Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
$400, 2 lbs. 4 oz.
I got a little worried when the wind in the Grand Canyon started gusting to about 30 mph one evening—which I assumed would test the limits of the ultralight Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 tent’s structural strength. When the gusts continued to increase—at times exceeding 40 mph—I seriously thought we might lose one or more of our shelters roughly halfway through our May backpacking trip on the 25-mile Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. But the Tiger Wall stood up to those gusts, giving me yet another reason to like this supremely featherweight backpacking tent.
A friend and I used the Tiger Wall UL2 for four nights in the Grand Canyon—a place that will give shelters a hard test, especially ultralights, because it can be so relentlessly windy and rarely offer natural wind breaks like dense trees. But Big Agnes’s lightest two-door tent surprisingly rose to that challenge—and I say “surprisingly” because many backpacking tents, even heavier models, are typically built to withstand winds up to about 30 mph. The Tiger Wall also withstood afternoon and evening winds hitting around 30 mph, and a steady rain, on a weekend camping trip in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve.
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The hubbed and color-coded DAC Featherlite NFL pole structure not only makes pitching and dismantling the tent quick and intuitive, it’s quite strong for being so lightweight: The tent bowed a bit but never collapsed or suffered damage when winds in the Grand Canyon gusted to what I would conservatively estimate at 40 mph. The Tiger Wall falls just shy of freestanding; the two foot-end corners require staking. But that’s hardly a shortcoming, since any fully freestanding tent requires staking to create a taut pitch and stand up in strong winds.
As usual with many ultralight backcountry shelters, living space represents the most conspicuous tradeoff. Its 28 square feet compares with competitors in this exclusive and tiny club of two-person, two-door, double-wall tents that barely exceed two pounds. Other metrics are similar to what you’d find in this category: 86 inches of length, a 39-inch peak height (enough for six-footers to sit up, although many will find their head rubbing against the ceiling), and a floor width that ranges from 52 inches at the head end to 42 inches at the foot. You’ll fit two standard, 20-inch-wide air mats in there with little room to spare. Average-size people will bump into each other a bit, while two big people might find it too cramped.
The two eight-square-foot vestibules each store a mid-size pack and boots, create some cooking space when needed, and exponentially increase the comfort, convenience, and ventilation of an ultralight tent compared to single-door models. The short, bridge section of the pole lifts the side walls of the mesh canopy outward, not only improving headroom—making the interior feel more spacious and livable than other tents in this category—but each end of that pole sits in tiny pockets on the rainfly, strengthening the tent’s structural integrity.
The interior is basic, with a mesh pocket on each side and a large, mesh ceiling pocket, which won’t hold much weight but facilitates drying out damp socks or T-shirts, and provides a spot to place a headlamp for diffused interior lighting. The two large doors have dual zippers—one each along the bottom and top edges—that open separately and join at a bottom corner of the doorway; this allows opening just one side slightly to pass something through or to put on shoes without letting bugs inside. The oversized zipper pulls makes locating them in the dark easier.
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With all-mesh walls and ceiling and a double-wall design, ventilation is excellent and condensation not a problem (with the possible exception of cold, calm nights with both rainfly doors completely zipped shut—not circumstances I encountered and not typical for an ultralight, three-season tent; but the taut pitch would help keep any dampness on the rainfly’s underside off the mesh walls). The rainfly’s vestibule doors have two-way zippers and hook-and-loop patches for multiple venting options, plus the rainfly doorways overhang the interior doors, creating a drip line that keeps rain out of the tent.
As with many ultralight tents, this one employs very lightweight, 15-denier fabric, which demands a reasonable degree of caution handling it. The Tiger Wall UL2 measures just 5.5×18 inches (14x46cm) in its stuff sack, a compact package that stows away easily inside a mid-size backpack. Using the footprint (sold separately, $70, 6 oz.) instead of the interior tent canopy with the rainfly, the so-called “fast-fly” setup weighs just 1 lb. 11 oz. (including everything needed—footprint, rainfly, poles, and stakes).
Final analysis: Although snug for two people, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is livable, relatively strong, and certainly one of the very lightest, two-door, double-wall tents on the market—light enough even to use as a solo tent if you want abundant space (although two doors and vestibules become superfluous weight for one person).
The Tiger Wall UL3 ($450, 2 lbs. 10 oz.) weighs just seven ounces more, but adds 10 square feet of interior space, making it lighter but more spacious than many two-person, two-door, double-wall tents—so it legitimately pulls double duty as a two- or three-person shelter.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 at Moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 at Moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com.
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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 categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.