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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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Dave T
(DaveT) - F
fraud. on 12/29/2011 12:28:01 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?


This company should not be supported in any way by BPL until (if ever) it treats its customer in a fair manner.

Edited by DaveT on 12/29/2011 12:30:14 MST.

Adam Berg
(AdamMBerg) - F - M
heard from Bob on 01/14/2012 14:35:46 MST Print View

No, my credit card was not charged yet -- apparently they changed that policy a while back.

I did finally hear back from Bob, who apologized for again taking a really long time to reply to my e-mails and phone messages. He writes "As you know, we have had trouble getting the factories we contracted to produce our tents to ship them in a timely fashion so we are in the process of doing more of our production so we can ship our orders in a more timely fashion." He thanked me again for my patience and said he'll let me know when he has tents in.

I'm not exactly sure what "we are in the process of doing more of our production" means, but perhaps it means someone is making his tents? Or not? I'm not sure.