Gear Review Big Agnes Scout UL2 Plus

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Ok, this is just an initial impressions review for now, but I'll update it with my experiences as they come along.

Big Agnes recently came out with the scout UL 2 tent. Inder 1.5 lbs, cheap, and pretty cool. However, reports were trickling in that it didn't have much breathability, and it could use a vestibule.

Well, Big Agnes just released two more vesrions in the scout like: the scout UL2 plus and the super scout UL2. This review is for the Scout UL2 Plus.

I ordered my scout UL2 plus tent from backcountry.com. They have a 20% off sale right now, so it came in around $285 after taxes. I paid for it myself with my hard-earned money. Straight out of the box, in the factory package, it weighs 2 lbs 5 oz. The stakes alone weigh 5 oz, and the instruction manual weighs 15g. So it's right under 2 lbs without the stakes and instructions.

Like all excited new tent owners, I immediately set it up in the backyard.



I've never had a silnylon tent before. It's pretty stretchy, quite unlike cuben fiber. The tent is pretty cool. It's not quite as tall as I had hoped. I could still sit up in it and play cards with my wife if we were stuck in a 12 hour downpour, but it'd be uncomfortable. It looks like it'll be much better for sand than the duplex. The bathtub floors are high enough. I think I could pitch the fly a little more vertical if it were stormy and sandy or really windy and cold. It's a pretty cool design.


What I like:

- super simple to set up, especially compared to the duplex and the HMG Echo II. I didn't have to keep repositioning the stakes a million times. It pitches right the first time.
- cool pockets inside. They pop out to hold stuff. They weigh virtually nothing, but they keep things organized.
- toggles are way better than zpacks
- the tent design doesn't put mesh in any stress points (unlike the zpacks). I don't expect to ever tear between the mesh and the nylon.
- no separate "fly", it's all one unit
- vents allow ventilation, but don't make it breezy. It may feel muggy in 100* weather, but I don't typically camp in that kind of weather. I think this will be pretty warm for winter camping
- you don't need an insanely big area to set it up
- from a big name-brand manufacturer. I don't know why I like this. I like supporting the little guys, but knowing it came from a big factory makes me feel that some solid R&D went into the materials and design.
- zippers are bigger and more functional and less finicky than with UL tents


What I don't love:

- it requires 12 stakes to set up (unless you get creative)
- the pole is right in the way for entry. The duplex had a similar pole in the way, but the entry was about 2x as wide, so you could get around it easily.
- the main zipper gets caught in the rain flap, you have to be careful how you zip it up
- depending on which side you're sleeping on, it can be easy or a pain to get in and out of.
- it seems like it'd be a bit cramped if you had to spend more than an hour or two waiting out a rainstorm with a friend.
- floor is REALLY thin, but that's a given for UL tents. I'll definitely need some sort of footprint to protect the floor (I'll most likely get a tyvek one)
- snow sticks to the silnylon and doesn't fall off easily on its own

For a 1-man shelter, it's awesome. Tons of room and easy enough to get in and out. As a two man, it's just fine as long as the person on the right doesn't have to get up in the middle of the night. :)

I plan on sleeping in it tonight to see what it's like. I'm sure some of these points will move from one category to another, but we'll see. All in all, for under $300, it seems like a sweet little setup. There's something to be said for cheap gear that works. It may not be the most cutting edge technology, but it looks well thought-out and should work great; especially for the price.
 
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I did some more experimenting today.

I wanted to see if there was a way to get by with fewer stakes, so I removed all 4 of the stakes holding the orange bottom down. It worked. The tent bottom blew around in the breeze, but it didn't affect how taught the top was, so it can definitely be done with 4 fewer stakes.



That being said, I don't really want the bottom of my tent to blow around, I like it semi-taught. My plan is to put some shock cord on each of the 4 orange tie out points and attach them to the same stakes as the grey roof. That's 4 fewer stakes. We'll see how that works.


Next I wanted to see if there was a way to move the main pole out of the way. This is actually very stable and seems to work good. I had to pull the main guyline in line with the trekking pole to get the tension right, but it works well. It does put kind of a weird twist on the tie-down loop on the top of the tent. I'll keep an eye on this and see if it causes a problem over time.

Without the 4 orange corner stakes:



With the corners staked out:



With the fly zipped up, you can't even tell that it's got the pole in at an angle:





I should also add that while the vestibule isn't removable from the tent, it is possible to completely roll it back and tie it to the side, so it has even better ventilation.
 
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Nick

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Nice review, looking forward to hearing more about it. It's a really interesting looking tent. I think I want one! So the 'Super Scout UL2' is just the same thing with a bigger vestibule, right?
 
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Part 3.

@Tess and I decided to test out some of our gear last night in the backyard. We tested our summer bags to see how comfortable they were down to 30*. I had my WM Summerlite (32*) with 2 oz overfill, and she tested her WM Megalite (30*) with various clothing options. We also tested the new tent.

I had left the tent set up since noon, mainly to see how much it stretched out over time and to see how it fares being left for a while. We climbed in around 11 PM. I immediately noticed that the inside of the grey roof had ice and condensation on it. When I had pitched the tent, I pitched it over wet grass. During the day, i'm sure the water on the grass evaporated and rose up to the tent roof. I can't blame the tent one bit for this, but I thought it was worth noting.

The tent was a little saggy. I later figured out that this was because of how I pitched the main pole at an angle. It didn't put enough tension length-wise on the roof to keep it up when loaded down with condensation. The roof sagged a bit lower than earlier in the day. I'm sure pitching the tent as intended would fix this problem. Even so, it wasn't much of a problem. Once I was lying down in my bag, the roof wasn't near me, so I stayed dry. If I were to sit up quickly during the night, I'd probably brush against the wet roof, but that didn't happen. The cool thing was that there was zero condensation below the roof. It had passed through the mesh to the outside.

Immediately I could tell that the tent was a lot warmer than my zpacks duplex. It's probably the same warmth as my HMG Echo II when pitched low to the ground. There is considerably more room in the scout than the echo II. My wife mentioned that we would be able to sit up and play cards all day if we got stuck in a long storm. Not to mention we'd be able to use the vestibule area as well, which is bigger than the echo II.

There was plenty of ventilation, but it wasn't breezy. Then again, the breeze was pretty tame that night. My wife didn't have a hard time climbing in once I was already in, so pitching the pole to the side ended up being a good thing while entering. In the future, I'll pitch it as intended, them move the pole to the side when entering and exiting, then putting it back for the night.

Apart from that, it was uneventful. We slept all through the night with no drama. The overnight temps ranged from 28*F to 19*F. I wasn't expecting it to snow, but it did snow a bit during the night, which only made our testing better. I woke up a few times to notice the roof covered in snow. I knocked it off from the inside, and it fell aside. The weight of the snow on the roof caused it to stretch a little, and it wasn't pitched as taught as when I initially started at noon the day before. If I cared enough, I could have snugged up the guy lines and taken out the slack, but it was snowing and I was warm in my bag. When I knocked off the snow, I noticed that there was still ice on the inside of the roof, just like when we entered the tent. I believe that if I had pitched the main pole straight, and tightened up the guy lines, the condensation would have had an easier time rolling off the roof down to the mesh. It was also unusually humid that day, with rain, hail, and snow going all day. Not super typical for Utah.

In the morning, we woke up after a great night's sleep and headed in to the house. I left the tent set up with the pole angled just to see how it fares later today. I hope this review has helped.



 
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Nice review, looking forward to hearing more about it. It's a really interesting looking tent. I think I want one! So the 'Super Scout UL2' is just the same thing with a bigger vestibule, right?
The super scout is a little different. It uses a tent pole (provided with the tent) at the foot. That means you only need one trekking pole to pitch it. EDIT: you'll still need two trekking poles to pitch it, since the vestibule needs two trekking poles. Judging by pictures, it looks like it pitches a bit lower than the Scout UL2 Plus at the foot area. Apart from that, it seems really similar. It has a HUGE vestibule in there. I imagine you could cook in there just fine. Here's a video comparing the 3 models:



Now I just need to figure out how to get paid to test gear out. :)
 
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Good stuff. I love your testing, write-up, and passion!

As a side note, I use a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 and I like pretty well. It's a bit of a pain to stake out (requires 11 I think) and it's a bit delicate (I got a 2 inch tear in the fly...not sure how) but overall I'm pleased with it's weight and performance.

Big Agnes seems to be doing a good job and innovating and keeping weights down.
 
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Great review!
That 'super scout UL2' is a pretty awesome tent. I would love having that big of a vestibule. It would be nice to be able to have my dogs sleep under there instead of inside my tent with me.
 
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Great review!
That 'super scout UL2' is a pretty awesome tent. I would love having that big of a vestibule. It would be nice to be able to have my dogs sleep under there instead of inside my tent with me.
That's a great idea for dogs. I don't think my dog would sleep if he weren't in the tent with me, he'd just wander around camp looking for things to smell.
 
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it sounds like the super scout is only 6 oz more, not bad!
 

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ok, back to the tent.

I was able to test an idea someone on backpackinglight recommended, where I use two trekking poles in the front, so I don't have to dance around the one in the middle. It was a great idea and worked flawlessly.



I think I will be doing that every time moving forward.

This time, we pitched the tent on dry grass. There was a slight breeze that I could feel blowing through the tent during the night. I noticed a fair amount of condensation on the grey part inside the tent in the middle of the night, and even more in the morning. We slept with the vestibule closed, so that may have had an affect on the condensation. Either way, I feel like it had more condensation than it should.

Also, the walls and roof of the tent got loose and sagged a bit during the night. When I got up to pee, I staked the side guy lines out wider, and this helped a lot, but when the roof has moisture on it, it wants to sag even with tight guy lines.

It was a humid night, which is uncharacteristic of Utah, but I still noticed more condensation on the inside than I wanted. The next two weekends will involve some trips out in the desert, so we'll see how the condensation does there.

So far, I like the tent for its weight, design and simplicity, but I don't care for the sagging walls in the middle of the night, or the condensation issues I'm experiencing. For trips to the wind rivers or uintas, where it's likely to see rain, i'll most likely be taking my HMG Echo II since it does far better in the rain. For desert trips, this may be a great option, we'll see.
 
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I'll be doing some more testing tonight at Capitol Reef. I'm going to try putting the trekking poles at an angle (so they're not 90* straight up). Then, during the night, when the tent will inevitable sag, I'll pull the poles in closer to the tent to get the ridgline taut again. We'll see how that works.
 
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Time for an update.

I've bagged 6 nights in this tent so far. I've had it in rain, snow, wind, sand, and calm weather. Here are my experiences:

On clear nights, with the vestibule all the way open, this tent breathes great and condensation is a non-issue. I love the tent in these conditions

On rainy nights in the desert, with low humidity before the rainstorm, it keeps us completely dry and condensation isn't an issue, even with the vestibule completely closed. I was surprised how well it ventilated this way.

It the ground is humid or moist when you pitch your tent, it seems like no matter what you do you're going to end up with condensation on the roof inside the tent. This past weekend we slept the San Rafael Swell river. It was so humid with the river nearby that the tent was dripping condensation from the roof. Most of it made it through the mesh vents, but some of it trickled down to the floor. Granted, even our cars were covered in dew that day, but the inside of our tent fared far worse than everyone else who had a double-wall tent (as could be expected). In this instance, any tent would have condensation on the inside, but this had so much that the outside of my bag was soaked in the morning.

We've had the same experience when camping in snow, just too much condensation on the roof no matter what we do. This has been the case with other single-wall tents we've used, so it's no worse for this.

In the wind and the sand in the desert, with the vestibule closed it completely keeps sand out of the tent and still allows it to vent. I bought this tent for sandy desert, and I think it'd perfect for these environments provided you're far away from humid water sources (like rivers). The design of the high bathtub floors really keeps the sand and dust out, which is nice. In the desert, there aren't many lightweight tents that can keep the sand out. This one does a great job.
 
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Here are the things I absolutely love about this tent:

1) the bathtub floors come up high enough to block out any sand or dust blowing around, yet it still has decent ventilation. I will never own a tent with short bathtub sides again!
2) fast, intuitive, and easy to set up
3) fantastic value. The weight/price/quality balance is fantastic
4) sturdy. I haven't seen any construction issues, and it has zero signs of wear.
5) the vestibule comes all the way to the ground. Love it! That's huge for me, when sand only needs an inch to to blow under your vestibule into your tent. It's tough to find vestibules that come all the way to the ground.
6) this tent has cool features like pockets, reflective guy lines, intuitive hang and tie-out loops, etc that a lot of the cottage manufacturers leave out in their designs.
7) warm. This tent is warm, despite the vents all around.
8) the ability to pitch with trekking poles. This is huge for me. I'm carrying trekking poles anyway, so I might as well put them to good use while I'm sleeping. No need to carry dedicated tent poles
9)the design allows for poles to be pitched outside the tent, making setup much easier. I also like the ability to adapt the front to take two trekking poles in an "A" shape to allow an easier entry.


All that being said, no tent is perfect for every condition, and I've found a few things that bother me just a little bit.

1) Not enough headroom. I'm 5'6" with a long torso, and my wife is 5'5" with long legs; we aren't big people. Once we're lying down, there is plenty of extra space past our feet. Tall people shouldn't have a problem lying down in this tent. In fact, we'd be able to stash our packs at our feet if we wanted to.

However, I don't feel that the tent is tall enough inside. When lying down and rolling over, or reaching for something in my pack, my bag often comes in contact with inner roof/walls of the tent, spreading condensation to my bag. On a single-wall tent, it's imperative that you don't come in contact with the ceiling since it is usually wet. To me, that means a design that keeps the roof/walls off you in the night. On dry nights with the vestibule open, coming in contact with the ceiling isn't a problem at all since it's dry. However, if it's humid outside, or below freezing, you're going to have a ceiling that's covered in dew, even if you leave the vestibule open. If the walls were 6" taller before they came in contact with the roof, it'd be ideal and I wouldn't mind the condensation since it would stay off of me. Even 4" more would be great. Big-bodied people would have a really tough time avoiding contact with the ceiling. If used as a 1-man tent, it would be just fine.

Sitting up in the tent can only be done near the tent entrance, and you need to be careful not to brush the walls of the tent. If it's arid, you can touch the roof all you want, but if there's condensation you'll get wet. I can only imagine two tall people sharing this tent while waiting out a 10 hour rainstorm, trying not to bump the ceiling. For single-man use, none of these complaints apply.

Also, since the foot area is shorter than the head area, climbing around to reach something at the foot of the tent can be tight, and often involves contact with the ceiling.

2) Snagging zipper on the vestibule. The main zipper for the vestibule often snags on the storm flap. In my opinion, it'd be better not to have the storm flap at all. The vestibule sits up to 24+" away from the tent body, so even if it weren't a waterproof zipper, it'd take quite a bit to get water to reach the tent. This past weekend the zipper got stuck in the storm flap no less than 3 times between me and my wife, even being very cautious as we zip. We were always able to unsnag it without damage, but it took climbing outside the tent to inspect
the flap and see what's really going on.


Other observations:

With the vestibule closed, you can't see outside the tent. This isn't a big deal AT ALL, just an observation. The primary objective of a tent is to shelter you, so being able to see out the tent is just a nice bonus. Sometimes it's tough to tell if the sun has come up or not yet, so I have to sit up and unzip the vestibule, which isn't a big deal at all. Most tents on the market don't allow you to see outside when in storm mode.

Stretchy, flappy. Unlike cuben tents, the silnylon construction of this tent caused it to loosen up over time. I learned to stretch the main line taught, which prevented the roof from sagging, but due to the stretchiness of silnylon, this tent will never pitch as taught as a cuben tent. This means rustling in the wind, and sections losening up over time. These issues aren't unique to this tent, all silnylon tents suffer from this.

Overall, I really like this tent. I'd give an 8.5 out of 10 stars. If the walls were higher and I was able to keep the ceiling off of my all night, it'd be a strong 9.5. That being said, the tent would be heavier, and it may not be easy to pitch since my trekking pole is almost maxed out at current height.

If the grey material were cuben fiber, and if the walls were 4" taller, this would be my ideal tent. I would happily pay double for those features. That being said, I'm really pleased with big agnes' aggressive approach to lightweight tents. The more lightweight tents we have to choose from, the better, and it's nice to see the big guys dipper their toes into trekking pole shelters.
 

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