Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 Tent Review

Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 Tent Review

The Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 is a 28 oz double-wall trekking pole tent designed for people who want the full coverage and headroom of a two-peak pyramid, the ability to pitch fly-first in a storm, and the flexibility of a modular shelter system. It’s ready to use straight from the package and is very quick and easy to pitch taut without readjustments.

This is a review of the latest update of the Sierra Designs High Route Tent which is blue, white, and gold in color. The original High Route, which is colored red and white, has been discontinued. The new version, which uses the same name as the original, was created primarily to save weight to be more competitive in a growing market of trekking-pole tents.

Sierra Designs High Route FL 1

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Full Size Trekking Pole Tent

The Sierra Designs High Route FL is a great choice for people interested in the full coverage and headroom of a two-peak mid, the ability to pitch fly-first in a storm, and the flexibility of a modular shelter system. It’s ready to use straight from the package and is very quick and easy to pitch taut without readjustments.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Double Wall
  • Trekking Poles Required: Yes, 2.
  • Weight: 28 ounces
  • Tarp weight (Manufacturer’s): 17 oz / 482 grams; (Tested Weight): 17.5 oz / 496 grams
  • Inner nest weight (Manufacturer’s): 11 oz. / 312 grams; (Tested Weight): 12.2 oz / 346 grams
  • Materials: 20D Nylon Fly with Silicone/PU Coating and seam taping, 20D Nylon Bathtub Floor, 15D Noseeum mesh
  • Tarp Dimensions: 102” length x 42” width / 259 cm x 107 cm; 45”/ 114 cm height at peaks
  • Nest dimensions: 87” length x 27.5” width / 221 cm x 70 cm; 40” / 102 cm height at peaks
  • Vestibule Area: 7.3 ft2 / .68 m2
  • Included: oversized tent stuff sack, 8 Aluminum Y-shaped stakes with pull loops
  • Hardware: Linelocs on the tarp and nest corners, oversized mitten hooks on the nest corner lines, quick-release buckles at the base of the doors and partway down the main door to relieve zipper tension, quick-release buckles to attach the nest to the peaks of the fly, and triangular line tensioners on the guylines.

Main door, gear door, and ventilation

The High Route tent has one entry/ exit door for its user, and a second, half-size door for accessing gear, primarily to save the weight of a second full-size zippered door. Both the main door and the gear door can be “porched,” creating a covered space that prevents vertically-falling rain from entering while maximizing ventilation through airflow. The door guylines can be staked out directly to the ground or wrapped around a stick and then staked down for additional porch height. When the gear door is unzipped and either rolled up or guyed out, it allows for substantial airflow through the tent in combination with an open main door.

The main door can be porched open, creating an awning to protect you from the rain. The gear door can be porched as well, for ventilation, but it’s too low to sit under.
The main door can be porched open, creating an awning to protect you from the rain. The gear door can be porched as well, for ventilation, but it’s too low to sit under.

You can roll the doors of both the fly and the nest up and secure them in place with a cord and cordlock that toggles through a loop. My first attempts at rolling the doors were sloppy and droopy, and I thought they could benefit from another toggle each, but with a little experimentation with the angle at which you roll (a 45* angle to the ground), you can get it nice and tight and secure with the one toggle.

The main door is big enough to use as an awning for cooking under in the rain (the gear door is not), and guying it out to a stick in porch mode gives the most clearance. The main door also has a quick release buckle part-way down the door to take tension off the zipper if you want to keep the door partially open and has a two-way zipper so you can vent from the top down as well. Additionally, there is a single peak vent held open with a “kickstand” and velcro on the main door side. The vent is backed with mesh. (The original High Route had two of these vents, one on each side). These venting options did a great job managing condensation.

The nest can be pitched alone, with trekking pole tips up.
The nest can be pitched alone, with trekking pole tips up.

Vertical Doors, Vestibules, and Gear Storage

Unlike most trekking pole tents, the doors of the High Route are vertical. The benefit of this is that you can open them in the rain without having rain come into your living area. The cons, when compared to tents with sloping doors/vestibules, are less wind-shedding capability and a smaller area for gear storage.

Using the nest makes the High Route a double-wall tent.
Using the nest makes the High Route a double-wall tent.

I found the vestibule on the gear door side is a good place to put things you won’t need to access in the night, while the vestibule created by the smaller side of the main door (the side that can’t be raised and is held taut by the trekking pole tip) makes a good closet for small things you want to access in the night without tripping over them when you get up to go to the bathroom. You can store a pack standing up in here, too. Your smallest or most valuable/ delicate items, like a phone or glasses, can come into the nest with you and be stored safely in the mesh pocket by gear door, just above the top of the bathtub floor.

Pitching the High Route

The High Route comes with pitching instructions with color photos, and is extremely easy to pitch: lay out the tarp and stake the four corners in a rectangle, then insert poles at 45” / 119 cm and guy them out. It pitches nice and tight without a learning curve.

The doors of both the fly and the nest roll up and can be stowed in place.
The doors of both the fly and the nest roll up and can be stowed in place.

The High Route comes with 8 stakes. Six are essential for the pitch (4 stakes for corners, plus 2 stakes for pole peak guylines); the additional 2 stakes are helpful for stability in windy conditions (to guy out the sides) or for porching the doors for extra ventilation.

The High Route pitches with two trekking poles, handles-up only. The handles fit into a reinforced section of the fly, and are held in place with a Velcro wrap while the trekking pole tips fit into grommets in webbing at the base of the tent. This helps keep the trekking pole in place but also aids with the tautness of the pitch.

A mesh-backed peak vent is held open with a kickstand vent and velcro. Double zipper pulls on the front door allow for extra ventilation from the top.
A mesh-backed peak vent is held open with a kickstand vent and velcro. Double zipper pulls on the front door allow for extra ventilation from the top.

The doors (one main entry/exit door, one for gear) on either side of the tent are asymmetrical, so when they’re unzipped there is a bigger side and a smaller side. The bigger side can be rolled up and stowed; the smaller side is held taut by the afore-mentioned trekking pole tip in the grommet. In this way, you can keep doors open without loose, flapping fabric.

Once the fly is pitched, the inner nest is easy to orient–one corner has a red line going to the clip which matches the only tarp corner that also uses red (the other corners are yellow). These clips look like oversized mitten clips but are quicker and easier to clip and unclip than standard mitten clips, especially with gloves on. You clip all four corners to O-rings on the fly and then clip the two peak quick-release buckles to their pairs on the underside of the tarp.

The trekking pole handle is held in place by velcro at a reinforced section of the tarp
The trekking pole handle is held in place by velcro at a reinforced section of the tarp

Initially. I felt the mesh was very close to my face, and tightening the nest’s peak webbing to raise the mesh pulled and bunched the tarp fabric, slightly deforming the pitch. I thought I might have to choose the lesser of the two evils, but then I discovered that if I gripped the top of the peak from the outside (holding the tarp and trekking pole handle together) while I pulled the net tent peak webbing tight, the tarp did not deform and the mesh could be lifted to a satisfactory height.

Modular options and sleeping 2 in a pinch

There are three ways to pitch the High Route: the fly can be pitched alone, the net can be pitched alone (with trekking pole tips up), or they can be pitched together as a double-wall tent. While the original touted the ability to sleep 2 people in a fly-only pitch, and the new version is smaller, you can technically still do it (though just barely).

You can just barely squeeze two sleeping pads under the tarp if you don't use the net tent.
You can just barely squeeze two sleeping pads under the tarp if you don’t use the net tent.

I was able to just fit a 20 inch-wide inflatable pad and a 22 inch-wide foam pad next to each other (with no gap between them) and touching the doors but under full cover (the interior of the fly is 42 inches wide). Guying out the sides would help get a little extra space, as would using two 20 inch pads. This is a good back-up plan but it’s not ideal, as 2 people sharing the space would have their sleeping bags touching the sides of the tent, and gear would have to go at their heads or feet.

Oversized stuff sack

This was a surprise in a market filled with über-small stuff sacks that look impressive at the time of purchase but are hard to fit your tent back into. The High Route has a stuff sack that is generously oversized–perhaps by an additional 50%, which means it’s incredibly fast and easy to pack up your tent in the morning. You can actually just stuff the tent in the stuff sack. no rolling or folding, and put it in your backpack, where the extra volume of the stuff sack can be compressed. I found I didn’t even need to coil the guylines because they didn’t tangle when I stuffed the tent.

The front door can be staked open for more ventilation and a larger vestibule area.
The front door can be staked open for more ventilation and a larger vestibule area.

You can stow the fly and nest together, but Sierra Designs notes that leaving the inner nest clipped can make the tent more difficult to pitch the next time, as the inner will weigh down on the fly while you’re trying to pitch it so it may be best to separate them. It’s even more important to separate the two if your tent fly is wet from precipitation or condensation, so you don’t transfer moisture to the inside of your living area. In this case, you could store the nest in the stuff sack and the fly in an external backpack pocket.

Comparable Trekking Pole Tents

Make / ModelWeightPriceDesigner
Drop X-Mid 1P27.9 oz$200Dan Durston
Sierra Designs High Route FL 128 oz$300Andrew Skurka
Tarptent Stratospire 134.5 oz$325Henry Shires
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P28.3 oz$335Gen Shimizu

Recommendation

The Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 is a great entry point if you’ve never used a trekking pole tent before because it doesn’t require any seam sealing, everything is included, and it has easy-to-learn, fast-pitch. If you are a more experienced user, you’ll appreciate the headroom, great ventilation, porchable doors, vertical walls to prevent rain entry and attention to details like the 2-way door zipper with a mid-point tension-relieving buckle, and an oversized stuff sack. I found the High Route to be remarkably fiddle-free, while also being flexible, which is not an easy combination to achieve.

Disclosure: Sierra Designs provided the author with a tent for an honest review.

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About the author

Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.

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12 comments

  1. I love that the fly can be pitched first. That’s super helpful when it’s raining.

  2. thank you for another excellent review. i cannot ever see myself buying their products when the colour schemes come direct from clown school. i really do not understand their business model

    • They really are awful. I far prefer grey or green.

      • Bill in Roswell GA

        Phillip can remember back in the day when Sierra Designs was one of the top tent makers (before other companies hired away their designers). Their tents were light blue and white, a pleasant combination. Now they have the ’70s billboard look at a time the market is going to neutral tones (even MSR in Europe is now green instead of MSR red).
        I am happy to see the changes SD made to the HR. It is a very good and competitive tent. Maybe they will be wise and offer a more natural colorway!

      • Don’t hold your breath.

    • Function, form, and safety. I couldn’t possibly care what color the tent is, it’ll be pitched to sleep in. Louder colors provide better visibility when trying to find your way back to camp.

      It’s not a fashion show.

  3. Is it PacerPole compatible? From the photos, it didn’t look like you were using them, which also leads me to think you may have a column coming on a brand of hiking poles.

    • Totally pacer pole compatible. I checked it out before I sent it to Greg to review. The older version of this tent which I reviewed a few years ago was alsoPacer Pole Compatible. I really haven’t met any tents that aren’t.

      • The poles in the photo are the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork model, which have a 15 degree-angled handle. Not as much angle as the Pacer Pole (which, as Philip says, are totally compatible with this tent) but they worked great with the High Route.

  4. Anthony Passero

    20D floor instead of 30D?

    The 1st model at least on paper seems worth the weight penalty to me with the extra bells and whistles but I have not been in the Revised version.

    • I have the original.

      The 30D floor takes a beating.

      Sometimes I have changed my mind about which door I wanted to use, or decided to use both, just depends on the situation. 2 doors is convenient, helpful, not a necessity though.

      Very good condensation management with the original. I have at times closed one of the top vents, the windward one, and condensation is noticeably worse with just one vent. There is more space between the inner and outer, a little better condensation management (likely) and a little more storage area but at 5’7″ I often take everything inside the inner tent and put the pack at my feet which I probably wouldn’t do with the new model. It’s so roomy that it can be slow to warm up in cold weather, that and the weight are the main issues that I see with the original versus the new model.

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