The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 is a large, A-frame style tarp tent. For its weight, it's the roomiest fully-enclosed ultralight shelter that we tested. The single layer of waterproof ripstop nylon overhead has eaves that extend out over the attached mesh sidewalls and waterproof floor. This model is the most spacious and livable two-person shelter in the ultralight review, and is also relatively affordable. Two adjustable trekking poles (not included) make set-up quick and easy.The ZPacks Duplex is the Scout's closest competitor in this year's review. These two pyramid style shelters both have permanently attached floors and mesh walls that provide complete bug protection. The Duplex won our Editors' Choice award this year. It isn't as spacious as the Scout Plus, and the vestibule is small, but it weighs about half of what the Scout does and stands up to strong winds better.
Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 Review
Cons: Relatively heavy, vestibule door zipper can snag, must be set up exactly the same way every time
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Our Analysis and Test Results
The latest version of the Scout Plus UL2 has a new construction featuring an updated tapered roof. Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the newest version pictured on the left and the older model that we tested shown on the right. Then, keep reading for a more detailed description of the roof update.
- Roof Design — Big Agnes explained to us that the roof over the foot area of this tent has been lowered to create a more tapered roof. This update was to help the tent's stability in windy conditions, though we haven't tested this out ourselves yet and so cannot confirm this claim.
The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 earned the second highest score we awarded for livability. It is much roomier than all but the Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid. The Scout also features the largest weather protected vestibule of all shelters we tested. This enclosed tarp tent is only limited by its weight (all the roominess comes at a cost) and the lack of adaptability.
The Scout Plus earned a middle of the pack score for weather resistance. In protected campsites or when there is little wind, it provides perfect protection from the rain. But, heavy downpours can cause some splashback, and windblown rain tends to get under the eaves, while mist crept inside through the mesh sidewalls. We would like to see Big Agnes make the eaves a few inches longer; this would add an inconsequential amount of weight and provide better storm resistance. The large size of this shelter with protruding eaves doesn't handle strong winds as well as other lower profile tents.
The fly stakes out at eight points and the pre-rigged line tensioners make adjusting the SilNylon's tautness easy. In strong winds, adding additional guylines to the two loops located at the peaks of the poles is essential. Each comes with an attached line, but we recommend adding one more.
Weighing in at 2 pounds and 5 ounces with the included stakes, the Scout Plus is one of the heaviest products we tested this year. Indeed, it is the heaviest model we tested that is supported by trekking poles. But, the reason for the extra ounces on the scale is the focus on comfort, livability, and general roominess in this ultralight tent. The Scout Plus brings to the table the most floorspace, largest vestibule, and plenty of headroom. On many trips, our testers are willing to carry an extra half pound if that means a more comfortable camp experience.
Tent body plus stuff sack = 1 lb 15.2 oz
Included stakes = 5.8 oz
Stowed in the included cylindrical stuff sack, this model measures 12" x 7" round.
With 30 sq ft of floor space and a 14 sq ft vestibule, this is the most livable two-person ultralight tent we tested this year. Ample overhead space is also much appreciated; our 5'11'' tester had about 3" overhead when sitting up just inside the mesh door. Toggle tie backs for the fly and inner door are quick and easy to use. Two big bucket pockets in the front corners of the tent are a major plus. These are the largest and most functional of any pockets we've seen in an ultralight shelter. Finally, a little loop sewn into the peak of the inner mesh tent is perfect for hanging a headlamp or a micro speaker overhead.
At the front peak in the upper fly, located opposite the vestibule's door, is a sizable vent to allow air circulation from the ventilated foot and sidewalls of the tent. You can lock it down tight for bad weather with Velcro. Even with this vent, we found the Scout prone to build up condensation, but this is true for all fully-enclosed shelters with a single layer of waterproof fabric overhead. The North Face O2 tent, a similarly priced and relatively roomy double-walled tent, is a better option in humid environments where condensation can be troublesome. Finally, the Scout's vestibule fly zipper is prone to snagging on the thin cover flap. Once you learn to hold the zipper pull just right, it's not a problem though.
The Scout Plus must be set up the same way every time. In some senses this is convenient; make some marks on your adjustable poles at the appropriate lengths, and you're set to go once you find your pitching spot. On the other hand, the footprint of this shelter, including the vestibule, is relatively large. We recommend this model for folks that camp most of the time in established campsites. These sites generally have large flat spots and are somewhat sheltered and protected from strong winds.
This shelter uses heavier ripstop nylon than the other Big Agnes model we reviewed, the super light Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum. We camped in the Scout without an additional groundsheet for protection and did not experience any punctures in the floor material. If you're careful with site selection, you should be fine.
Ease of Set-up
It took us nine minutes for the first set-up; Big Agnes gives lengths for the trekking poles, and the instructions are sewn into the stuff sack. Thirteen stakes come in the package, and this is the perfect number for set up; you could get away with two less if you're seeking to save an ounce. After a few trips, one person could set up this shelter easily in four minutes. Stake down the four corners, and then start with the short back pole. Move to the front, pull tension, and stake out the tall front pole. Stake out the extended fly in six more spots, and you're done if you're in a sheltered spot. Secure the guy lines from the peaks created at the top of the support poles for maximum wind resistance.
The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 is relatively heavy among the ultralight shelters we tested but is much lighter than similarly spacious double-wall tents found in our backpacking tent review. It is an excellent shelter for weight conscious backpackers that are willing to carry a few additional ounces to enjoy the convenience of a large, protected vestibule, and above average floor space with enough headroom for two to sit up. If most of your camping takes place in established, protected campsites, you'll enjoy the Scout's roomy size.
Retailing at $350, the Scout Plus is similar in price to many of the other shelters we tested. The lighter products with more advanced and expensive fabrics all cost considerably more. All told, we feel this is a good value under a couple of conditions. One, you prioritize roominess and livability above truly ultralight weights, and two, you already own a pair of adjustable trekking poles.
The Big Agnes Scout Plus UL 2 is an excellent choice for weight conscious backpacking couples that want a light shelter, but are willing to carry a few more ounces to have plenty of floor space, headroom, and a large, protected vestibule. We recommend the Scout Plus to those who mainly camp in established, somewhat protected campsites below treeline.
— Brandon Lampley