between weight and living space, especially in inclement weather and for backpackers who normally use a 2-person shelter for solo trips.

Given the dimensional similarities between the High Route Tent 1FL (HR1) and these 2-person shelters, you may wonder if it can be used as a 2-person shelter.

Yes, it can be, but its performance in this application has limits. Specifically:

Configuration and modularity

1. Leave the inner tent at home.

The inner tent is 30 inches wide. If it were used by one of the occupants, only 18 inches of width remain for the second sleeper, which is two inches narrower than the standard 20-inch sleeping pad. I suppose you could make room for the second sleeper by not utilizing the inner tent’s full width, but I think the inner tent would still feel imposing.

If you want full enclosure for bugs or emotional security, I would instead recommend breathable bivies, like the MLD SuperLight or the Borah Gear Bug Bivy. If you want more protected living space than a bivy, sorry, you’ll need to buy a true two-person tent.

With no bug pressure, use a simple groundsheet in order to stay out of the dirt and protect your air mattresses from abrasion. I use inexpensive emergency blankets, which are warmer than sheets of plastic window sealing film and about as durable.

For light bug pressure (i.e. not everyday, and mostly just around dawn and dusk), consider selective use of a mosquito headnet.

To use the High Route as a 2-person shelter, leave the inner tent at home. Instead, use a bivy sack (left, black material), a ground sheet (right, white material), and/or headnet.

To use the High Route as a 2-person shelter, leave the inner tent at home. Instead, use a bivy sack (left side, with black top and tan floor), a ground sheet (right side, white material), and/or headnet.

2. Use 20-inch pads.

The HR1 is 48 inches wide. If both occupants used wide 25-inch slepeing pads, each pad will stick out from underneath the shelter by an inch, on average. No good.

Ideally, both occupants will have 20-inch pads. This leaves up to four inches between the edge of each pad and the perimeter of the shelter when the doors are closed. That’s not much space, but it’ll work.

3. Porch the doors.

In calm or moderate winds, the High Route’s two side doors can be “porched,” either fully or halfway (using the side-release buckle to keep tension off the zipper). The primary benefit of this configuration is airflow: by opening up the shelter, condensation is less likely to develop.

For the sake of this conversation, however, the bigger perk of porched doors is the increase in protected usable space. Essentially, under each porched door is a vestibule for the storage of shoes, water bottles, stove, etc.

A fully porched door, for light rain and calm conditions, propped even higher with a stick.

A fully porched door, for light rain and calm conditions, propped even higher with a stick.

Occupants

1. Sleep head-to-foot/foot-to-head.

For maximum headroom, each occupant should lay with their upper body next to the trekking pole on their side of the tent. Because of the diagonal ridgeline, this means that the occupants will be laying head-to-foot/foot-to-head.

For non-intimate occupants, this arrangement may be acceptable, if not preferred. But for couples looking to sleep head-to-head/foot-to-foot, the HR1 is not optimally designed: one occupant will have less headroom than the other. Amanda and I used it in this fashion (with me getting less head height); it’s satisfactory, but not as good as it could be.

To maximize head room for each sleeper, orient the sleeping positions as shown.

To maximize head room for each sleeper, orient the sleeping positions as shown.

2. Sleep on your gear

Even if I’m not in a cramped shelter, I sleep on my gear. But it’s especially helpful for this situation, because there is limited floor space under the fly for items besides sleeping pads and bags.

Backpacks provide additional insulation and cushion. Water bottles can be placed under knees to remove stress on the lumbar. Maps and guidebooks are better protected under a sleeping pad than out in the open. And (if I’m not concerned about bears or mini bears) a food bag makes for a wonderful backcountry pillow.

Remaining items can be stored at the head and foot. The fly is nine feet long, so there is ample space even for two occupants that are 6-feet tall.

With it being a small 2-person fly, gear storage can be a challenge. I recommend sleeping on what you can, to get it out of the way and to better insulate yourself from the ground. I made two pillows from leftover gear, and I put both of our backpacks underneath my non-insulated air pad.

With it being a small 2-person fly, gear storage can be a challenge. I recommend sleeping on what you can, to get it out of the way and to better insulate yourself from the ground. I made two pillows from leftover gear, and I put both of our backpacks underneath my non-insulated air pad.

3. Be a considerate tent-mate.

Being a good tent-mate is a skill, like using a compass and preventing monkey butt. If one of your backpacking buddies is known for prolific snoring, ceaseless tossing-and-turning, multiple middle-of-the-night bathroom disruptions, and indifferent to the personal space of others, you may want to kindly refuse their proposal to share a HR1.

Conditions

1. Limit the practice to friendly forecasts.

When used by one person, the HR1 will remain comfortable in inclement weather like heavy precipitation, high humidity, and strong winds. But with two people inside, it will feel cramped in such conditions, and you’ll be wishing that you carried the extra weight of a legitimate 2-person shelter, or a 3-person ultralight model. Some inclement weather is manageable, but I’d want it to be short-lived.

2. Find high quality campsites.

With only a few inches of space between the tent’s perimeter and the occupants inside, the occupants are vulnerable to driving rain and snow, as well as rain splatter. For this reason, it’s especially important to find high quality campsites that are protected from the wind and that have porous ground materials. If such camps are rare, reconsider using the HR1 for two people.

An exposed campsite is okay in good weather, but discouraged in inclement conditions, especially if you will be using the HR1 as a 2-person shelter.

An exposed campsite is okay in good weather, but discouraged in inclement conditions, especially if you will be using the HR1 as a 2-person shelter.


Disclosures. I co-developed the High Route Tent 1FL with Sierra Designs. This post contains affiliate links, which helps to support this website.

16 Responses to Two snug: Can the High Route Tent 1FL be used as a 2-person shelter?

  1. John Peltier September 5, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    Nice…I like tents where you can leave the inner tent at home and just use the fly. This one seems to suit that really well. Unlike my REI Dash 2… Good review!

    • Andrew Skurka September 5, 2016 at 11:19 am #

      Yes, it’s well set up for using just the fly and leaving the inner tent at home. In most Mountain West locations, I only carry the inner tent for one month per year. Otherwise, I use a groundsheet, or perhaps a bivy or headnet.

      Why include the inner tent, then? Because (1) We’re exceptions. Most people want the inner tent full-time. And (2) When the bugs are bad, you need it. A bivy or headnet is not enough.

  2. CJ September 6, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    I like the removable inner net. What is fabric is used in the tent body? I couldn’t tell if it was silnylon or something else.

    • Andrew Skurka September 6, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

      The fly is 20d sil/PE nylon.

      The inner tent is 15d mesh with a 30d sil/PE floor.

  3. Francisco D September 17, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Great review Andrew! Your description is so thorough and candid, it is very refreshing to see that from anybody associated with a manufacturer. I’ve put the HR1 in my wish list for Christmas and HSD is now one of my go-to manufacturers.

    • Andrew Skurka September 17, 2016 at 8:55 am #

      I try to be thorough and candid when discussing products in which I have no stake, and thought the same treatment was only fair with the High Route and Flex Capacitor. Thanks for recognizing it!

  4. Dan Barwick October 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    Andrew, have you had good luck with the 30D floor? My Sierra Designs Nightwatch 2 has a 50D floor and feels quite beefy. Thanks. Love your videos.

    • Andrew Skurka October 22, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

      I haven’t been able to torture the 30d floor long-term. But I would imagine that since 15D and 20D floors are increasingly common, that 30D will fair well. If you notice it starting to wet through after extensive use, compliment its degraded waterproofness with an emergency blanket or polycryo sheet.

      • Dan Barwick October 25, 2016 at 11:14 am #

        Thanks – perhaps due to weight, you don’t favor footprints? I notice you didn’t continue SD to produce one for this tent. 🙂
        Thanks again for the response.

        • Andrew Skurka October 25, 2016 at 11:21 am #

          Conventional footprints add quite a bit of weight. For example, a 70D coated nylon footprint for a 1-person tent weighs about 5 oz. They are not cheap, at $50 plus/minus. And they serve no purpose when camping on dry ground, which is often the case for me. Yes, they protect your floor, which is difficult to replace, but when your floor is no longer sufficiently waterproof you can complement it with an emergency blanket or window sealing plastic, instead. Both items are lighter, easy to replace, and probably have about the same hydrostatic head when new relative to a footprint.

          • Dan Barwick October 25, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

            Thanks – that’s really interesting! It just goes to show that I never really understood what a footprint was for – I always thought they were primarily useful for dry ground – as a sort of additional protection from the ground. ( Pine needles poking tiny holes – that sort of thing.) I agree, they are heavy and expensive! Thanks for the response.

  5. Marc October 25, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    Hi Andrew. Just wondering why you/SD decided not to make a HR2? The design seems scalable enough to fit a slightly wider inner tent.

    • Andrew Skurka October 25, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

      1. Relative to other styles of tents, this is a low volume item.

      2. Limited human and financial resources available to develop it, especially in consideration of the opportunity cost of putting aside higher volume items.

      3. As I said in this post, the geometry does not extend well to a 2P setup, because of ceiling heights. Other geometries make for better 2P tents.

  6. Aaron N July 16, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for all you contribute to this field. I understand Sierra Design isn’t planning to develop a two-person version of the High Route. Can you recommend similar-design tents in 2P capacity?

    I am aware of:

    Tensegrity 2
    Tarptent Stratospire2
    Yama Swiftline 2p

    My spouse and I are looking to move away from our free-standing tent (at ~7lbs! Somehow it’s always in my pack…) We do prefer to sleep head-to-head and in the same bug-protected space, and we’re both over 6′. Our hiking is presently either N Georgia mountains in “winter”, or northern Rockies (M-Bow-Routt, Zirkel, Arapaho) during moderate months (May~Oct)

    High Route addressed some things in ways I really admire that Stratospire and Swiftline handled with less grace, while the Tensegrity generally seems less protected with its single plane.

    • Andrew Skurka July 22, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

      The TT and Swiftline are the only two shelters that share the geometry of the HR1. Otherwise you’re looking at a more normal 2P shelter.

      Re the Tentsegrity, I take Dave C’s word on this, https://bedrockandparadox.com/2016/08/19/sierra-designs-tensegrity-2-elite-review/. But if you’re going to be in northern GA in the winter, I don’t know…Those sound like really difficult conditions to avoid condensation, regardless of the shelter and your campsite selection. I’d probably look for a LW double-wall.

      • Aaron Norlund July 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

        Thank you for your time and thoughts!

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