Despite me getting on in the years, I am a new comer to overnight hikes and bushwalks, so after much research and advice from the more experienced campers, I purchased the Big Sky Revolution 2P hiking tent as a 3 season tent for one person.
Given my advancing age, my main requirements were a light weight and compact tent which is fast and easy to pitch, capable of withstanding reasonable wind and rain while still being comfortable, weather-proof, come with a waterproof tub floor, and perhaps most important of all in Australia, insect proof with good ventilation.
In most parts of Australia, insects are a real annoyance, so a bug mesh is almost mandatory if one is to have any chance of a good night’s sleep – mosquitoes, flies, ants and midges are all very annoying in the warmer months in particular.
Be aware that no ultralight hiking tent will stop a persistent native rat or mouse gnawing through the tent to get to your food – so be careful how you manage your food to reduce attracting them into your tent.
But what about ultra-light shelters?
I had looked at the ultra-ultra-light shelter options, and whilst attractive in weight terms (300-850g), none seemed adequate to address all of the above requirements adequately for me:
- most are single wall shelters which either lack space, lack 360deg protection, lack insect protection, and/or are not likely to cope with prolonged rain and wind well.
- the tarp style ones also tend to be more difficult to set up and keep the tarp pitched taut
- to me, they would be great as emergency shelters when you are planning on a day hike but are forced to take shelter, or for some situations such as fair weather desert camping, but do risk leaving one without adequate shelter if the weather really turns sour for prolonged periods.
- if you are using single wall shelters, check out this pdf on how to minimise condensation
- excellent examples of these include:
- poncho/cape – tarp – shelters such as Gatewood Cape Shelter which can be combined with the Six Moon Serenity Net Tent ($A229) but only sleeps 1 person and but combined weight is only 540g
- trekking pole single wall tent shelters such as:
- Big Sky Wisp 1 person tent
- available in 300g-600g designs although the 300g version is $US300 more expensive as it uses lighter, stronger, more UV resistant, Let-It-Por Cuben fibre fabric
- ventilation and condensation can be problematic
- Big Sky Wisp 1 person tent
- tarp with bug net such as:
- Sea to Summit Escapist 15D large tarp with Ultra-mesh bug Tent
- you do save perhaps 0.5kg at around 800-900g compared with the Rev 2P tent, but it costs much the same and you don’t get 360deg protection plus it is harder to pitch, less private and requires your trekking poles
- some 300g heavier than the similarly priced Gatewood Cape solution but does provide room for 2 people and more versatile tarp but no 360deg protection or poncho
- the tarp though does make for a very versatile accessory, and of course the bug tent could be used alone to better enjoy the outdoors in good weather, providing better visibility and connection with your surroundings
- needs additional 12 stakes, 2 trek poles +/- groundsheet (if heavy rain) and lots of practice and space to pitch and preferably, 2 people to pitch – “with the various guyout points and the fact that the inner tent has to be setup separately, it can be quite a challenge”
- best for the experienced tarpist or for expected mild weather conditions for those with patience to get the pitch reasonably weatherproof
- 4 season tarp with bivvy
- HMG’s Cuben Fiber UltaMid 2 tarp pyramid “tent”
- expensive, spacious 2 man shelter and only 510g but performs extremely well in all weather but no tub floor or bug mesh hence need for a bivvy
- HMG’s Cuben Fiber UltaMid 2 tarp pyramid “tent”
The search continued for a ultra-light 2 man tent:
I then went to camping stores and tried to pitch one or two double shell two-man tents, and found some where actually quite complex to pitch.
I did like the concept of the highly rated ZPacks Hexamid Twin Tent which is made from expensive, ultra-light cuben fibre and weighs only 540g, but it is quite expensive and is only made to order from the US, and thus even if I was prepared to pay that much, I would not have had it delivered on time.
The Big Sky Soul tents are also very nice as an easy to set up, free-standing tent with full bug mesh, tub and a fly, and these tents are great as you can see the sky with the vestibule unzipped, and in the day time or on warm nights, the whole fly can be removed to use it as a bug tent. They are light (1.1kg and $US365 for 2P Ultrasil), come in 1P or 2P versions and even ultra-light (724g but expensive at $US780) cuben fibre versions and are reasonably roomy and the fly does have a top vent, but there is only one vestibule, and no porch so rain could be an issue when unzipping it. The 2P floor measures 215cm long x 119/135cm wide x 107cm in centre height making it comparable to the S2S Bug Tent but easier to set up and 360deg weather protection.
In the end, I settled upon the Big Sky Revolution 2P hiking tent with porch and bug screen inner as I was impressed with:
- ease and speed of pitching thanks partly to its external frame
- can be set up in the rain without getting the interior wet
- excellent ventilation (inner mesh walls with two high top vents in outer wall which can be opened to allow warmer, humid air to exit while air can also enter under the outer nylon or cross-ventilation through unzipped vestibules combined with extra internal air volume of a 2 man tent for 1 person) to reduce condensation forming
- condensation is on the inside of the fly, so the interior mesh shields you from the moisture
- taut walls to reduce pooling of condensation and rain as well as reducing wind noise
- excellent bug screen protection
- vestibules and entrance on either side
- plenty of space to store your backpack, etc inside the tent when used as a 1-man tent
- silnylon waterproofing of the outer wall and tub floor
- do not need to be seam sealed like other silnylon tents
- relatively light and compact – said to be 1.3kg but measured was closer to 1.5kg
- ability to easily move the fully pitched tent to a better site without taking it down
Why not buy the Big Sky Revolution 1P one man tent?
- whilst this is also an excellent tent, weighing some 200g lighter and around $100 cheaper, I decided that the benefits of the extra space outweighed either of these concerns for me.
I have now used it on two overnight camping trips, the 1st to Mt Feathertop in strong winds averaging 30-35 knots with some protection from small alpine gums, and minimal rain, and the 2nd on Mt Stirling in good weather conditions but with winds 10-20 knots.
Pitching in the dark was easy and fast, just remember to peg the outer shell down if it is windy while you are assembling the poles!
When pitched the outer walls are taut.
Like most small hiking tents it can be awkward extracting yourself through the door but that would be nit-picking.
It coped extremely well with the strong winds even though I had only used one storm guy rope.
Both nights were at altitude around 1700m and the minimal temperatures only fell to around 7degC (early December which is summer in Australia) with lowish humidity, so there was no moisture build up internally or externally, although, the excellent ventilation of this tent should work well to prevent internal condensation.
The very thin silnylon floor is very slippery, so if you are not on flat ground, your mattress is likely to slide down – this apparently can be reduced by applying dobs of silicone in strategic places on the floor – “paint stripes of silicone across the floor. Use McNett SilNet or DuPont Silicone II and dilute it with paint thinner to the consistency of pancake syrup, then paint it on”.
The Silnylon is also a dirt magnet!
Although I purchased a footprint to go under the floor to provide extra protection, I did not use it.
On the 2nd trip which was a solo trip, I had spent the early hours of the morning photographing the night sky so I decided to sleep in. The hot mid-morning sun soon made the tent uncomfortably warm, but it was a very simple matter to just remove the pegs and move the whole tent fully pitched to a shady position then re-peg it. (Remove heavy items from within the tent so it can be lifted without having to drag it along the ground as this may result in tears!).
I noted reviews online which indicate it is hard to roll up and return to its bag as it is so slippery, I decided to do what the retailer advised, keep the inner all attached with its buckle clips ready for pitching next time, and just push it into the bag as you would a down sleeping bag.
I slept in a Sea To Summit Micro II sleeping bag which is rated down to 2degC for comfort and found that this was perfect for these conditions without need for thermal leggings, just a thermal top.
Mt Stirling at 2am – meteor aiming straight for my tent from the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy while I was boiling water for a hot chocolate and marshmallow (Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens):
Everyone will have their own preferences and requirements when it comes to tents, and like cameras and lenses, there is no perfect tent to suit every person or needs.
So far this tent has delivered for me and hopefully will be durable.
More information on my Wiki.
I have not been paid or subsidised by any of these companies, nor provided with any of these to test.