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Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 3 Tent Review

Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 3 Tent Review

The Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 3 is a freestanding double-wall three-person tent that’s a palace for two. It’s very easy to set up and comes with two doors and two vestibules that provide good gear coverage and access. Internal pockets provide good gear storage, while all mesh walls and a kick-stand roof vent provide excellent ventilation. The Meteor Lite 3 is a great choice if you’re looking for a spacious couple’s tent that’s lightweight enough for backpacking and car camping.

The Meteor Lite 3 reviewed here is the 2023 model ($500) which is about three ounces lighter (min trail weight) than the Meteror Lite 3 (2022 version), currently available at a steep discount ($270).

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Double-wall
  • Design: Freestanding
  • Minimum Weight: 4 lbs 4 oz (actual)
  • Number of Poles: 2 (aluminum)
  • Capacity: 3 People
  • Doors/Vestibules: 2/2
  • Pockets: 2
  • Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 6
  • Inner Tent Dimensions: 84″ x 68″ x 42″ (L x W x H)
  • Materials: 20D Nylon Ripstop (Fly), 30D Nylon Ripstop (floor), 15D Nylon No-See-Um (mesh)

If you’re tired of buying cramped two-person backpacking tents, the Sierra Designs Meteor 3 will be a breath of fresh air. While it is technically a three-person tent and large enough to house three people, it also makes a fantastic two-person/couples tent with plenty of interior room to spread out and relax. Weighing 4 lbs 4 oz, it’s also lightweight enough to carry on a backpacking trip if you divide the weight between two people.

The Meteor Lite 3 is a freestanding tent making it easy to set up on almost any surface - rock, soil, or even snow..
The Meteor Lite 3 is a freestanding tent making it easy to set up on almost any surface – rock, soil, or even snow..

The Meteor Lite 3 is best described as an offset dome with more overhead volume at the head end and a steeper front wall for improved livability. Dimensionally, the interior living space is 84″ x 68 x” 42 (L x W x H) providing plenty of room for three 20″ wide sleeping pads or two 25″ wide sleeping pads with room left over.Large D-shaped side doors make it easy to enter and exit and corner pockets at the head end are available to stash valuables and personal effects. In good weather, you can also roll back the fly for stargazing through the darkly colored mesh inner tent.

As a freestanding tent, the Meteor Lite 3 is exceptionally easy to pitch. It comes with two poles: a hubbed complex that slots into grommets in the four corners and a horizontal ridge pole that lays on top of it and helps create near-vertical sidewalls. The inner tent is attached to the poles with plastic hooks: the inner tent is all mesh providing ample ventilation and since it is freestanding, it can be used without the fly if not needed.

There is a large roof vent available for ventilation when the vestibule doors are closed.
There is a large roof vent available for ventilation when the vestibule doors are closed.

The fly is draped over the poles (and optionally attached to the poles with velcro strips), connecting to the same corner stakes as the inner tent. The two side vestibules require one stake each to set up as well but can be left open and rolled back in fair weather for ventilation. All of the guylines on the fly have line loc style tensioners as do the optional cords included with the tent, should they be needed for added stability in windy conditions.

When the vestibule doors are closed, there is a kick-stand roof vent that can be opened to vent internal moisture. The vestibule doors also have two-way zippers, so you can also unzip the top of the doors like a transom for added cross-ventilation. Additionally, the roof can be rolled back exposing the head end for stargazing in clear weather. There’s a toggle at the center of the ceiling to hold the fly open although you do need to get out of the tent again to pull it back over the front of the tent for moisture or dew protection before sleeping.

The rain fly can be folded back in stargazing mode
The rain fly can be folded back in stargazing mode

Recommendation

The Sierra Designs Meteor Lite 3 is a great freestanding tent that’s spacious and very comfortable for two people to use. It’s also lightweight enough for backpacking or to use as a base camp tent on multi-day overnights. Despite being fairly basic, it dots all the “eyes” and crosses all the “tees” with line loc tensioners, extra guylines, stakes, two-way vestibule zippers, a roof vent, stargazing mode, and reasonably thick and durable fabrics. While it is large enough for three people to use with 20″ wide sleeping pads, my preference has been to use it for couples camping using a two-person air mattress or two single air mattresses, where both occupants have their own door, so they can get out at night without waking their companion. If you’re sick of using two-person backpacking tents that are barely large enough for a single person, you’ll find the Meteor Lite 3 (2023 version) to be quite enjoyable to use, with great overhead headroom and extra space to store gear inside the tent within easy reach.

In addition be sure to check out the 2022 version of the Meteror Lite 3 as well, which despite being a few ounces heavier, is available at nearly half the price of the current model making it an even better bang for your buck.

Disclosure: Sierra Designs donated a tent for review.

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11 comments

  1. I just have to get this out. No tent is a palace, especially any tent you would carry backpacking. Google some images of palaces if you are confused. Why is this word used so often in reviewing tents? Why not roomy, spacious, or if one is feeling hyperbolic, palatial?

  2. Rainbow color? Really??

    • Not sure I would call it rainbow color – need to add in some green, red and purple for that. But it is a very 70’s design for sure.

      I’ve often wondered “who buys a 2 person tent for backpacking?”. If I’m by myself I want a low weight one person tent with a vestibule big enough to keep my things under cover. If I’m with someone else I want a 3 person tent for the extra elbow room – and the weight penalty going from 2 to 3 is pretty minimal especially if you split some of it.

  3. Are you sure the 2023 is heavier than the 2022, that doesn’t agree with SD’s specs on their site. I loved my 2019 version of this tent and foolishly sold to a friend in need. However, his tent has gotten heavier. The 2019 version was 4lbs 3 oz packed. This got up to 4lbs 11.5oz for the 2022. I wonder what added the 9oz on between 2019 and 2022/2023

  4. Thank you for reviewing this, Philip! I recently picked up the 2022 at a great price from a great seller and am very pleased with the size/features/durability aspect and weight tradeoff for using as a couple. There is also a footprint that’s available on Amazon from OneTigris. It’s only an inch difference in size from the one from Sierra and a few grams heavier- for much less money but appears quite durable, if you’re so inclined to use one. Yes, I know the color scheme for both years leaves something to be dersired, but not a dealbreaker for me. I actually like the 2023 scheme Philip has better than the prior year colors.

    • Sierra Designs asked me for feedback on this tent…I told them to make it available in the Forest Green color that they use on the shelters they sell in Europe – and to add more interior pockets and a gear loft. It’s a nice tent though, as is.

  5. I wonder what the SD designer is trying to accomplish with these color schemes. Maybe it’s more pleasing and cheerful when in the tent with light shining through the fabric rather than viewing it from the outside?

  6. I’m usually an Ultra-Light guy, however last year purchased this for a hike across the Grand Canyon with my wife and her sister,(both are smallish ladies). We divided the load and found this tent to be quite sufficient for the 3 of us. We’ve also used it for car & airplane camping. This is a well thought out design, solid construction and easy to set up. It’s a keeper!

  7. We have a 2021 and a 2022 version of the 2 person. Both fit 2, 25×78 inch pads in them. The 2021 is a nice Sage Green Polyester Fly- which weighs 4 oz more but doesn’t stretch overnight.

    They are for my daughters in Scouts but my Wife and I use one when we want a bit more headroom than our Durston XMid 2.

    All in all, very nice tents that check all the boxes but I do wish there was a mesh pocket at the head and foot although the pockets they do have are quite functonal.

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