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Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW

Light weight, single-wall Epic shell, two-person freestanding tent.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-09-20 03:00:00-06

Editor's Note: This review is based on an early prototype of the Revolution 2P UL tent. The production model incorporates the following changes: a 50% stronger Epic fabric which increases the tent weight 1 to 2 ounces; the shell has been tightened, and tensioners added to all four corners; the two top vents are replaced by one larger vent on the vestibule; and the seams around the window and bathtub floor are seam-sealed.

Overview

Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW - 1
Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL with one side of the vestibule entry rolled up. The vertical mesh wall has a large zippered door for easy entry/exit. Guylines on the vestibule side (shown) are optional.

Weighing only 2 pounds 11 ounces (1.22 kg) for the complete package, the Big Sky Products SummitShelters series Revolution 2P UL may be the lightest two-person freestanding tent on the market. It is also a great value. It comes standard with an Epic shell, vestibule, silnylon floor, Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, and titanium stakes, and costs only $345. Its floor area/weight ratio of 0.66 ft2/oz sets a new standard for a two-person freestanding tent, and the weight includes a vestibule. The Black Diamond Firstlight tent similarly equipped with after market poles and stakes and optional vestibule weighs one pound more and costs $542.

In Brief

  • Single wall Epic freestanding tent with Fibraplex poles, silnylon floor, and vestibule
  • Highest area/weight ratio we know of for a two-person freestanding tent
  • Quick setup and easy to enter/exit
  • All space is usable due to steep sidewalls and near rectangular floor
  • Storm worthy, but water eventually wets through, increasing interior moisture
  • Some concerns about wind stability
  • Great value

Specifications

Tent Type

Two-person single wall freestanding tent with floor

  Fabric Description

Tent shell is grey Epic by Nextec, fabric weight is proprietary; tent floor is 30d 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon.

  Pole Material

Fibraplex carbon fiber, each pole 152 in (3.9 m) long, packed size 17 in x 1.5 in (43 x 4 cm), weight 8.1 oz (23 g). Easton aluminum poles (13.4 oz/380 g) are available as a less expensive option.

  Weight Full Package
Epic tent, 2 Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, 8 titanium stakes in silnylon sack, 2 guylines, silnylon compression stuff sack.

Backpacking Light scaleManufacturer claim
2 lb 11oz (1.22 kg)2 lb 11oz (1.22 kg)

  Weight Minimum Package
Epic tent, 2 Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, 8 titanium stakes, 2 guylines, no stuff sacks.

Manufacturer supplied minimumBackpacking Light minimum
Tent body, 2 poles, 8 stakes, 12 ft (3.7 m) guylineSame as Manufacturer Minimum but with: 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes
0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Aircore 1 Spectra guylines
2 lb 9.6 oz  (1.18kg)2 lb 9.7 oz (1.18 kg)

  Floor/Vestibule Area

Floor area Vestibule area
27.7 ft2 (2.57m2) 9 ft2 (0.84m2)

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.66 ft2/oz (2.18 m2/kg)

  Dimensions

inchescentimeters
Width56 / 46142 / 117
Length84213
Height42109

  Model Year

2005

  MSRP

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

  Options
The Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution tent is available in three models.

ModelDoorsVestibulesApproximate Weight* oz (kg)MSRP*
1P1135 (0.99)$275
2P UL1143 (1.22)$345
2P2246 (1.30)$345
*Weights and costs are for tent with Fibraplex carbon fiber poles. Each model is available with stiffer Easton aluminum poles that weigh 5.3 ounces more and cost $85 less.

Usable Features/Ease of Use

Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW - 2
The Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL uses exterior carbon fiber poles that slip into grommets at the corners. The tent clips onto the poles, making setup quick and easy. Our prototype test model shown here has a large ceiling vent on each end of the tent and a clear plastic window at the foot end. (The production model has one vent on the vestibule that vents the main tent through the mesh entry wall behind the vestibule - see the first photo for a view of the mesh wall.)

The Revolution's shell is Epic fabric, which is breathable and functionally waterproof when stretched at a steep angle and not under pressure. The two-person Revolution 2P UL tested has a vestibule entry on one side and a solid wall on the other. Two external carbon fiber poles (or optional aluminum poles) in an "X" shape support the tent. Setup is very easy: lay the tent out; insert the pole ends into grommets at the corners; clip the tent to the poles; and stake out the corners, vestibule, and guylines. Eight stakes are needed for a secure pitch. Titanium stakes (6 inches/0.2 ounces each) come with this tent, so you don't have to replace any inferior aluminum stakes.

Entry is from the side through a tall zippered vestibule and entry door. The large door (38 inches wide by 32 inches high) provides easy entry and easy access to gear stored in the vestibule. I was initially concerned about the functionality of the side entry (versus entering from one end), but the door, floor, and ceiling proportions are large enough to allow one person to maneuver around another occupant with minimal disturbance.

Inside the tent, the bathtub floor extends up the steep walls 8 inches, allowing sleepers to press against the sides without moisture transfer. There are two inside mesh storage pockets, one on the entry wall 20 inches wide by 6 inches deep, and a triangular "clothes hamper" 37 by 37 by 34 inches for storing clothes in the back corner. At the ceiling there are six loops for hanging a clothesline, gear loft, or a tent light. The foot end has a clear plastic lens-shaped window 25 inches wide by 6 inches high at the center.

The 9 square foot vestibule is large enough for two medium sized packs and boots, leaving room to enter/exit the tent, or gear plus a wet dog if you don't mind him blocking the entry. During inclement weather, cooking can easily be done in the vestibule (using due caution), reaching through the tent's large door.

Overall, I found the Revolution 2P UL to be the most user-friendly ultralight tent I have met so far. It is easy to setup, easy to enter, has the features I want, and provides good storage options.

Weight/Sizing

The Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL sets a new area/weight standard of 0.66 ft2/oz for a two-person freestanding tent, beating the Black Diamond Firstlight (0.63 ft2/oz in standard configuration). In his Black Diamond Firstlight Tent Review, Alan Dixon calculated a 0.72 ft2/oz area/weight ratio for the Firstlight using after market Fibraplex poles and titanium stakes substituted for the standard ones. However, at 0.66 ft2/oz the Revolution's weight includes a 9 square foot vestibule, while a vestibule on the Firstlight is optional and adds 18.4 ounces.

The Revolution's remarkable area/weight ratio is due to its standard Epic shell and silnylon floor, Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, titanium stakes, and silnylon stuff sacks. The comparative weight of tent components is summarized in the following table.

Weight Comparison - Standard Components
Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL Black Diamond Firstlight
Tent Componentozkgozkg
Tent BodyEpic shell, silnylon floor31.50.89Epic shell, silnylon floor29.60.84
PolesFibraplex carbon fiber8.10.23DAC FeatherLite aluminum13.10.37
Stakes8, titanium1.70.056, aluminum3.00.09
Guylines2, nylon0.30.014, 3 mm nylon1.40.04
Stuff sack and stake bagSilnylon, compression1.40.03Silnylon 1.00.03
Total43.01.2248.11.36
VestibuleIncluded (9 ft2)----Optional (13 ft2)18.40.52
Grand Total43.01.2266.51.89

 

Weight and Cost Comparison - Minimum Weight Components
Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL ($345)Black Diamond Firstlight ($299)
Tent Componentozkgozkg
Tent body: Epic shell, silnylon floorstandard31.50.89standard29.60.84
Poles: Fibraplex carbon fiberstandard8.10.23after market ($102)7.20.02
Stakes: titanium8, standard1.70.056, after market ($12)1.40.04
Guylines2, standard0.30.014, standard1.40.04
Minimum weight41.61.1839.61.12
Vestibulestandard (9 ft2)----optional (13 ft2, $129)18.40.52
Total weight and cost$34541.61.18$54258.01.64

Usable Space

Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW - 3
I found the inside dimensions adequate for two people, and luxurious for one. With two sleeping pads side by side, there are 8 extra inches on each side. The length (84 inches) is sufficient for a 6-foot tall person, with 12 inches of room left for gear at the foot end. Taller people will really appreciate the 42 inches of headroom.

The space in the Revolution 2P UL is all usable, and seems larger than it really is because of the tent's steep sidewalls and nearly rectangular floor. The bathtub floor extending 8 inches up the sides also increases usable space because one can press a sleeping bag or gear against the waterproof silnylon without any moisture transfer (the same is not true when pressing against the Epic fabric).

There are several options to stash clothing and gear: extra space at the foot end, hanging a clothesline or mesh gear loft (but headroom is compromised), a sizeable mesh pocket at the head end, a large mesh "clothes hamper" in the back corner, and the vestibule (a great place for packs and boots). The vestibule is easily accessed through the large entry door. For more convenience and storage, consider getting the Revolution 2P, which has a vestibule and entry on each side. It weighs approximately 8 ounces more than the 2P UL.

Wind Stability

The Revolution 2P UL with carbon fiber poles has limited wind stability. The clip attachment and limp shell (the single wall Epic shell "hangs" from the poles) make the windward side of the tent dish in and act like a sail. The flexible carbon fiber poles allow the tent to lean substantially in even a mild wind. (In contrast, the Black Diamond Firstlight uses internal poles to tightly stretch its single wall Epic shell, making it much more wind resistant.) Wind gusts of 15-20 mph at Death Valley California were enough to cause major concern. I also found that the tent flapped and contorted a lot and was quite noisy. For these reasons, it is very important to securely stake the tent with at least eight stakes. The staking pattern is 4 stakes at the corners, 2 on the vestibule, and 2 guylines on the opposite side. There are two more loops for guylines on the vestibule side, but the guylines and stakes are not provided. I strongly recommend four guylines. I would not recommend staking this tent with any less than eight stakes (10 is better), otherwise you might lose your investment! It helps to face the foot end of the tent into the wind.

The jury is still out on the wind stability of this tent, and user experience over the next year will reveal its limitations. Readers concerned about wind stability should get the 2P UL with the stiffer aluminum poles, or consider getting the Revolution 2P (46 ounces, $345) instead. The 2P has vestibules on both sides that stake to the ground, which stretches the shell more to give it better wind stability.

Storm Protection

Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW - 4
The Revolution 2P UL required some slapping on the walls to make snow slide off. Snow accumulating on the top compressed the top vents. Snow sliding off the vestibule blocked ventilation from the bottom. The Revolution 2P UL is not a good choice for snow camping because of its limp shell.

Except for a March trip to Death Valley National Park, I could not find any dry conditions to test the Revolution. Most of my testing was during an unusually wet winter in Southwest Colorado and Southern Utah. It rained or snowed nearly every night I used it. I found the Revolution to be storm worthy, with no leaks. The manufacturer maintains that seam sealing is not necessary. I didn't and did not notice any leakage through the seams.

I did find that the Epic fabric wets through after several hours of continuous rain or wet snow. The inside surface becomes damp, then wet, but does not drip because of the tent's steep walls. However, the bleed-through increases the moisture inside the tent, which enhances condensation or frost on the inside walls by morning. When using the "clothes hamper" pocket during wet weather, beware of water bleeding through and wetting your clothes.

Ventilation/Condensation Resistance

With its solid mesh entry wall, two top vents, mesh ceiling panels under the vents, and breathable Epic fabric, the Revolution 2P UL has excellent ventilation and condensation resistance under normal conditions. In my wet/cool winter testing, I evaluated the Revolution under some worst case conditions for tent condensation. With maximum humidity, and nighttime temperatures ranging from 25 to 37 °F, I had either heavy frost or heavy condensation on the inner tent walls every night. Fortunately, with the steep sidewalls and high ceiling, I did not readily brush against the walls and transfer moisture. In spring-like conditions at Death Valley in March, I was finally able to test the tent in "normal" conditions, and found the tent's ventilation system works just fine in dry/warm air. I would expect the Revolution 2P to have even better ventilation because of the second mesh entry wall and vestibule.

Single wall tents are especially inclined to have wet/cold weather condensation problems, because the single wall is a cold surface and water condenses (or freezes) on it, exactly like a dehumidifier works. Fortunately most of us encounter these conditions only a small percentage of the time we are out, so the lightweight benefits are worth it. A pack towel works great to wipe the inside walls when needed.

Insect Protection

The Revolution is completely sealed and provides full insect protection, along with good ventilation to keep the tent from warming up too much.

Durability

The SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL is sufficiently durable for three-season backpacking, but it's not a bomb shelter. Because it is ultralight gear, it requires reasonable care. Its thin Epic fabric can be punctured or cut with a sharp object, and the carbon fiber poles can break if placed under excessive stress or stepped on. It's important to make sure that the joints are fully mated before you flex the poles, otherwise they may break. The silnylon floor is only 30-denier, and can easily be punctured by sharp objects. Damage can be repaired, but it is important to understand the limitations at the outset, rather than be surprised later. That said, I had no damage or breakage problems during my testing period. In my opinion, this tent is sufficiently durable for general backpacking, assuming reasonable care.

Value

The Big Sky Products SummitShelters Revolution 2P UL provides a lot of features and space in a compact 2 pound 11 ounce package. It is nicely designed and well constructed. With an MSRP of $345, the Revolution is a bargain compared to a similarly equipped Black Diamond Firstlight tent, its closest competitor. The Firstlight with after market Fibraplex carbon fiber poles and titanium stakes, and optional vestibule costs $542 and weighs a pound more. The floor area of the two tents is nearly the same, but the Revolution 2P UL is 2 inches longer, and its weight includes a vestibule. The Revolution can be purchased with Easton Aluminum poles, which add 5.3 ounces but cost $85 less. My only reservation about this tent is its limp shell, which limits its stability in wind and wet snow.

In making a purchasing decision, readers should consider the Revolution 2P as well as the 2P UL, because it adds a second vestibule and door for about 8 ounces more weight. That's a lot of extra utility for minimal extra weight and no extra cost.


Citation

"Big Sky Products (SummitShelters) Revolution 2P UL Tent REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/big_sky_products_revolution_2p_ul_tent_review.html, 2005-09-20 03:00:00-06.

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