Brand: Sierra Designs
Model: Tensegrity 2 FL Tent
Overall Score: 4.5 / 5
Most tents are narrower at the ceiling than at the floor (consider the classic A-frame pup tent). But the Tensegrity actually broadens toward the 41-inch peak: At the head end, its ceiling is a whopping 57 inches wide compared to 50 inches at the floor. Though that floor space measures just 29 square feet (which is adequate, not generous, for two occupants), the outward-slanting walls create unprecedented headroom. “Better than some four-person tents I’ve used,” one 6’2” tester says. The design also prevents water from dripping into open doors (the fly’s edge extends 12 inches beyond the floor).
The Tensegrity includes just one pole: A 48-inch aluminum arch that supports the tent’s foot end. The dearth of dedicated poles (along with compressible fabrics) makes this shelter smaller than a basketball when packed. Setup requires a pair of adjustable-length trekking poles and seven stakes—and several practice runs before the process feels efficient. “I wouldn’t say it ever became fast or easy, but we did get to the point where a two-person team could achieve a taut pitch in less than four minutes,” says a tester.
Instead of standard vestibules that store gear alongside the doors, the Tensegrity employs a separate “front porch” accessed through the tent’s head end. The result? Blissfully uncluttered entrances and exits. Staking the awning’s corners to the ground kept gear dry during rainstorms in Colorado’s Zirkel Wilderness. In fairer weather, testers used a second set of trekking poles to prop up the edges and create a sunshade big enough to sit under (as pictured).
Achieving a taut pitch requires solid stakeouts. The 20-denier polyester fly doesn’t sag when wet (as nylon does), so the pitch stays taut in soggy weather and keeps the big fabric panels from acting like sails. The design proved solid through howling wind and rain on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and gear stashed in the “front porch” stayed dry.
A huge mesh panel at the head and two enormous mesh doors make for unobstructed views and an open-to-the-stars sleeping experience. “It feels open, like a tarp, but has the bug protection of a tent,” a tester said after three nights in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness. Fabric panels zip over the doors’ mesh to seal in warmth and keep out wind. And compared to other single-wall tents, ventilation is above average: No condensation accumulated on 30°F nights in California’s John Muir Wilderness.
Campers who spare no expense when it comes to weight-savings can opt for the Tensegrity 2 Elite, which costs $490 but weighs just 2 pounds, 2 ounces (it’s made of ultralight silnylon, so you need to seal all seams).