Salewa's Sierra Leone 4-Season Tent Reviewed

Adventurer Kath Fourie tests the limits of Salewa's best selling tent at an (extreme) Yoga Festival
July 30, 2023

It took a lot for us to make the purchase. Hours of crawling through websites, comparing tent reviews, weighing up what we would most use it for, biting our nails at the thought of investing our hard-earned ZAR into a brand-new tent. I for one had never actually owned a tent. I had borrowed one off my Dad for years, while my husband Mark bought his orange Marmot in his early twenties. His tent was pushing 15-years-old, and what finally drove us to getting a new one was when the plastic windows (an unusual feature, granted) fell out of the tent. We tried to patch two dinner plate size holes with duct tape, but I can confirm that duct tape does not like to stick to tent material, and that rain can pour through the holes quite easily when the duct tape falls out. Obviously, we discovered this in the middle of the night.

And so it was that we decided that since we were spending cash, why not go all in and buy something that would last us another 15 or 20 years. At this point we were weren’t married either, so I did wonder who might take custody of the tent in the event of a very bad argument. This is still up for debate, but I digress.

We chose the Sierra Leone 4 Season for a couple of reasons, but a core one being that the model has been produced for over 25 years. ‘If it ain’t broke’ rings pretty true in outdoor equipment. The other reasons were that it was reputably easy to put up, super waterproof, it has good vestibule size and length for tall people (not something I have to worry about, but Mark definitely does) and it also it looks pretty damn sexy (more my reason than Mark’s).

The first couple of times we used our tent were quite tame experience -  at the wedding of our friends in the Cedarberg, and under some plane trees at Royal Natal in the Drakensberg. With all the small camping trips it was a comfortable and spacious tent, true to its word about being waterproof with the ripstop polyamide flysheet and spacious to boot. But then sh*t got real. I took our precious tent to a yoga festival in Underberg, and that turned out to be far more dangerous than any storm.

It all went a little wrong when we started setting up tents and a huge gust front came through. I had neglected to refresh my memory about which poles went beneath or over each other (the Sierra Leone has four aluminium poles, two long ones that are the main structural poles, and two short ones that create the vestibule shape in the front and the back) and as the tent was plucked from my hands with poles in a half installed state, it cartwheeled away from me bouncing and flexing like a boet klapping it at gym. When I retrieved the tent I saw I had done a very bad thing and plugged in a long pole over a short pole, and with the arab-spring gym performance across the cow field, it had placed a lot of pressure right over the bend – and caused one segment to now be not-so-straight. I shat myself. Mark had literally said “Are you sure you want to take the good tent?” about 6 hours before that, and I had been quite irritated that he thought I was incapable of keeping our baby free from harm. I suppose he was worried that some drunk fire poi hippie may stumble into our tent and set it on fire or something. As one may imagine, he was less than impressed when I told him. “I just don't understand. A tent that can stay upright in 100km winds, and you managed to bend a pole…at a yoga festival?”…it was a sad day for my ego. And for our tent.

Never-the-less, the bent pole has not affected its performance as we have now used it in a lot more scenarios over the last few years. Here are some key points about this tent and why we love it:


We travel with a lot of stuff, and we don’t exactly pack all that light. This tent, for its weight (+-3kgs), is spacious and we’ve spent up to a week living together in it (we had Covid that time, boy that was fun). The vestibules are roomy (both sides have decent space) – and you can make tea and cook in the vestibule without burning down the tent (lord knows I have tried). The tent has couple of side pockets for storing torches and so on, and I do wish there were maybe a few more small features like that. One thing that would be nice is some kind of set up where one could hang a torch in the dome of the tent. There is one small tab but I had to thread some paracord through there and dangle things off that, not hugely convenient.

Easy to Set Up

When you’ve put up the tent once or twice you get the hang of the slightly different guy rope system, and there is a knack to binding the four poles together with the tabs sewn onto the tent. There are very easy to follow instructions stitched into the tent bag. I would like to, at this point, mention that if you haven’t erected the tent for a while, it’s worth looking at those again. Ahem. The poles are great quality and easily snap together with strong elastic bungee. The fact that the pole I compromised only sustained a mild bend is miraculous, because I can break just about anything.

The fly sheet and the main tent are connected, a clever design which makes for 50% less faffing than a normal tent, and it doesn’t compromise the water resistance at all or cause condensation issues. We also bought the footprint (that is an extra, a bit of a down point money wise but at least you do have the option to get one) which was helpful. The only thing I haven’t really fiddled with too much is the set of small straps which run beneath the tent which I assume are for adjusting tension, but to date we’ve never really known what to do with them and they’ve just stayed as is.


Our model does have a very light colour fly sheet which I was worried about, particularly when I camped in Cintsa under a tree with berries and birds who ate the berries and then returned those berries to the world via their bottoms. The poops wiped right off though with no stains, so it’s easy to clean.

Waterproof & Wind Resistant

The Sierra Leone has not disappointed in the waterproof department, and aside from being waterproof in general, the front and back door zippers are well structured to guide rain away from the tent when you’re opening and closing. It has also held up in some crazy winds in the Western Cape, despite the compromised pole. In terms of ventilation, the tent has a nifty flap high up on both sides that can be unzipped and propped open with a stiff bar that is encased in material with Velcro on the ends. This also helps with condensation, but with heavy rain they do need to be closed.


For its size the tent is light (we have the two-man version, there is also the three-man available) and packs up small. I am always amazed that the packed tent is as small as it is. It often gets packed into my large tote bag along with all my clothes and gear as it fits well in there with no issues along with my sleeping bag. We haven’t taken it on a hike though for overnighting, it is obviously a bit heavier than the ultralight counterparts, but if there are two of you sharing it then the weight won’t be an issue. If I was going to face snow and terrible weather, I would rather hedge my bets and take this tent than any other.

Really, Really Good Looking

In the immortal words of Zoolander, it is really, really good looking. We’ve had many a curious co-camper wander up and ask us about the tent because of its striking appearance, and as my friends Faye and Andrew said as they stroked it’s silky smooth sides “We’re having major tent envy right now. But we can’t have nice things until the boys are older”. That is something I will agree on, this is not the kind of tent for family camping trips where the risk of spilled hot chocolate and burning marshmallows being stuck to guy ropes are high. In fact, let us know if you need to borrow the Marmot. I’m sure some Checkers packets glued into the windows will sort out the potential drowning issues.

So, to sum up – this tent is a bad-ass tent that will stand the test of time. It makes my heart happy when I set it up as I know I’m going to be snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug. However, you will need to learn to set it up with one or two practice goes, and its price tag is not a give-away. That said, I don’t think I’ll need to worry about it falling apart anytime soon, in fact so long as I stay away from yoga festivals, it’ll probably outlive me.

I took our precious Salewa tent to a yoga festival in Underberg, and that turned out to be far more dangerous than any storm.