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Gear Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent.

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
$450, 2 lbs. 12 oz.
moosejaw.com

I’ll tolerate reasonably close living quarters in a tent that’s lightweight and performs well in the backcountry, because I prioritize my comfort on the trail (read: light pack) and usually only crawl inside the tent to sleep. But not all of my backpacking companions share my tolerance for a snug shelter. The Big Agnes Copper Spur line of tents have long made me and my elbowroom-loving tentmates happy, by marrying low weight and a high ratio of interior space per ounce. So with a new design making the Copper Spur HV UL2 roomier while keeping its weight under three pounds, I took it out on a five-day, 80-mile backpacking trip through the North Cascades with a six-foot friend to see whether the tent would measure up to the hype.

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent.

For starters, there aren’t many freestanding, two-person tents with two doors and vestibules that weigh under three pounds, so if that’s what you’re shopping for, you already have a short list. The first time I picked up the Copper Spur HV UL2’s poles, I couldn’t believe how light they are (and I’ve tested a lot of tents over the past two decades). The new DAC Featherlite NFL hubbed pole structure creates steeper walls (as well as boosting structural strength by 25 percent, according to Big Agnes) that make the tent feel roomier than its 29 square feet, a standard footprint area for tents in this category. Plus, tall people will be happy with its 40-inch peak height and 88-inch length. My six-foot friend and I bumped into each other occasionally while sitting or lying down—as much as we would in many tents that are about as wide as two standard sleeping pads—but not enough to be annoying or keep us awake. Big Agnes claims the Copper Spur’s latest iteration increases interior volume by 20 percent over its predecessor, and that’s the difference you notice when inside it.

The Copper Spur HV UL2 poles.

The Copper Spur HV UL2 poles.

The tent was quick and intuitive to pitch the first time, thanks to clips that attach the inner canopy to the poles and color coding of the poles and tabs on the tent. The tent doors have dual zippers that move smoothly, and smartly open from a bottom corner, allowing you to crack the door slightly to slide boots on outside without letting a squadron of mosquitoes inside. The doors stash conveniently into small pockets when fully opened. A couple of interior mesh pockets provide adequate organization.

 

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter, or enter your email address in the box in the left sidebar or at the bottom of this story. Click here to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Follow my adventures on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Youtube.

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2.

Besides making the Copper Spur HV UL2 more livable, the two doors and vestibules improve ventilation. And with nine square feet of space, each vestibule stores a mid-size pack and boots. One rainfly vent helps minimize condensation—which was negligible on dry, cool nights with two people in the tent, although we never had sustained, cold rain—and the fly overhangs the vestibules, so no rain enters when coming and going. We hardly noticed when light rain fell early one morning in the North Cascades, while we were still in the tent; all seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (no PVC or VOCs).

Big Agnes says the lightweight, ripstop nylon fabric used in the rainfly and floor reduces weight and has 25 percent better tear strength than the tent’s previous generation. But as with any ultralight tent, it’s wise exercise some care with campsite selection and handling the tent when packing it up, to avoid tears. A footprint (sold separately, $70) allows pitching it rainfly-only, without the interior tent, reducing the shelter’s weight by 10 ounces.

 

The ultralight, freestanding tents with two doors and vestibules that weigh under three pounds comprise a very small club. The list grows by several models when the weight ceiling rises to three-and-a-half pounds—but those are a full half-pound heavier than the Copper Spur HV UL2, largely without improving on its space or performance. If, like me, you prefer minimizing pack weight, but don’t want to sleep in a breadbox and like the advantages of a freestanding, two-door design, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 has very little competition.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com.

 

Tell me what you think.

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See all of my reviews of backpacking tents that I like and all of my reviews of backpacking gear and ultralight backpacking gear, and my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

 

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

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  1. Avatar

    First I just want to say thanks for all the wonderful information. Your knowledge and tips are tremendously helpful for my family while we take our first steps backpacking.

    I was hoping you could give your opinion on footprints. I recently bought the 4 person variant of the Copper Spur HV and with the base being so thin I started to get worried about needing extra protection. The manufacture footprint makes no sense to me, why pay extra for a light tent just to pay another $90 and add 11oz to it… However I was thinking of going the tyvek route. I think the main benefit would really be to just keep the bottom of the tent cleaner. Do you use anything under your tent? We will primary be in northern Minnesota while starting out so pine needles are my main concern.

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Travis, thanks for the nice compliment and for an excellent question. You are certainly correct about the added weight and cost of a footprint seeming superfluous. The truth is that the market demand for lighter gear has pushed makers of tents and other gear in that direction, and especially with tents, cutting weight can sometimes translate to sacrificing some durability. The optional footprint gives you two advantages: protecting the tent floor, but also the option of leaving the interior canopy at home and pitching the rainfly with just the footprint to reduce the weight (which you can’t do with a Tyvek or other improvised ground cloth because it would lack the clips that comes with a brand’s footprint). However, you’d have to wait until bug season has passed in northern Minnesota before camping without the tent’s interior mesh walls.

      Tyvek may be a better option, and you’re also correct that the primary benefit would be keeping the bottom of the tent cleaner. But that could help extend the life of the tent and protect the floor from punctures from sharp rocks or sticks. The tradeoff is the weight and bulk of the Tyvek.

      Frankly, I never use a ground cloth under a tent, because I don’t want to add the weight and bulk of it to my pack, and partly because I’m often testing new tents, so I don’t need them to last for many years. But the floor isn’t likely to be the first part of a tent that fails, anyway; it’s usually a broken door zipper, because it’s a moving part that gets abundant use and abuse. You might also tear a hole in a mesh wall before tearing the floor. Still, there’s nothing to lose in trying the Tyvek sheet as a ground cloth and seeing whether you see a benefit to continuing to use it.

      You might find my e-guides helpful to your trip planning with your family, especially my e-guides to beginner-friendly backpacking trips in Yosemite and Grand Teton national parks. See them at https://thebigoutside.com/e-guides/.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    The cross pole on the top, together with the other poles, seems to create a triangle at the top where lots of rain could collect. You did not notice this / have any problems with collected water at the top?

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Magnus, very observant. But no, look closely and you may see that those poles have an arched structure to them, for water to roll off. That and a taut pitch keeps any well from forming to allow water to collect.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Any updates on how well this tent holds up in rainy conditions?

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Leda, thanks for asking. The tent has a drip line at the doors that keeps rain out of the interior living space when coming and going. The pole structure is strong in wind, and the taut pitch means you don’t have a wet rainfly pressing against the interior canopy, getting it (and potentially sleeping bags) wet. It performs just fine in rain for a tent of this size and weight.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    How would you compare this to the Exped Mira tent? Considering they’re similar prices and weights, how do they compare in terms of room and ventilation?

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Bret, great question. The Exped Mira II Hyperlite (my review: https://thebigoutside.com/gear-review-exped-mira-ii-hyperlite-tent/) is comparable in weight and interior space, although I think the Copper Spur’s pole structure (see the difference in the pictures) creates more headroom through more of the tent, whereas the Mira’s slopes off sooner towards the ends. Also, the Copper Spur’s crossing poles make it a little sturdier in wind, I suspect, as well as having the advantage of being freestanding.

      Reply

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