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.

About This Rating

M Find other top product reviews »

Print Jump to Reader Comments

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.

Print

Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Username:
Password:
Remember my login info.

Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review
Display Avatars
Sort By:
Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: dry entry question on 05/30/2011 17:28:23 MDT Print View

Warren Wilkinson,

There are two fly options available for Big Sky's Evolution 2P:
1) standard fly (BPL reviewed)
2) Porch fly

The standard fly was designed so the vestibule zippers could be unzipped all the way to the peak of the tent so one or both sides could be completely opened, but the zipper can be partially unzipped to create an overhang so the drip line extends beyond the inner tent

The Porch fly has a 3rd pole that creates little "Porches" over each door adding additional protection from the rain.

Let us know if you have any other questions,
bob

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

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
No response... on 06/05/2011 12:37:54 MDT Print View

I've tried to contact this company 2-3 times via e-mail to inquire about time frames and product availability and never had a response. So, I never ordered a tent (lucky for me apparently). Tarptent's Henry Shires always responds timely, for example. We depend on our shelter in the backcpountry, sometimes for our lives. If I can't depend on a company to respond tiemly, I'm not willing to invest any more time or effort in a company that obviously has other things on its mind. BPL should not review or accept products until BS stops BS-ing. Thumbs way down...

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: No response... on 06/05/2011 19:18:52 MDT Print View

Todd Hein,

I checked and Big Sky did receive a voice message and email from a “Todd Hein”… we replied the same day… I apologize if you did not receive our email or if this is a different “Todd Hein”… below is a transcript of the voice message and email we received, and Big Sky’s response:

Date : May 23 2011 10:46:57 AM
From : CROWE HORWATH L [deleted])
To : Robert Molen [deleted]

"Hey, this is um Todd Hein T.O.D.D. H.E.I.N. My phone number is [deleted]. I am interested in one of your Evolution 2P um tents. um I saw on your website it looks like you have some in stock apparently and I would like to get one if that's true. Again call me at [deleted]. And I'll try to email you too. Thanks"

From: Todd Hein [mailto:[deleted]]
Sent: Tuesday, 24 May 2011 00:58
To: [deleted]
Subject: Evolution 2P - In stock?

Hi:

I'd like to buy one of your tents if in stock. Please let me know what is currently available.

Thanks!

--
Todd Hein
T: [deleted]
E: [deleted]

Please print this e-mail only when necessary!

Take a shorter shower: Every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than 10 gallons of water! If everyone in the country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of a year the savings would equal twice the amount of fresh water pulled from the Great Lakes every day.

From: Bob Molen - Big Sky International [deleted]
Sent: Tuesday, 24 May 2011 09:37
To: Todd Hein [deleted]
Subject: RE: Big Sky Evolution 2P - In stock?

Todd Hein,

We do have Evolution 2Ps in stock, see details below
-- std. fly, light weight fabric, marigold yellow in stock
-- Porch fly, light weight fabric, granite gray in stock

Product availability:
http://bigskyproducts.com/Big-Sky-International-product-availability.aspx

Thanks for your interest,
Bob

Big Sky International
www.BigSkyInternational.com
online store: www.BigSkyProducts.com
email: [deleted]
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

Edited by sharalds on 06/06/2011 09:12:09 MDT.

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
No response... on 06/05/2011 23:12:05 MDT Print View

I never received an e-mail from you. If you sent one, I'm sorry but I didn't receive it. I checked current emails and "trash", etc. for that day and still do not see it.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: No response... on 06/05/2011 23:37:22 MDT Print View

Check your SPAM folder too. My spam folder doesn't show up unless I click the "# more" arrow.

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: No response... on 06/06/2011 00:09:42 MDT Print View

Todd Hein,

I apologize... besides emailing you, we should have also tried to call you... besides giving us your email address, you also gave Big Sky your phone number...
We should have followed up our email with a phone call to see if you had any questions.

As a side note, I did check my "draft" and "outbox" folders, and my email to you is in neither, so it looks like my email was sent ... I am sorry it was not received.

Bob

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

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: No response... on 06/06/2011 08:06:06 MDT Print View

Regardless of response/no response, I think it's VERY bad form to reprint someone's personal phone number and email address in these forums without their consent. You could have made your point without keeping those things in your post.

Bad decision. I'm not likely to give my personal information, including credit card numbers and such, to a business who doesn't take my privacy seriously, or even think about my privacy in the first place.

FWIW

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: No response... on 06/06/2011 09:08:10 MDT Print View

To add to Doug's comment... not only is it bad form to reprint someone's email address and telephone numbers, it is bad form to reprint someone's private correspondence in a public forum without their consent. These are private matters that should first have been asked permission for from those who were corresponded with.

To BPL staff. I think it is very important that the above post with the telephone numbers and email addresses is removed. Not just out of courtesy, but for safety reasons. These forums are available to anyone who wants to read them and those bits of private information should not be listed here without consent.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 06/06/2011 09:14:52 MDT Print View

NM

Edited by FamilyGuy on 06/06/2011 09:15:47 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 06/06/2011 09:14:52 MDT Print View

Personal phone numbers and e-mail addresses should not be posted to a public forum. I have removed that information from the above posts please flag any posts I may have missed or any future posts wherein this has occurs.

Edited by sharalds on 06/06/2011 09:16:08 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 06/06/2011 11:07:08 MDT Print View

Thanks Sam. I should have written "remove the bits from the post that listed the private information" rather than "remove the posts". That was bad form on my part. I apologize.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Paid endorsement on 06/06/2011 15:55:03 MDT Print View

Hi Cameron

> 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.

Them's fighting words. Absolutely NO WAY do any BPL staff ever do 'endorsements'. NEVER!

As for the 'gift' bit - BPL does not have the funds to buy gear for review. We, and pretty much all of the publishing industry, are reliant on vendors making 'review samples' available. Full disclosure is a requirement these days.

Of course the vendor hopes for a 'nice review', but that is never a 'given'. They take their lumps as they come. Does this cost us future cooperation if the review is bad? I guess it might, but I have also known the vendors take on board our comments and modify their gear as a result. They get some benefit even when the item is panned.

You want an example? The MSR Reactor was pulled from sale (total recall) just weeks before it was due to hit the shelves - as a result of the review which we published. There is an addendum to that review showing the improvements which MSR was able to make. (It is still a CO bomb though.)

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 06/19/2011 02:44:11 MDT.

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: No response... on 06/06/2011 17:02:00 MDT Print View

Todd Hein,

I apologize for publishing your phone numbers and email address... I should not have done this... Big Sky respects people's privacy and does not give out or sell this information to anyone... it was an oversight on my part... again, I apologize.

Sam Haraldson - BPL,

Thanks for deleting Todd's email address and phone numbers, I appreciate your help.

Bob

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

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
Big Sky Response - Retraction on 06/18/2011 23:34:06 MDT Print View

I looked through my junk e-mail and sure enough found Bob's e-mail response to my inquiry just as he described. I apologize for my incompetence! I'll be more careful next time...Anti-spam software is smarter than I am...Sorry Bob!

Rakesh Malik
(Tamerlin)

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Big Sky Response - Retraction on 06/20/2011 12:16:10 MDT Print View

"Anti-spam software is smarter than I am"

If your anti-spam software were smart, the message from Bob Molen would have landed in your inbox, rather than in your junk mail.

Robert Molen
(bigsky) - MLife
Re: Big Sky Response - Retraction on 06/21/2011 20:00:13 MDT Print View

Todd Hein,

Thanks for the retraction... we really appreciate it!

I am sorry our email went into your spam/junk folder...
any suggestions for preventing this from happening?

Thanks again,
Bob

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

Adam Berg
(AdamMBerg) - F - M
reaching Bob Molen on 12/29/2011 11:27:29 MST Print View

After hearing such good things about the Evolution 2P, I placed an order. I read about peoples' experiences getting orders filled by Big Sky but I was willing to wait some in order to get a superior product. It's now been months since I heard from Bob Molen and I've tried multiple e-mails, phone calls, etc. Anyone have another way of reaching him? I really just want to get an update on how long he thinks it's going to be, or at least how long until he knows how long it's going to be.

Thanks!

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
B.S. aka Big Sky on 12/29/2011 11:46:14 MST Print View

I find it amazing that this company is still in business and even more amazing that people are still trying to buy from them.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Big Sky International Evolution 2P Tent Review on 12/29/2011 11:59:09 MST Print View

Has your credit card been charged? If that's happened to you, talk to your credit card company about disputing the charge.

Judging from the history above, you might want to check your spam file.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/29/2011 12:04:44 MST.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
BS on 12/29/2011 12:21:55 MST Print View

Seems like these tents continue to be unavailable in any reasonable time frame.

Must be nice to get one for free without the BS experience.

Fighting words. Truth. Rose by any other name.