The Clips Flashlight 2 feels like a return to form for Sierra Designs. It’s a complete re-working of a classic model that’s been tracing trails since the 90s. Promising improved livability, reduced weight, and the implementation of new technologies, can this new classic hold it’s own?
The Clip Flashlight 2 is a non-freestanding full double wall shelter built around two DAC Press Fit aluminum arches: one larger arch in the front with a smaller arch in the back. The tent body is primarily constructed from 15D no-see-um mesh, with burly 70D nylon taffeta for the floor, with a 3000mm waterproof coating applied. The rain fly is similar in construction, but a slightly lighter 68D poly nylon, which provides extra tear strength. It’s also coated, but with 1500mm waterproofing to shave some weight. The tent has a single front door for entry with a spacious 8.8 square foot vestibule, two interior pockets, and includes the “Night Glow” kit, a light weight diffusion pouch that allows a headlamp to be used as a lantern. The tent weighs 3 lbs 14 oz packed, has a peak height of 42 inches, and retails for $199.99.
What I liked
The Clip 2 is one of the easiest non-freestanding tents I’ve ever set up. It’s as simple as laying out the body, staking down the four corners, popping in the poles/fastening the clips, and throwing the rain fly over. It takes all of about 5 minutes, requires no fussing/fighting to get the proper tension, and it doesn’t constantly try to fall over while setting it out like many other non-freestanding tents. There are tensioners provided for both the body and the rain fly, which simplify the setup in a few ways. First, the body tensioners extend out from the edges and can be tightened back in, modifying their length/providing addition tension. This allows the stake out points to dodge rocks in the ground while still pulling the floor flat. Second, the tensioners on the rain fly can be tightened down, even when the body has been pitched at less than ideal angles. This combination allows some extra flexibility when staking the tent out, allowing the stakes to be moved about in order to find accommodating soil free of rocks or roots. Even while rushing setup in the wind and rain, it goes up quickly and effortlessly. Taking the tent down is just as simple as setting it up, just in reverse.
Livability inside the Clip 2 is quite good. The front arch is much larger than pictures generally portray, with a huge front loop that stands 42″ of the ground, 52″ wide and is large enough for two average sized adults to sit upright underneath, side by side, gently touching the mesh with their shoulders. Paired with the less enormous but entirely sufficient 45″ wide lower loop for the feet, it provides a fairly generous 30 square feet of interior space, mostly allocated near the head where it’s needed the most. I’ve found it to be an absolute palace for one, allowing myself, and all my gear to fit inside with room to spare. Two campers can happily lay side by side with a few spare inches on all sides for equipment like gloves, jackets and such, with room for backpacks and boots under the vestibule. There is enough space for both campers to move about inside at the same time. Getting dressed or packing up camp results in a minimal amount of elbow gnashing and angry glares, effectively saving marriages and prison space nation wide. It’s also a quiet tent, assuming you connect the small Velcro tabs underneath the fly to the poles and guy it out to stabilize it. Sleep during a wind storm comes easy.
Circling around to the vestibule, which turns out to be quite large, there is ample storage space underneath for two complete suites of gear, all while being able to leave a narrow pathway for entry and exit if the proper Tetris skills are channeled. It does a great job of keeping gear dry during rain, shedding splashes and the like, and it rolls up and away, clipping to the fly to make a nice breezeway. This provides excellent views and ventilation on a clear day, and makes getting in and out a bit easier too. The vestibule can also be staked out with trekking poles and a little guy line, making a nice sun shelter.
Speaking of ventilation, this is another area where the Clip 2 performed well. The body is entirely mesh and the rain fly sits several inches away from it all around. This allows a gentle flow of fresh air to move throughout the lower spectrum of the tent, venting off hot air and allowing moist air to escape, without feeling too drafty. The tent can also be pitched without the rain fly, allowing for great star viewing and relief from hot summer evenings.
Protection from the elements has been fantastic, with rain and wind having no chance of splashing in or leak through the tightly seal seams of the fly. Even in very humid conditions where condensation will inevitably build up on the inner walls of any rain fly, the mesh body creates a reliably protective barrier all around, completely preventing my sleeping bags and gear from getting damp. If camping in drafty snow banks or sand it’s possible that some spin draft could blow in due to the low mesh panels, but those aren’t the conditions this tent was built for.
Durability and stability have both been great. The tent materials are surprisingly rugged, requiring no use of a foot print even on rough rocky soil. The sturdy frame, mostly taut pitch and robust guy lines help to create a shelter that’s quite solid in moderate winds, when properly staked and guyed out of course. The included sheep hook style stakes do a great job of holding in the ground without bending, so I’ve never had to worry about the non-freestanding design pulling up during a storm, and they can handle a real beating. I do recommend a gentle push of the foot or light tapping with a rock to embed them, however.
A fairly spacious sub-four pound tent for under two hundred bucks that doesn’t fall apart under pressure? That’s a solid value. Plus, it includes the surprisingly useful “Night Glow” lantern kit to adapt a headlamp into a lantern. Nice.
It’s not yellow.
What I didn’t like
While the ventilation is good, it’s not perfect. There is no top vent, and the vestibule doesn’t have a double zipper, which can be handily used as makeshift vents when the weather allows. This being the case, in very hot/humid conditions some condensation will built up (as with all tents), but muggy wet air has less opportunity to escape if the wind isn’t moving enough to make it under the rain fly. Although not necessary, I’d like to see double zippers or even a top vent added for future revisions, just to help with those extra steamy nights.
Some corners of the tent’s rain fly connect with quick clips (awesome), others connect with grommets (less awesome) that must be slipped under the tent pole to connect. This slightly slows down pitching (about 40 seconds to a minute) and can be a little more troublesome to set up with cold hands as you have to apply some force while working them underneath to get it connected. They probably did this as a cost saving measure, but I’d preferred to have clips all around just to further simplify the process. They’re also not color coded, which isn’t a big issue with this tent as it’s pretty obvious where they go (clips to clips, grommets to poles), but this would have also been nice and is pretty standard these days.
Reaching for the zippers on the far regions of the vestibule is a nice early early morning stretch routine, but also a little bit of a pain that requires some crawling out of the door to achieve.
I occasionally found a little looseness in the rain fly after pitching it that I just couldn’t work out. I’m not sure if it was the terrain or something else causing it. It’s nothing particularly troublesome, but it could result in some flapping in high winds (below) and if it touches the inner mesh it could create a damp spot. I’m looking into if this is an issue with all the tents or just mine (it was a demo unit that was graciously sent to me later for review and could have been mishandled). An image below shows what I ran into.
I’d love to see this design also provided in a featherlight edition. It would cost considerably more, but a sub 3 pounds pack weight seems like it would be easily achievable.
The Clip Flishlight 2 isn’t a fancy, futuristic design. It’s not pushing the boundaries of what’s physically possible with translucently thin and light fabrics or carbon fiber poles. Instead, it concentrates on tried and proven design fundamentals and materials that work, and work well. The two hoop design is sturdy, fast to set up, and (now) provides an excellent space to weight ratio that’s borderline impossible to beat within the price range. The reduced, yet high quality frame design drops costs and weight, while resulting in absolutely no sacrifices to durability or livability. I love having such a large, viable vestibule on a front entry design, and the full double wall design has kept me dry and warm in the most humid, chilly conditions. I would like to see some extra venting and full clips all around, but those are minor quibbles and truthfully non-issues. At this price and weight, I’m not going to get hung up on non-essentials. It’s an phenomenal value that doesn’t skimp where it’s important, and it’s likely to outlast shelters that ring up at three times it’s cost. In my book, that’s phenomenal.
The highest of Recommendations if you’re on a modest budget
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Sierra Designs for their continued support and for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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