Whether squatting on BLM or staking a claim in the wilderness, new materials have enabled roomier shelters at a fraction of the weight penalty. Take Big Agnes for example.
Last year Big Agnes reached deep into the wayback machine to carve out modern space with classic lines. The A-frame Scout UL2 shaved the pounds through single walled construction and swapping tent poles for trekking poles, which you are likely to carry while backpacking anyway.
This year, BA pitched two “vestibular” variations of the popular Scout with the spacious Scout Plus UL2 and super spacious Super Scout UL2. We tested the 2-person Big Agnes Super Scout UL2 on a bike/pack-rafting trip into the Owyhee Canyonlands to see if this A-frame made the grade.
The Gear: Big Agnes Super Scout UL2
Price: Scout UL2: $300, Scout Plus UL2: $350, Super Scout UL2 (tested): $400
Where To Test It: Backpacking, bike packing, sea kayaking.
Who’s It For: Wet 3-season minimalists.
Boring But Important: Single wall construction, using ripstop sil-nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating. Solvent-free polyurethane taped seams. Reflective guyline and webbing at tent anchor points. Single front door with one gigantic vestibule. Comes with 15 aluminum stakes and a single 20” collapsible aluminum pole to pitch the foot of the tent. Packed weight (including tent, poles, stakes, guylines): 2lb, 11oz. Dimensions: 45” (height) x 86” (long) x 54” (wide, at the head) /42” (feet).
Important Specs: The body of the tent is spec’d similar to (or roomier than) most contemporary 2-person tents. The integrated fly hangs well over the tent walls, shedding water clear from the tent. Under the eve, a 5” mesh rand runs the perimeter of the tent wall, providing continual airflow. The eves flare adjacent to the door, giving you enough room to keep your shoes dry. Not that you need it though, because the integrated vestibule gives you a whopping 44 additional square feet…more than doubling the tent’s living space.
Instead of providing tent poles, the Scout lineup is designed with the intent to use trekking poles (not included) to frame the tent. During our test, we opted to use two 4-piece paddles which, when fully extended, perfectly pitched the tent and vestibule.
To pitch the tent, you first stake the four corners, which have 5” vertical fins running up the seam to distribute the anchoring load. Your trekking poles are placed under the peak where the tent body and vestibule meet and another at the vestibule’s bow. The 20” aluminum pole (provided) props up the foot of the tent.
The tent is then drawn taught by staking out the remaining webbing loops and guylines.
It takes about 5 minutes to pitch the tent, and when fully staked, she rides tight in a wind.
A crescent zipper mesh door separates the tent from the vestibule and two parallel vertical zippers seal the storm door in the vestibule. The vestibule door rolls up in sunny weather or you can pitch it as an awning under two additional poles, giving you an additional 16 square feet of covered space.
Made In: China
Killer! O beautiful for spacious skies! The trustworthy Super Scout comes with its own great room, giving you twice as much space in exchange for a handful of ounces. And its usable space — enough for 3, (maybe 4!) adults to sit up, cook or smack down a game of cards. Two prone adults could bivy in the space. A gaggle of kids could do it in comfort.
The two boxed out mesh ‘storage bins’ (one on either side) swallowed my micro 4/3 camera and had room to spare for the headlamp and toiletries.
For just over 1lb a person, you have nearly 75 square feet of protected space—more than what you would find in many 4-person tents.
Flaw: Unlike the Scout and Scout Plus, the Super Scout tapers from head (45”) to toe (20”), giving you less livable space over the legs. It’s a little low. My tent mate, a restless sleeper, kicked the foot pole down two out of three nights and his knees hit the ceiling wall.
First Impressions: Because the tent is pitched over trekking poles (instead of hooped poles), it’s only as bomber as your anchor. It takes quality soil to sink a stake and a systematic process to manage all 15…and you’ll need every one of them.
The tent is a hanger. It’s so long that you have to pay attention to your proposed foundation. You’re looking for 14-feet of rock/brush/stump free ground. While this wasn’t a problem in the desert of Idaho, I imagine it could be elsewhere.
After a few days of looking at its length, I left the desert wondering if it would be worth designing the vestibule to be separate from the tent. This could help parse out the bulk of the packed tent, splitting it between you and the jamboree of scouts it could fit.
Who Should Buy It: Backpackers seeking room for the dog or livable space with protection from the elements.
Contact Brand/More Beta: Big Agnes Super Scout UL2
—Steve Graepel is a contributor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC