Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Packaged weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz. (2P)
Floor area: 29 sq. ft.
Capacities: 1P, 2P, 3P, 4P
What we like: Standout combination of livability, weight, and ease of use.
What we don’t: Thin materials and high price.
See the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
First introduced in 2008, the Copper Spur series by Big Agnes has been a consistent frontrunner in the ultralight tent category. Lightly updated for 2020, we tested the latest two-person model on a series of backpacking trips in Patagonia. All told, the high-quality build, competitive weight, two-door-and-vestibule layout, and open interior make it one of the most complete backpacking tents on the market. Below we break down the Copper Spur’s weight and packed size, livability and interior space, durability, weather protection, ventilation, and more. To see how the Copper Spur HV UL stacks up, see our competition section below and our article on the best backpacking tents.
On our scale, the 2020 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 has a full packaged weight of 3 pounds 1 ounce (just under its 3 lbs. 2 oz. listed weight). While technically 1 ounce heavier than the prior version, it’s still in pretty elite company: among lightweight freestanding models, the popular Nemo Dagger 2P and MSR Hubba Hubba NX (both 3 lbs. 14 oz.) are quite a bit heavier. The tent does fall short of ultralight designs like Nemo’s Hornet (2 lbs. 6 oz.) and Big Agnes’ own Fly Creek HV UL2 (2 lbs. 5 oz.) and Tiger Wall UL2 (2 lbs. 8 oz.), but these tents compromise big time in terms of interior space and only have semi-freestanding builds that aren’t as easy or quick to pitch. For its combination of space, convenience, and features, the Copper Spur’s weight is fantastic.
As far as packability goes, the tent stuffs down to 6 x 19.5 inches, which amounts to a small increase in diameter compared to the prior generation (length remains the same). Importantly, it still fits nicely into its stuff sack, and we’ve had no issues squeezing it into our backpacking packs. And the Copper Spur is still plenty competitive in the market, undercutting the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2 (7 x 20 in.) and Nemo Dagger 2P (6.5 x 19.5 in.), while coming up a little short of the Tiger Wall UL2 (5.5 x 18 in.). But if space is a concern, you can always separate the pole bag from the rest of the tent, as its pre-bent sections and hubbed system are responsible for a lot of the bulk.
Now in its second generation, the Copper Spur’s HV (for “high-volume”) pole structure offers standout livability. The fully freestanding construction keeps the tent body taut even when camping on difficult surfaces like rock, and Big Agnes has further boosted interior space with new pre-bent pole sections at each corner. Getting into the tent, the open feeling is immediately apparent: the interior is almost rectangular thanks to the near-vertical side walls and large, flat roof. Peak height is reasonably tall at 40 inches, and the crisscrossing pole structure makes it easy for two people to sit up side by side. It’s true the tent height drops towards the foot end, but even that space is fairly generous. All told, the pole system may increase weight a little, but if you’ll be consistently camping with a partner, we think the tradeoff in roominess is well worth it.
The pole design accomplishes its goal of maximizing 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 a tapered 42 inches at the feet, and its actual widths are a couple inches less for each (this is common among tents). As a result, you can only sleep with your head at one end. In addition, if you are sharing the space with a partner, it’s best to use a mummy-shaped sleeping pad to maximize room at the foot end. With this layout, it’s possible to squeeze one wide 25-inch pad alongside a regular 20-inch pad without any overlap (two wide pads could be tricky to pull off).
Cutting weight from a tent usually involves utilizing thin and delicate materials, and the Copper Spur HV UL2 is no exception. Denier (D) 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 a mixed 15D x 20D nylon, and the mesh on the tent body is also quite thin at 15D. For comparison, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX has a 30D floor for a modest increase in durability (and weight) in the area most likely to get a tear. There are even lower-denier fabrics on the market, including Nemo’s Hornet and REI Co-op’s Flash Air tents, which have 15D nylon 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 in a unique double-ripstop weave on the floor and fly, with the more substantial 20D sections offering increased tear strength. In use, the fabrics are light and thin but have a quality feel and are certainly nothing out of the ordinary in this category. In addition, it’s worth noting that the zippers on the tent body and rainfly feel noticeably more substantial and trustworthy compared with the prior model. And most importantly, everything from the fabrics to the DAC poles and stakes are holding up very well after two backpacking trips.
On our trip in Patagonia, our Copper Spur HV UL2 held strong in conditions ranging from moderate wind and blowing dust to a full night of rainfall. The taut, fully freestanding structure was very sturdy in gusty weather, and the full-coverage rainfly did a nice job shedding persistent rain. Plus, the tent does a nice job blocking splashing water as well as blowing dust thanks to a fly that sits low to the ground and a tall bathtub floor. Big Agnes also includes guyout points at each corner and guylines to further increase strength, although you’ll need to bring along extra stakes to use them. Like most 3-season tents, the Copper Spur is not built for fending off heavy snowfall, and it’s best to pick protected campsites, but the tent has proven to be quite capable in most inclement weather.
Liberal use of mesh on the tent body and a large, deployable vent at the top of the rainfly provide good all-around ventilation. And unlike some ultralight tents that utilize a single-wall construction, the double-wall build on the Copper Spur does a great job keeping air moving and reduces the chance of condensation buildup. 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 ends. And if conditions are right, you can stake out the vestibules in an awning-like set-up to really boost ventilation (more on this below). In more extreme temperatures—we peaked in the mid 70s on our Patagonia 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.
Vestibules and Storage
We really value the convenience that comes with a two-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 two vestibules measure 9 square feet each, which is about average for a lightweight tent, and they are big enough to store a backpacking pack and shoes without tripping you on your way inside. Interior storage is excellent, with a long pocket built into the tent’s roof on the head end that easily stretches to accommodate something as wide as a headlamp, and there are two small pockets at head height located just in front of the doors. Additionally, Big Agnes added a huge pocket on the foot end that stretches the full width of the tent. The open, hanging mesh design has proven to be very handy for stowing large items and drying out wet gear during the day.
Along with the changes to the pocket layout, another notable update with the 2020 Copper Spur is its new, adaptable vestibule. Big Agnes added a second zipper onto each vestibule, which allows you to prop open the doors in an awning-like set-up. This requires trekking poles and using the included guylines (four sets come with the tent), but it’s a nice feature that increases airflow while retaining plenty of sun protection. We suspect a good number of backpackers won’t utilize the awning, but the good news is that the second zipper on the vestibule also makes it easier to quickly access the interior door.
Set up and Take Down
We had a range of non-freestanding and ultralight backpacking tents on our trip, and their finicky set-up processes made us really appreciate the quick and logical design of the Copper Spur. The freestanding build goes up easily by 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, buckles conveniently at each corner, and can pulled taut with Velcro attachments for the poles and guylines on all sides. Unsurprisingly, 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 pitch in the wind.
Other Capacities of the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
We put the 2020 Copper Spur HV UL2 through its paces for this review, and Big Agnes also makes the same tent in one-, three-, and four-person versions. The design remains largely the same across all three capacities, although the tents vary in weight, interior and vestibule space, and peak height. As we touched on above, the 2P we tested struggled to fit two wide-width sleeping pads, so sizing up to the 3-person version (3 lbs. 14 oz. and $500) makes a lot of sense for those with a dog or who simply want added room to move around. Prices also vary—ranging from $380 for the 1P to a whopping $650 for the 4P—but all are great options for backpackers with varying size requirements. Finally, within the “HV” line, which all share the hubbed pole system, Big Agnes offers MTNGlo versions (1-3P) with built-in string lights, as well as bikepack-specific models (1-2P) with shortened pole segments and other specialized features for easy on-the-go storage.
What We Like
- Four-way, high-volume pole design does a great job opening up the interior.
- Highly practical despite the 3-pound-2-ounce weight: two doors and vestibules, good ventilation, and a full-coverage rainfly.
- Lots of features, including large interior pockets and adaptable vestibules that can be set up as awnings.
- Quality construction and an easy set-up and take-down.
What We Don’t
- Even with the advanced fabrics, the 15D x 20D 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 two wide sleeping pads.
- Fairly expensive at $450 for the UL2 model.
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||$450||3 lbs. 2 oz.||15x20D||29 sq. ft.||40 in.||2||1P, 2P, 3P, 4P|
|Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2||$350||2 lbs. 5 oz.||20D||28 sq. ft.||40 in.||1||1P, 2P, 3P|
|Nemo Hornet 2P||$370||2 lbs. 6 oz.||15D||27.5 sq. ft.||39 in.||2||1P, 2P|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2||$400||2 lbs. 8 oz.||15D||28 sq. ft.||39 in.||2||2P, 3P|
|REI Quarter Dome SL 2||$349||2 lbs. 14 oz.||15D||28.7 sq. ft.||38 in.||2||1P, 2P|
|Nemo Dagger 2P||$430||3 lbs. 14 oz.||30D||31.3 sq. ft.||42 in.||2||2P, 3P|
|MSR Hubba Hubba NX||$450||3 lbs. 14 oz.||30D||29 sq. ft.||39 in.||2||1P, 2P, 3P, 4P|
As with the first three generations of the Copper Spur, the 2020 model is a standout in the backpacking tent market: it bridges the gap nicely between lightweight and convenient designs that weekend backpackers love and focused ultralight models for thru-hikers and minimalists. We strongly prefer the Copper Spur HV to Big Agnes’ own Fly Creek HV UL2, which we feel is too compromised with its single door/vestibule and non-freestanding design. Nemo’s Hornet 2P is another ultralight option that does include two doors and vestibules, but, as with the Fly Creek HV, the interior is just too cramped for most backpackers (the two-person model works best for solo travelers). Both weigh significantly less than the Copper Spur (2 lbs. 5 oz. for the Fly Creek and 2 lbs. 6 oz. for the Hornet), but we think the bump in interior space and livability are worth the weight penalty.
Another ultralight tent from Big Agnes is the Tiger Wall UL2, which blends design elements from the Copper Spur and Fly Creek lines. The Tiger Wall has two doors and vestibules and a center ridge pole like the Copper Spur, but its semi-freestanding layout trims weight even further. Compared with the Copper Spur, the Tiger Wall is lighter by 10 ounces and comes in $50 cheaper (for more information, see our in-depth Tiger Wall review), but the Copper Spur is the one we prefer in most cases. Its freestanding construction is easier to set up on just about any surface, the materials are more durable, and its pole design does a better job opening up the interior. The Tiger Wall has a lot of appeal for solo trekkers and thru-hikers, but we think the Copper Spur is the better all-around choice, and especially for more casual backpackers.
Outside of Big Agnes’ lineup, REI’s Quarter Dome SL 2 is a strong budget alternative to the Copper Spur. Released last year, the SL 2 costs about $100 less while undercutting the Copper Spur in weight by 4 ounces. However, we also tested the REI on our trip to Patagonia and found it to be noticeably tighter inside, and its mesh-heavy construction is more prone to letting in blowing dust. In addition, the semi-freestanding construction makes it more difficult to set up on rocky surfaces, although it’s still an all-around user-friendly design. In the end, the Copper Spur’s better livability makes it worth the added cost and weight for us, but both are well-balanced, lightweight backpacking tents.
If you’re willing to add a bit of weight to your pack, the Nemo Dagger 2P and MSR Hubba Hubba NX and are two excellent backpacking models. We love the more durable fabrics that you get with the Nemo and MSR, and their symmetrical shapes mean you can sleep head-to-toe for more room to move around. As mentioned above, however, the Copper Spur beats them rather easily in weight (by 12 oz. for both). And perhaps most impressively, the Copper Spur pulls this off while retaining a double-wall, freestanding construction and two-door-and-vestibule design. All told, all three are solid options and top choices in our backpacking tent round-up, and a final decision will come down to how you prioritize weight and space.
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