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Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW

Double-wall, two-person tent with a minimum weight of 3.5 lbs, good usable space, and an innovative design with some nice features but also a couple of drawbacks.

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by Marty Coatney | 2006-01-24 03:00:00-07

Overview

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 2
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 1
The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is a two-person, three-season, free-standing tent with an all mesh body that allows for excellent ventilation, bug protection, and views.

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is a lightweight, two-person, three-season tent. It weighs 3 pounds 11 ounces (1.67 kg) and the all-mesh inner tent body allows for excellent ventilation, views, and bug protection. The main drawback with this tent is its small vestibule and the small usable floor space that can feel cramped with two larger hikers.

In Brief

  • Three-season, freestanding
  • Full mesh body with ripstop nylon floor and fly, and fully taped seams
  • Single pole/hub system
  • Stable in high winds and with snow load
  • Extremely well ventilated
  • Vestibule does not protect interior of tent when open

Specifications

  Year/Model

2004 Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2

  Style

Two person, double wall with floor

  Fabric Description

Fly and tent floor are 30d, 1.94 oz/yd2 (66 g/m2) high-tenacity nylon rip-stop that is polyurethane and silicone coated. Netting is 20d, 1.6 oz/yd2 (54 g/m2) woven nylon mesh.

  Pole Material

DAC Featherlite aluminum hub/pole system

  Weight Full Package
As supplied with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc.

Backpacking Light scaleManufacturer claim
3 lb 14 oz (1.75 kg)3 lb 11 oz (1.67 kg)

  Weight Minimum Package
Tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.

Manufacturer supplied minimumBackpacking Light minimum
5 stakes, 9 ft (2.74 m) guylineSame as Manufacturer Minimum but with: 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes, 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Aircore 1 Spectra guylines
3 lb 9 oz (1.62 kg)3 lb 7.9 oz (1.56 kg)

  Floor/ Vestibule Area

Floor area Vestibule area
28 ft2 (2.6 m2) 5.5 ft2 (0.51 m2)

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.50 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

InchesCentimeters
Width52/42132/107
Length84213
Height38/2297/56

  MSRP

$299.00

Features

Usable Features / Ease of Use

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is relatively quick and easy to set-up. The single pole is expanded with a three-way hub on either end. These hubs create asymmetrical triangles at the front and rear of the tent. The larger triangle is placed over the door and the smaller over the feet. The pole-ends are inserted into grommets on each corner and then the mesh body is connected to the pole using plastic hooks. The fly connects to the tent body using plastic clips at each corner and then must be staked out using at least five stakes (two in the front, one on either side, and one in the rear.) There are options for four more additional guy points. We found that even with gloves and mittens on the task of tent set up went smoothly.

At first glance the vestibule on the Seedhouse SL2 appears large and roomy. This idea is quickly dispelled as soon as the large door of the fly is opened. This D-shaped door extends from the ground to above and behind the mesh tent door. When opened, only small wings on either side of the vestibule remain protected from the elements. When closed there is space for two small packs, though this blocks the doorway.

A nice addition inside the tent is three small mesh pockets near the door, one on either side, and a slightly larger one above. My wife and I used these to store small items such as headlamps, glasses, gloves, etc. Also nice are the high-sided bathtub floor that covers the areas not covered by the rain-fly, and the loops for a clothesline.

Weight / Sizing

With an area to weight ratio of 0.50 ft2/oz, the Seedhouse SL2 is average when compared to other double wall tents we reviewed. However, it offers much more headroom than many other designs. The Seedhouse SL2 weighs about 3 1/2 pounds; not bad at all when you consider the usability of the space.

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 1
The D-ring/plastic hook combination works well to keep the mesh walls of the tent pulled outwards when the fly is used. When the fly is not needed the large mesh walls have no support in the centers and they sag.

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 2
The tall, steep walls of the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 allowed us to sit up in the rear of the tent somewhat comfortably. What is difficult to see in this picture is that my shoulders and head are pushing the mesh outwards towards the fly.

Usable Space

While it would be possible to rig a guy line to the tent's O-rings and stake them out without the fly, the angle required would take some creativity. (Using small sticks to prop up the guylines would probably work, although I didn't try this.)

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 5
The interior of the tent has plenty of space for two people and their gear, as long as they pack light. This is important because the vestibule has room for little more than your shoes.

Without the fly the mesh walls droop inwards a few inches on either side because of a lack of support and no way to tension them. Getting the most usable space from this tent requires you to use the rainfly (or use some creativity with guylines). This is because the fly attaches to the base of the large mesh walls where the bathtub floor meets the mesh. This is done using a "tether" with a locking hook that attaches to a D-ring on the tent (an attachment system that is very difficult to use with cold hands). When the sides of the fly are guyed-out it pulls the mesh body out creating more space inside.

There is more than enough room for both my wife and me and all of our gear while we are lying down. This is very important because the vestibule offers protection for little more than our shoes. We were even able to sleep with our heads at the rear of the tent when we discovered we had pitched it on an incline and didn't want to get out in the snow and move the tent.

The steep sides and triangular ends created by the innovative hub pole system provide good headroom at both ends of the tent for sitting up and playing cards, though there is notably more room towards the door. In the rear of the tent I had to move a little forward to sit completely upright and my head and shoulders still touched the mesh walls. This was okay because any condensation was on the fly and I didn't feel boxed in since the walls are mesh.

Performance

Storm protection/Wind Stability

On a spring trip to the Oregon Cascades we ended up in rougher weather than we had expected. The trail report had claimed that there was "some" snow above 4000 feet and the weather report put the snow level higher than that. With all of the ski areas closed my wife and I thought that trail conditions would be fine. At 4000 feet they were. At 4800 feet at the trailhead there was a thin layer of snow. By the time we reached 5500 feet we were rethinking our decision about leaving our snowshoes at home as we trudging our way through 2 feet of snow while using map and compass to follow the snow-obscured trail.

We were eventually able to find a bare patch of earth between two large firs and set up the tent. By that time snow and windy conditions set in and I was thinking what perfect weather to test a three-season, all-mesh tent in. My wife was wondering what she had gotten herself into.

Long-story short is that the Seedhouse SL2 held up amazingly to both snow load and moderate winds. The first night we only guyed out the necessary points: vestibule, rear, and the two lower side points. All night long we listened to the large, flat, sail-like walls flapping about and watched as snow accumulated, blocking out any exterior light. We awoke to approximately six new inches on the ground and only a slight dusting on the tent. The steepness of the walls had caused any excess build-up of snow to slough off.

For the next night we guyed out all available points: adding two more in the front and two higher up on the side panels. The tent was very stable in the wind, despite the fact that the large walls were place perpendicular to the largest gusts. It snowed another 10 to 12 inches that night with slightly more accumulation on the tent than on the previous night. Surprisingly, this just made the Seedhouse SL2 more stable.

On other trips where I experienced heavy, blowing rain, the Seedhouse SL2 remained entirely dry in the interior. That is, it remained dry inside as long as the vestibule door was closed. As mentioned above the vestibule door extends to above and behind the mesh door of the tent itself. When opened this allows rain or snow to fall directly into the tent and wet anything near the front.

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW - 6
The Seedhouse SL2 is marketed as a three-season shelter but with full guying out the tent easily handled a snow load. However, ventilation was restricted which caused some condensation.

Features that lend to the water-resistance of the tent include: fully taped seams all around, water-resistant zipper on the fly with a storm-flap to protect any possible gaps, and a bathtub silnylon floor that extends high up the sides. As long as the vestibule was closed we stayed perfectly dry and cozy inside, drinking hot chocolate and playing cards.

Ventilation / Condensation Resistance

While the Seedhouse SL2 did an outstanding job of sloughing snow, this led to the only ventilation/condensation concerns that we had while using the tent. However, this is to be expected when using a three-season tent in winter conditions. Digging out snow along the base of the fly to allow ventilation is necessary to create airflow.

In rainy conditions the tent worked exactly how it was supposed to. In normal three-season conditions, ventilation was never a problem. However, an additional high vent would be welcomed for more humid conditions and would have alleviated the condensation issues we experienced in the snow.

Durability

The Seedhouse SL2 showed no durability issues during our field testing. We never used a ground cloth but the floor never seemed in danger of tearing, even when pitched on snow or bare roots. The fly is reinforced with extra fabric at all guy points and held up well with even the tautest pitch. I was worried that the mesh pockets near the door would be a durability concern due to their lightweight construction but we stuffed them full of pocket knives, headlamps, dirty socks, a compass, gloves, forks, and so on with no damage done. This is a well built tent.

Value

At $299 the Seedhouse SL2 is middle of the road for value in lightweight tents. At about 3 1/2 pounds it is very lightweight for a three-season, double wall tent. All things considered, the Big Agnes SL2 is a solid value.

Recommendations for Improvement

The main issue that keeps the Seedhouse SL2 from taking a permanent place in my stable of tents is the poorly designed vestibule. I expect to be able to get in and out of a tent without my gear getting wet. A redesign of the vestibule that would protect the inner tent would be a major improvement.

A covered high vent on the fly above the door would also extend the usable range of the tent, allowing for more ventilation options.


Citation

"Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent REVIEW," by Marty Coatney. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/big_agnes_seedhouse_sl2_tent_review.html, 2006-01-24 03:00:00-07.

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