UPDATED: Here are the images I posted buried on Page 5.
Second Set-Up & First Hike With
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.
* 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:
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.)
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.