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Big Agnes Scout UL 2 Tent Review

The Big Agnes Scout UL 2 is an ultralight cross between a classic pub tent and an A-frame tarp
The Big Agnes Scout UL 2 is an ultralight cross between a classic pup tent and an A-frame tarp

The Big Agnes Scout UL 2 person tent is a single wall, ultralight-style tent with ample room for two people. Weighing 1 pound 9 ounces (without tent stakes) it includes an inner tent with high bathtub floors, mesh ventilation, and a roof fly, rivaling many of the features and function of ultralight shelters that are only offered by much smaller companies. Like other tarp-style shelters, the Scout UL 2 makes certain trade-offs to achieve such a remarkably low carry weight, but on the whole, the Scout UL 2 provides backpackers with a very livable shelter.

Pitching the Scout UL 2

The Big Agnes Scout UL 2 is a single walled tent where the top fly (beige) is sewn to the bottom inner tent (orange), so they are pitched at the same time. The advantage of this kind of design is that you can pitch the tent in the pouring rain and not get the inner tent soaking wet while you fumble to cover it with a separate fly.

Stake out the four corners of the Scout UL 2
Stake out the four corners of the Scout UL 2

Lacking any sort of frame, the Scout is pitched using two trekking poles which are positioned at the ends of the roof, as shown below. Using trekking poles in this fashion is a classic ultralight backpacking weight-saving trick, but it requires that you or a partner carry a set of adjustable hiking poles. The tips of the hiking poles insert into two reinforced cones at the ends of the ceiling while the handles rest on reinforced patches on the floor.

Insert two extended trekking poles before staking out the beige rain fly
Insert two extended trekking poles before staking out the beige rain fly

The trekking poles can be positioned in a number of different ways:

  • With both poles inside the tent, as shown above
  • The rear pole, at an angle along the back wall, either inside or outside the inner tent, for more foot room
  • The front pole on the outside the front door

You can also tie the ends of the roof to two trees if you happen across them like you would a plain tarp, although you can’t count on finding the perfect pair of trees and flat ground on every trip.

Once you’ve inserted the poles, assuming they’re inside the tent, stake down the front and rear guidelines and tighten the cord tensioners until the ridgeline between the two top points of the beige tarp is taught. Next walk around the tent and stake out the beige fly, starting first with the corners, then the middle tie-outs, as shown in the top photo above.

A wrap-around mesh window or transom allows air to flow across the inside of the Scout UL 2
A wrap-around mesh window or transom allows air to flow across the inside of the Scout UL 2

Ventilation

One of the advantages of sleeping under an A-frame style tarp is that it has excellent ventilation which helps prevent internal condensation from wetting the surface of your sleeping bag. But many people find this degree of exposure to the elements and lack of privacy under a tarp unnerving.

The design of the Scout UL 2 helps mitigates these issues by providing an inner tent with a deep bathtub floor and a wrap-around mesh window ,or “transom”, if you would, situated between the ceiling and sides, that allows air to flow through the tent. The wrap-around mesh window provides surprisingly good cross-ventilation if there is a gentle breeze out and helps carry internal water vapor out the other side of the tent, without providing so much airflow that it cools you at night.

While the warp-around mesh helps reduce the amount of water vapor that clings to the walls and ceiling of the tent, you can’t expect any single walled tent to remain completely free of internal condensation in all conditions.  All double-walled tents also have the same condensation issues, only they keep it at arm’s length by trapping it on the inside of the outer fly. When you combine the inner and outer fly in a single wall tent, you trade reduced weight for the occasional inconvenience of internal condensation and the need to carry a bandana or absorbent cloth to wipe it away before it drips on you.

You can also regulate the amount of air that flows through  the tent by angling the eaves of the beige fly up or down, to let more air in flow through the mesh or block it. It’s a rather clever but subtle system, particularly useful to prevent wind-blown sand from entering the tent in more arid climates.

Rear Vent, Top
Rear Vent, Top

There’s also a large top vent at the rear of the tent, that can be secured open using a stiff piece of fabric held in place with a velcro tab. This vent is designed to expel warm water vapor that collects along the top seam or ridgeline of the ceiling, including the moisture that you exhale when you sleep at night.

The front door of the Scout UL 2 is solid fabric without any venting
The front door of the Scout UL 2 is solid fabric without any venting

Surprisingly, the front door of the Scout UL 2 is solid and does not have any noseeum mesh, either as a backing for the door or a separate window. While the lack of mesh in the front door can be seen as a weakness in buggie and humid climates like New England where I tested the Scout UL 2, I can also see the absence of this feature as a desirable characteristic if the tent were used in a more arid climate where wind-blown sand and dust are problems. If you decide that you can’t live without a screened front door, I suggest you take a look at the slighter heavier but less spacious Big Agnes Scout Plus UL 2, which has a front mesh window and a covered front vestibule for storing gear at night.

Internal Space

The inside of the Big Agnes Scout UL 2 is very spacious for two with interior dimensions of 90 x 54 inches, making it possible to empty two backpacks and store most of your gear inside the tent with you. The length of the Scout UL 2 also makes this tent a good option for very tall backpackers who have difficultly finding tents that are long enough to fit them.

The headroom in the Scout is also excellent (peak height is 43 inches), despite the slanted walls. This is where the vertical side walls provide such a noticeable benefit, while helping to eliminate the transfer of internal condensation from the roof of the tent to the top of your sleeping bag, a common problem in tents with angled walls that start closer to the ground. And while  having the poles located between two intimate occupants can be distracting, there are other ways to pitch the tent, as described above, which move the poles to the exterior of the tent.

Plenty of room for two people. Vertical side walls provide more space.
Plenty of room for two people. Vertical side walls provide more space.

At 1 pound 9 ounces (without stakes), the Scout UL 2 is also a very viable option for a single hiker, camping alone, It’s very easy to pitch single-handedly and provides enough room to share with a dog or spend a day inside, to sit out stormy weather.

Recommendation

Weighing just 25 ounces, the Big Agnes Scout UL 2 is one of the few two-person tents available today that weighs substantially less than 2 pounds . While that fact alone will garner the tent attention, it’s really a cleverly designed shelter that is easy to pitch in a number of different configurations, has surprisingly good ventilation for a single walled shelter (even in muggy New England), and provides excellent livability for two people and their gear. If you’re looking at other ultralight tents or have considered switching to a tarp and inner nest combination, I’d recommend adding the Big Agnes Scout UL 2 to your short list. While it’s not quite as versatile as separate components, the Scout UL 2 will be an easier transition for you to make if you are currently sleeping in a double-walled tent but want a shelter that is much lighter, packs up small, and can be pitched in the rain without getting the inside soaked.

Likes

  • Trekking pole pitch saves weight
  • Very compact storage saves space in backpack
  • Wrap-around mesh transom provides a good compromise between cross-ventilation and privacy
  • Vertical walls and length make this a tent a great option for tall campers
  • Pacer pole compatible

Dislikes

  • No mesh ventilation in front door
  • Replace bundled stakes immediately; they’re not long enough.
  • Requires 12 tent stakes to pitch – that’s a lot
  • Front door zippers gets caught frequently
  • No ridgeline hang loops for suspending lights or drying clothing
  • Tested weight is 1 pounds 11 ounces, 2 ounces of manufacturer spec

Specs

  • Seasons: 3 season
  • Capacity: 2 person
  • Packed size: 6 x 12.5 inches
  • Floor dimensions: 90 x 54 inches
  • Weight (without stakes): 1 pound 9 ounces, not including stakes
  • Construction: single walled, trekking pole pitch
  • Peak height: 43 inches
  • Floor area: 34 square feet
  • Number of doors: 1
  • Number of stakes: 12
  • Tent/fly body: Silicone coated nylon with waterproof  1200 mm polyester coating
  • Vents: Polyester mesh

Disclosure: Big Agnes provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample Scout UL 2 tent for this review.

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26 comments

  1. Nice review – I always thought the Scout was a bit of an underdog and unfairly faced the wrath of fans of the cottage SW tent makers. I think its a nice way to get into a very spacious lightweight single wall shelter. I looked at the Scout when it first came out but passed on it due to the solid door, lack of a vestibule, and rear pole placement. I did grab a Scout Plus last Spring and it took care of all my concerns. It has a decent vestibule for gear stowage, a mesh door for good ventilation, and the rear pole sets up against the rear wall on the inside or outside of the tent, so the floorspace is clear. As you say, its got a slightly smaller interior than the original Scout, but with no rear pole in the way and a vestibule, its still very spacious. I’m 6’2″ and fit in the Plus due to the vertical end walls, so I don’t miss the extra 4″ of length. Unlike the Scout, the ridgeline of the Plus gets lower towards the foot end, so there is less headroom along the length of the tent, but it still works for me. I’d also suspect the Plus may do better in the wind with the more aerodynamic profile. The Plus is 5 ounces heavier that the Scout, but personally, I think its a reasonable tradeoff for better livability for my needs.

    • Yeah, people get pretty wound up about the cottage manufacturers even though their products have to make a lot of design trade offs too. The Scout is not a bad shelter, but having a screen in the front door would make it so much better. As it stands, you’d need some kind of face protection if you needed to vent the front door in hot weather to keep the bugs off you. I’ve always had this niggling feeling that many commercial tents are designed by people who live in Colorado and don’t take the needs of the east coast into consideration. Like you, I prefer a screen in the door and a front vestibule which is why I mention the Plus, but it is a much more complicated shelter and less of a stepping stone for someone using a double walled tent today and looking to move to the simplicity of a tarp setup.

  2. I always liked the “pup” tents. One of the things that really shines is the simple entry and exit provided by this tent. You do not have to flip around as you crawl in! You simply crawl in, then get under your quilt. Much easier with two people and midnight runs.

  3. The essential design issue with an umbrella is that you can’t stand in the dryest place (the center) because that’s where the pole goes. There are asymmetrical designs out there, all imperfect because the circle remains best for resisting wind from shifting directions. I won’t consider this (tarp)tent because you have to set up a pole in the middle of the door, or pick an less ideal piece of ground, for tree-rigging. So while the floor length is good, tall hikers will still have problems getting in and out. Especially in the middle of the night, perhaps a bit stiff or sore or cramp-prone from a day of hiking.

    People will be looking at this review because they are not quite sure about tarps. A flat tarp allows for easier accommodation of that center pole, out a ways from the entrance, pitched as high as you like, adjusted for conditions and company. I recommend people bit the bullet and try that first. Depending on the setting, get some cheap bug netting and have some fun rigging that too. If you still end up not liking it, these items will still come in handy for other applications down the road. But you might LOVE it, right?

    • Mordecai, the pup tents are not too bad in the overall usability department. The hiking staff actually helps a bit getting out, it’s a nice hand hold. The ridge line is clear except the 3/4-1″ areound each pole. With a little “adjustment”, you can shift the staff diagonally and raise it a bit (like 45-50″.) This will give you a larger opening to get out, but I am 180lb and only 5’9″ tall. ‘Never had a problem getting in or out. The big downfall comes with the straighter sides. In heavier 30-40mph winds, it can billow inward and on top of your sleeping bag (if you are on that side.) But, I have ridden through some vicious storms in a pup tent (A tornadic storm dropped several trees in our area one time with over 70mph winds.) Of course, tarps have the same problem and many recommend the “storm” mode pitch.

      Tara, if the fabric is holding water, chances are it will leak at some point (unless it is PU coated.) Many tent manufacturors just rely on the water proofing of the material. Often this is good enough for the first year or two. If you ever notice it is leaking, a simple 10/1 or 20/1 ratio mix of mineral spirits/clear 100% silcone calk will allow you to recoat the fabric. This usually encapsulates ALL the fibers and you can shake it out there after. It usually adds between an ounce to two ounces on a full tent recoat.

      • I can see that, Marco, especially the asset of a hand-hold. You could set up the tarp that way too of course. I’m 6’2″ 200 with a sometimes-achy back. Whenever possible, I just want to roll onto my knees and stand up, no crawling. Gets me to the tree instead of holding it. In fair weather, I can give myself tons of room, which is a real luxury. This scout is fairly well fixed in its clearances, so you have to crawl regardless of the weather. The ease of pitching the scout should count towards usability as well, though. Definitely faster than a tarp with removable netting and separate ground sheet. Add it all up, and its prolly half the time.

        I just think the overall adaptability of an a-la-carte tarp/net/floor setup would serve people better. You can use the tarp as cooking shelter as well, for a much more pleasurable cooking experience than stooped in a vestibule. You can skip the floor if you find an ideal bed of pine needles. Its just nice.

        To me it seems like the scout is the lightest version of shelter for people that are not yet willing to go straight-up tarp. I just want to encourage them to jump all the way in! If its too exposed-feeling, they can still make use of the tarp for lots of other things, especially with group camping. If we are saying $300 for shelter, you can definitely save weight too.

  4. I was wondering when you’d get around to reviewing the Scout… I have to say I agree with John though. I passed on the Scout and went straight to the Scout Plus for pretty much the same reasons (minus the height – I’m 5’3″). I previously hiked with either a 4.5lb solo tent or a 6lb 2-man tent, both double walled. So, needless to say this tent is heaven for me! I’ve pitched it taught on lawn(easy), woods, sand+rock and rocky beach(hardest). It just required a bit of fiddling. One thing I have noticed though is that the material doesn’t seem to shed water too well. That is, I haven’t necessarily gotten wet, but I’ve found that the fly retains moisture despite my best attempts at shaking/wiping it off. It’s a bit annoying when you have an early morning after a wet night! Any suggestions?

  5. Very nice review, as always. As you and others have stated, the lack of door ventilation and, in my case, lack of a vestibule on the Scout led me to pick up the Scout Plus. So far, I love it, with reservations (is any love really unconditional?) I agree that 12 stakes (13 for the Plus) are a bit excessive, but I’m willing to make the tradeoff for the weight and performance. One other thing to mention regarding the setup is that you can pitch using found (already dead and downed, of course) sticks in lieu of trekking poles. Like suspending from trees, there are no guarantees, but I like having that potential if I want to set up camp and head back out for more hiking. I typically like to hike with a single pole, so I’ll sometimes substitute a stick for one pole after setting up camp. As you also discussed in the review, I prefer to setup with both poles outside the tent, and the front pole at a diagonal for easier access.

    Lastly, I agree that maybe those spoiled to the lovely arid climate of the West sometimes forget about the oppressive humidity of the east (and here in TN, that humidity is often accompanied by equally oppressive heat.) I would assume BA could add a mesh panel to the door of future revised models with only a few ounces of weight?

    • That woukld be nice – a half window like on the Scout Plus with a zipper on the back to zip it up in storm mode. I can’t decide whether BA lef that out of this model to force you to buy the slightly more expensive Scout Plus or not. Regardless, you have to give BA chops for pushing the envelope on creating ligtweight tents that rival those produced by the cottage manufacturers. Competition forces innovation and is good for everyone, especially consumers.

      • I think BA’s goal was simple – keep the weight as low as possible. BA knew they were going to be under the microscope when daring to enter a market sector where, right or wrong, weight seems to be the first and last consideration for many customers. They simply had to keep it as light as possible to be seen as a viable player.

        Many of the original Scout reviews complained the same things over and over again – the lack of a screen on the door, the lack of a vestibule, and intrusive pole placement. They addressed these with the Scout Plus, but they made other changes to keep the weight down – overall length dropped 4″, footprint went from a rectangle to trapezoid (narrower at foot end), and vertical height dropped from front to back. To me it was worth these changes and an additional 5 ounces for a far more usable tent. I give BA credit for a pretty strong entry (Scout) and for addressing their critics the very next season (Scout Plus, Super Scout) while keeping the Scout available. Its nice to get a light tent off the shelf and ready to go with no need to seal seams etc.

  6. A classic pub tent? With Guinness on tap @ under 2 lbs.? This thing is gonna fly off the shelves. See subhead ;)

  7. I haven’t used the original Scout in the field, but I have pitched one. Lots of things to like about this tent, tons of room for the weight and that old fashioned pup tent look. The down sides for me were the lack of any view from the tent and it seemed like the guy lines require a lot of space.

  8. good review. don’t expect anything less from you though. :) i have had mine for almost two years and like it a lot. went with it because i wanted more than just a tarp….needed/wanted protection from insects and other critters. my wife and i share the tent and i also use it for solo hikes. like the others, i do wish they had a mesh option on the front door. i do not think big agnes left that out on purpose….the scout came out a year before the other two models. hard to say for sure though. i thought about getting the scout plus but really liked that extra room though the comment from john may make me revisit that.

  9. Thanks for the review. I’m a tent user and use my shelter to keep my dog (hiking partner in crime) calm during the night. I have been eyeing this tent for a while and didn’t want to commit to an expensive new tent. But your review has moved me one step closer to making the purchase.

  10. Mmmmm, there is a Military Surplus Tent, from the French Army? with the very same or similar design features that has been on the market for a couple of years now in Olive Drab or Tan with a much longer Rain fly, made of a Nylon/Canvas material and comes with it’s own Poles and weight not listed for $49.95 if my memory serves me well. Just checked, and yes, but no, only tan available and they are completely sold out of the item and it comes with a zippered Screen front door too and has the screened section along both lower walls, bathtub floor..etc. etc. So with a change in material and add your own poles and get rid of the Screened entry way you probably have the same tent……

  11. Hmm, almost identical to my very first tent as a kid. Makes me want to dig it out of the basement and set it up.

  12. I have one and like it a lot. I’ve gone to a tarp and bivy for solo trips, but kept the tent for trips with my wife. I’m 6’1″ and this tent feels huge. And very lightweight for a two-person shelter (since I have to carry it). I was worried about the pole blocking entering/exiting. Not an actual issue. I just move the front treking pote to one side to get in and out of the tent (the roof sags a bit, but no big deal), and then just slide it back into place. I agree on the solid door though. It would have been well worth an ounce or two to have a screen option. Usually I just leave the door open unless the mosquitoes are swarming or its actively raining in.

  13. A year and a month later than the replies above, I just used my brand new Scout in rainy condition in the So Cal mountains. I hated it! The condensation was out of control, but we could have lived with that, except every rain drop on the outside caused a drop of condensation to fall on our faces or bags on the inside, much as if someone was walking around the outside “flicking” the fabric. We were soaked by dawn. I’m taking it back to REI and I will try the larger one with the vent in the door…

    • Not sure about the explanation but In had the exact same problem in England : heavy storm outside means very light rain inside the tent. Not enough to get you wet in half an hour but enough to be soaking wet after 3 or 4 hours of rain. To be honest, we you realize your only shelter is not that much of a shelter in the middle of nowhere, it is quite annoying.

      I had the impression that the tent could not resist heavy pressure of water (bad storm + strong wind) and that some small fraction of the water of each drop was going straight through the tente, but maybe the explanation of patrick with the condensation problem is the right one. Anyway, this tente is NOT fully weatherproof, unless you plan to use it only by nice and calm night, don’t buy it.

      • If it’s really that light – the rain – it sounds like you have an internal condensation problem. That’s caused by a temperature differential on the fly sheet. Best way to mitigate this is to keep the door open (ventilation, dumping body heat) or you could join the EU, where they’ve licked internal condensation using weather control technology freely shared amongst the member states.

  14. What height are the trekking poles set to? 43- 45″ ? I may want to buy some tent poles in lieu of using trekking poles.

  15. I prefer the UL Scout 2 plus – it has better venting, screen in the door, larger vestibule and designed to allow the trekking poles (or tent poles) to be installed outside the tent (you can do inside too). It tapers from front (45″) to rear (33″) so the rear pole is set lower – still very light (1 lb 6 oz trail wgt with titanium stakes, guylines), and very roomy.

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