Sierra Designs Flashlight 1
Lightweight roomy tent with some cool innovations.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $280
Lightweight roomy tent with some cool innovations. Not easy to set up and suffers from condensation issues.
- Practical innovative design
- Condensation issues
- Fussy setup
- Design blocks views out windows
This was my first backpacking tent. I bought it primarily for its low weight and for the fact that I could use my trekking poles to set it up. I used it on a week long backpacking trip on the PCT in Oregon and came away with mixed feelings about it.
Setup can be easy if you find yourself camping in soft loamy dirt. Like all single wall tents, the Flashlight relies on tension to keep it standing. You have to guy out all 6 points of the tent or it becomes floppy and saggy. In hard ground where it's hard to secure tent stakes, setting up the tent is frustrating to say the least. You have to spend a considerable amount of time scoping out the correct location for it — Is the ground soft? Can you set it up with the head into the wind? Is there enough room for the guy lines? After a long day of hiking 15-20 miles struggling with my tent is the last thing I want to do.
There are, of course, ways to deal with hard ground (wrapping the line around a stake and anchoring it with a rock) but again, at the end of a long day I don't want to have to hunt down rocks or other means of securing the tent.
That being said, properly set up, the tent is a thing of beauty. Part of the innovative design is that the tent walls have large mesh panels that can be mostly covered with a zippered nylon panel in case of rain. I say "mostly" because there is a 10-inch area of mesh near the top of the wall that cannot be covered by the nylon panel. This allows air to circulate even when the tent is zipped up tight. I'm sure Sierra Designs did this in an effort to deal with the condensation issues that plague all single wall tents.
In order to get away with leaving a gap near the top of the all, the designers added wings to the "head" part of the tent that deflect rain away from the walls. I have to say, this is a brilliant idea. With the tent properly set up and the wings facing into wind and/or rain, it does a remarkably good job of keeping rain out. I endured a driving rain during my trip to Oregon and the tent kept me perfectly dry.
BUT, you have to set it up correctly in the first place. If the wind shifts and rain were to come at the tent sideways, some amount of rain would surely get in. Probably of greater concern than rain is the condensation that builds up in the tent. If I was able to pitch the tent away from water sources in a dry area, I had no condensation issues. But when I set it up near a lake or river, I would wake up to horrendous condensation.
All that being said, I found it to be a comfortable tent to sleep in. It's roomy inside with good gear storage options. The door is large and it's easy to get into and out of. However, because of the roof design, which includes overhangs, there is little chance to see out of the tent once you're in. Not good for stargazing or enjoying views, unfortunately.
The tent does pack up small and only requires stakes and a single pole for the foot area (if you use your trekking poles), which keeps its weight low. It's also very durable and well made. Overall, I thought it was good for what it was, but I have recently traded it for a freestanding tent to get away from the Flashlight's fussy setup and condensation issues.