Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent Review
The Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent is a lightweight two-person tent. It’s best-suited for three-season use and has dual doors and vestibules for easy accessibility. This tent is light enough to act as a one-person tent on smaller overnight trips if you prefer more space. It’s also a great option for larger thru-hikers.
In addition, Sierra Designs manufactured this tent with features that make it perfect for bikepacking. The length of the pole sections makes it easy to strap between your handlebars without getting in the way.
Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent At-a-Glance
- MSRP: $359.95
- Design Type: Semi freestanding
- Minimum Weight: 2 pounds, 15 ounces
- Packed Weight: 3 pounds, 5 ounces
- Floor Area: 31 square feet
- Peak Height: 38 inches
- Dimensions (length x width): 88″ x 55″
- Packed Size (length x width x height): 15″ x 5.5″ x 5.5″
Intended Use / Who Is This Best For
This tent is best for thru-hiking couples or hiking buddies that don’t mind sleeping in close quarters (but want a little more room than many two-person tents offer). The low packed weight of three pounds, five ounces is enough for one person to carry. This allows couples or hiking partners to switch off who carries the tent weight every other day.
The Sierra Designs High Side 2 is also ideal for larger individuals that need more livable tent space. This is because it is also light enough for a single hiker to carry on shorter backpacking trips.
Circumstance of Review
My testing of the Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent mostly occurred during the summer months in Truckee, California. But I also used it for a three-day car camping trip down south of Mammoth Lakes, California.
On some of my earlier spring trips, the overnight temperatures dipped into the upper 30s. But average summertime temperatures in this region are usually in the low-to-mid 40s. To this point, I’ve been fortunate not to encounter any overnight rain when using this tent. But it has been able to protect me from falling pigeon droppings a time or two!
- “High Side” Pole Geometry: Creates a ‘high-side’ over one door to maximize livable space and minimize weight.
- Low Profile Design: Keeps the tent close to the ground to improve wind resistance.
- Two Vestibule Zippers: Allow you to create awnings on both sides of the tent for improved ventilation and extra covered gear storage areas.
- Compact Storage Size: Requires minimal space inside your pack. Actually has a smaller packed size than my old Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol Sleeping Pad!
- 12-Inch Pole Sections: Fit between your handlebars if you’re into bikepacking.
In testing the Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent, I looked at livability, comfort, and how easy it was to set up, break down, and strap onto various packs. Here are my findings:
I personally loved the amount of space in the High Side 2 Tent as a single camper. My sleeping pad required less than half of the tent’s floor area and I used the rest for extra layers, journals, maps, and other essential non-essentials.
I used the triangular pockets on the inside of the tent for phones, solar chargers, keys, and other belongings. Compared to tents with hanging pockets, I appreciated that these pockets were built into the tent body. This kept my belongings secure and out of the way.
When winding down at the end of the day, I used the small loops at the top corners of the tent to hook up my solar lantern. This allowed me to read or journal without wearing out the battery in my headlamp.
I honestly can’t say that I was ever uncomfortable sleeping in the High Side 2 tent. On hot nights, I left one of the vestibules open to allow better airflow through the tent. This came with the added benefit of enjoying the first rays of morning sunlight while I was still wrapped comfortably in my sleeping bag.
The only thing that was a bit uncomfortable about the High Side 2 was the relatively low peak height. While I’m not a tall individual, I wasn’t able to sit up straight in this tent without hitting my head on the ceiling.
Additionally, I found that the inside of the rainfly frequently accumulated condensation overnight. This was the case even if it had not rained or I wasn’t camping close to a body of water. My breath alone seemed enough to cause this condensation. As you can imagine, this led to a less comfortable tent breakdown process in the morning.
Ease of Use
Because this is only a semi freestanding tent, you’ll need a solid patch of durable terrain to stake it down. While I never had any trouble with this, it’s worth mentioning that this tent maybe a little more difficult to set up on rockier terrain.
That being said, I loved the fact that I could easily strap it to the bottom or top of my pack without having to come up with some sort of jury-rigged solution to keep it in place. And that made it easily compatible with whichever pack I ultimately chose to take on my different trips.
For reference, I tested it with a LiteAF 35L Curve Fast Track Pack and a Backpack Light 70L Pack from My Trail Company (which is no longer in production).
In terms of setup and breakdown, it took me less than five minutes to set up this tent once I tested it the first time around and even less time to break it down. One really important feature to note here is that it comes with more stakes than you need, which recently came in handy on a short backpacking trip that I led because the other folks’ tents were all missing stakes.
What really makes this tent unique is its “high side” geometry and the inclusion of two vestibule zippers on either side of the rain fly. I know this sounds fancy at face value, but what does it really mean?
More About “High Side” Geometry
From my perspective, this tent seeks to find a balance between a more traditional lightweight tent and some of the ultralight tarp tents that many thru-hikers are leaning towards these days.
The asymmetrical geometry of the tent creates a higher side over one of the doors. This is better for allowing any water to run off the tent instead of creating a droopy area on top. It also maximizes the interior livable space while keeping the tent’s profile low to minimize its susceptibility to high winds.
And Those Vestibule Zippers
There are two doors on either side of the tent body, two vestibules on the outside of those respective doors, and two zippers that allow you to completely open each of those vestibules. This allows you to enjoy maximum ventilation on hot nights, but it also allows you extra versatility with this tent.
You’ll be able to enjoy “medium” ventilation if you only open one zipper on each vestibule. And the rainfly has multiple hook-and-loop closures that allow you to secure it in your ideal position for comfort and ventilation.
If you choose to open both zippers on the vestibules, you can either roll them up and hook them into place on the rainfly or you can use your trekking poles to create covered storage areas on either side of your tent.
In essence, this makes the rainfly serve as a de facto rain tarp if you need to cook outside your tent when it’s raining. So the functionality and versatility of this design definitely won’t be lost on you if you’ve ever struggled to prepare a meal when a heavy rainstorm kept you confined to your tent.
- Versatility: The dual-zippered vestibules provide maximum versatility for ventilation and livability on the trail.
- Lightweight: This tent has a relatively low packed weight for a two-person tent. That weight reduces even further if you don’t bring along ALL of its extra stakes.
- Bikepacking Compatible: The 12-inch pole sections on this tent ensure that it fits between your handlebars for bikepacking with ease.
- Condensation: I found that the inside of the rainfly regularly accumulated condensation overnight if all vestibules were zippered shut. And that was just with the “hot air” from a single sleeper!
- Geometry: While the “high side” geometry creates a higher roof over the door, it only does so on one side of the tent. This means one person will have a lower entry/exit than the other.
Overall, my honest opinion is that the Sierra Designs High Side 2 Tent is slightly overpriced if you look at the competition. That being said, it offers one of the lowest packed weights and smallest packed sizes of all two-person tents on the market.
You’re paying for the added convenience of carrying a two-person tent that doesn’t take up too much space in (or on) your pack. And it’s definitely a great option for backpacking in really hot areas because the vestibules open wide for maximum ventilation.
A Few Comparison Items
If you want to compare the High Side 2 to the competition, check out these other two-person tent options:
- MSRP: $369.95
- Packed weight: 3 lb. 9.4 oz.
- MSRP: $279
- Packed weight: 4 lb. 9 oz.
- MSRP: $429.95
- Packed weight: 3 lb. 14 oz.
- MSRP: $399.95
- Packed weight: 2 lb. 8 oz.
This product was donated for the purpose of review.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.