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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.