The Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1 Tent is a double-walled tent with a very large front vestibule that is useful for gear storage or for your dog to sleep in if you backpack with a canine friend. Weighing just 2 pounds 5.5 ounces, this tent is amazingly lightweight and well-ventilated for a double-walled shelter, but can be tricky to pitch in bad weather or poor soil conditions.
Trekking Pole Tent
The Bitter Springs UL1 Tent is a trekking pole tent that requires two trekking poles to pitch, in addition to a lightweight aluminum pole which is required to hold up the inner tent. Here’s a breakdown of the components required to pitch the tent.
- Inner tent (11.8 ounces)
- Rain Fly (14 ounces)
- 3 stuff sacks (1 ounce)
- 15 x 6″ tent stakes (6.0 ounces)
- 1 DAC Featherlite Green aluminum pole (3.5 ounces)
- 2 trekking poles (user supplied)
The Bitter Springs UL1 Tent comes with a mesh-walled inner tent that provides excellent interior ventilation. The front of the inner tent is hung from a collapsible aluminum hoop pole which provides near vertical walls for improved livability, while the rear is held up using a collapsed trekking pole.
With a bivy shape, the front of the inner tent is tall enough that you can sit up comfortably inside it, while the rear slopes toward your feet necessitating that you sleep with your head at the vestibule end of the tent.
Weighing just 11.8 ounces, the inner tent is so nice and light that I could see using it as a standalone bug-bivy by itself in a trail shelter or under other tarp shelters. Unfortunately, it’s not sold separately.
Pitching the Bitter Springs UL1 rain fly is more complicated than the inner tent since it has so many stake out points and it’s so long and irregularly shaped. Getting a drum-tight pitch can be elusive since the shape of the fly changes along its length with an A-frame shape in the rear, a hoop shape in the middle, and the front vestibule where the A-frame shape resumes. While this results in wrinkles, they’re harmless provided you stake out all of the guy out points and secure the fly to the ground.
When pitching the rain fly, it’s best to start at the middle of the tent, where the fly attaches to the two jakes feet connectors used to hold the inner tent hoop pole in place, attaching with plastic clips. This is the only point where the inner tent and rain fly share guy outs: all of the other guy out points on the tent must be staked separately. This requires all 15 of the 6″ stakes included with the tent, quite a large number when compared to most other 1 person tents.
Next, stake out the rear of the rain fly, draping it over the rear trekking pole, before moving to the front of the tent to pitch the vestibule. This requires that you use your second trekking pole to hold up the front of the vestibule. Big Agnes doesn’t publish a recommended length so I just extend the pole to the top of the inner tent hoop and that works pretty well. In stormy weather, you’ll want to shorten the pole to eliminate the gap between the ground and the edge of the rain fly to prevent wind or rain from blowing under the vestibule walls.
The vestibule is five sided with an angular aerodynamic front and a side zippered door which can be rolled up out-of-the-way if not needed. The vestibule itself is not optional however, and must always be deployed with this tent.
When pitching the vestibule, it’s best to set it up with the door zippered shut to get the dimensions of the door opening correct so you can close it later. Otherwise, it will be too wide and you’ll need to get out of the tent and restake it. While you can open or close the door from inside the tent, the two zippers on either side of the door tend to snag on the lightweight fly fabric, so care must be taken when using them lest you rip the fly.
While the front vestibule provides a good place to cook when it’s chucking down rain (provided you have adequate ventilation…carbon monoxide kills) or a place for your dog to sleep provided you bring him some ground insulation to lie on, it’s a little cumbersome when you need to exit the tent at night. Still, you really do need some kind of vestibule with this tent because they’re no extra space to put your gear in the inner tent. On the flip side, there is a lot of space in the vestibule which is nice because you can spread out all of your gear or enjoy a bit of privacy without being cramped.
- Very lightweight
- Inner tent can be used independently
- Large vestibule space
- Excellent ventilation
- Hard to get a drum-tight pitch
- Cumbersome to get in and out
- Many of the guy outs do not have tensioners
The Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1 Tent is a 3 season tent is an astonishingly lightweight double-walled tent that provides excellent ventilation and livability but can be a bit awkward to pitch. Featuring a huge front vestibule, it provides an ideal place for your dog to sleep if you backpack with a canine companion or a covered place to spread out your gear when you want a little privacy. However, the Bitter Springs UL1 can be quite drafty in very windy or stormy weather and is best used in mild weather and protected campsites.
Disclosure: Big Agnes loaned Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) a Bitter Springs UL1 Tent for this review.
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