Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Review
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 is a thru-hiker favorite. This semi-freestanding tent is lightweight, easy to pitch, and manufactured with sustainability in mind. It’s perfect for smaller solo hikers looking for an ultralight shelter with plenty of space for their gear inside—but can you really fit two people in it?
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 At-a-Glance
Weight: 2lbs 4oz (packed weight) 1lb 15oz (trail weight)
Packed Size: 6” x 19.5”
Interior space: 28 square feet
Doors / Vestibules: 1 door, 1 vestibule (8 square feet)
Circumstance of Review
I tested the Big Agnes Fly Creek during late winter and early spring in Canada. There were plenty of challenging conditions to really push this tent to its limits.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Features
Doors: The Fly Creek features a single door at the front of the tent. The door is easy to open and stow out of the way. However, a single door for a two-person tent makes it hard to get up in the middle of the night without waking your partner. The entrance is also fairly narrow, so you do have to do some tent yoga to avoid elbowing your buddy in the face, especially if you’re storing gear in the vestibule. This is one of the major weight-saving features of this tent, however, so solo hikers will appreciate it.
Pockets: The side pockets in this shelter are perfectly sized and exactly where you need them. I adore the larger side pockets: big enough for even a water bottle. There’s a media pocket above the head designed with special cutouts to run headphones. If you regularly listen to podcasts or music at night, you’ll enjoy having a dedicated phone pocket.
Vestibule: The vestibule isn’t exactly huge. I struggled to fit two backpacks under it. It’s perfect for one person though. If you’re using this tent as a solo hiker, there’s also plenty of space to store gear inside the inner, especially if it is clean and dry.
Dirt Dagger UL Tent Stakes: At only 0.3oz per 6” stake, these are some of the lightest stakes available. However, I quickly switched them out for the slightly heavier (0.35oz per 6” stake) MSR Mini Ground Hog Stakes. The Dirt Dagger stakes only have notches to hold guylines on two sides, and I found that my guylines slipped off of the stakes easily unless they are angled exactly right. So, while this is largely the result of user error, it’s not something I want to mess with at the end of a long day (or in the dark or the rain). This isn’t that big of a deal: most thru-hikers already have plenty of their favorite tent stakes lying around, and if you don’t, they aren’t exactly expensive.
The Fly Creek is palatial for a small solo hiker. My trail name is Fun Size for a reason (I’m 5’2”), and I found that there was plenty of room for me, my dog, and all of my gear inside of the tent. There’s loads of headroom (42 inches to be exact), with enough space for me to crouch inside the tent. This makes changing clothes in privacy a cinch if you’re small.
However, my 6’2” husband struggled to even get inside the tent, and found his head touching the top of the inner, while his feet touched the bottom when he laid down. Taller hikers may want to try this tent out in a store before purchasing it, and if you’re taller than 6’2”, you might want to consider a different shelter. Big Agnes has started making shelters for taller hikers but doesn’t offer a longer version of the Fly Creek yet.
Two Person Use
We found the Fly Creek to be an extremely cramped two-person shelter. We’re used to squishing into a Copper Spur HV UL2 without any issues, but the Fly Creek feels much smaller with two people inside. That doesn’t mean it’s not an appropriate two-person thru-hiking tent. I absolutely would use the Fly Creek on a fair-weather trail like the PCT, where we cowboy camp most nights and use the tent as a backup. It would also be perfect as an AT tent if you planned to mostly sleep in shelters. The light weight makes this tent easy to throw in your pack as a backup option. However, I would be hesitant to bring the Fly Creek as a two-person option for a trail where I expect to spend a lot of time in my tent. This isn’t because I think the tent can’t handle a few good storms, but because I’m pretty sure my marriage would suffer from being confined in such a small space.
The Fly Creek is intuitive to pitch and quick to set up. A single set of poles and asymmetrical design means you can set up in minutes, without any confusion about which way the fly goes. I would be comfortable setting this tent up in the dark and in pouring rain the second time out of the box. There’s pretty much zero learning curve.
The tent is semi-freestanding. This means the poles do most of the work forming the structure of the tent, but you do need to stake it out, especially around the footbox, to keep fabric away from your sleeping bag. This can present a challenge on rocky ground, sand, or snow. Creative hikers should not have a problem pitching correctly even on these surfaces. In a pinch, the tent will stay up even if it’s not staked out, but this isn’t ideal.
The incredible amount of headroom does mean the Fly Creek is fairly steep-sided and tall. Hikers should be careful pitching to take wind direction into account and pitch the foot of the tent facing the wind. If the tent is pitched with the side facing the wind, it will catch a lot of it. I did also have a few issues setting up on windy days in locations where staking the tent out was difficult as even the inner acted like a sail. Most people won’t be pitching the tent in the snow though, so simply stake it down before you clip the inner to the poles on windy days.
Color/ Solution Dye
I adore the white color of this tent. White provides plenty of light inside the shelter, even on dreary days, while still being opaque enough to be private. Even though the fabric is fairly thin, you cannot see through it at all, and I would be comfortable changing inside in a busy campground.
Big Agnes uses Solution-Dyed fabric for the Fly Creek. This fabric is highly UV resistant and uses 50% less water, 80% less energy, and 80% fewer chemicals during manufacturing than previous tents. Every thru-hiker cares about the environment, so it’s great to see a gear company creating more sustainable tents.
Not going to lie, I was a little worried that the Fly Creek would be too fragile to even consider for a thru-hike. The plastic buckles to attach the inner and outer are made out of thin plastic. The fabric for the fly and the tent floor are also both fairly thin.
However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. After several weeks’ worth of use, there’s still no damage to the fabric. The buckles have stood up well to use even in extremely cold temperatures, which often causes plastic to break. There’s no cracks or damage at all. I’d be confident that this tent could survive a thru-hike with plenty of life left over.
Warranty and Repair
I’ve used Big Agnes tents for years, including on thru-hikes. I have two stories to share as a result.
Thru-hikers love warranties, and Big Anges has a great one. On our Great Divide Trail thru-hike last summer, we found our tent had a fairly huge manufacturing defect (side note: always check your tent’s waterproofing before you start hiking). Despite being in a tiny mountain town in a different country from Big Agnes, a customer service rep was able to find us a new tent at a local gear store. Two hours after returning to town, we had a brand new shelter at no cost to us. While you’re unlikely to find a manufacturing defect during a hike, it’s fantastic that their customer service goes above and beyond to take care of thru-hiking customers.
Secondly, Big Agnes offers repair services. You can ship off your tent or poles, and they will repair them for a small fee. They replaced broken poles and worn-out shock cord on a very elderly Copper Spur and shipped them back quickly, even in May 2020 at the height of Covid disruptions. They will also fix zippers, rips, and seam sealing. This isn’t really useful for on trail repairs, but it’s a great way to extend the life of your tent after a thru-hike. It also shows a commitment to the environment on behalf of Big Agnes, which is pretty cool.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Pros
- Weight: 2lbs 4oz is impressive, even if you use this tent as a solo hiker.
- Relatively cheap at $369.95: Sure, that’s still a massive chunk of change, but it’s much cheaper than most comparable weight tents on the market.
- Headroom allows taller hikers to sit up fully, and smaller hikers to even crouch to change clothes.
- Huge amount of usable space if you use this tent as a solo hiker
- Great features, especially the pockets.
- A more sustainable tent manufacturing process and a company that backs that up with repair services is great for hikers that care about the environment.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Cons
- Limited interior and vestibule space: This isn’t really a two-person tent, even if you like each other a lot.
- Awkward single door: Makes it difficult to get in and out if you’re sharing the tent.
- Short: Even solo, taller hikers just don’t fit in this tent.
The Fly Creek has an impressive cost to weight ratio, at only $369.95 for 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Most comparable tents (see below) are much more expensive. There are a few drawbacks that come with the tent, most notably that the small space barely fits two people, and the single entryway makes it difficult to get in and out of the tent. However, the Fly Creek HV UL2 is a solid choice for a solo hiker looking for a spacious ultralight tent at a comparably low price.
Weight: 3 pounds, 2 ounces
Interior Space: 29 square feet (two doors/vestibules)
Weight: 2 pounds, 1 ounce
Interior Space: 27.3 square feet (two doors/vestibules)
This Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 was donated for purpose of review.
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