Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

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

NOTE: This review covers the previous version of the Copper Spur HV UL2. The 2020 model adds awning-style doors and other improvements. Get it here and watch for my upcoming review of it.

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.


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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.

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 Verdict

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 little competition.

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

Tell me what you think.

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See my “Review: The 7 Best Backpacking Tents” and all of my reviews of backpacking tents, ultralight backpacking tents, backpacking gear, and ultralight backpacking gear that I like.

See also my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent” and “How to Choose the Best Ultralight Tent for You.”

Want to make your pack lighter and all of your backpacking trips more enjoyable? See my story “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of that story for free, or click here to download that full story without having a paid membership.

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 my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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10 thoughts on “Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent”

    • Hi Chris,

      Well, you’re comparing two very different tent styles, given that the Slingfin Portal 2 is best used pitched with trekking poles, to reduce tent weight in your pack; so even with that difference, the two tents have negligible weight difference and a comparable price.

      The Copper Spur’s more traditional design may make it initially more intuitive to set up, but you’d get used to the Portal’s setup pretty quickly. The Portal may have an edge in sturdiness in strong winds, but the Copper Spur is solid and would be fine in most backpacking campsite situations. The Copper Spur has a bit more livable interior space, which can be more noticeable for two people bigger than average size, although the Portal has four inches more peak height. The Portal is obviously not a freestanding tent, while the Copper Spur is. Both ventilate well; condensation isn’t a problem for either.

      I’d say those are the differences that can seem subtle but feel significant when you’re in a tent.

      I hope that’s helpful. Good luck choosing. Write anytime.

      Reply
  1. 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
    • 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. 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
    • 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
    • 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
  3. 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
    • 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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