Sierra Design-ed to last…

14 05 2011

My trusty SD tent at Lake Nitnaht...

 

I posted a while back about repairing a 20yr old Sierra Designs tent and putting it back into service. I used that tent at Lake Nitnaht for most of last summer’s kiteboarding season. It probably saw nearly 60 days of action which is more than an average camping tent sees in a few years. Everything went well until a particularly vicious wind storm [this is a lake we kiteboard at after all!] broke one of the main poles…=-( Not the tent’s fault. The wind was strong and it wasn’t guyed out particularly well. The great thing about this tent is that the design is a simple “X” with two main poles of equal length crossing over to give it it’s shape. That meant that I could walk into MEC and buy a new pole section for $5, cut it to length and have the tent back in action with minimal muss or fuss. Sweet!…=-)

That middle pole isn't supposed to do that!

Compared that with the Marmot Hypno tent I used in Baja a few years back. It was a lightly used [less than 15 days use before that trip] modern tent with a cool shape that provided a lot of vertical interior living area for its size & weight. That was made possible by a bunch of special custom bent poles that you can see above. Trouble was after several weeks of daily wind camped on the beach the center pole broke. I went back to REI where I bought it and inquired about getting a replacement. Since the tent was 3yrs old Marmot didn’t make that design any longer and they had no spares. Without the ability to easily custom bend a replacement pole REI just gave me a brand new Marmot tent. That was very generous of them and I appreciate it, but if I had bought that same tent from another store I would have been out of luck.

Orange section is the new replacement pole...

Now I’m not posting this as a suggestion to only buy simple old school tent designs. There are benefits to the new ultralight designs with custom bent poles, but there are also downsides. These very light materials are not as robust as heavier fabrics and lightweight custom poles will likely not be replaceable when they get damaged. I have a few tents on the go at any one time and I wear through tents faster than most simply because of the many days I have them setup in a given year. So what I do is I save my ultra lightweight tents for trips like bike tours where the compact size and low weight really matter. For base camping I use heavier more robust tents that are easily repairable since these tents see far more UV and wind being setup day after day.

I’m happy to have my SD tent ready to rock for this summer’s camping missions at the lake. I expect it will see at least 4 or 5 more years of use before I wear out the zippers and/or the tent fabric is destroyed by UV. I may have to replace a few more broken poles in that time, but I’m okay with that…=-)


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6 responses

14 05 2011
adventure!

I went back to REI where I bought it and inquired about getting a replacement. Since the tent was 3yrs old Marmot didn’t make that design any longer and they had no spares. Without the ability to easily custom bend a replacement pole REI just gave me a brand new Marmot tent. That was very generous of them and I appreciate it, but if I had bought that same tent from another store I would have been out of luck.

That’s why we refer to REI as Return Everything Indefinitely. ;-)

16 05 2011
Brian

Actually, your best resource is http://www.polesforyou.com/ — Tent Pole Technologies. He can source anything, even single pole segments for tents like the REI Half Dome, where each tent pole segment is slightly different. Located in SW Washington State, but I don’t know why that would be a problem via mail order.

16 05 2011
thelazyrando

@Brian – I don’t see how that site is a better option than a local shop that has spare pole section? Looking at their order form they don’t offer custom bent pole sections like you’d need for many modern tents.

17 05 2011
jake

I used to sell Sierra Designs’ tents, now almost 20 years ago. They are simple, fast to put up, and durable as heck. We also sold a lot of other tents, but when I was working with a customer, I would give them a chance to set the tents up for themselves while imagining a driving rainstorm. That almost always sold them on the Sierra Designs’ tents. Other maker’s tents didn’t fair so well. One of my favorites was the Meteor Light (still made) that had a mesh roof so that on clear or warm nights, you could watch the stars until you went to sleep. A little heavy for cycle touring (Clip Flashlight, also still made, was best for that) but a nice tent nonetheless.

22 04 2013
Mary

I have a Sierra Design tent about 35 years old. It is a dome tent with 4 fiberglass poles.
I love it as most of my youthful adventures were spent using it.
I went to use it again on a 10 day kayak down the Murray River, Australia and found the waterproofing on the blue floor and the lower sides was peeling off.
The rest of the tent was fine.
I decided to use it and it was as wonderful as ever as it didn’t rain.
SO – is there any way I can remove the peeling layer and the reapply a new layer to make my tent as good as new?
Any help appreciated!
Thanks Mary

22 04 2013
thelazyrando

@Mary – I don’t think there is any economical way to solve that problem considering what a new tent of comparable spec would cost on sale. I would just keep it and use it for any trips you know will be dry and get yourself a new tent on sale to use for wet trips. That will still let you get value from the old tent and make the new tent last longer.

Store the new tent someplace cool and dry out of the sun to keep it from having any material problems.

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