When is the last time you saw a tent design that made you stop, think, and want to spend the night in it just to test it out?
That’s exactly what happened to me when I saw Sierra Designs’ new series of Lightning tents for 2014. I knew that I had to have the Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL.
Forget the idea of a tent body and an additional tent fly. In the Lightning, Sierra Designs has combined the two – merging the benefits of single-wall and double-wall tents into a hybrid body design. Part of the Lightning is single-walled (primarily down near the foot), which provides a lighter weight, and part of the tent is double-walled, which allows for better performance and prevents condensation.
The best of both worlds? That’s the idea.
The benefits of this one-piece body don’t stop there. Think of the situation where you’re pitching camp in the rain. Since there is no separate fly to worry about, you don’t have to go through the gymnastics of trying to keep the inside of your tent dry while you lay the tent out, get the poles in place, and attach the fly just perfectly.
Speaking of poles, the Lightning features top of the line, Featherlight NSL poles from DAC. I call it a “single pole” design, because there’s really only one pole that you have to worry about. In reality, there’s three poles, but they always remain connected to each other via swiveling hubs.
The poles attach to the tent body externally, using quick clips. (I’m so glad that the days of threading poles through small nylon tunnels are over!) And at the end of the main pole there’s a slick little ball joint that snaps everything into place.
Once pitched, you realize just how unique the layout of the Lightning 2 UL is. It’s a front-entry tent with a massive opening, but like many front-entry tents, you don’t have to wiggle through a vestibule, and climb over your gear to get in. The opening is wide and tall – plenty large for my 6′ 3″ frame to get in without pulling a Cirque du Soleil type of maneuver. This wide opening gives the tent a very airy feel, and makes a great spot to sit and watch the sunrise in the morning, as you heat up breakfast. If the sun’s drowned out by rain clouds, the covered awning proves even more valuable.
Sierra Designs has moved gear storage to the sides of the tent by utilizing vestibules that are quick to access from outside, or inside the tent. And since they cubbies exist on both sides, each person in the tent can have their private gear locker.
It’s not only the big, unique design features that I appreciate in the Lightning; Sierra Designs also nailed the small details. Take, for example, the high quality DAC J stakes, which store away neatly in a Velcro pouch that’s attached to the pole bag. Each stake-out location is also factory-equipped with auto-locking line tensioners that make getting the perfect pitch effortless. But if you find yourself in a spot where stakes are hard to drive, don’t worry – the Lightning can be setup freestanding, too.
Outside Magazine recently named the standard – the UL’s slightly heavier, yet cheaper brother – one of “The Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Backpacking Tents” on the market. Outside’s testers remarked that the Lightning series is, “‘one of the most creative tent’ designs he’s ever seen.” I would have to agree.
The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL has performed admirably on some small trips thus far, but the big test will come when I live in this shelter for a week on my upcoming Co elk hunt. Be sure to check back to see how it performs in the highcountry. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions…
- Minimum Weight: 3 lbs 7 oz.
- Packaged Weight: 3 lbs 14 oz.
- Gear Storage Area: 4.1 + 4.1 ft2
- Interior Area: 30.5 ft2
- Internal Peak Height: 42.5 in.
- Awning Height: 36 in.
- Awning Overhang: 15 in.
- Length: 86 in.
- Width: Front: 56 in., Rear: 44 in.
- Stakes: 10 DAC J Stakes
- Pole Type: DAC NSL
- Pole Diameter: 9.0 / 9.6 mm
- Fly Fabric: 30D Nylon Ripstop 298T, Silicone/PU 1500 mm, FR
- Floor Fabric: 40D Nylon Ripstop 238T, PU 3000 mm, FR
- Body Fabric: 20D Nylon No-See-Um Ultralight Mesh