Gear Review: A 2×3+ Tent for Bikepacking, Big Agnes Slater UL 2+
The Slater UL 2+ tent offers a spacious interior in a minimal package with one hidden perk, a bit of insulation for the cold nights of winter and early spring.
I definitely prefer the encapsulating bubble that a tent provides, versus the more open stylings of a tarp shelter. I like a bit of separation between myself and what crawls in the dirt. But in colder weather, even when bugs and snakes aren’t yet out in droves, a tent provides another added benefit. We decided to bring the Slater UL 2+ on our extended van tour of backpacking destinations this winter, and so far it’s been an excellent choice.
The obvious advantages of the Slater are its reasonable packed size, weight, adequate interior space, and generous vestibule. What wasn’t fully realized until this winter, is that the tent’s unique construction adds a bit of bonus R value to that of the bag/pad system. Instead of being fabricated with a large percentage of mesh, like that of several other ultralight Big Agnes tents, the tent body of the Slater series is made up of a very thin ultralight ripstop nylon, which isolates the interior from the elements, slows heat loss, and makes it somewhat of a 3+ season tent. This notable temperature difference was evident on several sub-freezing occasions when nature beckoned and I left the tent in the wee hours of the morning. The temperature variance was surprisingly dramatic at times. This also made the Pitchpine 45 degree sleeping bag tolerable below 25F.
Even with the nylon material as the tent body, the Slater UL 2+ is still a fairly minimal two-part shelter, as are it’s weight and packed size. Considering that it boasts 37 square feet of interior space, at 5×18” the Slater packs up small in comparison. Once unpacked, the Slater is fairly quick to set up. The minimal single-joint tent pole design saves space in the bag, however, unlike the freestanding setup option of the FlyCreek, it requires stakes to setup which would make it difficult to impossible to erect inside or on a concrete pad (both of those situations presented themselves in Central America and Africa). Another con is the fact that the rain fly is orange which could attract attention in situations where stealth is the word.
Overall the Slater UL2+ is a great option for a bikepacking couple. The footprint of the Slater UL 2+ tent works well for two people. We had gotten used to the 3 person Fly Creek UL3 while traveling in Africa, so the 2+ layout felt a bit small at first. Initially the low sidewalls feel slightly constricting; fine for a few nights, but used as a long-term shelter, it could get old. After a few uses of the tent, I grew to appreciate its size. Unlike other Big Agnes tents I’ve tried, it’s generously long; I am 6’ tall and have room to put clothing or other items at the head of the tent and still have plenty of legroom. It also has a relatively spacious vestibule.
1361 grams or 3 lbs
5″ x 18″ packed size
37 sq ft interior
8 sq ft vestibule