Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review: More for me?

Share Facebook 0 Twitter Pinterest Google+

The new HV version of the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 is a significant reboot of the original. Having lived in the old Fly Creek UL1 during countless solo bikepacking trips, I was stoked to check out the new model but suspicious of the “improved” moniker that came with it. As we all know, newer isn’t always better…

The crux of the new Fly Creek HV series is a revamped steep wall architecture. This theoretically maximizes floor space and headroom, without adding any weight—all promises that sound good to a 6’ tall, weight conscious bikepacker. The High Volume (HV) interior space isn’t the only change. The new Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 has a few hardware bits which were completely redesigned—something slightly concerning on the grounds of the exceptional functionality and durability of the HV’s predecessor. Continue reading to find a comparison of the new HV with the original model, as well as a complete review of the Fly Creek HV UL1.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Side by Side Comparison

Before putting the HV UL1 through its paces, I set it up to give it a once over and shoot a few photos. For the sake of comparison, the HV and my well-worn original Fly Creek UL1 were erected side by side, both sans rainfly to inspect the construction and actual living space. The first thing that stood out was the stature of the new tent. The HV is significantly taller than the original, and its walls are steeply sloped. To achieve this pitch, Big Agnes redesigned the tent’s pole system, incorporating an angled segment at the foot end of the tent. There are also longer poles at the head, making the door panel nearly vertical and the opening itself a little taller. This design also widens the front peak and the top of the door opening.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

The second thing I noticed about the HV UL1 was that the footprint appeared to be smaller than that of its forerunner. I measured, and, indeed, the new tent is about 4” narrower at the front and 2” at the back. This seems to contradict the claimed ‘High Volume’ title of the new and improved tent. Upon closer inspection there were a few other changes to the overall shape of the footprint. The tapered shape of the foot of the UL1 has been all but eliminated, while the overall length of both tents is the same. This means the side walls were lengthened by a few inches on the HV UL1. Even with 2 sq ft less floor area, the slightly longer side walls along with the increased pitch at the foot make the overall volume of the foot area feel much larger than that in the older version.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Another element that adds to the perception of increased floorspace in the HV UL1 is the bottom ‘tub’ of the tent. It was redesigned to eliminate taper and add more functional area. To accomplish this, in addition to the increased pitch at the front and sides, Big Agnes added a new double cord system at the rear corners. These pull outward on the walls of the tent, about 6” up from its corners, giving the lower pan of the tent a more square profile. That, in tandem with the steeper rear wall, adds volume to the entire rear area of the tent—a huge improvement for taller folks.

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Additionally, a third ‘roof’ strap was added in the middle of the tent, which also increases the loft of the interior. Big Agnes also included four side strap loops (two on each side) that hook to the rainfly and pull the sidewalls outward when the fly is staked down, which opens the space even further. Other new hardware includes redesigned pole clips and adjustable slide cord locks on the sides.

Another major change between the UL1 and the HV UL1 is the amount of screen mesh used in the body construction. The HV’s entire roof is now mesh. In addition to shaving a few grams off of its weight the mesh ceiling also adds to the open feeling of the interior.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

The two tents pack down nearly identically, save an extra ½-3/4 inch length on the HV. The new bent rear pole and longer front poles add just a little length to the pole bundle when collapsed. This isn’t a huge penalty, but might govern the size of the bag in which they fit. The weight of the two tents is very close; at 970g (without the mtnGLO battery unit), the HV is only 45g (1.5oz) heavier than the UL1.

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Tested on The Trail

As I mentioned above, the packed HV still has the nice compact size that I’ve become accustomed to with the UL1. I was happy to find that the full tent still fits in a large Revelate Tangle partial frame bag, with room to spare for tools and food.

I’ve used the Fly Creek HV UL1 on several trips. In full transparency, I have been lucky with the weather and haven’t tested it out in heavy rains or stiff winds, yet. But, given my experience with the original version, I trust that it will perform well in severe weather.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

It’s been pitched on both level ground and less than ideal slopes. The HV UL1 sets up easily, a trait that’s carried across all of the Fly Creek line. Compared to the original UL1, added steps are needed to hook the sidewall straps and new roof strap, but the time it takes is nominal, and the new pole clips are actually slightly simpler to both hook and unlatch. Another piece of hardware that aids in setup is the new adjustable slide cord lock on each side of the rainfly. Gone are the days of battling a root, tree, or rock to get the proper stake placement. The HV UL1 comes with 11 stakes (technically two extra, although they could be used with the upper guy lines should wind be in the forecast) and an emergency pole repair splint.

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

The two main gripes I’ve had with my old Fly Creek are spatial in nature and have been ameliorated with the HV revamp. 1. When using a thick inflatable sleeping mat, my toes always touch the ceiling at the end of the tent, making it feel like the tent is too short.too short. By extending the length of the walls, adding the vertical tub design, and increasing the pitch of the foot wall, the low slung triangular space at the foot of the tent has been removed, and now my toes don’t touch the walls.

2. At 6’ tall, I sometimes feel a bit scrunched in the original UL1. The taller design and vertical front panel have really opened up the space in the HV UL1. Getting in and out of the tent is a little easier, and the higher pitches provide the option for sitting upright.

As a bonus, the vertical front panel also adds to the volume of useable space in the vestibule. And, the rainfly door can now be unzipped in the rain without the interior getting wet.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

mtnGLO, is it worth it?

The first time I heard about the Big Agnes’ mtnGLO system, I scoffed. Who needs the excess weight and superfluous extravagance? But, after having used it, I must say that I am reformed. When I first unfurled the tent, I proceeded to roll my eyes and unzip the door to inspect the lighting hardware. I was immediately caught off guard by how minimalistic it is. There is essentially one tiny wire, with a series of LED nodes that bulb out to about the thickness of a toothpick. This ‘durable LED’ strand is enclosed within a fabric sheath that forms a V shape at the head of the tent. It terminates at the lower left of the tent to a USB port which connects to the battery power unit (shown below). The lighting wire is hardly intrusive and weighs somewhere around 30 grams (1 ounce), plus or minus a few grams. The battery pack is also removable and fits in a little pocket sewn into the tent body. It weighs about 25 grams, without the required three AAA batteries.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

The lights are controlled via a single bubble button that cycles through three options… fully bright, 50% brightness, and off. The controller also has a safety switch on its side that disables the bubble button, so it doesn’t get turned on when bouncing around on the bike. You can also run the lights run with another USB power source. I tested it out with the LimeFuel backup battery pack that I normally carry. It works well; the only downfall being that the lights are not “dimmable”.

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

In regards to the actual quality and quantity of light, that tiny strand actually puts off a fair amount of ambient light. I found that, with fresh batteries, it was certainly enough to read by, although I have seen claims that it is too faint for some folks. The lower setting provides enough ambient light for an early morning pack up, or just a quick look for something in the middle of the night. According to Big Agnes, battery life is about 90 hours, depending on tent size. \

Pros

  • The HV redesign certainly added more useable floor space and headroom.
  • It’s hard to beat the Fly Creek series tents for weight; at just over two pounds (that’s with two extra stakes), it’s still a full-featured tent.
  • The redesigned clips and side cord tensioners are great details.
  • The near vertical front panel and door add to the vestibule space, make it easy to enter and exit the tent, and help keep the inside nice and dry.

Cons

  • It’s pretty tall, and although I haven’t yet been in gale force winds, I would expect that it may get pretty well beaten with a direct hit.
  • For somebody taller than 6’3”, it may still be a bit short.
  • At $400, the Fly Creek HV UL1 isn’t cheap; the non-mtnGLO version is still $350.
  • Like other ultralight rainflys, the HV can be slow to dry without direct sunlight.

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Review

  • Model tested: Fly Creek HV UL1 mtnGLO
  • Weight: 970g/34.2oz (11 stakes; w/o mtnGLO battery unit (+25g))
  • Packed size: 4×19″ (10x48cm)
  • Floor area: 20sq ft (1.86sq meters)
  • Place of Manufacture: China
  • Price: $399.95

Wrap Up

I intended to review the original Fly Creek UL1 quite a while ago. It’s a great solo shelter, and I’ve enjoyed using it on many bikepacking trips. My instincts and past experiences have made me suspect whenever a quality product gets an “upgrade”. I’ve learned that change isn’t always for the better. Fortunately, in this instance, smart decisions were made, and the HV UL1 really is an improvement over its predecessor. The spatial adjustments eliminate the saggy feel to the interior; the steeper front and added struts makes sitting up in the tent comfortable, not to mention easier entry and exit. And the bigger foot volume completely eliminates any length issues.

As for the mtnGLO model, some might argue that it makes camping too plush. I scoffed at first, but was immediately tempered by its usefulness—it is rather handy to have immediate ambient light instead of fumbling around for a headlamp. And when pedaling for days on end, who says a little touch of comfort isn’t nice, especially when it only weighs an extra ounce (~28 grams). However, it does add $50 to the price tag, so if you are already counting dollars for the investment, it might be worth looking at the $350 non-mtnGLO version.

Overall the Fly Creek HV is a thoughtful redesign that only reinforces what I thought about the original UL1: for its weight, size, and ease of use, it’s simply hard to beat as a solo bikepacking tent. If you currently have a Fly Creek that you love, it may not be worth the upgrade; these aren’t cheap tents. But if you have a well worn tent and you’re prospecting a new shelter for the upcoming season, the HV is well worth the investment…

Disclosure: The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 was provided for this review by Big Agnes.

Tags

  • Web

    Sold! I’m 6’3″ and have been looking for a lightweight tent for backpacking and bikepacking. Tha will be perfect. Thanks for the review!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Cool. Let me know how it works. I am 6′ even, and estimated that it would work for folks up to 6’3″, but it’s hard to be exact. You may try before you buy at an REI, if you have a chance. But please do reply when you verify it! Thanks!

  • StaySaneSleepOutside

    I can’t recommend the ZPacks Solplex/Altaplex enough (or cuben Bear Paw Lair), over ALL other ‘ultralight’ tents. For another $100-150, you get a tent that doesn’t have a separate body & fly, doesn’t absorb water & become heavier and stretch, much more space, stronger weather design, and at half to two-thirds the weight. Sure they are expensive, but so much better in every other way possible, in my opinion.
    I think the Fly Creeks & Carbon Reflexes are options only for those who can barely even afford them, much less anything more. Compromises, if you will.
    If you need 2p space, the ZPacks Duplex is certainly the best shelter available, all things considered, in my opinion.
    Thoughts? Nice job on the review.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Thanks Josh. I’ve yet to try a cuben tent; they’re a little out of my price range and haven’t been loaned one to test. Cass had good things to say about the Pyra Mid (tarp): http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/bearpaw-pyratent-2-review/ … I’d certainly like to try one for comparison. I have used a few double skin tents though, and in that class, the Fly Creek series is excellent for durability, ease of setup, weight and performance. We’ve also used a UL3 in Africa over two trips totaling almost a year… and it’s still in great shape. In fact, a buddy of mine borrowed it over the weekend, and it withstood storms and a deluge of 2-3″ of rain on Saturday night.

  • Paul

    Hi there, these tent look gorgeous with this incrusted LED system
    I was looking for buying one extralight tent for bike touring or packing but hesitating between two brands, Big Agnes and MSR. For the second one the hubba NX 3 seasons for one person look cool to me and I heard it could be tougher than a big agnes product.
    I’m looking for something both light and resistant.
    So I basically wanted to know if you’ve heard about the hubba?
    However what are your thoughts about a tent correspond the two criteria I mentioned?
    Thank you for you website, very interesting for a beginner in bike touring as I am.
    Bisous de France,
    Paul

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Thanks Paul. I have known folks who use the Hubba, and I have seen one, but I haven’t used one. I know they are significantly heavier than this tent (like 340 grams heavier). I can speak for the durability of the Fly Creek series though. I have used the original UL1 for a long time and it is still in great shape. And as I mentioned in another comment, Gin and I have also used a Fly Creek UL3 for almost three years (and two big bike trips in Africa—one for 6 months, and one for 4 months)… and it’s still in great shape. In fact, a buddy of mine borrowed it this past weekend, and it withstood storms and a deluge of 2-3″ of rain on Saturday night…

  • StaySaneSleepOutside

    That’s high praise and right along with what others say about Fly Creeks, too. Excellent showing of how good they are. I just like the simplicity and all the benefits of the cuben singlewalls. You should get a ZPacks Duplex. Seriously. :)

  • JB

    Another great review – thanks, Logan. Wondering if you had any thoughts on the BA Fly Creek 1 Platinum.. https://www.rei.com/product/865395/big-agnes-fly-creek-1-platinum-tent

    seems to pack a little smaller than the HV, and offer a bit more floor space… but these enhancements cost another $150! Kind of hard to swallow, but I’m in the market at the moment. Any input is appreciated.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Thanks JB. Keep in mind that the platinum is the same shape as the UL1; so it doesn’t have any of the spatial upgrades as the HV. I think the main difference between the original and the platinum is more mesh, less ripstop in the body. The poles are the same, and the fly is the same. Not sure why it’s more expensive, to be honest. Personally I would go for the HV.

  • http://www.theironlyportrait.com Their Only Portrait

    Hola Logan, please let me know when you’re are able to test it with strong winds… I’d been thinking about the Fly Creek HV UL 2 for my trips, but I wasn’t sure how well it would perform in South America’s strong winds :(
    Saludos,
    Federico
    http://www.theironlyportrait.com

  • Dave

    I am 6’2″ and have the Fly Creek UL1. It is just barely big enough. I agree anyone bigger than 6’3″ probably does not want this tent.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Will do!

  • https://wanderingbybicycle.com/ Wandering by Bicycle

    Thanks for the great review Logan. While I haven’t used Big Agnes tents, I spent over 100 nights last summer living out of the MSR Hubba while riding the GDMBR, then roughly following the Northern Tier route back home. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time over the past few years living in the Hubba Hubba NX as well as the Mountain Hardware Skyledge 2.

    As for Paul’s question, the durability on the MSR tents has been top notch. With the exception of some dirt, the tents still look excellent and no repairs have been needed. I chose the original Hubba over the NX version for the more stealthy green color, even though it weighs a little more. The size is perfect for my 5”8” self, even with gear stashed inside and the free standing design allows pitching on any surface. Also, I prefer the side entry for ease of cooking and with the vestibule rolled back, the whole side opens up for ventilation. As a bonus, the smaller vestibule on the opposite side, while it doesn’t unzip and can’t be accessed from the inside, has room for additional gear storage. The NX model does have some improvements, namely, adjustable aluminum hardware at the tent corners and lighter material, but like the Big Agnes, the color is more suitable for blending into concrete then trees.

  • JoeMTBer

    Thanks for the review. I’ve had my eye on this and am getting ready to pull the trigger. Do you have a measurement on the poles when collapsed?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Cool, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Sure thing… right at 18″ (45.72cm).

  • JoeMTBer

    Thanks!

  • mikeetheviking

    Had a chance to check out a fly creek1 original recipe at REI, i was blown away with the weight and packed size…. If i bought one it would shave 5 lbs of my current tent!!!!!

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    I used the Fly Creek Platinum on my Colorado tour a ways back. It’s been through winter camping trips, thunderstorms, and hundreds of packing and unpackings. I sold it last year, and regretted it so much I eventually re-invested in a Seedhouse, the previous generation’s “high-volume” fly creek.

    Again, the design is solid. Great tent, glad to see the update. Despite it all, still not sold on Mtn Glo.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I think you’d be surprised; it has negligible weight and offers easy ambient light… I certainly am a convert.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Damn. You must have one of those 5 season tents I keep hearing about!

  • mikeetheviking

    Just a 2 person coleman:) weighs like 6.2 oz or something:) no bricks necc. For my tour divide training:)

  • JScriv

    6’3″ here and I have the FlyCreek UL2 – with an air pad, feet are definitely on the wall. I have a new HV UL2 coming and hope that the added volume helps out!

  • Ashley Benns

    Logan, Thanks for the article

    I Used a 2012 Fly Creek UL2 until it was stolen: I thought it was pretty good.

    Then went to the Slater UL1+. which should have been an upgrade with the solid inner, a bit warmer and less dust. a bit longer but narrower.

    It wasn’t. The Slater has some serious problems.

    There is no ventilation at the back of the tent, no air flow.

    However I pitched it, the inner and fly are vey close together especially at the back and corners. It doesn’t have the guy line in the middle to keep them apart. so a very large unsupported area.

    Condensation would stick the inner and outer together leading to condensation dripping directly on the occupant.

    Of course the condensation made the fly stretch so I had to tighten up to try to keep it off the fly, then it would shrink again as it dried in the morning and in this way it broke its own zip.

    The frame spine is too long for its stiffness, taking on an S curve towards the back.

    The Slater fly is not a great color for stealth. I often only pitched the inner and threw the fly when it started raining.

    There were no side pockets: very petty economy, The roof rack was ok. for a flash light.

    The loop and toggles to hold back the doors are very difficult to undo. I needed to remove gloves, put on my reading glasses and put on the flash light and it could still take a while.

    So the HV: Maybe?

    The fly cut seems higher so maybe better ventilation, it has the middle guy and mesh is less likely to stick to the fly. Its a better color and the pre-bent poles may be stronger.

    I’m ready to buy a new tent, had given up on Big Agnes until I read your article: what do you think ?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I have used all three of the Fly creek models and will say that it’s a great line. They definitely breathe better than the Slater. I have used the Slater UL 2+, but primarily in dry cold desert winter conditions, so I didn’t have the same problems with condensation. That said, I think the Fly Creeks set up easier and are much more taught and sturdy. No issues with the fly touching the inner, at all. IMO, they nailed it with the UL1 HV.

  • Fred Bar

    Get the Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum, probably the World’s lightest free-standing tent for one that doesn’t require hiking poles, and watch your friends expression as you quickly setup above the treeline in the Summer on solid, stake busting ground and they fight to find ways to tie their lines to…..rocks, crevices, backpacks and each others tents. As told by a hiking acquaintance while on the PCT. Better ZZZs without the pack.

  • Fred Bar

    Spoke too soon….found this while doing a Google Search, 1 lb 6.3 oz (gram weenie delight at 632g) $690
    http://bigskyproducts.com/big-sky-soul-1p-tent-lightest-weight.aspx

  • http://www.thcbiketours.com THCBikeTours.com

    How would you rate this tent vs the MSR Hubba Hubba NX2? They are close in weight and price.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I’ve never tried the MSR, but I really like all of the Fly Creek series tents. I’ve used the UL3, HV UL1, and the HV UL3…

  • Brian Mulder

    I’ve been using the Fly Creek 1 Platinum on my South America tour thus far- both the 2P and the 1P. I started with the 2P but the zippers failed on the main tent and the fly after 7 months of use and now I’m using the 1P. Big Agnes makes great tents for the weight, but I do have some issues for others to consider:

    (1) The bottom is not even close to waterproof and wets out almost immediately even with one of their footprints. I need to get a piece of Tyvek for the footprint to offset this.

    (2) The zippers are the weak link for long-term use. I wish they would either include replacement zippers as part of the base sale or work on sourcing better, albeit slightly heavier/more durable zippers. 7 months of use is not excessive.

    (3) I’m 5′-11″. The 2P has plenty of headroom but the 1P is a bit too short. I’d love to see them retool the geometry of the 1P slightly by getting rid of the top pocket. They could extend the head room a bit without a noticeable weight penalty.

Share This

others did. Support us and pass it along...

Follow Us

and join the conversation.
art