Where to start – The High route FL is a weird tent. Or at-least that was my first impression. An impression that was both negative but hopeful, I mean, how could I not be hopeful, it was designed with Andrew Skurka. In short, it’s a boxy, weird, half pyramid tent half something else that uses trekking poles and looks like it would be rather shit in heavy winds. That was my first impression, than I got it home, and I wanted to love it, but couldn’t as it was too much of a pain in the ass to setup. Not the process itself, but my poles would never sit in place. Unsatisfied, I sold the tent and moved on.
I came back to the tent again by chance, I finally secured a European distribution for the tent for sales at backpackinglight.dk, and I decided to give it another shot. Or rather, I needed to show it off during an outdoor show here in Stockholm. So, regretting having to set it up again, I pulled it out of it’s (new) stuff sack – as I noticed right away that the stuff sack was different from the version I had earlier which was a direct import from the USA. Than I started setting up the tent and noticed it was much easier to setup this time around. So I don’t know if it’s official or something I dreamed up and my competency in setting the tent up actually increased over the time period. In any-case I believe that the version of the High route I bought for retail in Sweden was actually a better, stretchier sil-nylon that makes the tent easier to setup.
Since I gave it another shot, the tent has kind of grown on me and one I truly enjoy using. I have used the High route for many trips throughout the summer ranging from mountain trips to forest trips. In all about 30 nights which I feel is a fair amount to give a decent review of.
I even did a video review of this tent earlier this year that you can watch here:
First off, considering Andrew Skurka is a rather small guy, the High route FL is large, I mean, Large. I fit very comfortably in this tent. For reference I am 6’3″, 200lbs or in the more comprehendible metric system 190cm 90kg. Most tents are too small for me, and this has led me to believe that tent designers by and large are tiny people who simply don’t understand the concept of “tall”. When it comes to “ultralight” tents, the disparity is even greater. Ultralight tents usually equate to coffin.
The High route is a comfortable tent. I can situp, stretch out, have my gear in the tent with me and because of the non-centered trekking poles, the height is extended beyond just the standard center. This is where pyramid tents really lose some of their utility, is that you only have space to move around in the exact center as the sides slope hard.
With that said, the size of this tent, and the fact that it uses standard 20denier sil-nylon, means that it’s going to weigh a bit. Which it does, for a trekking pole, lightweight one man tent it weighs 1,1kg. Which isn’t bad for the amount of space you get, but there are lighter solutions. However, if you just use the outer fly and can’t be bothered with an inner-tent, than you are looking at around 600grams – which would give you much more room in the tent, making it very much so, a two man tent with far more usable inner space than any two man pyramid tent that I know of, with perhaps the exception to the Hyperlite mountain gear Ultamid 2.
At first glance it’s easy to get blinded on one detail: It has no vestibule. But in truth, it does have a vestibule, and not just one, but two, on both sides with the double entry ways. It might not have a useable vestibule if your used to using something like a Hilleberg Kaitum GT, which you can park a car in. But it certainly has two very useable vestibules for any lightweight or ultralight backpacker. Also, don’t forget that it’s easy to stake out the entry ways for ventilation and for creating an even bigger vestibule if the need arises. Of course, you could just always bring your gear in the tent with you, which is what I do, and I just park my backpack in the vestibule and cook food in it.
So far I have not experienced anything this tent hasn’t been able to handle in the way of bad weather. Heavy rain: no problem. Heavy winds: no problem (for reference I’ve had it in 14m/s or 48 feet per second wind – it certainly shook, but the trekking poles act as an extra shield for keeping the fly off of you). It’s actually rather competent in most conditions.
Of all the tents I have used, the High route FL probably has the best ventilation possibilities – from the two large vents up top, to being able to open the side doors completely, to being able to stake them out at different levels. All of this enabling a tent that is highly flexible and useable in different situations.
I get the feeling that Andrew Skurka approached Sierra designs and said something like this “Guys, I have this awesome Idea for a tent, I want it to be the greatest tent ever made for the kinds of conditions I would want to use it in” – Sierra designs said “great! but you should do it like this and this and this..” and the end result is a tent that is excellent in design and function, that takes a lot of inspiration from a standard pyramid tent. But does have noticeable compromises. It has the ease of setup (nearly) as a pyramid tent, better rain protection than pyramid tents, more useable space and has the added bonus of being both a simple tarp with fly only and includes an inner tent. On top of this it has double entry and exit’s, packs down small, relatively light and relatively cheap.
The high route FL is something special, unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Sierra designs are releasing a newer version of the tent next year and discontinuing the current model altogether. They are getting rid of the double entry way, making it overall smaller, and changing the color to blue. I’m sure that the 700grams total weight will have a bigger audience, but for me, the High route as it is, is a near perfect tent. It’s big, easy to setup, great ventilation, lot’s of useable space, can be setup in different configurations depending on what you prefer, and it packs down rather small..
A side note:
I often see the tent justice warriors of the world say the High route is a direct copy of the Tarptent Stratospire or the Yama mountain gear Swiftline. Honestly, I don’t see the resemblance, I want to, but it’s just not there. The only thing they have in common is the asymmetrical pole setup and sil-nylon fly. I would say there are far more differences than commonalities in these tents. I just thought I would write that here to avoid my comments section to be filled with these kinds of comments.
With that said, I love my Stratospire, and I can’t really choose between the two which one I prefer as they are both great tents. Though, I will say that I tend to take the High route as it uses less volume in my backpack.
Update: Sierra designs is now saying that there is a difference though its not USA and European, it’s just an updated version with a lighter Silnylon – which explains my thoughts on why it’s easier and strechtier material. This gives a total difference in weight between the older and newer version of the tent to about 200grams.
If your in Europe this tent can be purchased here:
Eller i Sverige här:
Thanks for the nice review!
I used to be a big fun of SD, in fact I own 2 different tents of SD, but the last tents they brought to the market are not as innovative as the tents they had in 2015.
Having said that, the high route FL, is an interesting tent.
Again, thank you for taking the time to review this tent.
I agree.. though I think the collaboration with Andrew and perhaps a new or motivated designer has really turned the company around and I now see them as one of the most innovative companies around. Check out some of the newer tents coming, the Flex capacitor backpack and the Cloud sleeping bags.. all brilliant products
Does the High route FL need to be seam sealed like the Tarptents?
Nope.. definitely an added bonus
It comes seam sealed. Definitely an added bonus
Thanks for the review. I was super curious about a sil HR so I posted a question on Shurka’s blog:
Andrew Skurka September 19, 2018 at 7:54 pm #
I don’t know anything about European fire-resistance standards for tents, but I’m doubtful that SD would make the shelter from two different fabrics (one for US, one for Europe) given the small quantities involved. Plus, I don’t remember hearing anything like that, and I think it would have been discussed.
great thanks for the clarification.. LIke I said, not sure if it was true, but certainly a feeling that the “newer” high route was actually considerably easier to setup and the material itself seemed stretchier.. They also had changed the stuff sack and tent pegs from the american version I got, so for me it wasn’t an impossibility that even the silnylon was different.
Update: Sierra designs is now saying that there is a difference though its not USA and european, it’s just an updated verion with a lighter Silnylon – which explains my thoughts on why it’s easier and strechtier material. This gives a total difference in weight between the older and newer version of the tent to about 200grams.
Thanks ken for a great review, rather in my opinion, a true review. You use the items first then comment. I cant find another review on anything that speaks from first hand experience. All I see from reviewers is a restatement of manufacturers specs. I can see that on the makers site, other “reviewers” extremely rarely offer nothing else. More info comes from customer comments. Seems all are trying to say something generically good and never a criticism. This is of no help. Also your personal perspective of a big guy is very valuable. So tired of others calling the tents two man tents when unless your tiny there is no way it would work, as an example. Its one thing for the manufacture to promote it as such but another from a reviewer. Sorry for the rant. Your writings are very refreshing. Your observations helpful. Thanks again.
Hi David and thank you! I think that is generally the problem with a lot of reviews and something I try to avoid. Either the reviewer has nothing to compare with hence the 3F lanshan love where people having nothing to compare to but want to convince themselves and others of how awesome a 100usd tent is. Or, because a tent is soooo damn expensive, the user doesn’t want to feel that they have wasted their own money on a product, so again, rosy review. Or, a reviewer is paid to do a review, while not always a negative thing, especially with more known gear reviewers, it can affect the reviews of a blogger just starting to make money on their venture out of fear of losing potential customers.
My point of view is this: Nothing is free. If I am given gear, a manufacturer atleast in the beginning was expecting something in return, or atleast not anything negative. But with time they learn, now companies only send me gear of products they truly believe in, otherwise I call them out.
Of course, it’s easy to think my reviews are “rosy” as well because I sell gear. But I avoid this problem by not selling gear I think is garbage.