Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review

The Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 has the lowest trail weight of all the company’s two-person double-wall tents at 3.44 pounds (1.56 kg). An interesting pole design adds room to make it more livable inside. Will the Vapor Light be one we want to share, or will it turn out to be Vapor Ware?

Overall Rating: Average

The Vapor Light 2 is a solid middle of the pack tent. Its innovative Spider Hub pole design adds roominess inside, but it has a slightly cramped floor space. It performs well in wind and ventilation is fine, although it would benefit from a protected high vent in rainy weather.

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by Ray Estrella |

Introduction

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 1

The Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 has the lowest trail weight of all the company’s two-person double-wall tents at 3.44 pounds (1.56 kg). An interesting pole design adds room to make it more livable inside. Will the Vapor Light be one we want to share, or will it turn out to be Vapor Ware?

Design and Features

The Sierra Designs Vapor Light is a single-door, front entry tent that uses a hubbed pole system, ala the Big Agnes Seedhouse tents which I have years of experience with. But the Vapor Light adds something to the recipe with its trademarked Spider Hub. This Spider Hub, which is at the front of the tent, has a couple of short poles angling back towards the center of the tent. The ends of these poles clip to the inner tent body, holding the sides out to create steeper sides and more room inside.

Like many tents these days Sierra Designs has opted to use the DAC Jake’s Foot anchoring system with the Vapor Light. The poles snap into the Feet at each corner of the tent. Then the body clips to the poles with five pole-clips and a single H-clip under the Spider Hub. One thing I discovered while using the Vapor Light is that the optional footprint is easiest to clip to the Jake’s Feet before placing the tent on my desired spot, as the ends of the footprint have to be snapped on the bottoms of the Feet. This is the first time I have used a footprint with a Jake’s Foot tent.

The rain fly sits on top of the poles and hooks to the Jake’s Feet. Straps at the ends allow the fly to be tensioned after set-up. Hook-and-loop tabs inside the fly attach to the poles at the guy-points to add strength.

Two stakes are used to pull the vestibule out. The vestibule has a good sized door which makes entering and exiting a breeze, rather than an exercise in contortion.

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 2
Top: The 3.4-lb (1.54-kg) Vapor Light proved stable in gusty winds in the Angeles National Forest. Bottom: The mesh walls of the Vapor Light are held out by the Spider Hub poles, which angle back. This gives it more room than tents with a similar style. Two standard width pads almost fit, just overlapping a bit in the very back.

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 3
Top Left: The DAC J stakes work quite well. Here, one holds down a Jake’s Foot anchor system. The pole snaps into the Foot and the fly strap clips onto the Foot. Top Right: A nice sized storage pocket is found on each side of the tent to keep things neat and close to hand. Bottom: When using a footprint with the Jakes Foot, it is easiest to clip it to the tent body before placing the tent.

There are no vents on the Vapor Light’s rain fly. Pullouts on the side allow quite a bit of ventilation, and the top of the vestibule door can be opened to create draw. But it needs to be closed in rain, as it does not leave the inside protected.

Sierra Designs sends just enough stakes to hold the four corners and the vestibule. While it does send two guy-lines that can be used, you must bring a couple more stakes of your own…

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 4
Top Left: All the pieces of the Vapor Light, including a pole storage sack that is twice as long as the poles are. Top Right: Even with the poles inside there is a lot of extra room in the stuff sack. Carrying the 17-in (43-cm) poles separately lets it be compressed quite a bit.

Performance

I used the Vapor Trail four nights in California and one in Minnesota. I had beautiful weather for all the trips, which is unfortunate as I like to get them in a storm or two. I did get to have it in some strong winds in both the Angeles National Forest and in the San Gorgonio Wilderness where I was set up on eight to ten feet (3 m) of snow at 9,230 feet (2,813 m) elevation.

The trip in the snow was close to being a disaster due to me not reading the information from Sierra Designs well enough. The rep had asked me if I would like a footprint. Knowing that the upcoming climb was supposed to be clear of storms I said “Sure, I will set up with just the footprint and fly in the snow.” I like to set up this way when there are no bugs to bother me. The night before the trip, I decided to take the as yet unpacked footprint out of its stuff sack. Thank goodness I did! This is when I noticed that the footprint clips to the Jake’s Foot that is attached to the tent. I almost went up the mountain with a fly, footprint and poles, none of which could attach to each other. I will not bother with footprints for any other Jake’s Foot equipped tents.

With all the parts of the tent along, the Vapor Light was great at our base camp at High Creek. It only got down to 23 F (-5 C), but the wind blew pretty well during the night and again as the sun came up. I did not have a bit of condensation build up in the tent.

I asked my brother to meet me on a trip to Sawmill Campground, in order to test the tent with two people. He did not respond in time, so I went alone. The afternoon and evening were very windy, and I had to add a guy-line to the side of the Vapor Light that the wind was clobbering. As I only had the six stakes that Sierra Designs provided, I made do with a stick I pounded into the ground with a rock. After the sun went down, clouds moved in, completely blanketing the campground with fog at 5,200 feet (1,585 m). It stayed foggy until I drove out of it the next day. I was reading 91% humidity during the early morning hours, but with the top of the vestibule door opened and the wind, I again stayed completely dry inside.

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 5
Top: The Vapor Light at our High Creek base camp on a trip to climb Mount San Gorgonio. Bottom Left: I had plenty of room for my over-size custom Kooka Bay down pad. Bottom Right: I thought I was going to get to sleep without the fly here, but high winds and clouds moving in forced me cover up.

A last trip to Lake Morena County Park for the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off saw me set up near the lake the day after a rain, sleet, and hail storm. While the day was gorgeous, the humidity that night was horrendous. I had to leave the Kickoff early Saturday morning to meet my brother-in-law for a hike further north on the PCT. At 4:00 AM, a fog hung over the lake and all the campers, and the Vapor Light was completely soaked inside and out. As even my backpack, which was sitting in the vestibule, was coated with moisture, I can’t fault the venting system of the Vapor Light. I heard later that the single-wall tent users got creamed. Thank you, double-wall! The wet night was worth it to be able to meet so many of our BPL members. Hi, guys. (Of course most won’t read this until after they finish their 2,650-mile goal.)

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 6
Camping next to Lake Morena at the 2010 PCT Kickoff. While here, the Vapor Trail encountered massive condensation.

Assessment

The Vapor Light is a solid performer. I found that the Spider Hub pole design works as advertised. It does add room inside making it more comfortable to sit up and maneuver in the tent. The floor space is a bit cramped for two sleepers though, and the single front door would make it difficult for one person to exit in the night without disturbing the other person.

I feel that the Vapor Light would really benefit from a top vent on the fly as the vestibule cannot be used for this purpose in rain or snow. The other - weightier - option would to extend the vestibule so that when opened at the top, the inner tent is still protected from falling precip.

Dare to Compare

Other single-door, front entry tents that compare to the Vapor Light are the Fly Creek SL2, Seedhouse 2 and Seedhouse SL2 from Big Agnes, and the Nemo Espri 2. While the Vapor Light’s pole design makes it roomier than all the Big Agnes tents, the Espri 2 is roomier yet. The Espri has the best ventilation of them too. The Vapor Light weighs less than the Seedhouse and Espri, but is heavier than the Seedhouse SL2 and much heavier than the Fly Creek SL2. For durability, it looks to me that the Vapor Light and Espri are tied as they have pretty robust material and are made for wet weather (at least, more so than the others).

What's Good

  • Spider Hub pole design adds noticeable roominess
  • Minimal clips make for fast set-up
  • Handles wind better than most of this style

What's Not So Good

  • A bit cramped for two people
  • Inner tent not protected from rain when vestibule door is open at top
  • Can’t be set up in fly only mode

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review - 7
The Vapor Light at Sawmill Campground in the Angeles National Forest.

Specifications

Year/Manufacturer/Model 2010 Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2, Two Person Tent
Style Three-season, two-person, double-wall tent.
Fabrics Body: 20d nylon mesh
Floor: 3000mm 70d nylon polyurethane coated
Fly:
1500mm 40d HT nylon
Poles and Stakes Poles: 8.5 mm DAC Featherlite NSL poles, total weight 13.4 oz (380 g)
Stakes:
6x 6.25 in (15.9 cm) DAC aluminum J stakes, total weight 2.4 oz (68 g)
Dimensions Length Listed: 83 in (211 cm)
Width Listed:
39/49 in (99/124 cm)
Inside Height Listed:
38 in (97 cm)
BPL Verified Accurate
Packed Size 6 x 18 in (15 x 46 cm)
Total Weight Listed Weight: 3.93 lb (1.78 kg)
BPL Measured Weight:
3.74 lb (1.70 kg)
BPL Trail Weight 3.44 lb (1.56 kg)
Protected Area Floor Area: 25.5 ft2 (2.37 m2)
Vestibule Area:
8 ft2 (0.74m2)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio 9.74 ft2/lb (2 m2/kg)
MSRP US $299.95
Options Footprint
Website www.sierradesigns.com
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review," by Ray Estrella. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/sierra_designs_vapor_light_2_tent_review.html, 2010-10-05 00:05:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review on 10/05/2010 15:21:35 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Measurement methodology on 10/05/2010 22:44:27 MDT Print View

You are introducing bias into your measurements by "verifying" the manufacturer's claims. You should measure the dimensions yourself, list them, and let the chips fall where they may.

By the way, some of the peak heights on Sierra Design's website are not the interior heights! I called Sierra Design and spoke with them about it. The rep was very arrogant, saying that no where on the website did they claim that the heights were the interior height. He said that if you look at the measurement diagram, it indicates that it is the exterior height. The interior peak height of my tent was about 3 inches less than the peak height advertised on their website.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F - M

Locale: Lander, WY
It might meet some peoples needs... on 10/06/2010 08:38:32 MDT Print View

I used this tent for a good chunk of summer 2009 after getting it cheap through a pro-deal. Since then I have switched to the much lighter Golite SL2. Although the Vapor Light is heavy for the amount of space you get, I have to say its performance was excellent. I used it for a whole summer in the Greater Yellowstone area in just about any condition you can imagine and I was always dry and comfortable. There were times when other tent poles were bending in the wind and I barely noticed that it was windy outside. Also, never had any condensation issues. The only real downside (besides the weight) is that the interior space is sort ofridiculous. My wife and I are both small so we made it work fine, and its not like we hung out in it, just used it for sleeping.

Camping at Deep Lake, Wind River Range

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review on 10/06/2010 14:51:43 MDT Print View

Sierra Designs will have produced a tent that pleases many unless, of course, they live in a wet and windy environment where condensation is often an issue. Sloping doors to inner tents are not good. They allow rain into the inner when getting into or out of the tent. Also problematic is the high cut of the fly. Some of us need proper wind proofing. The inner of my old TNF Tadpole used to get wet to 18 inches above ground level because of rain blowing under the fly. I used to wonder if vortexing was aggravating any wicking.

Many complain about inner first pitching and net inners. These are two design features which have not been particularly troublesome even though I have often pitched the old Tadpole and a Sierra Designs Mach 1 while it was raining.

Incidentally, I thought the Mach 1 would be a tough little tent, but it was easily flattened by a bit of Welsh breeze (slight exaggeration but the wind was probably less than 45 mph) so I wonder about the pole arrangement on the Vapor Light.

All in all, I would not import one but at the price, would definitely consider buying one if unexpectedly offered some hiking time in a warm, dry location.

Jeff Evans
(LAhanger) - M
Sierra Designs Vapor light 2 on 10/06/2010 16:28:02 MDT Print View

This is the tent I almost purchased. The Big Agnes Fly creek is the UL2, not the SL2. And, since this is Backpacking light we're talking about, the BA is lighter based on the packed weight, and even lighter when you consider you can travel with just the footprint and rain fly. I ended up changing my order at REI from this tent to the BA after seeing various reviews, including one here.

Edited by LAhanger on 10/06/2010 16:31:13 MDT.

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review on 10/09/2010 12:32:19 MDT Print View

Excuse my cynicism. Same old, same old. OK, a couple of tweaks. Nothing much new here. I guess that's not the point???? I also wonder if water drips through the mesh on this type of design??

Any (almost any) new tent will please a good number of people.

I would like to see a tent with a decent vestibule for a little storage, cooking in the rain and to leave open to relieve some of that coffin effect at night.... and the day.

This is a 1 person tent in my opinion. Only then could it provide adequate room.

My Tarptent Rainbow is a palace for one. Good vestibule in the rain. Lots of gear storage. Not bad in moderate wind if guyed adequately. Easy condensation management. Room to move around in. I can pack all of my gear in the pack, get out and pack the tent last. It can be free standing, but I need my poles for day hikes. It's not a 4 season tent and is somewhat breezy. Less weight.

If this tent only had a decent vestibule, it would get a much higher grade from me. If used within its limitations, it will serve some of the market.

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Re: Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 Tent Review on 10/11/2010 22:02:16 MDT Print View

This tent is very similar to Sierra Designs' Clip Flashlight 2, except for the pole design. They are essentially the same weight, plus or minus an ounce.

The Vapor Light 2 appears to have more usable headroom and is free standing, but in my opinion, the Clip Flashlight 2 is more bombproof to high winds. It is my belief that the Clip Flashlight 2 should be able to withstand quite high winds from the foot end if you add additional guys under the fly. I wouldn't suggest using the Clip Flashlight 2 for more than one person, except in an emergency, and I might feel the same way about this tent, despite it having a broader peak. For two people, I would be inclined to carry a few more ounces and go for something with more room and two doors like an REI Quarterdome.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Design Flaw on 10/24/2010 14:52:33 MDT Print View

Once again this type of tent, even with the hubbed spreader pole, has the basic design flaw of letting precipitation into the tent when the door is opened.

This tent's vestibule door may lessen that problem somewhat but very little according to the reviewer's comments regarding needing a re-shaped vestibule door.

My 1st wedge tent was THE 1st wedge tent, a Jansport, back in the late '70s. Never again will I buy that design. Seems not all tent designers test their prototypes in rain. They should be required to live in them for a few weeks before puting them up for sale.

Edited by Danepacker on 10/24/2010 14:55:10 MDT.