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Hands-on Gear Review

Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 Review

Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2
Price:   $350 List | $349.95 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Roomy for two, enough headroom to sit up, very large vestibule, great interior pockets, stakes included
Cons:  Relatively heavy, vestibule door zipper can snag, must be set up exactly the same way every time
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Big Agnes

Our Verdict

The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 is a large, A-frame style tarp tent. For its weight, it's the roomiest fully-enclosed ultralight shelter that we tested. The single layer of waterproof ripstop nylon overhead has eaves that extend out over the attached mesh sidewalls and waterproof floor. This is the most spacious and livable two-person shelter in the ultralight review, and is also relatively affordable. Two adjustable trekking poles (not included) make set-up quick and easy.

The ZPacks Duplex is the Scout's closest competitor in this year's review. These two pyramid style shelters both have permanently attached floors and mesh walls that provide complete bug protection. The Duplex won our Editors' Choice award this year. It isn't as spacious as the Scout Plus, and the vestibule is small, but it weighs about half of what the Scout does and stands up to strong winds better.

Product Update - February 2017
The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 has been updated with a new roof construction. Keep reading to find out more!


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
February 7, 2017

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Product Update for 2017


In addition to a 2016 color change, Big Agnes has confirmed that the latest version of the Scout Plus UL2 has an new construction featuring an updated tapered roof. Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the newest version pictured on the left and the older model that we tested shown on the right. Then, keep reading for a more detailed description of the roof update.
Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2
 
  • Roof Design — Big Agnes explained to us that the roof over the foot area of this tent has been lowered to create a more tapered roof. This update was designed to help the tent's stability in windy conditions, though we haven't tested this out ourselves yet and so cannot confirm this claim.

Hands-On Review


The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 earned the second highest score we awarded for livability. It is much roomier than all but the Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid. The Scout also features the largest weather protected vestibule of all shelters we tested. This enclosed tarp tent is only limited by its weight (all the roominess comes at a cost) and the lack of adaptability.

This great tarp tent is available at several online retailers and should be on your doorstep within days of ordering.

Performance Comparison


This A-frame style tarp tent is one of the roomiest ultralight shelters we tested  and certainly has the largest weather protected vestibule. The color scheme blends right in at Devil's Tower in Wyoming.
This A-frame style tarp tent is one of the roomiest ultralight shelters we tested, and certainly has the largest weather protected vestibule. The color scheme blends right in at Devil's Tower in Wyoming.


Weather Resistance


The Scout Plus earned a middle of the pack score for weather resistance. In protected campsites or when there is little wind, it provides perfect protection from rain. But, heavy downpours can cause some splashback and windblown rain tends to get under the eaves, while mist crept inside through the mesh sidewalls. We would like to see Big Agnes make the eaves a few inches inches longer; this would add an inconsequential amount of weight and provide better storm resistance. The large size of this shelter with protruding eaves doesn't handle strong winds as well as other lower profile tents.

The fly stakes out at eight points, and the pre-rigged line tensioners make adjusting the SilNylon's tautness easy. In strong winds, adding additional guylines to the two loops located at the peaks of the poles is important. Each comes with an attached line, but we recommend adding one more.

As you can see here  it is difficult to get a perfectly tight pitch with this tarp tent  and the silNylon tends to stretch a little bit. We find this shelter most appropriate for use in protected campsites like this one.
As you can see here, it is difficult to get a perfectly tight pitch with this tarp tent, and the silNylon tends to stretch a little bit. We find this shelter most appropriate for use in protected campsites like this one.


Weight


Weighing in at 2 pounds and 5 ounces with the included stakes, the Scout Plus is one of the heaviest products we tested this year. Indeed, it is the heaviest model we tested that is supported by trekking poles. But, the reason for the extra ounces on the scale is the focus on comfort, livability, and general roominess in this ultralight tent. The Scout Plus brings to the table the most floorspace, largest vestibule, and plenty of headroom. On many trips, our testers are willing to carry an extra half pound if that means a more comfortable camp experience.

Weight Bottom Line:
Tent body plus stuff sack = 1 lb 15.2 oz
Included stakes = 5.8 oz
Stowed in the included cylindrical stuff sack, this model measures 12" x 7" round.

Livability


With 30 sq ft of floor space and a 14 sq ft vestibule, this is the most livable two-person ultralight tent we tested this year. Ample overhead space is also much appreciated; our 5'11'' tester had about 3" overhead when sitting up just inside the mesh door. Toggle tie backs for the fly and inner door are quick and easy to use. Two big bucket pockets in the front corners of the tent are a major plus. These are the largest and most functional of any pockets we've seen in an ultralight shelter. Finally, a little loop sewn into the peak of the inner mesh tent is perfect for hanging a head lamp or a micro speaker overhead.

At the front peak in the upper fly, located opposite the vestibule's door, is a sizable vent to allow air circulation from the ventilated foot and sidewalls of the tent. You can lock it down tight for bad weather with Velcro. Even with this vent, we found the Scout prone to build up condensation, but this is true for all fully-enclosed shelters with a single layer of waterproof fabric overhead. The North Face O2 tent, a similarly priced and relatively roomy double-walled tent, is a better option in humid environments where condensation can be troublesome. Finally, the Scout's vestibule fly zipper is prone to getting snagged on the thin cover flap. Once you learn to hold the zipper pull just right, it's not a problem though.

There is a lot of room in the Scout Plus compared to other ultralight two-person shelters. Add in the large vestibule  and it's one of the most livable that we tested.
There is a lot of room in the Scout Plus compared to other ultralight two-person shelters. Add in the large vestibule, and it's one of the most livable that we tested.

Adaptability


The Scout Plus must be set up the same way every time. In some senses this is convenient; make some marks on your adjustable poles at the appropriate lengths, and you're set to go once you find your pitching spot. On the other hand, the footprint of this shelter, including the vestibule, is relatively large. We recommend this model for folks that camp most of the time in established campsites. These sites generally have large flat spots and are somewhat sheltered and protected from strong winds.

Durability


This shelter uses a heavier ripstop nylon than the other Big Agnes model we reviewed, the super light Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum. We camped in the Scout without an additional groundsheet for protection, and did not experience any punctures in the floor material. If you're careful with site selection you should be fine.

Ease of Set-up


It took us nine minutes for the first set-up; lengths are given by Big Agnes for the trekking poles, and the instructions are sewn into the stuff sack. Thirteen stakes are included and this is the perfect number for set up; you could get away with two less if you're seeking to save an ounce. After a few trips, one person could set up this shelter easily in four minutes. Stake down the four corners, and then start with the short back pole. Move to the front, pull tension and stake out the tall front pole. Stake out the extended fly in six more spots and you're done if you're in a sheltered spot. Secure the guy lines from the peaks created at the top of the support poles for maximum wind resistance.

Best Applications


The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 is relatively heavy among the ultralight shelters we tested, but is much lighter than similarly roomy double-wall tents found in our backpacking tent review. It is an excellent shelter for weight conscious backpackers that are willing to carry a few additional ounces to enjoy the convenience of a large, protected vestibule, and above average floor space with enough headroom for two to sit up. If most of your camping takes place in established, protected campsites, you'll enjoy the Scout's roomy size.

This moderately sheltered campsite in Colorado's Flat Tops Wilderness is a great spot for the Scout. We love the large vestibule and inside roominess  but this isn't a great shelter if exposed to high winds.
This moderately sheltered campsite in Colorado's Flat Tops Wilderness is a great spot for the Scout. We love the large vestibule and inside roominess, but this isn't a great shelter if exposed to high winds.

Value


Retailing at $350, the Scout Plus is similar in price to many of the other shelters we tested. The lighter products with more advanced and expensive fabrics all cost considerably more. All told, we feel this is a good value if a couple of conditions are met. One, you prioritize roominess and livability above truly ultralight weights, and two, you already own a pair of adjustable trekking poles.

Conclusion


The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL 2 is an excellent choice for weight conscious backpacking couples that want a light shelter, but are willing to carry a few more ounces to have plenty of floor space, headroom, and a large protected vestibule. We recommend the Scout Plus to those who mainly camp in established, somewhat protected campsites below treeline.

Plenty of overhead space for our 5'11" tester in this model.
Plenty of overhead space for our 5'11" tester in this model.

Other Versions & Accessories


Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum
  • Cost - $550
  • Ultralight version of the Fly Creek series
  • Great for backpacking
  • 1 lbs 9oz.
Brandon Lampley

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 7, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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