Gear reviewing, everyone seems to want gear reviews. We usually like for the product to speak for itself, the best endorsement is always word of mouth between fellow hikers if they can get a word in between granola filled mouthfuls. If a hiker truly loves their piece of gear, you will not stop hearing them talk about it. It lasted this many miles, it upheld against this type of terrain, I have had it since my first hike. The hikers passion about their gear comes from the fact that it is used day after day, hike after hike and has always upheld to their standard of reliability. Even though we are not chewing granola right now and getting calorie packed for the next climb, let us get into one of our favorite pieces of gear over the years, that while ultimately it had to be replaced, we were very happy to use.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent. A free-standing tent that unless using the rain fly with it, can be completely pitched without tent stakes. This has always been a huge necessity for us, because as we find ourselves in more remote and more THICC with two C's bushwhacks along new trail systems, we truly never know where an available campsite will be. A campsite might be a little patch of ground, nestled between...well nestles. Or the campsite might be after an exposed ridge walk that took all day, longer than expected, so we were not able to drop off the exposed face and have to find camp on rock faces. Have you ever tried to pitch tent stakes into literal rock? Quite impossible, and frankly downright frustrating. So, the main factor of this tent for us, was the versatility of being able to set up anywhere, and know we were okay to push that day an extra few miles, even if we ended up at a root-filled and sloped campsite. We were always able to pitch our tent.
Nice flat tent pad! Luxury! Not to mention the view....
The next big factor for us, which was tied in closely to the versatility, was the durability of the tent. We have had (2) separate Big Agnes Copper Spurs over the years and each lasted 7,800~ miles and 1,800 miles ~ respectively. I know that is a huge discrepancy in the durability! We were quite confused by this as well. The first Copper Spur we owned lasted through many long distance trails. The last 2,000~ miles of its life, it began to have zipper issues, holes, rain fly issues, and general issues with gear that is starting to deteriorate. Yet, it is understandable and actually downright impressive that it lasted that long. We were absolutely thrilled it lasted this long. So, when choosing another tent, there was no question. Well there might have been a question of weight, but we will get into that later. Now on to the second one we owned. This one only lasted about 1,800~ miles. There are many factors that could have contributed to it lasting drastically shorter than the first. We asked more from it in more extreme terrain, it outlasted extreme weather conditions as well, we could have been not as careful with it, or what we believed to be the main factor was that the tensile strength on some of the fabric and stitching was too high. We do not want to say it was faulty, but with such a huge discrepancy we could not help but feel a little mislead and confused. Once again, there are so many factors that go into the life of a piece of gear that it could have been user error as well as manufacturing error, but overall we were very satisfied with the durability of this tent. Will we get another? Most likely.
Next comes the weight of the tent. While the Copper Spur is still considered a very light tent, compared to Ultra Light standards of tents hovering right below or above a pound it is on the heavier side. The tent weighed in at 2Lbs and 11 Ounces. Still, by any other standards of gear weight, very much within a comfortable weight range for a tent. Do we wish it was lighter? Sure, but we also wish all of our gear is always lighter, no matter the weight. That is just what a backpacker thinks about when doing high mileage days consistently. Did the weight ever dissuade us from wanting to use this tent? Absolutely not! For the durability of the fabric as well as the versatility the weight trade off was more than acceptable. Some of this extra weight comes from the removable rain fly. Instead of using a material that is all-in-one to cut down on weight, for this tent Big Agnes has the mosquito netting, and then the option of the rain fly. This was also a huge draw for us. By being able to set up, purely the mosquito netting, there are many nights that you feel as if you are cowboy camping under the stars, but still being protected from some of the elements. This has turned into a must have for us. Being able to have nights underneath the stars where the environment is still not ideal for cowboy camping, has led to so many great experiences. You can see and talk to your neighbor while tucked into camp, you can see the moon rise nestled in warmly in your sleeping bag, and you can wake up to the unobstructed sunrise of reds, yellows and oranges that are so fabulous. So, while for some the 2-part tent is a deal breaker, for us it is a deal-maker. It all comes down to personal preference, but for the extra weight, we are happy to carry it, knowing it gives us that extra option of being more connected with the outside world.
Another big selling point for us is the two-vestibules. This tent has two doors that you can access on either side. Throw in your gear on one side, while making the bed on the other. Have your hiking partner stash their stinky shoes on their side of the tent, in their vestibule. Open your side for some fresh air on a cool night, while your partner can stay comfortably closed in and maintain their warmth, with the occasional comment of "close the fly, it is too cold!" Yea, not perfect but still extremely comfortable. Even if you are thinking most of your hiking is going to be solo, we would highly recommend this tent. We have done a lot of solo camping with this tent, and UL1 tents, or tents built for one person. Trust us, the weight savings are not worth it. A single person tent, while comfortable for some, feels claustrophobic and like a cocoon to us. One-person tents just always feel too small no matter the manufacturer. A two-person tent however is great for two people but also the solo hiker. We have had many a night where we spread out our gear within the extra space, put our favorite candy within arms reach (not in bear country) and enjoyed the spacious relaxation. Now back to the vestibules. When you have two people in a tent, gear tends to get thrown everywhere. While there is a lot of space within the tent for you and your partner, there is not a terribly huge amount of space for your gear. You can still fit what is needed, but most likely you are not going to fit both packs inside with both of you (we have done it, and user experience may vary). The vestibules provide the perfect extra storage space. Especially when you are dealing with weather, whether that is rain, snow or sleet. The vestibules allow you to put your pack, shoes, trekking poles, water bottles, dirty socks, all gear still within arms reach and they remain dry! Well, dry-ish they were probably soaked that day. It also helps keep all the dirt and grime out of your tent, besides the dirt and grime that is accumulated on you and your partner from being in the woods for months! More space, more options, better experience.
Our gear is outside of the vestibule right now... but it will be cozy and dry inside later!
The specifications of the tent? The Nitty Gritty as they call it. What material is it made out of? What are the exact measurements? Can I have a diagram, please?!?!
Here is the link to their product:
When choosing a tent, what it all comes down to is what makes you comfortable. There are so many specifications and designs out there that you can get lost in a world of numbers. While those numbers are important, and provide you with a sense of what you are looking at, remember not to get to lost within them. A tent could have all the best "qualifications" and hit all your proposed standards, with low weight, perfect height and width, perfect pack able dimensions, but still not fit right for your preferred sleep system. Find what is comfortable for you, and then let the numbers sort themselves out afterwards. You will find a way to deal with the extra weight, find a way to fit it within your pack, and find more enjoyment out of a tent that works for you, product tested and ground truthed.
The take away? The Copper Spur UL2 is an excellent tent. To be more concise, it is an excellent tent for our hiking style and our preferred experience on trail. It can be an excellent tent for your hiking style as well, but if you prefer weight savings and incorporated rain fly's then there is a better tent out there for you.
On top of that we also want to give a shout out to the company Big Agnes itself. The people that we have had interactions with at this company have been amazing to work with. While we talked about the discrepancy of the tent that only lasted 1,800~ miles potentially having a defect in design, and them qualifying it as not being defective, it was still a pleasure to work with them. The people at this company want to work with you which is extremely refreshing as they have gotten to be a bigger company, they have still upheld their standards of customer service. We were extremely happy with the interaction, and while we currently do not have a Big Agnes tent in our hiking arsenal, it makes us want to support them again in the future.
GEAR RATING of Copper Spur UL2: Town Pizza (5 Stars)
A quick down and dirty guide to our future gear rating system:
1 Star = Dry Oatmeal on the Go (not pleasant, sometimes can lead to choking)
2 Stars = Clif Bars (nutritious but not really what your craving, enough energy for an hour or two)
3 Stars = Pepperoni Tortilla (tasty enough, and enough calories to get over the next climb, but that's it, it is just enough)
4 Stars = Ramen Bomb ( tasty, extremely high calories, more than enough energy in the tanks for tomorrow, but not delicious)
5 Stars = Town Pizza (amazing, fantastic, filling, relaxing, DELICIOUS, this has been what you have been craving, and it hits all the cylinders!)
Special Award Category*
6 Stars = AYCE BUFFET (so good it hurts, literally. Can there be too much goodness in one thing? If there can be we have found it!)
Well, there you go our first gear review by a gear company. As we promised a little bit of practical information filled with some humor along the way. We will stay on the lookout as well for the AYCE Gear Reviews!