Ultralight Backpacking Tents
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO
$440, 2 lbs. 1 oz. (not including stuff sacks and stakes)
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL3
$450, 2 lbs. 15 oz. (not including stuff sacks and stakes)
As we searched for a campsite while backpacking in the canyon of Utah’s Dirty Devil River in late March, the wind picked up. Then the rain started. My wife and daughter pitched the new Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO in minutes without having even looked at it before—a testament to its simplicity. Once darkness fell a little while later, they turned on the lights—the tent’s built-in LED lights, that is—and I think they promptly forgot there was a storm just outside their nylon walls.
I also used the Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO on windy nights car-camping in southern Utah, and that tent as well as the three-person Fly Creek HV UL3 on a three-day backpacking trip high in the Panamint Range of California’s Death Valley National Park in May, where I had the opportunity to backpack and test gear with folks from Big Agnes, Osprey Packs, and Oboz Footwear. (Later, I’ll post reviews of gear from those other brands that we tested in Death Valley.)
Building on last year’s introduction of its mtnGLO LED lights in some tent models, Big Agnes has brought internal lights to its one- and two-person, ultralight Fly Creek tents. B.A. also redesigned the Fly Creek pole structure—calling it HV, or High Volume—to make the tents roomier. My trips with these two tents gave me a chance to assess these changes.
The Big Agnes mtnGlo tents have flexible strips of tiny LED lights in the ceiling seams. Controlled by an inside switch and powered by three AAA batteries, the lights have two brightness levels: The brighter setting provides enough light to play cards, though not enough for reading, and the half-power setting dimly illuminates the tent interior for locating items or getting in and out. The lights pack away with the tent, so they require no set up or dismantling. They weigh just a few ounces and run 90 hours or more on a set of batteries. I quickly came to appreciate their convenience and soft light more than the harsh light of some lanterns and headlamps, and my family loves the tent lights.
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The DAC Angle Hub, exclusive in Fly Creek HV tents, creates steeper wall angles than in the first generation of Fly Creek shelters, resulting in a little more headroom and a vertical door that prevents rain from dripping inside when you come and go. While an improvement, the Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO remains a small tent: At five feet, eight inches, I could only sit up straight in the center of the head end of the tent, where the peak height is a respectable 40 inches. The 28 square feet of floor space was fine for me sharing it with one of my young teenage kids (both are barely more than 100 pounds), but two average-size adults would be in very close quarters.
As my wife and daughter discovered, the Fly Creek tents go up very easily, thanks to a hubbed pole system and a mere eight clips (including the one hub connection) to attach the interior canopy to the poles, and quick clips attach the rainfly. The minimalist, ultralight poles make these tents best for fairly protected campsites, but both tents withstood gusts of 25 to 30 mph in the Dirty Devil River canyon and the Panamint Range. And the Fly Creek HV UL3 has an eyebrow pole not found in the two-person, which gives it a bit more stability and greatly improves the headroom.
With abundant mesh in the walls, the Fly Creek tents ventilate well, despite having just one door and no real cross-ventilation. On mild nights, everyone remained comfortable inside both models, and we saw virtually no condensation on cold, calm nights. All that mesh does have one drawback: Sand blew freely inside the Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO during windstorms in Utah; but that would happen with any tent with predominantly mesh walls. The rainfly and floor are made of silicone-treated nylon ripstop with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating, and all seams are taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape.
Final analysis: The Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO is one of the lightest, two-person, double-wall tents you’ll find—and the lights make it that much more appealing. But unless you’re sharing it with someone you like being very close to, I suggest getting the three-person Fly Creek HV UL3, which is light enough (less than a pound heavier than the two-person) to use as a two-person shelter and have beaucoup space (39 square feet), and tight but tolerable for three people. I like using the Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO as a solo tent—it’s light enough and gives one person extra space. The UL3 does not come with LED lights, but you can add a mtnGLO Tent Light Accessory Kit to it ($40, purchased separately).
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links or the text ad below to purchase a Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO at moosejaw.com or rei.com, or a Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL3 at moosejaw.com or rei.com.
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See all of my reviews of backpacking tents that I like, including the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO, and all of my reviews of backpacking gear and ultralight backpacking gear, and my article “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.
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