Following last year’s update to the Fly Creek HV UL tent, Big Agnes has added a second “HV,” or high volume model, with their popular Copper Spur. Already loved by ounce-counting backpackers and thru-hikers, the updated 2017 model brings added convenience and comfort with a new pole design that opens up the interior. It’s still not the tent for the comfort-minded backpacker, but the extra space, sub-3-pound weight, and 2 door and vestibule design make it one of the most complete ultralight backpacking tents on the market. Below we break down the Copper Spur’s interior space, weight, durability, weather protection, ventilation, and more. To see how the Copper Spur HV UL stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking tents.
If you’re familiar with the 2016 and older Copper Spur tents, the changes to the Copper Spur HV UL are immediately noticeable. Gone is the multi-hubbed and somewhat complex pole design, and in its place is a clean, sloping rectangular shape with a single hub over the head end of the tent. What this change brings is more interior space—a lot of it, in fact. Big Agnes claims that the interior volume has increased by 20%, and it’s something that’s particularly noticeable when sitting up side-by-side in the 2-person model. The Copper Spur was always known as a “livable” ultralight tent, and the HV only strengthens that notion.
The newfound open feeling is largely due to the near vertical walls, as the pole structure does a better job stretching all 4 side walls up and away from you. And the peak height of 40 inches is right where you would naturally be sitting up near the middle of the tent. Importantly, the peak is now more of a flat roof as the mesh under the hub in stretched by the crisscrossing poles. What hasn’t changed is that the tent height drops quickly towards the foot end of the tent, but even that space feels roomier than with older versions.
The new pole design accomplishes its goal of expanding the interior volume, but it’s important to note that the tent’s footprint still is relatively small. The Copper Spur measures 52-inches wide at the head end of the tent and 42 inches at the feet, and its actual widths appear to be a couple inches less for each. As a result, our 2 regular width (20 in.) pads were a pretty snug fit, and the tapering means you can only sleep with your head at one end. We haven’t tried just yet, but it's hard to imagine 2 wide backpacking pads (25 in. each) fitting without folding up the side walls at the foot end, although a mummy-shaped pad could work.
Despite increasing the tent’s livability, the new Copper Spur HV UL2 has the exact same trail weight as the prior model at 2 pounds 12 ounces. As before, getting under 3 pounds puts it in pretty elite company. Among lightweight freestanding models, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX (3 pounds 7 ounces) and Nemo Dagger 2P (3 pounds 5 ounces) are quite a bit heavier. The tent does fall short of ultralight designs like the MSR FreeLite 2 (2 pounds 7 ounces) and Big Agnes’ own Fly Creek HV UL2 (1 pound 15 ounces), but these tents compromise with interior space and only have semi-freestanding builds. For putting together space, convenience, and solid weather resistance, the Copper Spur’s weight is fantastic.
The new pole design has had a slight impact on the stuff size of the HV model. The old tent measured approximately 5.5 x 17.5 inches when stuffed away, and the 2017 version is 4.5 x 19.5 inches. This likely won’t be a problem for most people—we had no issues fitting the tent inside our backpacking packs—but the extra 2 inches in length could make it more difficult to squeeze inside a low-volume overnight pack.
Cutting weight from a tent usually involves thin and delicate materials, and the Copper Spur HV UL2 is no exception. Denier commonly is used to measure fabric thickness (it actually is the fabric yarn’s weight), and this Big Agnes tent has lightweight and low denier fabrics throughout. The floor, rainfly, and solid fabric portion of the tent body use 20D nylon, and the mesh on the tent body is a slightly thinner 15D. For comparison, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX has a 30D floor for a modest increase in durability in the area most likely to get a tear. There are even lower denier fabrics on the market, including Nemo’s Hornet and MSR’s FreeLite tents, which have 15D floors. We’ve found that these tents push our comfort level in terms of fabric thickness, but extra care is advisable for all modern lightweight tents.
It’s important to note that the denier measurement does not take into account various fabric technologies. Big Agnes uses a proprietary nylon ripstop in a unique weave on the floor and fly, intended to increase tear strength (Big Agnes states it’s 20% more tear resistant than standard nylon). In use, the fabrics feel light and thin but nothing out of the ordinary in this category. We haven’t put a hole in our Copper Spur, and even went as far as using it for a couple nights without a footprint.
We do see potential for long-term durability issues with the 2 zippered doors. While we love the access through the large openings, the zippers can be a little finicky to open and close with one hand and feel pretty flimsy. To be fair, our old Copper Spur had a similar feel and never failed us. Nonetheless, we recommend treating them gently, and thru-hikers or those putting in a lot of trail nights may want to occasionally clean the zippers (and keep a lookout for dirt and dust).
For its weight, the prior Copper Spur offered impressive weather protection, and the HV model appears to not compromise here. Big Agnes claims the new pole structure increases strength by 25%, and while it’s certainly less weather worthy than the Hilleberg Niak we tested recently, the tent is well designed to hunker down in most 3-season conditions. There are well-placed guyout points at each corner and the full coverage rainfly should do a great job keeping moisture at bay.
We’ve had surprisingly good weather thus far with the Copper Spur HV, with only modest breezes at night and no rain on our Utah trip, so we can’t definitively say how well this new model will hold up. That said, we had the previous Copper Spur out a number of times in rough weather—including a strong windstorm while bikepacking in the San Juan Islands—and were very impressed with its sturdiness. For most backpackers, the Copper Spur should be completely capable in rain, wind, and light snow.
Liberal use of mesh on the tent body and a deployable vent at the top of the rainfly offer good all-around ventilation. And unlike some ultralight tents that utilize single wall construction, the double wall build on the Copper Spur does a great job keeping air moving and reduces the chance of condensation build up. Importantly, there is good spacing between the rainfly and tent body to encourage airflow, including stakeout points on the rainfly at the head and foot end. In more extreme temperatures than we experienced—we peaked in the mid-80s on our trip—a second roof vent might be helpful for releasing hot air, but we were reasonably comfortable even with the sun hitting the tent in the late afternoon.
We love the convenience that comes with a 2 door and vestibule design. Being able to store gear on both sides, and not having to worry about crawling over your tentmate in the night, are well worth the extra ounces in our opinion. The Copper Spur’s 2 vestibules measure 9 square feet each, which is about average for a lightweight tent, and they are big enough to store a backpack and shoes without tripping you on your way inside. Interior storage is sufficient, with a long pocket built into the tent’s roof that easily stretches to accommodate something as wide as a headlamp, and there are 2 small pockets at head height located just in front of the doors. All in all, we think the storage is great for 2 backpackers, but Big Agnes does offer a gear loft (purchased separately) that fits the Copper Spur.
Set up and Take down
Freestanding tents are among the easiest to set up, and the Copper Spur HV is no different—particularly if you’re familiar with modern backpacking tents. It’s as simple as staking out the corners, inserting the poles into the color-coordinated grommets on either end (the non-symmetrical shape means there is only one way to set it up), and clipping in. The center hub creates the x-shaped structure, and a separate small ridge pole connects at the top of each door. The fly goes on over the top and can pulled taut with Velcro attachments for the poles and guylines on all sides. Not surprisingly, tear down is just as quick and easy. The whole process didn’t take more than a few minutes even on the first try, and we also found it relatively simple to set up in the wind.
What We Like
- The updated pole design does a nice job opening up the interior.
- Highly practical despite the sub-3-pound weight: 2 doors and vestibules, good ventilation, and a full coverage rainfly.
- Quality construction and an easy set up and take down.
What We Don’t
- Even with the advanced fabrics, the 20-denier nylon (on the floor in particular) requires extra care.
- Tapered construction means you can only sleep in one direction and it will be difficult to fit wide sleeping pads.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||$450||2 lbs. 12 oz.||19.5 x 4.5 in.||40 in.||29 sq. ft.||2|
|MSR FreeLite 2||$440||2 lbs. 7 oz.||18 x 6 in.||36 in.||29 sq. ft.||2|
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX||$400||3 lbs. 7 oz.||18 x 6 in.||39 in.||29 sq. ft.||2|
|Nemo Dagger 2P||$400||3 lbs. 5 oz.||19 x 5.5 in.||42 in.||31 sq. ft.||2|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2||$390||1 lb. 15 oz.||19 x 4 in.||39 in.||28 sq. ft.||1|
As with the first 2 generations of the Copper Spur, the HV model is a standout in the backpacking tent market. The tent nicely bridges the gap between lightweight and convenient designs that weekend backpackers love with the focused ultralight models for thru-hikers and minimalists. We much prefer the Copper Spur HV to Big Agnes’ own Fly Creek HV, which we feel is too compromised with its single door/vestibule, non-freestanding design. Nemo’s Hornet 2P is another ultralight option that does include 2 doors and vestibules, but, as with the Fly Creek HV, the interior is just too cramped for most backpackers (the 2-person model works best for solo travelers).
MSR’s FreeLite 2 tent is one of the closest competitors to the Copper Spur. Both are well-made ultralight tents with a nod to practicality with 2 doors and vestibules. The FreeLite 2 is not fully freestanding—you need to stake out one of the ends—but it does weigh 5 ounces less than the Copper Spur. More, the FreeLite has a symmetrical floor unlike the tapered design on the Big Agnes. On the other hand, the Copper Spur has a 4-inch taller peak height and more vertical walls, which make it easier for 2 people to sit side-by-side. The Copper Spur’s greater convenience gets it the edge for us, but both are solid superlight tent options.
If you’re willing to sacrifice some in terms of weight, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and Nemo Dagger 2P are 2 excellent backpacking tents. We love the more durable fabrics that you get with the MSR and Nemo, and their symmetrical shapes mean you can sleep head-to-toe for more room to move around. In addition, their $400 price tags undercut the Copper Spur by $50. As mentioned above, however, the Copper Spur beats them rather easily in weight (by 11 ounces for the MSR and 9 for the Nemo). And the Copper Spur pulls this off while retaining a double wall, freestanding construction and 2 door and vestibule design. In truth, all 3 tents are fantastic options and ended up as top choices in our backpacking tent review, and the final decision should simply come down to your priorities.