Rating: 4 / 5
This is an initial review that I will be updating as I gain more experience with it. So far I have zero nights in it, but it's new enough that I wanted to get this review started.
Big Agnes recently came out with the scout UL 2 tent. Around 1.5 lbs, cheap, and pretty cool retro design. However, reports were trickling in that it didn't have much breathability, and it could really use a vestibule.
Well, Big Agnes just released two more versions of the scout UL2: the scout UL2 plus and the super scout UL2. This review is for the Scout UL2 plus.
I ordered my scout UL2 plus tent from backcountry.com. They have a 20% off sale right now, so it came in around $285 after taxes. Straight out of the box, in the factory package, it weighs 2 lbs 5 oz. The stakes alone weigh 5 oz, and the instruction manual weighs 15g. So it's right under 2 lbs without the stakes and instructions.
I weighed it on my scale as it came from the factory, and it weighs 2 lbs 5 oz. The 13 stakes weigh 5 oz total, and the promo cards weigh 15g, so it's right under 2 lbs without the stakes. Like all excited new tent owners, I set it up in the backyard.
My last 2 tents were cuben fiber, and I forgot how stretchy silnylon is. The tent is pretty cool. It's not quite as tall as I had hoped. I could still sit up in it and play cards with my wife if we were stuck in a 12 hour downpour, but it would get old fast.
My last tent, a zpacks duplex, had a lot more room inside it. However, I sold it due to the design allowing lots of sand to blow directly into the tent during wind storms in the desert. It looks like the scout 2 UL plus will be much better for blocking sand than the duplex. The bathtub floors are much higher.
I think I could pitch the fly a little more vertical if it were stormy and sandy to block out even more potential sand. Pointing the beak into the wind would definitely do the trick though. It's a pretty cool design.
What I like:
- super simple to set up, especially compared to the duplex and the HMG Echo II. I didn't have to keep repositioning the stakes a million times. It pitches right the first time.
- cool pockets inside. They pop out to hold stuff. They weigh virtually nothing, but they keep things organized.
- toggles are way better than zpacks
- the tent design doesn't put mesh in any stress points (unlike the zpacks). I don't expect to ever tear between the mesh and the nylon.
- no separate "fly", it's all one unit
- vents allow ventilation, but don't make it breezy. It may feel muggy in 100* weather, but I don't typically camp in that kind of weather. I think this will be pretty warm for winter camping
- you don't need an insanely big area to set it up
- from a big name-brand manufacturer. I don't know why I like this. I like supporting the little guys, but knowing it came from a big factory makes me feel that some solid R&D went into the materials and design.
- zippers are bigger and more functional and less finicky than with UL tents
- ability to completely roll up the vestibule for more ventilation.
What I don't love:
- it requires 12 stakes to set up (unless you get creative)
- the pole is right in the way for entry. The duplex had a similar pole in the way, but the entry was about 2x as wide, so you could get around it easily.
- the main zipper gets caught in the rain flap, you have to be careful how you zip it up
- depending on which side you're sleeping on, it can be easy or a pain to get in and out of.
- floor is REALLY thin, but that's a given for UL tents. I'll definitely need some sort of footprint to protect the floor (I'll most likely get a tyvek one)
- silnylon requires re-tensioning through the night, especially if there's snow on the tent.
For a 1-man shelter, it's awesome. Tons of room and easy enough to get in and out. As a two man, it's just fine as long as the person on the right doesn't have to get up in the middle of the night. :)
I plan on sleeping in it tonight to see what it's like. I'm sure some of these points will move from one category to another, but we'll see. All in all, for under $300, it seems like a sweet little setup. There's something to be said for cheap gear that works. It may not be the most cutting edge technology, but it looks well thought-out and should work great; especially for the price.
I wanted to see if there was a way to get by with fewer stakes, so I removed all 4 of the stakes holding the orange bottom down. It worked. The tent bottom blew around in the breeze, but it didn't affect how taught the top was, so it can definitely be done with 4 fewer stakes.
That being said, I don't really want the bottom of my tent to blow around, I like it semi-taught. My plan is to put some shock cord on each of the 4 orange tie out points and attach them to the same stakes as the grey roof. That's 4 fewer stakes. We'll see how that works.
Next I wanted to see if there was a way to move the main pole out of the way. This is actually very stable and seems to work good. I had to pull the main guyline in line with the trekking pole to get the tension right, but it works well. It does put kind of a weird twist on the tie-down loop on the top of the tent. I'll keep an eye on this and see if it causes a problem over time.
Without the 4 orange corner stakes:
With the corners staked out:
With the fly zipped up, you can't even tell that it's got the pole in at an angle:
My wife and I decided to test out some of our gear last night in the backyard. We tested our summer bags to see how comfortable they were down to 30*. I had my WM Summerlite (32*) with 2 oz overfill, and she tested her WM Megalite (30*) with various clothing options. We also tested the new tent.
I had left the tent set up since noon, mainly to see how much it stretched out over time and to see how it fares being left for a while. We climbed in around 11 PM. I immediately noticed that the inside of the grey roof had ice and condensation on it. When I had pitched the tent, I pitched it over wet grass. During the day, i'm sure the water on the grass evaporated and rose up to the tent roof. I can't blame the tent one bit for this, but I thought it was worth noting.
The tent was a little saggy. I later figured out that this was because of how I pitched the main pole at an angle. It didn't put enough tension length-wise on the roof to keep it up when loaded down with condensation. The roof sagged a bit lower than earlier in the day. I'm sure pitching the tent as intended would fix this problem. Even so, it wasn't much of a problem. Once I was lying down in my bag, the roof wasn't near me, so I stayed dry. If I were to sit up quickly during the night, I'd probably brush against the wet roof, but that didn't happen. The cool thing was that there was zero condensation below the roof. It had passed through the mesh to the outside.
Immediately I could tell that the tent was a lot warmer than my zpacks duplex. It's probably the same warmth as my HMG Echo II when pitched low to the ground. There is considerably more room in the scout than the echo II. My wife mentioned that we would be able to sit up and play cards all day if we got stuck in a long storm. Not to mention we'd be able to use the vestibule area as well, which is bigger than the echo II.
There was plenty of ventilation, but it wasn't breezy. Then again, the breeze was pretty tame that night. My wife didn't have a hard time climbing in once I was already in, so pitching the pole to the side ended up being a good thing while entering. In the future, I'll pitch it as intended, them move the pole to the side when entering and exiting, then putting it back for the night.
Apart from that, it was uneventful. We slept all through the night with no drama. The overnight temps ranged from 28*F to 19*F. I wasn't expecting it to snow, but it did snow a bit during the night, which only made our testing better. I woke up a few times to notice the roof covered in snow. I knocked it off from the inside, and it fell aside. The weight of the snow on the roof caused it to stretch a little, and it wasn't pitched as taught as when I initially started at noon the day before. If I cared enough, I could have snugged up the guy lines and taken out the slack, but it was snowing and I was warm in my bag. When I knocked off the snow, I noticed that there was still ice on the inside of the roof, just like when we entered the tent. I believe that if I had pitched the main pole straight, and tightened up the guy lines, the condensation would have had an easier time rolling off the roof down to the mesh. It was also unusually humid that day, with rain, hail, and snow going all day. Not super typical for Utah.
In the morning, we woke up after a great night's sleep and headed in to the house. I left the tent set up with the pole angled just to see how it fares later today. I hope this review has helped.
Overall, I'd rate it a 4.6, because nothing is perfect.