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Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1 Tent Review

The Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1 Tent
The Big Agnes Bitter Springs UL1 Tent

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)

Inner Tent

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.

The inner tent is pitched with a collapsible aluminum tent pole and a rear trekking pole
The inner tent is pitched with a collapsible aluminum tent pole and a rear 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.

A collapsed trekking pole is required to hold up the rear of the inner tent and rain fly.
A collapsed trekking pole is required to hold up the rear of the inner tent and rain fly.

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.

Rain Fly

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.

The rain fly so long and irregularly shaped that it can be difficult to get a drum tight pitch on the Bitter Springs UL1
The rain fly so long and irregularly shaped that it can be difficult to get a drum-tight pitch on the Bitter Springs UL1

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.

Start by draping the rain fly over the inner tent
Start by draping the rain fly over the inner tent

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 front vestibule has a zippered side dootr that rolls up and out of the way when not needed
The front vestibule has a zippered side door that rolls up and out-of-the-way when not needed

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.

In windy or stormy weather, I recommend staking out the extra guyouts on the fly and rigging the fly bottom lower down to limit air flow through the tent
In windy or stormy weather, I recommend staking out the extra guy-outs on the fly and rigging the fly bottom lower down to limit air flow through the Bitter Springs UL1 Tent. This requires that you bring extra stakes.

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 ( a Bitter Springs UL1 Tent for this review.

Updated 2018.

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  1. The Color is just to horrible for my eyes.. It also looks alot like my Snugpak Bivy which opens at the side instead of the front I bought 5 years ago with an added Vestibule which is a very nice item..But due to the horrid color and the price, no thank you…

    • I had that same reaction initially but the color grew on me, especially in autumn where it blended in quite well.

      • I switched to bright ‘sun’ colors like this one for my tents starting in the 70s because when stuck inside for hours in a storm darker colors felt more confining, and some colors (like green) just made me feel nauseated.

  2. You said difficult to get into. I was looking at the Tarptent protrail, and it seems like it would be similar. That one is supposedly 26oz. This one will be a little more, but with the huge vestibule. Cost is also more, which is always a consideration. Are you familiar with the tarptent protrail and how would you compare them?

    I also noticed online that BA is the favorite amount AT hikers. See here:
    That’s made me take another look at their tents. I try to hammock camp when I can, but have some trips each year to the desert with my son’s scout troop and hammock trees are hard to come by.


    • I think those numbers are a joke. They surveyed 80 former thru-hikers. Come on, what’s that really tell you? 2000 people finish each year. This is just bad survey science.

      Big agnes is popular with thru-hikers, but they also make a lot of tents (the fly creek and the copper spur are probably the most popular). I would caution against this tent because it has such a long footprint. You’ve never fit it on the little tent pads they have down south.

      As an AT section hiker, hammocks really are the best option on the AT. It took me a long time to admit it, but I’ve switched to a hammock (again). If I ever need to go to ground, I’d just sleep under my tarp.

      • Interesting (but not surprising) to hear you switched back to a hammock for the AT. The fact that the east coast has so many trees to chose from and very few long sections above tree line make hammocks super attractive. Not to mention that they are so comfortable and efficient once you get the system dialed in.

        As for Big Agnes, they usually make good tents. I’ve had a jack rabbit sl3 that I got for 120 bucks almost 5 years ago and that thing is pretty bomb proof. Thanks for the review.

      • Sorry, but you can’t reject those results based on sample size. That is quite an acceptable sample size – it was 104 respondents by the way. Population numbers don’t factor into sample size choice. With the numbers given, you could easily obtain a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval of 90% for hypotheses – even if the data has a very high variance level. It’s quite sound “survey science”.

        To give you a comparison, a political poll conducted on the democratic primary polled 1050 people out of a 40+ million population of registered democratic voters and these polls are very accurate. Population size doesn’t factor and statistics does work.

        P.s. The author is also a graduate student in clinical psychology. In other words, she’d have plenty of experience in formulating surveys and conducting statistical tests. The data is in good hands.

        • Good for her. Statistics was one of the few things I could apply in my professional life after 5 years as a graduate student in psychology and computer science.

          Now about that survey. The problem with that study wasn’t the 80 response sample from 104 respondents but how the population was polled. Were the people who were sent the survey randomly selected from the total population you had access to? The reason that a primary poll generates reliable data is that the respondents who are contacted are selected randomly from a homogenous population. If however, you sent a survey to all the people on your list and only 104 responded and you took an 80 person sample from that set, that doesn’t make the study valid.

          If I were to conduct such a survey, I’d take the list of thru-hikers who ALL finished in the same year, randomly select some number of them, contact them and collect their responses and then analyze that data set, which is what polling agencies do.

  3. When I’ve had the dog along (a big, goofy black Lab), I’ve learned to keep her in the zipped up tent all night, mainly because of early morning visits by deer. I imagine her barking at a moose, and then wiggling under the fly on this tent,or ripping it. And an moose aiming at retaliation can be very tough on a tent.

  4. i would love to put that inner tent under my GG Spin Twin.

  5. Phillip, BA says this tent is freestanding. Is that true?

  6. What a great, honest review……this tent obviously doesn’t tick the boxes for you but you still gave it a balanced review. Well done for your honesty!!!

  7. Thanks for the review; I am tent-shopping for this Spring and found this helpful.

  8. If price was a sticking point for anyone this tent can now be had for just under $175.00 from backcountry.

    I really like the large vestibule but I think I’d lose my sanity setting up and taking this thing down on multi-day hikes.

    The search continues..

  9. EPIC FAIL: I purchased a bitter springs 1 man and set it up. It is a difficult pitch for a number of reasons.

    First, the trek pole receptacles are poorly designed small loops that won’t actually grip the handle of the trekking pole. The rear place is tough enough to shove the bottom spike into, the front is not. You’d rip the fly, so as a result it is impossible to keep in place unless the fly is under tension both front to rear and sides.

    Second, the fly when set very tight barely keeps off the inner tent. As has been mentioned this is probably causes by the triangle to hoop to triangle configuration. The use of trekking poles rather than two more hoops to hold the fly out was a dumb design choice. Rendering the fly useless is not a great way to save weight.

    Third, as stated, you have to get the fly tight. But you can’t be sure of that because the stake out lines are only 6 inches long and not adjustable loops. If you can’t put your stake exactly where it needs to be due to a root or a rock, you can’t stake this tent out.

    Fourth, when the fly door is opened, vertical rainfall would go directly into the tent through the mesh door. If you want to enter the tent in the rain you would have to do so through a partially opened fly door that when partially opened would require a commando crawl to enter.

    Fifth, and related to fourth, the fly door position makes it impossible to open the door and sit dry inside the fly. This tent and fly is shown as a ‘gear shed” type tent, and it fails at that. if you can’t keep the gear and you dry when you open the door, then the shed aint worth much.

    Sixth, give me at least one vent in the fly, preferably in the shed, so I can fire up the jet boil without killing myself.

    Suggestions for Big Agnes:

    First and foremost, dump the trekking pole setup. The inner tent is great, I love the vertical foot wall and the slanted entry. If you used hoops for the fly and foot wall there would be no compound curves required of the fly and all would sit tight.

    Second, suspend the tent 6 inches below the hoops, rather than the 3 inches currently provided. The last thing I want is a wet fly with interior condensation rubbing on the mesh inner tent.

    Third, go adjustable on all guy-outs, stake-downs. The real world just does not have a handy bit of earth at every point in your design.

    Fourth, make the shed just 10 inches longer. Hey, I chose this tent for the shed. If I didn’t want a shed there would be no reason to deal any added material and set up complexity. Since the shed is the selling point, make it useful.

    Fifth, move the shed entrance to the front (you would have to use the hoop instead of the pole) and then it could be opened without exposing the interior of the shed to rainfall and could be used to vent the fly.

    Overall I really liked the idea of a single man tent with a good gear shed/ get out of the rain and cook without having to string a tarp, built into the tent design. I wish it had met that need. When I see designs that so totally fail to deliver on the obvious design goal, I wonder who’s running the show? Did this product specialist ever go camping in the prototype? Did they send a few out for comment? It is a shame because the minor changes required to turn this from a useless tent into a unique and useful tent are not large. I hope BA does not abandon the single man shed tent concept, but does improve it.

  10. I could do without the front vestibule….What a shame that is not made to be removed but is ‘forced’ into the design…..In this way it would be easier to guy-out, stake-out and keep it under 2 lbs and avoid most setup problems. I am almost tempted to buy it just because the inner tent’s weight is so low (11.8 ounces) and put my Borah Bivy 5.5 x 9 tarp (8 ounces) on top, which won’t be a great fit but good enough. That, along with some lighter stakes (MSR or Vargo Titanium) should keep it under 1.5 lbs. As is, it requires 15 stakes, 2 trekking poles and 1 pole.

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