Gear Reviews

Backcountry Innovation: The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent

posted by gumptiongear October 6, 2015 0 comments

Backcountry Innovation: The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent

The cornerstone of any worthy backpacking experience is a dependable and trustworthy backcountry shelter. Lightweight and weather worthy, the sturdy 2-person 3-season Lightning 2 from Sierra Designs offers convenient setup and innovative design for better backcountry getaways.

On Performance and Design…
No matter how reliable a backcountry shelter is, if it’s complicated or difficult to put up, it falls short. Few situations better illustrate this point than setting up camp in the middle of a thunderstorm. As the skies unleash their fury, you rush to set up your tent and then frantically try and attach the rainfly as you watch everything inside take on water like a sinking ship. It is an unfortunate scenario that we have personally experienced on more than one occasion.

Sierra Designs Lightning 2, IO Merino

Apparently, it’s a scenario that engineers at Sierra Designs have also experienced. How do we know? Because the Lightning 2 represents a new approach to age old problems associated with traditional tent construction. In crafting the Lightning 2, Sierra Designs not only ditched the industry status quo but the prototypical rainfly along with it. In its place, an innovative awning and integrated rainfly.Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent

Gone are the days of struggling to attach a separate fly when the winds are howling or the rain is falling. Sierra Designs’ integrated approach provides for one-piece pitching which is easy, efficient and sets up dry, even when you find yourself in the middle of that unfortunate thunderstorm scenario. But an efficient set up isn’t the only reason we appreciated the ditching of the vestibule.


When the rain starts to fall, the traditional tent / rainfly configuration forces you into your tent where you must then zip up the vestibule. This not only limits ventilation within the tent, but in most instances, completely eliminates your view of the outside world. Coupled with the large drop door entrance, the awning of the Lightning 2 creates a dry porch that lets you continue to enjoy views of Mother Nature – even in the midst of the storm.


The rest of the design is full of design details that turn this backcountry shelter into a home. Gear closets let you store gear where it should be—away from the door. Well-placed interior pockets; a large foot vent that offers impressive ventilation and superior condensation management; and appropriately placed ring and toggle clips for hanging a light or your portable attic.

Backcountry Innovation: The Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent

Notes from the Field…
Of course you can’t offer a tent review without mentioning weight and livability. As such, the Lightning 2 weighs in at 3lbs 14ozs – a weight that earns the ‘ultralight’ moniker for some manufacturers. For those seeking an even lighter option, the Lightning 2 FL shaves off a full pound and will run you an extra $100.

In terms of livable space, this tent offers a class leading 29.9 square feet of floor space and a peak height of 42.5 inches. For our editors, the only exception to the livability rule comes in the instance that the two people sharing the tent are over six feet tall. In that case, you may find tight shoulder room and limited space at the head and foot of the tent.

We love the gear closets in place of vestibules, however, our editors felt that interior access to the side storage could be slightly larger. While we were able to move size 13 hikers in and out of the gear closet with relative ease, you will find it difficult if not impossible to get a full size pack through the zippered opening.

Bottom Line…
For outdoor enthusiasts who value simplicity, functionality and intelligent design, the Lightning 2 from Sierra Designs is ready for years of backcountry service.

*Gumption Gear Review received the product sample featured in this review from Sierra Designs at no cost, and receives no monetary compensation for this or any related review. The item featured was provided solely in return for our honest views and opinions.

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