With solo shelters, it seems we often make big sacrifices. If we want something truly lightweight, we have to sacrifice huge amounts of living space -- often to the point that a solo tent feels more like a nylon coffin. Trust, us. You don't ever want to wait out a two-day driving rainstorm in a shelter where there's barely room to roll over, much less sit up straight.
But the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 provides a great balance of weight savings and comfort. This three-season tent proved to be the perfect shelter for a spring solo trip through the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which included warm, humid nights as well as cool ones with pounding rain.
Weight-conscious backpackers should take note that the tent has a "fast fly" option, allowing users to pitch only the fly and a footprint for a package that weighs 2 pounds, 2 ounces. For our test, we carried the tent body, fly, poles and stakes with no footprint, and the weight was just under 3 pounds. While this is not the absolute lightest way to travel, it never felt like a burden, and over the years we've found many ways to shave pounds elsewhere in our packs.
Our favorite aspect of the Copper Spur UL1 is that you get a great living space for the weight. The peak height of the tent body is 37 inches, which allowed our tester (who is 5 foot, 8 inches tall) plenty of room to sit up. Steep sidewalls also help to create a roomy interior. On one side of the tent, the fly extends out 32 inches to create a vestibule that held a backpack, while the fly on the opposite side extends 13 inches to create a smaller space where our tester stored muddy boots. (A small zipper door on this short side provided easy access when he needed to grab his boots for quick trips outside the tent.) Plus, the main body of the tent is 90 inches long, so it will accommodate taller folks.
This tent is not only comfortable, but also easy to pitch. The main set of DAC Featherlite poles has a hub system, so poles snap into place quickly, and there are few loose pieces, which means you're less likely to lose something along the trail. A second, short pole runs perpendicular to the main set at the top of the tent to raise the sidewalls. The design is fairly intuitive, and the poles attach easily to the main body with a series of clips. One nice detail is that the clips have a slight twist, which reduces the force needed to snap them onto the poles. Basically, you don't have to struggle to get the thing set up. Also, the buckles that attach the fly to the tent body are color-coded, so you don't have to waste time guessing which way to situate the fly before attaching it.
Made of silicone-treated nylon, and coated with polyurethane, the fully taped, waterproof fly worked like a champ, shedding water during hours of heavy wind and rain. Our tester deployed the guy lines, and the tent proved to be plenty stable, with no irritating flapping at night to keep a person awake in blustery weather.
The humidity level was pretty high during testing, but it vented well thanks to an ample amount of mesh on the tent body, as well as a high vent that props open. Throughout the hike, there was no condensation inside the tent body, and the waterproof floor, made of the same material as the fly, also remained dry on the inside.
Another thing that stands out with this tent is that Big Agnes put much thought into reducing weight wherever possible. For example, the zipper pulls are made of long strips of durable cloth rather than metal, and the tent stakes are made of extremely lightweight aluminum that's anodized so the stakes won't bend easily.
You'd have to think long and hard to find fault with this tent, but the bottom line is it's a very well-designed shelter created by folks who have obviously taken plenty of solo journeys. Just because you're hiking alone, it doesn't mean that you have to give up a good night's sleep, or sacrifice a comfortable place to while away the rainy hours.
SNEWS® Rating: 5.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $349.95
For more information:www.bigagnes.com