An Expert Guide to Big Agnes Tents

Published on 10/04/2023 · 19 min readDiscover the best Big Agnes tents for your camping needs with these expert insights. Your guide to comfortable and reliable camping in the great outdoors!
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

Photo by TSLPhoto

TL;DR: Big Agnes offers a versatile range of tents designed to cater to various camping situations and styles. These tents have a lot of great features that make them durable, versatile, and comfortable. No matter what type of camping you’re looking to do, Big Agnes is sure to have a great tent option for you.

My name is Hunter and I have been a Curated Camping and HIking Expert here for just about two years, and an avid camper for just about 26 years. I’ve spent a lot of nights sleeping outdoors, and a lot of time setting up and taking down various tents. Out of all the tents I’ve slept in, my absolute go to and all time favorite is my Big Agnes Blacktail 2. It’s made my camping experience so much better and has taken my least favorite part of camping (wrestling with setting my tent up and taking my tent down) and turned it into something easy and quick. I truly think Big Agnes makes some of the highest quality tents out there, no matter what kind of camping you like to do. In this guide, I’ll break down some of what makes Big Agnes tents so great, and walk you through how to find the perfect Big Agnes tent to accompany you on your camping trips.

Who is Big Agnes?

The Wyoming Trail 2. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

Big Agnes, named after a mountain in the company's home state of Colorado, has a great reputation in the camping world for their high quality sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents, and more. They have a wide array of award-winning tents that fit every type of camper whether you’re looking to head out on your first ever camping trip, or if you’re a seasoned pro looking for shelter for an intense winter camping expedition. Big Agnes has spent a ton of time perfecting their tent designs to make for really high quality products that can keep you warm and cozy on the stormiest nights, and cool and comfortable on those warm summer camping nights.

What to Consider When Buying A Big Agnes Tent

Before even looking at the tent options from Big Agnes, there are a few questions that are helpful to narrow down to determine what kind of tent and what features in a tent might be useful to you and your camping style.

What Type of Camping are you Doing?

First and foremost, you’ll need to figure out what type of camping you are planning on doing. Are you planning a backpacking trip? A long thru hike? Or sticking to car camping? The type of camping you’re doing will be one of the biggest drivers in determining the exact tent you’ll need. A car camping tent should be roomy and comfortable, whereas a tent you would bring on a several week thru hike should be more lightweight. If you’re planning on camping in the winter, you’ll need a Big Agnes tent that’s rated for winter camping (a 4 season tent).

What Size and Weight do you Need?

The next step is figuring out what size tent you need and if the packed weight of the tent factors into your decision at all. Big Agnes makes everything from one person tents and two person tents all the way up to eight person tents. You’ll want a tent that can comfortably fit you and whoever you plan on camping with. If you plan on camping solo, a one or two person tent should cut it whereas if you plan on camping with a partner and have any large pets that will sleep with you in your tent, a 3 person tent would likely be a better fit. Car camping with larger groups or families might warrant a 6 or 8 person tent. Once you’ve narrowed down the best size for you, go back to the style of camping you’re doing. A 2 person car camping tent is going to be roomier, but also heavier than a 2 person backpacking tent. If you’re going to be carrying your camping gear in a backpack over long distances, it’s more valuable to have a lightweight tent as opposed to having more room inside the tent, but if you’re just setting your camp up right next to your car, weight of the tent isn’t much of a concern and you can focus on getting something comfortable and roomy. I also want to note that if you do decide to get a larger tent in order to have more room, do so within reason. Two campers sleeping in a three person tent will be nice and spacious, but two campers sleeping in a six person tent can lead to some cold nights since there won't be enough body heat to keep a tent that size warm.

What Type of Weather Will You Encounter?

Another important consideration is the type of weather and conditions you’re likely to have on your camp trips. Rainier areas such as the Pacific Northwest will require good rain protection, and weather resistance but summer desert camping will require a tent that excels at ventilation. Most Big Agnes tents are rated for three season use (spring, summer, and fall), but they also have some tent options built for four-season (year-round) use. Any winter camping adventures will require a 4 season tent to stay adequately warm overnight and well protected from any harsh snowstorms that might pop up while you’re on your camping trip!

How Easy Is the Tent to Set Up and Pack Down?

Overall, Big Agnes consistently has some of the most user-friendly design features in tents. Most of their tent options have color coded poles and rainfly buckles that make it easy and fast to attach the poles and rainfly to the tent body. They also typically have easy attachments for their poles and tents where all you need to do is put the poles in the color coded holes on the tent and attach the poles with little plastic clips. Even with these easy setup features, some Big Agnes tents are easier and more intuitive to set up than others. An easy to setup tent can save you a lot of time and frustration when you get to your campsite for the night. This is especially important if you’re backpacking or mountaineering because your motor skills and mental energy will not be quite as sharp after a full day of hiking or at high elevations in cold conditions. Before bringing your Big Agnes tent on an actual camping trip, set it up in your backyard or living room to make sure you know how it works! Packing the tent up is just as important. Sometimes you might need to take your tent down and pack it up quickly if some weather is rolling in or if you’re trying to be efficient getting out of your campsite in the morning. Practicing this a time or two before your first trip with your tent is a great way to get the hang of things.

How Much Should a Big Agnes Tent Cost?

Big Agnes makes tents at a variety of price points. Here are the basic tiers of what you can expect from each price point

  • Low Price Point ($200 - $400): Medium to high quality, 3-season car camping tents for 1-6 people, some smaller backpacking tents
  • Middle Price Point ($400 - $800): Backpacking tents, ultralight backpacking tents, spacious 3-8 person car camping tents. Tents in this price range will have more features, and lighter materials
  • Top Price Point ($800 and above): Four season mountaineering tents that can withstand harsh storms

If you’re not looking for a fancy mountaineering tent to keep you warm on winter nights, you can reasonably expect to be able to find a high quality tent for around $400. If you don’t mind spending a bit more than $400, you can opt for something that’s top tier in terms of sturdiness and durability at a low weight. I personally have had the Big Agnes Blacktail 2 tent for about three years now, which I spent around $300 on. It’s not great for backpacking as it’s a bit heavy, but I have been in some rough rain and wind storms with the Blacktail and been totally protected and comfortable. Though it totally depends on your camping situation, you likely don’t need to spend much more than $400 at the most to get a high quality tent from Big Agnes that will last you years to come.

What are the Different Types of Big Agnes Tents?

The first thing to determine when shopping for a Big Agnes tent is to determine what type of tent you actually need. Big Agnes has a few categories of tents, all intended for different uses. Let’s check out the options to see which one might best suit you!

Car Camping Tents

Photo by Le Nhut

Car camping tents are meant for campers who intend to camp close to their vehicle. They aren’t as compact or lightweight as some other options, but have more headroom inside, have more features, and prioritize comfort

  • Benefits:
    • The most spacious option of any type of Big Agnes tent
    • More features available. Some car camping tents come with room dividers, vestibules, and more internal pockets and gear storage options include features like room dividers or large vestibules.
    • Most wallet-friendly option
    • More options to choose from compared to any other type of Big Agnes tent
  • Be Aware:
    • Heavier and larger, so not convenient to carry in a backpack
    • Depending on the exact model, car camping tents typically are larger and have more features which can take longer to setup and involve more set up steps

Backpacking Tents

Photo by Simoly

Backpacking tents are designed for campers who intend to carry all their gear in a backpacking pack as they hike into a remote location to camp for the night. Backpacking tents are designed to be lightweight and packable, making them easier to fit inside a pack with the rest of your gear and light enough that it’s not a burden to carry long distances. This is also a great option for minimalist campers who want a tent that’s not too bulky.

  • Benefits:
    • Lightweight for carrying long-distance hikers.
    • Compact enough to fit in a backpack with enough room for other gear
    • Usually designed with an easy setup design to avoid the hassle of a complicated setup after a long day of hiking.
  • Be Aware:
    • Smaller internal space, so will feel more cramped for multiple campers, campers with pets, or larger individuals
    • Pricier due to the more technology that goes into making the material of the tent lightweight than a classic car camping tent

Ultralight Tents

Photo by Roman Mikhailiuk

A step up from backpacking tents, ultralight tents are the most lightweight tents Big Agnes has to offer. They offer adequate protection from the elements at the absolute lowest weight. These are great for serious backpackers who try to have the absolute minumum weight possible in their pack.

  • Benefits:
    • Super lightweight so makes it easy to carry them long distances
    • Typically very minimalist, so easy to setup
  • Be Aware:
    • Priciest of all the options
    • Though they will keep you protected from the elements, ultralight tents typically have a shorter lifespan and are more prone to ripping or damage in heavy rain or wind

Mountaineering Tents

Photo by Max Top Photo and Video

Mountaineering tents are constructed to withstand harsh weather conditions, typically found at high elevations. For winter camping or camping in really extreme weather, these will offer the most reliable protection.

  • Benefits:
    • Four-Season protection will keep you warm and dry in even the craziest weather
    • Can be used all year round as opposed to most other tents which will not hold up in winter weather
    • Extremely durable to withstand all sorts of conditions
  • Be Aware:
    • Quite a bit heavier and bulkier due to the robust materials and construction.
    • Don’t offer great ventilation since they are more focused on protection from elements, so not a great summer camping option
    • More expensive than backpacking tents or car camping tents

Features to Look for When Buying a Big Agnes Tent

There are a few features and technologies that are specific to Big Agnes tents. These might not all be necessary and applicable for your exact camping situation, but it’s helpful to know what’s out there in case it could be useful to your camping style.

DAC Poles

Close up of the DAC poles on the Salt Creek SL2. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

DAC poles are the "backbone" of almost all Big Agnes tents. DAC is a heat treated aluminum alloy that’s stronger and more durable than classic aluminum poles. Steel is the sturdiest material for tent poles, but steel is also bulky and heavy, which makes it a bad option for campers who want to keep their gear lightweight. DAC is much lighter than steel and almost as strong, making it a great material for tent poles. I've personally found that Big Agnes tent poles resist breaking and bending much better than the poles of any other tent I have used over the years. These poles are also fully recyclable, so if sustainability in your outdoor gear is important to you - Big Agnes gets some bonus points for using these poles for the frame of their tents.

Color-Coded Webbing and Buckles

Color coded buckles and poles on the Copper Spur HV UL2. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

Color coded webbing, buckles, and poles might seem like a simple enough feature, but I cannot stress enough how much time I’ve saved while setting my tent up because of this color coding system. The end of the tent poles are color coded to which hole they are supposed to go in on the body of the tent, and the buckles on the rainfly are color coded to the buckle on the body of the tent where they are supposed to attach. When setting up tents without this feature, even if I have set it up a hundred times before it’s always a little puzzle of trying to figure out if the poles are on the right side and if the rainfly is on sideways. The color coding takes the guesswork out of setting your tent up, making it quick and easy.

Fast Fly Setup

Fast Fly Setup on the Copper Spur HV UL2. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

Most of Big Agnes tents come with a rainfly that can be set up with the poles on it’s own without the need to set up the tent itself. For days where it’s a bit rainy at camp and you need to build a shelter quickly, or for days where you’re just hanging out outside at a beach or in the desert and need some extra shade, this feature is super useful. It adds to the overall versatility of the tent because not only does your Big Agnes tent function as a shelter for sleeping in the evening, but it can provide a daytime shelter to hang out outdoors while being protected from the elements. The Fast Fly Setup is also useful to backpackers who want to sleep under the stars, with no tent, but also want to have a backup option in case any weather rolls in. Carrying just the poles and rainfly saves some weight in your pack, while still keeping you prepared for any unexpected storms. The doors are also designed to accommodate trekking poles, allowing you to stake your doors open with just your hiking poles.

Double Doors

Double Doors on the Bunk House 8. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

Though a lot of other tent brands have this feature as well, Big Agnes has incorporated it into most of their tent designs and it’s super useful if you’re sleeping in your tent with more than just yourself. Instead of having a door on just one side of the tent, the double doors allows access n and out of the tent on both sides. This can prevent you from needing to crawl over your tent mates to get in and out of the tent to use the bathroom or if you’re on slightly different sleep schedules, and it will prevent you from being woken up if your tent mate is coming and going during the time you’re asleep. If you’re camping in the summer and find your tent is getting a bit too warm, the double doors can also offer extra venting options to cool the inside of your tent down quicker and avoid condensation better than you’d be able to with just a single door.

Dirt Dagger UL Tent Stakes

The Dirt Dagger UL Tent stakes in the three size options

Tent stakes are another common breakdown point of tents. With the constant hammering into the ground, and the amount of weight they support being the grounding point for the whole tent, they are constantly being beaten up both during tent setup and when exposed to any weather or heavy winds. Tent stakes are generally made of steel, aluminum, and sometimes even plastic. Steel stakes are heavy and tend to bend easier, and full aluminum stakes, while a bit lighter than steel, also tend to bend over time. Plastic stakes are the lightest, but have a high risk of breaking as you’re setting your tent up, or under the stress of heavy wind. Big Agnes has a patented tent stake design called the Dirt Dagger UL tent stakes. I was a bit skeptical of these stakes at first because they are lighter than any other tent stakes I have used before, and lower weight tends to mean they are less durable. But even after years of heavy use, the tent stakes on my Big Agnes tent have yet to break or bend, and still work just as well on the 100th time I used them as they did on the first time I took my tent out. These takes are made with aircraft grade aluminum alloy that can withstand the wear and tear of heavy hammering and stress. Not only are they ultra durable, but they are lighter weight (0.65 oz per stake) than any other tent stakes on the market, making them a no brainer for car campers and backpackers alike.

How to Choose the Right Big Agnes Tent for You

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but if you’re still not quite sure which option from Big Agnes is the right tent for you, don’t worry! Below I have listed three actually Curated customers that I have helped to find the perfect tent for them. They all have different camping situations and needs in a tent, which I have listed, along with a few specific Big Agnes tents that would be great options for them.

Laurel, the Avid Car Camper

Laurel lives in Idaho, where there’s so many cool places to explore outdoors that it would be hard not to love camping. Just about every weekend she goes car camping in various locations close to her home. The weather is usually pretty moderate and dry, though there are the occasional afternoon or evening storms. She typically camps alone with her 45 pound dog, or with her partner or one friend. Since she doesn’t backpack, weight isn’t much of a concern for her and she just wants something durable, comfortable, and high quality since she spends so much time camping.

Things Laurel needs in a tent:

  • Durability and plenty of interior space
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Rain protection for the occasional storms

Features Laurel should Look For:

  • Large vestibules and storage areas
  • Enough room for herself + her dog or herself, her dog, and one other person
  • Plenty of ventilation
  • Strong and reliable tent poles and stakes

Tent Options for Laurel:

Rachel, the Ultralight Backpacker

Rachel is an ultralight backpacker who camps in several different areas and types of terrain. Since she rarely car camps, low weight is much more important to her than having extra room. Rachel is always trying to find ways to cut down the ounces she has to carry in her pack since she wants to explore remote and rugged locations with as little weight in her backpack as possible. Rachel wants the best overall backpacking tent that’s compact and portable but can still keep her well protected in the different types of terrain and weather she encounters on her trips.

Things Rachel needs in a tent:

  • Ultra-lightweight construction
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Reliable weather protection
  • Quick setup

Features Rachel should Look For:

  • Fast Fly setup options
  • Low trail weight but still durable
  • Simplified, efficient designs

Tent Options for Rachel:

Jerry, the Family Camper

Jerry enjoys family camping trips with his wife and two kids. Most of his trips are low stress and centered around hanging with his family outdoors. His wife and kids aren’t very excited about backpacking, so they stick to car camping and usually camp in family-friendly campgrounds during the summer months. Jerry wants plenty of space to keep his whole family comfortable, and something that doesn’t require too many steps to setup so that he can get camp squared away quickly when they arrive at their destination and have plenty of time to go explore with the kids. He doesn’t mind paying a bit more for a tent that will keep his family happy on their frequent camping trips.

Things Jerry needs in a tent:

  • Spacious interiors with large floor area and roomy vestibules
  • Easy setup and takedown
  • Kid-friendly features and designs

Features Jerry should Look For:

  • Strong pole structures and durable materials
  • Two doors to easily get in and out without waking the kids
  • Compact and efficient design

Tent Options for Jerry:

Conclusion

The Tiger Wall UL3 Solution Dye. Photo courtesy of Big Agnes

With all the options, choosing which Big Agnes tent to purchase can feel like a tricky task. The right camping shelter is important not only for keeping yourself and your gear dry and protected, but also for ensuring you set yourself up to have the best possible nights sleep and are well rested for a trip full of hiking, biking, climbing, or exploring. Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea of the perfect Big Agnes tent for you, but if not, there’s still hope! Here on Curated we have a team of Camping and HIking Experts that can offer free, personalized advice to help you find the exact right gear for your trip. Chat with an Expert today and we can help you get your gear all squared away for your next big trip.

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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