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Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Review

   

Backpacking Tents

  • Currently 4.7/5
Overall avg rating 4.7 of 5 based on 8 reviews. Most recent review: June 16, 2014
Street Price:   $390 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros:  Extremely light, easy to set up.
Cons:  Not strong, not durable, rear walls cave in during high winds, expensive.
Best Uses:  Lightweight three-season trips.
User Rating:     
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 (4.6 of 5) based on 7 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (7/7) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 12, 2013  
Overview
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent is a classic high performance lightweight double wall tent. It performs well in a wide variety of conditions and only weighs 34.6 ounces without stakes. This is the third lightest tent we've tested. It pitches with a single integrated hub pole, has top quality features such as partially solid nylon walls that block spindrift and help to insulate. Despite a continuous onslaught from newer competing tents the Fly Creek UL2 still does well in our rankings. We believe this version is more weather resistant and a better value than the $500 Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum.

Check out our complete Best Backpacking Tent Review to see how they all compare.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is an exceptionally well-designed lightweight two person backpacking tent. At 34.6 ounces without stakes, this is the third lightest double wall tent we've tested. The Fly Creek UL2 uses a proprietary single pole/hub system designed in collaboration with DAC. This is shaped like a giant Y with the hub above the door. The pole fits into three grommets: two by the front door and one in the center rear. This leaves the back corners of the tent unsupported; you'll need to stake them out.

The tent body is made of extremely lightweight materials. The floor and rainfly are made of a moderately high quality polyurethane coated ripstop nylon. The walls are a combination solid nylon on the bottom and and mesh on top. We especially like the solid bottom panels because they help prevent sand and spindrift from blowing into the tent during the night. This is a critical feature that missing on the Platinum version.

There are several well thought out features. First, the inner tent's main walls attach in two places to the rainfly, which is then staked out with guy lines. These clips pull the tent walls out, making more room inside and adding stability. For its weight, the tent is surprisingly comfortable. Two of our six-foot plus testers slept comfortably for many nights. There are three pockets: one on each side of the door and one in the roof. The seven square foot vestibule is among the smallest of the tents tested here. The vestibule has enough space to cover some shoes but not enough to cook in or to make getting in and out in the rain easy. Finally, the Fly Creek has reflective guy loops, guy lines and fly clips that make the tent highly visible at night.

Click to enlarge
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 along the Pacific Crest Trail, High Sierra, California.
Credit: Max Neale
Dislikes
While the Fly Creeek UL2 is lightweight and well designed, it is not durable. The tent is made for multi-day mobile trips where weight is the primary concern. The tent will not hold up well, nor will it be comfortable, for basecamping or car camping. Big Agnes does a great job at making this tent light and reasonably affordable, but it would benefit from a higher quality silicone impregnated nylon that's stronger, more durable, and lighter. The Hilleberg Rogen and Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 both use fabrics that we believe to be much better. Further, almost all of the tents found in our Ultralight Tent Review use better materials and some use cuben fiber, which blows the Fly Creek's fabric out of the water.

The tent performs well in lightweight applications with rain, but, like many of its ultralight competitors, it's not strong enough to handle high winds. Despite orienting the rear end into the wind, the pole structure flattens considerably and, like many other tents, displays remarkable resiliency.

Versatility is a characteristic absent from the Fly Creek. When compared with the two door tents reviewed here, the Fly Creek is small and cramped. Two door tents offer more comfort for people that car camp and backpack.

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The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 in front of its heavier competitors
Credit: Max Neale
Best Application
Lightweight backpacking.

Value
The Fly Creek has been around for a while and can be found for less than its $350 retail price. The tent is a reasonable value- see our Price versus Value Chart for details. If ultralight backpacking is your objective we strongly encourage you to consider an ultralight tent, the Terra Nova Solar Photon 2, or Tarptent Double Rainbow.

Other Versions and Accessories
There are five versions of this tent:
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, $330, is the little brother of the Fly Creek UL2 and the smallest of the four tents in this series. This tent is also available in a three and four person version, the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3, $450 and the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL4, $500.

You can purchase a footprint for this tent, the Fly Creek UL2 Footprint, $60, as well as the Fly Creek UL1 Footprint, $50, the Fly Creek UL3 Footprint, $60, and the Fly Creek UL4 Footprint, $80.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 16, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.6)

100% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 63%  (5)
4 star: 38%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 7 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jun 16, 2014 - 02:25pm
dkeg · Mountain Biker · Maryland
I have used this tent for a little more then a year now. Mainly for weekend backpacking and bicycle touring. 1 to 2 nights moving between campsites. I have used it about 15 times. I bought it mainly for it's light weight, pack size and personal recommendation.

What I have seen is, this is a great good weather tent. Light weight, packs small and easy set up. It is not roomy for 2 people, good for one person. I mainly use it with my sons. So it is no big deal since they are smaller. As for durability, I know it is a light weight tent, so I care for it that way. I have had no problems with it holding too my trips so far. As for being sturdy in bad weather, as I said it is a great good weather tent. I have had it in rain with no issues. I have not had it in heavy Southeast summer thunderstorms. Also, I have not had it in heavy winds yet. But I am a little concerned about that. The sides move a bit in lighter winds (10 to 15 MPH).

Bottom line: if weight and pack size is your main concern and you mainly camp in good weather with occasional light to medium rain. Then this tent is a good choice. If high winds are a concern, I really can't tell you anything.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 22, 2013 - 10:39am
simply_light · Backpacker · Midwest, Indiana
Good for its purpose. Not super Ultralight, but getting there.

I've tested most of the Big Agnes lightweight series of tents and this fell in line with the rest.

Pro's

Lightweight
Easy to Set Up

Now the cons.

Never been a big fan of front entry tents. I find it harder to get into than side entry.

My biggest issue is that it is Not Truly Free Standing - Big Agnes uses a tent pole that y's at one end only. So, the front of the tent is free standing, but the back needs to be staked out to achieve maximum floor space. Most times, we all have tent stakes with us, but there are a few times were stakes were not needed or able to be used and adding an ounce or two to make the pole "y" at both ends would be an acceptable trade off for me.

Jared M. Baker
Simply Light Designs

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 10, 2012 - 02:55pm
Knarfster · Backpacker · Phoenix, AZ
Seriously? this site will review esoteric cottage industry bags, but only stick to commercial store front brands for tents? Lame.

This is a light tent, and therefore it costs more. It is more durable than people think, especially if you don't abuse your gear. but some les expensive light alternatives look to someone like tarptent, they even have free standing 4 season tents that are lighter and less expensive than many reviewed here.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 29, 2012 - 07:28pm
Some Random Guy · Climber · San Francisco, CA
yes, this tent is awesome for ultra light backpacking and i would totally recommend it for that. it is definitely not for mountaineering. a friend brought it to our mount whitney trip and we stayed in it at upper boyscout lake in the spring. the winds were gusting 50-60 mph. no matter how many guy lines we attached directly to the main dac spine and tethered it down in all directions the top would still bend completely over to the ground. we had to sleep all night like that :(

nice light tent but does not stand up (literally) to high winds.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jun 22, 2012 - 12:06am
BackpackerPT · Backpacker · Chicago
I completely disagree about the durability of this tent. I have used it as my go-to shelter on all sorts of weekend and long adventure trips for two years now…most of which involve sharing that "fragile" tent with an 80-pound golden retreiver mutt who doesn't like having his nails clipped. So far not a single puncture or slice…

It also traveled with me on a 12-day trip around the Torres del Paine circuit in Patagonia. Other tents blew away, poles cracked, and a few collapsed…but my fly creek stood its ground in Patagonia's notorious high winds. And as far as the rain…not a drop inside or on me (except when you exit…I still haven't figured out how to exit a front-loading tent without taking a condensation/rain shower…)

Overall this is an awesome backpacking tent and I highly recommend it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 8, 2012 - 03:02am
IronDave · Climber · Mulhouse, France
Great tent. I was only able to use it only once so far, but it's light and packs small (it fits in the side pocket of my backpack where you can usually put your water bottle). It fairly easy to pitch and takes only a few minutes to setup. Because of the one pole design, it's not fully freestanding and requires staking. The design is very good and you can tell a lot of thought has been put to make it simple and efficient.

It was supposed to rain when I used it but it didn't or only very little. So I can't say much about how it handles on heavy rain. I got a lot of wind though, and it merely moved or made noises.
I was on my own so I got a lot of space inside the tent and I could get all my gear inside, plus plenty of space left.

Overall I am very happy with it. I looked at a lot of different tents before buying this one, comparing weight, space, waterproofness, packing size, and the Fly Creek UL2 met all my criteria for the best backpacking tent.

Definitely one of the best piece of gear I own for backpacking.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 14, 2011 - 11:50pm
AT_Strider · Hiker · Clinton NJ
This is an awesome tent and it held up quite well on my 6-week section of the AT (GA, NC, MA, VT, NH). I used the footprint and had no problems. Some condensation but no worse than most and better than many. On clear nights I'd set the fly but pull it back over the top ridge for sky views. Simple to pull it back over if it rained. Some people might think that it's flimsy or light-weight in your living room but was fine out on the trail - can't beat the light-weight and features. I was solo and the Fly Creek UL2 gave me enough room to bring whatever gear I wanted into the tent. The vestibule is not super-roomy but was ample for a 65L backpack, boots, stove, etc if I didn't want to bring anything into the tent. Would also hold 2 but like most UL set-ups, you'd better be good friends!

I make sure that the area beneath the tent is as 'clean' as I can get it to reduce damage to the footprint and tent floor. That said, it survived missed rocks & twigs. I treat my gear well as I depend on it and do not treat anything as a 'throw-away'. Like all UL gear, you need to treat it right and it will perform…and last.

It's easy to set up and take down, the light-weight stakes work well, and seemed to shed wind and rain without much fuss. Some reviewers complained about noise from the fly but I'm a light sleeper and had no issues.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
Credit: Big Agnes
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