Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 Tent Review

by wheretheroadforks

I bought the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 Tent about 3 years ago in preparation for my first bicycle tour. Since then, I’ve probably spent over 100 nights in it. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the tent. The main thing that drew me to this particular tent is the weight. At 2 pound 1 ounce, it’s probably lightest backpacking tent available in this price range. Because of the light weight and affordability, this tent is incredibly popular among bicycle tourists, through hikers, and travelers. Unfortunately, the light weight does come at a cost. Here are my thoughts after using the Big Agnes HV UL 1 for the past 3 years.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL in Washington State

Wild camping with my Big Agnes HV UL in Washington State

Pros

  • Lightweight- Just 33 ounces
  • Fast and easy to pitch
  • Packs down small
  • Waterproof
  • Roomy- great for tall campers
  • High ceiling for siting up
  • Well made

Cons

  • Thin floor, requires tarp or floor saver
  • The tall profile can catch wind
  • Only semi free-standing
  • Difficult to get in an out of if you’re tall
  • Small Vestibule 

Quality

The fabric that the tent is made of is very thin and lightweight. It is well put together and the materials are of good quality. You will need to use a floor saver or tarp under the tent because the material is so thin. I use a piece of Tyvek. 

The zippers are small and feel fragile. They work smoothly but you need to be careful that you don’t zip the tent material into the zipper. This is one area that I’m a bit worried about but I haven’t had any problems so far. I may apply a bit of wax to help the zippers last longer.

The pole feels solid. An aluminum brace is included so if you do break the pole, you can still pitch the tent.

So far, everything has held up perfectly even though it feels a bit fragile. It is an ultralight tent. Lightweight materials had to be used to achieve that weight. Even though the materials feel fragile, I believe they will be pretty durable. I expect this tent to last a long time.

Camping by the railroad tracks

Camping by the railroad tracks

Design

The HV in the name of the tent stands for high volume. The tent was designed with near vertical walls and door so you can comfortably sit up and move around while inside of the tent. This design is great for taller people like me. I am able to comfortably sit upright in the tent which is not common for one person tents. I never feel claustrophobic in this tent even though it’s very small.

The tent is also pretty long. I’m 6’1″ (around 185 cm) and have plenty of room by my feet. I’d guess that this tent could accommodate someone up to around 6’6″ comfortably.

Size and Weight

As I said earlier, the best feature of this tent is the fact that it is incredibly lightweight. On past trips, I have lugged around a bulky 5-pound tent. This tent weighs less than half that at just 33 ounces. It feels like nothing in my pack. It’s even lighter than my sleeping bag. To go any lighter, you’d have to either spend a couple of hundred dollars more or move toward bivy or tarp camping. Even then, the weight savings would be minuscule.

The tent packs down small as well. When rolled up, it measures about 4 inches by 19 inches (about 10 cm by 48 cm). This is small enough that I can store the tent inside of my backpack while hiking and camping. I usually separate the poles and stakes from the tent so I can utilize space more efficiently. When I’m carrying a lot of food, I strap the tent to the outside of my pack. 

The Big Agnes HV UL 1 Strapped to the outside of my hiking backpack

The Big Agnes HV UL 1 Strapped to the outside of my hiking backpack

Waterproof

Living in Washington State, I encounter a lot of rain. So far, this tent has been completely watertight. I haven’t sealed the seems or done anything to waterproof. It has kept me dry. No complaints here. If you buy the Big Agnes Footprint for Fly Creek, you can pitch the rainfly first so your tent stays completely dry.

One benefit of the near vertical door is the fact that rain can’t fall on the floor when the door is open. This helps to keep the inside of the tent dry. Traditional tents with a slanted door allow rain to get in while the door is open. 

Another common problem with tents is condensation. This tent is pretty breathable.  So far, I haven’t experienced any problems with condensation. 

Wind

This is one area where the HV UL1 doesn’t perform all that well. The tall vertical walls act like a sail in the wind. On one particularly windy night while camping on the Washington Coast, I was worried that the rainfly would tear because it was flapping around so much. 

Pitch

Pitching this tent takes only about 2 minutes. There is one aluminum pole that quickly folds and easily snaps into place. You don’t have to feed the pole through fabric loops like older style tents. You just snap a few clips into place and the tent is up. The rain fly attaches with 3 buckles.

8 stakes are included to secure everything in place. They are nice lightweight aluminum stakes. I only use 6 to pitch the tent. You could probably leave a couple at home to reduce weight if you wanted.

One drawback to the pitch is the fact that this tent is not completely free standing. I like to have the ability to camp on solid ground or concrete so this is a bit of a disappointment. Having said that, it is completely usable without staking. If you don’t stake the tent, the sides by your feet will touch you and the inside is a lot less roomy. I slept a couple of nights without using stakes and it worked fine. On a windy night, you’ll need to use stakes thought.

Access

This is my biggest complaint with the tent. The door is at the end where your head goes so it is a challenge to get into and out. Especially if you are on the tall side like me (I’m 6’1’’). I usually sit down on my sleeping mat with my legs hanging out of the door then twist around to get into sleeping position. I would much prefer the door to be at the side.

The Vestibule

Unfortunately, the vestibule on this tent is pretty small. While it can accommodate my backpack, there isn’t any room left to work with. The small vestibule adds to the challenge of crawling in and out of the tent. I have to either move all of my gear out or crawl over it and shimmy my way around once inside. I also had trouble with the stakes pulling out while opening and closing the vestibule zipper.

Tent strapped to my touring bike

On the ferry. The tent is in the orange bag

Color

This is a problem that has been solved. I bought last year’s model of this tent which looks exactly the same except for the color. Mine is a kind of grey with orange accents. The tent looks beautiful but I don’t like the color. As a bicycle tourist, I wild camp often. This tent is too flashy and can be easily spotted from a distance.

This year’s model is a dull green color, ideal for wild camping. It will easily blend in with the surroundings. I wish I had this year’s model. If you don’t wild camp, the color is irrelevant.

Price

I bought this tent on a closeout sale at REI for about half of MSRP. That is the reason I got last year’s model. After shopping around a bit, I happened upon this tent and it was just too good of a deal to pass up. For what I paid, I am extremely happy with the tent. I do believe it is worth paying full price if you have to. Again, it’s the lightest tent in its price range.

Who is the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 Tent for?

Whether you’re a bicycle tourist, hiker, or traveler, this tent is a great choice if you want to lighten your load. For a complete 3 season shelter, it’s incredibly lightweight at just over 2 pounds. When you buy this tent, you are making a few compromises in terms of functionality and durability. 

Final Thoughts on the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 Tent

This is a great tent if weight is a factor for you. It is the lightest tent I could find in this price range. For a one-man tent, it is roomy and easy to set up. If weight isn’t a factor, I would look for a tent that is completely free-standing. I would also like to have the door on the side. Overall, I would recommend the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 tent. 

Do you own the Big Agnes HV UL 1 tent? Share your thoughts about it in the comments below!

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