Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3
Very light 2-3 person tent. First impressions of the tent, and of BA customer service.
- Customer service
- Compresses very small
- Seems fragile
- Strange pole system
This tent is uber-light. I found it at the REI garage sale for $120 as a pole had broken. How could I pass that up? Now I can take my toddlers on a short backpacking trip, with very little to pack on my back. This completes my fast-and-light-with-kids arsenal. I recently bought the tent, and have only set it up in my living room. Let me explain the pros and cons I have listed:
Light-That's the name of the game here. Light light light. Three pounds is very little. What else in your pack is less than three pounds? Not the pack, maybe not your bags, probably not your food and definitely not a dutch oven. This compresses to about the size of a mailing tube.
The pro will come with the cons. This is my first experience with BA, and it was great. The pole system and fabric are rather fragile-seeming, and I bought this with an already broken pole segment. The pole system somewhat resembles a stick man, as all of the poles come together as one segment. You may think, "what's wrong with that?" Well, nothing if kids are not interested in what you are doing. Mine were, and each had grabbed a different arm or leg of the stickman and ran in opposite directions. No gear failure there, nothing broken.
Now the issue of customer service. I contacted BA to see if I could get a new set of poles, and they emailed me the next day. They let me know the price, and said fixing it would be cheaper. I then informed them that only one pole was broken, and if I could buy one pole segment all would be well. They asked for my address, the length of the pole, and sent me a pole within a week of my original inquiry. FREE. I expected to pay, but nope. I think they understand that while their tent is ultralight and not made for heavy abuse, they will do anything to make the customer happy. Yep. I'm happy.
That's what this tent is: Ultralight. Not a basecamp/carcamp/kidcamp/scoutcamp tent. Trade durability for portability, and lose nothing in customer service. Big Agnes, I'll repeat with something else some day. I wasn't sold on the ultralight tent with a "big" in the brand name, but I am now.
This is one of the O-things that hold the poles in one big setup. Also, you can see where I fixed the pole temporarily.
Price Paid: $120
This is a technically a three. And it will fit three. Not three big boys like me, but three in a pinch. But it is an ultralight, small three-person tent. This is ideal for two people cruising for several days. It is only a pound heavier than the UL2 but offers an extra ten square feet of personal space. That means a lot when you're stuck inside waiting out a storm or when you just want to be able to roll over without worrying about rolling onto your tent mate.
I picked this tent up with my wife's blessing after she swore she'd never share my Seedhouse SL2 again. The SL2 is a tiny tent, even for me by myself. I'm not surprised she wasn't happy inside.
The tent sets up nicely, but the poles are delicate. The tent won't hold up to 60mph winds. But it's not meant to. Stake it out, sleep happy, pack it up and don't worry about splitting the weight. It's so light, there is no need.
- Easy setup
- Spacious for two without a weight penalty
- Rain fly must be zipped if raining
- Delicate single pole
With one practice trial, this tent is a great and easy setup. It's single pole design and clips makes setup easy without hassle of sliding a pole through finicky sleeves. The "wings" widen the ceiling nicely to great a wider headspace. Tossing the fly over the top and clipping it in is super simple. Tightening afterwards can be done by a child.
It'll pitch taut and resists a pretty good wind. Don't tempt a big winter storm, but relax in most three-season conditions.
It can be a little stuffy. All Big Agnes tents are designed to give you some airflow if staked out and all the guy wires are taut, but truthfully, I can's sleep unless I unzip the rain fly about halfway. This keeps it rainproof still, but does allow a little bit more airflow. Guy out the opposite end to open things up a little more.
With the rain fly unzipped, there's definitely less waterproof vestibule.
Packs down to smaller than my Seedhouse SL2, which is astounding. It doesn't weight any more than it either. Almost renders the SL2 useless at this point.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $350
One of the first things you notice about this shelter, it is EXTREMELY lightweight for being a three-person tent. Weighing in at only 3 lbs 3 oz or 1.44 kg, it truly is ultralight. There was plenty of room for all three of us and ample gear storage pockets to hold electronics, glasses, etc. The vestibule was large enough to accomodate all three of our packs without stacking them, but trying to get out of the tent for a midnight break was slightly tough. I really don’t have anything bad to say about this tent. It’s light, packs small, easy setup, zippers never snagged and the color is very pleasant in the morning.
- Weight is easily divided between people
- Nice color
- Can be pitched without the inner tent
- Material is very thin
One of the first things you notice about this shelter, it is EXTREMELY lightweight for being a three person tent. Weighing in at only 3 lbs 3 oz or 1.44 kg, it truly is ultralight. You can, if you don’t need the bug protection, pitch with just the footprint and fly. In this configuration it would weigh in at only 2 lb 7 oz (1.1 kg).
To really test out the 3-person capacity of this tent I brought along my wife and son. This particular trip, we went for a long weekend along the Appalachian Trail at the Georgia/North Carolina border. Just to make it tough, we decided to camp in a very small area with a great overlook.
The weather was turning cool and I pitched right at dark. Setup was easy even without any earlier practice on this tent. There was plenty of room for all three of us and ample gear storage pockets to hold electronics, glasses, etc. The vestibule was large enough to accomodate all three of our packs without stacking them, but trying to get out of the tent for a midnight break was slightly tough.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about this tent. It’s light, packs small, easy setup, zippers never snagged and the color is very pleasant in the morning. :) No doubt that this is currently my favorite tent and I’ll be using it quite a bit more.
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $90
It stands up to wind, weighs next to nothing, and is roomy for two people
- Strong and supple
- Design encourages water to get under it
- Material is really thin
This thing stood up well in the legendary Patagonia winds (make sure you pitch it with either the front or rear facing the wind, not sideways), and has kept me dry, mostly, in heavy rains. The fly attaches to the sides, and has to be guyed out all the way to be really solid in wind.
The downside of that is that the floor then curves upward, kind of like the edges of a bathtub. This means that if you are on any slope at all, water will run under the tent. I use a Tyvek groundsheet, and if I manage the edges just right, I can prevent it, but it happens more often than not.
The frame, as flimsy as it seems, is super-flexible, and simply bends in the wind. If the wind shifts, though, you can find yourself with the sides flattening in on you. In general, I use this tent in Montana in the summer, which is not that rainy, and am happy as can be with it. It replaces the Black Diamond Megamid I used for 20 years, and I admit, it's nice to have a floor.
As for the thin material, just be careful. The tyvek protects the bottom of the tent well, but a little bad packing and the stakes will poke right through the fly or tent wall, supplying you with yet another use for duct tape.
Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: can't disclose
Perfect for 2 people and a dog, 3 would be squished but would work. It breaks down to 1.1 oz per person if planning to camp with 3. There is also the versatility of just rainfly and footprint which brings this under 3 lbs. I'm transitioning into a tarp system, but when camping with friends, I bring this out for me. It's very comfy solo and weighs very little.
- Fast setup
- Well constructed
- Not great at high wind
I have used this tent many times and it's excellent. However, I believe I bent a pole camping at Longs Peak at 13,000 feet. Wind gusts had to be upwards of 50 miles per hour. Rock walls were already pre built because its naturally very windy at that elevation. I have a slight bend in one of my poles, but it hasn't compromised the tent yet.
Other than that, I have nothing but good things to say. I'm convinced on testing out tarp camping with a bug bivy now... Not everyone is keen on that idea, they prefer the false level of safety that the tent provides.
I'm very happy with my purchase and if you're looking for a solid 3-season tent with more wiggle room for 2 people, this is a great choice
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: less than $300
Does not hold up well in wind. Does not breathe well in summer.
- Ultra light
- Easy to set up
- Decent sized vestibule
- Not good in wind
- Does not breathe well on hot rainy nights
Four or five adventures thus far with the new Fly Creek purchased last year. First trip out was in NC at Wilson's Creek in July, hotter than hell, and we sweated all night as thunderstorms and 85 degree temps conspired to make us extremely uncomfortable.
Loved this sweat hut factor though on our first night in Glacier National Park last October when temps dropped into the low teens. But on night 2, at Cracker Lake, the primary tent pole on one side was bent dramatically by morning due to 70 mph gusts all night long. The flapping of the tent walls against my face prevented any and all sleep, and when we called the company to replace the pole, we were denied. My husband righted it with a vise in his workshop, so it's still functional.
Three-man is generous. If you're big like we are, and have pets, it sleeps more like a 2-man.
All in all, pricey for what it does.
Source: bought it new
I've used this tent on several occasions and I like it. On my most resent trip with it, the tent held a lot of condensation, which is unusual. Other than that it is a great little tent and can be used year long with a good bag.
- No ground tarp needed
- Free standing
- Easy setup
- Lots of room for one person
- Once holding condensation
- Not a two-man
Stable: Point tip in to wind
Source: borrowed it
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Historic Range: $54.97-$449.95
Reviewers Paid: $90.00-$350.00