Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Spring 2022 Issue.
Few brands in the world of bikepacking have an equal reputation for quality, innovation, and functionality as Big Agnes. The Colorado company was established 20 years ago with a mission to “build better gear for sleeping in the backcountry” by a team who actively camp and thus know firsthand what their customers require.
Big Agnes faced the pandemic head-on, using it as an impetus for “a renewed focus on innovation, reducing our environmental impacts.” One such reimagined product is their award-winning HV UL2 tent, redesigned “from the stakes up” using solution-dyed fabric.
Solution-dyed fabrics drastically reduce the energy consumption and water required during manufacturing compared to traditional dyeing methods. More resistant to UV fade, they consequently offer a marked improvement in quality.
The packed dimensions of the UL2 are remarkable for a two-person tent, which weighs 2 pounds, 4 ounces, while the Fast Fly weighs just 1 pound, 9 ounces. The Shortstik poleset is more compact than conventional poles and stows away in most frame bags or saddlebags. The tent and pole sacks are easily secured, and the tent bag integrates daisy chain webbing, allowing direct attachment to the bike.
The UL2 is self-standing, useful when the ground proves too hard or soft for stakes. A proprietary tent corner construction and unique TipLok buckle system streamline setup by combining three functions: securing pole-tip capture, rainfly attachment and tensioner, and stake-out loop. The buckle has a keyed hole, so the pole tip locks securely into place once inserted, and the hinged design stabilizes the structure by equalizing forces between the tent body, rainfly, and ground stakes.
The ability to quickly buckle the rainfly into the TipLok system is a game-changer because it creates an anchor point that prevents the fly from flapping uncontrollably in strong wind. Velcro tabs are included to connect fly to pole structure and provide extra stability, whilst pre-cut guylines and tensioners further enhance the tent’s performance in poor weather. The tent can also be pitched in “fast fly mode,” utilizing just the fly, poles, and footprint (sold separately). Big Agnes includes their lightest and strongest stakes to date, 6-inch Dirt Daggers with patent-pending I-Beam aluminum construction and an orange anodized finish.
Once erected, you’ll find a dual-zippered, single-door entry with a quick-stash door-keeper and storm flaps on the single vestibule entrance. The front entry is now larger, and once inside, you will find approximately 20 percent more space compared to the previous generation and an additional 2 inches of head and foot space. Headroom is 42 inches at the highest point, but this tapers off toward the foot end. The tent is technically two-person, but it’s pretty snug. I consider this a luxurious one-person option or a minimalist shelter for two.
There are several useful storage and organizational features, including a helmet hatch. The tent is sold as three-season and is easily one of the warmest and best insulated I’ve tested. Condensation is manageable, particularly if the vestibule is left slightly open, and you leave a sufficient gap for airflow between the rainfly and floor (essential practice for two people).
$370 | bigagnes.com
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