The Big Agnes RattleSnake SL2 mtnGLO tent is a shining example (pun!) of an affordable yet rock solid backpacking tent with a couple of features that I never knew that I needed. I’ve put it to the test, and here is what I found.
The stand out feature of the Rattlesnake SL2 is the mtnGLO technology. This is an incredibly lightweight illumination feature comprised of a string of low profile LEDs that are sewn directly into the tent fabric itself. It produces a soft diffused glow throughout the tent, instead of a harsh direct beam of light. It’s controlled via a removable battery compartment that stores two AAA batteries and a simple push button control.
The tent also features two doors, two vestibules and a peak height of 40″. A hubbed DAC aluminum pole system frames the tent, with a cross bar lifting the side walls to produce near vertical walls and extra headroom. There is a single top vent, with dual zippers on the vestibules which can be partially unzipped from the top to allow a little extra airflow through the sides. The tent fly and floor is built from a tough rip-stop nylon with a protective and waterproof polyurethane coating. The tent body is a combination of breezy mesh up top and a wind blocking nylon on the bottom. This allows air to flow through for ventilation but also blocks cold breezes that would otherwise slip under the vestibule. Included is a large stuff sack with two smaller sacks for tents stakes and poles, with a set of 8 aluminum sheep hook stakes to nail the tent down. It weighs 4lb 2 oz packed and retails for $349.95 with the mtnGLO included.
What I liked
Using the mtnGLO lights on long winter backpacking trips turned out to be a real treat. Typically I’ll carry a separate lantern to light my tent, which works great, but adds weight. The mtnGLO weighs practically nothing and has the added benefit of already being inside your tent when you pitch it. No digging for it and no losing it. The LEDs produce a soft enjoyable glow that doesn’t blind but provide enough light to easily work inside. The materials of the tent do a good job of reflecting the light around inside too, making the most of what’s provided. A simple button turns on the light and toggles through the brightness settings and the battery compartment can be detached and packed separately. Battery life has been fantastic, and the battery compartment can be left at home if you’re shaving every last ounce. The mtnGLO lights also make for a great lighthouse for when venturing away from camp at night. They glow well enough to be found, but not so bright that they’ll stand out and gather attention.
Livability is good for a well acquainted couple or close friends with a nice tall 40″ ceiling and and a wide open interior. I’ve been able to get dressed, change clothes and play games inside with no trouble or eblo brawls, but you will be in close proximity to a fellow camper. I had a bit of extra room at the toe, head and sides of my sleeping pad to store odds and ends, and 4 pockets above me with loops for expansion kept fragile or quick need items out of the way. There is ample room in the foot to toss and turn, and even to pack up camp without getting out. I never had any issues with my head being scrunched up against the ceiling or walls, and the mesh/nylon body always protected me from a potentially damp rain fly. It’s an exceptionally roomy if used as the occasional solo shelter.
Two large vestibules easily hold a full suite of gear for two, including packs and muddy boots. I’ve been able to stash all of my gear on the toe side of the vestibule leaving a clear passage to enter and exit unobstructed at the head without any of my stuff getting wet. The outer zipper is placed at the head of the tent moving away from the foot, instead of running down the center. This makes exciting a little easier and also makes a wet tent door fall out of the way instead of directly onto the unsuspecting camper. This is a change that I’ve really enjoyed, especially useful when it’s damp or raining.
The tent itself is built very well, with tougher than average yet lightweight rip-stop nylon for the walls and floor with durable DAC aluminum poles for the frame. Leave the footprint at home; Camping directly on sticks rocks and even black coal from a stray fire pit hasn’t had any visible effect on the floor at all, and it cleans up easily too. The hubs are plastic, but provide plenty of strength to withstand a storm and actually provide a nice tension to the body to reduce sway. The zippers slide easily, and I’ve had no real issues with hangs or sticking. Small clips attach the rain fly to the cross bar, preventing the fly from shifting during the night which improves stability and reduces noise.
Stability is quite good thanks to the hubbed poles, quality aluminum construction, and ample guylines and stakes. When fully guyed out, it has a nice sturdy pitch that minimizes flapping and rocking, which in turn makes for a quieter night’s sleep. On one particular night, other campers were bailing off the mountain due to the high winds, but I was sleeping soundly unaware of the wind storm that was rolling through. I woke up to having the mountain to myself as lesser tents didn’t survive the encounter. The overall shape of the tent allows most wind to flow over the tent in all directions which reduces the impact of hard gusts. Especially impressive considering it’s weight class, it’s one of the most stable tents I’ve tested and sure it’s to hold up to even the worst storms. If things are really getting hairy, two more tent stakes really sturdy up the head of the tent, which is the high point and most prone to catching air currents.
Weather protection in general is practically flawless. The rain fly covers the entire body of the tent, providing full 360 degree protection even in sideways rain. Excellent ventilation allows warm damp air to be quickly removed from the tent, which nearly eliminates condensation even in damp environments. The high nylon walls block wind and provide a nice refuge when temperatures drop below freezing, and the vents can be closed up to trap some warm air if needed. Frozen or broiling, the shelter can be adapted to any condition.
Turns out, the color pallet is pretty nice. The bright top let’s in light, but the darker walls block blinding morning sun from penetrating directly into the retinas at 7 am. The green is lively but not sharp and really raises the mood levels inside, making for a more enjoyable stay if the weather is rough. Excellent for long, rainy trips.
Color coded setup and pole system that practically puts itself together makes for an easy pitch without any real camping experience. The guy lines and adjusters are simple to use and acutally outperform their higher end tents.
At $349.95, it’s a fantastic price for such a light weight, exceptionally reliable full featured shelter. Having the included mtnGLO technology only sweetens the deal.
What I didn’t like
The included tent stakes are a little meh, being the old school aluminum sheep hook design. The provide adequate holding power but easily bend in hard soils, especially if being hammered into rocky dirt. I’ve bent a few in my first couple of nights, but they do bend back easily and they’re cheap enough to replace later.
I would prefer slightly larger inner doors. The zippers for a distinct “D” shape, which provides easy enough entry and exit, but doesn’t allow me to swing my lets out like I would prefer. I quickly adapted and found them to be quite usable, but they do stand room for improvement.
The Rattlesnake 2 SL2 mtnGLO tries to differentiate itself with the unique mtnGLO technology, integrating a wonderful illumination system into the walls of the tent itself. Ironically, this isn’t the real selling point, despite it’s appreciated inclusion. The real point of interest here is the fact that the tent manages to juggle price, features and performance without stumbling. The comfortable interior and large vestibules make for a very livable space for two, and the integrated LED lights in the ceiling make for pleasant nights hunkered away during storms. The build quality is rock solid with tough fabrics and a tried and true aluminum hubbed pole design, providing a reliable shelter that’s not only light weight but stout when the weather turns foul. Aside from some cheap tent stakes and smaller doors, the Rattlesnake 2 SL produces one of the best price to performance packages I’ve come across, and for this reason alone I cannot recommend it enough.
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For more information on Big Agnes and their excellent line of gear, check out https://www.bigagnes.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Big Agnes for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.