Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $369
For Ultralight backpackers who want the security of a "critter-proof" tent, this is a good choice.
- Small pack size
- Cramped for 2 people
- Not quite "free standing"
Select this tent if light weight and quality materials is your main requirement. The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is marketed as a 2-person tent, but is very cramped for 2 people. I selected this as a one-person tent because I like room to keep my boots, and sometimes my pack, inside my tent.
A lot of my backpacking is in deserts of the Southwest, so keeping "critters" such as spiders and scorpions away from my boots and sleeping bag is paramount, so I use a tent rather than a tarp or rainfly as a shelter, even as an ultralighter. This tent, with footprint, weighs in at 3 pounds, and you can cut the weight by 7 oz. if you don't use a footprint (groundcloth).
It is rated as a 3-season tent, but I have camped in sleet and snow in temps below 20 degrees high above timberline, and it keeps the wind out just fine, so a properly rated sleeping bag makes this a 4-season tent under winter conditions not including winter storms. No experience there, but I suspect that the material is too light to withstand really high winter storm winds and snow weight. The tent is almost free-standing in that it can be moved around after erecting, but must be staked out at the rear in two places to be fully extended.
The vestibule is adequate for boots and a backpack, but requires that you climb over them to get in and out. I usually keep my boots inside and put my backpack under the rainfly on the side with part of it exposed and covered by a pack cover so it's out of the way. There are ample tie-downs on the fly to keep it away from the tent body in wind and rain, and after many rainstorms it is intact with no signs of tears or stitching failures at any stress points.
If you're looking for a top quality, ultralight tent for one person, or for 2 very cozy campers, this is a good choice that I highly recommend.
Price Paid: $349
I mostly go on short (typically two days two nights) backpacking trips in and around East Tennessee, USA. Although the days out are short the miles covered are often more than 15 per day, so I try to be somewhat light in gear weight.
Prior to purchasing this tent I mostly used a The North Face Solo 12 which I came to despise for its constant condensation in my area.
I bought the BA Fly Creek 2 in mid 2010 and have now used it for at least 50 backpacking nights. (I’m a geek. I counted: 31 of those nights are actually documented here on Trailspace in the Trip Reports forum. ))
I purchased this product on-line without ever seeing it in person and gave great weight to its awards and favorable press.
My first night out in this tent was on top of Mt Sterling in the Smokey Mountains during a strong wind and rain storm and although I had many misgivings the tent held up just fine. This initial good first impression didn’t last as subsequent use and experiences slowly made other impressions.
• Light weight: this is the two person model and as packaged is less than 3 pounds.
• Overall strength: Pole structure is very strong for a hub type system (a very stable pitch):
Monsoon winds at Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon
• The floor is so thin that even when using a footprint you must be very careful in choosing and grooming a campsite before pitching this tent:
While camping atop a 5000 + foot bald I awoke to water pooling in the floor of the tent. I later discovered several small abrasion holes and repaired them with TearAid tape. It’s easy to penetrate this floor unintentionally and I now carry both a factory footprint and a piece of 2 mil plastic to reinforce the ground sheet.
• The distribution of space in the design allows the tent to drape and touch even a short person like me trying to sit up in it. In condensation scenarios this is a bummer.
• It is susceptible to misting and runoff in extended rain: On more recent trip during torrential rain (about 16 hours worth ), I experienced what was probably a combination of “misting” and condensation pole hub runoff resulting in several large drops of water falling through the upper mesh onto my face.
This tent really is just ok and a bit disappointing for the money. I consider it to be more of a large delicate bivy than a true tent, but its price is very tent like. Its remarkable light weight seems to come at the sacrifice of durability. For the long miles days where you’ll only be in the tent for sleeping it’s serviceable (that’s mostly what I do with it).
I’ve gotten 50 nights of mostly successful shelter out of this product so it gets at least two stars for that, and Big Agnes is great company to deal with so that counts for an additional half star.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Bought it on sale
Extremely lightweight, easy to set up, semi-free standing tent. Very tight for 2 people, but great for 1 with gear.
- Light weight
- Easy set-up
- Semi-free standing
- Very limited space for 2 people
- Rain fly does not protect door when getting in and out
I bought this tent to replace my 1980 something dome tent. Once I have a piece of equipment, I hate to change. I am getting older and am trying to go as lightweight as possible, but am on a budget. I researched online before buying this tent, which I found on sale.
I would like to approach this review from the time I leave the truck. Pack weight on this tent is not much more than you will end up with if you only carry a hammock and fly. At only 2 lbs 2 oz, this is really light. It packs into a small bag, and if separated from the poles and stakes, you can even take advantage of one of the small compression bags for an even more compact package. Speaking of the poles, they fold up into a roll about 1" x 19" and the stakes weigh practically nothing.
Once you find your camping spot, the tent pitches very easily. The "Y" pole design is easy to figure out, and tent clips can be easily located in the dark. If it's raining, the fly can be quickly thrown over the poles to make the tent waterproof. At this point, the "foot" area should be staked out to maximize space.
There are 2 clips in the middle, between the fly and the tent, that also expand the interior space. If you are alone in the tent, these are not a big deal. Also I should mention that if you are setting up in the dark, these can be a challenge but I stress that they can be overlooked. From here, just stake out the fly, including the vestibule, and the tent is ready for sleeping.
Inside, as I mentioned, it is cramped for 2 people. My teenage son and I have shared it a couple of times and we are shoulder to shoulder. I'm much more comfortable if it's just me and my gear. With this said, this is not a "coffin" tent. It really is pretty spacious by yourself. You do have to watch the zipper on the fly. This lightweight material can get caught, but although this has happened a couple of times, it has never ripped and I've never had a hard time getting it out of the zipper.
I have been in hot weather, high winds, rain, and light snow with this tent. In the heat, the Fly Creek is very well ventilated and comfortable. If it's a clear night, the fly can be removed (or left off) for additional ventilation. High winds and rain are not a problem. The poles are plenty strong, which was shown with the snow too, and the fly comes all the way to the ground preventing any problems with either. The vestibule consistently kept my boots dry.
I should also mention again that the design of the rain fly allows rain to come into the front of the tent when entering and leaving the tent in the rain. This isn't a big deal, but if your son is still sleeping and you have to go to the bathroom...well, you get the picture. In the snow, which seems to be the worst for condensation, I had absolutely NONE.
I have only used this tent for about 10 months now, at least 1x per month, and will be using it for as long as possible. I will be checking in again in about a year to give an update.
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $80
Gossamer light ... Surprisingly secure.
- Light weight
- Easy setup
- Two people have to really like one another to live in this one.
- Water enters when fly and door are unzipped in a rain.
Update to the review below:
After backpacking for a week in Grand Gulch in SE Utah I car camped for a night at Hovenweep National Monument. The campground there is on broad high ground and very exposed. I set the tent up in strong winds, with no problem.
That night a tremendous storm hit us starting with strong, gusting winds hitting the tent from the side. Next came rain, and nearly continuous thunder and lightning, most of it at least 5 seconds away. Around 5 in the morning big winds came again but this time there was hard rain, so hard that I plugged my ears. It was so loud that it hurt.
I laid there thinking that I was likely to get wet and should I get into the car. But I stayed and I stayed perfectly dry. At dawn I got up to see that the tent fly was covered with water and sand but the guy lines were still taut and everything was in place. I was impressed.
**** Original Review ****
I got my BA Fly Creek UL2 for $80, slightly used, at an REI garage sale. I would not have paid the full price of it, but I am a tightwad.
I agree with the review by Patman, although I've not experienced the problems that he has. I can see that those problems are likely. (I'd return the tent if I was him.)
My reason for writing this review is that when it is raining and I need to get in/out of the tent the opening in the fly is set far enough back so that water drips onto the floor of the tent. A lame design.
Prior to this I'd had an REI Quarter Dome T2. It weighed 1.5 pounds more, but was a more secure and roomy tent. On the other hand, I believe I'll continue to use my Fly Creek most of the time (not winter/snow or car camping) until it dies. But I won't buy another.
Price Paid: $350
I've been interested in this tent for a while. I was drawn to its light weight, double wall for rain, purported room for two, and various good reviews.
I have long used a single wall Black Diamond Lighthouse, which was roomy, light, and fast to set up. But while the single, full-side Lighthouse door affords a great view and ventilation in good weather, I admit I don't like doors that fall to the floor when open (and thus the door is too easily dragged out and into dirt/weather). Plus, although it has fared OK in light rain, I was always unsure of how it would do in really nasty rain. Put a side-zipper on the Lighthouse, construct it with a rainfly, keep the weight about the same as the UL2, etc., and I'd be interested.
Unfortunately, after test driving the UL2 on a solo cross-country trip in the Olympic Mtns, it just didn't fit the bill.
Good things: low weight, compact packed size, and construction details.
Not so good: contrary to the advertizing, it is not freestanding. It requires about 10 stakes on all sides to get the pitch correct and taut. That's OK if you camp in big spaces with soft ground. Interior volume isn't very good and height is low. I'm only 5'9" and shoulder room when sitting upright, is too tight especially compared to the steep walled high volume Lighthouse.
So, I concluded the UL2 won't work for me, since I often find myself in less than ideal high alpine camps (hard ground, rocky, etc), and need a bit more interior volume, especially for two.
I will continue to seek a truly freestanding tent... sturdy, double wall, one front or two side swing doors, with a footprint and weight that come close to the UL2. Not sure they're out there, but I keep hoping...
Price Paid: $349
I wanted this tent for long time. Got it as a gift from my girlfriend. We've tried it once this season. It works.
It's not big. You need to stake the tent and fly out to get proper room, or else your feet/legs will rub against the walls. Maybe this isn't such a big deal in ideal conditions but in anything other than sunny/warm weather you'll want to stake it out for maximum room and ventilation. It's very durable so far.
The gear vestibule is tiny. It could have been bigger given the weight - they're going for ounce reduction in this tent for sure.
It's VERY easy to set up. With the fly I can set the tent in 2 minutes or less - even with stakes and guying out the fly it takes less than 5 min the first time. And it weighs only 2 pounds 10 ounces by my scale (everything included). So very worth it.
Only downside is it can only sleep two snugly - probably can't fit a dog, can't protect gear well (but if you lined your bag with a trash compactor bag like you should have it won't be a problem) and you can't play hide and seek. Though it is set for a loft attachment for extra storage beside the side pockets.
Can't speak to a footprint. Do you need it? Maybe if you only sleep in rocky/sandy conditions or use a spiked sleeping pad.
Definitely awesome. Worth the money in weight savings.
Price Paid: $329
Well, I hate to admit it but age might be catching up with my ability to carry heavier backpacks. My son, 12, and I backpack and camp out 3 times a year and I go up alone another 6 or 7 times a year, hiking along the divide or Flat Tops in Colorado so I decided to invest in the Salt Creek L2 to save 3 pounds and wish I would of done it 2 years ago.
The Salt Creek at 2 lb 10 oz still provides room for the 2 of us, it's just not a long as our Emerald Mountain UL3 and has less storage space under the vestibule.
There is nothing I don't like about this tent, very easy and quick to set up, light weight even with the footprint and sturdy in the wind. Colorado has been dry in the high country since I bought the tent and have not spent time in any rain but, if it's like the Emerald Mountain, that shouldn't be a problem.
The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because the footprint doesn't extend past the front edge of the tent to the tip of the vestibule so the inside of the tent get more debris in it. NO big deal for all of the advantages I experienced the 3 times I've use it so far.
Another winner from Big Agnes!
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