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Big Sky International Chinook 1Plus Tent Review

Big Sky Chinook 1Plus Tent Review

Big Sky International Chinook 1Plus Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Freestanding Lightweight 4 Season Tent

The Chinook 1Plus is a strong, wind-worthy tent that can withstand harsh 4 season conditions. While quite lightweight, it's big on comfort, a must have for long and cold winter nights.

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The Big Sky Chinook 1Plus is a freestanding, four-season tent that weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. It’s a double-wall, dome-shaped tent with three exoskeleton poles that can be pitched in a variety of different configurations. For example, you can set it up with three poles for maximum strength or two poles if you want to save weight, with or without its inner tent, and with a mesh solid walled one for cold weather use or a mesh one, which will be available in summer 2019. You can also detach and pack up the inner tent on wet mornings in order to store it separately from the wet ran fly, or attach it after the rain fly has been erected, when you set it up.

The Chinook 1Plus has two side doors and a very spacious interior that’s a palace for one person, but it can also fit two good friends in a pinch. By default, there isn’t any covered vestibule storage, but you can detach one side of the inner tent from the fly to create it. Realistically, the only time you’d want to do this is in rain or snow, when you want a place to store wet or snow-covered gear, or you want to cook under the cover of a vestibule.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Freestanding,
  • Shape: Dome
  • Range: 3 and 4 season
  • Total weight w/ 3 poles: 56.1 oz (3 lbs 8.1 oz actual) (3 lbs 7 oz claimed)
  • Total weight w/ 2 poles:  50.6 oz (3 lbs 2.6 oz)
    • Poles (2): 13.6 oz
    • Optional 3rd pole: 5.5 oz
    • Rain fly: 17.6 oz
    • Inner tent (breathable solid version): 19.4
    • Optional fitted Tyvek ground sheet: 5.2 oz
  • Poles: Aluminum. CF is also available. Contact manufacturer.
  • Inner tent dimensions: 91″ long, 39″ peak height, diamond-shaped interior is 36″ x 65″ x 24″
  • Minimum number of stakes to set up: 0
  • Recommended minimum number of stakes: 6
  • Internal pockets: 2 on interior doors
  • Rain fly material: SuperSil (silnylon coated on both sides, 1500 mm)

Tent Architecture

The easiest way to set up the Chinook 1Plus is to set up the rain fly and the attached inner tent at the same time. This will keep the inner tent dry, even if it’s raining outside.  The rain fly hangs from the tent poles with clips, while the inner tent hangs from the inside of the rain fly with tiny buckles. While you can set up the fly alone and then crawl around under it to attach the inner tent, there are over a dozen tiny buckles the have to be attached during the process, which can be a bit time-consuming. The same can be said for packing up the inner tent first and then breaking down the rain fly. It’s a valuable bad weather option, but a somewhat more involved process on the Chinook 1Plus than on the Hilleberg Niak or the Tarptent Moment DW, which provide an equivalent option.

Head end: The tent has to crossing poles and an optional horizontal crossing pole that runs over the door zippers.
Head end view: The tent has to crossing poles and an optional horizontal crossing pole that runs over the door zippers.

The most important thing you have to know about the Chinook 1Plus tent is that it sets up drumhead tight, with the poles exerting considerable pressure on the rain fly, including the side door zippers. This is good because it counters the sag that normally occurs overnight or in rain with a silnylon shelter, so you don’t have to get up and tighten the guy-out points at night. However, it complicates the assembly and breakdown of the tent a bit, because it requires a fair amount of elbow grease (strength) to get all the poles into their grommets, fly hooks around the poles, and interior connectors attached. There’s also a certain amount of dexterity involved, which can be in short supply in cold weather, when wearing gloves interferes with fine motor skills.

Setup Options

The foot end is narrower than the head end giving the tent and a more wind resistant profile
The foot end is narrower than the head end. This is the end that should be pointed into the wind.

The outer tent has two crossing poles the slot into color coded grommets. The third optional pole crosses then at a near 90 degree angle and slots into grommets at the bottom of the two door zippers. Despite the color coding, it can be a little difficult to get the orientation of the poles right, because the poles themselves aren’t color coded, just the grommets. You can tell which pole is which because the two crossing poles are straight, while the third has bends in two segments. The third pole is optional but strengthens the shelter and is a good add-on in windy weather or winter, if you’re expecting significant snow loads. Without it, you’d just stake out the doors, but you’ll experience some overnight sag in the fabric since the doors won’t be under the same tension as they are when attached to the pole.

Dual ceiling vents help eliminate internal condensation
Dual ceiling vents help eliminate internal condensation

There are two roof top vents in the rain fly that act like transoms and can be propped open to promote airflow across the top of the tent. They’re angled slightly down to prevent blowing rain from entering, but can also be closed, while you’re inside the tent.

The inner tent has two mesh windows at the top of each interior door to permit air from the transom to flow through the inner tent. They have breathable fabric flaps so you can zip over the mesh to eliminate any draft. The vents in the fly and the inner tent do a great job at reducing the temperature differential that can cause internal condensation. I’ve been very surprised at how little condensation buildup occurs in the Chinook 1Plus, even at sub-optimal tent sites where I would have expected it.

The inner tent completely fills the rain fly
The inner tent completely fills the rain fly.

The inner tent has a diamond shape and completely fills the rain fly, so there is no vestibule storage space in the default configuration. If you’re using the tent for just one person, there’s plenty of space inside to store your gear. The interior is quite large and comfortable that way. If your gear is wet and it’s raining, you can create a vestibule are by detaching one side of the inner tent from the rain fly and sacrifice some of your interior space for vestibule storage. This is a standard option on this kind of tent, although you see it more on European brand tents than ones from US manufacturers.

You can create a gear storage vestibule by releasing one side of the inner tent and folding it back.
You can create a gear storage vestibule by releasing one side of the inner tent and folding it back.

You can also use the Chinook 1Plus without the inner tent to save weight, by releasing the clips and hooks that hold the inner tent in place. This can be a good weight saving option if you don’t mind sleeping on snow in winter, since the three-pole structure is so windy worthy and strong. Alternatively, you can sleep on the fitted Tyvek groundsheet that Big Sky provides with the tent, or use it with the inner tent to protect the floor from abrasion and punctures.

You can detach the inner tent and pack it away or attach it after the rain fly has been set up to keep it dry in rain.
You can detach the inner tent and pack it away or attach it after the rain fly has been set up to keep it dry in rain.

Inner Tent Options

The Chinook 1Plus’ inner tent is only available with a breathable mesh inner, usually reserved for cold weather or winter use. It’s quite effective at preventing wind, sand, and spindrift from blowing in under the catenary cut sides of the rain fly, but is uncoated so it breathes well.  The inner tent floor is a 30D nylon silicone/PU coated and seam taped fabric floor with a 3000 mm hydrostatic head, so quite waterproof, with a high bathtub floor to prevent water entry.

A 1Plus mesh netting inner is not available because the Chinook 1Plus was originally intended as more of a winter and cold weather tent than a year-round shelter. However, due to customer demand, a 1Plus mesh netting inner will be available in summer 2019 for $50 less than the breathable fabric inner version. If you’d rather not wait, you can use the mesh netting inner for the Chinook 1 tent instead, since the outer rain flies of the Chinook 1 and Chinook 1Plus are the same. The Chinook 2P is also available with a mesh inner and the breathable fabric inner, but weighs substantially more than the Chinook 1Plus.

Why would you get the Chinook 1Plus instead of the Chinook 1P? It really comes to the livability of the 1Plus’ inner tent, which is huge, but can still be configured with two vestibules like the Chinook 1P. That extra space vastly improves the livability of the tent on long winter nights or if you have to sit out crappy weather. It really is worth a few extra ounces of gear weight.

The Big Sky Chinook 1Plus is a big tent that packs up small so it won't weigh you down on your adventures.
The Big Sky Chinook 1Plus is a big tent that packs up small so it won’t weigh you down on your adventures.

Comparable 4-season Tents

Make / ModelTypeSizeDoorsMin WeightPrice
NEMO Kunai 2Dome2 Person13 lb. 15 oz.$500
Black Diamond El DoradoWedge2 Person14 lb. 8 oz.$699
NEMO Tenshi 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 14 oz.$699
Hilleberg SouloDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$694
Black Diamond First LightWedge2 person12 lbs 9 oz$370
Hilleberg UnnaDome1 Person14 lb. 7 oz.$680
The North Face Assault 2Wedge2 Person13 lb. 4 oz.$589
Rab Latok Mountain 2Wedge2 Person14 lb. 1 oz.$650
Hilleberg AllakDome2 Person26 lb. 2 oz.$990
Big Sky Chinook 2PDome2 Person24 lbs$550

Recommendation

The Big Sky International Chinook 1Plus is a great four-season tent that’s lightweight, storm-worthy, and comfortable to use. Weighing slightly over 3 lbs, it’s also a self-supporting freestanding tent that can be set up just about anywhere, on wooden tent platforms, rock, sand, and snow without having to be staked to the ground first. Plus you can set up the rain fly before you set up the inner tent guaranteeing that it stays dry when it’s raining, That kind of flexibility goes a long way when you’re camping at wilderness tent sites and  you want to pitch up quick to get out of the weather.

Disclosure: The author received a tent from Big Sky for this review.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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18 comments

  1. A wrap of colored electrical tape on the pole ends is a cheap and easy fix to identify the poles.

  2. Decent Hilleberg copy I suppose

  3. I always liked the look and specs of this tent, but I have wondered about its winter usability. Having the poles exposed I fear that one morning I am going to wake up and find them frozen in certain conditions. Poles under the fly or on external sleeves seem less open to this possibility. But maybe I’m wrong or it’s easy to deal with.

    A note regarding space. The North Face Assault 2 was tiny. I’m 5’9″. When on two mats and in winter bags, alone in the tent, I would touch the walls at both ends, even on a diagonal. Being a single skin tent, my bags got pretty wet. I tried a Soulo at home, not in the field, and I was very happy with its livability.

  4. I have always been interested in their tents and noticed they have updated their website and streamlined the choices, but they still seem a bit odd, lots of items out of stock and still telling us they won’t charge the credit card until shipment. A vestige of their rocky and humble beginnings maybe? Regardless, I don’t think I have ever heard anything negative about their tents and your review affirms that. Thanks.

    • My impression is that they are just horribly inept at this internet thing. The products rock though.

      • “they are just horribly inept at this internet thing”
        Oh Phil, that is an understatement, I say this as an owner of both their Revolution 1 person and 2 person. You never get an answer from them, BUT the tents are bomber tough and the designs are excellent. I have been eyeing this for some time and it is good to see a review. To be honest I would have been surprised if it were negative. I think they may rule the world if they just worked a better way to interact with prospective clients. I have been singing their praises in Australia for a couple of years. The Chinooks are the Revolution model toughened by the over bar.

  5. Good review and photos. I had never seen the Chinook 1 person tent before.

    I have a Tarptent Moment DW with ripstop interior for 4 season camping. I also ran the optional crossing pole BENEATH the fly after shortening it 5″ and sewing double-sided Velcro cable ties beneath the fly at theX-ing pole exterior web attachment reinforcements. Works great in wind and snow load.

    I prefer the Moment DW for its fast setup speed, aerodynamics in high winds (with guy lines, natch) AND the totally sheltered inner tent door.

    My 1st backpacking tent was a Jansport wedge tent shaped very much like the Chinook and I hated the exposed inner tent door when the fly was open in rain or snow. The Chinook needs a re-designed door fly.

    Another thing I see that the Chinook needs are fly hem stake loops on the long sides to keep them from flapping in high winds and to keep snow buildup (snow slides off the fly) from pushing in the walls. It happens and you need to get out and shovel the snow away from the walls regularly – like at “zero dark thirty”.

    • The Chinook doors don’t flap. When I said it sets up drumhead tight, I meant it. With those roof vents, the need to open the side doors are greatly diminished in cold weather. I think a potential issue is rain when you open the side door. Looks like it is very easy to get drenched. Bigger gutters to redirect the water away from over the door zips would help prevent that.

  6. I have had one of their Revolution 2p tents for several years and have used extensively in heavy rain, and winter in the snow. It is a very well made and I would purchase another. This tent looks exactly like mine except for the 1p capacity and slightly heavier material.

  7. Philip, how would you compare this tent to the Tartpent Bowfin 1?

    • The Chinook 1 plus is primarily a winter tent, while the Bowfin isn’t. The Bowfin is much simpler to set up and I believe much lighter weight (don’t have the specs in front of me). They both have two doors though, which is nice, but the bowfin has more easily usable vestibule space, since its set up by default that way.

  8. Hi Philipp –

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been eyeing this tent in the 2p version for a while as a lighter, cheaper but hopefully not too less of a robust option in lieu of a Hilleberg… Your review seems to quell that concern over quality quite a bit. I am a huge proponent of fly first set ups and seems only a few US makers do it this way.
    Anyway, a short while ago in your list of “10 best freestanding tents of 2018”, you wrote, “Exterior poles attached with hooks and bungie cords. You couldn’t pay me to test that in the wind with all of the flapping sounds it would make at night. I’ll stick with a Hilleberg where I can get a decent nights sleep. It might be fine for well protected forested sites, but then you wouldn’t need a freestanding tent.”
    Given how taughtly you say the Chinook sets up & does not flap, would you now revise that earlier remark? Thanks for your time and expertise –
    cheers

    • I didn’t test it in the wind, but I did set it up with two poles (which is an option) and it’s a much looser and weaker setup. As for Hilleberg, they get a rigid pitch with two poles all the time because the sleeve architecture is that much stronger. I’d still prefer a Hilleberg over a Big Sky. There are a lot of little things about a Hilleberg that really add up when you compare them side by side. For instance, the fabric is much more waterproof, the inner tent is much easier to hang, the guyouts are much more robust, the door tiebacks work better, the floor is much tougher, etc.

  9. Hi Philip,

    Thanks for yet another great review. The Chinook looks like it might be just what I’m looking for in a “fourth season” tent. Will it replace the Black Diamond Firstlight on your winter gear list? If not, what makes the Firstlight a better choice for you? Thanks.

    David

  10. Hi Mike from NZ here. Quick question, if you pitch small end on into the wind, wont the wind catch the fly when the vestibule door opened. Is it not better to pitch head first so can open door without wind ballooning the fly etc

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