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Gear Review: Big Agnes Slater UL 2+ Tent

Big Agnes Slater UL2+

Big Agnes Slater UL2+

Tent
Big Agnes Slater UL 2+
$390, 2 lbs. 11 oz. (tent, rainfly, poles)
bigagnes.com

My first impression of the Slater UL2+ was formed before I even pulled it out of the stuff sack: I couldn’t believe a two-person tent could possibly fit in such a small package. Given that I often backpack with my family—with my wife and I shouldering most of the gear because our kids are young—low weight and bulk take top priority with us. But any concerns about that low weight affecting the Slater’s sturdiness in weather were erased after backpacking and camping trips in Utah’s Coyote Gulch (two nights) and Capitol Reef National Park (two nights), Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness (four nights), and Idaho’s White Clouds Mountains (two nights) and City of Rocks National Reserve (two nights). This tent stood up to strong gusts repeatedly, including sustained, steady winds over 40 mph in the White Clouds and Capitol Reef, without even bending slightly.

The freestanding Slater, with just one door and vestibule (eight square feet), pitches fairly quickly using a strong, DAC Featherlite NSL hubbed-pole system that attaches to the tent canopy at just three corner grommets and six points on the canopy. Four clips connect the canopy to the rainfly to help pull the walls outward, buying a little more shoulder room. Unlike many ultralight tents, the Slater’s walls are made of lightweight nylon ripstop instead of mesh, trapping a little more warmth and keeping sand and dust from blowing inside. The tent door also has two zippered panels, mesh and polyester, offering the choice between ventilation and full protection. Ventilation is decent but not outstanding, given the solid walls and one door instead of two: We got a little condensation on cool, calm nights, but never enough to dampen the interior. The lightweight aluminum J stakes punch into hard ground easily and I never broke one. A footprint, sold separately ($60, 6 oz.), allows pitching the tent with just rainfly and floor, paring the weight (without stakes) to a trim 1 lb., 14 oz., without compromising its strength.

Of course, as with many ultralight tents, you sacrifice space. I found the 37-square-foot interior fine for my 80-pound son and me, but two full-size adults will find it cramped—although the 40-inch peak height and the way the side walls are lifted outward help make it livable. Plus, the 96-inch length creates space for gear or clothes at the foot end (which is just 26 inches tall, discouraging sleeping at opposite ends). The geometry is tricky, you have to position the stakes well to get a taut pitch and avoid the rainfly flapping in wind, but that’s easily mastered. Because the door angles outward for wind resistance, rain can drip inside the tent when you’re coming and going. And you have to exercise a little more care with tents in this category because materials are lighter and more fragile: I broke one zipper pull tab on the rainfly door. (I had to use the inside pull tab, not significantly affecting the ease of opening and closing the door.)

Overall, though, the Slater UL 2+ is a stout little freestanding shelter for two people who prioritize weight savings over living space.

See all of my backpacking tent reviews.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza

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.

6 Comments

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  1. Avatar

    I am considering the 1+ version of this shelter but am concerned with the fabric walls of the inner. How do they breath? Well enough to limit condensation? Thank you,

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi David, as the second paragraph of the review reads: “Unlike many ultralight tents, the Slater’s walls are made of lightweight nylon ripstop instead of mesh, trapping a little more warmth and keeping sand and dust from blowing inside. The tent door also has two zippered panels, mesh and polyester, offering the choice between ventilation and full protection. Ventilation is decent but not outstanding, given the solid walls and one door instead of two: We got a little condensation on cool, calm nights, but never enough to dampen the interior.”

      If you’re heading out in cool to cold temps, you could get a little condensation. But if it’ll be cold enough that you want to trap more heat than a mesh canopy does, then you want a tent with solid walls like the Slater.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    If this tent (One of the larger tents according to specs at its weight) is cramped for two people what do you recommend?

    Reply
      • Avatar

        Thank you for the review. Ive been looking for a 2+ ultralight but will probably just upgrade to a 3 man for a roomy tent as Im 6’2 and my cousin is 6’5.

        Reply
        • MichaelALanza

          That’s a good call for tall people. There are some good three-person tents out there that are as light as many two-person tents.

          Reply

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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