I’m traveling 100 days across Europe this summer out of a single backpack so when it came time to find a tent I knew that I wanted something light. That’s when I came across Sierra Designs and the Lightning series of tents. The pictures on the website make some big promises so I picked up a Lightning 2 FL and put it to the test.

*Note: I’m not using this tent for its intended purpose of peaceful hiking out into nature. I’ve been taking it straight to the middle of human chaos surrounded by arguably some of the worst campers on earth.

The Setup/Breakdown
About as easy as it gets. It took a few run-throughs but I can have the entire tent up with rain-fly (it’s built in!) and staked in under five minutes. Trying to figure out how to get the single pole to fit back into the bag took some time but after a few weeks we have come to an understanding.

The Awning
Sierra Designs brags quite about the awning which is just a simple extension of the rainfly over the entrance. Color me skeptical, but after a torrential two hour downpour in Amsterdam Forrest where I tested (and most definitely didn’t forget to close the screen door when I left) I’m completely sold. Obviously this won’t be much help if there’s any wind.

Backpacking Around
It’s the lightest, smallest tent that I’ve ever owned and a godsend for flashpacking. All the hotel rooms and hostels are booked in Barcelona? No problem. There’s always room at the campground (or in an olive grove). It has easily paid for itself twice over for rooming costs and easily fits on the side of my bag.

But Is It Good For Festivals?
It’s perfect — but only at the right kind of festival. I’m talking about your Telluride Bluegrasses and Gathering of the Vibes of the world. Something like Hurricane or Sziget or really any fest where there are going to be tens of thousands of drunk kids and you’re going to want to dust off that older tent you don’t mind being destroyed.


The Negatives
The material for the screens is very delicate. You’ll want to watch yourself around it. No rips yet, but there are definitely runs that I’m keeping an eye on. My eternal worry is that something will happen to the single pole. It’s clearly not something you can pick up as a replacement part while traveling. At $370, the price tag is rather steep but I’ve grabbed so many cheap nights in it that I can easily justify it.

The Score
5 out of 5 stars. I’ve always had good tents, but this is my first great tent. With 30+ days under our belts and no major issues, this tent has become as essential to me as my backpack for traveling.