NOTICE: The Convert 3 worked very well on Mt Rainier. See my updated thoughts at the bottom of this post.
For an upcoming trip to climb Mt Rainier my friend and I will be using the Convert 3 from Sierra Designs for our shelter needs. The tent is on loan from Backpacker Magazine, and while I have it I thought I’d take a few pics and share my impressions. At this time I haven’t used the tent, but after our trip I will be sure to update this post with our experience. So what are we looking at…
On paper the Convert 3 looks pretty great! Initially we were planning to rent a Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 for this trip. At just over 11 lbs I wasn’t exactly excited at the thought of lugging it up a mountain. The Convert 3 is less than half the weight and offers a larger vestibule and almost the same amount of interior space. It’s probably not as bomber of a shelter as the Trango… but here’s hoping the weather will be kind to us. That said, the Convert tents are supposedly pretty dang sturdy and you can see some of the wind tunnel testing that Sierra Designs did HERE.
Convert 3 Stats:
- Seasons: 4
- Capacity: 3
- Minimum Weight: 5 lbs 13 oz
- Interior Floor Space: 41.7 square feet
- Gear Storage: (vestibule space): 17.1 square feet
- Peak Height: 43 in
- Length: 87 in
- Width: 69 in
- Fly Fabric: 20D Polyester Ripstop, 1200mm PE Coating
- Floor Fabric: 30D Nylon Ripstop, 3000mm PE Coating
- Packed Size: 19 x 6 in (pole sack + tent sack)
- Cost: $689.95
First let’s take a look at the outside. The Convert lineup utilizes similar design features to Sierra Design’s other backpacking tents the Flash and the Lightning. All of these tents use an external pole design where the rainfly attaches via clips and the main tent body hangs from the fly. This design makes the tent very quick erect and will keep the internal area dry even if setup in the rain. Hilleberg has been using a similar external pole design since the 1970’s and they’re tents are widely regarded as some of the most burly and bombproof shelters in the world.
This view shows the hooped pole structure. The Convert 3 in some ways resembles many of the hooped tunnel tent designs used by other brands because of their incredible strength. It’s different as it has a center pole the connects the three main arches adding some stability. This makes it more freestanding that other tunnel tents, but unfortunately it still falls short of being stable and freestanding. Once staked out though, things tighten up and the Convert becomes a very study shelter.
The poles are primarily held in place by clips. The clips are pretty typical. They’re made of plastic and seem study enough. They snap on easily, hold well, and aren’t too terrible to remove.
The Convert 3 uses one hubbed pole, and one straight pole. The hubbed pole is made up of the center pole and the two outside arch poles. Where these poles cross there is a plastic hub, and this hub attaches to the tent body using a special connector. Again, this connector appears plenty sturdy and goes on and off without hassle.
The center arch pole is, thankfully, not part of the main hubbed pole assembly. To reduce the cumbersomeness of having a third hub, Sierra Designs uses an interesting plastic hub assembly that has a latch mechanism to connect to the center pole. The tent body then attaches to this assembly with the same style clip that is used at the other hubbed intersections.
I have to say I like this little attachment system, but wish they had implemented it slightly differently. The hubbed pole assembly used by the Convert creates an H when put together, and then the third pole attaches in the middle. I would prefer if the attached hub were in the middle so that the hubbed system formed an X, and that the two end poles attached using SD’s latching mechanism. I feel that this would actually speed setup and teardown. The H setup is quite unwieldy and I believe this increases the chance of bending or breaking a pole. Straight poles are easier to manage and I think this slight change would make the tent easier and faster to setup. Anyway…
This is the end of the center pole above the vestibule. There is a clear clip that attaches the tent to the end of the pole and hold up the awning. The black clip provides additional support for the vestibule. Everything fits together securely and connects quickly.
Here you can see how the poles attach to the floor of the tent. It’s a typical round peg, round hole setup. Nothing special. However, the tensioner utilizes accessory cord instead of webbing. This is great in that it should be easily replaceable when and if the time comes. However, the real value is that you can easily replace the short stake loops with longer ones that would make it easier to attach to a deadman when camping in the snow.
The vestibule on the Convert 3 is a little different. First, it’s removable, and can be attached to either side of the tent. This means that you can attach a second one in the event that you need a ton of extra storage space. Also, it looks quite odd. At first glance you might think that the designers at SD totally forgot about the vestibule during the design phase, remembered they needed one at the last minute, and then hacked something together and called it good. However, when you start to look closer you see that a lot of thought went into the design.
In the image above you can see the grey skirts that can be buried in the snow or the sand to help keep blowing debris out. The design uses a single, short pole for support and once staked out provides an incredible amount of useable storage.
The zipper on the left is where the vestibule attaches to the main tent. It attaches under the rainfly which still allows for some air to move under the fly helping with ventilation.
Here you can see all of the glorious storage space available in the vestibule area. There is a ton of space. Vestibules are typically measured using square feet. Often though, much of this space isn’t actually usable. In the Convert 3 the steep walls of the vestibule make for some seriously practical space. Two people will have no problem stashing all of their gear without it hindering access to the main living space.
The pole that holds up the vestibule is located on the outside and slides into a small sleeve which holds it in place. Now, this particular tent is was marked as a sample, and maybe the production version will be different, but this area could use some work.
In the image you can see how, when under tension, the guyline attachment point is forced to the side. I feel this puts unnecessary stress on this joint, and… well… it just looks like crap. If it were up to me I would attach the guyline at the bottom of the sleeve. This would keep it centered, should be plenty strong, and would look better.
Here are the guyline attachment points on the outside of the tent. There are (6) attachment points total. One of the benefits of having the poles on the outside is that you can wrap your guylines around the pole a few times transferring some of the load to the pole. This reduces stress on the fly without sacrificing strength.
The interior of the tent is very livable, though it’s not particularly feature rich. The tunnel shape means the walls are quite steep providing a good bit of headroom. Here you can see an Exped SynMat that is 77 x 25 x 4. It’s a very large mat and as you can see there is plenty of room. This tent is going to be a palace for myself and my friend.
Here’s a look at the door opposite the vestibule with the nylon panel unzipped to expose the mesh. The Convert is actually a hybrid single-wall/double-wall design. Most of the tent provides two layers of fabric between you and the elements outside. However, on the ends there is just a single layer of waterproof fabric. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. On one hand the single wall ends probably sacrifice some heat retention. However, on the other hand, this design is likely more breathable which should keep condensation down.
The inside of the tent is very yellow. It might be a little too yellow. I have the Sierra Designs Flash 2 and it has a neutral colored ceiling, with yellow walls. It’s nice. It’s bright and the yellow helps warm things up a bit.
The Convert… it’s very yellow. However, a white or grey fly would make it hard to spot against a white, snow covered background. So, if we come at this from a visibility perspective, I much prefer the yellow color to some of the other choices… primarily red or orange.
In this photo you can also see (2) of the (4) interior stash pockets. Storage is an area that SD has overlooked. The options in the SD Flash suck, and the options in the Convert aren’t much better. Come’on Sierra Designs! Would it really kill you to include some more interior storage. Just replace the existing pockets with mesh that runs along the entire length of the tent and open at the top. I just want to be able to get stuff off the floor so it’s easier to find and keep organized.
Along the apex of the ceiling I noticed there was a series of loops. I took advantage of these loops and added a clothes line so that we have a place to hang things up to dry. I assume that’s what these were for anyway.
This is the space between the rainfly and the interior tent body. On Sierra Design’s 3-season tents the interior tent body is made of mesh. On the 4-season models they use a breathable, uncoated nylon. They do this to maintain a significant level of ventilation while providing additional protection from blowing snow and sand.
The bottom line… I really can’t say as I have yet to spend a night in the Convert. However, upon initial inspection things look pretty darn good. The Convert is light, has a ton of space, that space is very usable, and it seems burley as heck… Not a bad combo. If you’re in the market for a 4-season tent do yourself a favor and check out the Convert lineup from Sierra Designs.
Also, stay tuned as I will be updating this post once I’ve spent a little quality time with the Convert 3.
UPDATE: Post Mt Rainier
Where to start… Well, let’s just begin with stating that we think the new Convert 3 from Sierra Designs is pretty dang awesome, and after calling it home for the better part of a week at 10,000 feet on Mt Rainier we’re pretty keen on this shelter.
The Convert 3 is extremely livable, especially when used for 2 people. Once setup it allowed us to forget about it and get on with our business. The large vestibule was perfect for getting things out of the weather, and it’s more than large enough for 2 packs and gear while still leaving plenty of space to easily enter and exit.
In the evenings we would close up the doors and then unzip the nylon panel exposing the mesh between the main body and the vestibule. We hoped that this would have the effect of keeping the condensation down. Maybe it worked… Maybe it didn’t… It’s hard to say. All we know is that we had zero condensation problems inside the tent.
On the morning we made our summit bid, we awoke around 11pm. When exiting the tent it was hard not to notice all of the condensation built up on the outside. For a moment I thought it had rained, but regardless the inside was bone dry.
The Convert 3 is well ventilated, warm, comfortable, and I would gladly own this tent. I’m not sure how it would hold up in warmer temps, but it was perfect for our trip to Rainier and would have been ideal for exploring Iceland.
I used to covet the Hillenberg Nallo 3 GT, but after spending time with the Convert 3 that has changed. The Convert 3 is almost $200 cheaper while being roughly the same weight and having more interior space. The vestibule on the Convert is smaller than the Nallo GT’s, but it’s proven plenty large enough for my needs. If I really needed/wanted extra storage I could always add on a second vestibule to the Convert 3.
If you’re looking for a sturdy shelter with plenty of space that you won’t hate carrying, definitely check out the 3-person, 4-season Convert 3 from Sierra Designs. I promise you won’t regret it.