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Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One)
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Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/09/2012 20:56:14 MDT Print View

UPDATED: Here are the images I posted buried on Page 5.

First Set-Up

Second Set-Up & First Hike With

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Hey all —

Intro Summary: Long-time lurker, obsessed gear-hunter, avid adventurer. Exhausted dozens of options, settled on this tent. Wanted to document the awesome customer service I've experienced so far, and shed some insight on why I chose it.

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Evolution 2P - No Fly

Evolution 2P - Fly & Vestiblue

* Note: This is an older model where the poles go through sleeves. AFAIK, the newer ones are all clips or velcro.

Here is some information on the tent, images, and a huge list of the options that are available at purchase:

- http://bigskyproducts.com/Big-Sky-Evolution-2P-shelter.aspx

- http://www.BigSkyInternational.com/SummitShelters/Big_Sky_Evolution_2P_details.htm

- http://www.BigSkyInternational.com/SummitShelters/Big_Sky_Evolution_2P_2D2V_pictures.htm

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First off, I want to stress that I am not affiliated with this company in anyway. In fact, if you look at my post history you can see the thread in which I first heard about this company, only a few days ago.

Only over the last year have I transitioned to an UL mentality. It has been great, as I haven't sacrificed any of my favorite parts of hiking and camping in order to carry less. However, the one thing that has really been holding me back has been my shelter. I've been using an REI Half Dome 2 Plus. The problem with this tent, besides the weight, is that it's so well designed that it stinks to leave behind, and then you end up carrying the 5 or 6 pounds of it.

Some key features that were important to me:

- Dual Doors (Big Agnes tends to not use this design in their UL tents. It's important to me because when I'm not with my girlfriend, I'm with a buddy, and while I'm more patient being woken up by my girlfriend, over a long trip no dude wants to constantly be jostling his hiking parter with getting in and out of the tent, or feeling like you have to wait to take a leak.)

- Vestibules (Not a requirement, but nice to have, if not just to keep stuff out of the sleeping area.)

- Dual Walls (I camp in the East primarily, and condensation is almost a guarantee. However, on shorter trips where rain is unlikely, it is really, really nice to just sleep in a bug net. Around here mosquitos can be hellish.)

- Freestanding (I know, this leads to lazy camp-site choice, and often you need to stake or guy it out anyway. But it is a nice OPTION to have, especially as a photographer, who likes to stake out scenic spots that may not be the ideal 'stealth campsite'.)

- Trekking Poles NOT Required (This tends to be a weight saving feature on a lot of shelters, and it is a good one. But frankly, I tend to use one pole, instead of two, if any. Going lighter has made me lighter on my feet, and I like to keep my hands free for photography.)

- Pole Clips: I hate feeding a pole through a sleeve. Clipping the interior to the poles takes all of 15 seconds and is plenty secure.

- Pockets (Again, maybe silly, but you have to admit they are nice to have. I like to keep my watch near my head in a secure spot, have a headlamp etc. handy.)

- WEIGHT (The REI tent is heavy, let's face it. The rest of my "big 3" is around the 1lb. mark, but my tent was negating all those savings. Since I am PRIMARILY hiking with a partner, splitting up weight is generally an option, but because I am not made of money, I wanted to avoid having to have a seperate solo shelter if I could put up with a few extra ounces.)

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That's when I found the Evolution 2P. At first, I was confused, because their site was full of well-designed tents, with well-conceived options, and variations that made sense for all sorts of different purposes. Their prices were on par with most UL shelters. But very few opinions to be found online? They seem endorsed by BPL, but from years ago, and the community rarely mentions it now.

But the Evolution had literally everything I wanted. It even LOOKED a lot like my previous tent, but at over half the weight!

So I decided to contact Big Sky International and see what was up. Within about an hour, I was surprised to find an email from the man himself, Bob Molen, who it is my understanding owns the company, and is responsible for much of the design.

I have a JMT hike coming up, fast, and I did NOT want to lug my old tent around. I made mention of this to Bob, because others had expressed that Big Sky had unbelievably long wait times, even for a cottage company. I wanted to see what I would be looking at for this awesome tent.

Long story short, Bob had an order cancellation, and had a tent ready to go... now. It was exactly what I wanted, except it had a UL rain fly option, which saved 3 ounces from the total weight. It was slightly more money, but hey, I'm sure I will grow to appreciate having that option over the years. We shot emails back and forth, going over all the options, the restock times for other configurations, the shipping time for mine, whether I would get it in time, or not. Mind you, all of this was happening rather late at night, because that's what gear junkies do, right? I even joked with the guy for shooting emails to me at 2AM.

So within 24 hours, I went from lusting over this item, to it being on it's way. I felt insanely privileged, since others spoke of such long wait times. Which I would like to take the time to address now, by quoting Bob himself:

"In the past we have contracted the manufacturing of Big Sky’s tents to a large tent making factory. Unfortunately, we could not get timely deliveries… we tried for years to make this work, but this year we gave up and started our own Design Studio… the tent you will receive came from Big Sky’s Design Studio…. we are still ramping up production, so it will probably be 2013 before we get to where we want to be with timely shipments."

Big Sky will not charge your card until your item ships. You will not be out any money by placing an order. I saw a few dissatisfied customers complaining about Big Sky a few years ago, saying they never received their tents. I also noticed in that thread that Bob Molen went and made an account just to rectify those customer issues, apologetically and with accommodation.

The fact is, it is a small business, making niche products, with niche materials, and a specific manufacturing process that requires care and industry know-how. The fact he has been doing this for over 7 years now, despite many hang-ups along the way, constantly revising the product, really shows that he cares about what he is selling. I just wanted to clear the air about this company because I feel they deserve to be considered along with Tarp Tent, Zpacks, MLD, SMD, etc. The designs speak for themselves. The customer service is personal and fast. I hope their production gets on point where they can start to meet the demand they deserve.

In my conversation with Bob, I mentioned my Half Dome 2, and he said he was also a fan and long-time user of that tent. Go figure.

"I am VERY familiar with REI’s Half Dome. I used one for years, and like you, I really like it. When I designed the Evolution 2P my design goal was to design a tent as comfortable as the Half Dome, but half the weight.

It is easier to make a lighter weight tent that is smaller, or only has one door on the end of the tent, but then a person has to give up some comfort… especially when sleeping with another person…. two doors and vestibules are more comfortable, and a side door is easier to get in/out of… but bigger and heavier… the backpackers I have seen that want light weight equipment are the same size as others so why make a smaller tent for light weight backpackers…

One of the things we say at Big Sky is our goal is to “put the comfort in, and take the weight out."

That's exactly what I was looking for in a tent. Something that could appease a casual weekend warrior I take along with me, as well as something I could use on a thru-hike without feeling like I have to play by my tent's rules.

I apologize for the length, but I hope this may give some insight for others who may be looking for something similar. I wanted to use this thread as a journal of my experience with this transaction, in hopes it may instill some confidence in their products. I intend to do a thorough review when the tent arrives, and follow-up with any questions and what not.

Edited by Scalawag on 05/24/2012 20:48:08 MDT.

J C
(Joomy) - M
Re: Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/09/2012 23:50:08 MDT Print View

Seems cool, but too short for me at 6'4. Pity they don't do a 3P/XL dome of similar design.

Edited by Joomy on 05/09/2012 23:53:38 MDT.

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Congratulations on 05/10/2012 04:18:24 MDT Print View

Chris,

Congratulations. I am glad it worked out. I am standing by for my Revolution. I am glad the referral was successful.

Derrick

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/10/2012 07:59:12 MDT Print View

Well, I am glad you are getting the tent of your dreams. Based on the horrid customer service by just about everyone else, your situation is a lucky one for sure but I don't think I would praise BS's CS just yet. Should you have an issue with the tent after using it, please report back on how Bob handles the situation.

Speaking of using the tent, let us know what you thing once you actually receive it and set it up, use it on a couple of trips, and fully 'run down' its abilities.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Re: Re: Re: Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/10/2012 08:35:52 MDT Print View

I plan to, I wanted to get a thread going here to fully document any issues / praise I may have in the future. I hope it gives Big Sky a chance to redeem themselves if all goes well.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
total bs. on 05/10/2012 09:56:41 MDT Print View

man, how many chances are people willing to give that guy?

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
BS on 05/10/2012 12:44:47 MDT Print View

I decided to see for myself and judge on my own experience.

Care to elaborate on what all the resentment is about?

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/10/2012 12:47:07 MDT Print View

Rather than reconstruct here details from the past, here's a thread from 2007 with a few positive comments (and one negative comment) about the Big Sky Evolution -- my experience with Big Sky and its service is one of the positive comments.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/reviews/display_reviews.html?forum_thread_id=9037&startat=20

There were a good many other threads way back then, too. Just search "Big Sky" in BPL's search engine. Here's one of those earlier threads that generated a lot of comments about Backpacker Magazine's positive review of Big Sky tents, together with "personal accounts" about Big Sky's service --

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=7270

And here's another thread -- started in 2006 -- that must rank in the "top ten" based on the number of comments posted --

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=4250

After 5 years of use, my Evolution 2P is doing fine and I'm very pleased with it. Also very satisfied with the service provided by Mr. Mohen.

That's one person's opinion (counting my wife, make that the opinion of two).

;>)

Edited by JRScruggs on 05/10/2012 13:08:58 MDT.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Re: Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One) on 05/10/2012 14:33:40 MDT Print View

Bob's customer service must have improved beyond the moon. After paying for mine, I waited 374 days for delivery. I love the tent and use it as my go-to two-man tent. It's light enough to carry for a solo trip, if I'm expecting rain. I even got a porch fly for when I'm base-camping or car camping. Glad to see Big Sky has gotten things under control.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Customer Service on 05/10/2012 14:47:04 MDT Print View

Bill seemed to address the manufacturing issues that caused such massive delays. I don't think he ever tried to hide that?

Though I couldn't imagine, or would want to, wait a year for a product, I would really just write it off as that companies loss of my business if that were the case. The fact is, some people run a business better than others, some have better partners and affiliates, some have a larger staff and more resources... A lot get off to a rocky start, some so bad they fail.

The difference here is I don't think Mr. Mohen ever tried to screw anyone over, intentionally or otherwise. Perhaps the last few years were just the result of a series of unfortunate decisions.

But I'm a mellow guy - I trust the dude. If things go wrong, I just won't get a tent, which in the long run is NOT a big deal. But if he's really committed to turning things around for his customers, then I'd be happy to own one.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: Customer Service on 05/10/2012 15:24:47 MDT Print View

I waited 2 years 3 months from the time he cashed my check. He kept claiming production problems, which may very well been the case, but the issue was always that he was "unreachable" when he didn't have good news to tell you. The number of people that simply got ignored by email was large. That says more about attitude than availability of tents.

I guess things are better on his end, so he doesn't have to duck people anymore, but he sure did in the past.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
screwed. on 05/10/2012 15:56:58 MDT Print View

"The difference here is I don't think Mr. Molen ever tried to screw anyone over, intentionally or otherwise."

Um, you'll probably want to learn more about the long history of Mr. Molen screwing people over. I mean, if I take check for a product, cash that check, make endless excuses and/or go completely incommunicado for 1-2 years, and perhaps either finally deliver the product or be forced to return the money via credit card/Paypal complaint.... I'd call that an intentional screw-over.

Whether he occasionally (perhaps more so recently?) delivers a product ontime is separate from the repeated fraud he has perpetrated in the past (if not still ongoing). I'm glad you had a positive transaction, but he has much to answer for.

My cash will always go to Tarptent, MLD, etc. who are honest, upfront, communicative, and always willing to do help.

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Hoping for Good on 05/10/2012 16:56:34 MDT Print View

I too am giving Bob a chance, in fact it was my post that led Chris to Big Sky and Bob. I don't think Bob ever kept money for a tent he did not deliver. Yes there were endless delays, but as far as I know when tents were not delivered the funds were returned. If he had not returned the funds it would be theft and fraud. Having returned, them it is merely bad business conduct. The reason I understand is he is orders at the factory were continually being bumped for orders from larger vendors without notice to him. His policy is now to not debit your credit card until the order is shipped.

Notwithstanding these past issues, he manufactures some of the best tents available on he market and form all accounts the quality for the price is second to none. I hope to see the discussion around Big Sky tents evolve away from dwelling on the past and actually focus on the tents themselves. There is plenty of naysaying already here for those newbies considering a purchase. There is however very little discussion of the tents themselves.

Derrick

Jeff Moravec
(mntentman) - M

Locale: The Great Midwest
Re: Customer Service on 05/10/2012 18:15:23 MDT Print View

I'm glad you're a mellow guy, Chris, but I just can't agree with "if things go wrong, I just won't get a tent which is the long run is NOT a big deal. I am speaking generally because I have never done business with Big Sky, but when you take money for something and don't deliver it, that's fraud -- and I work too hard for my money to say that's "NOT a big deal."

If this guy was cashing checks and not delivering product for a year, that's not good. If he is now not charging until the product ships, that's better.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Judgement on 05/10/2012 22:18:30 MDT Print View

Well I'll reserve my personal judgment for what I alone have experienced, which has been nothing but positive. It took me far longer to get in touch with people from Gossamer Gear than BSI, for whatever that's worth.

My tent will be shipping tomorrow and I got confirmation that my card will be charged tomorrow. I think that's fair.

I've been apart of many communities where an independent niche-product manufacturer gets into trouble with the community for poor communication / manufacturing issues... It happens. I understand it takes time to earn trust back, but I also think forgiveness is a strong value to be able to uphold.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Big sky on 05/11/2012 14:55:23 MDT Print View

Hi,

Sorry for off-topic, is it a double wall tent? Could not understand from pics/specs.
What configuration have you ordered?

Thanks, Greg.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Double on 05/11/2012 18:21:47 MDT Print View

It is a double wall. The Evolution is Double, and the Revolution is a hybrid double, with the fly attached (as far as I know?)... They also have single options.

My configuration was basically stock, except I got an UltraLight rain fly option.

And for the record, I now have a tracking number and my tent is on it's way... so no worries about "stolen money" or anything like that.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Judgement on 05/11/2012 20:06:33 MDT Print View

"Well I'll reserve my personal judgment for what I alone have experienced"

So you will disregard and ignore the numerous people who got screwed, but want to "document" your experience so others can see big sky is a-ok?

I like how you post that:
"I plan to, I wanted to get a thread going here to fully document any issues / praise I may have in the future. I hope it gives Big Sky a chance to redeem themselves if all goes well."

Then later act surprised:
"I decided to see for myself and judge on my own experience.

Care to elaborate on what all the resentment is about?"



Your entire post reads like an advertisement for Big Sky. You touch lightly on the issues of delays, CC charges years before shipping, and lack of communication...pretending they were minor historical aberrations that are no longer of any concern.

Call me a skeptic but I seriously doubt you are just some avid fan of Big Sky sharing his joy and experiences.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
agreed. on 05/11/2012 20:10:35 MDT Print View

"Call me a skeptic but I seriously doubt you are just some avid fan of Big Sky sharing his joy and experiences."


It could be a happy accident, but the whole first post reads like some stealthy non-advertisement advertisement.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "Big Sky International - Evolution 2P Tent (Why and How I Got One)" on 05/11/2012 20:51:17 MDT Print View

I haven't posted here in awhile but this one caught my eye.
It looks as though his tent hasn't 'shipped' yet and I really hope for his sake that it does.
I have a BS Revolution 1 that is my preferred solo tent most times but I bought it second hand to avoid the hassle of dealing with Big Sky directly.