Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent review

Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent

If you are looking to cut some weight out of your backpacking pack, I always suggest looking at your sleep system: Tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. For most people you can easily shave off 3 to 4 pounds by replacing heavier items with lighters ones. And for those that are in need of replacing their tent, the Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent is a great option if you would like to save a little weight.

Sierra Designs has been building and designing tents for almost 50 years and has taken this knowledge and experience into the Lightning 2 tent. When you first look at this tent you might not notice the differences that this tent brings but the more you look the more you will find.  

SD Lightning 2 Tent

The first thing that I noticed was that there are no vestibules coming off the front or back of this tent. I found this a little strange as vestibules have become common place on a lot of backpacking and double wall tents. After setting up and taking a better look at the tent I found that Sierra Designs did remove the traditional vestibules but added what they are calling gear closets on both sides of the tent. These two gear closets can be easily accessed from either the outside or inside of the tent. One nice thing about moving the storage areas to the side of the tent is that it clears the pathway in and out of the tent.  

As I said in the intro, a simple and easy way to save a little weight while backpacking is to find a tent that is lightweight. The Lightning 2 comes in right around 4 lbs. Some ultralight backpacker would say that is not lightweight, but there will be many others who will be able to save a couple pounds at that weight. I know that there are lighter tents on the market but not many that offer both the room and durability as the Lightning 2.  

For me the best part of this tent has to be the unique one-piece double/single wall construction. This enables you to set up the tent without worrying about rain getting inside before you get the fly on. Normally in Utah, rain is not that big of a worry, but I am glad I took this tent on a backpacking trip to the High Unitas. Before leaving I saw that rain was on the forecast so I purposely took this tent to see how it did. This tent didn't disappoint.  


As we started the backpacking trip it was great weather, but 3 miles in, it started to rain. Within minutes, there was lightning and thunder all around us and the rain was coming down and kept coming for the next 4.5 miles. Literally, we were hiking in small creeks that were forming down the trail. With darkness coming and the rain not easing up we decide to make camp. We were drenched from top to bottom and getting out of the rain seemed like a great idea. Here is where this tent shined. We pulled out the tent and were able to set it up from the outside without letting a drop of water inside. My friends had to set up their tents and then add the fly. This allowed a few minutes of rain to get inside the tent before fly was added. Definitely the Lightning 2 excelled at keeping the tent dry inside while setting up.  

SD lightning 2 tentBut it didn't stop there, the Lightning 2 kept us dry all night long as the rain continued for most of the night. This is always my biggest fear when reviewing tents. I have had one bad experience of water dripping on me all night and I never want to repeat it. Wet, soggy and cold never makes for a great trip. I was amazed at how well the tent breathed and that no condensation built up on the inside of the tent. I am sure the venting throughout the tent helped keep the condensation at bay.  

Another great feature was the space inside the tent. As I said we retired early because of the rain, this could have been really rough in a smaller tent. There was plenty of room for my brother and I inside the tent. We could sit up completely in the front part of this tent. If you are looking for a tent that you can fit your dog in as well you might want to look elsewhere but this is a solid two man tent.  

The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent performed flawlessly. It was quick and easy to set up, even in low light and rain. After setting it up and taking it down multiple times on the backpacking trip, it never showed sign of wear. Its one piece tent body makes this perfect for setting up in adverse weather. The gear closets were great to stuff our boots and other gear under to stay out of the rain. (Not like it really mattered as most things would remain wet for most of the trip with the amount of rain and lack of sun.) At $259, the Lightning 2 is a great price for the quality and weight. When a friend asked me about what tent he should get to go backpacking with, the Lightning 2 was the first tent that came to mind.  

See a list a feature below as well as where you can purchase this tent.  

• Capacity: 2 Person 

• Minimum Weight: 3 lbs 14 oz. / 1.76 kg 

• Freestanding - Can be pitched anywhere—no matter how impenetrable the surface 

• Large Single Drop Door - Single door saves weight, but is uncommonly wide and large enough for two to sit side by side 

• 15" Integrated Awning Poles - Maximizes the door opening and drip line without the weight of a support pole 

• Hybrid Double/Single Wall - Reduces weight and provides quick, dry set-up, even in the rain 

• Hubbed Pole Pitch - Speedy, dry set up 

• Massive Foot Vent - Creates a venting tunnel between the foot box and the drop door vent for unprecedented ventilation and superior condensation management 

• Foot Hoop - Full-size foot box 

• Gear Closet - Gear storage where it should be—away from the door. Whether toggled closed or left open for additional venting, gear stays dry in a rainstorm. Plus, each occupant gets zip-accessible individual gear storage 

• MSRP: $259.95 

• http://www.sierradesigns.com

You can purchase the Lightning 2 Tent from the following dealers:

• Backcountry.com

• REI

• Campsaver

• Mountain Gear