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Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2

Test Series by Andy Henrichs

June 25, 2007

 

Initial Report - 2-18-07

 

Field Report - 4-26-07

 

Long Term Report - 6-25-07

           

The SD Hercules Assault V.2 in a snowstorm

 

 

Biographical Information

Name:  Andy Henrichs
Age:  26
Gender:  Male
Height:  6’ 2” (1.88 m)
Weight:  190 lb (86.2 kg)

Shoulder Girth:  49” (124 cm)

Hip Girth:  40” (102 cm)

Feet Girth: 35” (89 cm)

Email address:  a_henrichs@yahoo.com           
City, State, Country:  Carbondale, Colorado, USA

Backpacking Background

   Most of my backpacking has been in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as the desert in the southwestern US.  I’ve gone winter camping several times, but I still prefer backpacking in the warmer months.  Most of my trips are 2-3 days, but I have taken several trips of 5-6 days.  In the summer of 2004, I was fortunate enough to have thru-hiked the 476 mile Colorado Trail over 35 days.  Recently, I have been leaning towards the lightweight side of the spectrum. 

 

 

Initial Report

 

Product Information

Manufacturer:  Sierra Designs (www.sierradesigns.com)

Year of Manufacture: 2007

MSRP: $449 US

 

Manufacturers Specifications

Stated Trail Weight: 6 lb 15 oz (3.2 kg)

Stated Packed Weight: 7 lbs 9 oz (3.4 kg)

Stated Packed Size: 22 in by 7 in (56 cm by 17.8 cm)

Stated Floor Length: 85 in (216 cm)

Stated Floor Width: 52 in (132 cm)

Stated Interior Area: 32 sq ft (3 sq m)

Stated Vestibule Area: 8 sq ft (.7 sq m)

Stated Peak Height: 42 in (107 cm)

Tester Measurements

Measured Trail Weight: 6 lb 14.5 oz (3.1 kg)

Measured Packed Weight: 7 lb 8.6 oz (3.4 kg)

Measured Weight (tent body): 4 lb 6.5 oz (2.0 kg)

Measured Weight (poles): 2 lb 8 oz (1.1 kg)

Measured Weight (stuff sack total): 4.5 oz (128 g)

Measured Weight (6 stakes): 3.3 oz (94 g)

Measured Weight (guy lines): 2.3 oz (65 g)

Measured Packed Size (with poles in stuff sack): 22 in by 7 in (56 cm by 18 cm)

Measured Packed Size (without poles in stuff sack): 17 in by 7 in (43 cm by 18 cm)

Measured Floor Length: 85 in (216 cm)

Measured Floor Width: 53 in (135 cm)

Measured Interior Area:  31.3 sq ft (2.9 sq m)

Measured Vestibule Area:  8.4 sq ft (.8 sq m)

Measured Peak Height:  40 in (102 cm)

 

 Product Description

    The Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 is the latest incarnation of Sierra Designs’ four-season, two-person, single wall tent.  The body of the free-standing tent is made from DriZone fabric.  DriZone is nylon with a two-layer waterproof/breathable laminate.  The exterior of the DriZone is yellow, the interior is white.  The floor of the Hercules is a standard, more durable nylon.  The attached vestibule is made of a lightweight siliconized nylon.  There is a Sierra Designs logo on the vestibule door.

    One unique feature of the Hercules is the “Jakes Corners Medallion of Strength.”  This Sierra Designs innovation is designed to provide greater strength and stability.  The Jakes Corners themselves look like the base of a hollowed, truncated cone.  Basically, instead of the main tent body poles inserting into grommets at each corner, they attach at the top of the Jakes Corners, forming an upside-down Y with the arms of the Y coming off of the bottom.  These arms are connected to the Jakes Corners with shock-cord and are insert into grommets located on triangles of fabric near the corner of the tent.  Coming directly off of the front corners of the tent floor are strips of webbing that lead to a stake-out point.  Attached to the midpoint of the webbing is another piece of webbing with a quick-release adjustable clip.  This is in turn attached to the Jakes Corners with another strip of webbing.  The quick-release buckle allows the Jakes Corners and attached arms to be removed and packed separately from the tent body.  The rear corners are slightly different.  In addition to the above description, there is a third strip of webbing leading from the stake-out point to an extra triangle of material sewn into the tent body.  This extra piece of material acts as a cover for the two lower rear air vents.

 

Jake's Corners Medallion of Strength (rear corner with vent cover)

Jake's Corners Medallion of Strength

 

    The poles attach to the tent body at various points via plastic “Clip-Locs.”  The three upper “Clip-Locs” have short lengths of bungee cords attached to them.  These are wrapped around the poles and attached back to the “Clip-Locs,” securing the poles in place.  There is one shorter pole which lifts the top of the vestibule, creating more headroom.  Another small pole spans the width of the tent near its apex, lifting the nylon covering the air vents at the peak of the tent.  There is a strip of webbing running from the grommet of this to the tent body.  This webbing helps to pull the top of the tent body out, creating more headroom. 

    There is one reflective guyout point along the base of the tent on both sides.  There is also one reflective guyout point midway up the pole ridge at each corner.  When staked out, the vestibule forms a trapezoidal shape when viewed from above.  It starts narrower at the tent body, and widens as it stretches away from the tent.  There is a clear plastic window in the center of the vestibule.  The vestibule zipper is fairly unique.  It features four sliders.  This lets the user unzip the vestibule door in a variety of ways.  Each side of the vestibule door has small plastic clips to store the door when it is zipped open.  The bottom of the vestibule features an extra section of material.  This material angles towards the interior of the vestibule, apparently to prevent snow from blowing into and filling up the vestibule.

    The main entrance to the tent has both a screen door and a nylon door.  When fully unzipped, the doors hang from the apex of the entrance.  This seemed rather strange at first, but once I crawled into the tent, I discovered a mesh pocket just above the door, perfect to stuff the doors into.  The Hercules also comes with two removable hanging pockets.  These pockets measure 11.75 in by 11.75 in (30 cm by 30 cm).  There is one large pocket and two taller, narrower pockets directly behind it.  The top corners have small plastic clips which are attached to webbing loops inside the tent.  One of these clips is fixed; the other is located on an adjustable strip of webbing. 

 

Removable storage pocket

Stash pocket for main door

removable storage pocket Stash pocket for main door

 

    Small webbing loops are located along the floor at each corner of the tent as well as at eight points along each main pole ridge.  There is also one loop beneath each of the upper vents.  These loops can be used for the included hanging pockets or several Sierra Designs accessories, including coffee slings, gear attics, or internal guy lines.  As stated earlier, the two lower vents are located at the back corners of the tent.  The vents are triangular, with a zipper running along the sides.  The two upper vents run in an arc near the top of the tent on both sides.  In order to open the vents, one must unzip the screen portion, and then unzip the nylon portion.  The nylon can be rolled up and secured out of the way.  I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of setup and care instructions.  There was no product information with this tent whatsoever.  Normally, it wouldn't be a huge deal, but this is my first true four-season tent, and it has several unique features.  I was eventually able to find pitching instructions on the Sierra Designs website.  This tent came with six standard tent stakes and storage sack, six guy lines, a pole storage sack, and a stuff sack for the tent body. 

 

One lower vent unzipped One upper vent with the mesh zipped, and the nylon unzipped and stored at the bottom
A lower vent (unzipped) An upper vent (unzipped and stowed)

 

Field Information

    While we are already well into winter, February and March in the Western Slope of Colorado still offer plenty of winter weather.  March is, on average, one of the snowiest months in Colorado.   I will use this tent at elevations ranging from 6000 ft (1800 m) to over 13000 ft (4000 m).  The bulk of the testing will take place between 9000 ft (2700 m) and 12000 ft (3700 m).  I would expect to experience a variety of weather on my trips.  This may include wind, snow, sleet, hail, and possibly rain on spring trips.  Nighttime temperatures encountered at these elevations will likely fall between -10º F (-23º C) and 15º F (-9º C) in the winter and between 10º F (-12º C) and 25º F (-4º C) in the spring. 

 

Initial Impressions

    I used the Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 on a short overnight tour up Huntsman Ridge, a ridge leading off of nearby McClure Pass.  I camped on a fairly exposed bench at 10400 ft (3200 m).  The nighttime low on this trip was approximately 15º F (-9º C).  The setup took longer than expected, primarily due to the loose Colorado snowpack.  I stamped out a large section of snow for the tent, but had difficulty getting the snow stakes (not included) to stay put.  After spending more time stamping around in my skis and waiting for the snow to sinter, I was finally able to stake out the Hercules.  The tent assembled quite quickly, and I dug out a pit for the vestibule.  As soon as I got the tent pitched and started cinching up the adjustable buckles on the corners, two stakes pulled up.  I replaced these stakes with my ski poles and everything held fairly well.  Unfortunately, I neglected to finish cinching up the remaining buckles. 

    I ended up storing my (mostly empty) pack and the plastic shells to my ski boots in the vestibule.  With the addition of a partner and gear, I think the vestibule will be filled to capacity.  The addition of a partner will also fill the tent itself to capacity.  As I was still getting a feel for the tent, I had gear strewn all over the tent for much of the night.  By the time I went to bed, I had a much better idea of where things should go.  Even still, my winter sleeping bag seemed to take up an awful lot of room in the tent.  I think this may be partially due to the earlier problems I had with staking the tent down.  I was a little nervous about fully tightening the stake-out points.  I didn't want to rip another stake out.  Regardless, this configuration provided a lot of room for one person. 

    Being very curious of the breathability of the DriZone fabric, I zipped all the vents closed and went to sleep.  I was awoken at 4:30 am by the wind.  It was also snowing fairly hard.  The rear of the tent was facing into the wind, and the gusts would buffet the rear wall into the hood of my sleeping bag.  Again, I think this was due to my less-than-ideal staking and tightening of the corners.  I was quite impressed with the DriZone fabric.  The only place I found frost and/or condensation was on the door of the tent, which is made from standard nylon, not the DriZone.  When I finally got up the courage to crawl out of my sleeping bag into the storm, I found snow piled up along one side of the tent.  Based on where the snow was deposited, I think I would have had quite a bit of snow blown inside the tent had I left the rear vents open.  It will be interesting to see how well the vent covers block blowing snow in the future. 

 

The aspects of the Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 tent that I will be paying particular attention to include:

 

·      Ease of Setup – This is definitely one tent I'm glad I set up at home before taking it into the field.  There are many unique features on this tent and practice definitely speeds up the setup.  The lack of directions probably slowed down my first setup considerably.  I didn't think that the color-coded webbing aided in setup too much, as only one corner was color-coded.  Other than the fact it was one of the front corners, I didn't notice anything special about that corner.  The "Clip-Locs," however, are a huge aid in the setup process.  It's nice not to feed the poles through a sleeve.  I thought it took a bit of an effort to get the main poles attached to the Jakes Corners on my first try.  I really had to bend the pole to get it to slide into the connector.  On subsequent setups, this didn't seem like as much of a problem.  This beefy tent is designed for snow, high winds, and other extreme weather.  How difficult will these extreme weather conditions make setup?  If I’m setting this tent up by myself in high winds, will the wind rip it from my hands before I have a chance to get the first pole in place?  I didn't have any winds during the setup, but I did have significant gusts while taking it down.  I left a couple corners staked down until I was ready to get the tent body into the stuff sack, and didn't have too many problems. 

 

·      Living Space – While I calculated the floor space as slightly less than the advertised 32 ft² (3 m²), the Hercules Assault V.2 feels quite roomy inside.  I'm guessing it will feel a little snug with two people and our sleeping bags, extra clothing, and other gear, but maybe a little extra organization will cure any anticipated problems.  My sleeping bag touches the tent walls, but the DriZone fabric has worked perfectly during the first trial.  I was impressed by how vertical the side walls are.  It really seems to open up the interior and create a sense of more space.  Again, it will be interesting to see if this holds true after several nights in the tent.  I will need to be more careful and patient on future trips when staking out the tent.  This seems to significantly affect living space. 

 

·      Strength – Sierra Designs describes this tent as a “bombshelter” and “the ultimate single-wall shelter.”  According to the website, the Hercules has been subjected to wind tunnel tests designed to simulate extreme conditions.  How well does the tent hold up in the real world?  Will it sag under 12 in (30 cm) of new snow?  Forecasts were calling for gusts of 30 mph (48 kph) or more the night I went out.  While the wind shook the tent, it never moved very much.  Again, I think that taking more time when staking out the tent will minimize this movement even further.  I didn't use guy lines on my first trip, but probably will in the future.  If nothing else, it should minimize the noise from fabric flapping in the wind. 

 

·      Durability – How well will the nylon, particularly the lightweight nylon of the vestibule, hold up to wear and tear?  Will I find any abrasions if I pitch the tent on rock or ice?  Will high winds start to shred the fabric?  How well will the “Sew Free Welded Windows” hold up to use?  Will the bonded tape peel off after extended use?  Will the windows cloud up or will I have a view of the stars night after night after night?

 

·      Waterproofness – One night of snow so far, and nothing at all leaked through.  I'll see how it does in heavier snow.   Even with both the head and foot of my sleeping bag touching the walls, there was no moisture on either end.  For a single wall tent, I think that's pretty impressive.  It initially looked as though some water was soaking through the “Superseal Floor;” upon closer inspection, it proved to be snow that I had tracked into the tent.  All of the seams on the floor are taped and I couldn't find any visible flaws in the taping.

 

·      Breathability/Ventilation – The DriZone has worked very well with just me in the tent.  Will two people overwhelm it, resulting in condensation?  If I do experience condensation, will it drip on me or will it roll off the walls to the sides of the tent?  While I didn't use any of the four vents, they are located in very logical spots for maximum ventilation.  Will these actually provide sufficient ventilation, even in warmer weather?  All of the vents are easily adjustable from inside the tent.  The only change I would make is to have the screen on the upper vent on the outside.  As it is, to open the upper vents, one has to unzip the screen, unzip and stow the nylon, and zip the screen back up.  It seems like an extra, but minor, hassle.

 

·      Vestibule – As I stated earlier, I think the vestibule will be adequate for the gear of both myself and my tent-mate.  However, once all of our gear is in it, I don't think there will be much room for maneuvering into and out of the tent.  As for the vestibule zipper, the only problem that I've had was unzipping the vestibule from the outside.  The zipper arcs fairly high and is covered by a storm flap.  At the very peak, it's a little awkward to unzip.

 

·      Storage – I really like the two removable gear pockets.  They're perfect for books, goggles, sunglasses, etc.  I need to experiment with where I hang the pockets so they're not hanging in my face while I sleep. 

 

·      Packability – The tent stows in the stuff sack very easily.  I typically pack the tent body into the main compartment of my pack and stow the poles in an outer pocket.  This seems to be a more efficient use my space. 

 

·      Noise – I don't think noise will be too much of an issue, providing I properly stake out the corners of the tent.  I'll see how loud it is in stronger winds. 

 

This concludes my Initial Report.  The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report.  Please check back then for further information.

 

Field Report

 

Field Conditions

    Most of my testing has taken place on the Western Slope of Colorado.  I have also taken one long weekend day-hiking/car camping trip and two overnight mountain biking trips to the desert of southern Utah this spring.  Testing has taken place at elevations ranging from 4500 ft (1400 m) to 10500 ft (3200 m).  Nighttime low temperatures have ranged from 10° F (-12° C) to 35° F (2° C).  I have experienced a variety of weather on my trips.  This has included very strong wind, clear skies, snow, and rain.

 

Field Observations

    In addition to the backcountry skiing trip discussed in the Initial Report, I've used the Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 on two more backcountry skiing trips and nearly a week total of car camping.  I was alone in the tent during all of these nights.  After being impressed with the DriZone fabric during my initial outing, I slept with all vents closed on all subsequent trips.  My second skiing trip was also up Huntsman Ridge in nearly the same spot.  Weather on this trip was much milder, with only a slight breeze and clear skies.  Temperatures on this trip hovered around 10º F (-12º C) at night.  My third skiing trip took place at Thomas Lakes, which lie at 10300 ft (3100 m).  This trip also featured mild weather with clear skies and a light wind.  Nighttime temperatures on this trip only fell to approximately 25º F (-4º C).  On both of these trips, I was much more meticulous and patient when preparing a tent platform on the snow.  I gave the snow more time to sinter, which resulted in less problems with stakes pulling out.  This, in turn, gave me more confidence in staking the tent out tighter as well as in tightening the buckles at the corners.  Not only does this seem to open up more livable space in the tent, but it also cuts down on the noise of fabric flapping in the wind.  Again, I was quite impressed with the breathability of the DriZone fabric.  I didn't experience any condensation on the DriZone walls on either of these trips.  I did experience minor condensation on the tent door.  In the morning, the floor of the tent directly under my sleeping pad looked wet, but it wasn't significant.  I actually think that most of the moisture was snow that I had tracked into the tent. 

 

    My car camping trips gave me more time in the tent at even milder temperatures.  Nighttime lows during these trips ranged from 25º F (-4º C) to 35º F (2º C).  The winds, however, were anything but mild.  In fact, two of the nights I spent in the Hercules featured constant winds of approximately 35 mph (56 kph).  I also experienced several gusts which were significantly stronger.  Again, I had some trouble staking out the tent.  The loose sand layered on top of larger rocks made it difficult to get a stake all the way into the ground in one corner.  Unfortunately, the corner that gave me the most difficulty was on the windward side.  The stake was ripped out of the ground by the strong gusts one night.  This led to significant noise from flapping fabric.  Ultimately, I used one snow/sand stake and four regular stakes to secure that corner in the loose sand.  I started with the sand stake and used two regular stakes to form an X behind the sand stake.  I stuck another two stakes through the holes in the sand stake to lock it into place.  I sure am glad I brought extra stakes on that trip.  After this creative stake-work, I was able to secure the corner and get a good night's sleep.  Once securely staked out, I never really felt the Hercules blow around much.  There was some minor shifting, but nothing significant.  Again, despite rain one night, there was no noticeable condensation on the DriZone fabric. 

 

Thoughts (so far)

    This is one tough tent.  So far, it's held up extremely well to everything Mother Nature has thrown at it.  I've had to set up the tent in high winds, and it really wasn't that bad.  I staked the corners down, popped the poles into place, re-staked the corners (into a more taut pitch) and clipped on the Clip-Locs.  It would have been nice to have another set of hands, but I did just fine by myself.  If I do use this tent with a friend, I will definitely want my friend to set up the tent before we leave.  That seems to simplify the process considerably.  The living space still seems adequate.  It will be a little cramped with two bodies in the tent, but that's to be expected of a winter mountaineering tent.  The DriZone fabric allows me to rest easier.  No longer do I have to worry about my sleeping bag touching the walls and getting soaked by condensation while I sleep. 

   

    Based on the winds I encountered on my trips, I'm a believer in the strength of the Hercules Assault V.2.  I would have liked to spend a night in the tent under a heavy snowfall, but the weather didn't cooperate with my schedule.  The fabric also seems to be quite durable.  Despite nearly a week of being pitched on sand, I haven't notice any wear and tear on the floor.  The windows are still fog-free and the zippers have been relatively snag-free.  Again, the only problem has been in the vestibule at the apex of the zipper.  The storm flap tends to get caught occasionally. 

   

    I think the shining light of this tent is the DriZone fabric.  I am amazed at how well it breathes, even with the vents closed in warmer weather.  I'm anxious to test it with two people in the tent to see if it can still breathe well.  Despite camping in driving rain and snow, no moisture has passed through the DriZone fabric.  That makes me smile!  I'm getting a good idea of the capabilities of the Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 tent.  I would still like to test it with two people to answer a few remaining questions.  As it stands, it looks like I'll get a significant amount of camping in through the end of the test.  Hopefully this will give me a chance to see if it is as durable and it appears to be.

 

This concludes my Field Report.  The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report.  Please check back then for further information.

 

Long Term Report

 

Field Conditions

The testing during the Long Term Report has taken place in the mountains of central and western Colorado.  Elevations have ranged from 8500 ft (2600 m) to 10000 ft (3000 m).  Nighttime low temperatures have ranged from 20° F (-12° C) to 35° F (2° C).  The weather on these trips was very mild with clear nights, mild wind and no precipitation.

 

Final Thoughts

This tent has sheltered me on three additional nights during the Long Term Report session.  I used it once while on a backcountry skiing trip, once while climbing a 14000 ft (4300 m) peak, and once while car camping.  I was solo for the skiing trip, but had a friend in the tent on the other two nights. 

 

The unique pole design (Jake’s Corners) featured on this tent makes this tent appear more complicated to set up than it is.  They definitely increase the set up time, but only very slightly.  I had a friend help set up the tent on two occasions without any explanation of how the tent works, and he figured it out fairly quickly.  The slightly longer set up time is greatly outweighed by the increased stability and strength provided by the Jake’s Corners.  Despite the extremely high winds I experienced on some of my trips, I never felt like the tent was going to buckle under the stress.  I would have liked to try the tent in heavy snow, but my work schedule and Mother Nature couldn’t agree on a time.

 

I was also impressed with the living space of the tent.  It seems to be an ideal size for a two-person mountaineering tent.  It’s a little snug for two people, but the smaller size also makes it quicker to warm up.  The footprint of the tent isn’t too large, making it easier to find a place to pitch it when trying to excavate a level spot in the snow.  Finally, if it were any larger, it would also be heavier, and I like to keep my pack as light as possible.  The vestibule still proves to be a good size.  Larger would be nice, but would also be heavier.  Every once in a while the vestibule zipper would get snagged on the storm flap, but it was always easy to free it. 

 

I was impressed with most of the material that went into this tent.  Despite pitching this tent on snow, ice, rocks, sticks, sand, and roots, I couldn’t find and signs of wear and tear anywhere.  The DriZone fabric is amazing, in terms of both waterproofness and breathability.  Despite many solo nights in the tent with the vents and doors sealed up, the only condensation I ever experienced was on the door, which is standard nylon.  Even with two people in the tent, I never experienced any condensation on the DriZone fabric.  In fact, my only complaint regarding the construction of the tent has to do with the upper vents.  As stated in my earlier reports, in order to unzip the upper vents, one has to first unzip the mesh, unzip the vent and secure it out of the way, and zip the mesh back up.  It seems like it would be much simpler if the mesh was on the exterior of the tent.

 

I like the removable hanging gear storage pockets.  I found that they got in my way at first, but I moved them to hang over the foot of my sleeping bag and the problem was solved.  It would have been nice if both of the attachment points were adjustable instead of just one of them.  The tent easily fits into the stuff sack with plenty of room for a footprint.  My only complaint about the stuff sack is the lack of a handle on the bottom of the stuff sack.  It would make getting the sack out of my backpack much easier when wearing gloves. 

 

Overall, this is a great winter tent.  The DriZone fabric far exceeded my expectations in terms of waterproofness and breathability.  I don’t see myself using it between May and late September, as it would be overkill.  It will, however, be an integral part of my winter/ski mountaineering overnight kit.

 

Likes

The DriZone fabric is great!  No condensation and excellent breathability

Stands up to winds very well

It's nice being able to move the hanging gear pockets around

Good living space

 

Dislikes

I don't like the designs of the upper vents; the mesh should be on the outside

No handle on the stuff sack

 

Thank you to Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test this tent.

 



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