Big Sky Evolution 2P Tent REVIEW

Other double-wall tent manufacturers claim that their tent is “ultralight” or even “hyperlight,” but the Evolution 2P really IS light without sacrificing anything in features or convenience - but of course it's not perfect.

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by Will Rietveld | 2006-04-11 03:00:00-06

Big Sky Evolution 2P Tent REVIEW

Introduction

The Evolution 2P is the flagship of Big Sky International’s now extensive line of lightweight shelters. Simply stated, it is the lightest, best designed, most user-friendly three-season two-person double-wall freestanding tent available. This review presents the facts behind that statement and makes recommendations to make the Evolution 2P even better.

What’s Good

  • Lightest two-person double-wall freestanding shelter with two doors and two vestibules
  • Fibraplex carbon fiber poles are strong and light, and withstand moderate winds (assuming good staking)
  • Titanium stakes included
  • Fast and easy setup
  • Superb views and ventilation with the fly off
  • Both vestibules offer space for a pack and boots without blocking entry
  • Vestibules are easily accessed from outside or inside the tent
  • Large zippered mesh entry doors
  • Large mesh gear/clothing storage pockets
  • Adequate length and headroom for taller people
  • Good wind stability if you use four angled guylines

What’s Not So Good

  • Inner mesh tent contacts the fly in some places, and some condensed water can drip inside the tent
  • Only eight stakes and two guylines are included (12 stakes and four guylines are needed for a stable pitch in moderate winds)
  • With carbon fiber poles, the tent deflects a lot in moderate winds, especially from the sides (aluminum poles are highly recommended if you expect strong winds or snow loads)

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Big Sky International

  Year/Model

2006 Evolution 2P (Rev. C)

  Style

Three-season, two-person, double wall freestanding tent with two doors and two vestibules

  Fabrics

Inner tent is no-see-um mesh, fly and tent floor are 30d 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon

  Poles

Two Fibraplex carbon fiber, 132 in (3.4 m) long, 8 oz (277 g) per pair. Easton aluminum poles weighing 12.6 oz (357 g) are available as a stiffer/stronger and less expensive option

  Features

Carbon fiber poles, titanium stakes, two doors, two vestibules, side entry through zippered vestibule doors and large mesh zippered entry doors, large vents on vestibules, two large mesh stow pockets at head end, two large mesh stow pockets at foot end, window, compression stuff sack

  Weight Full Package
As supplied by manufacturer with all included items

With carbon fiber poles: 3 lb 6.3 oz (1.54 kg) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 3 lb 4.9 oz (1.5 kg)
With aluminum poles: 3 lb 10.9 oz (1.67 kg) measured weight, manufacturer’s specification 3 lb 9.5 oz (1.63 kg)

  Weight Manufacturer Minimum
Includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent

With carbon fiber poles: 3 lb 3.6 oz (1.46 kg)
With aluminum poles: 3 lb 8.2 oz (1.59 kg)

  Weight Backpacking Light Minimum
Same as manufacturer minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Spectra guylines

With carbon fiber poles: 3 lb 3.7 oz (1.46 kg) measured weight
With aluminum poles: 3 lb 8.3 oz (1.6 kg)

  Area

Floor area: 32.7 ft2 (3.04 m2)
Vestibule area: 19 ft2 (1.77 m2)

  Area to Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

With carbon fiber poles: 0.63 ft2/oz
With aluminum poles: 0.58 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

Length 84 in (213 cm), width at head end 56 in (142 cm), width at foot end 46 in (117 cm), peak height 42 in (107 cm)

  MSRP

$345 with Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, $260 with Easton aluminum poles

Performance

The Big Sky International Evolution 2P is a three-season two-person double-wall freestanding tent with two vestibules and two doors. There are lots of other tents out there with the same feature set, like the MSR Hubba Hubba, Sierra Designs Hyperlight, REI Quarter Dome UL, and The North Face Vector 22. However, there’s one BIG difference: the Evolution 2P is a pound (or more) lighter than these tents. The Evolution 2P weighs 3 pounds 6.4 ounces (my measurement, which includes stakes, guylines, and stuff sacks). Put another way, the Evolution 2P at 0.63 ft2/oz with carbon fiber poles, has the most tent area for its weight among these tents.

As the name implies, the Evolution 2P has had some…evolution. Our SpotLite Review published in 2005 was based on Revision A. The current model is Revision C, and Revision D will be out in April 2006. With each revision, the design is tweaked and the tent becomes even more user-friendly.

Design

I will start this review with a photo gallery of the outside of the tent to get you familiar with its design.

Big Sky Evolution 2P Shelter REVIEW - 1
The Evolution 2P uses two sleeved poles in an X pattern (top left). The inner tent is mesh with a silnylon floor. Door openings are large. To create the two vestibules, the tent fly expands out to the sides and stakes to the ground (top right). The entry doors are at the far left, and the window is at the foot end. Each vestibule has a large vent at the top. The lower photos show the foot end (bottom left), and head end (bottom right).

Features and Ease of Use

Overall, the Evolution 2P “gets it right”:

  • All tent components are lightweight - Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, titanium stakes, mesh inner tent, and silnylon floor, fly, and stuff sacks
  • Fast, easy setup - no complex instructions, set it up in minutes
  • Easy entry - large zippered side entry doors in the vestibules and inner tent
  • Plenty of storage options - the vestibules are 9.5 square feet each, enough for a backpack and boots, and there are four large interior mesh pockets
  • Plenty of room - while 32.7 square feet of floor space for two people isn’t huge, the steep tent walls, storage pockets, and vestibules add up to tons of usable space
  • Convenience - two vestibules and doors plus plenty of pockets allow tent mates to remain good friends, and everything is within easy reach
  • Fly only option - the tent can be pitched using only the fly, poles, and optional footprint, (total weight 2 pounds)

Big Sky Evolution 2P Shelter REVIEW - 2
The tent comes in a compression stuff sack (top left) to minimize its packed size. Included are tent, fly, carbon fiber (or optional aluminum) poles, titanium stakes, two guylines, and stuff sacks (top center). Setup is fast and easy, simply insert the poles through the sleeves and connect the ends to grommets (top right). The fly also has grommets that attach to the pole ends. Although 32.7 square feet of floor space isn’t huge, the tent is roomy inside because of its steep walls, readily accessible vestibules, and four large storage pockets. The bottom left and right photos show the head end and foot end of the tent, respectively.

Ventilation

The mesh inner tent allows maximum airflow. There are two large vents at the tops of the vestibules, and the fly is raised off the ground enough to provide good high-low airflow. Most condensation forms on the inside of the fly, but the mesh inner tent can contact the fly in a few places to transfer water, sometimes dripping into the tent.

Big Sky Evolution 2P Shelter REVIEW - 3
The Evolution 2P has good high-low and cross ventilation through two large vents at the tops of the vestibules (left) and a 6-inch gap at the bottom of the fly at both ends (right).

Wind Stability

The fly has four Velcro tabs to anchor it to the pole sleeves. This along with corner attachments, eight stakes, and two guylines are adequate for “normal” conditions. However, for stability in strong winds (and to protect your investment), I strongly recommend using four guylines at 45-degree angles to the corners. For a truly wind stable pitch, twelve stakes and four guylines are required.

With carbon fiber poles, don’t even think of using this tent without four guylines! Even with good staking, it still deflects a lot in strong winds because of the poles’ flexibility. A strong wind from the side will nearly flatten it. If you expect to use this tent in above average wind (more than 30 mph) or snow conditions, I strongly recommend getting the stiffer/stronger (and less expensive) aluminum poles.

For the best of both worlds, you might consider owning both pole sets: a carbon fiber pole set for less severe conditions, and an aluminum pole set to use when you expect snow and/or strong winds.

Storm Protection

The fly completely envelops the tent and has good overlap with the bathtub floor. The floor is silnylon, with a hydrostatic head pressure rating of 1800 mm, which means that water can pass through in places where you apply pressure (like sitting on the floor, or your hip contact area while sleeping). Therefore it’s important to pitch the tent in a well-drained area.

My wife and I weathered numerous showers, rainy nights, and even a light snow in the Evolution 2P and stayed dry and cozy. The silnylon fly stretches when damp or wet, so it’s important to keep the fly tensioned so it doesn’t contact the mesh inner tent.

Big Sky Evolution 2P Shelter REVIEW - 4
The tent can easily withstand a light snow, but the carbon fiber poles are not appropriate for heavy snow loading. If you anticipate using this tent in above average snow and wind conditions, consider getting it with the stiffer/stronger aluminum poles.

Assessment

The ideal application for this tent is three-season camping with a spouse or close friend, or solo hiking for folks that like the comfort, security, wind resistance, bug protection, and privacy of a double wall tent. For two people, ease of use is hard to beat with the Evolution 2P. Each occupant has plenty of interior pocket storage for organization, and dual vestibules and doors go a long way towards keeping tent mates close friends. Vestibules are large enough for boots, a mid-sized backpack, and plenty of other gear. The fly is adjustable in several different positions on each vestibule side, allowing you to fine tune ventilation and views ranging from entirely open sides to fully sealed. Vents at the top of the vestibules vent moisture, and a clear vinyl window brings morning light into the shelter.

This tent is not bombproof by any means. While I would not call it fragile, the Evolution 2P does require special care. There are definite limits to the abrasion and puncture resistance of silnylon and no-see-um mesh. Setting it up on sharp rocks or stubs could puncture the floor, and rough edges or stubs could snag the mesh or fly. This is where heavier tents with more durable floors, like the MSR Hubba Hubba and Sierra Designs Hyperlight will have an advantage.

A final thought: if you get the Evolution 2P with carbon fiber poles, you are paying $85 more to save 4.6 ounces. Carbon fiber poles are subject to breakage at the connections, and require careful use. They are also more flexible, so the tent leans in response to wind gusts. Bottom line, the 7000-series Easton aluminum poles are bomber and cost a lot less, so give them some serious consideration. The 2P with aluminum poles is an excellent value at $260.

What’s Unique

The Evolution 2P is the lightest two-person double-wall freestanding shelter available with two doors and two vestibules. Besides being a lightweight champ, it is exceptionally well designed and user friendly.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Add guyline loops to each end of the fly and to each vestibule for extra wind anchorage.
  • Offer a guyline kit for use with carbon fiber poles that includes enough guylines and stakes for good wind stability.
  • Offer a heavy-duty version with a more durable floor, aluminum poles, and extra guylines and stakes.


Citation

"Big Sky Evolution 2P Tent REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/big_sky_evolution_2p_tent_review.html, 2006-04-11 03:00:00-06.

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