Gear Review: Sierra Designs Flash 2 Tent

Sierra Designs Flash 2
Sierra Designs Flash 2

Three-Season Tent
Sierra Designs Flash 2
$340, 3 lbs. 15 oz.

As a violent thunderstorm ripped the skies open in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, on the second day of a five-day August family backpacking trip, I had to pitch this tent in a hurry. It was one of those moments when I really appreciate good gear design. With the Flash 2’s “external pitch” integral rainfly attached to the interior canopy, I was able to keep the interior dry while pitching the tent in a downpour. And thanks to having clips instead of pole sleeves, it goes up very quickly.

The Flash 2 withstood gusts of about 30 mph that lasted through that 90-minute storm. Unlike many single-wall tents, which tend to collect a lot of condensation inside, this hybrid double- and single-wall proved very airy and well ventilated on raw, rainy nights and warm nights, thanks to mesh doors on both sides and covered vents on each end that kept out windblown rain. The spreader poles that extend side-to-side and front-to-back create good headroom, with a peak height of 39 inches that is comfortable for all but the tallest people.

I shared the tent only with one of my kids, so interior space was fine for us, but two big people might find the 29.5 square feet of floor space a bit snug and not long enough. The two 8.25-square-foot vestibules provide adequate space for storing boots and packs and cooking. The 20- and 40-denier nylon used in the Flash 2 is more durable than 10-denier nylon used in some ultralight tents. Overall, for a tent that weighs in under four pounds, you don’t suffer big compromises in stability, space, ventilation, or weather protection. The Flash also comes in 3-person ($390, 4 lbs. 13 oz.) and 4-person ($450, 5 lbs. 12 oz.) versions; at those weights, campers who want a little more space might consider getting the Flash 3 for two people or the Flash 4 for three people.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu. See more reviews of backpacking gear I like by clicking on the “backpacking gear reviews” tag in the tag cloud in the left sidebar.

—Michael Lanza



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5 thoughts on “Gear Review: Sierra Designs Flash 2 Tent”

  1. Thanks for the detailed reply, Michael. I ended up buying the Big Copper Spur UL3 as it’s quite tried and tested by all accounts. The single-skin tent concept is still evolving…

    Yes drought is a major issue downunder but climate change affects different ecosystems is something I want to look into more. On the plus side, our flora and fauna has longstanding experience of drought and is quite hardy as a result. We are certainly less dependent on snow melt than North America. But that’s only part of the picture (as evidenced by the increasing occurence of major flood/storm/fire events).

    I was thinking that this mode of seeing the world makes wilderness a bittersweet experience: we realise how transient it really is. On the one hand, it’s important to appreciate it fully, on the the other we need to challenge the fallacy that everything will be OK. Thanks again!

    • James, I’m a big fan of the Copper Spur UL tents. I use the UL 4 with my family; you’ll find a review of it at this site. I agree with your thoughts about the climate situation. We do need to challenge the assumption that everything will be okay without intelligent action from us. Enjoy your new tent!

  2. Hi Michael thanks for the time and effort you put into this blog. I’m looking at buying the Flash 3 and just wanted to check what you thought this tent in colder, 3-season conditions (ie approaching 30 deg F). I read it might get a bit too breezy. It otherwise sounds fantastic.

    Slightly unrelated but I found your blog while researching tents a little while back and bought your book ‘Before they’re gone’ as a result. It’s a great read: inspiring and alarming in parts. It’s made me want to look at the implications for some of the great wildernesses I explore in my neck of the woods (south-eastern Australia) – and will no doubt influence my own writing and concerns. Thank you!

    • Hi James, first of all, thanks for the nice compliment about my book, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I share your alarm about climate change. I’ve also read about the climate-related drought and water shortages in your part of Australia, which sounds very scary. To answer your question, the Flash is a very airy tent, and you would not get as much protection from wind as in some other tents that ventilate less well, nor as much efficiency in trapping heat inside. That said, on cold, calm nights, you would also not experience as much condensation inside as with a tent that does not ventilate as well. Your solution may be a warm sleeping bag in concert with the Flash! Safe and happy adventures to you. Cheers, mate.