The Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 has the lowest trail weight of all the company’s two-person double-wall tents at 3.44 pounds (1.56 kg). An interesting pole design adds room to make it more livable inside. Will the Vapor Light be one we want to share, or will it turn out to be Vapor Ware?
Design and Features
The Sierra Designs Vapor Light is a single-door, front entry tent that uses a hubbed pole system, ala the Big Agnes Seedhouse tents which I have years of experience with. But the Vapor Light adds something to the recipe with its trademarked Spider Hub. This Spider Hub, which is at the front of the tent, has a couple of short poles angling back towards the center of the tent. The ends of these poles clip to the inner tent body, holding the sides out to create steeper sides and more room inside.
Like many tents these days Sierra Designs has opted to use the DAC Jake’s Foot anchoring system with the Vapor Light. The poles snap into the Feet at each corner of the tent. Then the body clips to the poles with five pole-clips and a single H-clip under the Spider Hub. One thing I discovered while using the Vapor Light is that the optional footprint is easiest to clip to the Jake’s Feet before placing the tent on my desired spot, as the ends of the footprint have to be snapped on the bottoms of the Feet. This is the first time I have used a footprint with a Jake’s Foot tent.
The rain fly sits on top of the poles and hooks to the Jake’s Feet. Straps at the ends allow the fly to be tensioned after set-up. Hook-and-loop tabs inside the fly attach to the poles at the guy-points to add strength.
Two stakes are used to pull the vestibule out. The vestibule has a good sized door which makes entering and exiting a breeze, rather than an exercise in contortion.
Top: The 3.4-lb (1.54-kg) Vapor Light proved stable in gusty winds in the Angeles National Forest. Bottom: The mesh walls of the Vapor Light are held out by the Spider Hub poles, which angle back. This gives it more room than tents with a similar style. Two standard width pads almost fit, just overlapping a bit in the very back.
Top Left: The DAC J stakes work quite well. Here, one holds down a Jake’s Foot anchor system. The pole snaps into the Foot and the fly strap clips onto the Foot. Top Right: A nice sized storage pocket is found on each side of the tent to keep things neat and close to hand. Bottom: When using a footprint with the Jakes Foot, it is easiest to clip it to the tent body before placing the tent.
There are no vents on the Vapor Light’s rain fly. Pullouts on the side allow quite a bit of ventilation, and the top of the vestibule door can be opened to create draw. But it needs to be closed in rain, as it does not leave the inside protected.
Sierra Designs sends just enough stakes to hold the four corners and the vestibule. While it does send two guy-lines that can be used, you must bring a couple more stakes of your own…
Top Left: All the pieces of the Vapor Light, including a pole storage sack that is twice as long as the poles are. Top Right: Even with the poles inside there is a lot of extra room in the stuff sack. Carrying the 17-in (43-cm) poles separately lets it be compressed quite a bit.
I used the Vapor Trail four nights in California and one in Minnesota. I had beautiful weather for all the trips, which is unfortunate as I like to get them in a storm or two. I did get to have it in some strong winds in both the Angeles National Forest and in the San Gorgonio Wilderness where I was set up on eight to ten feet (3 m) of snow at 9,230 feet (2,813 m) elevation.
The trip in the snow was close to being a disaster due to me not reading the information from Sierra Designs well enough. The rep had asked me if I would like a footprint. Knowing that the upcoming climb was supposed to be clear of storms I said “Sure, I will set up with just the footprint and fly in the snow.” I like to set up this way when there are no bugs to bother me. The night before the trip, I decided to take the as yet unpacked footprint out of its stuff sack. Thank goodness I did! This is when I noticed that the footprint clips to the Jake’s Foot that is attached to the tent. I almost went up the mountain with a fly, footprint and poles, none of which could attach to each other. I will not bother with footprints for any other Jake’s Foot equipped tents.
With all the parts of the tent along, the Vapor Light was great at our base camp at High Creek. It only got down to 23 F (-5 C), but the wind blew pretty well during the night and again as the sun came up. I did not have a bit of condensation build up in the tent.
I asked my brother to meet me on a trip to Sawmill Campground, in order to test the tent with two people. He did not respond in time, so I went alone. The afternoon and evening were very windy, and I had to add a guy-line to the side of the Vapor Light that the wind was clobbering. As I only had the six stakes that Sierra Designs provided, I made do with a stick I pounded into the ground with a rock. After the sun went down, clouds moved in, completely blanketing the campground with fog at 5,200 feet (1,585 m). It stayed foggy until I drove out of it the next day. I was reading 91% humidity during the early morning hours, but with the top of the vestibule door opened and the wind, I again stayed completely dry inside.
Top: The Vapor Light at our High Creek base camp on a trip to climb Mount San Gorgonio. Bottom Left: I had plenty of room for my over-size custom Kooka Bay down pad. Bottom Right: I thought I was going to get to sleep without the fly here, but high winds and clouds moving in forced me cover up.
A last trip to Lake Morena County Park for the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off saw me set up near the lake the day after a rain, sleet, and hail storm. While the day was gorgeous, the humidity that night was horrendous. I had to leave the Kickoff early Saturday morning to meet my brother-in-law for a hike further north on the PCT. At 4:00 AM, a fog hung over the lake and all the campers, and the Vapor Light was completely soaked inside and out. As even my backpack, which was sitting in the vestibule, was coated with moisture, I can’t fault the venting system of the Vapor Light. I heard later that the single-wall tent users got creamed. Thank you, double-wall! The wet night was worth it to be able to meet so many of our BPL members. Hi, guys. (Of course most won’t read this until after they finish their 2,650-mile goal.)
Camping next to Lake Morena at the 2010 PCT Kickoff. While here, the Vapor Trail encountered massive condensation.
The Vapor Light is a solid performer. I found that the Spider Hub pole design works as advertised. It does add room inside making it more comfortable to sit up and maneuver in the tent. The floor space is a bit cramped for two sleepers though, and the single front door would make it difficult for one person to exit in the night without disturbing the other person.
I feel that the Vapor Light would really benefit from a top vent on the fly as the vestibule cannot be used for this purpose in rain or snow. The other – weightier – option would to extend the vestibule so that when opened at the top, the inner tent is still protected from falling precip.
Dare to Compare
Other single-door, front entry tents that compare to the Vapor Light are the Fly Creek SL2, Seedhouse 2 and Seedhouse SL2 from Big Agnes, and the Nemo Espri 2. While the Vapor Light’s pole design makes it roomier than all the Big Agnes tents, the Espri 2 is roomier yet. The Espri has the best ventilation of them too. The Vapor Light weighs less than the Seedhouse and Espri, but is heavier than the Seedhouse SL2 and much heavier than the Fly Creek SL2. For durability, it looks to me that the Vapor Light and Espri are tied as they have pretty robust material and are made for wet weather (at least, more so than the others).
- Spider Hub pole design adds noticeable roominess
- Minimal clips make for fast set-up
- Handles wind better than most of this style
What’s Not So Good
- A bit cramped for two people
- Inner tent not protected from rain when vestibule door is open at top
- Can’t be set up in fly only mode
The Vapor Light at Sawmill Campground in the Angeles National Forest.
|Year/Manufacturer/Model||2010 Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2, Two Person Tent|
|Style||Three-season, two-person, double-wall tent.|
|Fabrics||Body: 20d nylon mesh
Floor: 3000mm 70d nylon polyurethane coated
Fly: 1500mm 40d HT nylon
|Poles and Stakes||Poles: 8.5 mm DAC Featherlite NSL poles, total weight 13.4 oz (380 g)
Stakes: 6x 6.25 in (15.9 cm) DAC aluminum J stakes, total weight 2.4 oz (68 g)
|Dimensions||Length Listed: 83 in (211 cm)
Width Listed: 39/49 in (99/124 cm)
Inside Height Listed: 38 in (97 cm)
BPL Verified Accurate
|Packed Size||6 x 18 in (15 x 46 cm)|
|Total Weight||Listed Weight: 3.93 lb (1.78 kg)
BPL Measured Weight: 3.74 lb (1.70 kg)
|BPL Trail Weight||3.44 lb (1.56 kg)|
|Protected Area||Floor Area: 25.5 ft2 (2.37 m2)
Vestibule Area: 8 ft2 (0.74m2)
|Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio||9.74 ft2/lb (2 m2/kg)|
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.