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