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Exped Spica II UL Tent Review

Exped Spica II UL Tent Review

The Exped Spica II UL is a lightweight, two-person tunnel tent with an aerodynamic and beak-like front vestibule designed for three season backpacking. Weighing just under 3 lbs, it’s a spacious double-walled tent that can be set up fly-first if required. While not freestanding, the Spica II is easy to set up with two poles that slide into poles sleeves, with numerous guy out options to anchor the tent in stormy weather.

Specs at a Glance

  • People: Two
  • Total weight: 47.2 oz
    • Rainfly: 22.3 oz
    • Inner: 16 oz
    • Poles: 8.9 oz
  • Seam-Taped: Yes
  • Type: Tunnel
  • Poles: 2
  • Min# of stakes to pitch: 6, but you’ll probably want 4-6 more in windy weather
  • Dimensions: 86.6 × 45.3 × 39.4″
  • Materials:
    • Rainfly: 15 D ripstop nylon, silicone-/PU coated, factory seam taped, hydrostatic head 1500 mm
    • Floor: 40 D ripstop nylon, laminated, factory seam taped hydrostatic head 10000 mm water
    • Inner: 15 D ripstop nylon 15 D No-See-Um mosquito mesh nylon, 1500 mesh/square inch
    • Poles: DAC Featherlite NFL 9 mm TH72M Aluminum, green anodizing

Rain Fly

The front vestibule is cut high to provide better air flow
The front vestibule is cut high (off the ground) to provide better air flow.

The Exped Spica II UL is a tunnel tent with a front door, front vestibule, and rear windows which can be exposed for increased ventilation. The tent is held up with two poles that slide into sleeves along the top of the rain fly and curve to form the tunnel shape. The poles sleeves are very strong and help minimize any flapping of the rain fly in high wind. The two poles are different lengths, but are color-coded so you know which sleeve to slide them into. The tent is outfitted with numerous additional guylines to anchor the tent down. They also help tension the fly as it relaxes after being pitched.

The two poles slide into sleeves creating a strong structure.
The two poles slide into sleeves creating a strong structure.

When setting up the Spica, it’s best to stake out the rear end of the rain fly, insert the two poles, and then pull on the front end of the fly to fully lengthen the shelter before staking it down. Most people will keep the inner tent and rain fly attached, except in inclement weather, when the rain fly can be set up first and then the inner-tent attached inside under cover.  You can’t use the rain fly by itself however, because it pulls the pole ends in toward one another and provides structural support. The inner tent is suspended from the outer, ensuring good airflow between the inner and outer walls, while helping to minimize any condensation transfer. Several large vents in the vestibule and fly also help increase air circulation.

The inner tent hangs from rain fly and can be hung after the rain fly has been erected
The inner tent hangs from rain fly and can be hung after the rain fly has been erected

The rain fly made with a silicone/PU coated 15D ripstop nylon that has a hydrostatic head of 1500 mm, which is in line with most US backpacking tents in terms of waterproofing.

The Spica II UL has an elaborate guyout system
The Spica II UL has an elaborate guyout system

Once pitched, the Spica II must be further secured using guylines attached to the pole sleeves if you want a taut pitch. These are pre-attached and outfitted with line tensioners, and not something that end users need to outfit themselves. While the use of these stabilizing guylines does increase the size of the open area required to pitch the tent, it makes for a very strong and stable structure which can be pitched on exposed tent sites. .

Inner Tent

The inner tent has solid breathable walls with a mesh front window in the door and mesh rear windows. They’re positioned up high to vent warm moisture and reduce internal condensation. An all mesh inner tent is not available, which is unfortunate if you camp in hot and humid climates plagued by insects because you can’t open the doors to provide relief.

While the inner tent is breathable, there is limited mesh ventilation
While the inner tent is breathable, there is limited mesh ventilation

The most convenient way to use the inner tent is to lie with your head closest to the mesh door. The front end of the tent also the most headroom with a peak height of 39″, before gradually slanting down towards the rear feet. Large side pockets are provided for gear storage on both sides of the tent. However, the inner tent door cannot be unzipped without disturbing a partner if two people are sharing the tent.

The inner tent has a deep bathtub floor, so there’s little risk of leakage if rain is blown under the tent’s sidewalls or you find yourself sleeping on a dished out tent site. The floor has a hydrostatic head of 10,000 mm, making it about five times more waterproof than most of the tents manufactured by US companies.

The vestibule and inner tent front door make it awkward for two people to share the Spica II
The vestibule and inner tent front door make it awkward for two people to share the Spica II

The interior of the tent is also quite comfortable, with steep side walls and good head room. With a peak height of 39 inches, you can sit up comfortably at the front of the tent. But for all practice purposes, the most comfortable position is lying prone with your head facing the front door.

The rear rain fly can be folded u pin warm weather to exposed the mesh windows of the inner tent
The rear rain fly can be rolled up in warm weather to exposed the mesh windows of the inner tent

In warmer weather, you can roll the rear of the rain fly up over the pole sleeve to expose the screened mesh window at the rear of the inner tent. If you’ve positioned the front of the tent into the wind, you can roll open the front vestibule and get great airflow through the top of the tent.

Front Vestibule

The Spica II UL has a front vestibule with a center zipper. While it can be staked out as a structural component to help keep the tent erect, you’re best bet is to stake out the guy lines anchored on the pole sleeves for this purpose instead. This makes it possible to keep the vestibule doors rolled back or partially deployed with out affecting the tent’s stability.

The vestibule allows external gear storage, but compromises door access fi used by two people
The vestibule allows external gear storage, but compromises door access.

When closed, the vestibule helps deflect wind away from the tent, as long as you can point it into breeze. But storing bulky gear like backpacks under the vestibule can make entry and exit awkward since you have to exit through the center of the vestibule door. If it’s blowing rain, you’ll also get soaked if you try to exit the tent at night because the sides of the vestibule will brush up against you.

Exped Cetus II UL
Exped Cetus II UL

Exped makes another tent called the Cetus II UL, which is virtually identical to the Spica II UL, but has an extended front vestibule with a side door. It’s a much better vestibule design in terms of gear storage, weather protection, and ease of entry and exit. It also provides a good place to cook if you’re pinned down in bad weather. The Cetus II UL is much more complicated to set up and guy out, in addition to being 0.6 lbs heavier, but I find the Spica’s vestibule unworkable except in good weather when one or both sides can be rolled back.

Recommendation

The Exped Spica II UL is a double-wall, 2 person tunnel style tent, designed for three season use. Weighing just under 3 lbs, it has a pointed vestibule with a center zipper which makes it awkward to use in poor weather. A better vestibule design would use two zippers instead, like the vestibules on the Hilleberg Nallo 2 or the Warmlite 2R tents. While well ventilated, if you can pitch it into the wind, the Spica II UL also lacks an all mesh inner tent for use in hot and humid conditions.

The Exped Cetus II UL is virtually identical to the Exped Spica II UL, except for the addition of an extended vestibule with a side door. That’s the tent I’d recommend over the Spica II UL, although it also lacks an all mesh inner tent for warm weather use.

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

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2 comments

  1. Not bad for a car camping tent. They can be set up on must sites without concern for wet spots. The floor will keep you dry even in a 2″deep mud-puddle They CAN be pitched with the fly only, saving about a pound for ‘packing.

    • No. You really do need the inner to pull the wall together and create the arch. Hilleberg solves this problem by placing straps linking the pole ends on the rain fly itself. They lay flush with the ground and are covered by the inner tent.

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