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Hands-on Gear Review
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum Review
Cons: Pricey, difficult to enter and exit, tight living space for two people
Bottom line: The lightest weight dedicated pole tent is a pretty small and tight two person tent, but much more comfortable for one.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum is a double wall, dedicated pole tent that is the lightest of the three similar tents we tested. It has been recently redesigned to add more livable space to the interior of the tent by making it slightly wider and taller, and adjusting the angles of the poles to allow for more enclosed volume. It will keep you dry in a rainstorm and protect you from the bugs and is relatively easy to set up. Where this tent struggles is in its comfort and livability — it is harder to get in and out of than other similar tents and feels quite small and cramped inside for two people. Without a doubt, this is a two-person tent that is more comfortable for one. But if you want the lightest dedicated pole tent, and can afford the price tag, we encourage you to check it out.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Tent Shelters of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We have tested the Fly Creek series of tents for many years now, and during the middle of this testing period found out that Big Agnes had released a new HV (High Volume) model of this tent. We immediately ordered it and put it to use camping in the San Juan and Bighorn Mountains. A slightly different configuration of the triangular pole setup means that the front door of this tent is more vertically oriented, creating a bit more head space where it is needed, at the front of the tent. Unfortunately, the vestibule door was also redesigned in a way intended to provide more covered space for storing shoes and packs in a storm, but which made the tent far more difficult to enter and exit. Our overall impression of this new model is that it functions roughly the same as older models did, but is just slightly different. We thought that it was a better designed and more comfortable tent than the Terra Nova Solar Photon 2, but was more cramped and not as weather resistant as the Nemo Hornet 2P.
The Fly Creek HV2 Platinum ranked in the bottom half of our cumulative rankings, as shown by the chart below (highlighted in blue). However, we still think it is a quality product, and the respective positives and negatives are described in more detail below.
We found that the Polyurethane treated ripstop SilNylon featured as the rainfly of this tent did an effective job of keeping us dry during storms. While it isn't intended for snow, we also got caught out at 15,000ft. in the Himalayas while testing this tent and managed to stay dry through the night. On the other hand, this tent was not as well equipped to handle high winds as the most protective tents in this review, such as the Black Diamond Beta Light or the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2, and we recommend that you set it up in a sheltered spot if one is available. The single ridgepole design leaves two wide flat faces on either side of the tent that are like giant sails if the wind hits broadside. For that reason, there are dual guy lines already in place on each wide side, as well as guy out lines on either pole next to the door. While these guys outs add stability, we also found that the main guy lines attached to each side were a bit short, and couldn't be stretched out as far as we would have liked away from the tent. Don't get us wrong, this tent can certainly handle its share of bad weather, but is more prone to being deformed by wind than most others in this review.
While its fully enclosed double wall design offers privacy and does a great job of keeping condensation away from the sleepers and their bags on the inside, the fact is that this tent is pretty small and cramped for two people. It is wider at the shoulders and tapers down at the feet to 42", which we found to be wide enough for two narrow 20" wide sleeping pads, but didn't work well at all with pads wider than that, as many are. Despite its higher volume redesign, there is no way that two people can sit up inside this tent together, making waiting out a storm a napping affair.
A curious new feature on this tent is the single front vestibule with a small side entry door. We found this door quite small and awkward for crawling through, in stark contrast to the double side doors on the Nemo Hornet 2P. While the design was meant to increase the covered vestibule space for storing gear, the fact is that for two people's gear the vestibule is still small, and when packed full of gear makes for a nearly impossible time entering and exiting the tent. One method is to release one stake down point from the stake to allow for a bigger opening, but likewise, when the vestibule is full of gear, we found it hard to re-stake it in the night. Bring a pee bottle! Like the Solar Photon 2 and all of the dedicated pole two person tents we tested, this one is a lot more comfortable for one.
With everything included, this tent weighed 2lbs. 1.7oz. on our independent scale. This includes 11 stakes that we found to be both very lightweight and plenty strong. Bringing less stakes could lower the trail weight a little bit, but would also set one up for not being able to fully guy this tent out should one encounter a strong wind. A bare minimum of four stakes is needed for this tent to stay erect, but it will be much more solid using eight, or the full 11!
Without stakes included, which was our baseline for comparing all of the weights of these tents to each other, this tent is lighter than either the Solar Photon 2 or the Hornet 2P, backing up Big Agnes' claim that it is the lightest double wall tent available. However, these are the only two tents in this review that it was lighter than, so it received a pretty low score for weight. For how complex a tent it is, and how much fabric and poles are needed, it is awe-inspiring that a tent could be this light, and dividing the weight between two people certainly qualifies this tent as ultralight!
The Fly Creek HV2 Platinum, like most double wall tents, can be set up either with the rain fly on or without it on nights with clear weather, as we often did. Used this way, we liked how the whole inside tent was just mesh, which allowed us great views outside before we fell asleep. As we discovered in Nepal, you will certainly survive a night out in the snow in this tent. However, it is necessary to constantly bang at the sides to shed snow, as too much of a load will cause the triangular pole system to torque and the tent will collapse on itself. This means that you may not get much sleep!
If you purchase and use the footprint for this tent ($70, unpublished weight), you can also set it up in "fast fly" mode, which is the rain fly over the top of the poles, in the manner of a single wall tarp, and leave the inner tent at home. We did not test this method of deployment for this tent, but it does add another level of versatility, making the tent modular in the spirit of the Six Moons Designs Haven Tarp or the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 2. So, despite its fixed setup pattern due to the use of dedicated poles, we thought this was a fairly adaptable shelter.
Ease of Setup
Although it is intuitionally straightforward to set this tent up, it takes more time than the Beta Light or Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo. Users familiar with backpacking tents will find a familiar set up pattern: assemble the poles, put the pole ends in the grommets at the corners and back of the tent, clip up the tent body to the poles, and stake out the corners. Finally, throw on the rain fly, fasten it to the corners, and stake out the vestibule. If it is breezy, we find it easier to stake out the main tent body before trying to attach the poles, thereby holding the tent in place instead of letting it blow away. Despite the fact that they set up in pretty much the exact same way, we found the features on the Hornet 2P ever so slightly more user-friendly for one person.
This tent is ideal for users who want a very lightweight tent but don't typically carry trekking poles with them. Whether that means backpacking or thru-hiking, or other outdoor adventures like river rafting, canoeing, or bike packing, this tent is well suited to all! Two people could certainly live in this tent for extended periods of time if they were close and tolerant, but it is comfier for one.
This tent retails for $550, making it the most expensive double wall, dedicated pole tent in this review. Although it does shave a few ounces from the less expensive tents of similar design, it is considerably more expensive. In our opinion, the design and materials do not necessarily warrant the high price tag, especially when you consider that you can get the higher performing Nemo Hornet 2P for over $200 less. For the same price, you can purchase the very best ultralight tent in the review, the ZPacks Duplex, which uses much higher quality DCF fabric.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum is the lightest dedicated pole tent in this review. For those who don't carry trekking poles on their adventures and want the lightest tent money can buy, this is your pick. That said, this tent does not come cheap, and we think there are higher performing models available for less money, depending on your needs.
— Andy Wellman
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