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Big Agnes Fly Creek Tent Good Design, Ultra Light

Reviewing: Big Agnes Fly Creek Ul1  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Outdoors & Recreation Expertise:
Fly Creek UL1 set up

This one-person backpacking tent has been getting good reviews from hikers, and I completely agree. The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 (ultra-light one person) tent has everything a solo hiker, who wants to stick with a traditional tent, could want.

After a five-day hike in mosquitoes so thick that I had to get in my tent the minute I stopped walking each day, I vowed to get a different solo tent. The one I was using had plenty of room to lie down, but even I (I’m small) could not sit up in it. Fourteen hours of remaining prone each day is just too difficult.

I had been looking at this tent for a long time, comparing it to others, and had already decided that it had the features I wanted. Imagine my surprise when it was presented to me as a gift! Since then, I’ve only had a chance to sleep out in it a few times, but it has worked well, with only a couple of concerns. I’ve not yet had it out in the rain, so I’ll have to comment on that later.

This tent makes use of an interesting design in the poles. Most solo tents either have two "hoops" at the ends, or one center pole, either of which makes the inside shape awkward or impossible to sit up in. These designs also render the tent not free-standing (which means that it has to be staked down in order to stand up at all). The Fly Creek has solved that problem, so that it is both free-standing and can have sufficient inside height. The poles are shock-corded and are attached to a hub which allows for a tripod type arrangement. These poles are anodized aluminum.

Although Big Agnes has managed to trim down the weight to make this a truly ultra-light tent (with stakes and storage bag it weighs just 2 pounds 3 ounces), they have not sacrificed the benefits of a 3-season tent. The door and top of this tent are made of polyester screening (dark gray, so you can easily see through it), for summer use. The rainfly is solid and comes down to the ground all the way around, giving you complete rain protection. Although I haven’t had this tent out in the rain yet, this is the way my favorite two-person tent is designed and I like it a lot. The full coverage fly will also hold in body heat, and I know that with my two-person tent, even if I sleep in it alone in cold weather, the temperature is usually several degrees warmer inside than outside. Also, you can zip the fly open from the top (while the bottom is still closed) for a little extra ventilation. The nylon is silicone treated rip-stop.

The large mesh areas of the tent itself solve the problem that many solo tents have of excessive condensation.

It comes with a nylon “footprint, ” which is essentially a ground cloth. I may replace that with thin plastic, but if you like this, it’s well-made with seamed edges. There are grommeted straps which you can stack with the corners of the tent so that the poles also hold the footprint in place. This is very nice.

Set-up is simple. I think the first time I set it up it took less than ten minutes. Now that I’m familiar with the parts and shapes of the pieces, it takes less than five minutes. Although this is technically a free-standing tent, which is unusual for a solo tent, you really would need to stake or tie out the sides for good protection. The sides flap inward unless you do this. There are short cords which clip the fly to the tent on the sides, and then when the side stakes are put out, it pulls the nylon out taut to the sides.

It has four extra cords on the sides which could be extended for storm lashing. They seem annoying to me. I’ve never storm lashed a tent in 20 years of backpacking. (I did once long ago on a canoe trip). They are simply tied to fabric loops, and I think I’ll remove them.

Can I sit up in it? Absolutely, and most anyone else could too. There are 37" of inside height at the center. I’m small, so there is enough interior room to hold my backpack and boots as well. Some larger guys might still leave their pack outside. I can dress and undress inside without complete contortions. The floor space is listed as 22 square feet in a trapezoidal shape. It has a full floor inside the tent. There is a decent vestibule with 10 square feet, which does not have a floor.

I have a few minor complaints about this tent.

The stakes are very lightweight, and I think would bend too easily. I have some stakes I bought separately a few years ago, which I will substitute.

I also don’t care for the elastic loops with which you attach the tent to the stakes. The only way to adjust the tension on these “lines” is to move the stakes. This sometimes isn’t easy, or even possible. I’ll probably replace the elastics with lightweight cord which can have a taut-line hitch tied in it.

The door in the fly, and the mesh door have toggle buttons and loops so that they can be fastened open, but these are not well-designed. The toggles are ok, but small. The loops are flat, and way too hard to open enough to get the toggle through. Also, the way the flap is shaped, one toggle just isn’t enough to hold the flap back. I think I’ll work on some type of velcro fix to replace these.

The entrance zipper does tend to stick a little bit. I think this is due to the ultra-light character of the product. I just need to learn to be a little more careful with it.

The color is sort of melon and pukey gray. It doesn’t speak to me, but it’s ok. A triangular gear loft can be purchased for an extra $22.

This is an expensive tent. It’s listed at $300, but it can sometimes be found for slightly less. The quality construction, low weight, and excellent design make it worth the price. Many solo backpackers who want to travel ultra-light have switched to hammocks or tarp tents. But for someone who still prefers a full tent, I think this is absolutely the best choice.

See all the specs for the UL1 and other models at Big Agnes