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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Delicate fabrics require special treatment, still 17.2 ounces heavier than the lightest tent in this review
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 is a high performance two-door backpacking tent for people that want more space and comfort than lighter tents like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 offer. It wins our Top Pick award for the best lightweight, livable backpacking tent. It weighs in at 52.6 oz. or 3 lb. 4.6 oz., has two spacious vestibules, and has an above average space-to-weight ratio. The tent features high quality ultralight fabrics that could be stronger and more durable. It competes fiercely with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and the Tarptent Double Rainbow, and we think it is the most comfortable and easy to use of the three.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking tents
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Copper Spur UL2 is an outstanding balance of weight savings and comfort, making for a top performing backpacking tent. We love its double doors and ample head room, all for just a tad over three pounds.
Ease of Set-up
The Copper Spur UL2 is relatively easy to set-up and has a very similar pole design to the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. It has a single, interconnected pole with two hubbed ends for extra strength in winds and a cross pole for extra head-room. The Copper Spur is completely free standing, so no funky stake out maneuvers are required like with The North Face Mica FL2. Color-coded pole and fly connectors and reflective quick adjust guy lines make set-up brainless. It comes with only minimal guy line attached, and it would be useful to have had more for all the guy points on the tent. Its stakes are decently strong and the tent comes with enough stakes for the critical points.
The Copper Spur strives to be both lightweight and spacious; and it succeeds! This is our favorite tent for luxurious lightweight backpacking with lazy afternoons spent reading The New Yorker, drinking tea, and frolicking around in fluffy down sleeping bags. It is a great compromise for two people backpacking together who want to go light, but don't want to sacrifice things like two doors and head room.
This tent has the third highest space-to-weight ratio of all 16 tents tested. An impressively tall 42" peak height makes it easy to sit up at the front. Twenty-nine square feet of interior space and steep walls provide plenty of room to spread out and use the floor area to a greater extent than is possible on many lighter, cramped tents. Two 9-square-foot vestibules easily cover shoes and a moderate size pack. Big Agnes has added four upper pockets along with the two supportive side pockets that were found in the previous version to hold nighttime essentials, and an optional gear loft quenches the organizational thirst of the messy basecamper. We also like the updated bright and cheery orange color – although it is less stealthy than some tents we tested. The Copper Spur's inner doors zip down in a rainbow shape. We prefer a door that opens in a D pattern and find the Copper Spur's doors allow more dirt to enter the tent unintentionally.
The Copper Spur has wonderful geometry that produces a tight pitch and holds steady in winds that bend many other lightweight tents over, including the Fly Creek UL2. Three guy points at the head and one at the foot help to secure it better than most light tents. A large vent above the head area helps to combat condensation (the company's Fly Creek series misses this critical feature). The geometry is very similar to the Hubba Hubba, and we noticed that both tents' fly materials squeak against the poles in high winds. We sat out many rain storms inside the Copper Spur without a care in the world and stayed cozy and dry.
As with all double wall backpacking tents, the Copper Spur is not very adaptable. You can take the fly off on warm summer days to check out the stars, but fly on and fly off are the two basic options. You can "fast pitch" it if you purchase the expensive footprint separately, but we don't think this is the best way to use the tent. The Hubba Hubba NX is more versatile than the Copper Spur because you can "fast pitch" it without a footprint.
Big Agnes sacrifices a degree of durability to keep the Copper Spur's weight down. We think it is a good compromise – but you need to take good care of the tent. Its fabric is not particularly abrasion resistant and you'll need to make sure that it is well staked down if you are going to leave it un-attended when its windy out or you'll come back to it shredded to pieces. The Copper Spur has a sturdy and well-designed pole construction that helps to offset its fragile fabrics. The tent uses slightly more durable fabrics than the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 (20D versus 15D), but they're still neither strong nor durable, and it's important to care for them like a baby. A slight bit of bushwhacking tore the stuff sack and floor of a Copper Spur that was sticking out of the top of one tester's pack.
For this reason we recommend always packing your tent inside your backpack to avoid any un-necessary abrasion. Otherwise, its materials are of high quality and won't degrade as quickly in your garage as others like the Kelty Grand Mesa 2. For more information on fabrics check out our Buying Advice Article.
Weight and Packed Size
In their latest version, Big Agnes has worked to shave a few more ounces off the Copper Spur UL2, bringing it down to 52.6 ounces (they advertise it as 50 ounces – but not according to our scale!). The Copper Spur's materials are very packable, but it is a bulkier tent than the smaller Fly Creek UL2. It packs to about the same size as the Hubba Hubba NX and is 3.5 ounces lighter.
The Copper Spur's greatest limitation is its fabric. Despite a full season all over the High Sierra, including three serious and one record-setting storm, our test model showed few signs of wear. Nonetheless, the fabric tears very easily compared to others, which is a significant drawback. For many backpackers, the fabric will not pose a serious drawback, but for long distance hikers or anyone traveling to remote areas, we recommend something with increased strength and durability like the Hilleberg Anjan 2 or the Tarptent Double Rainbow.
A relatively minor drawback: the Copper Spur isn't as stealthy as green and grey tents such as the Hilleberg Anjan, or a stony grey like the Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2.
The Copper Spur UL is a great choice as a lightweight option for two backpackers. If you're looking for a roomy, lightweight shelter for one, consider the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2.
The Copper Spur UL2 retails for $400. This is a serious investment into your backpacking gear. We think this is decent value if you are planning on doing a lot of backpacking trips, but not if you are only going to use it for car camping trips. If you want a great tent for shorter trips, car camping, or very occasional use check out something less expensive and more durable like the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 ($180) or the REI Half Dome 2 Plus ($219). The Copper Spur is an expensive piece of equipment, and because it is made from lightweight delicate fabrics it needs to be treated with care and stored properly. For more information on caring for your tent check out our Buying Advice article.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 wins out Top Pick Award because it is the most comfortable lightweight two door tent in this review. It is just slightly lighter and more livable than the Hubba Hubba NX and we think it is more weather resistant than the Double Rainbow, but not quite as strong and durable as the Hilleberg Anjan 2. Its main drawback is its delicate materials and expensive price tag, but we think it is worth the investment if you know you will be doing a lot of backpacking with a partner.
Other Versions and Accessories
Big Agnes Copper line up includes the Copper Spur UL1, Copper Spur UL3, and Copper Spur UL4. They have also released "mtnGLO" versions of their two and three person tents that have a small string of LED lights that provide ambient light inside your tent – batteries not included. (Copper Spur UL2 mtnGLO and Copper Spur UL3 mtnGLO).
— Jessica Haist
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 22, 2015
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