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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Not strong, not durable, rear walls cave in during high winds, small vestibule, expensive, not adaptable
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
The Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum, weighing in at 28 ounces (without the included stakes), is the lightest dedicated-pole, double-wall tent we've ever tested. Very easy to set up, and with excellent weather protection on all sides, the Platinum is one of our favorite shelters for ultralight backpacking and bicycle touring. Most ultralight shelters, when you include the weight of adjustable trekking poles (required for set-up), weigh more than this double-wall tent, and don't provide as much protection from blowing rain. A lack of headroom for sitting is this product's main drawback, but if you don't travel with trekking poles, you won't find a lighter tent with top-notch weather resistance. The Fly Creek Platinum earned a Top Pick for Ease of Use, and we recommend it to anyone who wants an extremely lightweight shelter, but doesn't enjoy complicated rigging.
The ZPacks Hexamid Twin Tent won our Editors' Choice Award; in comparison to the Fly Creek, it also delivers a class-leading light weight and great weather protection, but is much roomier inside for two folks (you can sit up). If you hike with adjustable trekking poles, we think the Hexamid is the best ultralight shelter for backpacking and thru-hiking. However, the Fly Creek Platinum and Hexamid come with high price tags to match their high scores. The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo receives our highest recommendation, if you're on a tight budget, for an ultralight backpacking shelter.
RELATED: Our complete review of ultralight tents
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum earned top scores for weather protection and ease of set-up. It is also remarkably light. Add the weight of adjustable trekking poles to the lightest shelters we tested, and most are a good bit heavier than the Platinum and its dedicated aluminum poles. A small living space is the downside of such a light, double-wall tent. There's room for two folks to sleep, but very little headroom for sitting up.
The Fly Creek Platinum is the lighter version of the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2, which weighs six ounces more. The Platinum uses a lighter floor and fly material, and more mesh for the inner tent walls. We reviewed the UL 2 as part of our backpacking tent review.
Unlike many of its competitors, this tent is available from major online retailers and can typically be on your doorstep within two days. It's also worth noting that our Top Pick for Ease of Use comes with everything you need to pitch it standard: stakes, poles, guy lines, and all modular components. Few other products in this review can offer this ease of purchasing.
The Fly Creek Platinum, like the heavier UL 2 version, offers excellent weather protection. Many ultralight shelters (A-frame tarps in particular) have one or two sides where wind-blown rain can enter. Not the case with the Platinum, you are protected from wind and rain on all sides. Reflective patches on the tent also make it easy to find if you wander away from camp in the dark.
This tent and the Hexamid Twin offer the most complete weather protection at the lightest weights. The slim design defends against high winds well, especially when the rear end faces into the wind. Clips on both sides connect the inner tent to the outer tent, which helps to pull the inner tent walls out, increasing strength and interior space slightly. Our testers have used used the Fly Creek Platinum for years in the Sierra Nevada and Colorado Rockies, enduring several large summer hail storms, and in Alaska's Brooks Range, where campsites often have little protection from high winds. To withstand high winds, it is important to secure all four of the fly's upper guy out points, two on the sides and two above the vestibule.
The Platinum is the lightest two-person, dedicated pole, double-wall tent we've ever put on our scale. Weighing in at 1 pound and 12 ounces without the stakes, it is as light, or lighter than, the tarps and pyramids we tested (when you include the roughly 16 ounces for two adjustable trekking poles). With the included stakes, the whole package weighs a little over 2 pounds, or 1 pound per person. This is incredibly light, especially for a shelter that provides such excellent weather protection.
Weight Bottom Line:
Inner + fly + poles = 1 lb 12.1 oz
Stakes: 4.9 oz
Packed away in its cylindrical stuff sack, the Platinum measures 19" x 5" round.
Both versions of the Fly Creek use an excellent pole design that's reasonably livable for its weight. Two of our six-foot-tall testers sleep comfortably inside, the 28 square feet of floor space is adequate. Along the sides, the inner tent clips to the fly where it stakes out, stretching the inner tent into a little roomier space. On the other hand, headroom is lacking; the interior is about 2 inches short of our 5'11" tester being able to sit up without his head pushing against the ceiling. Two slim pockets store nighttime essentials along the side, and an overhead pocket can hold a headlamp for reading or other odd and ends. The 7 sq ft vestibule offers enough storage space to stash a couple pair of shoes and a wet rain jacket. Double-wall tents handle condensation better than pyramids with a single waterproof layer of fabric. While condensation can form on the underside of the fly, the inner tent protects your sleeping bag and clothing from drips and the wet fly. Overall, the small inside volume of this tent is its main drawback. The North Face O2 is much more spacious in terms of headroom, but is 6 ounces heavier.
Like all double-wall tents, this one received a low rating for adaptability. It has to be pitched basically the same way every time, in a site large enough for its fixed size and to tension out the fly. All tarps are much more adaptable, with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp defining versatility. What the Platinum does offer, is the ability to set up the fly as a tarp, if you purchase the optional fast fly footprint. The fast fly set up (fly, poles, and footprint) weighs in at 19 ounces. In clear but buggy weather, pitching only the inner tent without the fly is great for stargazing and feeling the breeze if it's warm.
Like most ultralight double-wall tents, the Fly Creek is not very durable. It uses an ultralight ripstop nylon that's coated with silicone on the outside and polyurethane on the inside. Although the Platinum's material is high quality, fabrics coated with silicone on both sides are generally much stronger and more durable. The Platinum's material is weak compared to the SilNylons and Cuben fabrics used by other manufacturers. Yes, it's more fragile, but this is the price you pay for a super light double-wall tent with poles.
Ease of Set-up
We love the ease of setting up a mostly free-standing, dedicated-pole tent. There's no trekking pole length to be adjusted, and less back and forth to adjust stake outs. We found the Fly Creek Platinum the easiest product to set up quickly - well-staked and secured. Six minutes saw us pitched and taut first go round, and three to four minutes was the average one-person set up time. Two folks can be all done in two minutes or so. We find this model the simplest for one person to set up on their own, meaning your hiking partner can get started on yummy dinner. Eleven stakes are included with this tent - nine is the minimum for set up, but 13 is even better for stretching out the fly. Instructions are sewn into the included stuff sack.
Stake out the four corners of the tent and insert the poles. Attach the inner tent to the poles with easy to use clips. Back pole gets staked out too, and the fly attaches at all 5 stake outs, plus both sides and the vestibule get staked out. One drawback to the traditional double-wall design the inner tent must be set up first before the fly is attached. If it's pouring rain while you set up, the inner tent will get wet. Tarps and pyramids with modular inner tents – the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II Shelter and Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp for example – allow you to set up the waterproof outer tarp first, and then hang the inner insert, keeping it dry.
This shelter is best for ultralight backpacking, thru-hiking, bike touring. The Fly Creek Platinum is the best ultralight shelter we tested for less experienced users. Additionally, it will arrive on your doorstep just days after ordering and you do not have to pick and choose your components, or buy stakes separately. Most of our expert testers love this tent as well. For backpacking or biking trips without trekking poles, or anytime we want bombproof rain and bug protection with no rigging hassles, this is our go-to tent.
With a price tag of $550, the Fly Creek Platinum is one of the more expensive models in this review. It is the lightest two-person double-wall tent we've ever tested, and you pay for this. Keep in mind, if you don't already have a good set of adjustable trekking poles, you should be adding $100 - $150 to the cost of competing products that require them. Same with a $20 - $50 set of ultralight stakes. When we consider that the Platinum's high price tag includes EVERYTHING necessary for set up, its price seems a better value.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum is the lightest double-wall tent with dedicated poles that we've ever tested at OutdoorGearLab. Its quick set-up (regardless of your rigging skills), the fact that everything necessary for pitching is included, and the exceptional weather protection have earned it a Top Pick for Ease of Use. In addition, you should be able to have it tomorrow from your local retailer or online.
Other Versions & Accessories
If you purchase the additional fast fly footprint, this can suddenly turn into a roomy 1.5 pound tarp, including poles.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is essentially the same tent with heavier materials. It retails for $350 and is 6 ounces heavier.
— Brandon Lampley & Max Neale
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 19, 2015
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