Open main menu

Sierra Designs Zia 3

rated 4.5 of 5 stars

The Zia 3 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best three-season tents for 2024.

photo: Sierra Designs Zia 3 three-season tent

Great overall car camping or base camp tent for 1 or 2 people. It could be divided between 2 people for backcountry camping. I would highly recommend this tent to anyone looking for a solid 2.5-3 season tent.


  • Very roomy (vertical walls on ends)
  • Comes with footprint and gear loft
  • Very solid rain/snow fly
  • Easy setup
  • Solid stance


  • Heavy
  • Small vestibules
  • Not quite a full 3-season tent

I have taken this tent out two times now and have used it for a total of 8 nights.  Overall I am very pleased and impressed with this tent's initial performance.  

Weather conditions: Heavy rain, freezing rain, heavy snow.  

Temperatures: 5 degrees (f) lows to 40 highs.  Max winds around 40 mph gusts.  

As I mentioned in a trip report, my first night with this tent it saw heavy rain and then freezing rain and then heavy snow.  The tent kept me dry and warm.  I had a good sleeping bag (SD DriDown Zissou 12)  and a good sleeping pad (Exped Synmat 9 LW) which help with the cold conditions.  

Setup: I did a trial run in my living room setting up the tent before taking it in the field.  It wasn't real easy the first time but after the first time setup is a piece of cake.  I can set this tent up now in about 10 minutes after only a couple uses.  

I like that you don't have to fish the poles through any solid loops. The tent hooks to the poles via clips and makes setup quite easy. It is actually faster to set up than my classic Kelty Dome tent with just 2 poles. The Zia 3 has 2 loop end poles and an "X" cross center pole.  

It is a pretty cool design I have never seen in a tent before. The rain/snow fly clips to the tent at the four corners and anchors with 2 tent stakes at each end of the tent. There also additional anchor tie downs on the fly that make the tent extremely stable and solid on the ground.  

Stability: For 3 days in a row this tent was in 40+ mph gusts with the wind never letting up much.  It held very solid and stayed very stable.  

Weather Resistance: I can simply state that this tent is very weather resistant and handle moisture without a problem. The bathtub floor kept all moisture out and performed as it should. The rain fly kept moisture away from the tent without a problem.  

Ventilation: This tent has a significant top portion that is mesh. This helps the tent breathe very well but it also lets in cold drafts that go under the rain/snow fly. I think the manufacturer uses a significant mesh top to help reduce weight. This is one of my gripes about the tent.  I would rather see a more solid nylon wall and less mesh so the tent would keep the cold air out better in winter conditions.  

It is by no means a lightweight backpacking tent at nearly 7 lbs.  so a little extra weight with less mesh would be better in my opinion. I am sure I will appreciate the mesh a bit more during warmer weather camping. Overall, condensation was not a problem and the tent breathes very well.  

Room & Storage: This is one of the strengths of the tent. Due to the vertical walls on the ends of the tent and the tent geometry it is very roomy. The floor area of the tent is 40 sq. ft. but it sure feels like more due to the vertical walls.  The tent is perfect for 1 man with a lot of gear but 2 guys could comfortably fit.  The tent comes with a gear loft but I didn't use it. I had plenty of room on the tent floor for my gear.  

Packability: As mentioned before, this tent is NOT a backcountry backpacking tent. It is best for base camp or car camping.  It could easily be used by 2 guys though for backcountry backpacking if it were divided up.  In that case each guy would be carrying approximately 3.5 lbs and this tent can easily accommodate 2 full grown men.  

Ease of Use: This tent is very easy to use with entrances on each end of the tent. The zippers work flawlessly on both the tent and the fly.  It is a little difficult for a tall man (I am 6'2" tall) to get in and out of the tent. The way the main vestibule is designed one has to really crouch down to get in and out of the tent.  The main vestibule actually goes over the door a little bit and minimizes the entrance/exit area.

The secondary vestibule is smaller but easier for ingress and egress. The center tent height is about 45" so sitting up in the tent is not a problem. The vertical walls also help with headroom.  Installation of the gear loft will definitely minimize headroom in the tent though. I probably would not be able to sit up in the tent if the gear loft were installed.  

Features:  This tent comes standard with a footprint and a gear loft. The footprint could be a little thicker in my opinion. Again, this isn't a backpacking tent so a little extra weight in the footprint wouldn't be a problem.

The tent also comes with 2 vestibules. The main vestibule has a little more floor area (8.75 sq. ft.) than the secondary vestibule floor area (5 sq. ft). Overall the vestibules are pretty small for a 3-man tent. You could get a large backpack and a pair of boots in the main vestibule and maybe a small backpack in the secondary vestibule.  

The rain fly on this tent is very sturdy and thick. I wish the rain vestibule anchored a bit closer to the ground to keep drafts out of the tent. I am going to experiment with this a bit on future uses.  

Construction and Durability: This tent is constructed well and I expect it to last for years to come.  Sierra Designs makes quality products that are made for heavy use and longevity.  

I mentioned there was heavy snow for the first couple days I used this tent. While out hiking for about 8 hours the tent accumulated several inches of fresh heavy snow and a tree branch near the tent also accumulated a lot of snow and laid down on the top of the tent. This caused the tent to buckle.  

After removing the snow and the tree branch the tent sprang right back. It bent one of the poles a bit but that ultimately was not a problem. I was very pleased the tent and fly didn't rip or stretch and I was also pleased the aluminum pole only bent a bit and did not break.  

I would recommend this tent to anyone who needs a good 2.5 season tent. It would be much better 3-season tent if there were less mesh on the top portion of the tent and if the rain fly went about an inch or two closer to the ground.  

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $140

Great tent for a couple, lightweight enough for backpacking, but roomy and comfortable. Three-seasons, 3-person tent with a good ventilation and storage space. Comfortably tall.


  • Easy to set up
  • Nice colours
  • Roomy and comfortable
  • Extra footprint
  • Storage at the ceiling
  • Freestanding

Setting it up for the first time was a bit of a puzzle, but after that it was taking just 3-4 minutes. I recommend practise before the trip. Tent is well built and looks great too. It comes with extra footprint. It also has a mesh which attached near the ceiling creates a nice shelf for small items.

I was using this tent on safaris in Africa. Therefore I can't tell you much about how it acts in heavy wind or rain. I trust this brand though and think it would not cause trouble. It did not leak in light rains I experienced and there were no problems with condensation.

It is a freestanding tent, which I love. It packs into a small and light enough package to be carried around in your backpack (6 lb 7 oz). Floor size is 83 x 70 inches and height is 45 inches, not only at the central point, but pretty much all over the tent area. It makes it very comfortable tent for two people, but can sleep three people.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250

Great tent for car camping. Not the lightest tent.


  • Durable
  • Roomy
  • Aluminum poles


  • Heavy

I bought my Zia 3 as my first backpacking tent. I have carried it mainly on weekend trips but last year bought a Clip Flashlight due to the lighter weight.

I still use my Zia 3 when both of my boys go with me on trips or when I car camp.  It has withstood strong winds in the Ouachita Mountains as well as rain and thunderstorms. It has never leaked and been very roomy even with three people inside. 

Source: bought it new

Your Review

You May Like


Price MSRP: $239.00
Historic Range: $129.93-$279.95
Reviewers Paid: $140.00-$250.00
Trail Weight 6 lb 7 oz / 2.92 kg
Packed Weight 6 lb 15 oz / 3.15 kg
Interior Area 40 sq ft / 3.72 sq m
Vestibule Area 8.75 + 5 sq ft / .81 + .46 sq m
Peak Height 45 in / 114 cm
Packed Length 21 in
Packed Diameter 6 in
Number of poles 2 main, 1 Hubbed Ridge
Pole Diameter 8.5 mm
Capacity 3
Season 3
Number of Doors 2
Pole Type DAC Press fit
Floor Material 70D Nylon, 3000 mm
Body Material 68D Dye Free Polyester
Fly Material 75D Polyester, 1500 mm

Recently on Trailspace

Panorama Knife Best of Switzerland Universal Knife Review

Kelty Asher 55 Review

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Review

Pleasant Pond Mountain, 7 April 2024

Easter week 2024 in Norway