Big Sky International makes the lightest double wall tents to be found anywhere. Their Evolution 2P (two person) now weighs as little as 2 pounds 11.5 ounces and has won numerous awards. Now Big Sky is in competition with itself with last summer’s introduction of the Convertible, and now the Montana. While selecting a tent from Big Sky used to be a no-brainer (get the Evolution 2P), the choice has now become more complex.
As explained in our dispatch from the summer 2007 Outdoor Retailer Show, the Convertible can be configured as either a three- or four-season tent. The Convertible is a lightweight alternative to a traditional bomber tent, but it will withstand only moderate snow loads, thus the classification “Light 4-Season”. For more details on the design of the Convertible, click on the above link to read our dispatch.
Big Sky International Convertible 2P (grey, in winter configuration) and 4P (yellow, in summer configuration). Both tents have fly-only, summer, and winter configurations. The fly only and summer configurations use two poles and the winter configuration uses three poles. The winter fly (grey tent) has a snow skirt at the bottom that can be rolled up, and the summer fly (yellow tent in left rear) does not have the snow skirt.
New for spring 2008, the Convertible will be available in a four person version, the Convertible 4P. The tent basically has three configurations (fly-only, summer, winter), and you purchase the components needed for each one. The fly only configuration (46.9 ounces) uses two poles. The summer configuration (4 pounds 4.4 ounces, $400) uses two aluminum poles and has a mesh inner tent and fly without a snow skirt. And the winter configuration (4 pounds 11.7 ounces/$559) uses three poles, has a thin nylon inner tent, and the fly has a snow skirt.
Would you believe a true four-season, two-person, double wall tent that weighs 3.5 pounds? The Montana is a departure from Big Sky’s “two doors/two vestibules on the sides” design. It uses three lateral poles that slip into sleeves on the fly, but it is not a tunnel tent. Rather, it has a caternary ridgeline, and the poles are shaped so the tent actually has an A-frame shape. The inner tent clips to the fly, and can be left connected so the tent can be erected as a unit - quick and easy. The tent has a vestibule entry at the front with a top vent, and a rear storage vestibule with a top vent.
The Big Sky International Montana tent in winter configuration (three poles, winter fly with snow skirt, and thin nylon body) weighs 3 pounds 9.5 ounces.
Now, here’s where the convertible status comes in - the Montana also has three configurations - fly only, summer, and winter. The fly-only configuration makes a very nice floorless single wall tent. The Montana really gets remarkable in the lightest version of the summer configuration (two carbon fiber poles, spinnaker fly, mesh body) - it’s a two-person double-wall tent that weighs just 2 pounds, 1.7 ounces; the cost is about $450. And in the winter configuration (three heavy duty aluminum poles, thin nylon body, and fly with snow skirt), the Montana weighs just 3 pounds 9.5 ounces, and costs about $400. The summer Montana will be available in spring 2008, and the winter Montana components will be available in fall 2008.
The lightest version of the Montana in summer configuration (two carbon fiber poles, spinnaker fly, mesh body) is a two-person double-wall tent that weighs just 2 pounds 1.7 ounces. The cost will be about $450.
The Convertible and Montana are both tents you can build by choosing the components that meet your needs, via Big Sky’s a la carte system. You can purchase components so the same tent can be used in either summer or winter. Many hikers will want only a two-person/three-season tent, so the summer versions of the Evolution 2P, Convertible 2P, and the Montana 2P are the ones to look at. The choice will be difficult. For a roomy base camp tent or family camping tent, the Convertible 4P provides plenty of room and weighs just 4.25 pounds.
Finally, a word about availability. As readers know, Big Sky has a history of being optimistic on availability dates. The new tents are planned for spring 2008 introduction, and we have been told that Big Sky's "new factory" is much more dependable than the previous one, so we can be hopeful to see the new tents before summer at least.