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Sierra Designs Lightning 2

rated 4.0 of 5 stars

The Lightning 2 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best three-season tents for 2021.

photo: Sierra Designs Lightning 2 three-season tent


Price MSRP: $259.95
Historic Range: $160.97-$269.95
Reviewers Paid: $125.00-$250.00
Capacity 2
Minimum Weight 3 lb 14 oz / 1.76 kg


16 reviews
5-star:   6
4-star:   6
3-star:   3
2-star:   0
1-star:   1

Great tent, but bad customer service.

Don't break or lose any parts. Sierra Designs will not help you with any replacement parts. The customer service rep could not even locate the tent model, let alone the parts.

After several failed attempts to obtain a pole segment replacement from Sierra Designs, I have been left with no other option than to work with the manufacturer (DAC) in Korea. The pole segment costs $1. The shipping will be $22.

Design: Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: very easy, but poles are fragile!
Weight: 2 lbs. 7 oz.
Price Paid: around 200

Outstanding tent, a most successful two-person three-season design. It is so light it can serve as the roomiest solo tent available. Vents well. Doesn't leak. Carbon fiber poles come with it. If you are doing 3-season one or two person camping and like to pack light, look no further.

I use it as a roomy solo tent in most cases.

Design: Three-season freestanding
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: Easy
Weight: 4 lbs 2 oz packed
Price Paid: $200 eBay

Good size tent, but difficult to dismantle on a cold morning.


  • Roomy
  • Freestanding


  • Condensation was bad
  • Difficult to unclip poles on a cold morning
  • No service from company. I emailed with a problem (shock cords) and they would not respond.
  • Door ripped on first use. (Net)

I bought this tent because it was light and freestanding. The first time I used it, and I am very careful with my equipment, the insect net on the door ripped. The clips are very difficult to dismantle especially on a cold morning.

The shock cords failed and the company refused to answer my emails regarding this. A pity as the concept is good. 


I have backpacked long distances for decades.

Source: bought it new

A sturdy, wind and rain-proof tent; however, setting it up takes a bit of practice til you become proficient at it.


  • One piece design (no add'l rainfly)
  • Strong and wind resistant


  • Pole design could be more convenient for setup
  • Front pole extension blocks entrance

I have used this tent on numerous river trips. A very strong tent that has kept me dry in torrential rains. The tent is one-piece (no fly) which is a great convenience when setting up in a hurry. The pole setup is a bit complex. I would not recommend a first-time setup in the dark (or windy or rainy conditions).  

The biggest drawback to me is the front pole extension that partially blocks the entrance—it hangs down over the front to support the door awning, but I guarantee it will be come annoying. My suggestion would be to make this portion of the extension into two, short removal pole sections (similar to what I've seen on dome tents to extent an awning over the entrance), and shorten the overall length of the main ridge pole a bit. But I'm 6'4", so this would probably not be an issue for folks under 6'.

Overall, an extremely strong and roomy tent that I believe will last for many years.

Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: $160

I have had this tent for about 10 years and it is still in great condition. It is a great go-to tent. Their customer service is awesome as well. Needed a part and they just shipped it out, no questions asked and no cost.


  • Durable, lightweight enough to carry when backpacking for the weekend
  • Long lasting
  • Easy to use


  • If you are a warm sleeper you could wake up with condensation on the inside if you have the tent fly too closed up.

I have had my tent now for 10 years or more. It requires two poles that attach to the tent itself and the rainfly goes over and attaches. Very easy to put up even in the dark for one person.

This tent was the last one standing during the tail end of a nor'easter that we were camping in. All the other tents around mine had been blown down and water logged. Mine was still standing even with the broken pole. Which by the way Sierra Design was great in sending me a new one. They accepted the package with mine in it to be repaired. They never charged me a dime.

It's a 2-man tent, but I use it more as a 1-man tent. It's a little snug for 2 larger people and you wouldn't be able to keep your gear inside with you. This is OK with me because there is a small vestibule on my model where I put my gear anyway.

It's very easy to pack back up again when you're ready to go.

My only complaint is when I put the rainfly on and snug it down to keep warm I then end up with condensation because I don't have any air circulation. I tend to sleep hot once asleep and have woken up to a drop or two on my face. I guess better this than it being too breezy and being cold.

I would highly recommend their products because of the quality of them and the quality of their customer service. I bought the tent gently used and it was missing tent pegs which they sent a whole new set free of charge.  

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $125


Welcome to Trailspace, Mary Ann ! Thanks for sharing your SD tent review with us.

5 years ago

Spacious with nice features, but rainfly isn't removable.


  • Strong and sturdy in rain/wind
  • Easy/Fast setup
  • Spacious for two, not cramped


  • Rainfly is not removable
  • Circulation is limited
  • No doormat

I bought this originally for Kauai to hike the Kalalau Trail. I found a great deal and it weighs about 4 lbs, 3 oz for everything (so including tent + poles + tent bag + pole bag + stakes + guylines). Individually, the tent itself is 2 lbs 11 oz, and the poles alone are 1 lb 7 oz. So it's lightweight and is even lighter if you split the poles and the tent between two people. Plus, the Lighting 2 didn't break the bank vs the Lighting 2 FL, version which was a lot more expensive.

It's spacious for a 2-person tent. My gf (5'4") and I (5'8") fit in it, with room to spare against the sidewalls, and we even fit our backpacking backpacks at our heads/entrance.

It held up in 40mph winds and pouring rain all night on our first night in Kauai. Everything inside was dry and even our backpacks under the vestibule was dry.

I've also used it at Lassen National Park on a snow backpacking trip. It held up well on top of snow and we were warm inside when it was 35 degrees F, but make sure you cover the foot vent to prevent cold wind getting in. Also, a nice tip to keep insulated is to lay out an emergency blanket on the floor. It's rated a 3-season tent and it didn't actually snow on our trip.

The only knock on it is that the rainfly is connected to the tent itself for an easier setup (takes less than 5 minutes), so you can't remove it during warmer camping seasons to reduce weight, and you can't remove it to stargaze directly above you when you're laying down (but you can peak through the entrance window). This will also restrict airflow so it will warm easily in warmer seasons if you aren't under shade.

Other notes:

  • Vestibule area is spacious enough for your backpack and boots and it's nice that each side has that.
  • You can open the window to quickly see outside vs other tents with full rainflys will cover everything and block visibility to outside, so you have to step out to open the rainfly in order to see outside.
  • Each side has a gear storage pocket and multiple ceiling loops for lamp/flashlights, etc.
  • Door is in front of you instead of one side so you don't have to climb over the other person to exit. 




Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $150 on sale


Welcome to Trailspace, Jonathan! Thanks for sharing a review of your Lightning tent. It sounds like it's been some great places. I'd love to see some pictures of it in your review.

6 years ago
Jonathan S

Thanks! I've updated the review to include pictures.

6 years ago

Beautiful view, Jonathan! Thanks.

6 years ago

Good summer season tent, easy setup. But too weak, in wind.


  • Easy and quick setup
  • Available price


  • Not good in the wind
  • Does not include footprint

I use this tent for 3-season (in winter I use EV2).

Generally, it is good: easy setup, wide entrance, and unique shape.

Ventilation is excellent, so do not need to worry about condensation.

But!! In the wind, setup direction requires luck. If strong winds hit the entrance, you can feel tent is flying... But side or opposite side, no matter at all.

When setting the tent, always need to consider direction of wind.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 200 USD with footprint

lightweight (just over 4lbs)
packs small
can be pitched with only footprint and rainfly
includes footprint
fast pitch
good double-seam, waterproofing

vestibule non-functional for anything but basic shoe storage without some innovative guy lines
no interior storage or hooks

Spent a couple days out on a fishing trip on some rapids in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Rained 48 hours straight, camped next to the Gratiot River Falls which also misted the camp area after the rain raised the water level 16". Tent stayed dry inside, and circulated humidity inside very well. For casual, non-technical camping, this tent scores well for its ease of use and lightweight design. Would recommend to someone looking in the <$150 price range.

Design: three-season tent
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: easy 2-3 min
Weight: 2 or 4 lbs
Price Paid: $129.66

had the SD cliplight for eight years and loved it, so was eager to try out this roomier "lightweight" option. big disappointment.

the vestibule is terribly designed. in poor weather, you cannot zip back the vestibule to vent while cooking because it extends over the inner tent and rain pours in. you also cannot undo it halfway, because it flops inside (soaking wet) and won't reach its attachment point. vestibule doors need to clear the tent body while open.

the velcro attachments to the fly/poles are awkward, slow and dumb.

agree that this is NOT a tent for the high mountains. the fly sits high and WILL let weather in.

further, this is not really a lightweight tent. at five plus pounds, its quite heavy for what it offers.

i would place this tent in the mediocre middle, along with (i suspect) many of the other so-called light three season tents. for fairweather mellow backpacking, it's likely fine.


Michael Glavin BRAND REP

SJJ: Glavin from SD here. I am not sure what tent you are reviewing, but this does not sound like a Lightning. There is no "vestibule"; you simply cook out the door with a 15" awning. There is no velcro, and there is no fly.

7 years ago
Go Time! (Jesse Maloney) BRAND REP

There is an older SD lightning design. I'm trying to look up reviews on it right now and it looks like some people are reviewing the old one and some the newer version.

6 years ago

Brilliant tent! Light, compact, sturdy, and roomy-enough. Wouldn't change anything - one door is all you need. We've been living out of it for five months in South America, NZ, Australia, and will be using it in Africa, EU, and Canada. Highly recommended!

Design: 3-season
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: extremely easy
Weight: ~1.6kg
Price Paid: ~US 250

This tent is everything that it says it is: light, and waterproof with adequate headroom. There seems to be a lack of room lengthwise at the head and foot, however. This is a great tent, add another door and stretch it slightly and it would have no flaws.

Design: three season
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: as simple as it gets

This tent is very easy to set up. Comfy for two, plus some small gear items. I'm 6'3" and can sit up in it comfortably. With the Granite Gear small size compression sack (the silnyl one), the fast pack foot print, tent, poles, supplied stakes and guy lines, the total weight is roughly 5lbs 6oz.

The vestibule doesn't really seem like the 9 sq ft that they say, my 60L pack and my daughter's pack fit ok, mine got a bit damp the next morning from a hip belt wing hanging out side from under the fly. The rainfly and "superseal" floor are seam taped, but the manual recommends sealing the seams. Didn't leak, and there was no condensation inside the tent the next day. Catch it on sale, it's a great buy.

Design: three-season freestanding
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: easy
Weight: 4lbs/6oz
Price Paid: $175

I bought this tent on the strength of the reviews here. It sounded like a great tent. Maybe it is for 1-1/2 seasons - but not on Mt Hood. Hey it's mid June. I had it up on the side of Mt Hood with a little blowing light snow. The snow comes inside. I was even hunkered down by a wind-break. Structurally - no problem - it handled the wind, but without some means of closing off the netting, light snow blows up under the fly and filters through the netting. OK - I suppose that's the trade-off for it being so light. If you want a non-snow tent - or one that handles non-blowing snow it may be just great.

It is light and easy to set up, and appears to be a good design. So I'll probably keep it for more easygoing backpacking.

Design: 3-season
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: very easy
Weight: 4 lbs 5oz Packed
Price Paid: $249

I was looking for a great lightweight backpacking tent and I found it with the Lightning. I was interested in the tent and checked the reviews here on Trailspace to make sure it had a good reputation. After buying the tent - which as a college student was even in my budget - I haven't been disappointed yet. I think all the other reviewers have nailed it except for one feature that I really enjoy about the tent.

The Lightning is able to be set up with only the footprint, poles, and rainfly. I wasn't even sure that I'd ever use this feature until I was hiking in an off and off rainy day. I just set up the fly-tent when it began to rain and sat it out with my friends nice and dry. It sets up and comes down so fast that it wasn't a hassle. When we reached the shelter/campsite after a day of hiking the AT we were the only ones not soaking wet and trying to devise a way to dry out our clothes. It's so lightweight that I keep the fly-tent in my daypack in case of showers as part of my ten Es.

The tent itself is wonderful and I don't have any complaints, no wet floors, great ventilation, the door isn't a door at all - the entire wall zips away. The windows are huge and it packs down to nothing. Set up is a snap, all you have to do is clip the tent to the poles - takes me 3 minutes by myself. I even like the color, which seems to let in as much light as possible.

Design: Three-season freestanding dome
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: Very easy- no tent experience necessary
Weight: packed weight is 4lbs. 2 oz.- fly-tent is 2lbs. 7 oz.
Price Paid: $250

Two-person tent with good headroom and just enough room for gear at foot. Ultralight and packs very small. Not orange colored. Great ventilation even with fly attached. Used first time in mighty downpour. Floor stayed dry with footprint. Velcro straps on inside of fly that attach to poles had small slow drip as they were sewn in (eight places total). Will have to use seam sealer. Not a big deal. Great tent. Web site states that owner should use seam sealer anyway as a precaution. I think they should pay someone at the factory to do this.

Review Update (2006-9-22): There is no longer a leaking problem after applying the silicone seam seal. This was their advice after contacting SD customer support.

If you are camping without a chance of rain, leave the fly at home, and this tent can pack the size of a softball just over 2 pounds. It doesn't come with a compression sack but I suggest the smallest one that Granite Gear offers.

I also added the gear loft ($14.99) to hold flashlights and misc gear. It's a one size fits all product, so fit it to the tent, and trim the extra cord. This is a nice addition since the Lighting only has one pocket.

I have used this tent 10 times during 2006. There have been no addl quality issues with this product; tearing, floor, poles, mildew, mesh, etc. Except that excessive star gazing can cause mild vertigo.

TCO: tent($250) + footprint($30) + gear loft($15) + seam seal($5) + sales tax = $318

Update: September 22, 2006

Review Update: There is no longer a leaking problem after applying the silicone seam seal. This was their advice after contacting SD customer support.

If you are camping without a chance of rain, leave the fly at home, and this tent can pack the size of a softball just over 2 pounds. It doesn't come with a compression sack but I suggest the smallest one that Granite Gear offers.

I also added the gear loft ($14.99) to hold flashlights and misc gear. It's a one size fits all product, so fit it to the tent, and trim the extra cord. This is a nice addition since the lighting only has one pocket.

I have used this tent 10 times during 2006. There have been no addl quality issues with this product; tearing, floor, poles, mildew, mesh, etc. Except that excessive star gazing can cause mild vertigo.

TCO: tent($250) + footprint($30) + gear loft($15) + seam seal($5) + sales tax = $318

Design: 3
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: blindfolded with hands ties behind back
Weight: 2.5 - 4
Price Paid: $249 tent + $28 footprint

I am a Boy Scout Venture leader and have used this tent for several campouts over the last year+. It has been in high winds, pouring rain, extreme heat and winter camping, and it performed extremely well in each instance. It is so light that I also use it as a solo tent, with room for my pack, etc. The only possible complaint I would have is the length of the 1 aluminum pole section on each pole end makes it not as compact as it could be. It also is cramped if used for two adult hikers.

Design: 3 season free standing dome
Sleeps: 2
Ease of Setup: very easy- even in the dark
Weight: appx 4 1/2 lbs
Price Paid: $159

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