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Preview: Sierra Designs 2018 tents || High Side, Studio, Sweet Suite & Meteor

My coverage of Outdoor Retailer starts at the Sierra Designs booth (naturally, since they’re paying for me to be here). For 2018 SD has largely revamped its shelter line-up. Only three current models are being carried forward — the Summer Moon, Clip Flashlight, and my High Route. The remainder will be discontinued and closed out.

Driving philosophy

The new models are less innovative and radical than the old line-up, but ultimately we believe they offer a more compelling package. They have double-wall construction and vestibules, more familiar architectures, and more intuitive setups. To help differentiate them in the marketplace, Sierra Designs emphasized livable space and has priced them more competitively.

With its new models, SD was not striving to break records. Instead, it’s offering a quality and functional product at a good price. For decades this was a winning formula for SD, and under the leadership of Stephen Barnes the brand is trying to get back to that.

High Side

Of the four new models, the High Side is the most interesting to med. It’s a double-wall non-freestanding hoop tent with side entry. The pole set is not symmetrically horseshoe-shaped, but rather skewed to be more vertical on the door-side.

The High Side will appeal to those who prioritize weight and packability over livable space.

At 1 lb 14 oz, it will appeal to weight-conscious backpackers (or bikepackers) who don’t use trekking poles or who appreciate the convenience of a dedicated pole set. It’s also more packable than the average tent, since SD used 12.5-inch pole segments instead of the more traditional 14- or 16-inch lengths.

Of course, the low weight has a cost, in this case less liveable space: the peak height is just 32 inches and the interior floor is space is 18.5 square feet. Thankfully, the side awning can be porched for additional room and ventilation, above the beyond the 8.8-square foot vestibule.

The fly, floor, and mesh fabrics are 20d, 30d, and 15d mesh, respectively, which provides a good blend of weight, durability, and cost. The Studio and Sweet Suite share this same fabric combination.

MSRP is $279.

The High Side’s pole set is not symetrically horseshoe-shaped, but skewed to be more vertical on the doorway side.

Studio 2 and Studio 3

The story about SD’s balancing of weight, space, and price is better told by by the Studio and Sweet Suite models, both of which are available in 2- and 3-person sizes. The semi-freestanding Studio 2 and Studio 3 have one door and one vestibule. They are lighter and less expensive than the Sweet Suites.

The 1-door, 1-vestibule Studio 2. A 3-person version will also be available. To improve liveable space, SD added two horizontal cathedral poles at head and foot, rather than use the more common “fin” architecture.

The Studio 2 will retail for $350 and has a minimum weight of 2 lbs 11 oz. The Studio 3 will retail for $420 and has a minimum weight of 3 lbs 8 oz.

Sierra Designs worked the architecture to maximize liveable space relative other lightweight/ultralight 2- and 3-person tents. Rather than a fin-style roofline, SD added horizontal cathedral poles at head and foot to increase real estate for head and shoulders. The doorway and footbox are also aggressively angled, nearly vertical.

Notice the aggressive, nearly vertical doorway pole, which helps to increase interior volume.

Sweet Suite 2 and Sweet Suite 3

These two promising models will be available September 1 — rather than spring 2018 — through four exclusively retailers: Backcountry.com, Backcountry Edge, Campsaver, and Moosejaw, as well as SierraDesigns.com.

The semi-freestanding Sweet Suites have two doors and two vestibules. Fabrics are the same as the High Side and Studio models (20d, 30d, and 15d mesh). Weights and prices are understandably higher than for the Studios. The 2-person will retail for $370 and specs at 3 lbs 1 oz; the 3-person will retail for $460 and specs at 3 lbs 11 oz.

The inner (without fly) of the Sweet Suite 2. Again, notice the verticality of the interior, due to the cathedral pole and to the aggressively angled head and foot panels.

Meteor 2 and 3

These “standard build” models will appeal to those on tighter budgets and with lower standards for weight and performance. Like the Sweet Suites, they will be available on September 1 from the aforementioned online dealers.

15 Responses to Preview: Sierra Designs 2018 tents || High Side, Studio, Sweet Suite & Meteor

  1. John Abela July 27, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    I really like the looks of that High Side. Not really tent, not really bivouac, and most importantly, not a head-entry shelter! Plus being double wall, can have a nice bug net during the dry times yet still have bug protection AND not have the netting/fabric right in your face.

    • Andrew Skurka July 27, 2017 at 10:47 am #

      Yep, bingo. I think the side-entry is a totally underrated feature. It’s not until you have to do human oragami in a head-entry shelter that you realize that design is kind of crappy.

  2. Olympus July 27, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Hi Andrew and thank you for this nice update.

    I have been looking forward for the new SD gear and especially the new tents. I personally own 2 Sierra Design tents (Flash 3 & Lightning 2) and I am very satisfied from both of them.

    I am a bit surpised, that once again, Sierra Designs is changing direction and is totally moving away from the “war on vestibule” that once had announced. In my opinion, the direction SD took in 2015 was unique and I wish it would continue towards that innovative approach.

    I can imagine that sales might have been the problem, but again, SD should focus on real innovation and not just “Graphic” design on the fly of the tent.

    Nevertheless, I like the approach of the High Side and I look forward to see this tent in real life and test it.

    I wish you all the best and thank you for the nice posts!

    • Andrew Skurka July 28, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

      Innovation is wonderful. But sales keep the lights on. I thought that the 2015 shelters were innovative and had many positive features, but SD either failed to effectively communicate that or I was wrong, because the innovation was not followed up with adequate sales. If your business model depends on changing consumer behavior (e.g. eliminating vestibules, integrating the fly and body), you better be right, or you should hedge your best by not simultaneously throwing out more proven ideas.

      • Olympus July 29, 2017 at 4:06 am #

        Hi Andrew,

        first of all, I would like to thank you for your reply. Much appreciated.

        I fully agree with you that innovation is wonderful, but you need to make money as a business and therefore I understand why SD might have changed direction.

        Though, please, allow me to make a small comparison between Apple and SD.
        When Apple had announced (many years ago) that will end up using a CD/DVD drive in the laptops, everyone was thinking it was a terrible idea. Nowadays, noone misses the CD/DVD drive in their laptops. (Where CD/DVD place Vestibule)

        Similar thing happened when Apple had announced their iPhones will not support Flash Player. Consumers were thinking it was a terrible idea, but at the end, Apple was right.

        How did Apple achieved to win the respect of the public? By being innovative, bold and hold on their decisions.

        Of course, one might argue that Apple and Sierra Designs is not the same -or have same investing power. I will agree, but I hope you can understand my point.

        Why am I telling you all this? Because I like the two SD products you took part during the product development, and I hope you will continue to be as innovative and bold in the future, as you have been for the High Route and the Flex Capacitor.

        Finally, I would like to add, that I will certainly check out the new SD tents and hopefully I will continue to be a loyal customer of the brand.

        Thank you.

      • Mark July 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

        Being an owner of Flash 3 FL and High Route I can attest these are hands down the best tents for their respective sizes. It is disheartening to see the Flash 3 FL go, working in the outdoor industry for the last 7 years and having the opportunity to test various tents there is a reason I bought the Flash 3 FL over other popular designs from major manufactures. The awning, gear closets, roll-up sides and the “dry pitch” set up design along with the pole structure show it was designed by actual users.

        Since experiencing post-2013 SD products I have become a vocal advocate for the brand with customers and co-workers but sadly found the Exxel Outdoor reps providing the clinics barely mentioning SD, deciding to focus their time on Kelty (Kelty is much bigger business for my retailer).

        I would not be surprised if another brand takes up the awning design in the near future, “dry pitch” is already showing up in future MSR designs. A popular design that SD is copying with the Studio 2 is the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2, radical design for its time (2009) but widely mimicked today.

        I understand the business need to remain profitable but long term, minute changes of a common design seem short sided. I wish SD the best and will keep an eye out for these new tents, hopefully I am wrong. Understand this “rant” is coming from someone who really thinks SD is a highly underrated brand making some of the best backpacking specific gear. SD brought hope that new designs were possible (particularly the Flash 3) instead of tweaks that were more aimed for marketing “new” than real innovation. What keeps some hope alive is the fact that you Andrew are collaborating in future designs, love to see what you come up with next!

        • Andrew Skurka July 30, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

          I think your sentiment is widely shared among educated and avid users. I’m also thinking of Dave Chanault, who loves his Tentsegrity 2. Maybe we can hope that a solid foundation of bread-and-butter products will make room for “halo” models like the High Route that won’t cover salaries or the electric bill but that will offer niche audiences something more exciting than the norm.

  3. Ric R. July 27, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I can’t agree more about side entry and the “origami/yoga” maneuvers! When it comes to tent style shelters I use the Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 Elite. It really fills the void in many areas (garage size vestibule, ingress/egress, air flow, interior height and room) . It’s one of my favorites and still lightweight! The only thing you need to do is make sure you stake properly – especially the awning flap. We had some heavy winds in the Olympics and a shotty stake location led to a night time emergency re-stake. But having those dual entries made an easy out!

  4. Anthony Daileda July 27, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

    Hello Andrew,

    I have three SD tents, two of them older designs with vestibules. I am happy to see this great brand continue the move back to tried and try designs. I am one of those that have come to appreciate the front-entry tent for solo use based on its size/weight ratio and smaller areas it can be pitched. I am currently using a couple of the BA models. I look forward to see the materials used with the SD Studio, when the durable MSR Nook left the market I think it left a void that SD can fill.

    It is interesting to see that the Sweet Suite has a different approach than other products (MSR, BA, Nemo and Exped) having the single side of the Y pole at the head of the tent. All and all it is nice to see SD continue designs with a full rain-fly as had been re-engaged with the High Route.

    Thank you for the update.

  5. Jeff Moravec July 30, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    What’s old is new? The High Side looks very much like an updated version of my old Walrus (and later MSR) Zoid.

    • Andrew Skurka July 30, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

      I don’t know either of those models, but I’d be shocked if a similar architecture and layout has not been used before. When I hear comments like this, I always think of my Sea-to-Sea Route trip in 2004 when I caught up to the bicentennial reenactment of the Corps of Discovery (Lewis & Clark) in eastern Montana. They were using pyramid tarps just like ours today, except they were made of wax-coated canvas and supported with wooden beams.

  6. Doug K August 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    High Side is indeed mighty like a MSR Zoid.. which is a fine tent, mine has endured lots of weather without problems (pic at link from my name). Bought mine for trips with my son when he was smaller, now he’s also 6’2″ and 180lbs so we don’t fit the Zoid anymore. It’s my solo tent now, bit heavy at 4lbs but roomy for one.
    The side entry is a real pleasure in the rain – head entry means a wet place to lay your head, at least the way I get into a tent..

  7. Dom September 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

    Andrew,
    Any word on when the products that were slated for a September 1 release are going to show up on the SD website? I’m checking everyday because prior experience is telling me these are going to sell out fast.

    • Andrew Skurka September 11, 2017 at 4:06 am #

      I know they’re trying to get them released. There was a delay due to marketing materials, e.g. product photos and videos. And I also think the marketing team got swamped with a Labor Day sale.

      • John Abela September 11, 2017 at 4:54 am #

        Thanks for the update Andrew. The High Side is still at the top of my to-buy list.

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