Sleeping shelters for the Tour Divide/ Colorado Trail race/ and Arizona Trail Race come in all different shapes and sizes. Many are partial to the bivy, or as I call in a bear burrito. Moreover, others prefer the false sense of security and real sense of comfort an ultra-lightweight tent brings. I am currently in limbo between the bivy and tent but for today’s tech review, I will be looking at my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent.
Big Agnes is the producer of some of the nicest tents on the market and it shows. You cannot do an ultra-race without seeing at least one Big Agnes tent. There build quality is outstanding, two years of abuse and a zipper has never even snagged and the color still looks like it is brand new, and the attention to detail just adds to an already solid tent. However, that does come with a large price tag.
Big Agnes tents run between $200 and $850. That is a lot of money and defiantly cost provocative to those just getting into backcountry travel and bikepacking specifically. When I purchased by Big Agnes I did so over eBay and was able to save quite a bit of money from the actually retail price. I am a big proponent of buying used gear in order to save money, limit environmental impacts, and supporting other outdoor adventures.
Ok enough about the company itself let us look at the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. The fly creek comes in several variations with mine being their ultra-light two person tent, hence the UL2. When looking that Big Agnes tent offering I was interested in weight and space. I love getting gear that I can use for numerous years and trips as well as for different reasons such as family camping, racing, and road trips. This is a lot to ask for in one tent but I seem to have found it with the Fly creek UL2.
The totally weight for the tent comes in at around 1lb 15 oz. This is a pretty good for a tent but still much heavier that the 8.4 oz. SOL Bivy Pro. However, this perceived weight issue is quickly forgotten when the benefits of a tent are weighed.
First of all the fly creek ul2 allows for one person to have a roomy space to stretch out and relax after a hard day of pedaling while also proving enough room for a second person to join in with decent space as to not feel like you are always bumping into that person. During the Tour Divide, this tent was a much-needed escape from the elements and I viewed it as a refuge after each grinding day on the bike. There was one point in particular during the 2016 divide when a mountain thunderstorm hit the portion of New Mexico I was riding in out of nowhere; I had mere minutes to set up the tent before it rolled over. That sense of security and shelter is something I do not take lightly which is why this piece of gear will always be valued.
Despite the low weight, comfort and ease of assembly there are some drawbacks. For one there is only one entryway. This is fine for one person but when someone else is also in the tent, it becomes a hassle to climb over them to open up to door.
Another downside is the staking involved. With many lightweight tents, stakes are required in order to use the whole shape of the tent and provide structure. This is also true for the Big Agnes as it comes with only one large stake with two adjourning poles. This technically one pole system provides the main structure by a minimum of four stakes are needed to provide the potential footprint of the tent. A further 3-4 stakes are necessary if you want a bombproof rain fly set up as well. These stakes are lightweight but they take time to place and it limits where you can set up to tent. You much have space and the proper dirt to stake into otherwise you are using rocks and damaging the tent in order to keep it up.
Overall, I love to Big Agnes fly creek ul2. Despite the annoying staking required and the one door issue it has proven to be a reliable tent going up at least 70 times since I purchased it 2 years ago. It is yet to be seen if this will be by tent for the Triple Crown. I want/need to drop my gear weight if I want to break the record so it may see the chopping block in favor of the Enlightened Equipment Bivy or the SOL Bivy Pro. Nevertheless, whether or not I use a different system for the Triple Crown I will always have the fly creek UL2 as my weekend explorer and long expedition set up.