Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV Overview
In the last few years ultralight has become the biggest craze in backpacking. Backpacks, headlamps, even toothbrushes have come onto the market with an “ultralight” moniker.
If you ask me what I value when shelling out for a new tent (and that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?), I’d tell you that I prioritize a freestanding set up, smart construction, and weight. Note that weight is third in that list, not first. I don’t want to sacrifice features, stability, and ease of setup for weight, but I still want something that is, by most accounts, ultralight.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV fits precisely into my ideal tent, and removes the word “compromise” when talking about a backpacking tent. Which is awesome because I’ve always been terrible at spelling. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is astutely designed with a backpacker’s needs in mind, a snap to set up, and overflowing with features that make living in this tent for weeks on end a pleasure.
For these reasons we’ve given the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV our Premium Pick award for the Wilderness Backpacker.
To be fair, the definition of ultralight is subjective. This tent falls into our Wilderness Backpacker category, not our Ultralight Backpacker category. For those who put weight as the very first thing in their list (always, no matter what), we have a line of truly ultralight tents, like the Zpacks Duplex, which trounce the Copper Spur HV UL2 on the actual weight front. But they are harder to setup and have many less features. We’ve found that the Copper Spur HV UL2 is as light as it comes in the fully featured, true backpacking tent category.
Other models to consider in this field are the MSR Hubba Hubba NX, the NEMO Dagger 2P, and the REI Quarter Dome. All are excellent tents in roughly the same class, but with more weight.
Read below for the full Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 review.
2018 Update: Big Agnes updated the Copper Spur HV UL2 (and the rest of the series) in 2017, and has not changed the tent for 2018. It’s rock solid, and remains the tent we’ve reviewed here.
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Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV Video Review
Copper Spur UL2 HV Specifications
|Feature Type||Feature Specs||What This Means|
|Packed Weight||3 lbs 1 oz. (1.4 kg)||Very light for a fully featured tent, especially when split between two people.|
|Type||Freestanding||The Copper Spur sets up with a hubbed pole and grommets, and doesn’t require staking out to be fully assembled.|
|Wall Type||Double||The inner tent body and rain fly are separate. This allows a lot flexibility in pitching, good ventilation, and great weather protection.|
|No. of Doors||2||Two full doors so you can get out of the tent on either side without stepping over your tent-mate.|
|Sleeping Capacity||2-person||You can get two adults in the Copper Spur HV UL2 without much issue, and there’s plenty of headroom.|
|Seasons||3-season||While this tent can survive a lot, it’s not a full winter tent. There’s a lot of mesh that snow and sub-freezing temperatures doesn’t mix well with.|
|Packed Size||19.5 x 4 in. (50 x 10 cm)||Quite small for a tent. You can take out the poles and make it smaller.|
|Floor Dimensions||88 x 52 in., tapers to 42 in. (224 x 132 cm, tapers to 107 cm)||The tent is more than seven feet long, so fitting lengthwise is easy. Width-wise it’s roomy near the head, and tapers down to 42 inches near the foot. This is enough room for two 20-inch pads, or one 25-inch and one 20-inch pad, but it does taper, so be aware of that.|
|Floor Area||29 sqft||A reasonable amount of space for such a lightweight tent. There’s not much extra room, but room enough to sleep.|
|Peak Height||40 in. (102 cm)||The height of the tent is enough to sit up and change, but you can’t sit on your knees. The tent has great headspace throughout, and doesn’t slope very much.|
|No. of Vestibules||2||Two full vestibules can hold packs and boots, and keeps them from getting wet.|
|Vestibule Area||9 sqft per vestibule||A reasonable amount of space per vestibule. Not huge, but engineered precisely to fit a pack and boots.|
|No. of Poles||2 poles||One large hub of poles for the main tent and a crossbeam bar for setting up the fly.|
|Pole Material||DAC Featherlite NFL and NSL Poles||These poles are crazy light and surprisingly strong. You might say “whoa” when you hold them.|
|No. of Interior Pockets||5 pockets||Media pockets, two large mesh pockets, and a ceiling pocket create a ton of usable storage in the tent. An excellent feature.|
|Rain Fly Material||Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof PU coating, 1200mm||Big Agnes uses proprietary material that is randomly patterned in this tent. Very light and surprisingly durable.|
|Floor Material||Silicone-treated patterned double ripstop nylon with waterproof PU coating, 1200mm||Big Agnes uses proprietary material that is randomly patterned in this tent. Very light and surprisingly durable.|
|Mesh/Body Material||Proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon breathable and polyester mesh||Big Agnes uses proprietary material that is randomly patterned in this tent. Very light and surprisingly durable.|
|Footprint, Fast Setup?||Copper Spur UL2 HV Footprint – $70, Fast Setup Possible||The footprint for the Copper Spur is excellent, but it’s pricey. If you are worried about durability and have the cash, get it and you’ll be able set it up without the main tent body. If it’s too much money, make your own footprint out of Tyvek.|
|Manufacturer Warranty||Limited Lifetime Warranty||Lifetime warranty against manufacturing or material defects, and Big Agnes will repair or replace at their discretion. Doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, but they have great customer service. Get in touch if something fails on your tent.|
|Retail Price||$449.95||Yes, it’s pricey. It’s also one of the best engineered tents on the market.|
Gear Review of the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV
Origins: Easing You In
“So, where do you sleep?” asked my clearly overwhelmed co-worker. “Like, in a tent?” she whispered conspiratorially. I couldn’t help but smile at her fascinated yet horrified demeanor. Yes, a seemingly rational, otherwise sane-appearing adult has willingly chosen to spend three weeks in a tent. Not just sleep in a tent, but hike California’s John Muir Trail 210 miles in-between sleeping in a tent.
This would be the longest backpacking trip my boyfriend and I had ever been on, and would serve as a proving ground for more ambitious trips we dreamed of doing one day. At the center of our little on-trail home was the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV. This was no mere tent, as my co-worker thought, but a futuristic dome of aluminum tubing and paper-thin nylon that looked endearingly like a cartoon spaceship when fully assembled.
Revelation: The Moment I Knew
Five days into our JMT trip we camped along a perfect emerald lake, granite monoliths lofting into the bright blue sky all around us. Our little orange home, the Copper Spur, was nestled like a gem in the center of a grand crown. While my boyfriend filtered water I was in the tent, inflating sleeping pads and organizing all the various little items one needs when sleeping in the backcountry. When your entire life is on your back for weeks on end, you have a lot of little things. It’s often a pain to put them places, especially when you don’t have a very specific space for them.
I was contemplating a few of those items when I looked towards the end of the tent and saw a small loop of fabric sewn into the upper seam. It looked, and in fact proved to be, a perfect location for hanging my sunglasses and hat — out of the way of the door and my head, but where they wouldn’t be scratched by other items like in a pocket.
I know it sounds trivial, but the notion that a designer at Big Agnes took the time to design and build a space for me to hang my sunglasses completely epitomizes all of the thoughtful elements that have been baked into the Copper Spur UL2 HV.
When you’re going to be spending a long time in a tent, whether it’s a thru-hike or multiple weekend adventures each year, it’s massively important that a two man tent functions as a two man tent. I know, that’s a confusing thing to read. But it’s a truth most backpackers have encountered. Are you climbing over your hiking partner every night because there is only one tent door? Or starting each day with a damp hip belt because the vestibule is too small for your bag and your partner’s bag, so yours got wet? Many tents will get the job done, but only a few will excel to the point where you feel like it’s your second home.
The Copper Spur HV UL2 has two individual doors, each with a decent sized vestibule. This makes it perfect for anyone who always has to pee in the night (that’s me, it’s the worst), and doesn’t like stepping on their pack as they head out the door.
The general ground space of the tent covers 29 square feet, meaning that it will accommodate two full sized sleeping pads side to side. This means snuggling your tent mate is an option, not a requirement, as it is in some narrower tents. And at 40 inches high at the peak you can sit up and get dressed without stooping, which is an awesome luxury for those rainy days.
Finally, at three pounds one ounce, including stakes, this tent, when divided between two people, will rival most one man tents out there when it comes to weight savings.
When the Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 arrived in our mailbox a few weeks before our trip my boyfriend went and set it up in our front yard immediately. From which I could hear his gleeful shout, “There is so much room for storage!” In true Premium Pick style this tent is feature-packed. The top priority goes to small item storage, which keeps things out from under your sleeping pad and leads to a better night’s rest.
When you don’t have to store stuff on the ground, you get to sleep more comfortably on the ground.
One worry I had before the JMT was that the idea of durability in ultralight gear is a relative term — you’re working with material that has the thickness of tissue paper after all. However, I feel that given proper care the Big Agnes Copper Spur will stand the test of time.
After almost three weeks of continuous use on the John Muir Trail our tent looked close to new. I credit this to the random patterned nylon that Big Agnes uses. It sounds confusing, but it’s actually really cool in like, the nerdiest way possible. Because there are no consistent patterns within the nylon fabric, rips and snags are stopped before they get the chance to grow into tent-ruining holes.
Ease of Setup
This tent is very easy to set up, even by a single person. How do I know that? Because every night of our JMT trip I made a deal with my boyfriend that I would set up camp if he went and filtered water.
The Copper Spur comes with a few simple features that make setup a breeze. My favorite was the color coded corners and tent poles: match grey with grey, orange with orange and you’re free to sit back and relax while your hiking partner filters water. (Can I say, winning!)
Before we settled on a tent for the JMT my boyfriend and I went and tried every freestanding tent that fell into the lightweight/ultralight category, and we found most of them to be lacking. Two person tents felt more like one person and a dog, and three person tents were too big for such a long trip.
Laying side by side in our local REI we knew that Big Agnes had it right. Not only do two adults fit, one of those adults (ahem, it’s him) sleeps on a 25-inch wide pad instead of the standard 20-inch width. Not all tents can accommodate this, so keep it in mind when buying.
The additional headspace of the Copper Spur HV UL2 — “HV” stands for high volume, and the headspace was increased over the last edition of the Copper Spur, which was extremely popular — means that two people can also get dressed and ready at the same time for those days when you just want to stay inside the warmth of your tent a little longer.
This tent can best be described as snug comfort. When it comes to space, design, and use the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV felt like everything I needed for a long backpacking trip without a lot of extra. We never felt uncomfortable in our tent, never got wet from condensation, but it was a cozy fit. This meant that we didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out in the tent when we weren’t sleeping.
It feels a bit cruel to be looking for flaws in a tent that treated us so well, and to be clear, there aren’t many.
That said, the one issue I noticed with almost every use is how weirdly placed the tiebacks for the door flaps are. Basically, they’re placed so close to the ground as to be ineffective in keeping the doors up and out of the way. It would seem that their natural inclination is to droop half closed like a lazy wink. Like I said, I know it’s a small complaint, but when you spend almost three weeks in a tent, it’s something you come to notice.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 feels like it was built by backpackers, for backpackers. Thoughtful design elements and a spacious interior allow a true dirtbag to call this tent a second home.
Where to Buy Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 HV
The Big Agnes Copper Spur line has been regarded for a few years as one of the premium lightweight backpacking tents on the market. Big Agnes offers them in 1-person, 2-person, 3-person, and 4-person variations. We tested the 2-person version, usually called the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (sometimes those last two bits are switched). “HV” stands for High Volume, which is a big update Big Agnes made in 2017 for the Copper Spur tents, and adds a significant amount of headroom.
Big Agnes also offers the Copper Spur in a mtnGLO version, which is their proprietary lighting system. It’s cool, but a little redundant for lightweight backpacking, because you probably have a headlamp already.
All of these tents are excellent, and for two people focused on going as light as possible we recommend the Copper Spur UL2. If you want a little more room and don’t care about the increased weight, we recommend the Copper Spur UL3, which is only $50 more.
Compare Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 prices below.