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Sierra Designs Flash 3

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Sierra Designs Flash 3 three-season tent

This is a high quality, long life, and satisfying investment. You want a tent for most of your camping life...this is it.


  • Great design and solid assembly
  • Great rainy weather protection while still enjoying outdoors
  • Quick setup
  • Great ventalation
  • High quality components
  • Separate entry and exit for both people
  • Great headroom
  • Outside gear storage with inside access not using entry exit doors


  • Lack of factory water proofing on all but seams
  • Setup requires a few dry runs as design in not intuitive
  • Needs stakes to hold floor dimensions...not true free standing
  • No option for overhead gear storage

NOTE: This review is for the FLASH 3 model. It could also apply to the FLASH 2. I got the 3, even though it was used for just two people, because of added room and recommendations by others.

Purchase: I was given a trade-up discount after calling Sierra Designs to find out how to fix the peeling coating on my 30-year-old Sierra Designs Quad Mountaineering tent. I always feel that their prices are a little high but their offer, after so many years was such a sweet surprise that I could not resist it. So much for 5 stars in the customer service department.

I would say the price of this tent is high at $400 compared to others. My trade-up offer got it for $200, yet I saw it on sale for $250 at REI and other annual promotion deals. I would not have paid $400 without seeing it. That being said, $200 made it a no-brainer. I paid much more for my other Sierra Designs tent and that was 30 years earlier! After experiencing the FLASH 3 I would have to say this tent is worth the $400 price even without the sale!

The one thing I have always hated in backpacking tents is they lock out the environment that you're spending your time to see! We would all love to just sleep under the stars but the bugs and the surprise rain would make that a little uncomfortable unless we want to DEET-up before sleeping.

This tent redefines openness and gives more than any other tent I have seen without sacrificing the ability to get in from the weather without giving up the view. It has high ridges over both sides that keep rain away from the entrances without guys and flaps that steal your large self supporting overhang roofs. The entire tent except floor and some small panels is vented mesh hard, bug proof and yet solid and very airy.

All construction seems perfect without any laziness in fabrication. The components are top quality. Seams are well done and I see no stress points that seem ready to yield early. I suspect that this is because this tent, although always having a new model every year or two, does not change, but improves.

One weakness, especially considering the price: Only seams are sealed...not the floor! Not sure of the logic in this.

What I really like is that on each side of the tent there is a large entry door such that one's sleeping bags run parallel with the entry doors. You can get up and leave the tent in the middle of the night or get up early before anyone else and not disturb them. Your partner also has their own exit and can do likewise.

This being said, you still have two access flaps about 18" at each end for getting to outside stored gear which has it's own rain cover! This means you do not have to keep wet gear in the tent with you (or you can keep it dry) and it is not anywhere where you exit and enter! This is a great design feature.

There are also a few storage pockets on the walls but there are no options for a gear shelf above your heads and no provisions for hooking one up. I do not see that this is needed and it also gives you this great headroom so your never cramped.

Getting an accurate review on Sierra products is tough because often the problems mentioned in the review seem to be gone by the time you purchase it. Sierra must make continual improvements in product during product of the same model number...a good argument to buy direct during a sale.

In my case I read plenty of reviews first and noticed that it appeared at the end of the recommendations when looking at the top gear rating sites. Every weakness I read about in reviews was not present in the one I bought 2015. So pay attention to most recent reviews and call Sierra to check on problems mentioned.

There are also different suffixes that seem to go such as UL for ultralight, etc. I did find in a few reviews, and it was almost unanimous, that very seasoned backpacking campers with 25 plus years of experience bought this tent and loved it...I mean 5 stars! And this was due to experience with many other tents and finally finding one where the little design features made such big differences in function and pleasure using the product. I have to agree.

You get what you pay for...others may have a lower price with the same quality materials, but this tent has subtle but very powerful features that make for long term satisfaction.

One final comment. I waffled back and forth about the ripstop UL tent and this cheaper model. I was advised by Sierra that actually this model is a little more rugged for normal wear. The UL tent is aimed at low weight and thus its material and poles are lighter. This results in slightly less long term wear protection but makes the UL more suitable for long hikes and situations where ripstop protects you since you do not have time to repair or patch.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $200

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Price Historic Range: $154.73-$399.95
Reviewers Paid: $200.00
Product Details from Sierra Designs »

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