Sierra Designs Review: Company and Products 2017

In the fall of 1963, Bob Swanson and George Marks met at Berkeley, CA. At the time, they were both working at the Ski Hut, an outdoor/backpacking retail store. A couple of years later, with financial backing by mutual acquaintance and entrepreneur David Buschman, they quit their day jobs at the Hut, and established Sierra Designs.

The duo set up shop in Richmond, CA, and went to work manufacturing and selling outdoor products. In a short amount of time, Sierra Designs gained the reputation of being a distributor of high-quality backpacking and camping equipment. The company has changed several hands over the years, and nowadays it is owned by Kellwood Company, which also owns brands like Parker, XOXO, Sangria, and others. Sierra Designs’ offers a wide range of tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and outdoor clothing for men and women – you’ll get a load of em’ here in our Sierra Designs review!

Sierra Designs Product Overview

1Here is a quick glance at the company’s lineup. Being in business for over 50 years, the company rolls with the fashion. It is not afraid to lead and innovate, and has a proud tradition of staying ahead of the competition by outdoing them, quality-wise.

Some products stay for the long haul, and some are replaced on a regular basis. This is especially true to the apparel section, but the equipment and gear itself is updated and modified. The products which Sierra Designs manufactures become better and more advanced as newer textiles and fabrics becomes available. For veteran EduMuch readers, most of these products will not be too earth-shattering. The company offers sleep gear like Thermarest, tents like Big Agnes, REI Kingdom and Coleman, and miscellaneous gear like Ozark Trail.

Sierra Designs Tents:

  • 3-season tents for 1 – 3 people.
  • 4-season tents for 1 – 4+ people.
  • Accessories – poles, lanterns, stakes, footprints, and reflective guylines.

Sierra Designs Sleeping Bags:

  • Bed-style bags for kids and adults, with varying kinds of insulation and temperature rating.
  • Mummy-style bags for kids and adults, with varying kinds of insulation and temperature rating.
  • Accessories – pillows, storage bags, and carry sacks.

Sierra Designs Backpacks:

Currently, two backpacks are available – the Flex Capacitor, and the Flex Summit Sack.

Sierra Designs Clothing:

Tops, Bottoms, and Jackets for men and women.

Here are our reviews of some of the company’s best-selling products:

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed Review

1When you are out there doing your thing – whether fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, or lazying on a riverbed – you always look forward to crawling into a nice bag for a comfortable, star-studded sleep. So, before anything, let me just say this is a comfortable outdoor bed. However, it comes as a price – weight. This bed is on the heavy side, so depending on your situation, you’ll need to make a choice. If you do decide to pack this bed along, you will not be disappointed. Here are some specs on the Backcountry Bed 600 (long version):

  • External material – polyester ripstop.
  • Line material – polyester taffeta.
  • Insulation – 600 fill DriDown.
  • Weight – 3 lbs 5 oz.

The best thing about this series is the integrated comforter, which allows the camper to sleep on his or her back, side, or stomach. This is one of this bag’s major advantages, and it makes for a much more natural kind of sleep. The 30-degree limit is spot on, so if you expecting warmer, muggier nights – this may not be the bag for you. The existence of a foot box – for optional foot ventilation – is a wonderful addition, but nevertheless I feel this 3-season bag is meant for colder weather. MSRP: $199.95.

Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent Review

1If you are looking to travel light, this could be exactly what you need. It is roomy and easy to set up. Lighting 2 is a freestanding 2-person tent, with a single door and two easily accessible gear closets. This tent is all about ourdoor livability, and it shows. The fly is connected to the tent, eliminating the need for unnecessary materials and additional weight. The awning provides all of the cover you could want, and the big single door closes up to protect you from any incoming steady rain. Some specs on the Lightning 2:

  • Gear storage area – 5.4 sqaure feet.
  • Interior area – 30.5 square feet.
  • Awning height – 36 inches.
  • Max height – 3.5 feet.
  • Weight – 4 lbs 4 oz.
  • Poles – 3, DAC aluminum.
  • Pole diameter – 9.3mm.
  • Polyester ripstop fly, 1200mm insulation.
  • Nylon ripstop floor, 3000mm insulation
  • Nylon no-see-um ultralight mesh body.

Even though this is a freestanding stand, staking it is always recommended. It’s not just in case of bad weather, but as an extra measure of protection and security. Guy points are also there, should you want to secure it even further. It is a sturdy tent, but Mother Nature can hurl some serious winds at times. Like I said, it is roomy. The layout and structure of the poles provides enough space for two people to sleep. Overall, it is one of the more expensive 2-person tents, but you get what you pay for. Nevertheless, see if you can find it on sale, and then it is totally worth it. MSRP: $229.95.

Sierra Designs Flashlight 2 Tent Review

1Non-freestanding, and fiercely proud of it, this 3-pole, 3-season, 2-person tent is a feat of engineering. It is a piece of equipment which achieves maximum comfort without compromising the weight factor. Here are some specs:

  • Gear storage area – 3.1 sqaure feet.
  • Interior area – 39.8 feet.
  • Max height – 3.7 feet.
  • Weight – 3 lbs 6 oz.
  • Poles – 3, DAC press fit aluminum.
  • Pole diameter – 9 / 9.5mm.
  • Polyester tafetta fly, 1500mm insulation.
  • Nylon tafetta floor, 3000mm insulation.
  • Nylon no-see-um ultralight mesh body.

There are some unique feature about this tent, and it allows to you use the tent is a couple of ways. The structure stands out, and the pole design provides a sturdy and tall tent to camp with. There are no domed polls, which means that you can use trekking poles for pitching it.

This tent has two doors, an awning 34 inches high, and 5 guylines for extra security and stability. Because it is not freestanding, the guylines are absolutely necessary. This is the perfect transitional tent for those who are interested in moving from freestanding designs to non-freestanding ones.

The mesh protects and provides 180-degree ventilation. The door can be open, and the awning is really well thought-out. The materials are all durable, water-proof and seam-taped. The design is a bit of a hybrid, and that helps to save even more weight. A small pack size can make a big difference, so this is definitely a tent to consider for the solo or duo getaway. MSRP: $229.95.

Sierra Designs Zissou 23 Sleeping Bag Review

1This sleeping bag may have been discontinued in favor of the more advanced models, but it still remains a popular option for those who are interested in buying it. You can still purchase it, even though it does not appear on the company’s website. It is a light, mummy-style, 3-season bag, and it has 23F temperature rate. Specs:

  • External material – polyester ripstop.
  • Line material – polyester.
  • Insulation – 700 fill DriDown.
  • Weight – 2 lbs / 2.3 lbs.

For a mummy bag, this is warm and roomy. Snag-free zippers, full insulation, performs well in 3-season circumstances. However, I would not use this bag in temperatures below 30-35F. For some it may be 23 degrees, but if it were me (and it was), I would take a 15-degree bag for 23-degree weather. Better to be a bit warmer than a bit colder, right? Great for backpackers, comes with a sack and a storage bag. This thing really compresses nicely, and it is a true asset for any adventurer. MSRP: $259.95.

Sierra Designs Flash 2 Tent Review

1This is a freestanding, 3-season, 4-pole, 2-person tent, with two doors and two gear closets. Remember to stake when necessary, and don’t be afraid to use those guy lines for extra stability. Here are some specs on the Flash 2:

  • Gear storage area – 5 square feet.
  • Interior area – 29.9 square feet.
  • Max height – 3.5 feet.
  • Weight – 5 lbs 7 oz.
  • Poles – 4, DAC press fit aluminum.
  • Pole diameter – 9mm.
  • Polyester tafetta fly, 1500mm insulation.
  • Nylon tafetta floor, 3000mm insulation.
  • Nylon no-see-um mesh body.

Let’s start with the structure and the poles. 2 poles run all along the sides, tucked inside sleeves. 2 additional poles are located on the outside, and they provide great support. It sets up easily, and the doors provide easy access.

There is lots of room here, and the hybrid single/double wall uses a fly which is a part of the tent itself. It doesn’t cover everything, which is where the awning comes into the picture. Everything is seamed and waterproof. Zip everything up if it starts raining, and open it up later (or during) for breathability and ventilation. The dual gear closets always come in handy, and that means that the floor of the tent is clutter-free.

No matter if it is colder or warmer nights, this tent can adapt quickly and easily. Whether it is a single camper or a dup bedding down, this tent will be a great little getaway. Sleep tight! MSRP: $295.95.

Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt Review

1This is a great and highly light alternative for the more traditional sleeping bags. Sierra Designs came out with this quilt in 2014, and it remains one of the best-sellers. Different models of quilts are still being introduced, but this review will be about their 2-season, 600 Fill, 30-degree version. Some specs:

  • External material – polyester ripstop
  • Line material – polyester ripstop
  • Insulation – 600 Fill DriDown
  • Weight – 1.14 lbs

This bag is indeed soft and comfy, but its design will be appealing to everyone. The bag (and specifically its fill) is treated with hydrophobic substances, and makes this product as water resistent as possible. Even if it gets wet, the DriDown will not lose its insulating attributes, and will also dry faster. This bag definitely requires a mat or pad in order to take full advantage of its thermal properties. Remember, it is primarily a 2-season bag. Also available in an 800 Fill version. MSRP: $199.95.

Sierra Designs Convert 3 Tent Review

1Pulling off a 4-season tent is extremely difficult, and not many do it properly. More often than not, companies who produce them will trade or compromise on certain features for the sake of others: warmth, quality, spaciousness, ventilation, ease of use – is there a single 4-season tent design that can incorporate them all into one? Possibly. The Convert 3 by Sierra Designs is pretty high in the running for best 4-season tent. It costs accordingly, too, make no mistake. Freestanding design, two doors, a single vestibule (second one sold separately), and enough room for three campers to sleep – and store gear – in. Some specs on the Convert 3:

  • Gear storage area – 5 sqaure feet.
  • Interior area – 41.7 square feet.
  • Max height – 3.5 feet.
  • Weight – 5 lbs 13 oz (tent and poles).
  • Poles – 4, DAC NSL aluminum.
  • Pole diameter – 9mm.
  • Polyester ripstop fly, 1200mm insulation.
  • Nylon ripstop floor, 3000mm insulation.
  • Nylon ripstop body, water proof breathable.

This tent utilizes the same hybrid single/double wall construction which reduces weight and allows a drier set up process, no matter the weather. It is pricy, but you do not want to skimp on a tent. If you are heading out to the wintry wilderness or are on some ski camping adventure, the Convert 3 can be your perfect companion. It is not for everyone, so do your research and see it is something which fits your wants, needs, and budget. MSRP: $689.95.

Sierra Designs Zeta 4 Tent Review

1This is a freestanding, 3-season, 4-person family camping tent. Best used for car camping, but it also lends itself nicely to backpacking. It is easy to set up, and the quality is everything you would expect from Sierra Designs. The company is in the process of discontinuing the item, but it is still available through several dealers and sellers. It has two doors, a vestibule, and tons of room. Specs on this tent:

  • Interior area – 58.2 square feet.
  • Max height – 4.1 feet.
  • Weight – 5 lbs 13 oz (tent and poles).
  • Poles – 2, hubbed, DAC Press fit aluminum.
  • Pole diameter – 9mm.
  • Coated polyester tafetta fly.
  • Coated polyester tafetta floor.
  • Polyester tafetta body.
  • MSRP: $339.95.


Within the outdoor and camping industry, Sierra Designs is considered a trusted and respected authority on gear and equipment. Their priorities – other than making money, of course – have always been the consumer and his or her gear. They have a wide range of products, and they are all top notch. You won’t be stuck out in the cold with Sierra gear. Is their catalog more expensive when compared to some other manufacturers? Yes. Absolutely, undoubtedly yes. However, you get your money’s worth, and Sierra delivers in a big way. The company doesn’t skimp on materials or costs of smarter engineering. Overall, a great company to put your faith in. Some of their stuff is more expensive, but it is well worth the price. Never refuse the call of nature!

Thanks for reading our Sierra Designs review! For more great outdoors features – like those covering the top hammocks, chairs, and lanterns, keep browsing here at EduMuch!

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