Over the last couple of years I have steadily switched from a quilt, normally my old Enlightened equipment Revelation quilt. Which I do thoroughly enjoy using, to the Sierra designs cloud 800. For anyone who has read my book, will know that I love using quilts for many reasons – more warmth to weight, no worries about getting tangled in during the night and so on. With that said, quilts do have some disadvantages, which is why I have moved on from them in anything other than summer hikes and hammock camping. For one, I usually find them to be a hassle to fasten onto my sleeping pads.. Usually straps, or buckles or some other headache inducing nightmare at 3 in the morning when I have to get up and pee.
The Sierra designs Cloud 800 has all the advantages of a quilt and sleeping bag without any of the disadvantages. Of course, with some of it’s own disadvantages, but I will tackle that later.
What is the Cloud 800:
Imagine a quilt and a sleeping bag in one. The comfort of a quilt, the warmth and ease of use of a sleeping bag. You fasten your sleeping bag into the sleeve of the Cloud 800 and viola, your done. Your bag won’t tangle you up during the night, and as there are no zippers it’s easy to get in and out. The cut of the sleeping bag is nice and wide, so comfort really is the focus of the Cloud 800 series.
The Sierra designs cloud 800 is well built using 15d ripstop nylon on outer and inner shell and filled with ethically sourced hydrophobic down 800 on the inside. It’s not the lightest materials on the market, but certainly offers an excellent weight and quality to cost ratio.
On the Cloud 800 35 degree bag, the regular weighs in at 660 grams while the large/wide comes in at 710 grams. On the Cloud 800 20 degree bag the weight for the regular is 880 grams and large at 940 grams. Certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum for the two temperature ranges.
Warmth and comfort:
I can’t stand the standard way companies market their sleeping bags. Almost every company markets the limit temp instead of the comfort temp and the cloud is no exception. The Cloud 800 3/ +2celcius degree bag I would say is warm (with proper sleeping mat) down to about +2 degrees. Which is unusual, I find the bags to be warmer than the stated comfort temps. This is also something I have heard from a lot of customers that have purchased the bags from us. When we do have complaints about how cold the bags are, they are almost always coupled with a cold sleeping pad.
As for comfort, nothing really compares to the Cloud 800 in this temp range and weight. Sierra design do have the Backcountry bed which is even more comfortable, but also heavier. Sleeping in the Cloud 800 is very much like sleeping at home in a blanket, it’s that comfortable.
Things to know
The cloud 800 is not built for hammocks, and is very difficult to use in a hammock because of the sleeping pad sleeve. The Cloud 800 does not have down where the sleeping pad meets the Sleeping bag. Like a quilt, SD didn’t see the point in putting down where it won’t work. While this is great when sleeping on a pad, in a hammock it just doesn’t work as you won’t have warmth where you need it.
Also, the design of the Cloud 800 is so that the opening comes up to waist height only, so getting in and out means opening the Cloud 800 and climbing in. Similar to a quilt.
Excellent comfort. Perhaps most comfortable sleeping bag available
Good price to weight
Great build quality and materials
Hydrophic down is always nice
Not great for hammocks – or rather, won’t work at all with hammocks
Some thicker, wider sleeping pads won’t work with it
Review by Kenneth Shaw
The Sierra designs Cloud 800 can be bought at backpackinglight.se in sweden or backpackinglght.dk in the EU. For 20% rebate use code: SLEEP20 on checkout
Choosing a tent is always difficult. There is no such thing as the “Perfect” solo tent for all uses. My uses for the most part are rather specific. I want a tent that I can use both in the forest and above tree-line. Can stay comfortably in them for at-least two weeks in a go, fast and easy to setup, maximum weight of 1kg, fits nicely inside my backpack, has full bug protection and is built for somebody like myself that is 190cm tall. There are of course a lot of tents I have left out here, but not necessarily because I think they are terrible, but often because I just don’t like them as much as I like these tents that I mention.
With that said, I test dozens of tents every year, so I never really get a chance to fall in love with a specific tent. I have to use them, abuse them, then move on to the next one. SO the tents I do mention here are ones I have used a lot and are the tents that I myself reach for when I am going on hikes for myself.
1. Tarptent Stratospire – at 990 grams the Stratospire takes the proverbial cake for me. It’s massive inner space and vestibules, excellent above tree line performance, total cool factor. To me the Strotospire is as near a perfect solo tent as one can get.
– Big , there is no solo tent even close to the shear size of this tent.
– Stable above tree-line
– Double walled
– Dual entry, exit
– Two big vestibules
– it’s big. Almost too big for a solo tent. Finding camp spots in forest or campgrounds can be a real problem because of how big it is. In my guestimation it’s the size of two Hilleberg enans side by side.
– It can be tricky to setup. Even after having set mine up hundreds of times over the years, I still find it a pain to setup. at-least 8 tent pegs are needed, a good internal understanding of geometry, and patience.
2. Lightheart gear Solong 6 – As far as most liveable space, the Solong 6 is in a league of its own. This tent is designed with tall people in mind. it’s big, its light and it’s a fun tent to use. I have several tents I use and love but don’t have listed here for different reason. But one feature on any tent that I love is a big awning – the MLD Trailstar has the biggest, an open tarp is quite nice and the Tramplite shelter are all excellent tents with an awning. But the Solong 6 is the only “proper” tent with a nice big awning built in. With dual entries, a big liveable area and a massive awning, I just love this tent. This is a tent that you don’t really mind having to hunker down in for a long rain spell.
The solong 6 is also a relatively easy tent to pitch, but does require some practice as the trekking poles are setup on the inside of the inner-tent which is somewhat unusual.
– Big and light
– Excellent awning function
– Double entry & exit
– Packs down small
– requires 6 tent pegs, two trekking poles, an awning pole and between the two trekking poles a PVC pipe..
– I don’t really like the concept of having to buy a “basic tent” and then to purchase all the add ons. I wish companies, even small cottage companies would just sell a complete tent with everything I need to pitch and enjoy. Lightheart gear take this to a new level with basically everything being extra.
– Not sure I love the tent setup procedure. Would like to see a more optimised guy-line solution for the four corners. Not sure how much that PVC pipe is actually needed or if it could be scrapped in leu of a different solution. Like two poles and no PVC, or two poles and a simple strut that is sewn in place.
3. Hilleberg Enan – I don’t always want to bring trekking poles, in fact I find more and more that I am moving away from trekking poles and opting to instead have my hands free for camera gear and so forth. If I’m not bringing my trekking poles, than a trekking pole tent is a rather pointless venture for me. So with this, I bring the Hilleberg enan. Mine weighs in at 960 grams (Kerlon 600). That is complete with tent pole and add an extra 50 grams for 6 TI pegs. That is a lightweight, small packsize tent that is actually quite comfortable for someone of my height.
It also saves me weight by allowing me to leave my trekking poles at home – which together weigh around 350 grams. There is not a lot I don’t like about the Enan – it’s light, roomy, comfortable, double walled, easy to setup and fits in tight spots. I even love the fact that I can push my sleeping mat all the way to the top of one end and mush my pillow into place inside the inner tent. This is great for when I want to situp and read a bit, or at-least have my head raised. It’s the tightness of the tent that creates supreme comfort.
– Top quality
– I love the yellow inner-tent – the comfort it gives is indescribable
– No trekking poles needed
– Can withstand just about anything the mountains throw at it
So what don’t I like:
– It takes 6 tent pegs for a good setup. I would have like to see this cut down to 2 like the Tarptent Moment DW.
– While I love the tightness of the tent, I don’t really like getting caught in bad weather with it. Because of the tightness – in bad weather every tent shrinks (psychologically speaking), and the Enan just because a hassle with the size and condensation in bad weather.
4. Tarptent Notch – Everything I like with the enan I can copy and paste for the Notch, with the added bonus of it being lighter and easier to setup. With the notch you just need 4 pegs and two trekking poles and your done. The Notch has also great ventilation, double vestibules and entry/exits. The Notch is simply a superb solo tent. They even make this beast in an even lighter DCF version weighing just around 550 grams. That’s a double walled tent. The standard notch has a total weight with solid inner at around 770 grams. Perhaps the main drawback of the Notch is that the actual sleeping area of the inner tent is a rather tight fit. Cozy as some people might describe it. Where the Enan makes use of a little bigger inner-tent and one vestibule, the Notch cuts back on the inner-tent and instead makes room with two vestibules. I’m not sure which of the two I prefer.
– Fast and easy setup
– Great weight at just 770 g for standard, 550 g for DCF
5. Sierra designs High route FL – I get the question, often, If I could only choose one tent what would it be. This is such a difficult question for me because I am not limited to just one, so I can choose the one tent that best matches the situation I am likely to find myself in. With that said, one tent that usually passes everything I want or need to do is the High route FL. I love this tent, as easy to pitch as a pyramid tent, can be pitched with both inner and outer tent together, can easily remove the inner, comes complete seam sealed with tent pegs, big enough for me, and can withstand just about anything nature can throw at it. Granted the 2020 model is a little smaller and doesn’t have the dual entry & exits, it is considerably lighter than the previous model.
There is a lot of talk about the x-mid by Durston, for me the High route is a more useable tent. The x-mid is just too small for my needs, the high route is just right. I also find it an easier tent to pitch and more flexible. (Though still testing the x-mid, and I can say it might be just right for your own needs) What I liked most on the Lightheart gear Solong6 is the big awning, the High route has two of them. It is also the cheapest of all the tents that I rank as my favourite solo tents.
– Fast and easy setup
– Big, roomy tent – even the updated version
– Lightweight at under 800 grams
– Two vestibules that easily convert to Awnings
– I think it sucks they got rid of the two entry and exits.. Ok, admittedly I rarely used both at the sametime, but the flexibility of it was nice.
– Not sure I dig the color scheme so much. It works, but I kind of miss the red they had on the earlier model
– The actual vestibule space is tight – I usually try to pitch with awning for more room
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:
So much gear, so little time. It’s the ultimate orgy for gear lovers! Again, I did my best to walk around, be slightly social and take some shots of gear I thought was interesting and listened to a few keynote speakers.
Western mountaineering throwing it’s hat into the quilt game. Unfortunately I have no info on the quilt as the reps had been busy all day. But if it’s western mountaineering than it will probably be light and excellent.
The Osprey Levity 60. Won the outdoor award for best backpack. Light at 840 grams and rather functional. est. price $240 and release in april 2018. It’s nice to see even the big brands going lighter and lighter.
Toaks had this little alcohol stove on display. At first I thought it was just a little titanium cup that you fill up with alcohol and burn. However when I looked closer I could see the small holes around the rim – Would love to test this out in the field!
My wife thinks we need to invest more in our Glamping lifestyle.. she’s not too happy about sleeping on a tiny slippery mat and sharing a quilt with our son. I think this combination from Exped would work wonders. It’s a two man quilt and sleeping mat. Works wonders for family glampers or SUL hiking buddies.. you choose
Sierra designs had the famous Skurka designed Flex capacitor backpack on display. An excellent looking pack I have to say, something I could certainly see the use in. From tightening down to 40L and if needed can be expanded to 60L.
Unfortunately they didn’t bring the High route tent so I can’t give my impression on it…
Mont-Bell. Oh how I wish thee existed in Sweden. I’ve always been a big fan of Mont-bell and I don’t think it’s because I’ve only been an admirer from a distance. I’m certain they make good, lightweight gear and someday I plan on testing my theory.
Bill from NWApline looking rather happy with himself, as he should. From what I can tell NWAlpine is making some excellent lightweight climbing gear. A cuben rain shirt and an impressive looking cuben tent. NWAlpine is a small cottage manufacturer based out of Oregon.
My thoughts on cuben: while cuben will give any ultralight backpacker wet dreams, if we really are honest with ourselves, the minimal weight savings just isn’t worth the price. I don’t see how cuben will break into the mainstream, or even stick around for too many more years if they don’t look at the cost structure on it.