Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 Tent Review
September 4, 2015
The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 tent is the best, most versatile two person tent I’ve ever used (yeah I know it says three person but realistically it’s best for two). I’m not a huge fan of most tents. They are too small, weigh too much and are a pain in the butt to set up. While the UL3 isn’t perfect it hits all the major requirements with very few drawbacks and has served me well from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of Mt. Rainier. It’s the longest lasting piece of gear I’ve ever owned. Other parts of my outdoor kit rotate from time to time as new tech is released but after purchasing this tent in 2012 I’ve yet to find a better option. If you are looking for the last 3 season tent you will ever buy look no further than this awesome piece of gear.
What makes the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 my favorite tent is the combination of lightweight and big floor plan – that combination is unique particularly when you are talking about freestanding tents. When it comes down to it tents are a unique conundrum – they are essential for keeping safe from the elements but they are the last place most of us want to spend time. You are forced to make a trade off between the livability of a tent and the packability of a tent. Why carry the taj mahal when you will only spend time in it sleeping? But what if you didn’t need to worry about it? What if your tent was enjoyable to hang out in?! Its a novel concept and Big Agnes has made that a reality with this tent.
With most two person tents weighing between 4-5 lbs. the three person, freestanding, Fly Creek weighs a refreshing 3 lbs. 8 oz. yet has 39 feet of floor space and a 42 inch height. If you classify the Fly Creek UL3 as a two person tent it comes in at the head of the pack from a weight vs living space perspective. Trapped by bugs or the rain? This tent allows for two people and all of their gear to hang out in comfort without contorting yourself into a position that is less than comfortable. Even activities like changing clothes become way more enjoyable inside a tent that doesn’t make you feel like a sardine. What really makes the space livable is that, in addition to a decent amount of floor space, the side walls are relatively vertical thanks to the use of a horizontal top pole that forces the walls to spread apart. This feature is unique to the UL3 and isn’t included in the 1 or 2 person versions.
I’ve already said this is my favorite tent, and I stand by that statement, but there are a few sacrifices that needed to be made in order to drop weight yet maintain space. The first is it’s durability. This tent is made of super thin fabric. Thankfully the material Big Agnes decided to use is difficult to tear and is abrasion resistant; the real danger is punctures from sharp sticks or sticker bushes. But, small punctures are easy to patch with Tenacious Tape so personally, this isn’t a big deal to me. I treat my gear with respect, repair it when there is a hole, and I keep in mind that if gear doesn’t get broken I’m not using it hard enough. It is important to note that while I’d consider the material not the most durable this tent is very solid structurally. This is important. While camped at Ingraham Flats on Mt. Rainier I experienced a huge thunder, lightning and hail storm. I holed up in this tent and felt safe and secure. In the morning I opened my tent to see many other 4 season tents completely destroyed while this champ of a 3 season tent held strong. I should also point out that while I say this tent is susceptible to punctures I have never used a footprint and only have a single patch on the floor (which was caused by forgetting to take crampons off).
The second major trade off is the vestibule. Its small and poorly designed. The vestibule door is very difficult to zip closed when you have a bunch of gear piled up in it. Again, this isn’t a big deal to me. Because I use this as a 2 person tent there is ample room inside the tent for the majority of gear two people have with just small stuff like boots and trekking poles needing to stay outside.
Other than those two things I can’t think of any other sacrifices this tent makes. It includes a full tent fly (rather than 1/2 fly’s that seem to be growing in popularity), the ventilation is excellent, there are ample stash pockets located on both sides of the tent, it’s single door its located at the front so no one needs to climb over anyone to get out and the tent is easy and quickly set up even if you are inexperienced with this particular tent’s design. Really, the only drawback in my mind is the price – an MSRP of $430 is not cheap. But, when you consider that this is going to be the last tent you ever buy how much is that really if you depreciate it over the course of a lifetime?
Go buy the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 3 right now, you won’t be disappointed.