Sierra Design Gives You Great Tents and Great Customer Service

A few months ago, I called Sierra Design for advice on re-waterproofing my Sierra Design Light Year ultralight backpacking tent. While on the phone, I mentioned that I also had a Sierra Design Tent Meteor Light with a fly that was sticking together after being folded up for any period of time.

Customer Service Rep Brandon McMullen asked me to send a video demonstrating the problem. I followed up with a short iPhone video and he quickly determined the problem was a covered by warranty.

I was honest with Brandon that the tent was 15 years old. He said, the “sticky” fly was a defect and said he would send me a replacement tent. The only catch was I had to cut up the other tent with the sticky fly and email the picture.

Sierra Design Meteor LightIt was painful to cut up my Meteor Light, a good friend for many years in the backcountry. However, ss promised, within a few days I had a replacement, a Lightning 2 FL that was lighter and light years ahead technologically.

I love my new tent, but I also love Sierra Design, a company which not only makes great tents and other backpacking equipment, but also stands behind it’s products. Customer service is just first rate.

Here’s a look at the Lightning 2 FL:

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

EXPED Cetus II UL Tent Has Loads of Room and Features

The Exped Cetus II UL Tent has a lot of interesting features, among them the large vestibule and entrance protected from the weather.

This makes me wish I had this tent on a trip a few years ago when it was raining cats and dogs in the Sierra near Thousand Island Lake and having to climb into my tent and take off all the wet gear, while trying to get the inside dry.

Here’s one backpacker’s review:

My only concern: at 4 pounds, 1 ounce it’s a bit heavy as an ultralight backpacking tent. On the other hand, for all the space and features you get, some extra ounces might be worth it.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

In California, the Snow is Nearly Gone: Time to Go Backpacking

The drought in California is both good and bad.

Bad: we need the snowpack for a good supply of water for city and rural needs.

Good: you can get up in the higher mountain elevations right now where there is little snow left.

So, you’re ready to go. But are you ready to go light?

On my first of 50+ backpacks (back in 1998), I carried 55 pounds. In those days everything was big and heavy. That was just part of the deal. The words Ultralight Backpacking or Light Backpacking were not part of the trail lexicon. You had to build your own gear to go light. Now, light gear is everywhere.

For those of you just starting out, remember that the way to lightness is not cutting off the handle of your toothbrush. Rather,  you want the basics (pack, tent, bag, mat) to be light.

I have three basic configurations.

1. Osprey Pack – Atmos 35: 2.25 pounds; Sierra Design Light Year Tent: 3 pounds; Western Mountaineering Down Bag: 1 pound; Downmat 7 (a new, lighter version is available): 2.25 pounds. Total: 8.5. The Downmat, which is filled with down, makes up for the bag thinness (38 degrees). I love the extra comfort without too much extra weight.

2. Replace the Downmat with full-length Therma-Rest: 1 pound. Total reduced to 7.25.

3. Replace the Atmos 35 with a Osprey Ather Pack (or something similar since this model is no longer available): 1 pound, 6 ounces. Reduce total to 6 pounds, 6 ounces.

You can be crazy and get your mat down to 3/4 length to cut another .25 pounds. By leaving the tent body at home and using the fly-only configuration you can cut another  2 pounds. That would bring it all down to 4.5 or so. However, a little comfort goes a long ways.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.


Nemo Moto Ultralight Tent Among Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide Favorites

Nemo Moto 1P (1 person)

Backpacker Magazine’s 2011’s Gear Guide is out and is filled with every piece of gear on the market worth considering. I took a quick look at ultralight stuff and found an interesting tent, the NEMO Moto 1P tent. It’s just two pounds and since the tester was 6-feet-7 inches tall and found some comfort in it, I think it it worth checking out. It is pricey at $330, but less ounces often equal more $$ in the world of ultralight backpacking.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backpacker ’09 Gear Guide Touts Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Tent

Most ultralight tents are pretty durable, so I look at weight, roominess and price in deciding whether I think a tent is in my ultralight backpacking ballpark. The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 gets Backpacker Magazine’s top rating in its annual gear guide as best all-around. My take: Big Agnes is $300 (pricey), 2 pounds, 3 ounces with everything (stakes, poles, fly, tent, sack, instructions – under my 3-pound limit), has a 38-inch high pitch (you can sit up) and a fly that allows space for boots, pack, etc. I’m not crazy about the front entrance, mainly because  side entrances allow you to easily “roll” into the tent. Add 4 ounces for a footprint ground cover.  If you have the money, I give this thumbs up. A word about price. In my experience, the lighter the equipment the more it costs. For example, my Sierra Design Light Year is about 3.5 pounds and cost (five years ago) about $149. To get titanium poles, instead of anodized aluminum, that knock off another eight ounces, the tent cost would have been $349: $25 an ounce or $100 per pole. But if light is what you want and you can afford it, why not get the best and lightest. Chances are, you’ll have it a long time.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Big Sky’s Convertible an Ultralight Winner in the Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide Freestanding Tent Category

In the Backpacker Magazine 2008 Gear Guide is this year’s winner for lightest freestanding tent: the Big Sky International convertible 1-person tent at 1 pound, 12 ounces with tent, outer shell, and carbon fiber poles. Of course, the carbon fiber poles are an extra $100 and you need to add 2.7 ounces for stakes, 3.0 for rainfly and 3.o for ground cloth. That all adds up to 2 pounds, five ounces. Still, it meets my 2-15 rule (if it isn’t 2 pounds, 15 ounces or less it doesn’t qualify as ultralight backpacking equipment). Obviously, that’s arbitrary and some ultra, ultralighters are going to roll their eyes. You can go lower with tarps and bivy sacks, but tarps don’t keep out the bugs and bivvies are coffin-like.
Also worth a look: Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 and the Black Diamond OneShot.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backpacker Magazine 2008 Gear Guide Lists 363 Tents; Few Meet the 2-15 Rule

Kudos to the editors at Backpacker Magazine who once again have created a must-have annual gear guide. This year, they review 621 packs, 483 boots, 363 tents, 480 sleeping bags and more. As a gearhead and ultralight backpacking hawk, it’s nice to have so much of what’s available out there listed in one place.

In my initial review of listings, I applied Bruce’s 2-15 rule (I will consider no tent over 2 pounds, 15 ounces) and came up with an astounding — compared to a few years ago — 80 tents that qualify.

If you apply the 2-15 rule to freestanding tents, which are those that require no stakes to hold them erect, there are only 13 of 363 tents that meet the rule. The reason for the rule: the lighter your base, the lighter your overall pack. You should keep your base (tent, pad, sleeping bag and pack) under 10 pounds.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 4

(08-08) 04:00 PDT Jeffrey Grove, Kern Canyon — From our perch on a boulder above the river, you could see three dark silhouettes in the pool below.
“They can’t be fish,” said my brother, Rambob, “because they’re too big.”
The morning light poured down over the Great Western Divide and to the floor of the Kern Canyon. On the forest floor, filtered sunbeams bored through the gnarled limbs of ancient Jeffrey pines. In the Kern River’s gin-clear flows, bubbles sparkled at the head of the pool, where a small riffle fed into a deep hole.
Rambob flicked out a cast, let his lure settle on the bottom, and …. read on

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

MSR Hubba 1-Person Tent – Lightweight with Easy Access

On my recent trip to visit a friend in Lake Shastina, in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, I checked out a couple of backpacking shops in the nearby town of Mt. Shasta. It’s a vibrant little community, which serves as a crossroads and supply station for hiking, backpacking and climbing.

In one shop I discovered the MSR Hubba Solo Fast & Light Tent one-person tent, a roomy shelter with a side entrance for easy entrance and exit.

In consulting the 2007 Backpacker Magazine Gear Guide, I found that it is listed as a “freestanding, dome 3-season tent with minimum weight of 2 pounds, 13 ounces” (which fits my definition — any tent 3 pounds or less–of lightweight).

In case you’ve forgotten, the minimum weight includes tent, fly and poles while packed weight refers to everything supplied, including tent, poles, stuff bags, pegs. Not sure why they wouldn’t include pegs. I guess if the tent is freestanding you could leave them at home, but that doesn’t seem advisable.

The tent peak is 40 inches. My own Sierra Design Light Year tent is 38 inches high and that allows me to barely sit up (I’m 5’10”). So 40 inches is better.

A nice added feature — which is also similar to my Light Year — is that you can use the “fast pack” mode and bring only the ground cloth and fly, which connect. Or just use the self-standing fly as a tarp. This is a good feature, allowing you to get tent weight under 2 pounds — like when the weather is warm, there are no bugs out and you only need minimum shelter.

Above, all else — whether you choose this tent or another — find one with a full side entrance. Getting in and out is so much better than backing in from the top.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Lightest Two Person Tent – Black Diamond HiLight A Candidate

Backpacker Magazine’s 2007 Gear Guide lists the Hilight Tent – 2 Person by Black Diamondas the lightest two-person tent. At 2 pounds, 10 ounces, it’s definitely among lightest — certainly among free-standing tents (those you can pitch without staking down). My own Sierra Design Light Year, a solo tent, weighs in at about 3 pounds, pretty heavy these days, but still what I would put in the range of lightweight.

The Highlight apparently pitches drum-tight with only four stakes.

One reason the tent is light is because there is no vestibule. If you’re going solo, then you could simply pull in your gear and still have plenty of room to stretch out. But two people, it appears, would need the vestibule — and guess what — it’s $140 and 15 ounces of extra weight.

Of course, two people can share the weight. But this looks like a better candidate as a solo shelter.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.