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Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007)

The Convertible creates a new “Light Four-Season Tent” category, and the Mirage will challenge the lightest three-season single wall tents currently available.

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by Will Rietveld | 2007-08-12 22:43:00-06


Big Sky Products - who developed the award winning Evolution 2P, the lightest two person double wall freestanding tent currently available - is expanding their tent line with two completely new models which will likely also be the lightest tents in their class. Bob Molen had a booth at the Summer 2007 Outdoor Retailer Show, and we had an opportunity to get some photos and specifications for the new tents.

Convertible This tent may create a new category, which might be called “light four-season tent”. The Convertible, as the name implies, can be converted from a three-season to a four-season tent by adding a third pole. Basically, the user chooses the components he wants using Big Sky's a la carte approach. There are two silnylon flys available (summer and winter), two tent bodies (mesh or thin ripstop nylon), and three pole sets available (aluminum, lightweight carbon fiber poles, or heavy-duty carbon fiber poles. A lighter weight spinnaker fly may also be available.

The Convertible differs from the popular Evolution 2P in that the poles fit in sleeves on the tent fly, and the tent body is attached with clips to that unit. The poles are in Big Sky's familiar X-configuration, and the the third pole is attached to one end of the tent to provide extra stability for four-season use. The production version will add a pole sleeve for the curved section of the outside pole.

This may sound a little complex, but the following photos should clarify it somewhat.

Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007) - 1
The Convertible 2P configured for four-season use (left) uses a winter fly with snow skirt, three heavy-duty carbon fiber or aluminum poles (two in pole sleeves on the fly and one on the outside), and a winter body. The snow skirt will tie up for extra ventilation in three-season use. The inside body (right) is 30d uncoated ripstop nylon for extra warmth. The tent has two side vestibules with entry doors and two top vents. The weight for this configuration with heavy duty carbon fiber poles is about 3 pounds 14 ounces and MSRP will be $499.95.

Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007) - 2
The Convertible 2P configured for three-season use (left) uses a summer fly, two aluminum or lightweight carbon fiber poles, and a mesh body. The resulting tent (right) is very similar to the current Evolution 2P, except the poles are in sleeves on the fly and the body is clipped to the fly structure. The weight with lightweight CF poles is about 3 pounds, and the MSRP is $329.95.

Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007) - 3
The Convertible in its “fly only” configuration (left) consists of the winter (or summer) fly, two aluminum or lightweight carbon fiber poles, and an X-cord connecting the corners to tension the tent. The weight with lightweight carbon fiber poles is about 2 pounds.

Many buyers will want to choose only one fly, body, and pole set to start, and perhaps add components later. A good starter configuration is the winter fly, summer body, and heavy-duty carbon fiber (or aluminum) poles. The heavy-duty carbon fiber poles (Easton Xtreme) are twice as strong as aluminum poles.

While the Convertible may not be a bomber expedition-grade tent, it certainly looks like it will have a great deal of wind and snow stability, and will perform well in non-alpine winter camping conditions.

Mirage Move over Tarptent Rainbow and Double Rainbow, the new Big Sky Mirage will be a single-wall silnylon freestanding tent with two vestibules that will weigh as little as 1.5 pounds (with lightweight carbon fiber poles, 1.75 pounds with aluminum poles). Again, the tent will use Big Sky's familiar X-configuration for the poles, and the tent body will be attached to the poles with clips. The one-person model (Mirage 1P) will have a side entry with vestibule and mesh entry wall. The backside will also have a vestibule, but it will only be accessible from the outside (a second door option will be available). The two-person model (Mirage 2P) will have two doors and two vestibules. No weight specification is available yet for the Mirage 2P.

The MSRP for the Mirage 1P will be around $199.95 with aluminum poles. Lightweight carbon fiber poles will add about $95 and save about 4 ounces.

Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007) - 4
The Big Sky Mirage 1P (left) has one door and two vestibules (one accessible only from the outside). A second door will be an option. The interior (right) is mesh with a bathtub silnylon floor.

The Mirage will not necessarily be the lightest single wall tent with floor on the market. The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo at 23 ounces and Tarptent Contrail at 24 ounces are in the same range, so it will be a shootout when the production version of the Mirage comes out to determine which one is lightest. One thing for certain is that the Mirage will offer a lot of usable space for its weight.


There's no question that Big Sky designs great tents and maintains good quality control. But the on-going issue is product availability and customer service. According to Bob Molen, the Convertible will be available in September 2007 and the Mirage will be available in January 2008, and both will be coming from his "new" dependable factory in China that produces his silnylon tents. The first production runs will be a limited number of tents, and Bob is in the process of hiring a customer service representative, so lets hope that everything goes smoothly this time around. Its frustrating for everyone when a maufacturer offers an outstanding product but is unable to meet the demand.


"Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007)," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2007-08-12 22:43:00-06.


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Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007)
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Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007) on 08/12/2007 22:43:39 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2007)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Nice! on 08/12/2007 22:54:07 MDT Print View

Love the Mirage 1P. Too bad that BS can't seem to find a good factory in China after two long years! Nobody else seems to have that kind of trouble. Maybe REI or TNF or MSR or any number of companies can give Bob Molen some pointers on sourcing!?!

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Mirage 2P in Winter Mode on 08/12/2007 23:29:52 MDT Print View

I really like the concept behind the "Winter" version of the 2P but I don't like the pole config.

Make it a real winter tent: four poles, all of them internally sleeved. The tent is screaming for symmetry for aesthetics and function. That third external pole is out of place and will collect snow: external poles are a disaster in winter tents when the snow flies.

A winter fly needs to be sleek and taut if it is going to shed snow.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Truce on 08/13/2007 04:02:35 MDT Print View

How about we give Bob Molen a break for the moment and promise to flood the forums if he re-offends ?

We all agree that his way of doing business was less than ideal but it is very difficult to think clearly under pressure. My self appointed role for many years was to beat some sense into the boss and I am not proud of some of the business practices we engaged in for the first few, but we grew from six to over seventy staff members, including being voted by the industry twice as Photo Retailer Of The Year, mistakes not withstanding. That was 22 years of my life....

I am also aware that dealing with some factories in China is not always ( if ever..) a smooth procedure, this is true in my field (photographic and electronics) and ,from the accounts I get from some local buyers , also of outdoor gear manufacturers.

Truce ?


Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Mirage on 08/13/2007 06:51:39 MDT Print View

The fabric used in the Mirage is silnylon, not the proprietary fabric used in the single wall Revolutions. The Revolution factory is the "difficult" one. The Mirage should be manufactured by the "good" factory and available in a reasonable amount of time. (We can only hope :)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
If the Revolution Was the Difficult One... on 08/13/2007 09:00:56 MDT Print View

Then how come folks were made to wait for up to 14 or 16 months(!) for their Evolution tents -- after they paid up???

As stated, I do like some of his tents. Maybe a better approach for everyone concerned is for Bob Molen to focus on doing what he does best -- tent design -- and let companies with real knowledge, experience and integrity do the sourcing and order fulfillment! What say you, Bob?

Edited by ben2world on 08/13/2007 09:33:58 MDT.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Things change on 08/13/2007 09:33:43 MDT Print View

Hi Ben,
Things change. Talking to Bob it sounded like the Evolution factory took a long time to get up to speed, but is now pumping out tents. From forum posts I'm seeing it looks like delivery times are fairly reasonable for new Evolution orders now.

It'll be interesting to see if Bob responds to this thread. He said it was taking up too much of his time - which as you mention would be better spent designing - keeping up with the forums. He said anyone with problems can e-mail him directly.

I'll be watching with interest to see how this all plays out - it's like Soap Opera for backpackers :)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Things Happen / Things Change on 08/13/2007 09:46:01 MDT Print View

Hi Carol:

Things happen... and yes, things change.

Growing up in Asia, my parents owned a sweater factory and exported their products to the US and Europe. A million things can (and sometimes do) go wrong with individual orders -- despite the best efforts of everyone up and down the supply chain.

As mentioned, I DON'T believe that Bob started out with any intention to deceive anyone. And I don't fault him alone for his supplier problems.

What I do find inexcusable is that NOT ONCE was Bob ever upfront with buyers about expected delivery. Compare and contrast this with other cottage gearmakers -- who time and again would stop taking orders (or at least issue a warning on their websites) when they recognize a backlog and expect delayed delivery! BPL itself is a good example of ethical practice.

Yes, things change, and hopefully Bob will actually deliver on a timely basis. But the real "soap opera" is when the next problem or bottleneck occurs -- and personal character and integrity are forced into play -- whether Bob will be Bob again!?!

Yes, let Bob respond. But if he is going to respond, I don't want to read just an "everything is going to be OK" spew. I would want an explanation and an apology. Most importantly, I would want to know the specific changes he has implemented -- including how he will handle and communicate differently when problems arise as they invariably will -- to ensure that a debacle like this will not happen again!

Edited by ben2world on 08/13/2007 09:56:41 MDT.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Ben: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose on 08/13/2007 14:19:01 MDT Print View

I, too, have spent some time responding and reacting to BS problems over the past 2 years in the forums. Although I have not ordered a tent from Bob (and probably never will), it has been painfully evident that many were hurt by his "attitude" toward customer service. And yes he has given a new definition to the meaning of "on time delivery" which will live on in infamy. And I can clearly hear your sense of integrity crying out for justice and at least some recognition on Bob's part that he screwed up royally and hurt many people and their trust in online ordering from small companies.

But maybe its time to allow him to redeem himself and his company. If he can. He makes great product from all the reviews. He is innovative and a great tent designer. Maybe not such a good or particularly smart business owner. And maybe he has learned from this painful experience. Many people respond to criticism and oprobrium by getting defensive or basically "hiding out" from those who heap it on them. I am not a therapist but maybe that is operating here with Bob. So, if we give him that "one" chance to redeem himself, he actually may. I would not look to someone who so far has not evidenced any desire to confront the massive hurt feelings he has engendered to actually respond to you with an apology or express a "mea maxima culpa." So, Ben, maybe it's time to let go of your anger with him and let's see what actually transpires over the next several months not only with his new line but with delivery of older tents.
What say you, Ben, can you take a deep breath and count to 1,000,000.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Mitchell on 08/13/2007 15:22:47 MDT Print View

Instead of counting to 1,000,000 -- if you read the last line of my post above -- the thing I am most interested in is what changes he is implementing to prevent the fiasco from happening again. In other words, I too am not aversed to giving him a second chance -- but want some meaningful assurance from him that it's not going to be more of the same!

Don't confuse my probing for something more substantive with "anger". Too shallow.

Edited by ben2world on 08/13/2007 15:24:58 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
The "new Bob" on 08/13/2007 17:55:40 MDT Print View

Personally, I'm going to wait until the "tent received" posts start rolling in. Until then, my dog won't be in the fight.

Chuck Shugart
(cshugart) - MLife

Locale: Canadian Prairies
Big Sky tents on 08/13/2007 19:33:15 MDT Print View

I received my evolution 2P in December 2006 after about a 7 month wait. I posted a picture of me in it on the forum about Big Sky then. I love this tent and am looking forward to seeing what Bob comes up with next. These new ones look good. I like the cross pole design, I think its very stable and simple to set up. Along with everyone else, I'll be waiting to hear that supply problems have smoothed out before I get any more skin in the game. I didn't enjoy wondering if I was ever going to get my tent while I was waiting, but in the end, Bob made good on his promises to me. This could be a great tent company if he can work out his business struggles.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Big Sky Tents on 08/16/2007 17:31:43 MDT Print View

Supply chain management and the management of contract manufacturers need to be core competencies of any business large or small attempting to outsource its manufacturing off shore.

The head of Osprey moved to Vietnam to manage his contract manufacturers directly.

Edited by btolley on 08/16/2007 17:33:06 MDT.

Gerry Brucia
(taedawood) - MLife

Locale: Louisiana, USA
Big Sky Tents on 08/17/2007 17:59:47 MDT Print View

I ordered my Evolution 2P in January and received it in May. At the time of order I mentioned to Bob that I needed it by the end of May in time for a two week trip in June. I made sure to be polite and supportive as my boss says that "You catch more flies with sugar than you do with salt". Since Bob did not take any money until time of shipment, I did not see a serious risk on my part. Bob responded to all of my emails, sometimes not in a reasonable timeframe but he did respond and did deliver my tent in time. The stuff sack that I ordered has still not arrived but Bob says it will ship next week.
The tent is terrific in both design and quality. Bob has burned many bridges, making numerous mistakes. But his products are great. For our sake, I hope he has learned from his mistakes and makes a success of Big Sky.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Big Sky on 08/21/2007 12:13:26 MDT Print View

Let's cut the guy some slack. I agree that there have been some major problems on his part, but I think we should take a "wait and see" approach for the future. What about interviewing him and giving him a forum to explain his situation (or has that been done?).

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Big Sky's forum on 08/21/2007 12:15:43 MDT Print View


Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models on 08/21/2007 12:16:04 MDT Print View

"What about interviewing him and giving him a forum to explain his situation (or has that been done?)."

Check out Carol Crooker's podcast from last week. He admits to some earlier problems but really glosses them over. I didn't feel like there was ever a straight answer.

Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Re: Big Sky Products Introduces Two New Tent Models on 08/21/2007 17:53:37 MDT Print View

I had never heard of BSP until I joined BPL. But the fact that his tents are made in a factory in china is reason enough for me not to order anything from them.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Product Origin on 08/21/2007 18:40:29 MDT Print View

I would never buy American cars -- nothing but crap -- so yeah, I can see where you are coming from.

OTOH, it seems like pretty much "all" tents nowadays are made in China...

Edited by ben2world on 08/21/2007 18:47:09 MDT.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Big Sky on 08/21/2007 19:47:17 MDT Print View

I think there is some confusion as to what the problem with Big Sky has been. Essentially, there have been two big problems:

1) They have had trouble filling orders.
2) They have handled that situation poorly.

The first problem may have been solved, but I doubt the second problem will ever be solved. Consider the difference between Mountain Laurel Designs and Big Sky. When MLD restarted their company, they had a huge number of requests, which they had a lot of trouble handling. But on the web site, it explained this. It suggested that it would be months before you could get anything (except maybe mitts). I'm sure business was lost, but customers were gained. Big Sky has not treated their customers similarly; they have repeatedly given the impression that the product was on the way, only to cash the check and not ship the product (or even inform the customer about the delay) for months. Even if the manufacturing problem is solved, it doesn't solve the overall customer relations problem. If they said they were refunding a bunch of money to the people who had to wait (say 2% of the purchase cost for every month delay) or suggested some other type of award for the people who were gutsy enough to buy from them, then I might think otherwise. But to only suggest that problem number one is solved, while doing nothing (or even acknowledging) problem number two suggests that the management of this company will continue to treat their customers poorly (even if fewer problems occur).

What I really don't understand is why other companies aren't making similar tents. As far as I can tell, what makes these tents appealing is that they are free standing, double walled (or single walled breathable) tents made with the latest ultralight material (OK, the latest as of a couple years ago). This is not a radical or refined design (unlike Shires Tarp Tent or Six Moons). It would not be that difficult for someone else to make similar tents.