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81983REVISED OWNER REVIEW - Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3- Ben Hawley

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  • Ben Hawley
    Feb 20 9:25 AM
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      BIG AGNES Fly Creek UL 3
      February 17, 2013
      NAME: Ben Hawley
      EMAIL: otis27@...
      AGE: 35
      LOCATION: Auburn, AL
      GENDER: m
      HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
      WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)
      I am a long time outdoors enthusiast born and raised in Seattle and have experience with everything from road and mountain biking to sport climbing and scuba diving. I have been hiking for 20 years and have recently started transitioning towards lightweight backpacking. I generally carry a pack that weighs between 30 to 40 pounds though I am slowly trimming that down. Having grown up in the PNW I have a healthy respect for quality rain gear and equipment that will keep me dry. As a transplant to the hot and humid South (currently Alabama, previously in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri), I have an equal respect for gear that will keep me cool and dry. Much to my wife's chagrin, I am constantly buying and trying new and different gear in an attempt to find the pieces of gear that will make me the most comfortable and successful in the backcountry.
      Manufacturer: Big Agnes
      Year of Manufacture: 2012
      Manufacturer's Website: bigagnes.com
      MSRP: US$ 449.95
      Listed Weight: 58 oz (1644 g)
      Measured Weight: 58 oz (1644 g)
      Other details: 64.8 oz (1837 g) with optional footprint and gear loft
      Duration used: Total of 11 nights

      This is a free standing 3 person tent with 1 doors and 1 vestibule. The pole system is one interconnected piece. It has hubs that swivel into place and shock corded poles. Individual stuff sacks are included for the tent, the poles and the 13 included stakes. Reflective guylines are preattached to the rainfly.

      I bought this tent as a big step towards going lightweight for my wife and my backpacking excursions. It definitely fits that bill as it is very, very light. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand it is very well constructed and seems structurally solid. On the other hand, the material that was used is so light that I have very little confidence in the durability, which is why I ended up also buying the footprint. I often take my dogs along on backpacking trips but they will not be going in this tent. I have no doubt that their nails would go right through the floor. All of that being said, I realize that this is an ultralight tent and I cannot expect it to be as burly as a mountaineering tent. With the evident quality of construction and with careful and proper use, I hope to be proven wrong on the long term durability. 

      The best test of this tent that I have had the opportunity to experience was in July on the Bogachiel River trail in the Olympic National Park. Due to unseasonably high amounts of snow remaining at the upper elevations of the trail we (my wife and I) had to cut our planned route down to 33 miles over three days rather than 60 miles over five days. Though the trip was shorter, this would be the first time we had gotten to use the tent in the backcountry and it was able to exhibit it's range of use very well.

      The first night we found a nice sandy beach along the river to camp. The weather was clear and the temperature got down to about 45 degrees. There was a strong, but not violent, wind blowing fairly constantly. The tent set up very quickly and easily. It took maybe 5 - 7 minutes even in the wind. Once inside it feels very small. I am 6' 1" and 190 pounds, while my wife is 5' 3" 125 pounds and with the two of us inside there was no comfortable way to get our packs (Osprey Atmos 65 and Gregory Deva 70) in as well. With the wind there was some flapping in the rain fly but nothing too bad. I am a very hot sleeper but in the morning the condensation was minimal so it seemed to be ventilating pretty well in those conditions without being drafty. The next morning packing up was equally quick and simple. The included stuff sack is more than large enough to accommodate the tent. I was noticing that the stuff sacks with the poles and the stakes were already getting
      small holes that looked like they had almost melted through from friction. A bit disturbing since this was the first time we had packed it out.

      Night two was about 1000 feet higher in elevation and with a slight rain. The temperature was now down to about 38 degrees at night with the wind remaining steady. Again setup was easy but after walking all day in the rain it was becoming more evident that having no room for the packs inside could be troublesome. Still, we slept comfortably and in the morning there was somewhat more condensation on the inside of the fly but it was only an issue when the fly and body of the tent came into contact which was caused by us moving around inside.

      The third and final night was spent at, I think, 2200 feet and with torrential rain. The night time temperature gets down to 34 degrees and the rain never lets up. Shocking for a rain forest, I know. Again the lack of room for our packs under cover became an issue. They will not fit under the vestibule without pushing in on the wall of the tent and making the space even smaller inside. We are forced to bind them up in our pack covers and hope for the best. This night was not as pleasant as the first two. With the lowered temperature and the violent pounding of the rain the tent was not able to vent nearly as effectively and as a result the condensation was raining down from the inside of the fly. Also the floor material did not seem to be fully keeping the water out that was on the ground around us. Parts of my sleeping bag were getting very wet and, not to beat a dead horse, there was not enough room inside to move away from the walls and the wetness.
      After a long, cold and sleepless night we packed up our gear and continued on.

      Once our trip was over, and we were back home, I erected the very wet tent in the garage and hung up the fly to dry. Both dried very quickly and showed no signs of wear. We had set up camp at places that were fairly clear of debris and sharp objects but I was still wary of the seeming fragility of the material. I'm happy to say that it is apparently more durable than it seems.

      In addition to this trip I have used it on several short weekend trips, always with favorable weather, and it remains a very good option and has no visible signs of wear. It has also continued to prove that it vents very well when guyed out properly. I would probably make it my go to tent for good weather but still don't trust the floor to stand up to my dogs so it is relegated to going only on trips without them.

      My thoughts on this tent are still very mixed. I feel that it has fairly limited use. As with most "3 person" tents, this one is really only a two person tent and a slightly small one of those even. Were the temperatures warmer, and therefore one was able to pack lighter and carry a smaller pack, it would be much more comfortable. I wouldn't mind the vestibule being a bit larger as well.

      Calling it a 3 season tent is being a bit generous. I think it will make a fantastic fair weather tent that can manage some mild weather but anytime you may find yourself in a deluge I think you will wish you had something more formidable. I think that it may be more useful year round in my current southern clime than it would be back in the PNW.

      Overall I think this is an excellent warm weather, two person tent that is light enough that you could even carry it solo if you really wanted to pamper yourself with extra space. It vents well under most circumstances. I would not recommend trying to squeeze three people in there except as a last resort. I would recommend the use of a ground cloth of some type, whether it's the corresponding Big Agnes foot print or a piece of tyvek or whatever you prefer. While the material has held up to some abuse it is still remarkably and ridiculously thin and why take the chance when carrying an extra 3 ounces could save you and your tent.
      Light weight
      Easy to set up
      Vents well in good weather
      Packs very small
      Well constructed
      Feels too small
      Fabric seems fragile
      Does not handle heavy rainfall well
      Slightly small vestibule

      Ben Hawley
      This report was created with the BGT Report Generator.
      Copyright 2013.  All rights reserved.

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