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Sierra Designs 2015 Flashlight 1 FL Review

I bought all the products used in this review, so it's unbiased outside the fact that reviews are inherently subjective; it's not a "review" by an employee or sponsored athlete.

For the past ten years I've been searching for a Holy Grail; the ideal single person shelter that can be used on multi-day trips with bad weather. Bivy sacks have not been the answer for me, if it's one night of unplanned rain they work fine, but it's just impossible to keep things dry enough or stay at all comfortable for multiple nights of bad weather - just try cooking out of one. Here is a quick run down of previous shelters I've tried.

Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker Asym Hammock - A fantastic idea, and if you sleep on your back, probably the best option. I tried using it for years, but I just don't sleep on my back and could never get a deep nights sleep. On top of that California terrain is often not conducive to hammocks. Many sites in the High Sierra don't have trees. $240, 2lbs.

Outdoor Research Highland Bivy - Hello condensation. Just useless in the rain because it doesn't breath well at all. Not too surprising it's no longer made.

Nemo GoGo LE - Just slightly better than a bivy. In rain condensation is still a killer problem, and like a bivy it's a pain to get in and out of, especially when it's raining and you're trying to stay dry. $350, 2lb 9oz

Today I'm looking at the Sierra Designs 2015 Flashlight 1 FL which is $300 and weighs 2lb 10oz as it sits on my scale, packed for real world use. I've been using it about ten months and have weathered heavy rain and light snow in it.

It's amazing how far tents have come in ten years. To cut to the chase, this one almost reaches perfection with some caveats.

Let's start with the good; it's wider at the top than at the bottom, so when you are sitting up and active there is more shoulder room. It's tall enough there is plenty of room for me to sit up and the bottom is a bit wider than 
your average sleeping pad (I'm currently using a Nemo Astro Insulated Lite 20R). There is also room for gear in the foot area below the pad, as well as the external vestibule. For one person it's just enough space to be functional and not go crazy during an extended rain storm. Ventilation is fantastic, it looks like this tent would not be dry in the rain but it certainly is. When backpacking it's easy to use trekking poles instead of the two main poles, and save six ounces of weight.

Now for those caveats. This is not a freestanding tent, which is why it's so light. It's not hard to setup except when the terrain is sand or a granite slab, then it can take some work to get pitched well. The quality of the mosquito netting is dismal. It has no resistance to runs, and after a few days of use the shelter looks abused. While this doesn't truly affect functionality, I expect better for $300. The Flashlight 1 FL has 3 guyline anchor points, and comes with 3 guylines but two of those guylines are used pitching the tent. To utilize all the guy anchors one must purchase two more guylines and stakes, again I expect better for $300. Taking the tent into the field as it ships, rain will pool on the roof. The water doesn't leak through yet 
will need to be shaken off during the night. Without using all the guy anchor points I've found it not quite possible to pitch the Flashlight 1with the roof taut enough to avoid pooling. Using all the guyline anchor points pooling is not a problem, but internal condensation still tends to drip on the foot area. This is the single largest problem with the Flashlight 1 that has no easy solution. It's much drier than a bivy sack or the Nemo GoGo, but still not as good as the Hennessy Hammock for extended trips in wet conditions. In wet, humid conditions it's impossible to keep a sleeping bag and pad 100% dry because of condensation drips. One or two nights, dry enough and no problem. Longer and I'd start to worry.

Looking back it looks like I have a lot of negative things to say about the Flashlight 1. It looks that way because in some ways it's kind of like an Apple product; it just works and there isn't anything to say. Of the single person shelters I've seen and used, it's the best on the market.

It's easy to see how water with puddle just above the yellow poles unless everything is very taut, which is not possible without using all the guy anchor points.