Big Agnes C Bar 2 Review
Cons: Small interior, single door and vestibule
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you prioritize minimizing weight above all else, this tent will do the trick. During testing, we were also pleasantly surprised by the quality fly and solid weather resistance of this model. It's tight on space, so we don't recommend it for the loungers among us but split it with a backpacking buddy and take it into the backcountry for some nice nights under the stars.
The Big Agnes C Bar 2 is one of the lightest weight, most packable options in this review. Its overall score is pulled down because of how tight it feels on the inside.
We have to be honest here; this tent is not comfortable with two people in it. Its dimensions are superficially adequate. An 86" length is enough for taller folks. However, its 52" width quickly tapers to 42" at the feet, and its peak height of 41" exists only as a narrow, two dimensional plane near the entrance. What proved to be the trickiest area, though, is the space at shoulder height. The sidewalls of the tent ascend steeply, so the space you have sitting up and, say, eating a meal, is minimal.
The single door at the head is also small relative to other models with a similar design. Consequently, the vestibule is not large enough for two regular backpacking packs and two sets of footwear (especially if you want to get out of the tent easily).
The pockets are modest but totally serviceable. There is one on each side at the head in addition to a slightly larger one overhead. Some folks have a lot of stuff they like to store, but we think these pockets will be the right amount of space for most people. The C Bar 2 also offers a fair amount of privacy if you choose to go sans fly. The white mesh makes the tent more difficult to see into, and the red fabric runs high up the sidewalls.
Ease of Set Up
This tent sets up in a snap. Though the pole matrix is a little gangly (there are a couple of hubs that join the 'legs' to the 'spine' of the structure) it's still fairly straightforward. Once you have the segments locked in, the color-coded pole in one corner makes it clear how everything needs to be oriented, and the grommets and clips come together quickly. The cross pole provides a little more headroom but not much. The fly tensions easily as well, which we find to be an undervalued feature.
This model is simple, but if you like easy, there are some tents with a really straightforward X-pole design that go up in no time.
Mostly owing to the fly, we are really pleased with the weather resistance of the C Bar 2. The sides stake out and away from the tent body. The vestibule runs very low to the ground, which is excellent. There is also a flap of fly fabric that covers over the zipper. This is a very common feature to find between models, but we like that it keeps precipitation from finding its way into the vestibule.
Though there are no vents, the dual zippers of the fly door allow it to open without having to tie it back or unstake any part of it.
There is less mesh in the canopy than in many other models, so the opportunity for cross breeze is a little limited, especially because there is just the one door, but in terms of wind and water protection, we think this tent does really well.
We think the construction of this tent is solid. The polyester fly and floor are substantial enough that with reasonable site selection, they should hold up well. The standard-issue hook stakes will bend on you at some point, but stakes are easy to swap out.
The pole structure has a chunky hub that adds bulk but seems sturdy, and the DAC pressfit poles are an industry go to that we have rarely had issues with. Having said that, this tent is one of the few budget models to also include a pole brace if you crack or snap a segment in the middle of a trip.
Weight & Packed Size
Weight and size are where this tent earns its keep. It is advertised at four pounds even. Our measurement put it just under. Split the load between two people, and you are looking at a reasonable two pounds per. So long as you have a hiking partner that you really get along with, it's a great budget option for going deep into the backcountry.
It also packs down to 6" x 19", making it one of the best space-saving options as well. If you are going out on a solo adventure, that will significantly improve the comfort of the C Bar 2 however, once you are carrying the whole thing by yourself, it doesn't feel so light anymore.
If weight and size are high, high priorities for you and your companion, this is the tent that we would recommend above other similar models.
This tent costs above average for models in our budget review. It doesn't have the same exceptional value that other models do. However, the quality construction and light weight make it a good value for someone who wants to get into the backcountry without spending a fortune.
The C Bar is a sub-four-pound tent that goes all out on weight savings. It has an excellent fly and weather protection as well. It earns a Top Pick Award for its light load, but if you and a partner are going into the backcountry with this model, we hope you are comfortable in close quarters.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch