User Review: Big Agnes Wolf Mountain 6
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Quite a few dollars...
For a very large sized base camp (aproximately 9 feet by eighteen) it is very easy to set-up and take-down, even in very windy conditions for a little old man with his service dog looking on. We gave it a good work-out on this trip. All in all, a very good base camp or car camping tent for a couple with kids.
- Big Agnes's fine reputation and excellent service are just some of the things to expect when using their product.
- This is a space hog and will not fit on most camping pads so you have to locate a campground with enough space to lay it out.
- Also, the large expanse of mesh will surprise you at times when it droops, a technical error that needs fixing.
Big Agnes’ Wolf Mountain Tent Passes Test — On Month Long Camping Trip
We began our camping trip with a stay at Arches National Park our camping trip followed with visits to Sand Island in Utah and El Morro National Monument in New Mexico. At El Morro we were warned by the Ranger that a cold front with winds up to 60 mph was bearing down on us. So it was here, in western New Mexico, that the frequent high winds occurred during most of time had its start while on this month-long journey with a new Big Agnes Wolf Mountain 6 tent.
Our initial experience with New Mexico’s desert winds was at the BLM campground at Datil Well. It is located near the Very Large Array (VLF) site of 27 ranging radio telescopes, some 50 miles west of Socorro, New
Mexico. The winds came on in the late afternoon while we were setting up the tent. They built up until they were 35-40 mph gusts, coming in from the west although we were told to expect 50 mph strong gale force winds. The next day they lessened until later in the afternoon. Then as we broke camp the following day there were storms of 35-40 mph, which added some difficulty to packing. As we left there were dust storms blowing in from the west.
We made it across three desert regions on our way to the Three Rivers region, north of Tularosa. There were a number of billowing wind/dirt/dust storms coming first from the south to north, then north east. This very unstable wind changed direction frequently; finally the switching winds came from the west as we arrived at the new camping site. It was to prove that there is nothing to the claim that any tent is “free-standing” when one can never tell if excessive winds will come up. Strong winds are always a possibility and each part of the tent should be anchored to the ground.
We had arrived initially at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site. Styled as a “BLM campground,” it actually allows
for only two RVs, with amenities. Published reports are very misleading, to say the least. The so-called tent sites for the little sand boxes were really primitive and little consideration was given when the “designers” placed those tent pads, seemingly as an afterthought. To put it bluntly, they were junk! I would be
surprised if they ever have any real usage. These three so-called tent pads are sitting off in a corner of those
grounds, with no attempt at leveling or cleanup, while the picnic tables, shelters and the two sites reserved for RV must considered first class.
We decided to move up the hill some thirteen miles to the Forest Service’s campground, which was on the west side of the Sierra Blanco Mountains, in the Lincoln national forest. There, the breeze turned into strong winds that blew steady for a day. They stayed in the 15 – 20 mph range, but with frequent gusts to 25 mph for the balance of our three day stay. With the upright style, rather than a dome, the Wolf Mountain offered an ease of setting it up even in these winds. It also made for the easiest in/out access; and, the near-vertical walls created much livable space.
Our next experience was another BLM campground called Aguirre Springs. (How it got that name, being without benefit of water - for there is none, is a question that can’t be answered presently.) It overlooked the White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico and you could see the National Monument in the distance. There we
experienced a steady flow of 20 up to 35 mph winds, and gusts over 40 mph, for two of the three days spent there. But, there was no damage; this Wolf Mountain tent from Big Agnes came through these initial tests in fine shape - where other tents of that size would have problems.
Here we had a dilemma in trying to guess where the wind would come from: North or West, or maybe in circles.The winds came mainly over the Organ Mountain’s Needles area, which were directly to the south west. But they also came from the northern San Andres Mountains, as well as the White Sands area in the Tularosa Basin. This does nothing to assist one in siting the tent and means that both vestibules must be staked out to serve as additional guy lines for wind protection.
There are two vestibules created by the rain fly, serving as the front and back porches of this tent. Each serves as additional anchors, somewhat like guy-lines, that must be pegged if they are working properly. They also serve to add quite a bit of additional storage space. There is no gear loft, probably because it lessens the overall height, but there are spacious side pockets.
We broke camp and headed south east. Next we visited the Pine Springs campground in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in northwestern Texas. The winds continued unabated and were almost
constant and steady at 10 to 15 mph. And there were a few gusts to contend with. It was a pleasure to get away from those high winds at Aguirre that were banging along at 35 mph when we left that morning. This was the first evening in the last six days that we did not have any sustained higher winds to speak of,
even though they did pick up on May 3rd and stayed steady for the following three days.
We next found ourselves at Carrizozo’s BLM Valley of Fires campground when the Lincoln National Forest
sites were all closed, because of the fire danger. (This area, outside of Ruidoso, was to become the second major blaze in New Mexico, the Little Bear Fire – but that was after we left.) Because all the tent pads at
Carrizozo (which are set out in a separate southern section) were too small to accommodate mid-size and larger dome style tents, such as my older Kelty Trail Dome, we had to move to the extremely exposed plateau reserved as RV campsites.
This is plateau or knoll is located in the middle of a former lava flow that is 45 miles long and over 165 feet
thick. This knoll is ridge of Dakota sandstone which overlooks this large expanse of lava. It is a small remnant of the land before the eruption, just high enough to remain uncovered by the molten rock. It is significantly higher than the lava flow and that is where pitched the tent – which was directly exposed to some very high winds.
As usual, with the winds, pitching the tent proved effortless, even given those conditions for one person. At that time, because we had decided not to stay any longer than necessary, we put out the guy lines on just one side, against the wind. The rear vestibule was not even staked down, something that was to prove to be a grievous mistake later that night.
We had clues of the windy condition, even had experienced some of the strong gusts. But we ignored them in our haste to finish setting up the tent. Asking ourselves how it could get worse than it was we believed that this Wolf Mountain tent had survived most of what wind there was at the time. After all, we had just experienced seven or eight days of high winds. One of the ignored clues was that while we were there a trailer was detached from its hitch, but the wheels were not chocked. It began to roll with the wind and was stopped only because it ran into the metal shelter. That should have been a harbinger of what we could expect from such an exposed campground.
Pitching the Wolf Mountain, even this larger base camp tent, was still very simple. Putting down the tent’s
footprint and then the tent body of lightweight rip-stop coated polyester and polyester mesh was rather straightforward – even where there was a somewhat high wind blowing at the time. This mesh netting, together with the frame, allowed the interior walls to be almost vertical. But there was another benefit, it also eliminated condensation entirely due to the ventilation.
While the instructions are silent on this aspect, it is a good idea to locate the wind direction and place
a stake at least one corner, against the wind, to hold down the footprint. This allows for movement and the footprint will still be moored by one of the stakes. That way you can locate the direction the wind is coming from before you place the tent body. And it permits locating the slope of the spot. Of course, this does not allow for the New Mexico wind shifts, somewhat of another problem!
The plastic clips and sleeve connection for this tent mesh body to the pole frame makes for an easy set up. The placement of the coated rip-stop rain fly was just a little trickier, but easily could be accomplished by using the winds to assist with the tie-downs appropriately gathered.
Even where the wind is not blowing it is a good idea to anchor the guy-lines; here the winds made it
imperative. The winds were from the south in the 30 to 35 mph range, and even where it did not seem to matter the rear vestibule had been left unanchored. Because the wind was to shift later that night to a very heavy impact from the north, this was a mistake that should never have happened.
As a personal preference, I don’t subscribe to using supplied reflective guy lines, even for nighttime
visibility, but employ 3 mm para-cord with carabineers at the guy out points. The carabineers provide a
balanced force on a tent’s guy points than relying upon only the small fabric tent attachments. These guy lines are pre-made and stored when the tent is not up in ZipLock bags.
Although the Big Agnes instructions indicate only one anchor to a side, I prefer to use my guy lines with multiple anchor points. I personally prefer 10 inch heavy duty steel tent pegs as anchors. They penetrate
the hardest ground without bending. That is one reason this tent did not sustain lasting damage in those storm-like winds that night. These precautions came because of previous camping experiences that resulted in losing or damaging dome tents, particularly the poles, due to high winds.
The wind shifted and picked up speed at about 3:30 a.m. Beamer really wondered what was going on as we became aware of the tremendous wind shift that now came from the north - with gusting clocked at 65 to 68 miles per hour. That called for emergency staking out of the balance of guy lines. And, it meant that
the rear vestibule had to be extended to also act as a wind break.
Already the left hand side of the tent was “caving in” from this north wind, and guy lines, using the 3 mm
para-cord and carabineers, had to be set out. Because the rear porch or vestibule had not been anchored properly, it needed to be fixed promptly. All of the guy lines were again checked to make sure that they were in their proper places with the tensioners in working order.
The only area of framing that gave us a scare was in the middle, which is smaller in diameter. The crossover pre-curved pole was actually shifted from the central position, even though it was structurally attached by
a sleeve to the main body of the tent. In this instance, unlike our Kelty Trail Dome tent that suffered some permanent damage when exposed to steady 30 to 35 mph winds last May, this Wolf Mountain had no lasting damage from the bending and flexing in the much stronger winds we saw that morning.
While the wind did cause some deformity to tenting material, because of the permanent curved poles that is
factored into Big Agnes tents it was not permanent. The mesh of the tent body really sagged but
recovered back to normal. While this wasn’t the only time there were sags, this was the first time that it was noticeable. One wonders just how this tent could take the beating of that extreme wind-storm and not suffer from any (well, “any” might be too strong a term) pole bending or the stretching of the rain-fly material.
The guy out points on the tent material held, although the pulling was very extreme. With the above dome tent, which places more “face” to the wind, we had to add guy lines to the exposed poles themselves. And, that only kept the dome tent from leaning still further from the winds.
Our dome tent from last year was excellent - but it had a flaw. The two main 14mm poles were not pre-curved. Because the poles on the Big Agnes had been factory-formed they did not bend permanently, even where there was that amount of flex in the strong winds. The straight poles of most dome style tents would tend to bend and flex, and permanently take on new configurations - they did with Kelty Trail Dome in much
lighter winds at Nevada's Washoe Lake State Park last year.
It should be noted one or two stakes in the ground at one or the other end of the tent body, after removal of the rain fly, helps in cleaning a tent that is being taken down – even temporarily. Although classified as a free standing tent, when the tent is left anchored it can be tipped so that any residual debris may be brought together and collected before the tent is put away. Big Agnes does not subscribe to doing that with the tent poles in place. As it is freestanding and only used to keep the flooring clean between campsites, I disagree.
In an effort to get away from the high winds we quickly made our way to the Cochiti Reservoir, near Bandelier
National Monument. Even here, where the winds had abated, they were still very strong during the time we pitched the tent. The winds had again shifted, coming in from the east, but were considerably lighter than those of Carrizozo. While there was sunshine at the time, this was the first time on our trip that we had
rain. A late afternoon and evening thunderstorm, with somewhat lighter winds, with some gusting at the 30 to 35 mph, showed it had no leaks.
You should use the wind as an assistant when putting up the rain fly. Anchor the fly is anchored at two of the corners, facing into the wind so that this large piece can use that wind. It was a simple matter of just pulling the fly over the tent body, and because the overall height is lower than a comparable dome tent it becomes much easier for a single person. Even a person that is a lot older than most of the young bucks would otherwise require assistance.
On the last day at the Bandelier National Monument’s campground, shortly after 7 a.m., the rain came down like a gully washer. We were just trying to break down the equipment and put it up in the trunk of the car until we got to Chaco Canyon. The downpour was very extensive; it released about an inch in those 45 minutes. It even had a short case of a hail thrown in to boot. It was so heavy that it did not roll off of the rain
fly but collected in large puddles in the now sagging pockets on the top of the rain fly. However, it was extremely localized; the campground host that was about three sites from us did not receive anything – at that time.
While we waited out the cloudburst downpour you can see how the tent mesh was caving in. At the center, the height of the “tent” is actually only about 5 feet 8 inches, or at the maximum 68 inches. I am only 5’7” and had only an inch or two to spare in the center portion of the tent. There was significant drooping of that lightweight mesh, and it can’t be attributed to nylon; this is supposed to be polyester which does not stretch.
While it may be that without the Wolf Mountain tent body, using only the Fast Fly with a footprint, there may be more height. It is wrong to count space that way. To say that it has a head height of 72 inches (or six feet) is stretching credibility just a bit. Big Agnes’ specifications state that the head height is 72 inches for a Wolf Mountain 6 are simply wrong. The actual tent body, not just the Fast Fly, is some four to five inches shorter. That does not factor in the sagging of the mesh when humidity might be high, which would reduce the head height drastically during those times when one must negotiate the interior spaces with abridged head room.
But it must be a positive that there were no leaks even with that amount of rainfall. With all of that desert high winds that we had gone through you might have found some abrading of the 1500 mm waterproof polyurethane coating. But the fly made of durable polyester rip-stop fabric came through with flying colors. All of the taped seams proved to be waterproof, as did the coating of the polyester taffeta floor with its 1500mm covering. And there was no sagging or stretching of any of the fabric. They did their job admirably in what might be considered in most hazardous conditions. But that cannot be said for the lightweight
Is this a hidden defect, a mistake, or something that could be corrected if a different mesh is substituted?
Even with relief from the daily winds, the Gallo campground in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park has
a problem with siting of larger tents. Like a lot of these campgrounds it does have very adequate accommodation for RVs and many of the smaller tents. But too many do have very small tent pads. That was a problem because it was to be our next stop.
We simply could not fit the Wolf Mountain on any of this national park’s pads, seeking only to find a place
where it could be located, and proved to be just a bit too large for most tent pads with anchor points needed to be placed outside them. Most of those tent pads are a maximum of 12 feet long. The Wolf Mountain, without counting the two vestibules or guy-lines, is 11 feet long.
Some tent pads are much shorter, and some (like that one at BLM’s Three Rivers Petroglyph site) are just a couple of boards tacked together in some far-away corner. This is probably so they can say they have tent pads for those that do not wish to camp out with large scale Recreational Vehicles. With these tent pads you can’t find the prevailing wind direction and set your tent up in a way that the doors and/or vents are aligned along the wind track
With the nice weather all of the guy lines were out, even those that had to be placed within a tent pad used the excess from outside. I use stronger pegs than the 14 that are supplied. While the stakes with the tent are sometimes adequate, there are times when you desire something stronger.
One word of caution: even with the Wolf Mountain instructions, and their two stake-outs for guy line points, it is necessary to have those lines in place if you leave the tent unattended for any period of time. Because the
pad is small is not a good reason for anchoring the tent properly. At Chaco Canyon there is only one reason to camp, visiting the ruins of Pueblo Bonito, Penasco Blanco or even hiking up to the Pueblo Alta. The visitor’s center is a couple of miles away and you have to check in with them, so it is necessary to leave the tent for even a short while. In a desert region like this you can’t tell just when a micro-burst may come up.
Our next stop was the Forest Service’s Lake Havilland campground, 18 miles north of Durango, Colorado. Here, the wind was blowing between 15 to 20 mph, very strongly for most dome tents. Even though the large tent pads were normally adequate, this tent is a wee bit larger than the pad. The problem was that none of the sites would actually allow for a tent to be set up except on the pads, with the balance of them being on hilly terrain.
Other than that, this was a very nice campground; even a Big Agnes Wolf Mountain tent can’t fix those kinds of problems!
When we made our next stop we had to go to the BLM “overflow” outside the Natural Bridges National Monument. Although it was only shortly after noon its camp ground was full. This overflow was another camping experience that any person with a tent (no matter the size) would like to forget. This spill-out was in a large open area, and the ground was very hard packed so that stakes could not be driven in - just
like a real parking lot. It was simply a place to set up the tent, or even park an RV temporarily, if one could navigate the dirt track to it. Primitive siting just does not describe it!
There were periods of gusts, both from the south and then from the north, that blew very strongly, as the
tent was being set up. At least we survived the night and the next morning packed it all in and left for Capitol Reef National Park. Just Beamer and myself - and the Wolf Mountain.
It was to be our last stop, the campground at Capitol Reef National Park.
A Word to the Wise: get there before 11 a.m., no matter the day of the week, in order to locate a vacant campsite. I was lucky, we got the last one. Seventy-four others had already been taken.
Here there were “threats” of high winds; but they were more like brisk breezes and never any that were over
20 mph. At the high tree tops in the campgrounds, some of the winds seemed to blow quite a bit. Although at another camping loop, a walk-in tenting area, there were some run-a-way tents that had not been staked
down. However, they were in the open - not under the large trees.
We finally concluded our spring 2012 Camping Trip on May 23rd. The Big Agnes Wolf Mountain 6 tent was sitting in the trunk of our car as we made our way home, better for all of the wear and tear of this year’s spring camping experience. Like last year’s trek to California, this year our camping had some very
disastrous weather. But this was totally different.
After a nice beginning it turned very ugly. It was rain, cold weather and snow last year; this time it was wind,
more wind, and then even greater wind. Of the 32 days spent at fourteen different campgrounds there were eight days that saw high winds - from 35 to 40 mph. Once there was a gale force wind, with gusts of 45 miles per hour. Two other days had strong gale blasts which were clocked at over 50 mph. And then one night, an awaking at around 4 a.m. that won’t be forgotten, those Carrizozo outbursts were registered at 65
to 68 mph. A real storm!
On this whole month-long trip there were only five days when the winds were quiet or at least less than 15
miles per hour. Most of the other camping days were spent checking the guy lines and anchors because the winds stayed in the range of 20 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts up in the high 30s. And unlike last year there were only four days of rain; but one of those was a real gully washer – what with downpours
and even some hail.
This was a real tenting test for those kinds of conditions. Now it is ready for a good cleaning before it is put away - until our next fall trip. And we can look forward to that one with a tent that we know will prove itself.
This tent proved to be awesome, with only a couple of distractions. It made a believer out of us for Big Agnes products, particularly its Wolf Mountain tent.
Where to Buy
The Big Agnes Wolf Mountain 6 is not available from the stores we monitor.
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