Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Zeta 2 Tent > Test Report by arnold peterson

Sierra Design Zeta 2 Tent
Sierra Design Zeta 2 Tent


INITIAL REPORT - July 08, 2009
FIELD REPORT - September 15, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - November 11, 2009


NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 71
LOCATION: Middlesex County Massachusetts USA
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

Backpacking Background: Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used for hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).



Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
Toll Free: 800-635-0461
Model: Zeta
MSRP: US$199.00
Tent Color: Dark Blue
Fly Color: Light Blue
Listed Weight: 6 lb (2.72 kg)
Measured Weight: 5.8 lb (2.63 kg)
Packed Size 22 in x 6 in (56 cm x 15 cm)
Person: 2
Seasons: 3
Doors: 2
Vestibules: 2
Interior Area: 32 sq ft (3 sq m)
Vestibule Area: 13 and 8 sq ft (1.2 and 0.7 sq m)
Peak Height: 42 in (107 cm)
Floor: 70D Nylon 300 mm
Body: 40D Nylon
Fly: 68D Polyester 1500mm
Poles: DAC Press Fit, 9 mm
Number of Poles: 4 Hubbed
Stakes: Aluminum (7)
as shipped
as shipped

tent poles and sack
tent poles and sack

7 stakes and 4 Guy cords
7 stakes and 4 Guy cords


The tent sack with a draw string contained all the parts. I found the packaging neat, simple and easy to open. The stake sack had 7 round wire type aluminum slakes with a point at one end and a hook at the other. Another sack contained the poles. The pole sack was closed with hook and latch and the end of the sack can be folded over and tied with a narrow piece of material that is sewn to the sack. I found all the sacks had enough space to add a few extra items without any problem. Often sacks are on the small side and it is a challenge to fit the items back in. I did not have this problem with the Zeta tent.

Jake's Foot

There is a small hang tag that fully explains the operation of the Jake's Foot. This is the device that connects the tent to the poles and fly. I should have looked at the hang tag first as I did not find it obvious how to properly use it. The parts fit snugly and are able to move when in position. The Jake's foot is so small that I may have difficulty assembling it with gloves on.

Fly Vent

The fly has a single vent that can be closed with a small piece of hook and latch material, sewn to the fly. There is also a small plastic post which can hold the vent open. The vent can be opened from the inside by opening the front screen door and reaching up and moving the post into position. See picture below.
vent in closed and open position
vent in closed and open position

Front and Back Entrances

The entrances to the tent are circular. The zippers on the entrances work differently from those I have used previously. In the closed position both zippers tabs are at 12 o'clock. Each zipper tab can open the entrance fully, but only the zipper tab that opened the door can close it. The front entrance is almost as high as the tent, allowing for easy entry and exit. This is also true for the back entrance but the back is not quite as high. See pictures below.
front entrance open
front entrance open

back entrance open
back entrance open


The instructions and information about the Zeta are contained on 3 separate items. One is a single sheet containing the pitching instructions on one side and warranties, warnings, and care instructions on the other. That sheet recommends sealing the seams for extra water protection. Although the pitching instructions call for staking the tent as the first thing to do, the back side of this sheet says, "Most Sierra Design tents are free-standing, not requiring the use of stakes in order to pitch the tent. This is a matter of convenience." It also stated in bold print that all tents must be staked. Being able to stake the tent first is very helpful, especially when it is windy. All the remaining warnings are standard and common sense.

A hang tag gives condensed specifications for the Zeta and a pictorial showing the sleeping arrangement for 2 people. The sleeping bags are shown placed in opposite directions. This arrangement is used because the 2 inside pockets are placed diagonally opposite each other. The tent is wider than it is deep. Each person has their own entrance.

Another hang tag is the user guide for the Jake's Foot. The 4 small pictorials showing the operation are a great help in understanding this tiny device.


I had a very nice day to set up the Zeta. It was sunny and warm with no wind. I placed the tent on the ground about where I wanted it. I staked the 4 corners and then assembled the poles. I was so used to having the longer poles cross, that my first attempt was not working. Then I realized that it was the second picture that confused me. I then put the tent poles to form a box with the longer pole along the front entrance. The ends of the poles were snapped into place at each corner. At this point the structure was very flimsy and I needed to hold it with one hand. I worked my way around the tent attaching the RCT Swift Clips and S-Stoppers with H-Clips to the tent poles. The tent was now ready for the fly. It took me awhile to find the Black SQ Rings located on the inside of the fly. These had to be attached to the extending ends of the poles. The parts are smaller than what I am used to and did require close attention. The last step was to put 1 stake for the back entrance and 2 stakes for the front entrance.

The front entrance has a center flap and 2 side flaps. The stakes hold the side flaps in position and 2 zippers hold the center flap to the side flaps. There is no provision to stake the center and use the side flaps for entry. Since the door is circular the easiest way to enter is in the center where is has the highest opening. There are 2 storage pockets placed at the diagonals. The pockets each have a divider which is useful in separating items. Sleeping with heads at opposite ends has the advantage of increasing the distance from the other person's loud breathing during the night.


From initial inspection, I would expect the ventilation to be very good. The tent except for the floor is all screen. With the fly attached, the tent can be closed fairly tight. The entrances can be opened fully and that allows about half the wall area to become venting.

Taking down the tent

I initially had a problem with detaching the fly from the Jake's Foot. The tent pole would detach from the socket. I found I had to hold the Jake's Foot and the tent pole firmly in one hand and apply a twisting motion to the fly to release it. After a little practice this was not a problem.


I am looking forward to using the Zeta tent for all my backpacking during the next 4 months. I will be backpacking solo as well as with a partner. Trips are planned for Massachusetts and New Hampshire at this time. Other plans will be made as the weather and circumstances permit.

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. I wish to thank and Sierra Designs for the opportunity to test the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent.



I backpacked 5 times in forests in eastern Massachusetts. These backpacking trips were for one night each and I was alone on all except for one. Temperatures were between 55 F (13 C) and 75 F (24 C) and there was little or no wind . There was heavy rain during one of these trips. The forest was a mixture of mostly older hard wood trees and the ground was moderately rocky with rolling hills.

I backpacked in forests of northern New Hampshire with a friend on 3 occasions. All trips were planned to be for 3 days; however, the first trip was shortened to 2 days due to overexertion on the first day. The forests were moderate to thick and there was very little wind and no rain.

The first trip was a bushwhack because there had been a lot of rain and the streams were a lot higher than normal. This trip covered about 14 mi (23 km) with an elevation gain of about 1600 ft (488 m). Temperatures were between 50 F (10 C) and 70 F (21 C).

The second trip was for about 7 mi (11 km) with an elevation gain of about 3000 ft (914 m). Temperatures were between 82 F (28 C) and 95 F (35 C). This was the hottest and most humid trip. This hike was steep almost all the time with great views and easy access to water that could be filtered.

The third trip was for about 8 mi (13 km) with an elevation of about 4200 ft (1280 km). Temperatures were between 60 F (16 C) and 72 F (22 C). This was close to an ideal temperature for summer hiking. There were many small stream crossings which could provide water if required. Most of the hike was moderately steep and the end part required a lot of scrambling over large rocks.
campsite in northern New Hampshire
campsite in northern New Hampshire


Pitching the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 Tent

After having pitched the tent alone a few times, I found myself following the same pattern most all the time. I first shook out the tent over the selected spot, then I assembled the 2 poles and placed the pole with antennae along the side with the silver stripe and the orange quick connect loops. I placed the other pole along the side where the loops are black. Then I snapped the 2 poles together and proceeded to snap the end of each pole into a corner of the tent. After I had attached the quick connect plastic loops to the poles, I staked the corners of the tent and placed the sleeping gear inside the tent. Leaving the fly off helps because the fly blocks the light and interferes with the entrances. Finally after I had thrown the fly over the tent and made all the necessary attachments, I staked the front and back entrances. The front entrance is slightly larger than the back entrance and uses 2 stakes, while the back entrance uses only one stake. The back entrance is slightly smaller but adequate. I did time myself setting up the tent a couple times and found my times were about 7 minutes.

Ventilation in hot and humid weather

I used this tent with another person in hot and humid weather. The temperature was about 84 F (29 C) during the night and in the morning there was very little condensation inside the tent. The fly of the tent was covered with water. I found I could not shake all the water off the fly and had to pack it wet. It is very easy to keep the fly open over the entrances for improved ventilation. I have slept in this tent alone when it rained during the night. The inside of the tent was completely dry except for a small amount of condensation, however there was a small pool of water on the fly near the front entrance. See picture below. This water did not penetrate the fly. I noticed there was a small amount of slack in the fly in this area even though I thought the fly was properly staked.
puddle over front entrance
puddle over front entrance

Tent capacity

This tent is very large for 2 people and probably could also accommodate a small child or dog easily. I have shared this tent with someone on 6 of the 10 nights I have spent in the tent. There has been more than adequate space for standard sleeping pads and space for backpacks as well.

Exterior cleaning

After 10 nights of use the only cleaning that was required was removal of bird droppings on my tent. The droppings were easily cleaned with a wet paper towel. See picture below.
bird droppings
bird droppings

Items of concern

I have had some of the stakes bend while inserting them in very hard ground. They have not broken and are easily straightened at home with a vise. I have the feeling that these aluminum stakes are not as hard as some aluminum stakes I have used in the past.

The sleeping pattern in the literature suggests heads in opposite directions. I have never found a camp site on a backpacking trip where the ground is level. My preference is to have my head higher than my feet. I also would not like to smell someone's feet during the night. On one night I woke to hearing the breaking of wood nearby, followed by the munching of what seemed like a large amount of vegetation. It was nice to be able to quietly share this information with the person I was with. Because I prefer both heads at the same end, I would like to see pockets at all corners of the tent.

There are 4 small loops, 2 on each side, near the front entrance. These are quite handy for having a short clothes line. However since the entrance zippers are at the top of the tent anything hanging would interfere with exiting and entering the tent. I would like to have loops also placed near the back entrance, so small items could hang diagonally in the tent.

I am still getting used to the way the zippers work and will comment more on them in the Long Term Report.


I found it difficult deciding what feature I liked best. In the end I decided that the ease of pitching the tent was first, followed closely by the large amount of usable space. Performance in hot humid was good due to adequate ventilation. I would like to have pockets at all corners of the tent and ceiling loops at all corners to allow for more versatility in hanging small items.

I will continue using the Sierra Designs Zeta tent on all my backpacking trips for the duration of the test.

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. I wish to thank and Sierra Designs for the opportunity to test the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent.



I backpacked in forests of southern New Hampshire with a friend once and solo twice. All trips were bushwhacks and there was very little wind and no rain. The forests were moderate to thick with rolling hills and a few rocky outcrops. The temperature ranges for these trips was as follows:

First trip: low 60 F (16 C); high 80 F (27 C)
Second trip: low 45 F (7 C); high 60 F (16 C)
Third trip: low 30 F (-1 C); high 60 F (16 C)
near pond in New Hampshire
near pond in New Hampshire

hiking friend relaxing after setting up
hiking friend relaxing after setting up tent

inside tent near pond
inside tent near pond

top of small hill in southern New Hampsh
top of small hill in southern New Hampshire

last solo trip in New Hampshire
last solo trip in New Hampshire


Setting up the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 Tent

Pitching the tent has continued to be easy and fast even in low light conditions. Even when it was twilight, I had no problem setting up the tent under the low light conditions. One time there was a small amount of debris in the small plastic part that connects the fly to the tent corner. I was able to clean it with a small twig. In the future, I may carry an old tooth brush to use as a cleaning tool.

Two person trips

During the test, I shared the tent with 3 different people and their comments were all complimentary. Being spacious was the most popular comment. The ease of using the zipper was the second most popular. Other comments included "very attractive," "I want one of these," and "this is easy to set up." The last 2 person trip was during this test period, in southern New Hampshire and it was about 80 F (27C) during the day and only cooled to 60 F (16 C) during the night.

Solo trip in this period

I backpacked twice for 2 days in southern New Hampshire when daytime temperatures reached a high of 60 F ( 16 C) and nighttime lows of 45 F (7 C) and 30 F (-1 C). On the colder morning, there was still frost on the windshield when I reached my car.

Wind conditions

There was never a time during the test period when the wind was anything but mild.

High humidity and rain

There was only one occasion when it rained during the night. I was alone and the inside of the tent was completely dry. The humidity was high during most of the nights during the test. I was always very comfortable and did not mind the high humidity. There was little or no condensation in the morning. The outside of the tent was almost always covered with heavy dew. Most of this moisture could be shaken off, but enough moisture remained, that when I returned home on the last day of a trip, I would set up the tent in the back yard to allow the tent to dry completely. This gave me extra practice in pitching and taking down the tent and also allowed me to shake out any debris from the inside of the tent. Removing the debris was accomplished without the fly and opening the main door entrance. I would then lift the tent with the open entrance facing down and shake the tent gently until no more debris was coming out of the tent.


This tent has proved to be durable and is still in near perfect condition after 13 nights of use. The only sign of being used is a few small stains on the bottom side of the tent where it had been in contact with the ground. All the stitching is still in good condition. Despite the heavy dew on the tent there was never any evidence of leakage. This tent has worked well in temperatures down to freezing.


This has been a very nice tent to test. I was able to spend 13 nights in this tent and every one of them was pleasant.

The things I liked best: Value for the cost, ample size for 2 people, excellent ventilatation, smooth functioning door zipper, fast set up and take down.

Things I would like to be different: I found the tent a bit heavy for me to carry and I would like to have inside pockets at all 4 corners.


I will be using the Zeta tent mostly in temperatures above freezing. I may also use this tent when I start car camping again.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I wish to thank and Sierra Designs for the opportunity to test the Sierra Designs Zeta 2 tent.

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

Read more reviews of Sierra Designs gear
Read more gear reviews by arnold peterson

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Sierra Designs Zeta 2 Tent > Test Report by arnold peterson

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson