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Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL

1 review
5-star:   0
4-star:   1
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

Great initial impression of this new design. Lightweight…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $287 (on sale)


Great initial impression of this new design. Lightweight backpacking tent that is very easy to set up. Hybrid design means that the interior stays dry during rainy setup. Spacious interior with good ventilation.

Freestanding tent but the gear porches do need to be staked out for optimal ventilation and a taut pitch.


  • Easy to set up
  • Hybrid design keeps interior dry during rainy set up
  • Good ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Very spacious
  • Awning design allows for a view, ventilation and clutter free entry


  • Slight condensation in very calm and cool conditions
  • No way to cover foot box vent partially to prevent splash back during down pour.
  • Door zipper can catch at point where rain guard begins

I have been shopping for a tent to use on my AT thru-hike next year. This is a brand new design by Sierra Designs that I was leery to try since there were no reviews anywhere. I just received this tent and only have one night of use so this review is based on first impressions. I tried to simulate a variety of conditions in my first trial. 

I weighed the tent immediately upon opening the box, the tent, poles, stakes, guy lines, instructions all as packaged in stuff sacks weighed in at 3.8 lbs. The tent packs down into a nice stuff sack with a separate pole and stake sack that can be attached or detached.

Setup is very intuitive, had it set up in my living room in 3 minutes then I saw the instructions in the bottom of the pole sack. All seams are taped but the instructions did recommend seam sealing at all points of sewn connections for best results. I broke down the tent and replaced items in stuff sacks. I discovered that the two built in "poles" in the tent do necessitate them being oriented in the proper direction so they don't break when you roll the tent back up. I would not put this tent in a compression sack because of that, though it packs away small enough I don't think I would want to anyway.   

Second setup was on my back patio in 5 to 10 mph breezy conditions with occasional gusts. I was unable to stake corners because I was setting up on cement, but found this tent very easy to set up even in the wind due to the single pole hubbed design. This is an UL tent so I felt that using a footprint would be wise to protect the floor of the tent, I used a sheet of Tyvek.

I used weights to secure the guy lines on the gear closets to get a taut pitch. I placed my gear inside to weigh down the tent. It seemed very stable in the breeze. There are four additional guy out points to use in windy conditions for stability and guy lines are included. A generous spray down with the hose didn't reveal any leaks. Simulating a downpour did reveal minor splash back on the mesh of the foot box but contents of the tent remained dry. 

The single door of the tent is huge and has a large mesh window that can be opened for added ventilation. You do have to be mindful of the awning when getting in and out of the tent. In wet conditions it is wise to tap the awning prior to getting out of the tent to get rid of any extra water. The zippers work well but the did seem to catch a bit at the point where the added rain guard on the zipper starts. The high ceiling and light tent color make this tent feel even more spacious than it already is.

This is the first UL 2-person tent I have been in that truly feels like it can accommodate two people comfortably. The wide entrance allows for two people to sit side by side at the doorway. The tent does slope down at the back single wall portion of the tent, but the ceiling height is high enough for 2 people to sit facing one another with one at the door and one towards the foot before the slope. I am 5'8" and I had my son who is 6'1" also check out the interior space of the tent. Each side of the tent has interior access to the gear closet and also an interior mesh pocket. 

Over night the temperature dropped to 39 degrees and very calm conditions. I initially went to bed with the tent door window open all of the way but as it got chilly I closed it. There is always a small portion that remains open to vent on the door. The foot box vent has no option to close it even part way. There was plenty of room for two sleeping pads side by side without touching tent walls. Tent length was plenty for someone 5'8" to not touch either end of tent. I woke up several times during the night to check for condensation. It wasn't until about 3:30 am that I noticed a slight bit of condensation on the upper back part of the single wall portion of the tent. I opened the front window a little and when I woke in the morning the condensation had not increased.

Overall impression after sleeping overnight was that this is a very comfortable spacious tent that feels very sturdy. I like the gear closets with interior access for storage that allows a clutter free front door. I would try to leave the front window open as much as possible for better ventilation, especially in very calm conditions. The large vent at the foot had me keeping my wool socks on all night. You do have to basically crawl out of the tent due to the 15 inch awning, but I prefer that to crawling through a vestibule or a wet entry during rain.

My only gripe about the tent would be that I wish there was a panel on the foot box that would allow for at least partial closure during times of downpour to protect from splash back. Though I detected a small amount of condensation on the single wall portion of the tent, I will need further use in a variety of conditions utilizing the mesh window to really weigh in an informed opinion about it. I will update this review after more use, but so far I really like it and plan to use it on the AT.

UPDATE 3/27: After testing out this tent in very stormy conditions I am quite pleased. I set up the tent in a windy cold rain after a 12-hour shift. Even tired and cold, the setup was quick and easy even with wet cold hands and the interior stayed completely dry. I securely guyed out all lines since it was quite windy, tornado warnings had been issued nearby so it was pretty stormy. I was able to keep the front window open all of the way during most of the storm. I did have to close it up just about 1 inch during a driving downpour due to a little splash back hitting the window screen.

No water entered in the front of the tent. Splash back was an issue on the footbox vent. The screen was covered with water drops, but the interior remained dry. My shoes remained dry in the gear closet and I didn't experience any splash back on the mesh on either gear closet. The tent was solid even when the wind shifted and hit it broad side. Definitely need to secure guylines in windy weather for stability. Even after a downpour there was no puddling anywhere on the tent and the awning drained run-off well to keep entry and exit dry.

During the night the temperatures dropped to 40 degrees with intermittent storm cells passing through. I left the door window all of the way open for the rest of the night. In the morning I found the floor and front of the tent were completely dry. The upper rear single wall portion of the tent had a film of condensation but not enough to form drops. Even thought the mesh of the footbox was often covered with water drops none of the water reached the inside or got my sleeping bag wet.  

Overall I am very happy with this tent. The completely dry and easy setup is worth the small amount of condensation in my opinion. I am still not sure about the splashback on the footbox screen, I really wish there was a flap you could close during heavy downpours. 

Update 4/17/14

Camping at Lake Tahoe with temperatures ranging from 60's to a low of 33 degrees. Clear with a slight breeze lakeside. Front window panel left open and no condensation at all in the tent this morning.  I remembered to snap a few photos at sunrise before we broke camp. The other tent in the background is the Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 UL for comparison. The more I use this tent the more I like it. 

Please note the following changes: I am now using the Sierra Designs footprint made for this tent and it worked much better than the Tyvek sheet. I did change out the stock guy lines for a more reflective Night Ize line. The breeze was minimal so the extra lines were not staked out this time. I am also using MSR Ground Hog stakes instead of the stock stakes. The included stakes work fine I just personally prefer the longer MSR stakes with the "Y" design. 




The footbox vent is protected by an awning but splash back can still occur in a driving rain.


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