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 wall 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.
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.
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.
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 wrap-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 wall 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.
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.
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 buggy 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 was 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.
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 sidewalls 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.
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.
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 wall 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.
- 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
- 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 pound 11 ounces, 2 ounces of manufacturer spec
- 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 wall, 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 tent for this review
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