Big Agnes vs...a Tarptent?

Mike K

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Jul 6, 2012
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I wasn't sure what to call this thread. :) I'm toying with the idea of getting a ultralight 2-3 person tent...possibly very soon. I could use any input anyone has.

I've been eyeing the Copper Spur UL2. I have a Fly Creek UL1 and enjoy it but I "need" an ultralight for 2. The Copper looks solid...a little pricey...and maybe a little tight, but would get the job done I think. 20 % REI discount would help. A little.

Then I came across a Tarptent that looks cool, the Rainshadow 2. The roominess appeals to me. I'm generally not a fan of non-freestanding (sucks relying on good ground to stake into) or single-wall (condensation)...but this tent is tempting me! The one door doesn't bother me. I like bug-proof, too. The best review I read was here.

Does anyone have any experience with Tarptents? Seems like I read in another thread that @sixstringsteve bought a Tarptent (Stratospire2?). @uintafly, did you ever get that Notch Tarptent?

Edit: this thread has helped a bit. Sorry to be a little redundant.

Or...anyone have an alternative tent in the category that they LOVE?
 

steve

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I know exactly where you are, I used to be in the same boat: I wanted a 2-man freestanding UL tent. Then I realized that a freestanding tent under 2.5 lbs for 2 people wasn't really going to happen.

I almost always camp with my wife, so I need a true 2 man tent, not a 1.5 man tent listed as a 2 man. I've been finding that a lot of manufacturers (especially Big Agnes) seem to be pretty optimistic on their ratings. I'm a small guy, and my wife is even smaller, but most BA 2 man tents can't fit us without us rubbing up against the wall. The Copper Spur is the only 2-man UL I'd consider from BA. @jentzschman had the brand new rei dash 2 on our last trip, and it looked super light, but I wasn't a fan of the design . And I'm not sure how free-standing it is.

If you want a traditional, freestanding tent that's UL, the copper spur, or golite imogene seems like the best bet.
 
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steve

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That being said, if you can get over the freestanding aspect, your options really open up. I was worried about non-freestanding tents, but as I made the transition, it proved to be a non-issue. The only time I wished I had a freestanding tent was in the snow, and even then I was able to do make it work by burying some sticks under the snow.

I've tried super minimalist shelters from HMG and zpacks and I found that I prefer something closer to a tent. I can't do the single-wall tent unless it's made of cuben, and that only works in some situations. Through trying a handful of tents, I realized that to me it was worth the extra weight for a double-wall tent.

I've only used my tarptent once, but I'm very impressed with the design and construction quality. I'd love some interior pockets on my tent, but that's really a non-issue for UL gear. I think my tarptent was built even better than my BA tent. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to get another tarptent.
 
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fiber

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May 18, 2013
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I have the copper spur UL2, and it is roomy enough for two people. The Copper spur is a beefy UL tent. When all the guide lines are out, it handles high winds, +30mph without a problem. If you camp above treeline, like I do, you need a tent that can handle thunderstorms. The Fly Creek UL tent didn't look like it would fair well in bad weather.

A friend of mine had a two person tarptent that he took on what turned out to be a very wet backpacking trip. The tent's walls got really wet, but as long as you stayed away from them, your gear would stay dry. The tarptent did not look like it would hold up to above treeline thunderstorms very well. For the standard Uinta camping spot in the trees, I think a tarptent would be perfect, unless you camp in the rain a lot.

The gold standard for me is the Copper spur, and I would compare the weight of other tents against that one. You may find that the weight savings you get from a tarptent is not worth the degradation in ability to handle high winds or condensation problems with single wall tents.
 

DAA

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Jun 14, 2012
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No complaints with my CS UL2. Love the two side door and two large vestibules. Super easy to setup - even in the dark, in the wind and rain. Rain proof, wind proof. Truly free standing. True double wall. Room enough for me and my adult Son. Have never got wet at all in it, not even during 14 hour downpours in the Uintas. Split between two people, less than 2 lbs in the pack for each.

I have zero experience with any Tarptent model. So, can't compare at all. But after using the CS for a couple of years, I'm not looking for another tent, I'm sticking with this one.

20130628_Uintas_Backpacking-156W.jpg


- DAA
 

steve

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A friend of mine had a two person tarptent...

Which model tarptent does your friend have? The models vary quite a bit, and I'm guessing your comments apply more to that model than the entire line of tents. I have zero worries taking my stratospire 2 above the treeline in any kind of weather, though time and experience will tell if my assumptions are correct.

I will also mention that my stratospire 2 is as big as my REI Quarter Dome T3+. It's a HUGE 2 man tent.
 
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steve

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The rainshadow 2 looks cool, but it wouldn't work for me because of how much dust and sand it would let in during a wind storm in the desert. In high alpine camping, it looks like it could be a great tent, though I wonder how well it protects against sideways rain.

I've come to learn that the perfect tent for me isn't necessarily the perfect for someone else. We all camp in different conditions. I think the trick is to find the right tent for the conditions and sleeping style you have. I think almost all big manufacturers have a tent for most users.
 

Eric O

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Stratospire 2 with the solid inner in my opinion is a perfect setup. I have a notch and love it. The solid inner is good for snow/wind/dust and the dry setup can't be beat. It's also fairly light for a shelter that's has a decent amount of room inside and HUGE vestibules.

I owned a Fly Creek 3 and it was ok but only having one entrance sucked and the floors are paper thin. The Fly Creek also wasn't a true free standing tent and actually required just as many stakes to setup as the Stratospire 2. The copper spur fixes a lot of the problems that the Fly Creek series has but also adds a little weight. The free standing nature of the copper spur is where it's at.
 
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steve

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Super easy to setup - even in the dark, in the wind and rain. Rain proof, wind proof. Truly free standing. True double wall. Room enough for me and my adult Son.

That's great feedback, especially about the room for 2.
 

andyjaggy

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how durable are the materials on the copper spur? The one review on Amazon makes it sound like the tent is going to get a hole in it if you blow to hard on it.
 

Eric O

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how durable are the materials on the copper spur? The one review on Amazon makes it sound like the tent is going to get a hole in it if you blow to hard on it.

I wouldn't worry about anything but the zippers (if you're abusive to zippers) and the floor. I poked a hole in the floor of mine pretty easily and would say that a groundsheet is 100% necessary in all but the softest ground. Other than those two things the tents seem to be very sturdy, especially for their weight.
 

Mike K

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Awesome comments and insights! Much appreciated. You guys rock. I want to comment on most of what everyone said but I'd be typing for a while! I'll contemplate more and see what comes of it. That $299 price on amazon is appealing (and it's even the updated 2014 version and ships from backcountry.com so I'd have it quickly). Or maybe my cheap side will take over and I'll realize that packing an extra few pounds isn't a huge deal. :D

I'll let you guys know what I decide. Again thanks!
 

steve

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How soon do you need a new tent? I'll be bringing my tarptent to our trip in Bryce in a couple weeks. You can check it out then if you haven't made a decision yet.
 

andyjaggy

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Awesome comments and insights! Much appreciated. You guys rock. I want to comment on most of what everyone said but I'd be typing for a while! I'll contemplate more and see what comes of it. That $299 price on amazon is appealing (and it's even the updated 2014 version and ships from backcountry.com so I'd have it quickly). Or maybe my cheap side will take over and I'll realize that packing an extra few pounds isn't a huge deal. :D

I'll let you guys know what I decide. Again thanks!

I've been fighting a similar battle, trying to decide how much those extra pounds are worth. In the end I think it would be better and certainly cheaper for me to loose the 3-4 pounds off myself instead of my gear. ;)
 

Mike K

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=) I use the word "need" loosely. You know how it goes. I have a perfectly working function REI Quarter Dome but I've caught the bug to cut weight where ever I can.

I'm hopefully heading down to Escalante next weekend for a 3 night trip and if I buy a tent it would likely be before that trip. And I'd like to have it on our Bryce trip as well. It'll be cool to check out your Tarptent for sure. It should be the perfect trip for it.

I noticed the inventory count went down by one on amazon on the Copper Spur. =)
 

steve

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I've been bit by the ultralight bug, and I'm a huge fan. Some things are expensive and some aren't. In some cases, going UL doesn't cost any comfort or convenience (using a kirkland water bottle vs a nalgene), but in other places there is a comfort or convenience sacrifice (using a tarp vs using a fully-featured freestanding tent.) If you're not a gram counter, it may not matter much. Now that I've become a gram counter, my pack weight went from 35-40 lbs to 12-14 for a single overnighter. To me, the ability to shed more than 8 oz at a time is huge. It's a balancing act though. I've gone too far UL for some things, and the extra weight was worth the comfort and convenience (pillow, sleeping bag vs quilt, double-wall shelter).
 
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