Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Review

imageBigAgnesFlyCreekUL2_B

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is one of the lightest ubiquitously available 2 person tents available on the market.

Weight: 2.6 lbs including optional ground sheet, or if I’m using a multi-purpose tarp as my ground sheet, then tent weight is about 2.2 or 2.3 lbs (I don’t use the stuff sack, which helps shave a little weight).

I use the Big Agness Fly Creek UL2 fairly often, but if you’re looking at this tent, the key thing to remember is that the Big Agness tries to achieve lightness at the cost of almost everything else, and it shows. Compared to my much less expensive Kelty Teton 2, the Fly Creek is one little annoyance after another. And I still find it worth it as the Fly Creek is half the weight of the Teton 2.

The most glaring issue with this tent is the vertical blade design. This makes the tent highly unstable and susceptible to wind. As you can see from the photos, the blade design of the roof ensures that any cross wind hits the side wall like a sail. You might say logically that you should simply angle the tent so that winds slices along the sail….but in most places, shifting winds are the norm, which means that no matter what you do, sometimes, wind will be cutting across the blade instead of along it.

image BigAgnesFlyCreekUL2

Other notes (pros and cons):

– A nice feature about this tent is the single pole (three section) design, which makes packing it up a little easier. An ingenious hub has holes that properly align the three sections to their respective corners. There is another nice feature for the innernet to hook onto the top of the main pole section. As with most tents, the poles are aluminum components that slide into each other and are held together with a bungee. Between two of these pole components is a plastic piece that, once connected between two pole pole components, cannot move. That piece holds the central inner tent hook in place and prevents it from moving along the pole. Great little design feature.

– Setting up and taking down the tent is very easy. There are hooks that attach the innernet to the rainfly to help open up the area inside the innernet. By leaving these hooks in place, and binding the ground sheet anchor points to the innernet anchor points and also leaving the tail of the rainfly attached to the innernet’s tail buckle and keeping everything folded together, I can first unfold the three pieces and lay the whole thing flat, connect all the pole components, hook in the three end points of the pole, attach all the inner hooks, throw the rainfly over the poles (remember, the tail is already attached, making this quick and easy, and velcro’ing the reinforcement points of the rainfly to the pole (one for the main pole section, one each for the shorter pole sections going down either side of the door, buckling in the two anchor points on either side of the door, and then guying everything out. Since the innernet hooks to the rainfly are already in place, there’s nothing left to do after guying the lines out. Folding up is also fast because, again, everything stays together. I simply unhook the buckles on either side of the door, remove the pole and split and fold it up, and then fold up the three fabric pieces all together.

– speaking of the guy lines, the Fly Creek uses a very nifty guy line lock that I’ve been seeing a lot with newer tents. A triangular plastic piece with some ridges where the line runs through, and is simply angled one way to unlock and tighten and then angled back to lock in the ridge space. Very useful, fast, and easy to setup even with gloves on. I hope every tent gets this guy line plastic tightener.

– Since there is only the single main pole section at the tail end, there are guy line anchor points on either side to stretch out the tail. This means that even though this tent is free-standing, you really want to guy everything out, not just for the wind, but also to make space from the tail to the main sides.

– The single front door is very large, with twin zippers. I find it’s easiest to bring the zippers together at the lower left corner of the door. When properly guy’d out, one hand operation of the zipper is possible.

– The space inside is enough for a 25” sleeping pad with a little spare room. While technically this is a two person tent, it really is a 1.5. The tent narrows at the tail quite a bit, so if you do need to sleep two, keep in mind that your feet will likely be touching, and expect to be very cozy. Good in a pinch if both people have 20” wide sleeping pads.

– When sitting up, your head may not reach the top, but the narrow sides mean that you will definitely be touching the mesh on either side. Luckily, the top part of the innernet has a really light no-seeum mesh, so it’s not too annoying.

– Ventilation has been fine for me, with no issues with condensation. On my less expensive tent, condensation has been an issue, so it is nice to wake up dry.

– The Fly Creek UL2 uses very light materials all around, and there is a big sense of fragility. Even the floor makes me nervous. I use a tarp underneath the ground sheet (which I do with all tents, so I don’t really count the weight of it when comparing one tent to another). I would definitely avoid being in the tent with shoes on, and always take care to sit on the sleeping bag which is in turn on a sleeping pad to avoid damaging the tub style floor.

– The innernet has three different types of fabric: The floor tub is a solid nylon (very thin, but the strongest material of the innernet. The middle section is a translucent mesh, and the upper is a no-seeum mesh.

– The vestibule is enough for a pair of shoes, or maybe a backpack. But of course, the vestibule is at the main entrance, so not ideal. I’m really unhappy with almost every tent in the market because I use a large self standing external frame backpack most of the time (unless I’m doing short weekend long distance trips, or need to travel light), and this pack does not fit in most vestibules because of the height requirements. the angles of most tent vestibules are such that the pack just won’t fit (The hubba hubba gear shed, and some tube design guy-out tents like the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT, or similar tents being the exception).

UNRELATED SIDEBAR:
I have a dream design for a tent, but unfortunately, no one seems to really think like me as I believe in a tent using light materials but also has a big vestibule area with good rain covering for cooking without having to scrunch up the sleeping area. Having camped in the rain before while backpacking, I’m confused why only car camping over-size tents understand the half for sleep/half for other activities concept with tents. NOTE: The MLD Supermid + Solo Innernet comes close, so I may have to order one of those to try it out.

Despite the many compromises, overall, for one of the lightest free standing tents around, the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 is pretty hard to beat. While I still use the cheaper Kelty Teton 2 tent for colder weather camping, the UL 2 is great for summer camping, and when going far and light, it’s a hard tent to beat for the price.

Rock on Big Agnes, your camping-fu is top notch.

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