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Sierra Designs High Side Tent 1P Review

Sierra Designs High Side Tent
Sierra Designs High Side Tent

Sierra Designs High Side Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durability
Weight
Packed Size

Very Good

While the High Side is well ventilated and packs down to a small size, it can be cumbersome to set up and is not as lightweight as many other one or two person tent and shelter options available.

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 inner tent is suspended by two hooped poles
The inner tent is suspended by two hooped poles

Inner Tent

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.

Interior view - there's plenty of clearance inside the tent towards the footend to prevent internal condensaton transfer, although the mesh ceiling does droop slightly
Interior view – there’s plenty of clearance inside the tent towards the foot end to prevent internal condensation transfer, although the mesh ceiling does droop slightly.

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 has a large side vestibule that can be rolled back or propped up like a porch using a tree branch or trekking pole
The High Side has a large side vestibule that can be rolled back or propped up like a porch using a tree branch or trekking pole

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.

The longest pole segment is 12.5 inches making the High Side easier to pack when you have less available storage
The longest pole segment is 12.5 inches making the High Side easier to pack when you have less available storage

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 asymmetrical design of the High Side requires a lot of tent stakes to set up
The asymmetrical design of the High Side requires a lot of tent stakes to set up

Assessment

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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12 comments

  1. Interesting design, and not a bad weight for a conventionally made tent with poles.

    HJ

    • Adequate, but I’m lukewarm. The short pole segments don’t overcome the other compromises. I’m also not convinced that short poles are a must have for bikepacking, based on my experience.

      • Gotcha. I haven’t spent a night in it, so I’ll defer to your assessment.

        I’m always happy to see gear co’s trying new variants, so i’ll give them at least a few points for that.

        When they come out with affordable DCF tents, then I”ll really rejoice.

        HJ

  2. From your comments and the price point I can’t help but think that they’ve created a tent in no man’s land. Too small and heavy to be considered ultralight and too expensive to be entry level. I’m very familiar with the Alps Mountaineering Mystique 1 which has a similar design, layout and set-up. However, it’s significantly less expensive and only moderately heavier. It’s been a great tent and bombproof but the lack of headroom and vestibule space mean it’s time to upgrade and the options from the cottage manufacturers providing more space, lighter weights and at a similar price point mean there are better alternatives.

  3. For a few dollars more and a few ounces, you could carry the SlingFin you just reviewed and have a ton of space.

  4. Looks very similar to the Clip Flashlight that I’ve been using since the late 80’s. Even though my old model has held up well the High Side is 1 & 1/2 pounds lighter, after a recent trip I am looking for ways to trim weight without spending a fortune. I’ll add this to my consideration list.

  5. Eureka Solitaire?

  6. Hi Philip, This is Casey, the PM for Sierra Designs and i wanted to thank you for reviewing the High Side 1. I also wanted to clarify a few things about how many stakes are needed and the ease of setup. It is true we include 13 stakes, but only 7 stakes are needed to set the tent up, the additional 6 are for the guyout points (4) and guying out the vestibule door panel (2) to an awning, which it doesn’t look like you tried or included in your review. Since this is such a low profile tent it likely is not necessary to guy out unless it is windy.
    I was surprised that you thought the set up was challenging considering the set up is the same as the Clip Flashlight that most consider very easy to set up for a non-freestanding tent. Simply stake out the four corners, insert two poles, clip tent body, attach fly at four corners, stake out the vestibule (2 points) and side lower vent.

    • That’s because I didn’t post pictures of the really awkward pitches I’ve had with the tent on other trips. :-)

      The awning configuration is nice, but kind of a yawn. Takes a nice photo, but you can do it with any tent that has split vestibule. I don’t think it justifies the use of an asymmetric pole structure. But that’s just my opinion.

      Thanks for chiming in. The more information for readers, the better.

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