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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Zeta 2 Tent > Test Report by Brian Hartman

SIERRA DESIGNS ZETA 2 TENT
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - July 09, 2009
FIELD REPORT - September 27, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - November 22, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Noblesville, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Tent with rain fly and poke-out vent



Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sierradesigns.com/
MSRP: US $199
Size: 2 Person
Seasons: 3-season
Listed Weight: 5 lbs 7 oz (2.4 kg)
IMAGE 5
Photo courtesy of Sierra Designs

Measured Weight: 5 lbs 9 oz (2.4 kg)
Peak Height: 43/ 109 cm
Floor Width: 53/ 134 cm
Floor Length: 87/ 221 cm
Interior Area: 32 sq ft/ 2.97 sq m
Front Vestibule Area: 13 sq ft/ 1.20 sq m
Rear Vestibule Area: 8 sq ft/0.74 sq m
Country of Manufacture: China

Other details:
Packed Size: 22" x 6" (56 cm x 15 cm)
Number of Doors: 2
Floor Material: 70D Nylon, 3000mm
Body Material: 40D Nylon
Fly Material: 68D Polyester, 1500mm
Poles: DAC Press Fit, 9.0mm

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent (hereafter called the Zeta 2 or tent) is a 2 person, 3 season backcountry camping tent. The Zeta 2 arrived in a generously sized and neatly packed storage sack. Contents included:



IMAGE 2

Tent Body
2 main poles and 2 'antenna' poles; note: the 2 shorter 'antenna' poles are permanently attached to one of the main poles via swivel hubs
Rain Fly
7 aluminum stakes and storage sack
4 guy cords with line tighteners
1 pole sack
1 main sack
User manual with care and pitching instructions











Two hang tags were attached to the tent. The first tag gave a brief description of 'Jake's Foot', which consists of a plastic connector that is used to attach the tent poles, rain fly and ground cloth to the four corners of the tent body. The second tag listed the tent specs and gave a brief decription of some of the features designed into the Zeta 2. It also explained Sierra Designs' Lifetime Warranty which covers defects in materials and workmanship and offers repair or replacement of defective products.

IMAGE 4
Jake's Foot


Materials and Construction:
The majority of the tent body is constructed of nylon mesh while portions of the sides of the tent are constructed of 40D nylon coated fabric. The front and rear opening door panels are also constructed entirely of mesh to maximize air flow inside the tent. The floor is made of 70D nylon with a 3000 mm polyurethane (PU) coating. The fly consists of 68D polyester with 1500mm waterproof coating. There is also a poke-out vent in the side wall (see 1st photo) which allows the option of additional ventilation when needed.

The tent has a bathtub floor for increased waterproofness as well as tape-sealed seams on the floor and rain fly. It has two doors, two vestibules and a lightweight aluminum frame which is constructed of four 9 mm shockcorded aluminum poles. A storage sack is provided for the aluminum poles. The two main poles slide into the Jake's Foot attachments on the four corners of the tent body for easy assembly. Here is a photo of the tent with the rain cover off to show how the tent poles are arranged.

IMAGE 3

Seven metal stakes are provided with the tent. This is probably the minimum necessary to secure the tent in gusty weather. I intend to add more stakes to utilize the guy-lines which would be necessary in harsh conditions. The tent came with instructions, which were well written and easy to follow.
IMAGE 6
Interior storage pockets


There are 2 interior storage pockets to keep essential items handy. These storage pockets are located diagonally opposite each other and provide plenty of room for a flashlight, glasses or any other items that you don't want to roll over on in the middle of the night.

Options for this tent include a floor saver (protective tarp that goes beneath the tent to reduce wear and tear on the tent floor) and a portable attic (mesh webbing that clips to the ceiling of the tent to help store and organize equipment).

Features:
Sierra Designs describes the Zeta 2 as "the world's first Tunnel-Dome tent, combining the best of European tunnel (spaciousness and comfort) with the strengths of the freestanding dome (easy to set-up, strength in the wind)." Indeed, this tent has very steep and straight walls so the usable space in the tent is better than tents of comparable shapes. It has a mostly mesh body for great ventilation and stargazing should the opportunity present itself. With doors and vestibules on either side two people have their own door and outside storage space. The full coverage fly protects the tent from nasty weather.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

A single instruction sheet was included in the bottom of the tent sack. This sheet includes care and pitching instructions written on its front and backside respectively. Several noteworthy points are detailed in the care instructions. These include the following (paraphrased):

All tents must be staked out properly in order to achieve full structural integrity and prevent wind damage
Tent footprints (ground tarps) are recommended to protect the tent floor from sharp objects such as rocks or sticks.
The rainfly and center floor seam of the tent have been factory taped. However, it is recommended to seal all places where attachements are sewn to the fly using urethane-based seam sealer. The manual then goes on to explain that this tent has a "SuperSeal" floor which means the perimeter seam has been factory seam sealed, and therefore requires no perimeter sealing.
Occasionally the shock cord in one of your poles may break. The poles are still functional. At your convenience, return the pole to Sierra Designs' Warranty Department for repair.
To remove dirt and debris from the rain fly and floor of the tent, hand wash the tent with mild soap and a sponge.
Sierra Designs offers a lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship, and for a nominal charge will repair damage due to accidents or normal wear and tear.

The backside of the instruction sheet details pitching instructions with photos and step-by-step descriptions. The pitching instructions are well written and straight forward. Of particular note is that the tent can be staked initially, before erecting the poles and attaching the tent body. This is very helpful in windy conditions, that would otherwise make pitching the tent quite difficult.

TRYING IT OUT

It was quite breezy the day I set up the Zeta 2, so being able to stake the tent out ahead of time made things much easier. The two main poles were easy to assemble and insert into the Jake's Foot attachments. The next step was to connect the two 'antenna' poles to the main back pole via the Visor Connector. This was easily accomplished. The front ends of the 'antenna poles' extend beyond the main hub pole and attach to the tent body via Ball Cap Connectors. This design makes the front and rear doors nearly vertical. Next, I worked my way around the tent attaching the RCT Swift Clips and H-Clips to the poles. At this point the tent was free-standing. Finally, I laid the rain fly over the framework of poles and clipped it to the Jake's Foot attachment. My last three stakes were used to secure the front and rear vestibules. My overall setup time was approximately 10 minutes. I fully expect to shave several minutes off this time as I become more familiar with the tent.

IMAGE 7
Swivel hubs and RCT Swift Clips
IMAGE 8
Ball Cap connector
IMAGE 9
H-Clips


This two-person shelter features tons of mesh panels for increased air flow and large front and rear vestibules to store a backpack, boots, and other items. The hubbed pole system and pole clips makes for quick and easy setup. One thing I really like is the window on the front vestibule; I foresee this as a very useful feature that will allow me to check weather conditions without going outside.

The freestanding design of the Zeta 2 tent makes it easy to set up. Once assembled, it is quite stable. Although the two 'antenna' poles add additional weight and slightly more setup time, I'm optimistic that the features of Tunnel-Dome design will outweigh these negatives.

SUMMARY

The Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent is innovative and appears well-built! I am looking forward to the next four months of backpacking with this tent. I have several trips planned for July and August; these include visits to Central Ohio and Southern Indiana in the Hoosier Forest. As we are in the peak summer months, I am anxious to see how well this tent vents with its full rain fly. Duing this time, I will also be watching the pole attachments, clips and hubs to see how they stand up to extended field testing.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Zeta 2. I will post a Field Report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Zeta 2 tent.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

In the past two months I have spent seven nights in the Zeta 2 tent while on three trips. My first outing was in mid July to the Hoosier National Forest in Brown County, Indiana. I was there for three days to visit my son and his Boy Scout Troop who were spending the week at Ransburg Summer Camp. The area is heavily wooded and the terrain is quite hilly by Indiana standards. Elevations ranged from 600 - 850 ft (182 - 260 m). Temperatures ranged from around 80 F (26 C) during the day to the mid 70's F (24 C) at night. There was no rain on this trip and I covered 7-8 mi (12 km) per day.

I also used the tent at the beginning of August while backpacking for two nights in Franklin County, Indiana. The first night I picked a site on a cleared ridge at 860 ft (262 m) elevation, while on the second night I camped at 700 ft (213 m) near a wandering stream. Temperatures were around 80 F (26 C) during the day, dropping to about 70 F (21 C) overnight. The weather was sunny both days with clear skies and a slight breeze. My total distance logged was 10 mi (16 km) round trip.

My third trip was to Mounds State Recreation Area in Brookville, Indiana (elevation 670 ft / 204 m) over Labor Day Weekend. The weather was very pleasant for the first two days with lots of sunshine and cool breezes. Daytime temperatures were around 75 F (24 C) and nighttime temps were in the low 60's F (16 C). Around 5:00 am on the 3rd day it started drizzling. By 8:00 am we had steady rain which continued most of the day. During this trip I hiked 6-7 miles (10 km) per day.

IMAGE 1

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

EASE OF SETUP: Although I have not experienced bad weather yet while setting up this tent, I am still grateful that the Zeta 2 goes up fast. I can pitch the tent and put on the rain fly in under six minutes. It is a one person job although having assistance from a second person makes setup go quicker.

I have found the easiest way to pitch this tent so far is to stake out the four corners and then insert the ends of the main poles into the Jake's Foot attachments. At this point the main poles can be stood upright so that the ridge poles can be secured between them. The next step is to secure the tent body to the poles using the H-clips and connectors as the tent is not freestanding until this is done. With three-season tents, I almost always attach the rain fly immediately after setup even during summer months as the weather changes rapidly in the Midwest. I have yet to use the included guy lines to secure the rain fly as I have found the tent to be quite secure without them. I have not been through any extreme weather with this tent and so I cannot comment on whether guy lines are necessary to secure the tent or prevent the rain fly from sagging in an extended downpour and touching the tent body or flapping around in heavy winds. Of note, I have bent four of the seven stakes so far while trying to secure the tent in dry ground. The stakes are lightweight aluminum and this is obviously a trade-off versus more rugged, heavier stakes. The stakes can be straightened in a vice once back home. Tear down is relatively simple although the main poles sometimes pop through the Jake's Foot connectors thus collapsing the tent but preventing it from being disassembled. This is a minor inconvenience that has happened several times to me while taking down the tent and once while moving the tent to a new location.

SIZE: For the first two months of Field Testing I used the Zeta 2 as both a solo and as a two person tent. For solo use the Zeta 2 provided plenty of room. While backpacking alone, I kept all my gear in the tent with me and had enough room to maneuver around inside. My gear typically includes my backpack, an open cell sleeping pad, 20 F (-6 C) sleeping bag, extra clothing, backpacking stove, food and water, first aid kit and basic survival equipment. While in the tent, I was easily able to unpack and arrange my gear, get dressed, read a magazine, and have room to stretch out while sleeping. With two people in the tent, conditions were more crowded. My wife and I slept together in the Zeta 2 over Labor Day weekend and the tent felt slightly cramped. It was small enough that I would think twice about using it as a two person tent with anyone other than a family member. Having said this, the Zeta 2 had more usable space than other tents I've used with similar square footage because of its steep, straight walls. The unique design provided plenty of headroom so that my wife and I could sit up in the tent without touching the walls or ceiling. This adds vertical space that most tents with angled walls do not have. Although my wife and I chose to keep our gear inside the tent, the two vestibules provide additional room to leave some items outside while still protected from the weather. On all of my trips, the internal storage pockets came in handy for stashing my watch and glasses while the gear loop provided a great place to hang my lantern. Sierra Designs did a great job with the design of the doors. Just like the walls, they are nearly vertical, making them very easy to crawl through. Having a second door was great. My wife and I could get into and out-of the tent without crawling over each other or stepping on our gear.

The Zeta 2 is relatively lightweight and the stuff sack reduces it down to a manageable size. I really appreciate the fact that Sierra Designs has made the stuff sack large enough that everything fits in easily without having to fold it perfectly. There is even enough room for my ground cloth.

BREATHABILITY: With it's mostly mesh body, the Zeta 2 breathed extremely well. I haven't experienced any condensation inside the tent, either alone or with two people. On all occasions I slept with the rain fly on and the vestibules closed. The mesh also did a great job of protecting me from mosquitoes.

WATERPROOFING: So far I have only encountered one day of moderate rain. During this time I did not notice any leaks in the tent floor or rain fly. As this was the trip where my wife and I slept together in the tent with our sleeping bags pushed up against the sides for additional room, I was somewhat concerned there may be some dampness on one or both of the bags. However, I had no reason to worry as everything stayed completely dry. Sierra Designs did a great job of raising the perimeter seams for the tent floor to keep them off the ground. In my experience the bath tub floor design is a proven winner. Regarding the rain fly, rain beaded up nicely and for the most part ran immediately off the tent. There was only one spot on top of the tent that collected a small amount of water; however none of it penetrated through the rain fly.

SUMMARY

After seven nights in the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent, I am very pleased with its performance. It is easy to set up and as an added bonus it looks really good. The tent was a joy to sleep in during hot weather as it provided plenty of ventilation. Though I have only had it out in moderate rain it appears waterproof and well suited to poor weather trips.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to bring the Zeta 2 on all of my backpacking trips during the next two months. Several things that I hope to evaluate during the Long Term period include the use of the vestibules as storage for all of my equipment except sleeping supplies. This would certainly make it easier to accommodate a second person in the tent. I am also curious about the long term durability of the Jake's Foot attachments and other connectors. Finally I would like to test the relative ease of setting this tent up in the dark as well as in cold weather.

This concludes my field report for the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent. Please check back in late November for my final report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the long term testing period, I took the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent on two trips and slept in it for five nights. Temperatures were mild on both trips and there was rain on the second day of my trip to Brookville. Elevations ranged from 550 ft (168 m) to approximately 900 ft (274 m). On both trips I camped in the woods.

Mid October Backpacking Trip:
Location: Mounds State Park - Brookville, Indiana
Trip Description: Trail hiking
Distance: 5.4 mi (8.6 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/3 nights
Weather Conditions: Cloudy with rain the second day, windy both days
Precipitation: 1.6 in (4.0 cm)
Temperature Range: 58 F (14 C) to 72 F (22 C)

Early November Backpacking Trip:
Location: Hoosier National Forest - Southern Indiana
Trip Description: Off-trail bushwhacking
Distance: 15 mi (24 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/2 nights
Weather Conditions: Clear and breezy
Precipitation: 0.0 in (0.0 cm)
Temperature Range: 60 F (15 C) to 68 F (20 C)


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1 On my first trip of this test period, I convinced my hiking partner to share tent space thus lightening both our loads. We decided that I would carry the Zeta 2 tent body and rain fly while my friend would carry the poles and ground stakes. After strapping the stuff sack to the outside of my external frame backpack, off we went. It stayed securely fastened throughout our trip and was no worse for wear even though it got caught several times on briars and tree limbs as we trudged through the forest. We stopped mid day and set up camp. Despite windy conditions, with the help of an extra pair of hands the tent went up quickly and effortlessly. With two adults in the tent, it was difficult to get much else inside the Zeta 2 except for our sleeping bags and a few essentials. Even then the tent did not provide much room for moving around. Consequently we left our backpacks and gear in the vestibules. In this case, having two doors with separate vestibules was a necessity and the extra headroom that the Zeta 2 provided was much appreciated. The next morning we awoke to steady rain and soggy bottoms on our packs but no water whatsoever inside the tent. Although there was some condensation inside the tent, I wouldn't categorize it as anything unusual or excessive. That evening, when I arrived back home, I set up the tent in it up in my garage so it could dry thoroughly.

My second outing during this test period found me using the Zeta 2 as a solo tent. During this off-trail backpacking trek through the Charles Deam Wilderness area, I was searching for a fire tower that was approximately 8 miles into the forest, as the crow flies. Before heading out, I borrowed a small internal frame backpack and stuffed the tent inside. Although this left me very little room for gear and supplies, the terrain was simply too hilly and uneven for me to strap the tent to the outside of my pack and still remain balanced. After logging 5 miles over steep terrain, I made the decision to drop my tent, make base camp, and then continue scouting for the fire tower till late afternoon. At 5 lbs 9 oz (2.4 kg), the weight of the tent was definitely slowing me down. I must say that when I've carried this tent on established trails, its weight has not been a major issue.

Although I have had several stakes bend, none have broken. In addition, I have had no problems with seams leaking and the plastic clips that attach the side walls of the tent to the support poles and the rain fly, have held up fine. As winter approaches, I am curious to see how the tent performs in cold weather. Specifically, I am interested to see how the clips hold up and whether the rain fly clips are easy to snap on and off of the Jake's Foot attachments after being buried overnight in frozen ice and snow. Because this clip is so small, I am anticipating that I will need to remove my gloves when installing and removing the rain fly.

SUMMARY

I have really enjoyed using the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent for the past few months. It remains in great condition, with the door zippers functioning wonderfully and the tent floor and rain fly still completely waterproof. In addition, the tent poles show no signs of stress or cracking.

The Zeta 2 is the perfect size for one person to stretch out at the end of a long day of backpacking, with plenty of room inside for gear. I do not see myself using it much as a two man tent simply because it is narrow and thus more cramped than I prefer when sleeping two. Ventilation has been great and I've had very minimal condensation inside the tent. It is fairly quick and easy to set up, even in the dark. Tear down is equally simple and I really enjoy the large stuff sack which makes life on the trail a lot easier. This concludes this test series. Thanks to Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this tent.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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