Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
$450, 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

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).


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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 poles.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 poles.

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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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 ultralight backpacking tent.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 ultralight backpacking tent in Hells Canyon.

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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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 interior.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 interior.

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.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 vestibule.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 vestibule.

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

Space-to-Weight Ratio
Sturdiness
Ease of Use
Ventilation
Features
Value

The Verdict

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.

4.6

BUY IT NOW

You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these affiliate links, at no cost to you, to purchase a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 at Moosejaw.com, or various versions of the Copper Spur HV UL series at Backcountry.com.

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See my review of “The 8 (Very) Best Backpacking Tents” and all of my reviews of backpacking tents, ultralight backpacking tents, backpacking gear, and ultralight backpacking gear that I like.

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

  1. This tent checks all of the boxes: ‘excellent’; but/though waterproof and snow-able, a 5’3” woman gets her fleece sleep-top soaked whenever she goes pee between the rain showers. The dang rainfly material is like a soaked paper towel, holding the water and waiting to be wrung.

    Reply
  2. This tent has some pretty awesome features and upgrades from previous models that I really appreciate. However I feel the quality of manufacturing and durability is sorely lacking.

    I purchased it in June 2020 and used it for less then two months in the field before it showed signs of wear and defects. Small holes began to appear in the netting, the stuff sack had seams failing, and the thin stake loops began to wear through. My previous Copper Spur lasted nearly ten years before showing any of signs of wear. So I was extremely disappointed to have this experience with such an expensive tent.

    I feel the ultralight crowd is pushing gear manufacturers to produce ever lighter and lighter gear. With the results being extremely expensive gear that is barely able to hold up to the environments they were made for. These folks should just suck it up and carry a few extra ounces on their backs, then maybe gear will again be produced that is still bomber.

    Reply
    • Hi Alan,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Copper Spur HV UL2. I know Big Agnes prides itself on its warranty and repair program, so I hope you’ve contacted them about the damage your tent has suffered.

      I agree that market demand has pushed manufacturers to make lighter and lighter gear, a trend I’ve watched for more than 20 years (and Big Agnes launched with some of the lightest tents being made at that time). I try to note in reviews of ultralight gear, like tents, that users should try to be as careful as possible with such light fabric and materials.

      In the case of the Copper Spur, this latest iteration is only an ounce lighter than its predecessor. I believe the materials used are essentially the same as in the previous generation of this tent that you owned. All I’m suggesting is that it’s the nature of most ultralight gear that durability will not be as good as with heavier gear.

      Good luck with it.

      Reply
  3. I bought this tent early this year in preparation for a trip to Colorado (that hasn’t happened because of the pandemic). Instead, we’ve used the tent for several short trips around northeast Tennessee (including Great Smoky Mountain National Park).

    As you point out, the tent is lightweight, sets up easy, and is fairly comfortable. The biggest challenges that I have had have been:
    – it is easy to snag the zippers (particularly vestibule) into the lightweight fabric.
    – we seem to have a LOT of condensation, both inside and outside of the fly (which makes for awkward packing up in the mornings).

    It may just be the humidity here in Tennessee but I have yet to find the right combination of ventilation and protection from cold winds. I have thought about leaving the fly off but don’t want to wake up in the morning wet from the morning dew.

    Do you have any advice on how open I should have the tent for various temperature ranges?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Bob,

      Good question, thanks for asking. I agree your problem is likely attributable to the humidity in the Great Smokies in summer. I just returned from two backpacking trips in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness and on Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail—much drier places than the Smokies—and had no condensation problems with the Copper Spur HV UL2.

      To answer your question, try to avoid camping very close to any water or in the very bottom of a valley—places where condensation is often greatest. I know that in the Smokies you are assigned campsites, which leaves you little choice, but keep that in mind when planning a trip. The best means of minimizing or preventing condensation is still ventilating the tent as much as possible. In circumstances where condensation is common, having the rainfly doors completely zipped up almost guarantees condensation in many tents, including models that ventilate well. The Copper Spur has two-way zippers on the vestibule doors, which allow you to partially open both doors at the top to allow air movement while blocking some wind, and it has a high vent that you can open without allowing much wind inside. The vestibule doors can also be rolled back partly or completely, creating options for more ventilation on the lee side of the tent while giving yourself more wind protection on the windward side.

      With an adequately warm sleeping bag, you can often ventilate a tent well and still stay warm.

      I’ve also noticed that greater care is required when using zippers on this tent and other shelters with ultralight fabric, a performance trait inherent to the fabric. But it’s also much easier to reverse the zipper to free the fabric when it snags, than is the case with a thicker fabric, so there’s that advantage, too.

      Good luck with your Copper Spur HV UL2. While no tent is probably perfect, I still think this one comes as close to perfection for most backpackers as we can expect.

      Michael

      Reply

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