You met Big Agnes? You may have seen him high up on a shelf at REI or lounging at a local campsite. Doesn’t ring the bell? Maybe you don’t love ultralight camping enough to be introduced.
The Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based company makes some of the most advanced tents in the outdoor industry, but exclusively at the top end of the market, aimed at campers and campers who want the lightest, highest performance tents and have the money. pay for them. The Copper Spur series has been updated in 2020 to include a vestibule that can be propped up with a pair of trekking poles like a porch canopy. The latest model features a lighter fabric and a new buckle system for stretch marks.
I ran a multi-week test in California’s Death Valley and Arizona’s Grand Canyon, exposing it to temperatures ranging from near freezing to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) and campsites from wet mountains and overgrown riverbanks to hot desert floors. Keep reading to find out why, even with a couple of major flaws, I recommend the Copper Spur UL1 as the best ultralight camping tent on the market. If you want the best, sometimes you have to pay for it.
At 2 lb 2 oz (about 960 grams), it sits at the forefront of ultralight tents. The Copper Spur is a completely freestanding tent, just like the rival MSR Hubba Hubba NX, which means it doesn’t depend on guy wires – cables you attach to the ground or other objects – for basic structural integrity. Tie-downs on the outer wall increase the outer tarpaulin coverage and lobby space, but they are not strictly necessary. There are semi-freestanding tents such as the Sea to Summit Alto TR1 which retain much of their pole construction but require a few mounts to take full shape. Freestanding tents such as the Copper Spur generally sway less in high winds and can be fully pitched even if the ground is too hard to drive pegs into.
Because this tent is made from such a lightweight nylon fabric, it needs to be handled with care. It will withstand adventure, but if you carelessly drag it around, holes and tears will appear in it. It’s a compromise to shave the pounds off your workload.
It’s a good idea to use base or footprint to protect the tent floor from abrasion and you have to shell out $70 for one of these. Eat bike trail for $80 which also covers the lobby space if you want a little more coverage. While the bottom isn’t thick enough to resist punctures, I highly recommend it for such a lightweight tent. It is much cheaper to replace a sheet than to bounce the entire tent.
Settling into the cold night at Mather Campground on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I was carefully inserting a pole into a bushing on an interior wall when I heard a crack in one of the DAC Featherlite aluminum rods. Ultralight tent poles require care when assembling and disassembling as they are more fragile than standard tents. However, in my entire climbing, camping, and hiking career, I have never broken a pole. Perhaps because of the near zero temperature, they have become more brittle than usual, but I’m only guessing. It was only a chip on the edge of the pole, but a few days later, on the same cold night, the chipped piece finally broke.
However, using the included tire, I kept the tent running for the rest of my trip and, to its credit, it survived some terribly strong sunset wind gusts on the Boucher trail. The tent handled strong winds well in situations where other tents I’ve tested would have me holding on for dear life. This is partly due to the good design of the tent, and partly due to good supports. Setting up the tent was quick and easy—definitely faster than the Hubba Hubba NX—so even though I was annoyed by one broken pole, I was happy.
The repair was also easy. After I got home, Big Agnes fixed a broken pole for $4 a segment plus shipping both ways, which is terribly cheap. The company also quickly returned it to me. This is one of the best manufacturer repair programs I have seen and prices for other fixes pretty cheap too much. I plan to use the Copper Spur again in cold temperatures in Idaho or Utah later this year. I will let you know if my repaired poles break again.
In a market segment where every manufacturer is trying to stand out from the competition, one of Big Agnes’ main calling cards is the TipLok tent buckle. It’s a fancy name for a buckle system that connects the pole heads, outer wall (rain cover), support, and stretch loops with pads and buckles similar to those used on backpacks. Instead of tying guy lines to tent pegs, as is common, everything is simply clipped on. The adjustments are simple and it’s not difficult to attach the tent mat. The buckles were smart when they worked, but the coarse sand tended to get stuck in them, incapacitating them until I could fish out my knife and very carefully knock out the grains.