Affordable lodging for the solo backpacker |

Affordable lodging for the solo backpacker

Bob Ward
Aspen Times Weekly

I’ve long wanted a lightweight, one-person tent for overnight trips in the backcountry but, being a money-miser, multiple years usually pass before I act on such desires.

So it was mighty fine when a Sierra Designs Light Year showed up under the Christmas tree last year. It took several months before I put the the three-season tent to use, of course, but it’s performed well on recent summer excursions.

The Light Year 1 weighs in at less than three pounds (a huge reduction from the two-man tents I already have), and assembles easily and intuitively. It’s not a free-standing tent and must be staked to the ground, but I surmise that’s part of the reason for its $169 price – significantly less than most comparable tents, including the free-standing Vapor Light, also by Sierra Designs.

The Light Year is the smallest enclosure I’ve ever slept in but it’s also my first one-man tent, so it has the advantage of novelty. I was able to sit up comfortably inside to change clothes and dink around with my stuff, and there appeared to be ample room for gear storage. (Full disclosure – these were not backpacking trips, but tent-camps near the car, so I didn’t have a full load of clothes, cooking gear, etc. to shelter.)

Importantly, the rain fly cinches down tightly to the ground and the Light Year withstood a pounding July thunderstorm in Crested Butte. None of my possessions got wet, and the fly itself dried out quickly in the morning.

Time will tell how the Light Year handles wear and tear, how the zipper (there’s only one door) stands up to abuse, whether the seams and stitching start to fail and if there’s room to cook in the vestibule on a rainy evening. I’ve had mixed results with Sierra Designs products in the past but, based on a couple of preliminary excursions, I’m optimistic about this one. Plus, since I’m starting to sprout gray hairs, the mere weight reduction may be enough to make me a Light Year fan.

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