Rating: 5 / 5
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and Seedhouse SL1
Specifications (as weighed by me)
Fly Creek UL1
Weight of fly and inner (in stuffsack): 628g
Poleset (including stuffsack): 282g
11 Vargo Titanium Pegs (and bag): 55g
Floor space of inner: 106cm x 218cm, 2.04sqm
Weight of fly and inner (in stuffsack): 856g
Poleset (including stuffsack): 283g
13 standard Pegs (and bag): 166g
Floor space of inner: 109cm x 228cm, 2.48sqm
The Fly Creek UL1 is part of a series of ultralight shelters from Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based Big Agnes. A dual skin, solo tent made from identical fabrics to the award-winning Copper Spur UL, the Fly Creek’s larger brother (the Fly Creek UL2) has already scooped a major award in the US. Adopting the same blueprint as the Seedhouse SL1 (SL = SuperLight, rather than UltraLight), the Fly Creek is in excess of 250g lighter, but consequently somewhat smaller inside. The Seedhouse SL blueprint, of which I am fond, having owned a Seedhouse for some years, is a functional and comfortable layout with negligible flaws - for example, the high-point, although 96.5cm, is not ideally placed for sitting & doing porch chores being perhaps 10cm too far back and the porch is so steep that there is no genuine possibility of safely cooking in it. These do not, in fact, detract greatly from what remains an extremely good shelter. Having recently taken a gamble on the new Vaude Power Lizard UL, which I found to be an exceptional tent but just not quite to my tastes, I stumbled (quite literally, in virtual & digital terms) upon the Fly Creek UL1. Given my reverence for the Seedhouse layout, the prospect of the Fly Creek burdening my rucksack with only 1kg was interesting. After some preliminary research, I bought one.
Again, rather like my earlier review of the Power Lizard, these are precursory remarks opined with a view to supplementary study later through the auspices of a Field Test in June.
My initial concern was whether the groundsheet (ultralight ripstop nylon with 1200mm waterproofing) would be sufficiently robust to obviate the need for a footprint. A discussion with Big Agnes proved positive. Curiously, on inspection, it is ostensibly more gossamer than the groundsheet of the Power Lizard which seems singularly recalcitrant for such a lightweight tent. Whether the Fly Creek is too delicate to be used without a footprint remains unexplored, but I know of at least two bloggers who have used other Big Agnes UL tents, manufactured in the same fabrics, without footprints & without difficulties. I would think a footprint in grassy terrain, suitably inspected, would be just about otiose. So far as the Seedhouse is concerned, I have used a footprint for it but really it was wasted weight at 155g. The upper part of the inner is constructed from part mesh & part ultra-thin nylon (which feels identical to the diaphonous cocoon of the Power Lizard). This means there is likely to be sufficient ventilation. Indeed, as can be seen from the photographs I’ve taken, there is mesh at the feet end as well to provide ventilation. The inner is designed to clip completely to the Y-shaped single DAC featherlite pole (whereupon Big Agnes push their green credentials with environmentally sensitive anodising), unlike the Seedhouse which required some threading along dorsal loops & clipped only at the porch area. This is an improvement as it will make the Fly Creek easier to erect in wind & rain. It’s an inner first tent, but with some care, the fly can easily be placed over the inner to lessen the rain ingress during pitching. There are double zips in the inner and outer permitting ventilation and both zips close one-handed with no catching.
Another deviation, readily observed, is the removal of a sliver of the inner along the dorsal ridge towards the rear. This means one less clip & less mesh. It's an intuitive design progression, as this space is utterly superfluous in the Seedhouse. The Fly Creek feels undeniably more compact inside, but not negatively so. The crucial affairs - enabling sufficient free movement within the inner, tolerable seated head room & the copious space at the porch end allowing access to gear whilst lying down - all remain more than tolerable.
I remain comforted by the ease of pitching Big Agnes tents with this blueprint. Achieving a taut pitch is effortless if all the fly straps which clip onto the inner at the pole grommets (of which there are three) are loose & everything pegged tight first before adjusting them. The inner automatically sits taut with adroit peg placement at the back. The only issue I've ever experienced with the Seedhouse SL1 is getting the porch taut as it is often perfect across the front but not the sides or vice versa - this seems to have disappeared in the Fly Creek UL1. I always use the guys at the side of the fly (enabling rain egress & reducing condensation risk) & at the front if I expect wind. The Seedhouse was a pretty unyielding shelter if pitched into the wind & the shape of the Fly Creek is identical. If the materials are equally sturdy, I anticipate few concerns. I have replaced the DAC V-stakes, each weighing 11g, with Vargo titanium pegs (each weighing 5g). 11 pegs shaves 66g off the total tent weight dropping it below 1kg (964g for mine, in fact). I've been impressed by Vargo titanium pegs & every tent I own has had them. You could easily do the same for the Seedhouse.
I'm excited by the Fly Creek. It's akin to the welcome return of an old friend following a crash diet. I think tents are moderately about ambience - like all kit, the most functional tent in the world is worthless if you can't sleep in it & there's much to behove a shelter that simply has that unquantifiable peculiarity which makes it satisfyingly cosy. It is an idiosyncratic quality which I found in the Seedhouse & I look forward to getting re-aquainted in June. There’s little doubt that this is a 3-Season tent, just, but I would not want to find myself in a winter wild camp in it - it’s pretty sturdy and well-pitched into the wind, I think it would be fine in almost all 3-season situations but I’d want something more robust for winter - the iconic Hilleberg Akto or, the recent pretender to that throne, the Tarptents Scarp 1.
Edited to add photos.