Review: Losing Some (pack) Weight and Dabbling in Ultralight Life with Sierra Designs

Sierra Design's care for real-life, on-the-trail use of their products shines through in these awesome lightweight designs.

Regardless of how much prep and reading you do before, nothing prepares you for that first backpacking trip - and how heavy your bag is gonna be. A friend of mine showed up a few weeks ago to her first ever hike-up-a-mountain-and-camp-at-the-top trip with an eager smile on her face and an igloo cooler in hand (stocked with a full size lantern to boot). She didn't quite understand what 20kms and 1100m of elevation meant for her and her back, but I couldn't wait for her to get to the end of our trip and laugh at all of the packing knowledge she had gained (inevitably, this happened). 

Don't worry - I didn't let her take the cooler.

We've all been there, and looking back at the past few years of my own backcountry experiences, I can sit and bask in the pain-free enjoyment of accumulated packing knowledge and upgraded gear. With more experience comes the levelling-up of the gear repertoire, so this year I decided to take another step on this path and try out some ultra lightweight gear from Sierra Designs

Their company started out in the 60's in California, and eventually grew to selling a multitude of thoughtful and even award-winning products that have obviously been tested by real people in the field. After using their High Side 1 tent and Nitro 800 fill sleeping bags, it's obvious to me how much innovation goes into their products, even while they are sold at affordable prices in the outdoor gear market. 


High Side 1 Tent 

I've always been excited to invest in a super lightweight single person tent that would allow me to take a load off on solo or odd-numbered trips and I have certainly gotten good use out of the Highside 1. Recently, on a trip to Hidden Lake Lookout with some friends, I smugly offered to carry my own tent when we had one-girl-too-many to fit in our other 2.5 man. Not only did I get a great snore-free sleep, I enjoyed the roomy comfort of my own little sanctuary in the High Side. The tent has lots of great features: a big door, it's fit with all the pockets I need, has lots of space for my 60L bag at my feet, and has an awesome fly including a vestibule you can guy-out with hiking poles for extra sitting or storage space. 


Easily my favourite part about this tent is the weight - it's only 1lb and 15 oz including the fly. Crazy right? The poles are pre-bent and fold up short so the packable size of the tent is insanely small - about the length of my forearm, see below. 


Not only is it teeny tiny and an actual pleasure to carry up a mountain, but it's also super easy to set up. For my first time with no instructions, I'd say it took me 5 minutes tops. It does require staking out but unless you're camping on rocks, the tent comes with some pretty indestructible stakes, and I've never had any problems finding soft ground to pop up in. 


My only qualm with the High Side is the lack of ability to sit up straight in it, but considering the weight and size of the tent in your pack, it's a small price to pay when the vestibule offers a sitting option if you really feel the need to park it undercover at the end of your trip - and it's certainly no different than other 1-man UL tents on the market. Considering the number of awards this tent has won, it's no wonder I have no complaints about it. 

I have similar regards to SD's Nitro 800 fill 20 Degree sleeping bag. Another excellent purchase if you want to get some weight off your back but still have a quality product. The 20 Degree Nitro has a 800-down Drifill which has kept me warm snow camping and well-regulated in the heat. 

The best thing about this bag is the foot vent (a Sierra Designs trademark). I'm a light and fussy sleeper. Being a gal with big hips, my middle is often freezing while my feet and top are too hot so having the foot vent has changed the backcountry sleeping game for me while not compromising any warmth in the cold months. 


Besides the awesome foot vent, this bag is super comfy, stays clean and airs out well, and like the High Side 1, is crazy light. I haven't even put it in a compression sack as it already stuffs down super small, and is one less thing to worry about when assessing weight on big trips. 

The zippers sometimes catch, or come fully undone due to the 2-way design which can be a pain in the dark, but otherwise this bag is the bomb.com, especially at its respective price point. Note for women over 5'8" like me, I read elsewhere that the women's Nitro is a bit on the short end, so I went for the Men's, and have found no issues with it. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!