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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 > Test Report by Jason Boyle

Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2

Test Series

Initial Report - February 22, 2007
Field Report – May 8, 2007
Long Term Report – July 2, 2007

Eating a second lunch at Lower Boy Scout Lake

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 29
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 170 lb/ 77 kg
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 18 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked mostly in the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside in the Pacific Northwest and spend most of my time hiking and backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but I can be found exploring the other wild areas of Washington!

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
Model: Hercules Assault V.2
Season: 4-season
Year of Manufacture: 2007
URL:www.sierradesigns.com
Number of Doors: 1
Fabric:
Floor Material: 70D Nylon Taffeta
Body Material: 40D Rip Stop Nylon, DriZone 2L
Fly Material: 40D HT Rip Stop Nylon
Listed weight:
Packed Weight: 7 lbs 9 oz/3.43 kg
Trail Weight: 6 lbs 15 oz/3.15 kg
Measured weight:
Packed Weight: 7 lbs 13 oz/3.54 kg
Stuff Sack: 2.75 oz/78 g
Poles and stuff sack: 1 lb 7.8 oz/670 g
Stakes and stuff sack: 3.55 oz/101 g
Guylines: 2.25 oz/64 g
Tent Body and Jake’s corner poles: 5 lbs 12.8 oz/2.63 kg
Listed Dimensions: verified accurate
Apex Height: 42”/107 cm
Floor Width: 52”/132 cm
Floor Length: 85”/216 cm
Interior Area: 32 sq ft/2.97 sq m
Vestibule Area: 8 sq ft/0.74 sq m
Number of poles: 4
Poles: DAC Press Fit, 11.1mm
MSRP: $449 US
Country of Manufacture: Product of Taiwan, Sewn in Vietnam

Product Description:

Side Profile


The Hercules Assault V.2, referred to hereafter as the tent, is a 2 person, 4-season single wall tent with a small permanently attached vestibule. Included with the tent were the following items:

• Tent Body
• 2 main poles, slightly pre-bent
• 1 cross pole, very pre-bent
• 1 vestibule pole
• 6 stakes and stuff sack
• 6 guy cords and line tighteners
• 4 hub assemblies
• 1 pole stuff sack
• 1 main stuff sack

Oddly missing from the contents were pitching and care instructions. Undaunted, I went to the Sierra Designs website and printed out a copy of the instructions. I discuss the features below:

Tent Body Fabric:
I am very intrigued by the Drizone waterproof/breathable fabric that makes up the body of the tent. I have found that most fabrics that claim to be waterproof and breathable do one or the other well, but not both. The fabric doesn’t feel like any other tent fabric that I have felt before. The outside of the tent body is soft and smooth, not crinkly or noisy. The inside of the fabric is white and feels rubbery. It reminds me of fabric that I have seen on some 2.5 Layer waterproof rain shells. All of the seams are taped on the inside of the tent, which makes me very happy. I really dislike seam sealing tents. All of the zippers slide smoothly, but none of them are waterproof, however all of the zippers are covered by the side awnings, the Jake’s corners, or the front vestibule. One last thing one the tent body is the tent doors and their storage. There is a mesh pocket on the inside of the tent just above the door. Since I did not have any instructions, it puzzled me. While I sat inside of the tent pondering the pockets use, it hit me! It is a stuff it pocket for the doors. I can easily fit the mesh door and the outer fabric door inside the pocket allowing a clear opening.

Door Stuff it pocket

Medallion of Strength Jake’s Corners:
These are different from any other pole attachments that I have ever used. The poles on all of my other tents, including my other four season tent, end in a grommet attached to a webbing tab sewn to the tent. The Jake’s Corners, are shaped like a pyramid where the top of the pyramid connects to the main pole and two of the corners of the pyramid connect to grommets sewn to the body of the tent and the final corner of the pyramid is a webbing strap sewn to the Medallion of Strength and staked to the ground. It appears that the Jake’s Corners on previous iterations of the Hercules Assault were permanently sewn to the tent via the webbing strap attached to the Medallion. They have improved the webbing attachment by adding a quick release buckle. After setting the tent up a couple of times indoors this has really helped me keep the webbing on the corners from getting tangled. It also allows me to remove the entire Jake’s Corner and stuff the tent into a stuff sack instead of having to roll the tent as would be required if the Jake’s Corners were permanently attached.

Jake's Corner

Air Flow Vent system:
The tent has four vents in the main tent body. Two of the vents are in the rear of the tent in the corner of the tent. The vents are the same material as the main body of the tent and open via zippers with mesh on the outside of the vent. The rear vents are also covered by fabric that appears to be made of the same fabric as the fly and are attached to the main tent body and the Jake’s Corners. There are also two vents in the upper center part of the tent. The top fabric of the tent is stretched open with a small pole creating a canopy on each side of the tent. Inside of the awning are the vents. They can be zipped open from the inside and have both a body fabric and a mesh. Both can be completely unzipped should I have need to access the tent body.

Air Flow Vent system inside

Miscellaneous:
The poles on the tent are much beefier than any other poles that I have used on a tent. Hopefully this translates to extra strength in windy and snowy conditions. The tent body attaches to the poles via 18 Swift Clips. The bathtub floor on the inside appears to be constructed of a more standard tent fabric than the body of the tent and is not as slippery/rubbery as the DriZone fabric.

Initial Report – February 22, 2007:

I have heard good things about Sierra Designs tents and wasn’t disappointed when this tent showed up. I practiced pitching it in my living room since the weather here has been crummy with a mix of snow and rain. As I mentioned before instructions were not included so I printed a copy from the Sierra Designs Website. They were pretty easy to follow and took less than 10 minutes with me checking the instructions on each step. After practicing the set up inside, it takes less than 5 minutes for me to set it up by myself. I did run into one problem on the initial set ups. There is a “Clip Lock” that secures the Swift Clip to the center cross pole and the main cross poles. Basically it is an elastic line that is connected to the Swift Clip at one end and has a ball at the other. I accidentally pulled the ball off of the elastic line when adjusting the Clip Lock. I slid the ball back on and tied a knot in the line.

Clip Lock

The inside of the tent appears to be very roomy, but I will know more when I am sharing the tent with my hiking partner and all our gear. There is also numerous gear loops throughout the inside of the tent. These provide multiple options for the movable gear pockets, and for hanging items inside of the tent. I like the multiple options! The yellow color of the tent is very cheery and will provide some color to the grey Northwest days. My only quibble at this point is the weight of the tent is a bit heavier that what the website says it is, but I am not going to make a big deal over 4 oz/113 g when the tent is already over 7 pounds/3.18 kg. Definitely not what I would consider an ultralight tent.

Everything about the tent appears to be well made and very sturdy. I look forward to getting the tent out into some Cascade Concrete as the wet marine snow is called around here.

Field Report – May 8, 2007

Summary:
So far the tent has performed admirably under some pretty challenging conditions such as gusty blowing snow squalls. As a two person tent it leaves a little to be desired in the elbow room category, but it is adequate for two people under 6’ (1.8 m) tall. I have had no durability issues with either the tent fabric or the pole set up and my tent pitching time is getting quicker with experience.

Field Conditions:
I have used the tent on three overnight trips and a three day/two night mountaineering trip. Two of the overnight trips took place in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, one overnight took place in the Mt. St. Helens National Monument and the mountaineering trip took place in Sequoia National Park during an attempt to summit Mt. Whitney. Elevation varied from about 3000’ to 11,700’ (914 m – 3566 m) on the flanks of Whitney. Temperatures ranged from 60 F to 10 F (15 C to -12 C) and precipitation included windy snow squalls and a bit of mixed precipitation at Mt. St. Helens. The tent was pitched on snow on all of my trips except for the Mt. St. Helens trip where it was pitched on grass and small lava rocks at the edge of the Sno Park parking lot.

Field Report:
Durability is a big concern for me with any tent and to me it is even more important when it comes to a four season tent. So far I have been happy with the overall durability of the tent. The tent has been pitched sans ground cloth on snow during all of my trips except for one and on that trip it was pitched on some grass and small lava rocks and shows no sign of wear on the bottom of the tent. The vestibule, main body fabric, and poles have been buffeted by 30 mph (48 kph) winds and been loaded with several inches of snow during my Whitney trip and again show no signs of wear or damage. This is encouraging to me since the mostly flat roof of the tent allows snow to build in that area and I questioned how well the poles and clips would handle the snow loading.

Hercules at Lower Boy Scout Lake

The winds were blowing pretty hard when I set up the tent at my Whitney high camp and based on the weather information that we had received from basecamp, the winds were supposed to grow stronger and swing from the north later in the night so I set up the tent with this in mind. It would put the Hercules in the strongest structural position where the wind would hit the tent longitudinally from the front to the back. However, this meant the tent be set up perpindicular to the current wind direction where the tent was in the weakest structural position with all the wind hitting the side of the tent. Even so, the tent structure did fine during the afternoon gusts. The tent body did flap in this position, but was not noisy and other than the watching the tent fabric blow over my sleeping bag there wasn’t anything to keep me from napping in my tent while waiting for dinner.

Tent high camp before

All of the moving parts of the tent are still in good working condition. The zippers all operate pretty well, except for the vestibule zipper. It can tend to get a little sticky as it goes around the top curve of the vestibule depending on how taught the vestibule is pitched. The Jake’s Corner webbing straps and buckles show no signs of wear and are holding up well.

Tent at high camp after

The tent is fairly easy to set up and I have become more proficient over the test period. It takes me about 5 minutes to leisurely set up the tent by myself. I can easily pitch it in under 5 minute with two people. The most time consuming part of the set up is reattaching the Jake’s corners. I unclip and remove the Jake’s corners so I can stuff the tent body into a compression sack. I have set the tent up in snow showers twice and neither time have I had any issues with precipitation getting into the tent. When I stuff the tent after taking it down, I make sure the front door is closed and that helps keep out any precipitation that would get in during set up. Additionally the last thing I pitch during set up is the vestibule and that helps keep precipitation from getting inside of the tent. For set up in the snow, I have attached the included guy lines at a fixed length to the stake out points on the tent and then attached deadmen, snow stakes, or pickets to the end of the guy lines to stake the tent down. This has worked out well and I have used the buckles on the Jake’s corners to tension the tent since I have made the guy lines a fixed length with large loops to facilitate quick pitching.

Single wall tents have a reputation for having a lot of condensation issues and the Hercules hasn’t done much to dispel that reputation. In good weather, read not snowing, I was able to open the roof vents, corner vents, screen door and not have any condensation issues. Once the wind picked up and the snow was swirling around I closed up the vents to keep out the weather. That night as my partner and I tried to get some sleep our breath condensed and froze to the wall of the tent. This caused internal snow showers whenever the tent shook and when opening the front door to get in and out of the tent. Our sleeping bag shells and everything else in the tent got a little damp that night. I like the idea of the high and low vents in the tent but the windy conditions didn’t allow me to use any of them and the bottom vents were actually buried by the snow. I want to be clear though that condensation is a problem with all single wall tents and was not an unexpected issue and can only be solved by ventilation, unfortunately in bad weather at an exposed campsite ventilating was not an option.

A second negative with the tent is the amount of living space that the tent provides for two people which is not much. I shared a tent with a hiking partner for two nights on my Whitney trip. We spent 12 hours in the tent the first night and 15 hours in the tent the second night. Just not a lot of room in the tent for anything other than our sleeping bags. I am fairly short so I was able to get my pad and bag in the tent without touching either end. My hiking partner who is 5’11” (1.8 m) ended up touching both ends of the tent with his sleeping pad and bag. We were able to bring some clothes and our food into the tent, but that was it. The vestibule is also not as large as I anticipated either; however, I do think I could easily use a small canister stove in the vestibule if needed during inclement weather. Overall storage space was rather small. After bringing our boots into the vestibule there wasn’t much room for anything else in there unless we wanted to be walking on top of our packs and other gear trying to get into and out of the tent. I would have appreciated being able to bring my pack into the vestibule even more after clearing 8” (20 cm) of snow off my pack on the third morning of my Whitney trip. Both of us were able to sit up inside of the tent if one of us was at the front of the tent and the other at the back. The slope of the walls made it hard to sit side by side even though there was enough headroom. We also found that we could not sit side by side in the doorway of the tent because it was too narrow. The tent functions well as a single person tent with plenty of room inside for me and my gear. My only concern is that it is a bit heavy for a single person winter tent.

Overall the tent is performing well as I expected and has certainly provided me with a stout four season platform to conduct my adventures out of. Nothing is perfect and this tent is no different. It could stand to a bit larger and condensation during inclement weather is an issue. If I could improve the tent I would like to see a door and vestibule at each end. This would alleviate some of the space constraints and provide another option for ventilation.

Long Term Report – July 2, 2007

Secret Spot

Summary:
The tent has continued to perform well on the additional trip I took since the spring has arrived. I really like the ventilation options and the beefiness of the tent. I still believe that the tent is a bit cramped for extended weather bivouacs and could be a bit lighter.

Field Conditions:
I used the tent on one more trip since my Field Report. I took a spring hike to my favorite secret spot along the Taylor River in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Temperatures ranged between 54 F and 70 F (12 C to 21 C), elevation was 1700’ (500 m) and the sky was clear. The spot is on a grassy, gravelly clearing right on the Taylor River that requires a bushwhack to get to.

Report:
I used this last trip to continue to evaluate the tent on durability, living space, and ease of set up. I tested the inner durability of the tent on this last trip with Cody, my klutzy 60 lb (27 kg) Black Lab/German Sheppard dog. He can’t seem to get still so he walks in circles in the tent until he can finally get settled. I am happy to say that the tent floor and walls survived! The living space was plenty big for Cody and I, but like I have said before it was cramped for extended bad weather bivouacs. From now on I will be choosing a hiking partner that I don’t mind being close to. Ease of set up was the third characteristic I was evaluating the tent on. Initially the tent was challenging to set up but now I find set up a breeze and can easily set the tent up in 2-3 minutes by myself. My routine is to lay the tent out, unfold all the poles, attach the Jake’s corners and the poles, and then clip the tent body to the poles. Easy as pie!

Front view of tent

Overall I think the tent has performed well and the positives outweigh the negatives of this tent. I have had it out in pretty hairy situations and the tent has stood up to wind and snow well. Based on these experiences, I won’t hesitate to use it on my trip to Mt. Rainier later in the summer.

The only negatives that I have seen with the tent are the lack of living space and some condensation issues. I think both of these items could be remedied by the addition of a second vestibule. It would provide more flexible venting options in bad weather and more gear storage.

This concludes my Long Term report. Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Sierra Designs for allowing me to participate in this test.

Read more reviews of Sierra Designs gear
Read more gear reviews by Jason Boyle

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 > Test Report by Jason Boyle



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