Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO Review
Cons: Moderately expensive, bit heavy
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rattlesnake SL mtnGLO takes the prize for the "most fun" tent in our testing line-up. Big Agnes' patent-pending mtnGLO Tent Light Technology incorporates LED lights into the tent body, offering soft ambient light with an easy click of a button. Our first impression was that the idea was a little gimmicky, but after testing the tent on various trips we fell in love with the ease and atmosphere — it's time we made backpacking a little more fun! This three-season backpacking tent lived larger than its advertised 52" x 42" x 88" dimensions, and the double door / double vestibule layout meant easy access for both campers. Both vestibules each add 9 square feet of storage space, comparable with the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2; we had room for backpacks, fishing equipment and more than our fair share of camera equipment. The tent is remarkably easy to set up, thanks to high-quality DAC tent poles and a simple, color-coded hook and pole system. The fly was easy to add on and offered good ventilation thanks to vents that can be easily propped open. We thoroughly enjoyed the Rattlesnake's pop-out vents, a trait shared also in the Copper Spur.
The Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO earned a new perfect score of 9 for comfort, bested only by the REI Half Dome 2 Plus, which earned a 10 out of 10. The tent offers average space for a two man backpacking tent of its weight class, coming in at 52" wide, 88" long (27 square feet), and 40" high at the head. Two good-sized pockets offer storage, and media pockets located above sleeping area enable clean ear bud cord routing from phones or other devices.
The addition of the built-in mtnGLO lighting system wins a few creature comfort points too… there's something homey about soft ambient light. The system has three settings — a simple push button controller with three settings, on, off and 50% brightness, controls the brightness. At full, the 24 LEDs last 96 hours on battery power and illuminate the entire tent, providing an excellent form of ambiance.
The Rattlesnake features a nearly full-mesh body, allowing for good ventilation. This tent excels in warm, comfortable conditions, however, we found it fared well in stormy, windy conditions as well, with the full-length fly ensuring we remained snug and dry inside. The A-frame style helps shed water away from the tent body, and we were pleasantly surprised to not be greeted by a cascade of water when unzipping the fly door in the morning.
While the Rattlesnake scored a near perfect 9 out of 10 for comfort, the NEMO Dagger 2, The North Face Triarch 2, and the NEMO Galaxi 2 earned the same score, providing ample amounts of comfort while bringing different aspects to the table.
Ease of Set-Up
The Rattlesnake is remarkably easy to set-up; a single tester could have it assembled and staked-out in under five minutes, which earned it an 8 out of 10 for set-up. The fly's lightweight nylon fabric is treated with a 1200 mm PU coating, and unlike some fabrics that were heavy and awkward to manage like the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2's 75D polyester fly fabric, the Rattlesnake's fly is easy to maneuver into place and clip on to the tent corners.
We loved the fact that the pre-cut guy lines and tensioners were already attached to the fly; having to fasten and measure guy lines quickly became one reviewer's pet peeve during the review process. The guy lines and tent-corner webbing are reflective, making low-light set-ups far easier. A sturdy DAC pole frame with press-fit connectors and lightweight hubs is color-coded to the tent body, which eliminates guesswork. Other tents in our review, including the highly-ranked REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the Kelty Salida 2, also utilize the DAC press-fit poles; the Half Dome 2 Plus was the only tent to best the Rattlesnake for ease of set-up. The inner tent itself clips to the poles, making set-up quick and easy.
The Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO was one of the few tents in our review that we'd actually reach for when camping with a stormy forecast on the horizon - the Hilleberg Anjan GT, which was the cream of the crop for backpacking in when a storm is looming in the forecast. The rain fly comes low to the ground to prevent splashing and cold gusts, and the four guy points are well-placed, allowing a grounded tether in high winds. The vestibule space is well-covered by the fly (again, it comes low to the ground) and we'd feel confident our gear would be protected.
When our testers headed into the mountains of southwest Montana for a snowy overnight camp, we chose the Rattlesnake, the NEMO Dagger 2, the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT, and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2. While we wished the fly of the NEMO Dagger 2 came down a little lower, the tent was sturdy and weather-proof. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 (which also received a 9 rating, same as the Rattlesnake for weather-resistance) offered solid coverage from foul weather, and the proprietary patterned double rip-stop nylon fabric felt like it could withstand a multi-day soaking and still come up sunny.
The first thing that really stands out for the Rattlesnake's durability is the hefty (but packable) nylon floor with a 1200mm PU coating. The fly is made of the same material and we anticipate the fabric of this tent to hold up well for years and years to come. The Hilleberg Anjan GT 2-Person also scored at the top of the tier for durability. We were impressed with the tent's inner wall design, and the durable floor which seemed to cushion even over thorn-laden grass. The Anjan slightly beat out the Rattlesnake when it came to overall durability in hyper-windy conditions; the Anjan's low-profile design and six guy points made it feel just slightly more sturdy. The NEMO Galaxi 2 also scored well for durability; the 68D PU Polyester Ripstop fly fabric is hefty and held up well to scrabbling dog claws and mucky boots.
Weight and Packed Size
A trail weight of 4 lbs. 2 oz. meant the Rattlesnake landed in the middle of the testing pack for weight, bested by the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV and Tarptent Double Rainbow - in both weight and packed size. Split between two backpackers, it's no matter at all, and a small trade-off for the creature comforts. The tent packs down to a moderate 6.5" x 21" and was remarkably easy to fit back into its stuff sack — something we value during those pre-dawn / pre-coffee departures! Coming in at a similar weight, the Hilleberg Anjan weighs 4 lbs. 1 oz. and packs to a far smaller 19" x 6". For those looking to trim a few ounces, the NEMO Dagger 2 weighs 3 lbs. 12 oz. and packs to 19" x 5".
We would purchase the Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO as an all-around tent. We found it comfortable enough for car camping, but light and compact enough to bring into the backcountry for two and three-day trips (or longer if you split it up between yourself and a friend). We were skeptical of the mtnGLO system, but after playing a long round of cards during a stormy night, are now firm believers in both the "fun" aspect and the easy of doing something at night without managing headlamps.
At $349.95, this tent is no small investment. However, for the quality of Big Agnes' product, this "tricks and treats" this particular model brings, and a tent that can truly operate well as a three-season hub, we'd deem this price reasonable.
There's a reason the Big Agnes' Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO received scores including 9/10 for comfort, weather resistance, and durability. We thoroughly enjoyed testing this tent while camping around southwestern Montana in varying conditions. The tent breathes comfortably in warm weather but kept us dry and cozy during a springtime storm. We were skeptical of the mtnGLO system, but after playing a long round of cards during a stormy night, are now firm believers in both the "fun" aspect and the easy of doing something at night without managing headlamps.
— Chris McNamara and Jess McGlothlin