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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Review

A comfortable, lightweight tent great for a weekend or a week.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $500 List | $374.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, good lateral headroom, large side doors, large overhead pocket
Cons:  small vestibules, tapered footprint reduces interior space
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 13, 2018
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 17
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 offers all of the same great features of its two-person sibling, so it's no wonder that we like it just as much. With its two large side doors and expansive headroom, it maintains a lot of livability and earns a Top Pick Award as an excellent 3-person option. It has good weather resistance, and Big Agnes puts it all together in a package that is lighter than many of the two-person tents in our review. The tapered floor doesn't serve it quite as well as it does for its smaller counterpart — it is better used as a roomy two-person than a full-fledged 3P, however, it's still a rock solid tent.


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Pros Lightweight, good lateral headroom, large side doors, large overhead pocketTwo large double doors, good headroom, excellent balance of space and weightExcellent balance between weight and features, many storage pockets, large vestibulesGenerous dimensions, large vestibules, good balance between weight and durabilitySuperior weight for a dedicated pole tent, easy to pitch, easy entry and exit
Cons small vestibules, tapered footprint reduces interior spaceDelicate fabrics require special treatment, expensiveTapered foot, pockets are high upSmall doors, expensive, zippers don't always open smoothlyExpensive, tight for two people, mediocre ventilation
Bottom Line A comfortable, lightweight tent great for a weekend or a week.Our favorite tent for all your backpacking needs.A superior tent that balances light weight with excellent features.A high-quality tent that strikes a solid balance between weight and comfort features.A great choice for backpackers looking to minimize weight without sacrificing the conveniences of a double wall tent.
Rating Categories Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 NEMO Dragonfly 2 NEMO Dagger 2 NEMO Hornet Elite
Comfort (25%)
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7
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
10
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5
Weight (25%)
10
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8
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7
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7
10
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6
10
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9
Weather Resistance (20%)
10
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8
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8
10
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8
10
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8
10
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7
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
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8
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8
Durability (10%)
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5
Packed Size (10%)
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9
Specs Big Agnes Copper... Big Agnes Copper... NEMO Dragonfly 2 NEMO Dagger 2 NEMO Hornet Elite
Packaged Weight 3.81 lbs 3.06 lbs 3.16 lbs 3.76 lbs 2.00 lbs
Floor Area 41 sq ft 29 sq ft 29 sq ft 31 sq ft 28 sq ft
Packed Size 20 x 4.5 in 19.5 x 4 in 19.5 x 4.5 in 19.5 x 6.5 in 19 x 5 in
Dimensions 90" x 70" x 43" 88" x 52" x 42 in 88" x 50" x 41" 90" x 50" x 42" 85" x 51" x 37"
Vestibule Area (Total) 18 sq ft 18 sq ft 20 sq ft 22.8 sq ft 12.4 sq ft
Peak Height 43 in 42 in 41 in 42 in 37 in
Number of Doors 2 2 2 2 2
Number of Poles 3 2 3 2 1
Pole Diameter 8.7mm 8.7 mm 8.7 mm 8.5/9/9.6 millimeters 8.7 mm
Number of Pockets 5 2 3 2 3
Gear Loft Sold separately Sold separately No Sold separately No
Pole Material Aluminum DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL DAC Featherlite NFL DAC featherlight NSL DAC Featherlite NFL
Guy Points 6 9 5 10 4
Rain Fly Material proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof polyurethane coating 20D Nylon Ripstop 15D Sil / PU Nylon Ripstop (1200mm) 7D Sil/PU Nylon (1200 mm)
Inner Tent Material proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating [Body] Patterned double ripstop nylon/polyester mesh
[Floor] Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof polyurethane coating
15D Nylon Ripstop [Body] 15D Nylon Ripstop / No see um mesh
[Floor] 30D PU Nylon Ripstop (3000mm)
10D Sil / PU Nylon Ripstop (1200mm)
Type Two Door Two Door Two Door freestanding Two Door freestanding Two Door

Our Analysis and Test Results

This tent offers a lot of versatility. It is of course designed to accommodate three people. However, its weight means that it is still a reasonable load if it's split between two.

Performance Comparison


The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 takes a top spot against other three-person options and even performs well relative to other 2Ps.

The Copper Spur on a crisp fall trip.
The Copper Spur on a crisp fall trip.

Comfort


This tent has its comfort pros and cons. We love the two large D doors on each side, which make entering and exiting the tent easy. Some of our testers find the dual-zipper configuration a little inconvenient because it requires two hands and a little more time to open and close, but this is a minor inconvenience.


The ample gear storage pockets are a huge plus. At 70" at the head, it is just a nudge wider than either the Marmot Limelight 3 or the NEMO Dagger 3. With its 43" peak height, it falls in between the other two tents. It even bumps the length up to 90" from the 2-person's 88". All good so far.

There is plenty of headroom in this 3P. Our testers could sit on their knees without bumping up against the ceiling.
There is plenty of headroom in this 3P. Our testers could sit on their knees without bumping up against the ceiling.

The drawback is the taper. It's a much tighter 62" at the foot. This geometry serves to save weight and keep it feeling roomy, without sacrificing the more crucial head-and-shoulder space. In the two-person version, it's a real asset (reducing overall weight without diminishing the feel of the interior volume. However, you notice the narrower dimensions much more with three people, especially if that middle person is sleeping head-to-toe (also worth noting is that the privacy panel tapers and disappears entirely on the side walls of the tent at the foot). It is a cozy fit for three people.

The side storage pockets aren't massive  but they hold at-hand essentials. The large media pocket overhead can store larger items.
The side storage pockets aren't massive, but they hold at-hand essentials. The large media pocket overhead can store larger items.

We recognize that it would lose a fair amount of its versatility with the addition of more fabric (and therefore more weight), but if space is much more of a priority than weight for you, then you should check out the Marmot Limelight 3.

It's a snug fit for three sleep setups. If you are bringing along a couple of friends  make sure you are comfortable rubbing elbows.
It's a snug fit for three sleep setups. If you are bringing along a couple of friends, make sure you are comfortable rubbing elbows.

Ease of Set-Up


The Copper Spur HV UL3 is easy to set up, even for one person. It offers a fairly typical structure: two primary poles in the shape of an X connect at a metal hub at the apex, with each end of the poles sliding into a grommet at the corner of the tent.


There is a cross pole that runs the width of the tent to increase lateral space for sitting up. It carries over the same color-coded fly clip and pole design of other Big Agnes tents, so you always know how to orient each of the pieces before attaching them.

The color-coded poles and tent corners make it easy to orient the pieces correctly.
The color-coded poles and tent corners make it easy to orient the pieces correctly.

Our only note of caution is that this tent also comes with generic-looking grey shovel stakes. They are effective and bend-resistant, but they don't come with any reflective or colorful cord attached, as many other stakes often do, so we recommend attaching some before you head out, so you don't lose any in the duff.

These stakes are almost invisible amongst the leaves. We would tie on some reflective cord before pitching this tent for the first time.
These stakes are almost invisible amongst the leaves. We would tie on some reflective cord before pitching this tent for the first time.

Weather Resistance


We like the Copper Spur HV UL3 for its weather resistance. The stakes at the head and foot create some space between the tent body and the fly so that they don't touch in the rain.


There is also enough of a bathtub floor that splashback above the waterproof PU-coated ripstop nylon is minimal. The tent comes with guyline and tensioners already installed on the fly. Though there is nothing exceptional about them over other tent guylines, in practice, having them pre-attached is a huge benefit because you are much more likely to use them. We pitched ours in heavily forested areas, but there are a fair number of reports that the Copper Spur doesn't always hold its own in high winds. Though the fly is admirably waterproof, it does also seem to retain more water for a little longer than its ultralight counterparts.

The vents on this tent are not huge  but we didn't have any major problems with condensation dripping in.
The vents on this tent are not huge, but we didn't have any major problems with condensation dripping in.

Durability


This tent has decent durability, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that it uses materials that are meant to reduce weight. Big Agnes makes some big claims about its proprietary randomized weave pattern of the ripstop nylon floor and fly. It increases tensile strength, but of course, is still susceptible to punctures. This tent is made of quality materials, and we had no major durability issues with it during testing. If you want to make it last though, we would always recommend a relatively inexpensive piece of plastic contractor tarp, Tyvek wrap, or polycro to protect the bottom.


Weight & Packed Size


This metric is where this tent makes its worth evident. Its dimensions are meant for three (or two plus a dog), but its sub-four-pound packed weight also makes it reasonable for two people to carry. That is, this tent is even more versatile exactly because of its light weight. If you are on the fence between a two- or a three-person shelter, the Copper Spur HV UL3 can do the job either way without adding too much extra weight if it's just two of you. If you are considering one of the roomier two-person options like the REI Half Dome 2 Plus or the NEMO Galax 2 and could afford the (considerable) premium, we would recommend this version instead; it's wider and lighter than either of those other options (by a lot).


The top 3P competitors from left to right: the Marmot Limelight  NEMO Dagger  and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL.
The top 3P competitors from left to right: the Marmot Limelight, NEMO Dagger, and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL.

If you are into the fast-fly approach and don't mind shelling out for the footprint, then you can cut the weight down even more to right around three pounds.

The 3-person version on the left  compared to the 2-person version on the right.
The 3-person version on the left, compared to the 2-person version on the right.

It packs down to 20"x4.5", which is also smaller than some of our larger 2-person competitors.


Best Applications


This tent is best used for medium-range adventures for two. Its weight makes for a reasonable load when split between two people and its dimensions make it downright palatial for a couple (and a four-legged friend). If you wanted to carry it for longer than a week or two, it would certainly be doable, but at that point, we would recommend downsizing to the two-person version. If you wanted to take it out with a couple of your friends, splitting it three ways would make it darn-near ultralight, but as noted above, it's a bit of a squeeze.

We enjoyed the larger doors  additional gear storage  and lighter weight of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 on the right  as compared to those of the NEMO Dagger 3P on the left.
We enjoyed the larger doors, additional gear storage, and lighter weight of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 on the right, as compared to those of the NEMO Dagger 3P on the left.

Value


At $500, we think the value primarily depends on whether or not you are going to take advantage of its versatility. If you are looking primarily for a roomy two-person option that can also fit a dog at your feet, get the (admittedly heavier) REI Half Dome 2 Plus, which is less than half the price. However, if you could see yourself using it equally as either a two- or three-person shelter, then this is a valuable one to own.

Conclusion


This tent earns its Top Pick Award for its great set of features and its versatility. Its two large D-shaped side doors make entry and exit simple, while its unique pole structure and vertical walls make the most of some otherwise tight-sounding dimensions. It is lighter than some larger two-person tents, so if you are a couple of backpackers that want to cut down on weight, but not on comfort, and you are willing to shell out the extra dollars, this tent is an exceptional choice.


Ben Applebaum-Bauch