If you have done any tent shopping lately, you may have noticed a considerable variance in pricing from entry level shelters to exotics pushing increasingly closer to the cost of a monthly mortgage payment. Although I am typically quick to suggest you get what you pay for, I think such generalizations are becoming less true. Many premium tents have exceeded a reasonable asking price relative to the return, and a few brands like Big Agnes are producing options with better than expected bang-for-buck values. Tents like their new Blacktail 2, to be more specific.
At $250 the Blacktail 2 doesn’t slip into the true budget category, but it also has far more features and superior materials than many of its peer products. It uses high quality aluminum poles, polyester rip-stop fabric for the fly sheet and floor, both treated with a 1500mm polyurethane waterproof coating. All of the critical seams are seam taped, an extra step in manufacturing that is all too uncommon anymore, and the internal features abound.
The two pole architecture with small spreader pole at the peak gives the Blacktail 2 near vertical side walls for optimal living space. The asymmetrical floor plan flares at one end for improved shoulder room. With 29 square feet of floor space it accommodates two oversized sleeping pads with room to spare. Me being nit-picky as I am, I like that the door is several inches off the ground as that serves to keep debris from entering the tent.
There are four internal mesh pockets, two media pockets with cord ports, and clips running the length of the upper aspect of the tent for attaching Big Agnes’ latest accessory, their mtnGLO LED lighting system. I know what you’re thinking, and I was inclined to think the same. LED lighting in a tent is not just unnecessary, it seems borderline cheesy, right? Wrong. After using it just once I’ve become spoiled by its lovely ambient glow, and can’t seem to camp without it now. At $39 for the mtnGLO kit, it is not much more expensive than the average entry level headlamp, but it really does produce better tent light.
I find the little things like the small Velcro patches on the vestibule very handy. It allows for quick closure of the vestibule without using the full zipper.
The vestibules are generous in size. When sleeping solo I use one for gear, the other for entry/exit.
With dual side doors and matching vestibules, the Blacktail 2 has ample room for two, or cavernous space for one plus a mountain of gear. The doors are generous in size and the vestibule doors open up wide enough for easy entry and exit. I do wish the doors had a tie-back, but that’s a petty cheap shot at an otherwise excellent tent. The nickel-plated sliders are a nice touch adding to the quality of the tent, and I even like the bright yellow coloring of the zipper track as it makes for quick location of the zippers in low light.
The peak of the fly has two large vents complete with Velcro secured struts to keep them open and expelling moisture to reduce condensation. Multiple guy line points on the fly sheet can be employed in foul weather with high winds, something I recently tested in the spring blows of the Southwest. A solid 30 mph blast had the Blacktail 2 barely budging.
Speaking of wind and the Southwest, one of the common gripes I have against most mesh-bodied tents is their ability to gather sand. The Blacktail’s mesh is only applied to the upper half of the tent body with rip-stop nylon serving to thwart the ingress of sand along the lower half. Thank you for that, Big Agnes.
At five pounds, it isn’t a featherweight tent, but given the size of the living space and features, it’s lighter than many tents in its category. The packed size is not terribly small either, but for most people it is sufficiently compact. For motorcycle touring where bulk and weight are of lesser concern, it’s darn near perfect.
There’s a lot to like about the Blacktail 2. My most critical eye could only pinpoint a couple niggles, and they’re so minor they don’t warrant mentioning. For $250 this is a lot of tent and we can’t wait to get it back in the woods.
The mtnGLO LED light system runs on AAA batteries and provides hours of useful light.