Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
$500, 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
As the wind gusted over 30 mph and at times 40 mph at our unprotected campsite in a big meadow beside the Snake River, on the Idaho side of Hells Canyon while backpacking in early June, I kept throwing nervous glances at our tents. But while three of them whipped and bent under the onslaught of air, the Copper Spur HV UL2 barely trembled—not what you’d necessarily expect from an ultralight backpacking tent. But that’s just one way this shelter defies expectations.
Long a fan of Big Agnes’s Copper Spur series and the previous iteration of the Copper Spur HV UL2, I took this new version, updated for 2020, backpacking for two nights in Hells Canyon, five nights in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, and three nights on Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail to see how its design changes measure up. I found that this tent retains its strengths while gaining some nice features—keeping it among my picks for today’s best backpacking tents (and I’ve tested a lot of tents over the past two decades as a longtime lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and running this blog).
For starters, there aren’t many freestanding, two-door tents that weigh under three pounds, so if that’s what you’re shopping for, you already have a short list. For backpackers who want a very light shelter that doesn’t compromise on performance or livability, the Copper Spur HV UL2 strikes a unique balance of attributes in a crowded field of mostly inferior competitors.
The DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL pole architecture creates a sturdy structure that performed well in winds stronger than most backpackers would encounter in more-protected campsites—and the tent withstood those winds without me guying it out or using the hook-and-loop tabs to attach the rainfly to the poles. The poles also steepen the walls and lift the canopy above the doors, making the tent feel roomier than its 29 square feet of floor area, 40-inch peak height,and 88-inch length (all common dimensions for tents in this category). My wife (five feet, 10 inches) and I (five feet, eight inches) found the interior—wide enough for two standard (20-inch-wide) air mattresses laid side-by-side—while not capacious, still more than adequate for comfortable living and sleeping.
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New to the 2020 Copper Spur HV UL2 are two awning-style doors on both sides of the rainfly, which can be rolled up completely for maximum ventilation and stargazing, or extended as awnings using trekking poles to provide shade or rain protection without compromising ventilation (as happens when rainfly doors are zipped shut). Trekking poles supporting the awnings can be stood either upright, with the poles’ carbide tips planted in soft earth, or inverted with the grips down for better purchase on hard or rocky ground.
The two opposing doors and a single high rainfly vent also facilitate excellent ventilation. In my long experience with the Copper Spur series, condensation is negligible.
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The tent is quick and intuitive to pitch the first time, and the proprietary Big Agnes TipLok buckles at the four corners combine three functions in one tiny part: attaching the rainfly, securing the pole ends so that they don’t pop out while pitching (even when erecting the tent alone), and staking the shelter.
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. Spacious interior mesh and media pockets provide abundant storage and are positioned so as not to intrude on your living space when they are filled.
With nine square feet of space, each vestibule stores a mid-size pack and boots to one side without impeding entry and egress. Even with its awning doors rolled up, the rainfly overhangs the interior tent doors, so no rain enters when coming and going. In fact, I left a rainfly door rolled up throughout a mild night of light rain (and no wind) and the mesh door on the interior tent never got damp.
The rainfly and floor are made of silicone-treated, double ripstop nylon fabric, and the interior canopy of nylon and polyester mesh. A footprint (sold separately, $70) allows pitching it rainfly-only, without the interior tent, reducing the shelter’s weight to 2 lbs. 2 oz.
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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Updated for 2020 with multiple new features—including two awning-style doors, better buckles, and abundant interior pockets—the Copper Spur HV UL2 remains one of the lightest and best choices for backpackers seeking a freestanding, ultralight tent that doesn’t compromise on sturdiness or livability. And with the new features, Big Agnes even knocked an ounce off its weight.
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