Alpine camping in the Big Sky International Mirage 1P, a one-person hybrid tent with a trail weight of 34 ounces (964 g) for the basic complete tent. Numerous options are available to lighten the tent down to about 25 ounces (709 g). (I scrambled through that pass in the background the next morning.)
The Big Sky International Mirage 1P is a one-person hybrid free-standing tent. What’s a hybrid tent? Well, we used to simply call them a single-wall tent, but technically the vestibule sides of the tent are double-wall and the ceiling of the tent is single-wall, so it’s now called a hybrid. If you want to simply call it a single-wall tent, that’s just fine.
What is unique about the Big Sky Mirage is its external X-configuration poles, which make it free-standing. The tent attaches to the poles with clips, so it can be set up in about a minute, conveniently. Some people would argue that the external poles and clip attachment is a weaker design in terms of wind stability and storm protection, so how well does it perform in the wind and rain? Also, how does the Mirage 1P compare with other lightweight solo tents?
Specifications provided below are for a basic complete tent with one door. On their website, Big Sky sells their tents a la carte, meaning you get to choose the number of doors (one or two), tent fabric, poles, stakes, carry sack, guylines, and accessories you want. Note that numerous options are available to create a tent lighter than the configuration specified. This is discussed further below.
|Year/Manufacturer/Model||2010 Big Sky International Mirage 1P (bigskyinternational.com)|
|Style||Three-season, one-person, hybrid, free-standing tent with floor, one or two side entry doors, and two vestibules|
|Included||Tent body, two aluminum poles, six stakes with stuff sack, storage bag (selected a la carte)|
|Fabrics||Proprietary SuprSil weighs about the same (1.3 oz/y2/44.1 g/m2) as generic silnylon, and is claimed to be two times more waterproof and four times more tearproof; no-see-um mesh inner walls. Other optional shell fabrics available.|
|Poles and Stakes||Two aluminum poles and six aluminum 6-in (15-cm) Ultra-C stakes|
|Floor Dimensions||Manufacturer Specifications: 84 in (213 cm) long x 35 in (91 cm) wide at head end x 24 in (61 cm) wide at foot end
(dimensions verified by Backpacking Light)
|Features||Lightweight fabrics, large side entry door, two mesh storage pockets, one top vent|
|Packed Size||18 x 5 in (46 x 13 cm)|
|Total Weight||Measured Weight: 2 lb 3.9 oz (1.02 kg)
Manufacturer Specification: 2 lb 4.2 oz (1.03 kg)
|Trail Weight||Measured Weight: 2 lb 2 oz (0.96 kg)
Manufacturer Specification: 2 lb 2.7 oz (0.98 kg) (excludes stuff sacks)
|Protected Area||Floor Area: 17.5 ft2 (1.63 m2)
Vestibule Area: 7 ft2 (0.65 m2)
Total Protected Area: 24.5 ft2 (2.28 m2)
|Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio||11.5 ft2/lb (2.36 m2/kg)|
|Options||Second door US$50, SuprSil UL shell US$35, Let-It-Por II shell (Cuben Fiber) US$275, DuraLite Poles US$100, Guy lines and stakes US$16-24, Footprint US$17|
Design and Features
The Mirage 1P is a single-wall tent (or hybrid if you look at the vestibule sides as double-wall) for one person (a two-person version, the Mirage 2P, is available). As with most Big Sky tents, the Mirage 1P is based on two poles in an X-configuration, making the tent free-standing. What’s unique about the Mirage is that the poles are external and the tent body is simply clipped onto the poles, which is the ultimate in convenience.
The Mirage 1P has a vestibule on each side of the tent. The basic tent has a zippered vestibule and zippered mesh entry wall on one side; the vestibule on the other side is only accessible from the outside. With the two-door option (adds 2.6 oz/74 g and US$50), the vestibules on both sides of the tent are zippered and there are two mesh entry doors. It may sound redundant for a solo tent to have two entries, but read on to understand the benefits.
The Mirage 1P is available with three different “skins” (shell fabrics), and I had the opportunity to test all three of them. Big Sky does not provide a specific description of their proprietary tent fabrics, but does provide some comparative properties in relation to generic silnylon and spinnaker fabric as follows:
- SuprSil is Big Sky’s basic shell fabric. It’s a silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon similar to generic silnylon in weight, but claimed to be two times more waterproof and have four times more tear strength.
- SuprSil UL is a lighter weight version using a mini-ripstop nylon. The weight is similar to spinnaker fabric, but claimed to be four times more waterproof and tearproof.
- Let-It-Por II is a Cuben Fiber weighing about 0.6 oz/yd2 (20.3 g/m2, my estimation).
- Additionally, Big Sky now uses SuprSil HD for their floor fabric. The weight is about the same as generic silnylon but it’s three times more waterproof and four times more tearproof.
Views of the Big Sky Mirage 1P (two-door version). Entry is from one or both sides (top left) via a zippered door in the vestibule. The top view (top right) shows the tent’s shape. The head end (bottom left) is 36 inches (91 cm) wide, while the foot end (bottom right) is 24 inches (61 cm) wide.
This series compares the one- and two-door versions of the Mirage 1P. The one-door version (top left) provides one entry protected by a vestibule; the back wall of the tent is mesh. The vestibule on the opposite side (top right) is accessed from the outside by reaching under the bottom or lifting it up. The two-door version (bottom left) allows entry from either side and provides easy access to both vestibules from inside the tent. It also allows both sides of the tent to be partially or completely opened up (bottom right) for better views and cross ventilation.
Features: the one-door version of the Mirage 1P has one top vent (left), while the two-door version has two top vents. And the one-door version has two mesh pockets (right) on the entry side, while the two-door version has two storage pockets on each side (total of four, one in each corner).
Big Sky has developed a lightweight composite tent pole called DuraLite that they claim is stronger and more durable than carbon fiber. The cost is about the same (US$100); weight savings compared to aluminum poles is 3 ounces (85 g). The photo also shows the SuprSil fabric and clip attachment to the poles.
I tested three versions of the Mirage 1P over a thirteen-month period: the basic tent with one door and aluminum poles (summer and fall 2009), a Cuben Fiber version with one door and DuraLite poles (midwinter), and the two-door version (shown) with SuprSil UL fabric and DuraLite poles (summer 2010). This provided ample time to evaluate the Mirage 1P and its options over a wide variety of conditions.
Set-up is very fast, about one minute. Simply spread the tent on the ground, stake the four corners, connect the poles to corner grommets, attach the tent’s clips to the poles, and stake out the vestibules. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
While testing the basic one-door Mirage 1P, I liked the fast set-up, protected side entry, and roomy interior. I did not find the back vestibule very useful because it can only be accessed from outside the tent by sliding things under the bottom edge. With its aluminum poles, the tent is quite stable in moderate winds, but I recommend using four guylines in heavy winds. It’s also very storm worthy, and kept me dry during numerous thunderstorms. The top vent will close to prevent wind-driven rain from entering the tent.
In midwinter I had the opportunity to test the very lightest version of the Mirage 1P: Cuben Fiber shell, one door, and DuraLite poles. The weight with stakes and carry bag is 25 oz (709 g), and cost is US$717 (!). It’s very impressive - resilient in snow and wind, and Cuben Fiber does not stretch when wet. I was reluctant to send it back!
I tested the basic Mirage 1P in the snow on several occasions and found it not well suited for snow (left). It will withstand a light dusting, but any significant amount of snow flattens the vestibules and could easily collapse the tent. With some air movement, the Mirage ventilates well and is very resistant to condensation. However, on a still night with a large temperature drop, it is still susceptible to condensation (right) like any other single-wall tent (double-wall tents too!).
The superlight version arrived in early summer 2010. This one has two doors, SuprSil UL shell fabric, SuprSil HD floor fabric, and DuraLite poles - the latest version. I took it on several summer backpacking trips to test it out, and managed to catch a few good thunderstorms with some good wind gusts.
The superlight version of the Mirage 1P withstood heavy downpours with aplomb. The tent stayed bone dry inside; there was no leakage through the open top vents. It’s notable that Big Sky silnylon tents do not require seam sealing by the user. I inquired about how they accomplish that, and got the usual answer: it’s proprietary.
The DuraLite composite poles are clearly stronger than the Fibraplex poles previously sold by Big Sky. They deflect in strong wind gusts, but not as much as the Fibraplex poles. They perform well in “normal” conditions, meaning occasional moderate winds and wind gusts associated with thunderstorms, but I would definitely add four guylines to the tent to protect my investment. However, be aware that the DuraLite poles are more flexible than aluminum poles, which allows the tent to deflect (lean) substantially in a strong wind gust, which can be scary at times, and they could fail in really serious wind. They also cost US$100 to save 3 ounces (85 g), so they are not very cost effective, and they really don’t save any weight when you consider the additional need for guylines.
I fell in love with the two-door version of the Mirage 1P. I am always trying to reconcile added weight with added functionality and benefits. For me, the second door is worth the 2.6 ounces (74 g) of additional weight. It’s actually a package, as when buying a car. The two-door option also gives you two top vents instead of one and four mesh storage pockets instead of two. It adds up to a lot better ventilation, roominess, and convenience. Going to the SuprSil UL shell fabric (saves 2 oz/57 g and adds US$35) offsets the weight of the second door. The SuprSil UL fabric is my personal choice, it's softer than generic silnylon and appears to be just as strong.
Through my testing, I realized that the Mirage 1P is strictly a three-season tent. It will handle cold temperatures, rain, and wind just fine, but no more than a dusting of snow.
The latest version of the Mirage 1P uses a pair of clips to secure the poles at the junction where they cross, but the clips are loose and don’t tension the tent as designed. The previous version used a small buckle which secured the poles better.
The following table compares the basic one-door Mirage 1P with similar one-person single-wall tents with poles. The table does not include solo double-wall tents or solo single-wall tents that use trekking poles for support, because they are not a valid comparison.
|Tent||Floor Area ft2 (m2)||Vestibule Area ft2 ( m2)||Ventilation||Mfr.Weight oz (g)||Cost US$|
|Big Sky Mirage 1P*||17.5 (1.63)||14 (1.3)||1 top vent, raised side walls||34.2 (970 g)||292|
|Tarptent Rainbow||23 (2.14)||6 (0.56)||1 top vent, mesh perimeter||34 (965)||225|
|Tarptent Moment||18 (1.67 )||6.6 (0.61)||2 top vents, 2 end vents, mesh perimeter||28.8 (810)||215|
|Montbell Crescent 1||21.8 (2.03)||2.6 (0.24)||2 top vents plus partial mesh canopy||33 (936)||229|
|*The Mirage 1P is available with one or two doors with vestibules; data are for the one-door version.|
Some highlights and observations from the comparison table are as follows:
- The Big Sky Mirage 1P is significantly more expensive compared to the other tents.
- The Tarptent Moment is significantly lighter, less expensive, and its floor area is comparable to the other tents. However, a recent Backpacking Light review of the Moment reported that its ventilation is only average and condensation is a major issue. It sets up as quickly as the Mirage 1P.
- The Tarptent Rainbow is a similar design to the Mirage 1P, with more floor area and lower cost, but it is not free-standing (unless you attach trekking poles).
My personal choice for the Big Sky Mirage 1P is the two-door version with aluminum poles and the SuprSil UL shell fabric. The tent sets up exceptionally fast, has great ventilation, lots of usable space inside, and is very storm worthy and wind stable. However, the cost for that configuration adds up to US$360, which is a lot of gold for a single-wall solo tent.
Among the comparable tents, the Tarptent Moment is hard to ignore. It also sets up very quickly, weighs less, and costs much less. The drawbacks are that it’s not free-standing, it has higher than average condensation, and it does not have nearly as much usable space inside as the Mirage 1P. The ends of the Moment taper down to about 18 inches (46 cm) and are usable only as foot space and gear storage. In contrast, all of the interior space in the Mirage 1P is usable.
Another consideration is the weight of the poles - all of the tents in the table above require a dedicated poleset, which weighs 11.4 ounces (323 g) for the Mirage 1P. An alternative is to consider a solo tent that utilizes trekking poles for support, which reduces the tent weight considerably. The lightest trekking pole supported single-wall solo tent is the Gossamer Gear One, which is made of spinnaker fabric and weighs about 18 ounces (510 g) with stakes and stuff sack.
The bottom line - especially if you don’t use trekking poles, or don’t want to use trekking poles to support a tent, and you do want a free-standing solo tent that sets up fast and has loads of interior usable space - is there’s nothing that directly compares with the Mirage 1P.
- Two-pound one-person single-wall tent
- Side entry protected by a vestibule
- Two vestibules
- Top vent (two top vents on the two-door version)
- All of the interior space is usable
- Two mesh storage pockets (four on the two-door version)
- Gear in the entry vestibule can easily be reached from inside the tent (both vestibules on the two-door version)
- Great ventilation and condensation resistance
- Numerous customization and weight saving options
- Very wind stable and storm worthy
- Plenty of space for one person plus gear, or one hiker plus a dog
What’s Not So Good
- Clips at pole junction are too loose
- Big Sky’s website is not very user friendly
Recommendations for Improvement
- Revise the fasteners at the pole junction so they tension the tent better
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL unless otherwise noted. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.