Ever since I was a kid, we went camping in heavy, gargantuan tents with my family. No matter where we went on a road trip, the 8-person, 40-pound dome was tucked away in the trunk among the camping gear.
But as I grew older, simply sitting around the campfire wasn’t cutting it anymore. I wanted to hit the trail and experience nature as much as I could.
Yet, how was I supposed to lug a massive shelter into the woods without breaking my back? That always confused me.
Then one day, I came across ultralight tents. Over the last few decades, camping technology has drastically improved. Lighter tents are now just as capable, if not more capable, than some of their heavier counterparts.
One of the best lightweight tents for car camping and backpacking is the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2. Let me show you why.
Tent Buying Considerations: The “Six S” Method
Before we get ahead of ourselves here, let's look into a few factors that we should consider when purchasing a lightweight shelter.
Unlike its heavy car camping brethren, there are different size, season, setup, security, storage, and money ($$) features to keep in mind when purchasing a tent that is designed for backpacking.
If your main consideration for buying a camping shelter is overall interior room, then it may be difficult to find a product that is both lightweight and roomy. These ultralight shelters typically cede livable space for the convenience of portability.
Do you plan on relaxing in the tent, or would you rather spend your time exploring the great outdoors? It’s important to think about your camping goals when deciding which size tent fits your needs.
3-season tents are designed for spring, summer, or fall, and typically come with a double-walled construction: the mesh canopy and the rain fly.
4-season tents on the other hand are meant to withstand the harsh conditions of winter, but may not provide the proper ventilation to keep you cool on hot summer nights.
While the tent’s manufacturer rating is important, you may want to take a deeper look into each shelter’s specific weather capabilities. Some tents are better in rainy and wet conditions, while others may be more durable in strong gusts. Whatever the case may be, ensure that your tent will withstand any inclement weather that you may expect at the campsite.
For lightweight tents, this consideration is extremely important since many may not hold up to harsh weather.
There are typically two types of tent constructions available on the market: free-standing and supported.
The former consists of a rigid pole structure that retains its shape without having to tie anything down. The latter on the other hand requires a little more work, using ropes, poles, and outside structures to keep the tent in tact.
Then there's the often overlooked semi-freestanding version, which is, as it sounds, a combination of both.
At this point, you are probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? I know how to setup a tent. No problem!”
That’s what I thought too. Until one day I was caught up in a rainstorm, fumbling around with soaking wet instructions, trying to pitch a tent I had unboxed the day before. Trust me, it’s always worth doing a few practice runs in the backyard before heading out into the wilderness.
Let’s talk about security. More specifically: personal security. Will this tent protect you from the elements? Will this tent be durable enough to meet your outdoor needs? Will this tent collapse in the middle of the night? Will this tent let people see inside at a crowded campsite?
Once upon a time, my wife, my dog and I were hiking on the Barr Trail to Pike’s Peak. The first night we encountered a light breeze and some easy rainfall. Our tent was shaking violently even in those mild conditions. We ended up turning back just because we completely lost confidence in our shelter.
Do your research before purchasing, so you don’t have to turn back from your camping trip like we did, with our tails between our legs.
Tent storage comes in all shapes and sizes...literally.
On the interior, you may have zipper pockets, light pockets, mesh pockets, corner pockets, and even pockets within pockets. For the outside of the tent, you may have a built-in vestibule or two to keep your gear dry and out of the elements.
For any lighter tents, storage is usually sacrificed for weight and space, but it is still extremely important.
For example, after a long day of hiking (especially in wet conditions), my clothes are smelly and soaked, so I don’t want to leave them next to me in the tent. Instead, I’ll tuck them underneath the outside vestibule so they remain dry. Be sure that your shelter has enough storage to keep you organized and happy.
Unfortunately, money is usually the end-all-be-all deciding factor while buying a tent.
For price-to-performance ratio in tents, it’s difficult to determine an objective measurement. User reviews can give you some insight, but they rarely give a satisfying answer. For example, I own a tent that is rated 3.5-stars, but I absolutely love it and it protects me from all outdoor conditions. So in the end price/value is highly subjective.
That being said, when it comes to lightweight shelters, the higher the price, typically, the lighter the material. Still, try and filter by price as a last resort in purchasing your tent. That’s why its last in our patented (not really) “Six 6” tent buying considerations.
If you want to experience the ease and portability of a 2¼ lb. shelter and ample protection from the elements, then the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 may be the perfect tent for your next outdoor adventure.
The semi-freestanding, 3-season Fly Creek HV UL 2 has a multitude of features, but some of them could use a remodel in the future.
The floor area isn’t as large as some of the other 2-person tents on the market and it may feel slightly cramped, but for a shorter person like me, it has plenty of usable volume. Also, the ‘Y-Shape’ construction can be another issue in harsh winds, but as long as you pitch it correctly, you should be warm and dry inside the shelter.
Big Agnes is constantly improving their products, so you should know that you’ll get a high-quality design with every one of their products. Even the healthy lifestyle website, Livestrong, ranked them as one of the top outdoors companies in the world.
Also, for all you fellow eco-friendly campers, they tend to construct their products out of recycled materials, saving the environment one Fly Creek HV UL 2 at a time.
Size: Saving Weight By Sacrificing Space
The high volume (HV) in the Fly Creek HV UL 2 is a little misleading. In order to get down to the weight of a feather, Big Agnes had to compromise some features of the tent, and one of them was overall space.
The length of the floor is 86” while the width tapers down from 52” to about 42”. The floor area itself is typical for most lightweight shelters and can be tight for taller people. What makes it feel smaller are the low-hanging 40” max-height ceiling and non-vertical sidewalls.
Anyways, if you plan on spending hours upon hours of non-sleep time in your tent, then you might want to look into a larger tent with similar features like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2.
Yet, if you are only using your tent to retire at the end of a long day in the wilderness, then you should be comfortable in the Fly Creek HV UL 2.
Season: Excellent In Wet Conditions
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 is marketed as a three-season tent, and it performs to every bit of those standards.
The rain fly and bathtub floor, both coated in 1200 mm polyurethane, work in tandem to prevent any outside water from entering your shelter while the double-walled structure will keep you warm in the harshest of rains.
At first glance, it’s hard to believe that the fly will can keep you dry since there seems to be a several-inch gap around the bottom of the tent where water could possibly seep in. But a water resistant canopy and a PU tape seam-sealed bathtub floor will most likely keep you dry.
To keep the underside of the tent dry, the Fly Creek HV UL 2 has plenty of breathable mesh and air vents, which allow the air to flow through the shelter, making it harder for condensation to form.
Although, if that gentle cooling breeze turns into a rapid gust, this tent may collapse if not properly reinforced due it’s Y-shaped construction.
Setup: Easier Over Time
The Fly Creek HV UL 2 is not a difficult setup, but you may struggle at first.
Since it’s technically a semi-freestanding tent, you’ll have to get used to properly staking or tying off the guylines so that it doesn’t topple over. Still, one great feature is that Big Agnes claims that their product should be “ready to pitch” right of the box.
To actually pitch the tent, you’ll want to lay out the canopy and the single hubbed pole structure. Then, place the end of the structure in the grommets, and proceed to snap on the ultralight plastic clips to the pole, which will give you the overall tapered-shape.
If you aren’t expecting any rain or wind in the forecast, then you can probably sleep under just the canopy, using it as a bug net as you gaze into the night sky.
I would suggest adding on the fly, even though it may be a frustrating job. You’ll need to drape the fly over top of the structure, and secure it to the poles using Velcro tabs. Then, using the precut guylines, stake out the sides of the fly and the vestibule (comes with 11 ultralight aluminum J-stakes).
Don’t get discouraged if the tent is not taut on your first try. Simply walk around the shelter, going one by one as you reposition the stakes for a taut, stable structure.
Security: Durable, Yet Thin Materials
Big Agnes always comes through with their quality of materials, and the Fly Creek HV UL 2 is no different.
The fly and floor of the tent are constructed of lightweight, 15D ripstop nylon that has been infused with silicone materials for durability and waterproofing capabilities. The canopy is constructed of strong polyester material as well.
The only issue is that these materials feel paper thin even to the point of making a crackling sound over time. While they may not tear right away, you should take proactive steps to mitigate the risk, like purchasing the Fly Creek HV UL 2 footprint to increase the tent’s lifespan.
When it comes to the rigid pole structure, Big Agnes was able to cut down tons of weight while maintaining high-strength with “DAC Featherlite NFL pole system.”
DAC stands for the Dongah Aluminum Corporation of Korea, which is the leading manufacturer of lightweight aluminum tent structures. They revolutionized the industry in 1997 when they introduced. The DAC Featherlite NFL system has allowed for all tent companies to shed the overall weight of their products.
Storage: Good-Sized Vestibule
For backpacking tents, it’s pivotal that they contain a decent-size vestibule to store all of your muddy, sweaty gear, and the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 is comes equipped with just that.
At 8 sq. ft., you’ll have plenty of room to store your clothes, backpack, and whatever else you carried into the woods. That way, you’ll free up the limited interior space so you can snuggle up to your partner.
Although, unlike other lightweight tents, the Fly Creek offers a special design to its vestibule: a makeshift mudroom. (For those of you that didn’t have a dirty room filled with shoes and laundry in your house, it’s just a dry entryway.) This way you won’t track in any water if your entering the large, full-walled, rear-entry door.
On top of the vestibule, Big Agnes has added a decent amount of interior storage options, including three interior mesh pockets and several gear loops (which I like to use a paracord to rig-up a mini-clothesline if it’s too wet outside). If you need more storage space, there is also a triangle gear loft available, although it’s sold separately.
Don’t panic! Yes, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 will run you a pretty penny, but it has so much to offer with its great price-to-performance ratio.
Honestly, everyone’s financial situation is different, so that number may look acceptable to some and exhorbitant to others.
Personally, I feel like the price is 100% justifiable with the multitude of features: the quality of materials, the dry vestibule, the weather protection, the packability (4” x 19”), and most importantly, the weight.
Sure, you may feel like the Fly Creek HV UL 2 will put a burden on your bank account, but the near-two-pound weight will also help ease the burden off your back.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit more about the positives and negatives of the Fly Creek HV UL 2. When I’m in the process of researching a tent, I don’t like to take one person’s opinion as the deciding factor. So let's take a look at what other campers say about this tent.
I'm never sure about the tent purchases I make. So in case you have some doubts about the Fly Creek 2, let me show you a couple of similar alternatives to consider.
3 lb. 12 oz
2 lbs 5 oz
3 lbs 8 oz
2 lbs 4 oz
The REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 is a little more spacious version of the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2.
Even though it has a tapered design, the aluminum pole structure pulls the canopy walls outward to create near-vertical side walls, allowing for more usable interior volume. Also, there are two large vestibules on either side of the tent, complete with two large doors, which increase perceived space.
Although the interior may be expansive, the Quarter Dome 2 does have its shortcomings. At 3 lbs. 12 oz., the tent comes in at over a 1.5 lbs heavier than the Fly Creek HV UL 2 and with a packed size of 18.5” x 7”, it may be too bulky to fit in your backpack.
Although, if you are hopping out of your car to camp next to the campfire, and weight is not a concern, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 may be your best option.
At 2 lbs. 5 oz., and a Y-shaped architecture, the Nemo Hornet 2 tent is extremely similar to the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2.
It faces the same issues of a cramped interior and expensive cost, as well as sharing the positive features of ease of setup, material quality, and weather protection.
The Hornet 2 is different in two significant ways, though. It has two large side-doors and vestibules, as opposed to the rear-entry design of the Fly Creek HV UL 2. There is also less mesh on the Hornet 2, which may increase protection against rain backsplash from entering the tent and give you and your partner a little privacy in a crowded campsite, but could hinder enhanced ventilation through the shelter.
With other additional features like Light Pockets (which turn your flashlight or headlight into a lamp) and lifetime warranty, you may want to shell out the couple extra dollars to rest easy in the Nemo Hornet 2.
A similar overall shape to the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2, the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 takes a different structural approach to achieve a tapered architecture.
The dual hoops allow for plenty of interior space, but sacrifice overall stability since they are not interconnected. Therefore, you may have some difficulty pitching this tent.
The Clip Flashlight 2 is on the heavy side for a lightweight tent (3 lb. 8 oz.). This is because instead of the thinner ripstop Nylon used by its competitors, the Clip Flashlight 2 uses a 68D Poly Taffeta material for the fly and a 70D Nylon material for the floor. While these fabrics are heavier and thicker, they tend to be more durable and more importantly, result in an overall cheaper tent compared to some of the competitors here.
Some important features of the Clip Flashlight 2 are the large D-shaper door, large side pockets, ample amount of mesh for enhanced ventilation, and as the name would suggest, a Night Glow pocket to turn your light source into an overhead lamp.
If you don’t mind spending some extra time setting up camp, the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 might be your thing.
Whether you want to car camp or journey out on the trail, the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 may be your best tent option. The extremely lightweight shelter provides excellent weather protection for all of your future outdoor adventures.
You’ll have to get used to the semi-freestanding set up and it may be a burden on your bank account initially, but over time, the long lasting, quality materials will have you wondering why you didn’t switch to a lightweight shelter years ago.
Finally, the weight of the world, and the weight of your tent, will be lifted as you experience the tranquility of nature in the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2.
Jay toes the line between hiking enthusiast and vagabond as he treks across the world, soaking in it’s natural wonders. When he’s not exploring the trail, he writes articles to help guide others through their outdoor conquests.