4 season protection at 3 season weights? The Sierra Designs Convert 2 tent promises to be just that. With a removable vestibule, beefed up construction, and a sturdy design, this could work.
The Convert two is designed for winter use. It has a more robust pole system than most 3 season tents, breathable nylon walls for wind protection, and heartier materials designed to handle a bit more abuse than typical lightweight shelters. It’s built around a triple arch design with three hubs. Three Yunam aluminum poles create the main body, arching over the head, waist and foot of the tent, with a central pole running the length from head to toe, connecting them together. There is a single front opening door with a revealable mesh window with a waterproof barrier weather shield zipped over top of it. A fully removable vestibule connects to the front via a zipper to add an additional space for gear, and to provide better protection from snow and wind. The body of the tent is 20D polyester, with the fly being 20D ripstop nylon. It has a beefier 68D polyester ripstop bathtub floor. The tent comes in at 84″ long, 55″ wide at the head, 49″ at the foot, with a 43″ peak height. The vestibule adds another 34″ to the front with a peak height of about 43″ also. The tent comes with 15 stakes, 8 guy lines, and a nice “burrito” storage sack. The packed weight is 5 lbs 12 oz, 4 lbs 2 oz. without the vestibule, and retail is $499.95.
What I liked
The Convert 2 does a great job of bridging the gap between a 3 season and 4 season tent. It’s lighter than most 4 season tents, but also does a good job of holding up to the elements of winter. It achieves this by a careful selection of materials in particular places. The Yunan poles are lightweight and often used in three season tents, but here they’re arched into three, strong, arches. The extra pole at the waist of the tent is specifically placed to cut down on buffeting, while the poles at each end are entirely structural. Along the length of the tent is another long aluminum pole that terminates into sturdy clips which apply a hefty amount of tension along the tent, creating a rigid pitch. This, combined with ample guy lines and stakes makes for a wonderfully stable shelter. Strong wind, hard rain, and even moderate snow is absolutely no problem, assuming a proper pitch with use of the guy lines. The shape of the tent does a great job of shedding snow too. Internal guy line connection points are available for high elevation camping, if needed.
Build quality is great. Hinted at above, everything here has been carefully chosen to minimize weight when possible, while staying robust when essential. The Yunan poles, while less popular in use than DAC, hold up wonderfully with thin but durable metal hubs connecting them at joints. Extra thick polyester ripstop is used on the floor for added resistance to moisture forcing its way up front the ground (a problem on snow), and it does a great job of holding up to long term use on harsh soil and rock. The fly is a lighter 20D ripstop nylon, but holds up great to the conditions that most people will subject a tent to. The seams are all taped and sealed from the factory, and the stitch work is top notch. Even the stakes are guy lines are of pretty good quality. I have no reservations with it holding up for a long, long time.
Livability in the Convert is quite good. The large arching poles create plenty of shoulder and head room, easily making room for most pairs of campers. Sitting up and moving about is no problem, with plenty of space for getting dressed and adjusting the living quarters. Two people can sit up comfortably, providing enough space for a game of cards or reading. The large vestibule allows all gear to be stashed outside, freeing up even more space inside. There are a few generous pockets, enough to keep lamps and gloves off the ground, and there are plenty of points to string lines for drying close or hanging other gear off the ground.
Getting in and out of the tent is also pretty easy. The large vertical door allows campers to simply sit into the tent, making lacing up or taking off shoes much easier when there is no vestibule. When the vestibule is in use, the crawl space (typically unobstructed thanks to it’s large storage capacity) is large enough to not pose too much of challenging when coming and going. It has the added benefit of blocking rain or snow when suiting up, great for late night bath breaks or foul weather.
Ventilation is quite good, with a large window at the foot that can be opened up to reveal a protective but breezy mesh panel, air gaps along the entire circumference of the fly, and a vestibule that can be partially unzipped near the top for a little extra air flow. Even better, the front vertical door can be unzipped to reveal another much larger mesh panel that provides a nice breeze on mild nights. When the front and back windows are both open it creates a nice breezeway when not using the vestibule.
Despite the ample ventilation, the shelter still manages to block all wind and snow drift when zipped up. When doing so, it provides a nice, breeze free interior that goes a long way to cut the chill of nights that threaten to break the thermometer.
Speaking of the vestibule can be left at home to cut a significant amount of weight (about 1 lb. 8 oz.). This is great if the tent will occasionally be used as a solo tent, or if gear can be stashed under a pack cover outside. Dumping the vestibule also improves ventilation, a great option for use in warmer conditions. Attaching and removing the vestibule is as simple as pulling a long zipper, and setting the vestibule up only requires a single pole and about 3 stakes. It’s a rare feature that comes in handy in more situations than one might imagine.
Achieving a good pitch with the Convert 2 is basically guaranteed.The pole system forces the shelter to the exact shape it needs to be, meaning pitching in windy or dark conditions still results in a good pitch. It always set up taut, even when working around rocks and roots in the soil (a non-issue with the adjustable corners). Every corner can be tightened down to nail down the tension, and small Velcro tabs under the fly guarantee even fly tension (I recommend you use these in windy conditions).
Setup is actually easier than I expected. The first time I looked at the shelter, I thought the fact that they used thin clips instead of loops would create a challenge with cold hands, but this turned out to not be the case. Even with mittens, I was able to complete most of the steps of the pitch with no problems. The frame sections snap together and are permanently hubbed together, speeding and simplifying setup. This paired with the color coded corners eliminates most of the guesswork too. Pitching is as simple as staking the corners, popping in the poles, and lifting the body to clip it in place. From there, the rain fly slides over and is connected via loops that slide under the tips of the poles. The vestibule just stakes out after attaching the pole to the outside and clipping it on. One must make sure to keep the long pole that runs the length of the tent on top of the other poles at the intersections at all times, otherwise the clips beneath them won’t be able to connect (you’ll find this out last), but other than that it’s pretty simple.
The simple loops under the poles and clips are easier to use frozen than they look. The loops are wide enough that they slip easily over the poles, and they provide enough resistance to flexing to hold their loop shape while trying to connect them. They can freeze to the poles, however, but this is a problem with basically every design I’ve come across, not just this system.
The colors, when viewed from the inside,create a soft, blue and gold sunrise like sky box that can be seen as the sun penetrates through the fly, even in overcast conditions. It’s wonderful and makes for a nice mood booster on long, dreary days.
The “burrito” storage sack does a great job packing the tent away and minimizing it’s storage size. It takes a bit of practice to figure out how to get the tent into the correct shape though. When actually packing it for carry, however, I don’t recommend it as it takes a while to pack back inside. Just stuff the tent inside your pack and you’ll be better off.
What I didn’t like
Once removing the vestibule, the material that is left over creates a little awning (nice!) but it’s also a bit flappy (bummer). During very windy conditions it can become a little noisy as it flaps about, but it’s not intolerable. The vestibule itself, when in use, also moves about more than the rest of the tent. The flat walls it creates catch little wind, but they never really pith super taut, allowing the to buffet a bit. It’s mitigated by adding some extra guy lines to the exposed pole that forms its support, but there aren’t enough included lines to do this from the factory.
While pitching the tent is fairly straightforward, it can take a minute. You have to connect all three arches, the center pole and it’s hubs, then the fly, then several guy lines and stakes. It’s not difficult, but it certainly takes more time that I’m used to (probably about 6-10 minutes depending on your experience with it). Once it is set up, tearing it down takes similar time, with a small delay coming from how well the clips attach (they’re rather tight, which is great for wind, but takes some effort to pop off with cold hands).
Wind resistance takes a hit when not using the vestibule. The flat front wall that’s left catches wind and can sway and rock under heavy gusts. I’ve not found it to be a structural issue, but it’s certainly more noisy and distracting to try to sleep.
Internally, there aren’t many included organizational options. There are two small pockets, one on each side of the door, but nothing overhead or at the feet. You can add your own via the small loops found inside, but included pockets are very limited.
It doesn’t hold up to heavy wind as well as more dedicated 4 season shelters that weigh several pounds more, although it shouldn’t be expected to. This tent has a place, and it holds up great it’s most wintery situations, but it’s not designed for mountaineeering. I just wouldn’t take it to the extremes.
There have been lots of tents popping up in the lightweight four season category lately. Manufacturers are finally realizing that most people just want something that’s warm, comfortable, and livable in moderate winter or windy conditions, and a 9 pound hunk of a tent isn’t going to work. That means the competition is getting stiff. Luckily, Sierra Designs has been in the game for a long time now and they’re up to the task. The 2017 convert 2 takes many cues from previous designs, keeping what worked and ditching what didn’t. I love the spacious interior, comparatively massive vestibule, and the large awning like front entrance has always been a favorite of mine. The triple arch pole system holds up great to wind and lets snow roll right off, providing solid protection for most conditions found under 14,000 feet, and the ability to ditch the vestibule the shed weight makes for a tent that can be used in a much wider range of conditions than most shelters. The Convert 2 is surprisingly lightweight, easily beating out traditional 4 season tents, and even many 3 season tents when used without the vestibule. It’s warm, cozy, and makes for a nice retreat when the weather outside might otherwise seem threatening or unwieldy. If the goal is weight, flexibility, and livability, this is an excellent option for those who want to push their camping level to twelves months out of the year.
For more information on Sierra Designs and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, https://sierradesigns.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Sierra Designs 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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