For a number of years we've been using a Kelty four-season tent (no longer being manufactured) for all our camping and backpacking needs. It's a sweet tent that's seen us through a number of snow storms. But if you're backpacking in the summer you really don't want to carry an eight pound tent. And so began our search for an ultra light weight tent. There are a lot of great tents out there but in the end we decided to go with the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3. This is a three person tent that weighs just over three pounds, so it's pretty awesome. Here are some things we like about it.
- The packaged weight is just 3 lbs 8 oz. If you just use the fly and footprint you're only packing 2 lbs 5 oz. This tent is easily light enough for me to carry along with clothes, 3L of water, sleeping bag and pad, so that Justin can cover our food. And I'm no Amazonian women.
- This tent is insanely easy to set up. It has just a single hub pole in an "I" shape that attaches to the tent body via twist clips. This eliminates having to run poles through those sewn fabric loops in which they often get caught and require lots of tugging to get all the way through. All that's left is to slip the ends of the poles into the grommets by the stake loops and it's up and ready to go.
- Even the stakes are ultralight. They could have sold this tent with average stakes and made you invest in your own nice ones, but the Fly Creek comes with 11 super light aluminum stakes.
- A nylon mesh top that runs half way down the walls enables great ventilation when its hot and a 360 degree view.
- Even though they aren't big, there are a lot of pockets and loops for a gear loft so you can get nicely organized.
Now this wouldn't be an honest review without addressing some undesirable things about this tent. The first two that comes to mind is that it doesn't come with the foot print or gear loft. This seems stingy to me for a tent that retails at $430. We've chosen not to invest in the gear loft and just use the foot print from our Kelty tent, but it's still annoying since our Kelty foot print is a tad too small. As I mentioned above, the pockets are fairly small so if you're going to be camping somewhere for awhile and want to stash a lot of stuff in your tent then you might not be very happy about that. Lastly and probably most importantly, I don't think you'd want to go through an intense storm in this thing. It comes with a nice rain fly, but to be honest the fabric and poles are just too light and thin to handle crazy winds and so forth. When we bought this tent we read a review from a guy who got caught in a real ripper and had some of the poles snap. We've only experienced some light rain in it so far, so we can't speak personally about how well it holds up. Here's the deal. If you truly want an ultralight tent then you're not going to be able to get around thin, light materials. And it's not like Big Agnes has skimped in that department. The poles have been treated with new techniques for increased longevity and the tent body and fly are made of high-tenacity ripstop nylon. But even so it's of course never going to be like a four season tent. With this in mind Big Agnes is nice enough to include a tent pole splint with the Fly Creek UL3. In summary, we find that the pros out weight the cons for this tent and have only had good experiences with it so far. As such, we highly recommend it if you're looking for something ultralight to free up you backpack this summer!