The Sierra Designs High Side Tent (available Feb 1, 2018) is a single person, double walled tent that’s a big step up in comfort from a bivy sack. While it features excellent ventilation and a side vestibule, one of the stand-out features of this tent are its tent poles, which collapse down to 12.5″, making them extra convenient to pack for bikepacking or backpacking trips where you have very limited storage space. Still at 2 lbs, 4 oz (minimum), the High Side is not as lightweight as many other one or two person tent and shelter options available.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz (includes 2 poles and 13 stakes, but no stuff stacks)
- Floor: 30D Nylon Ripstop, 1200mm PeU
- Fly: 20D Nylon Ripstop, Silicone/1200mm PeU
- External Dimensions: 88 x 34 (head) x 26″ (foot) / 224 x 86 (head) x 66cm (foot)
- Peak height: 32″
- MSRP ($279.95 USD)
The High Side is a double-walled tent, supported by two hoop-style poles. Staking out the inner requires a minimum of 4 stakes, at the corners. There are also 4 additional guy-out points at the base of each pole that can be staked out for better security in wind.
The inner tent has high-sided bathtub floors that provide excellent breeze and moisture protection in rain or “swampy” conditions, while the hoops increase the volume of the interior space, enough that you can sit up at the head-end to change your clothing. The width and the length of the inner tent are also over-sized, meaning that you can store gear along the sides of your sleeping pad or behind your head, if you don’t want to store it outside or under the vestibule. There’s also one internal mesh pocket near the head-end on the door side that’s large enough for glasses and a phone.
Rain Fly and Vestibule
The High Side has a large side vestibule which can be rolled back to provide lots of ventilation in clear weather or zipped closed to provide more protection or privacy. Even when closed, there’s plenty of ventilation and airflow under the bottom of the vestibule to inhibit internal condensation. I like the fact that the head-end of the vestibule can be staked out like a wind shield, while still being large enough to store a multi-day pack, and still allows unfettered entry and exit using the inner tent side door.
The High Side is so named because the pole structure is not a perfectly symmetrical loop, but slightly higher on the door side to make entry and exit easier, while helping to shed water on the lower side. This difference in pole architecture didn’t make a big impression on me, although it does help increase the peak height of the door-side vestibule slightly.
Perhaps more significant is the fact that this tent has a side entrance which is far easier to enter and exit than comparable shelters (Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform, Tarptent Protrail, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II, or the Big Agnes Scout Plus 2) that only have front entrances and are much more difficult to get in and out of. All of these shelters are long and narrow, which makes them good options for solo trips when camping space is tight, but having a side entrance like the High Side would make them so much better.
I also found the High Side’s shorter pole segments (12.5″), far easier to pack in my backpack (and in a shorter bikepacking seat bag). When I pack a backpack, I usually have to stick my tent poles in a side pocket and secure them using side compression straps or jam them down the inside of my pack between the side wall and the plastic bag I use to line my pack. But the High Side tent pole segments are short enough that I can lay them horizontally inside my pack, stacked in between all of my other backpacking gear. It’s nice to be able to do this, even though it’s not quite earth-shattering.
However, that convenience is offset by the number of tent stakes required to pitch the High Side, which comes in a 11 to 13 tent stakes. That’s a lot of stakes, which always raises a warning flag for me about the tent design. If you need more than 6-8 stakes to pitch a tent, it’s often an indication that you’re trying to compensate for an awkward tent architecture. While there are many guy out points on the High Side that can share a stake, it’s still remarkable that so many are required to set it up. What’s the downside of this? They’re easy to lose track of, pitching the tent takes some fiddling, and the stakes weigh much more than the “minimum trail weights” that manufacturers like to list for their products.
The Sierra Designs High Side Tent is a nice tent for solo backpacking and bikepacking. It’s easy to pack and set up, with good ventilation options to keep you comfortable in fair weather and foul. It is a double-walled tent though, making it less attractive for wet weather camping where the inner tent is likely to be swamped before you can get the rain fly on. While the High Side has short 12.5″ pole segments that make it easier to pack for backpacking and bikepacking, the added convenience is offset by the large number of tent stakes and fiddling around required to set up the tent.
When I take solo trips on bike or foot, I like having a tent shelter that’s simple to set up, and one where I can quickly get under cover, even if it’s chucking down rain outside. While the High Side would be a fine choice for camping in dry weather, I prefer a hammock shelter system, an ultralight single-walled tent, or a double-walled tent like the Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 where you pitch the rain fly first. If you are considering a High Side, I’d encourage you to take a look at the High Route if you plan on carrying trekking poles or the Tarptent Bowfin, Tarptent Rainbow, or Tarptent Moment DW, if not. The latter have tent poles with a maximum segment length of 18″, which really aren’t that hard to pack, when compared to the convenience of setting up a dry tent in pouring rain.
Disclosure: Sierra Designs provided the author with a loaner tent for this review.
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