Last month Dave Chenault and I used the Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL* while attempting the Glacier Divide Route, a rugged 125-mile traverse of Glacier National Park that is largely off-trail and above treeline. We experienced some of the exact conditions for which the HR1 was designed: on the first night we had marble-sized hail and 30 mph winds, and on the second night it rained heavily for a few hours. How’d the HR1 perform?
* Actually, we used one of the final HR1 samples. Production became available in early-August 2016 directly from Sierra Designs, with bulk production and wider distribution scheduled for Spring 2017.
It sleeps two, kind of
With a rectangular footprint of 4 feet x 9 feet and a maximum peak height of at least 4 feet, the HR1 fly is as big as many ultralight (and “ultra-small”) 2-person tents. Since we were expecting mild or no bug pressure at night, we decided to leave the inner tent at home and squeeze into the HR1.
It works, kind of. I’d recommend it only if:
- The inner tent is left behind. With it, the HR1 becomes a one-person shelter, plus a dog, a lot of gear, or ample utility space. If a soloist uses just the fly, it is nothing short of palatial.
- Both sleepers have 20-inch wide pads, and are okay with only 4 inches of space between their pad and the fly’s bottom perimeter.
- Both sleepers are considerate, organized, and accustomed to sleeping on some of their gear (e.g. backpacks). Smaller items can be placed at the head and foot.
- You’re mostly on the move, and jump inside only to sleep. I would not want to share it with another person during a multi-day blizzard.
- A head-to-foot/foot-to-head sleeping orientation is preferred, or at least acceptable. If you want to sleep head-to-head/foot-to-foot, one sleeper will have a low-hanging and moderately angled fly immediately overhead.
In high winds, take precautions
On the first night we were blasted by 30 mph winds (I’m being conservative — Dave estimated it at 40 mph) while camped on an exposed bench. The weather had been calm when we’d gone to bed, and we’d chosen to porch the doors for extra airflow instead of using the additional tie-outs above each side door. To make matters worse, the wind struck the shelter at its weakest corner, and we hadn’t tightened the shelter just before bed in order to eliminate some fabric stretch. The HR1 withstood the blasts and could have withstood stronger if we’d been more precautionary, but winds of this strength are nearing the HR1’s limit. Watch just the first clip in this video:
With ultralight shelters that are not reinforced by poles, I’ve come to expect this level of performance. The Mountain Laurel Designs SoloMid, which is a more traditional mid tarp, did about the same in the Yukon Arctic in 2010:
If you’re expecting high winds in the HR1, or if you’re in them already, I have three tips:
- Orient the tent so that the ridgeline is pointed into the wind. If you need to skew the rotation to one side or another, show more of the head/foot than the sides.
- Immediately before you turn in, retighten the guylines in order to eliminate fabric stretch. The fly is made of PE/sil-coated nylon and does not stretch as much as pure sil-nylon, but there is some. In strong winds, “some” matters.
- Use the extra tie-out above the door. Guy it directly to the ground; or for even more strength, prop it with a stick as shown below:
A 3.5-season shelter with uber practicality for 3-seasons
Because of its vertical sides and rectangular shape, the HR1 is not as winter-worthy as conventional mids. But it’s entirely sufficient for the conditions that most backpackers experience — including me. Seriously, on all of my trips I have never seen conditions that would have overwhelmed the High Route Tent.
In exchange for giving up some storm-worthiness, what do you get in return?
- Better ventilation, due to two porch-able side doors with generous awning vents;
- More usable interior space, due to steep wall angles and the diagonal ridgeline;
- Easier pitch, due to the rectangular footprint; and,
- Compatibility with two standard-length trekking poles, rather than a dedicated center pole or two trekking poles tied together.
Questions or speculation? Leave a comment
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