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.
The Copper Spur on a crisp fall trip.
The Copper Spur HV UL3 scores consistently across the board, making it a good choice, regardless of what your primary considerations are.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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 a 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.
Our only note of caution is that this tent also comes with generic-looking grey 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.
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.
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 polychro to protect the bottom.
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 versatile 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 Galaxi 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.
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.
It packs down to 20"x4.5", which is also smaller than some of our larger 2-person competitors.
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.
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.
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.