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.
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.
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.
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.
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.