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