The Fly Creek HV 2 takes the long standing ultralight design of the original Fly Creek UL and tweaks it in a way that improves the living space dramatically without adding any additional weight. Is it possible to improve on an already legendary design? My review.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 2 is similar in style to the original Fly Creek, with a light weight, minimalist, three pole design extending from a central aluminum hub. They’ve modified the classic three pole design to sit more upright, increasing internal volume throughout, especially at the shoulders and feet. They did this by using pole hub that has two angled connection points for the front poles and a straight connection point for the back pole pointing towards the rear. This added tension lifts the frame higher in the center and back of the tent. The foot of the tent now has a kink in the frame which lifts the foot area up considerably as well, while two volumizing stake out points pull the fabric out at a higher point to increase foot space. There is still a single door/vestibule located on the front of the shelter, and three internal pockets are provided for storage and organization. It’s constructed from ultralight materials all around, utilizing DAC Featherlight NFL poles for the frame, impressively thin 1200mm coated nylon for the rainfly and floor, and 11 aluminum j stakes to hold it down. Many of the stake out points utilize a feathery but strong line instead of webbing to further cut weight, and a lighter/more durable clip design replaces the old sharp cornered clips of previous models, eliminating strain as the rainfly rubs against them as well. This particular model also includes the clever mtnGLO technology, stitching in tiny LEDs into the tent body itself for illumination at the cost of a single additional ounce of weight.
The Fly Creek HV UL2 mtnGLO weighs 2 lbs 6 oz packed and retails for $439.95.
Dimensions come in at 52″ wide at the head, 42″ wide at the feet, with a length of 86″ and a peak height of 40″.
What I liked
I was always a big fan of the original Fly Creek. It provided excellent protection at an impressively low weight, but it also proved to be a cramped, unforgiving living space. A single user could barely sit hunched over inside, let alone change clothes with another camper next to them. Thankfully, the HV variant does not continue with this tradition of congestion. While the shelter is still small, it’s now entirely livable. The reworked frame creates a cozy sleeping space with enough room for two campers to sit up inside if need be. While laying in the shelter, I was able to roll around, change clothes, and flop about to my hearts content without feeling restricted or tangled at the feet. Sitting was a little tighter, but I was able to get dressed, lace up my boots and get on with my day with another camper inside without being all up in the mesh of the walls. It’s a huge improvement over the old design and completely transforms the livability of the shelter. It’s quaint, but comfortable.
I was initially hesitant about the new, steeper walls when it comes to wind stability. One thing I loved about the classic Fly Creek was the fact that the low angled walls allowed wind to slip right over top of it without flapping it around like a flag at half-mast. Upon testing it on my favorite tent destroying summit, I was wholly impressed. One particular instance had a never ending 20 mph wind flow raging through camp for most of the night. The tent was literally buzzing from vibration and turbulence, but it held still strong and stable without flapping or caving in on the sides. Thanks to the many stake out points and guy lines, 11 in total, the shelter is locked down from all sides at multiple points, leaving little room for the frame to waver. The steeper overall shape of the tent still does an excellent job of shedding wind, allowing gusts to just slide over without pushing in on the fabric or folding in the frame. Despite it’s shear construction, it continues to take a beating, far outperforming other tents I’ve tested in this weight class.
Setup is incredibly simple. Simply stake out the body, insert the poles into the grommets, lift the clips to connect the body and you’re ready to clip on the rain fly. A few extra stakes for the guy lines and the tent is ready to provide shelter from that next impending wall of doom rolling over the mountains. It helps that the poles and materials are so light, allowing them to be easily manipulated even during windy conditions. The triangular tensioners on the guy lines are easy to adjust on the fly, and tensioners paired along with the rainfly clips allow the tent to be adjusted to stay taut as needed. It’s one of the easiest setups I’ve come across, largely due to it’s minimalist, simple design.
The mtnGLO technology is a feature that I really appreciated. Having quick access to a soft glow for reading or other tasks is of great value, as being constantly blinded by the harsh shine of a headlamp gets old pretty fast. The gentle LED lights are partnered up with the shiny new color pallet presented for this model, and it enhances the effect by allowing the entire interior to be illuminated as it reflects about inside. It’s relaxing, easy to use, and doubles as a beacon of hope, guiding lost campers back to camp after a midnight tinkle session. It adds only a laughably amount of weight to the build (1 oz), weighs less than most standalone lamps, and unless you’re entire camp blows away, it cannot be lost either.
Ventilation has also improved. Small adjustments to the rear of the tent such as volumizing guy lines to seperate the rain fly and body, low rising mesh side walls at the feet and a higher over profile allow more air to flow throughout. The rain fly sits away from the inner body on all sides to allow fresh air to circulate in, while solid nylon panels keep any breezes from creating a chilling effect by drifting over sleepers. The vestibule is double zippered, allowing the top part of the door to be opened up like a vent. When pitched accordingly with the head of the shelter into the wind, this can create a nice wind tunnel effect, moving gusts of air in one side and out the other to keep condensation down. If it’s really raging outside, however, this zipper must be kept closed or you’ll risk wetting out any gear you have stashed under the vestibule. I’ve found the HV did a good job of preventing condensation, even in very humid conditions. When condensation did build up (unavoidable in my area), the inner tent body did a solid job of keeping everything inside dry and cozy, away from the damp outer walls.
The Fly Creek HV is constructed very well considering the ultralight build. The fabric consistency is remarkable, with kink and snag free mesh adorning every wall. The fabrics are thin, but provide excellent tear strength thanks to the high quality rip-stop inside. The included j-stakes are my personal favorites on the market, and the frame is DAC Featherlight NFL, sporting an impressive strength to weight ratio only outmatched by expensive carbon fiber poles. I couldn’t find a single loose string or loose stitch, and everything is reinforced with impact patches and double stitching in high tension areas. As with previous models of the Fly Creek, I don’t see a need to utilize a footprint either, assuming one clears the campsite of debris first.
The weight is obviously the biggest selling point here. At a minuscule 2 lbs 6 oz (including stuff sacks, stakes and the mtnGLO technology) the Fly Creek HV is one of the lightest free standing (ish) tents on the market. It packs down to just 4″ x 19″, meaning I could toss it into my day pack if I really wanted to, and it folds up even smaller if I just stuff it inside my pack without using the stuff sack at all. I’ve even found that I can shove the fabric it into the gaps created by packing away my sleeping bag, easily packing the shelter away into a 38L pack for a nice wispy weighted overnight trip. Splitting it up between two people leaves each camper with just over 1 lb of shelter each. It’s impressive.
As a solo tent, this thing is a real treat. Lots of interior space, an easy entry and exit and a light pack weight makes this an excellent option if you switch between hiking with a partner and going in alone as the pack weight isn’t going to throw out your back when carrying it by yourself.
What I didn’t like
While the HV significantly improves the living space over the original, it’s still a small tent. It’s primary use is to provide protection to campers at a minimal weight. This being said, it’s not really a tent for lounging around in. Sleeping, catching a movie or reading is very comfortable, but if you’re hoping to bust out a set of lunge squats inside, you’re in for a surprise. The minute you start trying to move around, it gets much tighter. If you and another plan to spend most of your time inside, this might not be your go to tent. Instead, choose this tent when you’re concentrating on miles, weight, or when fair weather is on the horizon.
The vestibule is somewhat limited in size. I had plenty of room for gear for two, and I was even able to leave a small path free to crawl in and out around it, but you’ll be doing some clever stacking to make that happen. Opening up the vestibule when it’s wet drops the fabric onto whatever is stored beneath, causing some dampness. You can use your free hand to push the tent door outwards, laying it over the side of the tent, but some drops will still come in. If it’s actively raining, you’ll be letting rain in onto your gear also, so make it snappy. One clever technique is to store backpacks with nonessential gear outside of the vestibule under their own pack cover. This frees up a ton of space and makes getting in and out a non-issue.
Entering and exiting the tent will require some crawling around for most people if gear is stashed under the vestibule. I found that I can get into the tent by simply sitting down into the door, taking off my boots and sliding inside. Getting out often required a little crawling on my hands and knees to avoid my gear, though. This isn’t a problem for me, but some will find this an issue. Reaching for the zipper can also be a stretch, as it’s located about two feet from the inner door.
This is an ultralight tent, so some extra care must be taken to avoid damaging it. Avoiding punctures would be my only concern, so check for sharp rocks or sticks underneath and make sure no limbs or branches might fall onto it during a storm. I’ve already vigorously (totally on purpose…) tested that tripping on it and jerking the guy lines about in the dark isn’t much of an issue, but it’s worth avoiding anyway.
It takes some guts to start tinkering with an industry favorite design, especially one that has taken home several awards for it’s design. This is perhaps the reason why the classic Fly Creek is still on the market despite the new model being available(at the time of writing). Thankfully, Big Agnes has really thought this redesign through, improving the new model is practically every way . It’s still incredibly light weight, but now living inside is actually enjoyable. Camping on my favorite exposed peak, the wind outside was howling and the earth was completely saturated by clouds as they collapsed onto the mountainside. Inside, I was content, unaware of the horrid conditions otherwise, and that is exactly what a tent should do. It’s proved to be strong in the wind, easy on the back, and shows that even a legend has room for improvement. If the primary concern is weight and reliability, this is a shelter that I can wholeheartedly recommend. If you’re considering an upgrade, I would also say go for it. You won’t regret it.
The highest of recommendations
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I wanted to send a special thanks out to Big Agnes for their continued 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.