Big Agnes UL 1 HV Tent And Sleep System Review

Big Agnes: Makers of Ultimate Sleep Solutions for Wilderness Travelers

By Jeff Burleson

North America is home to some of the most beautiful and breathtaking places on Earth. Away from civilization, where technology and modern advancements rule the day, people can immerse in nature’s masterpiece for a day, week, or an extended thru-hike expedition. For most Americans, the omniscient vistas often come in a paper or electronic format from the comforts of home where conditioned space and exorbitant amenities leave little room for loss of comfort. While some experience the wilderness through a window pane riding on four rubber tires, nothing allows the soul to soak in nature’s treasures better than a backpacking adventure immersed in North America’s bosom. And Big Agnes has taken out the stops to makes backcountry camping truly pleasurable.

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Preparing for a weekend or extended backpacking trip can be one of the most difficult duties to accomplish. Hikers must pack the essential items leaving enough space for a few luxuries and keeping the bulk and weight down to a minimum. Every item that makes it to the final gear trolley is a compromise – the lighter the load, the better the experience. Luckily, there are companies like Big Agnes that have already created solutions to common backpacking hurdles.

Based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Big Agnes produces award-winning sleeping bags, pads, tents, and other outdoor gear.

Big Agnes Sleep System

Back in 2001, founder Bill Gamber first disrupted the outdoor gear market with their brilliant solution to the pad/sleeping bad dilemma called the Big Agnes Sleep System. For a REM sleep to happen on unforgiving surfaces, a warm sleeping bag and soft sleeping pad are must haves. And while these two always accompany each other in nature’s bedroom, traditional bags and sleeping pads haven’t had a history of happy marriage.

Sleeping bags have always slid off the pad due to the nature of the external materials and the mere narrow stature of the pad. But, Gamber figured out the perfect solution by sewing in a nylon sleeve that holds sleeping pad in place…A brilliant solution to an age-old problem.

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The Big Agnes Sleep System was the first innovation that put them on the map in the outdoor gear world. But, it wasn’t the last innovation from Big Agnes. Over the last 17 years, Big Agnes continues to design must-have solutions to common camping hurdles in tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads.

Big Agnes offers more than 30 varieties of bags in their sleep system from single ultra-light mummy bags for sub-zero conditions to single season bags for staying warm on a cool summer night. Big Agnes makes bags in the traditional super-narrow mummy designs to larger, roomy designs in both water-repelling/compressible down (Down-Tek) and traditional synthetic insulation. They make bags for everybody and just about every need available.

Mystic UL 15 Sleeping Bag

Big Agnes started making the Mystic UL 15-Degree bag in 2016. The Mystic UL-15 is the answer for campers looking for a hybrid bag that practically meets ever need available.

The Mystic UL 15 is contoured very similarly to the Lost Ranger, Blackburn, and the Fish Hawk models with more room in the midsection and foot box that is not only perfect for traditional back sleepers, but also side sleepers. While mummy-shaped bags can retain the most heat with the lightest materials, they lack in comfort and are practically impossible for side sleepers or sleepers with a tendency to change positions frequently throughout the night.

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The Mystic, Lost Ranger, Blackburn, and Fish Hawk Series allow extra room in just the right places to accommodate all sleep styles while still keeping the overall size and weight to a minimum by using quality materials and precise engineering. In addition to the shape, these bags come with a hood, packable pillow pocket, sleeping pad sleeve, and no-draft mechanics to keep the cool mountain air out.

The primary difference between the Mystic, Blackburn, Lost Ranger, and Fish Hawk models is the fill materials quality and quantity, as well as, slight weight differences. The Blackburn UL 0 and the Mystic UL 15 are filled 850 down fill power that provides less material with the same amount of insulating properties as similar models with lower quality down. The Mystic UL 15 is the lightest 15-degree rated bag in this series and is perfect as a three or four season bag in southern climates.

These bags come in different sizes to accommodate different sized campers, including campers with regular, long, and wide/long shapes. Total weight of the regular size Mystic UL 15 is only 2 pounds and 2 ounces and packs up tight to 7-inches by 7 1/2-inches. It’s the perfect bag for backpackers looking to collectively shave ounces and be comfortable in the wilderness.

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The Mystic UL 15 is one of their most technically-designed Big Agnes System bags, using the full pad sleeve design, a very durable nylon rip-stop shell fabric, and super cozy 850 fill power DownTek water repellent insulation. For the camper that needs a combination of four-season warmth, compressibility, ultra lightness, and extra width in the hips for side sleepers; the Mystic UL-15 is the answer.

Insulated Q-Core Sleeping Pad

Campers can buy one of thousands of different sleeping pads on the market from closed cell foam pads to self-inflating air mattresses. And Big Agnes makes a wide selection of options that slide right into their patented sleep system. While sleeping bags retain body heat and protect you from the air, sleeping pads are the first line of defense between your body and Earth’s crust. This is especially true in the Big Agnes Sleep System where the pad is the only barrier between you and the ground. The pad is over four inches thick on the edges and just over three inches in the center to mask any type of imperfection along the ground surface.

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The Insulated Q-Core Series is known as the most comfortable and durable sleeping pad available due to the I-Beam construction, quilted surface, and ultra-comfortable pillow top sleeping surface. Even though these Big Agnes pads are constructed to fit in their patented sleep system, the specific design of the Q-Core Series with the larger chambers on the exterior keep the sleeper away from the edge for additional comfort. There is nothing worse than the feeling of falling off the pad in the middle of the night.

Not only are the Q-Core pads comfortable, they are tough and very resistant to breakage. Leaking is one of the prime reasons backpackers have concerns with air mattresses and many backpackers will rely on closed cell foam pads to eliminate the chance of a breakage. Yet, air mattresses surpass the comfort level and are much more compact than pads.

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While the Q-Core isn’t invincible, Big Agnes has made every attempt to prevent a surprise decompression miles away from home. The layers of durable, rip-stop exterior ultra-light fabric and aviation grade TPU lamination technology provides extremely durability to give campers a sense of ease when miles away from a replacement.

Overall, the Q-Core Series of pads are slightly heavier than some of the other pads out there. Yet, they come with additional comfort features only these pads provide in the similar weight categories. The 20-inch by 72-inch pad is only 24 ounces and packs up small to fit inside any backpack. However, for the gram counters, Big Agnes produces the Q-Core SLX model that uses same basic design, but with lighter materials with an eight ounce weight savings.

While there are lighter pads available including the closed cell foam versions and other air mattresses, the comfort of the Q-Core is well worth the extra few ounces especially in rocky terrain. There are many places backpackers can save ounces in their gear list, but a comfortable bed is the answer to the muscle aches after a long day on the trail.

Copper Spur UL 1 HV Tent

The Copper Spur tent series was created as a catch all to suit every camper’s needs from car camping in the Adirondacks to backpacking along the Appalachian Trail.

The Copper Spur UL 1 HV tent is one of Big Agnes’ innovative products of the decade. It provides the most available space in an extremely lightweight and compact package that is perfect for backpackers looking to minimize weight at every possible angle. The UL 1 HV is a three-season, one-person model weighing in at a measly 2 pounds 2 ounces. It is truly classified as an ultra light tent. While there are a few lighter versions available, none of the other brands or models compare to the features available on the Copper Spur UL 1 HV.

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Unlike some of the other ultra light backpacking tent options, the Copper Spur is still a free standing model boosting functions usually only available in much heavier models. The free-standing character of the Copper Spur is desirable. Being able to shift the tent around to avoid rocks and roots is the primary advantage to the freestanding design. And the single pole design is an added plus as well. No concerns for losing pole sections or assembling them incorrectly because they are all connected.

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In the ultra light category, space is usually compromised to attain superlight pack weights. The available floor and headroom space is one of the features that make the HV Copper Spur such a sweet piece of gear. The HV Copper Spur line contains an exceptional amount of space on the inside and under the vestibule covered by the rain fly. The newer HV design provides additional usable volume on the inside of the tent as compared to previous models and other tents in the marketplace. The four-way hub design on the HV pole system creates nearly vertical walls to give the maximum amount of interior space from the bottom to the top of the tent. No other tent in this ultra light category provides the amount of available space above the floor.

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The UL1 contains 20 square feet of floor space and 38 inches of headroom that is perfect for the solo camper. And the vestibule is nine square feet that allows more than enough space for pack, shoes, and a few other gear items.

Final Thoughts

Where many other brands have eliminated all convenience features, the Big Agnes retained some of the most favored add-ons in place to provide a better camping experience. For one, the mesh pockets in the wall and ceiling are perfect places for storing headlamp or other miscellaneous items taken to bed each night.

While any tent can serve well for car camping, backpacking tents must be extremely light-weight and durable with every feature designed to perform intuitively. The Copper Spur is extremely functional and lightweight to serve as the ultimate three-season backpacking tent.

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