Light weight and winter; combining the two while enjoying it seems a near impossibility at times. The Big Agnes Slater UL2+ is a shelter designed to bring them closer together, while maintaining a comfortable experience. With an ultralight build based off the immensely popular Fly Creek series but with more internal volume, and a full nylon body for blocking out the frigid cold, it might just pull it off.
The Slater UL2+ has the same basic shape and build of a Fly Creek 2 tent, except that it’s wider, longer, and taller. The same tri-pole design is still here, with two poles in the front, connected via a center hub, and a single pole running the spine of the tent to the floor. There is a single front entrance/vestibule, and 3 small internal stash pockets for gear storage. The tent body is built completely out of a warm, but very breathable, rip-stop nylon for trapping in heat while letting out moisture. The front door on the body is a two layer mesh and nylon hybrid, allowing the nylon to be unzipped and rolled back, increasing ventilation and regulating internal temperature. Two clips on the walls of the tent connect to the tent body, allowing the rain fly to be staked out, pulling the tent body out with it. This increases the internal volume with practically no added weight. The fly and floor are both made from an ultra-light silicone treated rip-stop nylon. Dimensions come in at 40″ high, 96″ long, and 49″ wide. The tent weighs in at just 2 lb, 15 oz and retails for $389.95.
What I liked
The Slater UL2+ is an impressively light weight shelter. At just under 3 lbs packed, it’s one of the lightest tents on the market. This weight is even better if it’s split between two people, landing at just around 1.5 lbs each for true weather protection. That’s incredible. This light weight also results in a tiny packed size, as it takes up a minuscule amount of space inside a backpack. With a little clever packing, I found that I could work almost the entire tent into the gaps that form around a compressed sleeping bag with my poles packed vertically, allowing me more room for puffy jackets and layers. If space and weight are of high consideration, this is a huge plus.
Despite the light weight, the Slater is quite stable in a storm. This is thanks largely to the low, wind shearing profile and generously provided guy lines/stake out points. Every corner is battened down tight and low, letting air currents flow over instead of against the walls. This results in a shelter that can easily resist flailing in the wind high into the 30’s of miles per hour when properly pitched. The rain fly also does an excellent job of blocking out rain and debris, which makes it a great option for areas that might be wet or sand. With a good pitch, the tent is also pretty quiet, with only minor creaking from the body rubbing the poles and an occasional flap from the vestibule.
The full nylon body does a great job of protecting from cold breezes and heat loss, trapping precious warm air molecules inside when the weather turns cold. The relatively low internal volume means less air needs to be warmed by body heat in order to hold a higher temperature, making it even warmer. When things get too warm, dropping the protective nylon barrier on the door reveals a full mesh panel, excellent for cranking up the ventilation and letting in cool air. Simply having the ability to block direct wind contact off of a body in colder temperatures goes a long way towards maintaining comfort in a frigid environment.
The build quality all around is fantastic. Smooth consistent stitching and precision cuts really shine through, forming an overall appearance and feel of true craftsmanship. The ultra-light weight fabrics require a little more care than heavier weight materials, but also hold up strong under normal use thanks to the high tear strength silicone coated ripstop nylon. The silicone nylon floor is tough enough to avoid needing a foot print on most surfaces, and the poles are DAC Featherlight NFL, an impressively strong but light weight aluminum. The included stakes are DAC j stakes, my personal favorites, and the guy lines are light weight and avoid soaking up too much moisture when it’s rainy. As long as campers avoid tripping on it or falling through it, the Slater should hold up great.
What I didn’t like
With any ultra light shelter, sacrifices are made for an absolute minimal weight. Here, one of these sacrifices is internal volume. While two people can happily sleep side by side with plenty of room to sprawl thanks to the large floor area, being up and about inside the tent is problematic. This is due to the steep sloping walls resulting in limited head room. A single user can sit up and get things done with little issue, with plenty of room inside for even gear and accessories. Two people, however, will have to do some negotiating to make the space work. While two people can sit up at once, one will have to be hunched over while other gets the head space up front. There will be some elbow rubbing.
Vestibule space is also limited, with the low sloping rain fly that tapers off to the ground. It’s large enough to store gear for two, including boots and packs, but getting in and out will require some crawling over equipment it or perhaps some really clever stacking to keep it out of the way. I’ve found a better option to be storing backpacks outside wrapped under a pack cover (they’ll stay dry) and only keeping boots and other necessities under the vestibule. This opens up a lot of free space, and is quite nice.
Ventilation is adequate, but condensation on the rain fly will happen from time to time even on breezy nights if your’e in a humid environment. This is mostly due to the low sitting rain fly and lack of vents. The door can be unzipped partially in mild weather to act as a vent, and properly guying out the tent goes a long way to increasing airflow. Testers have always stayed dry inside regardless.
The Slater UL2+ is designed to be an ultra light shelter for year round use. Instead of being exposed directly to the frigid winter air, the full nylon body traps body heat and creates quite the pleasant experience when the temperatures fall. The low fly completely blocks wind, and the low profile and generous number of guy out/ stake out points creates a surprisingly stable shelter. This is all the more impressive considering the feathery packed weight of about 3 lbs. While the limited head space means it’s not the roomiest shelter when two campers are inside, it’s more than spacious enough for a solo camper and still manages to get the job done with two. If packing light and staying warm are top priorities, this is an excellent option.
Recommended for some
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Big Agnes or their continued support and for providing us this great shelter for review. We couldn’t do this alone. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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