Product – Tent

Manufacturer – Sierra Designs

Model – Sierra Design Tensegrity 2 Elite

Included: All needed accessories, including stakes, lines, bags


The tarp is dead. The Sierra Design Tensegrity 2 Elite killed it!

Last year I reported that the new line of ultra-light tents from Sierra Design threatened “the tarp” used by thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers as a tent alternative. The 2014 SD tents were a similar weight to comparable tarps, yet protected you from all the elements.. including bugs, mice, wind and they were easier to pitch and they also included a protective tent floor.

The 2015 line of tents, and in particular the “elite” line… don’t just compete with the tarp, they totally kick butt!


They are not only lighter than a tarp alone, they are better in every way conceivable. I’m bold enough to say this Tensegrity 2 Elite is the best 2-person tent ever made! Strong words I know, let me attempt to qualify.

There are stronger 2-person tents, and the Tensegrity isn’t free-standing… but without any doubt, it is the roomiest 2-person tent available by any manufacturer. The ultra-elite double siliconize material, and its brilliant design, make this tent amongst the lightest. 

When you add in the triple doors, superior ventilation and breathtaking views available from its supersized “veranda”… nothing else is close.

It all sounds too good to be true… hard to believe? Believe it!

The Test

Packing was easy. I stuffed the tent in the bottom of my backpack, left behind the stuff sack, and trimmed the labels.

I replaced the stock pegs with aftermarket ultralight titanium pegs (saved an additional 2 oz) putting my trail weight at 34oz

I backpacked the Algonquin Park Highlands Backpacking trail with my wife, and then solo trekked the Abbes and Essence backpacking trail at Ontario’s Bon Echo Park.  It never rained during any of my hikes, so I also set her up in my backyard for 2 additional weeks, where she endured several major spots of rain and the family lawn sprinkler 🙂

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SET UP #1 – Max Protection – The front flap pegged down and creating a huge vestibule
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SET UP #2 – Under the Stars – Sleeping under the stars without the bugs – roll up the front flap – Bon Echo Park, Ontario
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SET UP # 3 – The Awning – The front flap supported with additional poles creating an awning


A quality tarp is light… very true. However, by the time you add guy ropes, pegs, ground sheets mosquito netting, or possibly a bivy bag… the average tarp setup will be much heavier, and provide less protection from the elements, bugs and rodents… and a more difficult pitch. 

The Tensegrity 2 Elite is not only lighter than a tarp, but it is also better in every way. 

The material of this tent stands out. The double-sided siliconized (sil/sil) nylon fabric is more waterproof, more resistant to UV rays, and lighter and stronger than both traditional PU-coated nylon and one-sided siliconized nylon.  The sil/sil doesn’t appear to crease like typical PU-coated nylon and is light and smooth to the touch. 

The sil/sil fabric is truly meant for “elite” campers. It isn’t used by other manufacturers for a couple of reasons: It’s more expensive, it can’t be factory seam taped, it can only be hand seam sealed with an aftermarket silicone-based product, and finally… it is prohibited for sale in many major jurisdictions in the USA because it doesn’t meet some fire retardant standards.… however none of these are issues for the “elite” camper who now has access to one of the best available tent fabric. 

The tent design is a “hybrid”. There is no separate tent body and fly… just one integrated tent, with the fly and mesh segments strategically layered to allow for both ventilation and protection.  The big question is does it work?

In short… absolutely. In fact, in some ways, I found it was superior in balancing protection and ventilation than more traditional designs.


The tent was fast and easy to pitch. It took me 73 seconds.

Some of the weight is saved by using trekking poles for tent supports
The tent is only one piece. Its brilliant hybrid double/single wall reduces weight and provides a quick, dry setup, even in the rain.

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Nylon pockets for trekking poles at the top of tent
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Brass grommets for trekking poles tips at the bottom of tent

The tent comes with only one pole. This 2.5oz pole supports the rear of the tent. The front of the tent is designed to use your trekking poles to support the tent. An accessory pole set is available if needed. The trekking poles are pitched at an outward angle making the sidewalls of the tent configured in a “reverse” triangle. This gives the user an unmatched amount of shoulder room. This “reverse” design also allows for a natural awning that protects the occupants from all but the nastiest of rainstorms without even closing the side protective panels.

The huge front panel pegs down at the front, both supporting the tent and creating a protected vestibule. The vestibule is accessible from the inside by the “front” door.

The front panel can also be rolled up creating a 180º veranda view and also allowing the occupants to gaze at the stars on a dry night.

The Tensegrity has 3 set up options:

  1. Max Protection – The front flap is pegged down and creates a huge vestibule
  2. Under the Stars – Sleeping under the stars without the bugs – roll up the front flap – Bon Echo Park, Ontario
  3. The Awning – The front flap is supported with additional poles creating an awning – Bruce and Tracy car camping – Algonquin Park Ontario

The Tensegrity has adjustable receiver locations for trekking poles – allowing for different length poles The tent can be pitched a 3rd way. With a second set of poles, the front panel can be configured into a large awning. Big enough for 2 to sit during a rain storm and sip on a cup of coffee in relative dry comfort under her protection… brilliant.   


The tent had 2 huge side entrances protected by a large awning allowing for fast, easy and dry accessibility. Another great feature was the absence of a vestibule obstructing either side entrance. The side doors are for people to come and go, and the front door will generally be used to access the huge outside storage vestibule located at the front. Most traditional vestibules are part of the entrance. So late at night when you exit the tent for that late-night squirt, you have to stumble over a pile of gear stacked in the “entrance” vestibule.

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Bruce and Tracy car camping – Algonquin Park Ontario


The tent is not free-standing. However, apart from camp 3 at Everest, or those silly wood tent platforms,  I have learned that quality “non-freestanding” tents can rock solid and lighter. This is not always the case, however, Sierra Designs did it!

The tent fabric on the Tensegrity “elite” is the best I have ever tested. The “Tensegrity 2 Elite” comes with 2 additional guy ropes and tent pegs. They were never needed during dry nights. However, when the rain came and the wind picked up, the extra ropes held the tent rock solid.


Because of the large awnings over both sides of the tent, I was able to un-zip the waterproof sides even during the rain. The wind passed through the tent with ease and the rain stayed out. The upside-down triangle walls and high ceiling gave plenty of headroom and unmatched shoulder room.  This 2-person tent was more comfortable and had more useable space than most 3-person tents.


The tent provided the best ventilation of any tent I have ever slept in. 

The huge front vestibule is accessible from the inside by a 3rd front door.
So good in fact that I never packed my tent with any moisture clinging to the inside of the tent.  Packing a completely dry tent in the morning is a new experience.

I attribute this to the superior ventilation and the hybrid tent design.  

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The views and ventilation are the best I have every had in any tent every tested

Most traditional tents have a breathable tent body and a waterproof fly which drapes over the tent body. During the night, the occupants will expel a couple of litres of water from their breath. The water vapour rises and passes through the breathable tent body and condenses on the inside of the outer fly where it will eventually drain or evaporate.  However, by morning, you most often have lots of water clinging to the inside of the fly. Much of this will end up in your pack when you take down your tent. 
Not with the Tensegrity 2 Elite… no moisture at all. Dry as a bone!

Tensegrity Elite – the best views and superior ventilation


This tent is truly for the “elite” camper. Its “double-sil” fabric is so rare, that several major jurisdictions in the USA prohibit the sale of this tent.  So in essence this tent is the forbidden fruit to many lusting readers… however, if you have the money and the will… get this contraband gem.

After all… I believe it is one of the best “overall” ultralight 2-person shelters available.  This baby hits the sweet spot of protection, comfort and weight.  Bravo Sierra Designs!

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View from the back – making the tent tight is easy with the design


• Capacity: 2
• Freestanding? No
• Minimum Weight: 36 oz / 1.02 kg (tent and rear pole only)
• Packaged Weight: 42 oz / 1.19 kg 
• Number of Doors: 3 (2 main, 1 secondary access)
• Number of Gear Closets: 1
• Gear Storage Area: 10.8 ft2 / 1 m2
• Interior Area: 29.3 ft2 / 2.72 m2
• Internal Peak Height: 41 in. / 104 cm
• Awning Height: 45 in. / 114 cm
• Awning Overhang: 12 in. / 30 cm
• Length: 88 in. / 224 cm
• Width: at the front: 50 in. / 127 cm … at rear: 46 in. / 117 cm
• Footprint: n/a
• Number of guylines: 4
• Stake Quantity: 9
• Tent Storage Bag: Length: 13 in. / 33 cm
• Diameter: 5 in. / 12.7 cm
• Pole Storage Bag:Length: 17.5 in. / 44.5 cm
• Width: 3.5 in. / 8.9 cm 
• Tent Stake Storage Bag: Length: 8 in. / 29.9 cm
• Width: 3.5 in. / 8.9 cm
• Cannot Be Shipped To California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York


• Number of Poles: 1
• Pole Type: DAC NFL
• Pole Diameter: 8.7 mm
• Pole Set Weight: 2.504 oz / .07 kg
• Fly Fabric: 20D Nylon Ripstop, Silicone/Silicone 1200mm 
• Floor Fabric: 20D Nylon Ripstop, Silicone/Silicone 3000mm 
• Body Fabric: 15D Nylon No-See-Um Ultralight Mesh

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What Sierra Designs says…

Our Elite tents are no holds barred, lightweight shelters. Using lightweight, fully Siliconized Nylon fabrics to repel water, we were able to reduce weight, greatly increase strength, and offer better UV resistance.

Our Elite fabrics do not to adhere to the FR standard CPAI-84, limiting your exposure to FR chemicals. As such, these tents cannot be sold or shipped to CA, LA, MA, MI, MN, NJ or NY.
This tent is not factory seam sealed.

One trade-off that comes with this awesome fabric is that it cannot be factory seam sealed. It’s a bit of work that you’ll have to take on, but self sealing your tent is lighter, far more reliable, and more durable than seam tape in the long run.


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