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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Hercules Assault V.2 > Test Report by Ray Estrella
SIERRA DESIGNS HERCULES ASSAULT V2
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.
Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
The Sierra Designs (SD) Hercules Assault V2 (hereafter called the Herc or the tent) is a two person tent that is targeted for extreme conditions use. A four season "bomb shelter" to quote SD. It is a single-wall tent, meaning that it does not have an inner breathable body and a separate waterproof fly that goes over it. (A lot of the construction of this tent is shared with my 3+ season SD Hyperlight, and 4 season SD Prelude tents.)
It comes with two DAC Press Fit, 11.1mm aluminum poles, and another four V-shaped poles for the "Medallion of Strength Jake's Corners". (A 1.2 oz [34 g] storage sack is provided for the poles.) The two long main poles lock into hubs at the ends of the Jake's Corners. The Jakes Corners are claimed to add at least 40% more strength to the set-up. I am inclined to go along with this claim. While I have used Jakes Corners on past tents the new Medallions of Strength are a much better application than the old style. The poles slide onto the hub that is a part of the Jakes corner, instead of an add-on as in the past. Once the poles are all attached, tethered straps going from the stake to each hub are tightened pulling the framework taut. Here is a picture of the poles and Jake's Corners sans tent body.
The body is then attached to the poles by means of 12 Swift Clips, a nylon hook that is tied to the tent body. Where the poles cross each other a Clip Lock is used. These are kind of a super Swift Clip that has a cord that wraps around the pole sections and locks onto the clip through a slot. This holds the poles tight adding to the strength of the set up by a claimed 60%. A picture of a Clip Lock in action can be seen here. The shorter Ridge and Vestibule poles lock into grommets on the tent body. Because the ridge pole has the possibility of taking some major wind abuse it has two of the Clip Locks attaching it to the main poles.
The tent is entered by way of a fairly large round door made of a non-waterproof nylon rip-stop for breathability. It is mirrored by an inner door made of mesh. The zippers of both have two sliders that meet at the top of the door in the center. Because of the way it is made I can open the doors to any position. Enter from the left, the right, or even the bottom. Or I can drop just the top down like a window. Here is a picture of the outer door half open with the mesh inner closed. (Note the vestibule rolled up.)
Inside the tent at the rear are two removable gear pockets. The Air Flow Vent System may be accessed inside the tent. The system consists of vents in the body of the tent (both high and low) and the door. The vents are mesh covered to help keep rain, snow and spindrift form entering the tent. The awnings that cover the upper vents are held out by the Ridge pole mentioned earlier. Looking at the profile I had some reservations about having it configured that way in a 70 mph (113 km/h) wind if it were to change and hit the side. The pole can be popped out and a guy-line tied to the now dropped awning allowing it to be tied to the ground, eliminating a possible kite-effect tent destruction. (I have seen it happen.) This shot shows the vents deployed.
Here is a shot of both doors completely opened, attached by just a little bit of zipper. The vents can be seen at the top of the tent to the sides. The gear pockets are hanging in the rear.
The yellow vestibule fly is made of 40-denier high tenacity nylon rip-stop. It is silicone coated on one side, and has 1500 mm waterproof polyurethane under coating on the other to allow seam taping. The company claims that it is 100% waterproof to 80 PSI. It clips to the poles over and to the sides of the door and stretches away from the tent to protect the door opening from weather. The vestibule door has what they call a "4 Slider/Continuous Vestibule Zipper". This is a new one for me, and is pretty cool. There are two sets of double-slider pulls all on the one zipper. It allows for practically endless possibilities of settings. (Actually as the zipper runs in a curve, theoretically the possibilities are endless…) The vestibule has sides that attach to the body at the poles and to stakes at the front. The front panel can be taken off the stake leaving the sides deployed, but allowing the front to be rolled out of the way, as seen earlier.
Speaking of stakes, six of them are provided with the tent. While this is the bare minimum necessary to set up the tent I will have to add a lot more stakes to utilise the guy-lines that are provided, and that I would never dream of not having available in harsh conditions. As I will be using the Herc on snow most of the time I will most likely not even use the provided stakes, and use aluminum snow-stakes instead.
The whole works rolls up and is stored in a 2.8 oz (79 g) yellow stuff sack. Since the Jake's Corners poles un-clip from the tethers I will most likely in the future pack them with the other poles separate from the body, allowing me to actually stuff the tent into a smaller package. Here it is rolled and stuffed after it has been out a few times. (So yes it really can go back the way it came…)
The tent did not come with instructions, but as I have had so many of their tents it was not hard for me to figure out. Complete assembly instructions may be found on the manufacturer's website if you look for it.
I really like this tent so far. Looking back through the years I have, or have had six of SD's tents. This one has me the most excited. The only thing that bothers me at this point is the very substantial weight difference between what they have listed, and what I verified. 19.3 oz (547 g) is a lot when winter forces me to carry heavy loads in the first place. I am hoping that the ease of pitching, anticipated ventilation and apparent strength make up for the difference. (I presently carry a 7 lb 1 oz [3.2 kg] Bibler Fitzroy.)
This concludes the Initial Report of the Hercules Assault V. 2 tent. The following is from the first two months of testing.
I used the Herc a couple of times in San Jacinto State Park. I was camped at 9200' (2800 m) elevation above Round Valley. Temps dropped down to 20 F (-7 C) at night, it was 24 F (-4 C) in the tent. Here is a picture from the first day.
I was also at a higher elevation once but can't tell because I will get in trouble. (Hmmm…someone's knocking at the door.)
I was back up that way for a last fling with winter on the last day of March. I set up at Mica camp above Tamarack Valley at 9300' (2835 m) elevation. The temps got down to 23 F (-5 C). I was on pine duff and dirt.
I have to say that I am impressed out of the gate with this tent. It is very fast and easy to set up. I can set it up in about 5 minutes now by myself. Two people can get it down to a few minutes.
As can be seen the pads almost take the whole length of the tent. Once I put in a couple of winter bags (my SD Cirque 0 F/-18 C and Jenn's SD Electra -20 F/-29 C) there is not much space left. As can be seen below my bag touches both ends of the tent. That had me concerned about condensation issues.
Well I guess I don't need to worry so far. The venting in this tent works great. I wish my other tent had venting like this. In fact that other tent may be for sale soon as I really like the Herc. One night was very calm. I had all of the vents open. I had the door closed but the vestibule rolled up as I was not expecting weather, so let the door panel breathe. The most condensation I got that night was on my sleeping bag from my breathing hitting it right by my mouth. No other condensation on the bag or the walls of the tent.
Another night I had some big winds come up. I was not expecting it at all. I had found a decent camp site and leveled a nice pad out. When I went to anchor I found that only at the foot of the tent did I have deep enough snow to use my snow anchors. The other end only had about 6 in (15 cm) of snow after I had stomped out my pad. Because I am testing the Herc I was carrying the stakes that come with it. (Something I normally never do in winter.) But my spot was pretty much solid granite underneath and I could not get a stake in. Thank goodness the Herc is freestanding.
As I was going to get an early start for the peak in the morning (and it is too darn cold to sit around once the sun goes behind the mountain) I crashed early. About 9:00 PM I woke up because of the wind. I am hearing branches breaking and the side of the tent hit me. As it continued to get worse I shut the vents. There were no clouds though so I left the vestibule clipped to the side. The wind got horrible. All night I could hear the big blasts coming before they would hit. When they would hit the door it would actually push through the fabric and I could feel it on my face. (I never had wind chill in a tent before.) I thought about going out and setting up the vestibule but as the wind was mainly coming from the side I left it as it was. Some of the gusts were big enough to pick the whole tent up at the front and side, and roll it a bit. It kept making me roll to the center of the tent. My anchors at the end held all night though.
In the morning I abandoned my quest for the peak and carefully took down the Herc. I almost lost it to the wind a couple of times. It would have blown down to Palm Springs I think.
The trip to Tamarack Valley was the first time that I have used the Herc on something other than snow, as it was melting off fast and I could find no good places that I could set it up on a snow field. The stakes worked very well and the tent was stronger than I have ever had it due to the extra support of the stake set-up. I was able to pull all of the Jake's Corners very taut. I loved how rock solid it made the tent. Here is a picture of it staked out.
The snow had been melting and I thoroughly expected to see some condensation over night. I had all the vents open but the door closed. The vestibule door was tied back. It was 27 F (-3 C) as I turned in for the night. I got absolutely zero condensation, not even on my sleeping bag near my face. I have to attribute that to the combination of excellent venting options and the DriZone fabric.
One thing did concern me when I rolled it up the next morning. The bottom of the floor showed signs of having wetted-out. There were moisture marks in splotches on the floor and they were soaked into the nylon, instead of beaded up to where I could wipe it off. I had not noticed any moisture transferred through to the inside of the floor. I will keep an eye on this in the future. Of all the SD tents that I have owned I have never seen this happen. And as all use has been on snow before this I know that I have not been wearing out the DWR prematurely on abrasive surfaces. I never use a foot-print in winter, and always use one for three-season hiking. As SD did not send one with the Herc I have to use it as is. Since winter is pretty much over I should not have to put the Herc on dirt any more this year.
While it is pretty tight with two people, for just myself as a solo shelter it is wonderful. I have plenty of room to take a big winter pack inside and have all of my stuff spread out too. Here is a picture of it with my GoLite Odyssey pack next to my sleeping bag.
This concludes the Field Report phase of this test. The following represents the last two months of the test.
As winter is long gone I have used the Hercules on only one more trip since the Field Report. That was in Kings Canyon National Park at Sentinel. Temps got down to 40 F (4 C) at 5100' (1554 m) elevation. I was on packed dirt, there was no wind to speak of.
I love this tent. Between the late start of this test and the mild winter we got, I did not get to use the Hercules near as much as I wanted to. But it will see a lot more use next winter. I like the ease of set-up, and the excellent condensation handling of this tent so much that it is replacing the very expensive and highly touted tent I normally use. The Herc blows it away! I plan on using this tent for a long time to come.
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