The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Sierra Designs Convert 2: The Do-It-All Tent
Posted on: October 13, 2008
Weight: 5 pounds, 7 ounces (with vestibule)
I spent my first nine nights in Sierra Designs's single-wall Convert 2 tent on a March ice-climbing expedition to Icefall Brook, a remote, heli-access-required part of the Canadian Rockies.
The waterproof and breathable Drizone material and the clever design provided me with everything I needed on that frigid trip. It was lightweight at just 4 pounds, 6 ounces in "bare-bones" mode, storm proof and so well ventilated that I could literally stick my head through the opening. It kept bad weather out, it was more than roomy enough for two, and I easily set it up in just a few minutes.
Jake's Corners is the first noticeable design difference between the Convert 2 and the four other brands of single-wall tents I've owned, used and abused, from Pakistan to Patagonia. Jake's Corners are four optional tripod-like poles that you can tuck into the corners of your tent to transform into a wider, more livable space. It also eliminates pole rotation, a problem that can lead to pole failure in severe weather.
The corners, which come standard with the Convert 2, added extra comfort during the long nights and provided more space to sort my heaping piles of gear. It snowed and rained on a daily basis, and yet my stuff remained dry: not once did I experience condensation on the interior of the walls. I used the optional vestibule's window to check on the weather, and the groundsheet ensured that the floor didn't become damp.
Soon the winter gave way to car-camping road trips, and finally the alpine season in British Columbia's Bugaboo Provincial Park arrived. I opted to go light to the Bugs and tested the tent without Jake's Corners, the vestibule or the groundsheet. It wasn't long before daily thunderstorms started lashing the tent with rain, hail and high winds.
The Convert 2 was one of just a few tents near the summit of Mt. Applebee that didn't get destroyed by one particularly nasty hailstorm. While the guy-down system proved adequate against the high winds, it would have been nice if Sierra Designs had added two more points in the middle (on the long sides) to prevent the tent from being flattened by the heaviest of gusts. The reflective door, guy-outs and zippers always helped me find my way back in the dark and were crucial after a long climb or a bottle of scotch at my neighbor's campsite.
I lived in the tent for about thirty days before Applebee's granite slabs started wearing on the floor and the back corners' poles punched right through the fabric. Those areas should be beefed up and handled with care. All in all, the tent saw a lot of abuse, but only the floor showed signs of damage. This has happened to every other single-wall tent I've owned. Maybe I need to be a more loving owner?
Sierra Designs is working on reducing its environmental footprint by using PVC-free seam tape and DAC Featherlite NSL poles. The pole materials allow Sierra Designs to use less phosphoric and nitric acid in its anodizing process. In this day and age, it's necessary that we, as consumers, choose more environmentally sensitive products whenever possible. It's good to see a well-known, 43-year-old company take initiative—and it's partly why this reasonably priced, well-designed tent easily won the Mountain Standards award of excellence.
Pros: Excellent value; versatile; outstanding ventilation system; constructed with environmentally sensitive materials.
Cons: Floor material isn't tough enough, especially in the corners; additional guy points on the sides would be useful.