An overlook: Sierra Designs High Route 1FL

Note: As with yesterday’s Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor article, this overlook of the High Route 1FL  shelter is not a review. I am writing  just some initial impressions after a weekend of use. I would need a year or two of hard use and in varied conditions to give a thorough review.

As with many active outdoors people, I have a variety of shelters I use for different purposes, seasons and conditions.

The lightweight tarp that I use for light and fast trips would not work well with someone.

Shoulder season or buggy conditions? Start adding a bivy and some bug netting to the tarp and I have the same weight as my other shelter I use for these type of conditions. 

It would be nice to have a mutli-purpose shelter. Something that counts down on my quiver a bit.

Less gear in my life simplifies things.

The new Sierra Designs High Route 1FL has the potential to fill this need

Initial impressions

The Flex Capacitor is a quiver-of-one pack for an alternate reality version of me (a child or two, less free time, need an all-purpose pack for the 3-4 trips a year I get in ).  It would be a very worthy pack for a Jack of All trades kit.

But the version of me in this 2016 reality does many different trips. And if not as often as I’d like, pretty frequently by most standards.  I am out in varied conditions throughout the year.   Overall, I am pretty damn lucky.

Not bad for a kid from suburban Rhode Island

I really can’t complain overall.

It would be nice to have a shelter that fits many of these needs and trip types relatively easily.

And that is the niche the Sierra Designs High Route 1FL fits.  A single shelter that fits many different roles without being overly heavy and fairly reasonable in price.

You can read more of the specs over at the Sierra Designs website.

In a nutshell, this shelter is pyramid style shelter that has a removable inner mesh nest that has a floor. The pyramid shelter can be used separately.  With the nest, the weight of the shelter is 2 lbs 4 oz. The shelter fly by itself? 22 oz.  Total cost is $299 MRSP.

It is not the lightest shelter on the market.

But it is not meant to be the lightest.

The very ultralight shelters tend to fit specific needs, environments and activities.

The increasingly specialized thru-hikers gear fits an also increasingly narrow niche.

The Sierra Designs High Route 1FL is light if not ultralight. It is made of durable material. The modular approach of the High Route works well for a variety of conditions and will serve deep into shoulder season. And while $299 is not inexpensive, considering the range of conditions this shelter fits, the  price is reasonable.  My winter tent of choice is about the same price and weight, but I only use it during winter and never during the rest of the year.

Just looking over the High Route 1FL in my living room made me realize its potential for my personal use.

In the field


At the cusp of treeline in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness in October.

I used the shelter sans nest one fine fall weekend.

The setup was fairly easy and somewhat intuitive if someone has setup pyramid style shelters before.

However I had a late Friday evening.  And, alas, I had not taken the IT professionals credo to heart and RTFM (Read The Fine Manual…use a different word for “Fine” however).  The setup would have been easier if I had.  I suggest watching the setup video instead.

From the IT crowd. Snarky British humour that seems to sum up an IT Monkey’s life. 🙂

Once setup, I was impressed of the spaciousness of the shelter. It was a palace for one person. And is perfectly adequate for two adults.

Due to the pole configuration, the poles were not in the way when entering or exiting the shelter. This pitfall is found in many shelters that make use of hiking poles to set up the shelter.

My gear could be sprawled out. I was comfortable. And I had a lot of head room.

The two doors allowed plenty of ventilation.

The night was cool and it lightly rained at night.   Condensation in the shelter was minimal.

Gotta say, I was impressed.

I could sit up, read my book, sip my hot drink and be extremely comfortable at 11500′ on a cold fall evening.

This shelter would have been FANTASTIC on my recent Wind River trip.  At 22 oz, a pretty light and rugged shelter for those conditions. And I if I know the weather is going to be gnarly even at the peak of summer, I’d still take this shelter.   I think I’d take the weight penalty over a basic tarp in certain conditions because of the sheer usefulness of this shelter.

I did not use the nest, however.

Hard to give any thorough impressions of this portion of the modular shelter.  I will say if the nest is used, the spaciousness is a bit compromised and the two-person capability is gone.  Still, for a touch over two-pounds ,the comfort in cold and wet weather with amounts to a double wall shelter is very intriguing.  If I was back in my native New England and backpacking during a wet and chill autumn, this shelter would be work quite well with the nest I suspect.


With the nest. From Sierra Designs.

Who will use this shelter?

There is no such thing as the BEST gear. It is a fallacy.

Which is a way of saying this shelter is not a panacea for all situations.

Those wishing for the absolute lightest shelter for specific three-season conditions and don’t mind the lack of durability will want to look at a different option. My tarp falls into this category.

Need a two-person shelter that is more tent-like with a floor, is spacious, has bug netting and other traditional accoutrements? The Lunar Duo is a better choice.

Of course, some people would rather have a free standing tent for certain conditions, ease of use and don’t mind the weight and/or price penalty.  There is a reason why I use this type of shelter in winter after all.

So who will use this shelter?

A person who wants something fairly light, durable, versatile and that is also not terribly expensive.  I picture a more experienced backpacker who tends to be out in many different conditions, wants to limit their quiver a bit and does not want to put to big hole in their wallet.

Personally? I was very impressed with this shelter.  And it is something I can picture using myself.


A rock solid shelter.

I was impressed with the Flex Capacitor as an all around useful pack for most people. But, frankly, not something I would use or need.

The Sierra Designs High Route 1FL however is something I could see myself using in the years ahead. A last minute trip to New England or Oregon in the early summer?  Another shoulder season Wind River trip?  Or even a quick overnighter in the Indian Peaks Wilderness an hour from where I am sitting?

Yeah.  I just may take the High Route.

Sometimes the nest would be taken. Sometimes I’d take just the shelter fly by itself.

Overall the Sierra Designs High Route 1FL would be an great shelter for any person who wants a solid and versatile shelter for a variety of backcountry conditions. And does not want to spend a small fortune.

I would not be surprised if I gave a more thorough review of this shelter two years from now.

I liked it that much.

Disclosure: The  Sierra Designs High Route 1FL  was loaned to me by Andrew Skurka.

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7 years ago

I want a tent that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb wherever it’s pitched. The color alone is enough to make me reject it! The folks at “Leave No Trace” concur!

7 years ago

A heavier, more expensive, less aerodynamic, maybe roomier, non-misting, version of the TT Notch. It’s not for me.

7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Well the notch has the same degree of versatility as its inner body is also removable. IMO the higher degree of durability would be comparatively negligible in the scale of how much that means to me choosing a ultralight shelter. That being said, there’s some insanely expensive ultralight shelters that look like they are held together with tissue paper.

The lack of misting would be nice though.

Neglecting the cost from the time bank, I think my next cheaper and super cool dream shelter will be making my own multi-colour mid.

7 years ago

LDK if you’re looking for non-misting yet lightweight, cuben is the way to go. Haven’t pulled the trigger yet (it’s a big price tag) but I probably will soon.