Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review

Creation vs Evolution: one of the thorniest questions ever and one I prefer to stay away from most of the time. But Bob Molen’s latest creation is the ever-evolving Evolution 2P, and one I feel comfortable tackling. It is almost divine...

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

This rating is given for the excellent design, light weight, decent roominess, and actual usefulness for two people. Plenty of options allow the shelter to be tailored to the buyer. If not for the misstated measurements, I would have given it a Highly Recommended rating.

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by Ray Estrella |

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 1

Introduction

With a total listed weight of 2.79 lb (1.27 kg), the Evolution 2P is Big Sky International’s lightest freestanding double-wall two-person tent. It is very close to being the lightest tent of the ones we looked at for the latest State of the Market Report, yet still has two full doors and vestibules, something the very lightest models did not. What trade offs were made to achieve this weight and how did it do in the field? Read on.

Specifications
Year/Manufacturer/Model 2010 Big Sky International Evolution, Two Person Tent
Style Three-season, two-person, double-wall tent.
Fabrics Body: 20D nylon mesh
Floor: SuprSil nylon
Fly: SuprSil nylon
Poles and Stakes Poles: Aluminum poles, 12.3 oz (349 g) Carbon fiber poles 9.4 oz (286 g)
Stakes: none sent. I used eight 0.4-oz (11-g) Ti shepherd’s hook stakes
 Dimensions Claimed Length: 84 in (213cm)
Claimed Width, foot/head: 46/56 in (117/142 cm)
Claimed Inside Height: 42 in (107 cm)
Measured Length: 82 in (208 cm)
Measured Width: 45/54 in (114/137 cm)
Measured Inside Height: 45 in (114 cm)
Packed Size 6 x 18 in (15 x 46 cm)
Total Weight Claimed Weight: 2.79 lb (1.27 kg)
Measured Weight: 2.76 lb (1.25 kg)
BPL Trail Weight: 2.77 lb (1.26 kg), w/ two stakes
Protected Area Floor Area: 28.2 ft2 (2.62 m2)
Vestibule Area: 16.6 ft2 (1.54 m2)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio 16.17 ft2/lb (3.3 m2/kg)
MSRP US $399.90 (as received w/ ultralight fly)
Options Different flys, some with windows and porch, footprint, DuraLite CF poles,
assorted stakes, stuff sack.
Website www.bigskyinternational.com

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 2
Views of the Evolution 2P. Top: Two standard pads fit with no problem. Bottom: The fly provides ample protection from the elements and a nice wind shedding shape.

Design and Features

The newest revision of the Evolution 2P from Big Sky International is quite different from last year. While still retaining the basic crossed-pole design, the nylon mesh body now attaches to the poles with 18 clips instead of pole sleeves. The poles go into grommets at the end of straps at the corners. The narrower foot end has red nylon at the grommets to quickly identify it. Set-up is very fast and easy.

The Evolution has a good sized D-shaped door on each side. As the tent is wider at the front, both doors open the same direction, and it is not meant for a head-to-foot sleeping configuration seen on many 2P tents. (And one I could never understand myself. I don’t like being kicked in the face all night.) Each door has a loop and toggle to keep it gathered and out of the way when so desired. Toward the head end of each door is a small gear pocket. On the other side of each door is a very large mesh pocket that Big Sky calls clothes hampers which are meant to be able to dry damp items.

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 3
Top left: Two vents at the top of the fly help provide air movement. Top right: The fly attaches to a loop of elastic cord. Bottom: Storage pockets abound with clothes hamper (left) and smaller gear pocket (right) at the sides of each door.

One nice touch on the inner tent is the way the bathtub floor comes up higher at the head of the tent. The 13-inch (33-cm) high tub at that point protects the users’ heads from wind blown rain and dirt.

The fly that I received is their Ultralight SuprSil-UL version, the lightest option. It too has red nylon at the narrow end. The fly attaches to the tent by means of a plastic hook that clips to a plastic ring on a loop of elastic cord. There is no way to tension the fly any more than the elastic gives.

Now, about the fabric. I asked for any information that I could share and Big Sky said that at this point the material is proprietary. Here is what they have to say about it. “SuprSil-UL fabric: used in Big Sky’s ultralight fly/shell, weight compares with spinnaker fabric, but about 50% more waterproof than generic silnylon or 4x more waterproof than spinnaker, and has tear strength 50% more than generic silnylon or 4x more than spinnaker.”

A single stake is used to pull the fly out from each side to create the entry vestibules. The vestibules have plenty of room for a pack and shoes to one side while still allowing unhampered entry and exit. At the top of each vestibule is a vent that can be propped open with a strut or kept closed with a patch of hook-and-loop. The vents can be adjusted easily from inside. More ventilation can be had by pulling out the fly at the guy points centered at the bottom of each end. For added strength there are hook-and-loop attachment points inside the fly that wrap around the poles. A guy point is on the outside of the fly at these locations.

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 4
Top: What I got. Aluminum poles, Evo body and Ultralight fly. Bottom: I carry the poles separately and put the tent in a silnylon stuff sack. It makes for a pretty compact package.

I only received the Evolution’s body, aluminum poles, and Ultralight fly. I used a small silnylon stuff sack to pack it and used titanium shepherd’s hook stakes. Later, I ordered a set of the company’s DuraLite carbon fiber poles that let me shave 3 ounces (85 g) from the weight.

Another way to cut weight when bug protection is not needed is to purchase the footprint with grommet kit, which is 5.3 ounces (150 g) and allows the 13.1-ounces (371-g) fly to be set up with just the poles for a total weight of 1.92 pounds (0.87 kg) plus stakes.

Performance

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 5
Going topless. Warm weather and no threat of rain is perfect for leaving the fly off to enjoy nature without nature enjoying me, like at these locations on the San Gabriel River (top) and Miller Creek (bottom).

I was able to get quite a few trips in with the Evolution last summer and fall. Desert trips in the Sespe Wilderness and the Narrows of the San Gabriel River, plus a warm weekend in San Jacinto Wilderness let me use the Evolution with the fly off, my favorite way to enjoy the outdoors. Trips to the Sierra Nevada in the Pine Creek Pass/Piute Pass area and base camping on the east side required the fly for rain protection, and finally two trips in the Paul Bunyan Forest of Minnesota pushed the limits.

The tent is a breeze to set up. If the wind is blowing, I will stake one end first but I usually just set it up, then move it as I need to find the perfect (is there such a thing?) spot, and then stake the corners.

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 6
Top: Trips like this one on the North Country Trail (yes, the tent is literally on it!) Bottom: While not a four-season tent, the Evolution did fine on my first snow trip of the year.

When weather or a desire for privacy dictated the fly being on, the ventilation was superb. In the Sierra we had rain on the hike in and while we set up camp. Keeping the vents open and the vestibule doors half unzipped allowed enough air movement that there was just minimal condensation on the fly and none on my quilt or the high end of the bathtub floor.

One night in the mountains saw some very heavy winds. While I did not use the Evolution there (I brought it for my son to use with Uncle Craig) I kept an eye on how it did over the three days we were there. I estimate the winds to have been gusting to 30 mph (48 km/h). The Evolution was solid while I was having some problems with the backpacking tent I was using, and other family members had their camping tent just about torn apart. The mesh inner did let in a lot of sand and dirt.

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review - 7

My first cold trip in Minnesota with the Evolution came five days after our first snowstorm of the year. Although the snow had melted, the ground was frozen enough for a lot of the moisture to be trapped on the surface. Because the wind was blowing, I kept the tent pretty buttoned up and still was fine with the condensation. But, I woke up to find that the wind had stopped and the temperature had fallen. The entire fly was coated with moisture. I opened up the doors and pulled out the fly at the ends and went back to sleep. The next morning it was 19 F (-7 C) at 7:30 am and the tent was ice inside and out. The fly really had a noticeable sag in it from the ice as may be seen in the picture to the right.

My last trip with it was in December where I used it on about a foot of snow at McCarty Lake off the Halverson Trail. There was just enough breeze to keep it dry inside while not blowing snow through the mesh. The only condensation I picked up was near my face even though I had to keep the tent buttoned up due to falling snow. One nice thing about the SuprSil-UL fabric: the snow just slides off.

Assessment

For the most part, I am very impressed with the Evolution 2P. I really liked the weight of it as delivered, and, once I bought the DuraLite poles, I decided that it is a keeper just because of the amount of room to weight.

The tent has been quite durable so far. All the zippers run freely and have seen no snags. I have mainly used it directly on the ground and the floor shows no signs of abrasion. On a couple of the wet trips I brought a piece of Tyvek to put under it just to keep it clean. I may purchase the footprint and grommet set because I like using fast-fly set-ups on spring snow.

The mesh is snag free. I have used some tents that got pulls by looking at them funny. No snags in the SuprSil-UL either. It is still looking good.

A couple things that bugged me about the Evolution had to do with the measurements. The stated size is off by nearly two inches (5 cm) everywhere. On the length, I hit the end with a winter bag. Thankfully, I never once encountered condensation on the inside of the bathtub walls or that could have been an issue. While the side measurements still have plenty of room for two pads, I wonder if the poles are figured for the width and length specified, and not what was delivered. Here is why I wonder.

The headroom is higher than stated. (I know, who would complain about that?) That, plus the fact that the sides do not sit completely flat when staked out, seems like the body’s footprint either needs to be bigger or the poles need to be shorter. This may be something Big Sky wants to look at.

Dare to Compare

While I should compare the Evolution to other dual door tents, quite frankly it blows them out of the water when comparing weight to room. But a tent that I can compare on a personal level is the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2, a tent that impressed me so much last year that after reviewing it I kept it as my go-to shelter.

The Evolution weighs 3 oz (85 g) more than the Fly Creek with the aluminum poles and the same weight with the DuraLite poles, yet has 28% more protected space. Plus, with the pole design, it has more room and is stronger. The Evolution does cost quite a bit more, especially with the $110.00 DuraLite poles added.

Oh yeah, the Fly Creek? I gave it to my brother-in-law Dave. The Evo is now my go-to.

What's Good
  • Lightweight
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Usable for two
  • Lots of headroom
  • Plenty of storage
What's Not So Good
  • Measurements not correct
  • A bit short for tall users
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The optional CF poles were later provided at a discounted rate for ownership by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement. Addie provided the author this disclosure and he HAS an obligation to use it. ;-)


Citation

"Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review," by Ray Estrella. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bsi_evolution_2p_tent_review.html, 2011-05-24 00:00:00-06.

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Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 05/24/2011 13:08:34 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Nice review on 05/24/2011 21:12:52 MDT Print View

Ray, nice to read about your findings with this tent. How is the supply going to be with Big Sky this year? Hopefully they will be able to keep up with demand. BTW - I wish my BA FC UL3 had double d-doors. That's the one thing I don't like. Seperate entry is a great feature. One I hope to have in my next shelter.

John Gilbert
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Big Sky Order-fulfillment Times on 05/24/2011 21:25:16 MDT Print View

Does anybody have any RECENT experience with how long it takes for Big Sky to ship a tent after an order is placed ? I've seen many forum posts from about 2 years ago saying that backorder times were running around 1 year when the company was starting up, and that the company wasn't forthcoming about this issue with buyers. Have these issues been fixed ?

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review" on 05/24/2011 22:58:21 MDT Print View

While I am biased against this company for the way they have treated their customers, it is fair to say from your 4th photo (in the 4 photo block below the specs, going clockwise) that they still have not found a tentmaker in Asia able to design and construct a fly that pulls taut. Many other Asian makers produce excellent products.

Stephen Rose
(roselaw) - MLife
Tent Stability and Service on 05/25/2011 14:11:33 MDT Print View

Good to read your review. I have an older Evolution 2P (I think about 5 years old) with carbon poles and found that in a strong wind ( about 20 and up) they were not strong enough to support the tent. The wall would collapse in and push into my face. Do you think this problem has been solved? I too am wondering if the company service has improved. After I ordered and paid for the tent, it was almost 10 months before i received it.

Sebastian Ventris
(sabme) - F - M

Locale: SW UK
Fly fabric on 05/25/2011 14:38:47 MDT Print View

I'd like to get hold of some of their SuprSil fabric but I don't suppose there's much chance of that?

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
fraud. on 05/25/2011 15:00:26 MDT Print View

It sure seemed like BS committed what seemed like fraud to me, from the multiple posts by customers (i.e. order product, check cashed and in the bank, run-around for 8-12 months or more, get product at some point or try to cancel order with lots of run-around).

At what point does BPL not continue to review/advertise/promote these products and that company?

When there are customer-oriented companies like Tarptent and MLD around, maybe it's time to stop talking about the openly fraudulent ones like BS?

Derek Johnson
(veilsidecelica01)
Recommended? on 05/25/2011 16:00:05 MDT Print View

Kind of seems like a dumb reason to not give it the highly recommended rating especially when some of the numbers were better than expected

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Paid endorsement on 05/25/2011 16:01:51 MDT Print View

Full disclosure : Given the history of BS, and given the tent was a gift, I personally feel this is a paid endorsement. I don't trust this review to be on a product people can acquire in a reasonable fashion.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bias on 05/25/2011 17:26:46 MDT Print View

Given that the overwhelming majority of gear BPL reviews is received gratis, does that call into question other BPL reviews?

There are good/interesting questions here, most well apart from whether discussing a companies sketchy past is warranted in a review. And few having all that much to do with this tent.

John Thompson
(leebob) - F
Caveat Emptor on 05/25/2011 18:02:09 MDT Print View

Based on my experiences with BS I second the recommendation to take your money elsewhere...I, too, question Backpackinglight's decision to continue to review products from a company with such a poor track record of service. Shame on Backpackinglight for continuing to give this company press regardless of rating. Perhaps you should start evaluating service after the sale (or after the check clears). Perhaps I'm being unfair but BS earned my scorn.

At least I was able to provide BS with an interest free loan to help them continue their poor business practices for awhile. And, finally I have a nice Tarptent to show for my patience. Thanks Henry Shires...you're a class act. If there were any fairness in this, the review would be about one of your or one of the many reputable cottage manufacturers' products instead.

Nothing like a freebie to help folks look the other way, I suppose...

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Caveat Emptor on 05/25/2011 18:19:54 MDT Print View

I'm wondering how many folks who got caught up in the BS delays( interesting Freudian Slip warning in the name abbreviation?) paid by credit card vs. checks? Did your CC company cancel the sales and refund you? Did you wait it out anyway because you wanted the tent?

Edited by Meander on 05/25/2011 18:25:03 MDT.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 05/25/2011 20:13:44 MDT Print View

Good review. The Evolution 2P is an excellent two-person tent with a lot of good features at 3 pounds. When I purchased mine about three years ago, there had been a lot of criticism posted here at BPL (maybe elsewhere, too, but I don't know). The criticism seemed to be mostly about problems getting orders filled. Before placing my order, I sent an email to the guy who makes/sells the tent to ask some questions about its design and to verify there would be no delivery problems. He was very quick to respond to my first email (within a day or two as I recall), and also gave the same quick response to several follow-up questons that I emailed.

Since all of his reponses were timely, detailed, and very helpful, I decided to put aside the negative reports and just trust the guy. So I placed the order.

The tent arrived well within the time period that the guy promised. I contacted him within a few days of receiving the tent because I discovered that one of the strips of velcro sewn on the fly to attach the fly to a corresponding velcro strip on one of the pole sleeves did not align properly with the velcro strip on the sleeve.

Without any hesitation, he had me ship the fly and tent back to him totally at his expense (which anyone would expect, of course, but which might surprise those who had a different experience with their orders). He fixed the velcro problem and had the tent back in my hands promptly (less than 2 weeks, including shipping time).

Here's some photos of the tent pitched along the Teton Crest Trail ---


Death Canyon Shelf 1


Death Canyon Shelf 2


Tetons South Cascade Canyon

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Gear storage on 05/26/2011 11:36:22 MDT Print View

Richard, what's your take on the room for 2 people in this tent? I would like to get a lighter tent, but the hold-up for me has been the lack of space compared to what I already have. I have an REI Quarterdome T2 Plus, 94" x 54" in the tent itself. My boyfriend and I have comfortable room to lay out our sleeping areas, and put our packs at the foot of our pads. We'd like to find a lighter tent (preferably with 1 large door on the end, to utilize a narrower slot in a campsite), but the lighter tents like the Fly Creek mentioned above have just enough room to slot the pads in, without extra room.

I guess we don't utilize our vestibules much, save as a protected entry, but the one time I left my pack out in the vestibule is when it got mouse-chewed, so I'm a little picky.

So, where do you stash your stuff?

Barry Starrfield
(barryannarbor)

Locale: New England
Looks like an Evolved Bibler Pinon. on 05/26/2011 18:21:59 MDT Print View

I'm not kidding, down to the door shape and the neat little pockets.

Bibler Pinon tent - http://books.google.com/books?id=6t4DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=bibler+pinon+review&source=bl&ots=6atYlrN_7j&sig=RNDwxGNm3j1UAglJFz0jTmfi8Os&hl=en&ei=Qe7eTYCEC6no0QGGv8yeCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=11&ved=0CGwQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q&f=false

OTOH, the Bibler was a single wall tent made in the States. Heavier, but cool - I picked one up a few months ago, Franco provided some advice on how to use it. Neat.

All ideas are recycled (well, not all...)

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Caveat Emptor on 05/26/2011 19:52:00 MDT Print View

John Thompson,

We apologize the order you placed with Big Sky on 2006-02-25 did not go as Big Sky or you planned. Back then Big Sky used PayPal to process its orders, and PayPal's policy is to charge a customer as soon as an order is placed... we have complained to PayPal, but they will not change their policy. In May of 2006, Big Sky stopped using PayPal and changed to a merchant account. We did issue you a full refund on 2006-08-24 after you told us you did not want to wait any longer.

Big Sky's policy is not to charge a customer until an order is ready to ship... this policy has been in place since May of 2006.

We sincerely apologize,
Bob Molen

Big Sky International
www.BigSkyInternational.com
online store: www.BigSkyProducts.com
email: bob.molen@BigSkyInternational.com

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Tent Stability and Service on 05/26/2011 20:12:47 MDT Print View

Stephen Rose,

We show your Evolution 2P with Fibraplex CF poles was ordered on 2005-10-18 and shipped to you on 2006-01-05.

Back then Big Sky used PayPal to process its orders, and PayPal automatically charges a customer as soon as the order is placed. We have complained to PayPal, but they refuse to change their policy.

You will be happy to learn Big Sky stopped using PayPal in May of 2006 because of this.

Big Sky policy since May of 2006 is not to charge a customer until their order is ready to ship.

You are correct that the Fibraplex CF poles are very flexible. We recommend using guy lines in windy conditions. Please email me and we will be happy to email you Big Sky's recommended guy line procedures for your Evolution 2P.

Best regards,
Bob Molen

Big Sky International
www.BigSkyInternational.com
online store: www.BigSkyProducts.com
email: bob.molen@BigSkyInternational.com

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Re: Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 05/26/2011 20:26:05 MDT Print View

Richard Scruggs,

Big Sky is very happy to hear you are pleased with your Evolution 2P.

We apologize there was an initial problem with your Evolution 2P. Big Sky works very hard to ship high quality world class products. We are happy to hear the problem was resolved to your satisfaction.

Thanks for sharing your pictures!

Best regards,
Bob Molen

Big Sky International
www.BigSkyInternational.com
online store: www.BigSkyProducts.com
email: bob.molen@BigSkyInternational.com

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Gear storage on 05/26/2011 21:58:39 MDT Print View

Diane, my wife and I usually lay our packs on the ground under our respective vestibules -- plenty of coverage there to protect them from the weather, plus I fasten our pack covers over each of them, tucking the cover underneath them.

Using the vestibules for storing the packs at night (along with footwear) obviously leaves a lot more "people" room inside the Evolution.

But then there's the mice to consider -- well, the good news is that, compared to bears, mice seem like they could be great neighbors!!! Even if they chew a bit.

Fortunately, we've never had a problem with mice. Don't know why. Maybe it helps that we try to not keep anything at all in the packs (or the tent, for that matter) during the night that might tempt a critter to chew on them, or worse yet, on us.

Everything that might smell (except me, of course) goes into a hang bag outside, far away from us. That includes food, first aid kit, insect repellent, kitchen, etc.

Our Evolution's length is 10" less than the 94" length you describe for your REI Quarterdome, so there's that much less room at the foot or head of the Evolution.

If the ground is muddy, we try to find a few flat rocks to lay our packs on under the vestibule. If we can't find rocks for keeping the packs off muddy ground, we just bring the packs inside the tent and put them under our legs, which is also what we do in the first place when using torso-length pads that don't extend under our legs. The "under-the-legs" option works fine with packs that are frameless after most of our "stuff" has been removed for the night (sleeping bag & pad, edibles & smellables hanging in a tree, "extra" clothes stuffed as pillows, etc.).

The Evolution is THE shelter that my wife ALWAYS wants us to use when backpacking, for several reasons -- comfortable for two (with above caveats about storing packs); two-doors with individual vestibules are convenient and provide "storage" freeing up the interior; excellent weather and bug protection; nice "extra" features for such a light tent (pockets, window at one end, flexible pitching options); easy to pitch; and well constructed (notwithstanding the velcro issue that was corrected by the seller soon after I received the tent).

The only drawback -- wish it were even lighter than it already is.

As for storing packs inside the tent to avoid mice chewing on them in the vestibule, and without resorting to the "under-the-legs" option described above, the Evolution 2P is definitely not as spacious as the 10" longer Quarterdome.

Given the Evolution's 84" length and our "average" height (about 5' 8 and 5' 11") there's some space (realistically, a foot at most) at either its head or its foot.

However, note that the foot area of the Evolution is more limited than the head of the tent because the floor width tapers from 56" at the head to 46" at the foot.

Hope this info helps.

Edited by JRScruggs on 05/26/2011 22:07:02 MDT.

Warren Wilkinson
(icensnow) - M

Locale: New England, USA
dry entry question on 05/28/2011 10:43:52 MDT Print View

Thanks for another well done review Ray.

How does the Evo do at protecting the inner tent when getting in and out in the rain? I can see that it doesn't have the cross-pole popularized by the Hubba Hubba, and now seen on tents like the Big Agnes Copper Spur, so I would expect some problems here?