Pitching instructions & tips: Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL

The Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL has a unique but straightforward pitch. After one or two backyard practice rounds, you probably will be comfortable with the basic configuration, especially if you have previously pitched an A-frame tent or tarp, or a pyramid tarp with a square- or rectangular footprint, or both. Of course, practice makes perfect.

Once you are proficient, you should be able to set up the entire shelter in about five minutes at a casual pace — figure three minutes for the Fly, and two minutes for the Inner Tent.


Clockwise from lower-left: fly, inner tent, stakes and stake bag, stuff sack, and trekking poles (not included). Guylines are pre-attached to the fly and inner tent.

Out of the box

The High Route Tent is best described as a non-freestanding double-wall tent, even though it was more inspired by modular tarp systems. Hence, I will use the associated terminology when describing its pieces:

1. Fly. It’s made of waterproof 20d nylon. The exterior is coated with silicone; the interior, with polyethylene, so that the seams could be taped and so that the fabric complies with fire-retardant regulations. The panels are gray and orange.

2. Inner Tent. It has an orange floor made of 30d waterproof nylon, and is otherwise made of 15d no-see-um nylon mesh. The Night Glow can be strung inside the Inner Tent for nighttime ambiance and visibility, or left behind for a 0.6-oz (18 gram) weight-savings.

3. Guylines. The High Route is equipped with generous lengths of cord, which makes setup much easier in rocky ground. For most conditions, you can remove the guylines (one on each side) located halfway down the diagonal door seam. Keep them if you expect high winds or snow.

4. Stakes. The basic pitch only requires six stakes, but we’ve included eight so that the side doors can be “porched” in mild or moderate conditions, or so that the mid-door guylines can be employed in stormy weather.

5. Stake sack. It weighs almost nothing and will prevent dirt from contaminating your pack and shelter.

6. Stuff sack. I hate having to squeeze a dew- or frost-covered shelter into a stuff sack that is barely big enough, especially when my hands are cold. You’ll notice that the High Route’s stuff sack is intentionally over-sized to avoid this scenario.

The High Route is supported with trekking poles. I highly recommend adjustable trekking poles such as the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles. Alternatively, use fixed length poles or aftermarket pole sets (e.g. Tentsegrity Pole Set) that are at least 50 inches long (125 cm), although 52-inch poles (130 cm) would be even better. With shorter poles, it may be difficult to adequately tension the High Route, the peak height of which is a minimum of 48 inches (122 cm).

Campsite selection

A tent is only as good as the campsite where it’s pitched. Since a night of sleep depends on it, go out of your way to find a quality camp. Ideally, it should be relatively warm, dry, protected, and bug-free; and have a soft, porous, flat, and level sleeping area. At least try.

Before setting up the shelter, lay down on the ground and decide where you will sleep. Mark the location of your heat and feet with rocks or sticks so that you can pitch the shelter over this exact area.

An ideal camp in the Wind River Range, using a High Route prototype

An ideal camp in the Wind River Range, using a High Route prototype

Fly footprint

1. Unfurl the Fly. Everything else, save for the stakes, can stay out of the rain for now (if it’s raining). Confirm that the side-release buckles at the bottom of the doors are engaged, to keep tension off the door zippers. The zippers can be opened or closed.

Unfurled fly in loose rectangular shape. Notice that the side-release buckle at the bottom of each side door is engaged.

Unfurled fly in loose rectangular shape. Notice that the side-release buckle at the bottom of each side door is engaged.

2. Stake out the Fly as a rectangle. For a textbook pitch and optimal tension, the corners should be at 90-degree angles; the corner guylines, at about 45 degrees. If your angles are off, it’s best to fix them now.

Tip: Corner sequence. By staking out two length-side corners first, you are most likely to end up with the tent centered over your sleeping area.

Tip: Tent height. The High Route has a minimum peak height of 48 inches. To achieve this height, place the stakes as close to the shelter as possible, and pull the guylines tight. But for extra height and perimeter ventilation, increase the distance of the guylines, and leave some slack in the lines.

Going vertical

1. Adjust two trekking poles to 48 inches. This is just a starting point; the poles normally will need to be lengthened again later.

2. Support the first apex. Unzip one door and insert the pole into the shelter, right-side up. Wedge the pole grip into the reinforced apex cup.

Tip: Pole insertion. Since you’re immediate goal is to get the pole grip into the apex cup, you might be tempted to insert the pole through the door with the grip first, and let the tip end follow. With this sequence, I find that the tip snags on the Fly perimeter, and actually recommend the opposite: tip-end first, grip-end second.

Preparing to support the first apex. Notice that I insert the tip-end first, followed by the grip-end.

Preparing to support the first apex. Notice that I insert the tip-end first, followed by the grip-end.

3. Secure the pole tip. Place the pole tip into the grommet, located at the end of a tensionable webbing strip that is anchored near the bottom of the door.

Tip: Abrasion. To handle abrasion from mud and snow baskets, we added an abrasion-resistant panel near this grommeted webbing strip. Even so, I still recommend removing mud baskets — they don’t do anything except snag on brush and tangle with rocks.

Insert the pole tip into the adjustable grommet at the bottom of the door.

Insert the pole tip into the adjustable grommet at the bottom of the door.

4. Create tension between the apex and the bottom of the door. Tighten the grommet webbing or lengthen the trekking pole, or both.

Tip: Door tension. By tightening the webbing, you increase storm-resistance by reducing the gap between the ground and the Fly’s bottom perimeter. By lengthening the pole, you get more height and perimeter ventilation. Select the best option for the conditions.

5. Stake out the apex guyline. The ideal angle is parallel to the ridgeline, perpendicular to the tent side, or in between. Tension the first side until the door is vertical.

Tensioning the first apex. The guyline should be parallel to the ridgeline, or perpendicular to the sides, or something in between.

Tensioning the first apex. The guyline should be parallel to the ridgeline, or perpendicular to the sides, or something in between.

6. Prop the peak awning vents. The loose end of the 6-inch prop stick attaches to the small hook-and-loop patch (aka Velcro) to the right of the door zipper. In extremely high ends, these vents can remain loosely closed.

Note: We used a particular type of hook-and-loop material that will snag less on the awning mesh.

The peak awning vent is tensioned optionally with the 6-inch rod.

The peak awning vent is tensioned optionally with the 6-inch rod.

7. Secure the pole with the Velcro cuffs. To prevent the pole from slipping out of the apex cup, and to keep the door positioned with the pole, engage the three hook-and-loop cuffs on the inside of the zipper. This step can wait until later, too — in fact, it’s more convenient if you are already inside the shelter, like when connecting the Inner Tent. The uppermost cuff is the most important.

Notice the three Velcro pole cuffs. The wide cuff around the grip is the most important.

Notice the three Velcro pole cuffs. The wide cuff around the grip is the most important.

8. Repeat Steps 2-7 for the other door.

9. Increase the ridgeline tension. Don’t be wimpy about it.

Tip: Ridgeline tension. If the ridgeline looks saggy despite the apex guylines being very tight, back up. Loosen the ridgeline guylines some, and then lengthen both trekking poles, tighten the grommet webbing, or tighten the corner guylines, or all of the above. To finish, re-tighten the ridgeline. To avoid this readjustment next time, do a better job at Step 4.

10. Stake out the mid-door guylines. This is unnecessary if you are not expecting strong winds, torrential rains, or snow. Prop the line with a stick for even more tension (not pictured; refer to the porch photos at the end for a similar example).

Bring it!

Bring it!

Inner Tent

1. Unfurl the Inner Tent inside the Fly. The Inner Tent has no dedicated “head end” or “foot end.”

2. Connect the Inner Tent’s corners to the Fly. You’ll find plastic hooks at the ends of the Inner Tent’s corner guylines, and mating plastic loops in the Fly’s corner guylines.

Tip: The Inner Tent tensions best when it is centered precisely under the Fly. But its corner guylines allow it to float to the extreme right or left, and/or fore or aft, in the event you wish to shift your sleeping position or consolidate open utility space between the perimeters of the Fly and Inner Tent.

Tip: I skip this step, and you might consider doing the same. When you insert your sleeping pad and other equipment later, the weight will splay the floor. And if you haven’t hooked the corner guylines, you can more easily shift the Inner Tent, and more quickly set up and break it down.

3. Connect the Inner Tent’s apexes to the Fly. You’ll find tension-able side-release buckles at the apexes of both components. Attach the apex on the “other” side first, leaving the near side for last.

Door positions

If it’s not raining, and if it’s cool and/or dry, you can sleep with the doors closed. Condensation is unlikely to develop, and you’ll appreciate the trapping of body heat.

If it’s not raining or windy, and if it’s warm and/or humid, I recommend leaving completely open the side doors to increase airflow. This will lower the inside temperature and it will reduce condensation buildup (though it may not eliminate it entirely is worst-case situations).

If it's calm, warm, and not raining, open both doors for cross-ventilation.

If it’s calm, warm, and not raining, open both doors for cross-ventilation.

If it’s raining, I recommend “porching” the doors to maintain some airflow. This also creates vestibule-like space, in addition to the palatial 36 square feet protected by the Fly.

1. Full porch. In calm conditions, unzip the door entirely. Pull the “left” side of the door away from the shelter, and tension it with a guyline and stake.

Tip: Porch height. To gain extra height (and thus extra airflow) on the porched door, prop it with a stick or tie it off to a nearby natural anchor (e.g. tree, rock).

2. Half porch. In moderately windy conditions, the doors can be partially porched. Engage the side-release buckle located halfway down the zipper. Use it — it takes tension off the zipper and will increase your tent’s lifespan. Repeat Step 1.

Need troubleshooting or have other tips? Please leave a comment.

Posted in on June 20, 2016
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  1. Ken on June 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Can you leave the inner tent attached when you pitch it?

    • Andrew Skurka on June 25, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Yes, you can. However, the weight and tension placed on the fly will make it slightly more difficult to get a perfect pitch. If you keep the pieces connected, I would at least recommend loosening the attachment points in the morning (or before you set it that evening, though that adds some time to the pitch when you really might want to get it up quickly, eg if it is raining) so that the fly can be pitched without too much interference by the inner tent.

  2. Robin on August 17, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    I currently use a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2.

    I am interested in a shelter that uses trekking poles to pitch, as I recently started using those.

    I think it’s curious you named the tent the High Route, because above the tree line in alpine environments often requires pitching a shelter in a location that does not take stakes. I am reluctant to carry any shelter that I can’t pitch on a shelf or ridge using rocks instead of stakes.

    Is that an option with this shelter? Can you provide a video of how one might pitch this shelter in that type of location?

    (Often this is large grain granite sand that doesen’t hold stakes, or an area where the ground or sand is only an inch or so thick so you can’t put stakes in at a sufficient depth.)

    • Andrew Skurka on August 18, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Robin –

      Exactly where is the location to which you’re referring? My first guess would be the High Sierra, but there are other areas in the country (and world) that are granitic and have limited top soil.

      I’ve spent a lot of time in the environment that you described, as well as the canyons of southern Utah, where there is a lot of desert sand. I’ve also guided many groups of 8 and 10 people in them. I’ve always used non-freestanding shelters, and so too with nearly all of the clients. I think if southern Utah were my primary backcountry spot, I’d get a freestanding shelter; but I’ve never had an issue finding good camps with stake-able ground in the granitic mountain environments. No, you can’t pitch your shelter anywhere, but I’ve never struggled to find a good spot when I needed one.

      To answer your specific question:

      1. When available, I tie off my guylines to natural anchors like trees, roots, and boulders, which are much more bomber than stakes, even under ideal ground scenarios. Sometimes, I’ll use my stake as a stopper or wedge, like this:

      To do this, you’ll need to learn my guyline system.

      2. If I can get a stake in the ground at all, or if I can get one in the ground but I’m not confident in its holding power, I’ll put a big boulder over the top of it, like this:

      Typically I will wrap the line around the stake (like I’m rolling up the cord on the stake), and then put the boulder on top of it, erring towards the shelter.

      If you’re regularly having to get this creative, it may not be worth it, hence my comment earlier about southern Utah. But typically in the High Sierra and other mountain environments, this is the exception instead of the norm.

  3. Tom O on November 20, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    I bought this tent a few months ago and took it on a 6-day trip thru north Yosemite in October. It took me a few nights to find the knack for a tight pitch. My best pitches were where I strapped my hiking poles into their Velcro cuffs before pitching or staking. Then, the side stakes. Then the corner stakes. A great tent though. I felt quite protected, snug even in hail and snow. Thanks.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 20, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      Interesting. So you would basically tension the ridgeline before staking out the footprint? How did you prevent the poles from falling over?

  4. Jimmy on February 14, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I just wanted to say that after months of usage of the High Route in winter conditions, every one of these tips was spot on. I actually didn’t come across this post until just now, but I had watched the helpful video prior to setting up my HR1. What a difference it makes to get some practice in, especially once you follow a well established recipe like Andrew wrote about here.

    The trickiest part is getting the corner stakeouts at 90 degrees. My procedure has been to stake down the 2 corners on the short side, leaving some slack in the cord (the exact amount of slack is my secret sauce). Then, I’ll pull the tent out in the lengthwise direction and stake out the remaining 2 corners. I found that this gets me pretty close to a 90 degree pitch every time — when you’re lazy like me, it’s important when digging deadman anchors that you put them in the right place on the first try.

    Currently, I’m only using 2 MSR Groundhog stakes for the ridgeline (0.5oz each compared to 0.4oz DAC J stakes that come with the tent) and 4 DAC J stakes, but I may switch over to using 6 MSR Groundhog stakes just for that extra holding power in looser soil. For pitching on the sand, I’m counting on there being rocks and logs to tie off to or to cover my stakes. I still don’t have a good solution for pitching on a wooden platform — I could maybe get by with rocks/logs to tie off to but I’d probably just use a freestanding tent for that one scenario.

    I’m planning on taking this out to Iceland to see how it fares in those famous easterly winds — will report back if I survive to tell the tale.

    • Dave on June 15, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Should we assume Jimmy didn’t survive the Iceland trip?

  5. Jimmy on June 15, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Fair assumption.

    • Dave on June 15, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Ha ha! Nice! We’ll send out a search party! ????

  6. Brad R. on October 15, 2018 at 3:58 pm


    I finally pulled the trigger on the current High Route 1FL. Since you have so much experience pitching the tent in various conditions, I am curious if you alter the length of the existing guylines to use your guyline system or just simply cut off the existing hardware. If so you do alter them, what lengths do you go with for the various lines? I did see on the thread for the updated version that someone said you recommend going with 21″ lines for the inner so it can be placed asymmetrically. BTW, I set the tent up in the yard today and it looks great.


  7. Eddie on September 22, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Hey, love this tent and these instructions are so helpful. Quick question though: if just wanting to roll up the fly entrance, how is it secured at the higher point? I see the tie mid-way up, but can’t work out how to keep the whole things secured. Thanks for any tips.

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