Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 Review

Big Agnes tents are like a lucky charm for me, every time I want to get one out and properly test it in some foul weather, blue skies break out all over. However the Copper Spur UL1 got taken by surprise and after a few local adventures, I pitched it at 1000m on the top of Beinn an Dothaidh so see how it coped with Highland life with just its two guys line for protection…

It’s dead easy to pitch this wee bugger. One main pole with a hub at either end where it splits up and picks up the four corners, one wee cross pole at the top centre to tie-in and give the outer its shape, some plastic clips and you’re there. As you can see abov, the pole attaches to the inner and makes for a self supporting structure that you can pick up place wherever looks the best. I’ve really grown to like this idea as it’s simple to work with, in fact it’s almost impossible to pitch this kind of tent badly.
There’s a fair amount of mesh on show for ventilation and of course for losing heat, but although these things are oft debated, it’s unlikely to be a surprise when the purchaser pitches it in the field for the first time, so one will hopefully have accounted for its affects?
Also seen above is the large door on the far side and the wee door to the rear. You can get great through-ventilation here, as well as access to extra storage space between the inner and fly, and I won’t beat about the bush, that wee door is an ideal pee flap.

The flysheet gets thrown over the top and clips into the short cross-pole at the top and buckles into the four corners where there’s tension adjustment via webbing through the buckles. They’re colour coded as well, so it’s very difficult to get it wrong. The porch is pegged out and can be left in place where you use one half as a door, or you can fold both halves back for hot windless nights. There’s pegging points at the corners and two short guys at the bottom edge of the flysheet at each end. There’s two regular guys at the “head” end where there’s also a vent which can be propped open with a stiffener.
Other features include a mesh pocket and the ability to use fancy Big Agnes custom options like gear lofts and fast-fly pitching with a footprint. The pegs even have a hole drilled in them to attach a cord, that’s a step further than most manufacturers will go.

But, living in it is the only thing that really matters. Internal floor space is very good indeed, with space enough to store gear without piling it up. Headroom is okay for me sitting cross-legged on a fat sleep mat, but I do jam my head into the roof if I straighten bolt upright on the mat. But, I had to try to find out rather than natice it in the passing. The single door is fine and I can get in and out without kicking my cup over, but it is on the limit for me not having to crawl out, so if you’re a big fat bloke, have a bad back or are exceptionally tall you’re getting muddy knees. The porch is a good size for storage, which whn when full still leaves enough space for a clear exit.
The door has a double zip which was handy for peeking out to check the weather (and for letting out steam from cooking and socks), and the storm-flap over the outside of it has velcro tabs which is great, most folk with a similar feature don’t bother their arse with such detailing and consequently compromise the waterproofing.

Wind and rain are what we have to live with in our hills and the idea that US gear is only designed for backyard use is hopefully disappearing these days. The fabrics have a hydrostatic head of 1200mm which means it’s officialy waterproof in UK terms, and they are indeed, having lain on wet ground and watched rain run down the fly from the inside (it’s a very see-through tent, and bright inside for sitting through raining days) I’m already happy enough to not worry about it. I tried to get it in strong winds, but like I said, Big Agnes is a lucky charm. I can say that in what wind I’ve found for it, it’s quite quiet as the outer is tight and the inner flexes with it. The two guylines hold the “wide” end firm enough, but how the whole thing will fare in a hoolie I don’t know. But I feel comfortable enough in it to give it a go anyway.

That comfortable comment is important here, it is a comfortable tent to spend time in. The dimensions, the features, the weight at 1300g packed, and the simplicity of pitching and striking all add up to make it a good experience. I like it.

28 thoughts on “Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 Review

  1. Of course, what we all want to know is (or at least I do), how does this compare to the MSR Hubba HP and which one would you actually buy?

  2. That very quesion has been on my mind, and I should be getting a Marmot Ion in for test which is pretty much the same design as those two to mix it up even more.

    The Hubba has the little gear loft, the tougher outer and a simpler waterproof zip on the door, the UL1’s zip is easier to operate and there’s much more space inside (which was my only gripe with the Hubba). The Hubba has a bigger door and is easier to get in and out, but the UL1 is better to spend time in. They’re the same weight.

    Bottom line, for more exposed mountain camping the MSR’s shape probably edges it for use high wind, but for general use the UL1 is a much better tent to live in.
    I’d probably have to go for the UL1.

  3. Thanks for the review!! Nice pictures. Pity you didn´t get high winds.. and why why only 2 guypoints, a couple of more would be ideal for me! It does stike a nice balance between weight and liveability. Did the strenght of the fly and floor feel ok to you? It´s suppose to be be a strong weave but it`s also only 15 denier.Good comparision with the Hubba hp as it´s also on my shortlist. Would you feel comfortable with either on a long (severel weeks ) trip in the scottish mountains?

  4. You can see through the floor and the fly, but I’m not worried by their strength. I’m so used to thin fabrics now and they never fail, it’s the stuff sewn on to them that breaks or gets worn.
    For a long trip the UL1 is the winner just for the internal space, the HP would start feeling restrictive as you get into your camp routine and all your kit’s in the porch where the midges are.

  5. I take it one will pitch headend ,with the guys, into the wind!? Can you open the entrence (the left part) so it won`t be exposed from the wind? i have only seen it with the right part opened..

  6. I had it back to the wind on that last trip and it was fine, but guy-end into the wind would probably make sense to take advatage of the added security.

    The doors are right only (top photie) or both (second bottom photie), You can’t open just the left door becasue of the opening and there’s no peg loop on the right door.

    I’m so used to a tent that opens on the left (the Lasercomp) it makes a nice change to sleep the other way round!

  7. Sounds good, I’ve been waiting (im)patiently for this review. Inner 1st wouldn’t worry me at all, they usually go up so fast that it’s a non-issue, I imagine the old pitch under the fly botch would work if you really needed to get it up in a blow. Half mesh should dry quickly once pitched anyway. Door on the right would probably seem strange for me but no big deal.

    The poles look big enough (Dia)

    About the guylines, have I got this right,

    4 x short lines Head end (Highest end)?
    2 x Regular?? lines foot (low End)?

    plus 4 pegging points on the corners of the fly.

    Have I got the head/foot ends mixed up? Guy end into the wind would be Low end to the wind but that leaves the porch exposed………… sorry confused here.

  8. You know me and my fudging of the technical issues…

    There’s 4 guys in total, one at the centre of each end right at the “hem” of the flysheet and two high ones at the head end (the right hand side as you look at the door.
    It pega at the four corners and at the pointed bit of the door.
    It’s plenty stable though. I’ll need to send it back, but iof I get the chance I’ll have it up high again no problem.

  9. Neat review. But I thought you were a Laser Comp addict :) ?

    Based on the details on the BA site (unless you’ve had a chance to try one), how would you rate the BA Fly Creek UL1? Seems to be made from the same materials but weighs in at about a kilo inc those hefty pegs rather than 1.3kg for the Cu Spur. Has a single end door which might make it more awkward to get in/out and a simpler pole system which probably accounts for most of the wt loss. No wee flap.

    p.s which version of the PHD bag were you showing? How do you rate the MX or Drishell outers vs the added cost and (for Drishell) weight?

  10. The ‘comp is mighty, but it’s being caught up rapidly!

    I haven’t tried a Fly Creek yet, but I’ll get to see it at some point.
    The Copper Spur is huge and comfy for the weight, and it packs small (apart from the poles). I don’t know if I’d give that up for even 300g. The Fly Creek would have to super-impressive.

    The PHD bag is a Minim 300 with a short zip on the right (to line up with my bivy bag). I like the Drishell, and I’m happy to take the little weight gain. It’s warded off spills, snow and condensation, but it’s still soft enough to let the bag loft. So what’s not to like?
    If I was ordering up my own bag I’d go for Drishell unless it was a summer specific bag, or a Minim Ultra which is summer-only or it’s layered with the Combi so Drishell’s not needed.

  11. Hi PTC
    Followed over from OM. Although I’ve glanced at your site before.

    I like the look of the Copper Spur, and currently I’ve got a Seedhouse SL2.

    But, with regard to the Spur against the Laser comp, Or even the stnd Laser (which is a bit more roomy and not much heavier than the Spur), The static heads of both the fly sheet and ground sheet are quoted better on the Laser (4000 and 7000 respectively), than the Copper Spur (1200 and 1200).
    Also the Laser has a rear door.

    Thoughts???

    P.S I do like my Seedhouse, but I’ve never had it pitched in anything approaching storm force.

  12. Hi, it’s nice to see this review again, it was a cracking wee quickie trip this one.

    I January ’09 we were in the Grey Corries in a storm and the Laser Comp and the Seedhouse SL1 we had both got flattened at the same time by the same gust, both got a little kinked, but the SL1 had less damage.

    I saw this very Copper Spur last week at a trade show (still with twigs in it!) and getting inside it reminded me of how good a tent it was. Great design, just need more guy lines for exposed pitches.

    I’ve had the Big Agnes Fly Creek at 1000m in the wind and rain and it was fine as well, the same spit-through thin fabrics too.

    The Lasercomp is smaller, and despite it’s single pole I think it’s probably more secure on an exposed pitch, the Copper Spur I could sit in for days as it’s so roomy. I think the regular Laser is catches too much wind and is better for more sheltered pitches, so I’d chose the Copper Spur over the Laser.

    But, Out oll of that the Seedhouse is probably the strongest tent.
    Jeez, has that make things worse or better?!

  13. Yeah, answers a few points, I just like the idea of the bigger vestibule for cooking in.
    The seedhouse I’ve got is a two man so plenty of room, but the porch is a little tricky to cook in, mainly due to it sloping at quite an angle, so when the door’s open, there isn’t actually any cover above you.

    The Spur, and for that matter the Comp, look like they might give a bit more shelter from above, to the porch area.

  14. Aye they do, and you don’t have to crawl over your kit to get in and out.
    Truth be told, I much prefer side entry tents thes days for that reason.
    But the Seedhouse lets you lie inside on your back and stare up at the stars with slanting doorway, I love that!

  15. cArgosrawling over kit’s not a problem for me, since the SL2 means there’s bags of room inside to stow it.

    Might just stick to the Seedhouse.

    Or take the Argos Tiger Paws instead.

  16. The Seedhouse is a great tent, I’ll need to take the SL1 out again.
    I’ve got used to the Laser Photon now, and sleeping in anything else will feel like I’m in a palace !

  17. Any change of you getting a shot of a GoLite Eden 1 to test?

    It seems to be a (relatively) enormous 3 pole LaserCo… er… tunnel type thing with a mesh Big Ages-esque inner, all for under 1.4kg (depending on what GoLite count)

    Looks like a contender…

  18. re. the Seedhouse,
    just spent a week on Knoydart,3 of us pitched up at 650m on a pleasant evening. Nice enough until about 9pm when the weather changed and the wind got ”angry”, tied myself to the Seedhouse via the gear loft points, for a bit of extra stability, and had to prop the back hub up with my big toe, after a gust flattened it. Not much sleep, but the tent stood fairly well till a gust broadsided it. Despite the flatening it stood back up and only suffered a slightly bent pole section which isn’t noticeable when pitched, due to the curve of the poles anyway.
    Also up there was a Laser Comp,which kept pulling a peg out and losing it’s cover off the pole, and a Vango 100 which also got flattened but stood back up.

    I did get a sprinkling of rain pushed through the fly sheet, but not enough to dampen the down bag, but so too did the Vango which has a higher static head.

    Still like the look of the Copper Spur for the vestibule area, but it’s pricey compared to the MSR Hubba.

    Did you do a test on the Marmot you mentioned at the begining?

  19. I’ve seen just that happen to a Seedhouse as well!
    Phil and I were in the Mamores and a gust flattened the Seedhouse and Lasercomp, and both stood back up with minor damage, the Seedhouse having a kinked pole (you can get new poles from ISO in Edinburgh).
    I suppose it’s kinda reassuring that the tents do bend and don’t tear themselves to pieces.

    Couldn’t get the Marmot tent, there were no samples left. I should maybe give them a shout and see if there’s anything doing now?

    I was in the ‘comp on Saturday night and it felt huge compared to what I’ve using recently!

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