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Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW

There are lighter and roomier silnylon tents, but this is the lightest freestanding breathable fabric (Epic) solo tent on the market.

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by Will Rietveld | 2006-04-04 03:00:00-06

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW

Introduction

In a crowded field of lightweight one-person single wall tents, the Big Sky Revolution 1P's distinction is that it is the lightest freestanding breathable fabric tent available. Notice the adjectives. There are lighter and roomier solo tents available, but they are not made of breathable fabric.

  • The Mandatory Gear Puppy Pile tent at 25.1 ounces is the lightest freestanding solo tent (actually adventure racers like to cram the whole four member team into one tent!), has loads of floor area (36.7 square feet), but it is made of non-breathable silnylon and is a sauna with its minimal ventilation.
  • The Tarptent Virga 2 weighs a couple ounces less, has 77% more floor area, is well ventilated, but is not free standing
  • The Lightitude Award winning Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo provides 57% more floor area and weighs a scant 23 ounces, but it is also made of silnylon and is not freestanding
  • The new Rainbow by Tarptent is neck and neck for the title - a prototype silnylon version weighs 32 ounces, but production versions are promised to weigh 24 ounces, and an Epic version of this free-standing tent is likely.

So, what are the notable features of the Big Sky Revolution 1P that might persuade you to choose it over the others? Read on.

What's Good

  • Lightest freestanding breathable fabric solo tent
  • Fibraplex carbon fiber poles are very strong for their weight
  • Fast setup with clips attached to external poles
  • Epic fabric and vestibule vent provide good breathability in warm weather
  • Vestibule offers space for a small pack and boots plus good access to entry door
  • Vestibule is easily accessed from outside or inside the tent
  • Large zippered mesh inside door
  • Large mesh gear storage pockets
  • Adequate length and headroom for taller people
  • Good wind stability if you use four angled guylines

What’s Not So Good

  • Zipper on vestibule easily snags on the storm flap, especially when zipping from inside
  • High condensation at cool and cold temperatures
  • Dark blue color makes it dark inside (but color will change to granite gray)

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Big Sky International

  Year/Model

2005 Revolution 1P

  Style

Three-season, single wall, freestanding, breathable fabric, one-person tent with floor and entry vestibule

  Fabrics

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

  Poles

Two Fibraplex carbon fiber 143.5 in (3.64 m) long, 7.8 oz (221 g) per pair. Easton aluminum poles weighing 12.8 oz (363 g) are available as a less expensive option

  Features

Epic breathable fabric, carbon fiber poles, titanium stakes, vestibule, side entry through zippered vestibule door, large mesh entry door, large vent on vestibule, large mesh stow pocket at head end, large mesh “clothes hamper” at foot end, window, compression stuff sack

  Weight Full Package
As supplied by manufacturer with all included items

2 lb 4.3 oz (1.03 kg) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 2 lb (0.91 kg

  Weight Manufacturer Minimum
Includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent

2 lb 2.9 oz (0.99 kg) measured weight

  Weight Backpacking Light Minimum
Same as manufacturer minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Spectra guylines

2 lb 2.8 oz (0.99 kg) measured weight

  Floor Area

17.5 ft2 (1.63 m2), vestibule area 9.0 ft2 (0.84 m2)

  Area to Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.5 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

Length 84 in (213 cm), width at head end 36 in (91 cm), width at foot end 24 in (61 cm), peak height 39 in (99 cm)

  MSRP

$300 with Fibraplex carbon fiber poles, $225 with Easton aluminum poles

Single Wall Tents and Condensation

Condensation or frost on the inside of a single wall tent is a fact of life and completely agrees with the laws of physics. For an in-depth explanation of condensation processes, read Mariah Walton's article on Night Time Condensation on Tarp and Tent Fabrics.

Condensation occurs when the temperature of the tent fabric drops below the dew point of the surrounding air. For a breathable fabric tent, the process is as follows:

  • As the air cools at night, the amount of water vapor it can hold decreases
  • Because of nighttime infrared radiation, the tent walls typically cool below the air temperature at night, creating a cold surface
  • Campers inside the tent generate lots of water vapor from exhalations
  • At warmer temperatures (above about 50 F, as long as the outside air is above the dew point), the inside air will hold significantly more water vapor and moisture can be adequately exhausted via tent ventilation and passage through the tent fabric
  • But at cool/cold air temperatures (a situation where the outside air is near or below the dew point), people’s activity inside the tent my provide enough energy to drive moisture through the tent fabric, but after the activity stops and the temperature drops further there is not enough energy (temperature/vapor pressure gradient) to drive moisture vapor through the fabric
  • As warm/moist air reaches the cold tent wall, the dew point is exceeded in the air near the wall, and condensation results
  • When the temperature is below freezing, the result is frost on the inside of the tent

The principle is similar to condensation or frost forming on the inside of your car window, or condensation on a glass of ice water.

Breathable fabric helps, but tent ventilation is the primary mechanism to exhaust moisture from a single wall tent, especially at low temperatures. A tent made of non-breathable fabric (silnylon) is totally dependent on ventilation to exhaust moisture, so serious condensation can occur when ventilation is inadequate and temperatures drop below the dew point. As explained above, at low temperatures, a breathable fabric tent performs about the same as a non-breathable fabric tent, i.e., they both have abundant condensation (depending on the amount of ventilation).

In the case of a double wall tent, the inner tent fabric is usually very porous, so moisture laden air is more likely to pass through rather than condense. If ventilation within the fly is good, the moisture will be whisked away, but if ventilation is restricted, condensation or frost is likely to occur on the inner surface of the tent fly.

Performance

The Big Sky Revolution 1P shelter is designed to be light. The shell is lightweight Epic water-resistant/breathable fabric by Nextec. The bathtub floor is silnylon. The entry wall is mesh. Provided stakes are titanium, and the tent is available with either Easton aluminum poles or Fibraplex carbon fiber poles. The complete package with carbon fiber poles weighs 36.3 ounces (my measurement) and provides 17.5 square feet of floor area plus an entry vestibule with 9 square feet.

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW - 1
Several views of the Big Sky Revolution 1P tent. The entry side (top left) has a zippered vestibule door and vent, the back (top right) is solid and nearly vertical, the foot end (bottom left) is narrower than the head end and has a window, and the top view (bottom right) shows the use of four angled guylines for a wind-secure pitch.

Setup is quick and easy. The Revolution 1P has two external poles that slip into grommets at the four corners of the tent to create an asymmetrical “X” frame. The tent body attaches to the frame with clips and then is staked at the four corners plus two loops on the vestibule.

Although the Revolution 1P's 17.5 square feet of floor area is a bit small compared to other solo tents, it has a very large zippered mesh entry door that ties off to one side. This functionally adds the vestibule’s 9 square feet to the tent’s usable space, making the tent seem a lot roomier. The doors in both the vestibule and mesh wall are tall and wide for easy entry and exit. Inside the tent all of the space is usable because of the tent’s steep walls, 84 inches of length, and 39 inches of headroom. I left the mesh door open most of the time, which increased interior roominess and allowed easy access to items in the vestibule.

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW - 2
The Revolution 1P comes with Fibraplex carbon fiber poles and titanium stakes (top left); less expensive Easton aluminum poles are available. The tent attaches to the external poles with clips (top right). Corners are held taut with "Teton Tensioners" (Center photo). The tent packs small in a provided compressor stuff sack (bottom left). There is one large high vent on the vestibule (bottom right).

One annoyance I encountered was the vestibule zipper's tendency to snag on the storm flap. It happened most often when I was unzipping from the inside, and caused consternation a couple of times when it snagged in the middle of the night when I was trying to get outside for bladder relief.

The tent I reviewed was a dark blue color, which made it pretty dark inside. However the production tents by the time you read this review will be a light gray and much brighter inside. The newer fabric will be slightly heavier (adding about 1 ounce to tent weight), but it is about 25% stronger.

The tent has an eye-shaped window at the foot end, which provides a fair amount of light. Interior accompaniments include a 20-inch by 6-inch mesh stow pocket at the head end and a large triangular "clothes hamper" in a corner at the foot end. The ceiling has four loops for a clothes line or suspending a tent light.

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW - 3
The vestibule is roomy enough to hold a medium sized pack and boots without interfering with entry (left). View to the foot of the tent (right top), showing the window and large clothes hamper pocket. View to the head of the tent (bottom right), showing the bathtub floor and ample mesh gear pocket. The mesh entry door is open in all of the photos.

For a wind-stable pitch (which I consider a necessity to protect your investment), the tent should be tautly anchored with six perimeter stakes plus four guylines at 45 degree angles to the corners. Eight 6-inch titanium stakes and two guylines are provided with the tent, but 10 stakes and four guylines are required for a secure pitch. With proper staking, I found the Revolution 1P with carbon fiber poles to be surprisingly stable in a 30 mph wind, and had no problems with the clip attachments. If you anticipate frequent exposure to strong winds, I advise getting the stiffer Easton aluminum poles for more wind stability.

I added the section on single wall tent condensation to this review for a reason. During my testing, mostly in cool and cold weather, I found that the Revolution 1P accumulates a lot of condensation or frost inside. The condensation was enough to form larger droplets and run down the sides of the tent (see photos). Unless there was a good nighttime breeze, I found the condensation hard to avoid at cool and cold temperatures (as explained in the section on condensation).

A big contributor to the condensation problem is the Revolution's ineffective high-low ventilation. There is a large vent at the top of the vestibule, but the only provision for ground-level air entry is a small gap at the bottom of the vestibule. The entire ventilation system is on the vestibule, and the bottom of the vestibule stakes nearly to the ground, which limits air entry. There is no provision for ventilation in the main tent, other than fabric breathability.

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW - 4
The Revolution 1P was very prone to inside condensation and frost on cool or cold nights (left photos). One annoyance was the zipper on the vestibule entry door (right photo) had a tendency to snag on the storm flap.

The condensation issue is not unique to the Revolution 1P; when I slept in a borrowed Black Diamond Lighthouse tent (also made of Epic fabric) on a 12 °F night I had abundant frost on the inside tent walls - the same situation as the Revolution 1P. So, my point is that condensation and frost on inside tent walls is a fact of life in single wall tents (including breathable fabric tents at cool/cold temperatures), and the only factors that seem to make much difference are abundant tent ventilation and a good breeze.

In warmer weather, the Epic-shelled Revolution 1P worked with aplomb. On several nights with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s I had no inside condensation at all. For three-season use in predominantly warm weather conditions, the Revolution 1P will provide very user-friendly shelter with a minimum of condensation issues. When you do get condensation in extended rainy weather, a good solution is to wipe down the inside tent walls with a towel.

I weathered both rain and snow storms in the 1P and found it to be plenty storm worthy. Although the Epic fabric is only water-repellent, it sheds rain very well because of the 1P’s steep walls and tautness. I found that it would eventually wet through in prolonged rain, causing weeping on the inside, which exacerbated the condensation problem. Snow typically stuck to the outside of the tent and required slapping the tent walls to get it to slide off. Although the Revolution 1P will handle a light snow, I don’t recommend it for snow camping. The Big Sky Evolution 1P or 1P EX with aluminum poles would be a better choice. Their double wall construction with silnylon fly will shed snow much better than the Epic fabric single wall Revolution tent.

Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW - 5
I don’t recommend the Revolution 1P for any more than a light snow. The snow does not readily slide off and it flattens the vestibule, so repeated slapping of the tent walls is required during the night to prevent a collapse. Further, the snow seals the bottom of the vestibule, so the tent has no effective high-low ventilation when it is covered with snow.

Overall, I found the Revolution 1P to be very well designed, very user friendly, and very storm worthy and wind stable. It’s also a great value compared to the competition.

What's Unique

The Big Sky Revolution 1P is the lightest freestanding breathable fabric one-person tent on the market, and that includes a vestibule.

Recommendations for Improvement

The Revolution 1P is well designed, is very user friendly, and provides most of the features a lightweight backpacker would want. Some suggestions:

  • The single vent on the vestibule is not enough to lessen condensation in cool/cold/wet conditions. Some serious high/low vents are needed to increase tent ventilation and exhaust moisture
  • Redesign the zipper and storm flap on the vestibule door so it can be easily zipped and unzipped from the inside

Citation

"Big Sky Revolution 1P Shelter REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/big_sky_revolution_1p_shelter_review.html, 2006-04-04 03:00:00-06.

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