Monday, 7 June 2010

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and Seedhouse SL1



Specifications (as weighed by me)


Fly Creek UL1

  • Weight of fly and inner (in stuffsack): 628g 
  • Poleset (including stuffsack): 282g 
  • 11 Vargo Titanium Pegs (and bag): 55g 
  • Total 965g 
  • Floor space of inner: 106cm x 218cm, 2.04sqm 

Seedhouse SL1
  • Weight of fly and inner (in stuffsack): 856g 
  • Poleset (including stuffsack): 283g 
  • 13 standard Pegs (and bag): 166g 
  • Total 1305g 
  • Floor space of inner: 109cm x 228cm, 2.48sqm


    The Fly Creek UL1 (of which all the pictures are) is part of a series of ultralight shelters from Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based Big Agnes. A dual skin, solo tent made from identical fabrics to the award-winning Copper Spur UL, the Fly Creek’s larger brother (the Fly Creek UL2) has already scooped a major award in the US. Adopting the same blueprint as the Seedhouse SL1 (SL = SuperLight, rather than UltraLight), the Fly Creek is in excess of 250g lighter, but consequently somewhat smaller inside. The Seedhouse SL blueprint, of which I am fond, having owned a Seedhouse for some years, is a functional and comfortable layout with negligible flaws - for example, the high-point, although 96.5cm, is not ideally placed for sitting & doing porch chores being perhaps 10cm too far back and the porch is so steep that there is no genuine possibility of safely cooking in it. These do not, in fact, detract greatly from what remains an extremely good shelter. Having initially taken a gamble on the new Vaude Power Lizard UL, which I found to be an exceptional tent but just not quite to my tastes, I stumbled (quite literally, in virtual & digital terms) upon the Fly Creek UL1. Given my reverence for the Seedhouse layout, the prospect of the Fly Creek burdening my rucksack with only 1kg was interesting. After some preliminary research, I bought one.




    My initial concern was whether the groundsheet (ultralight ripstop nylon with 1200mm waterproofing) would be sufficiently robust to obviate the need for a footprint. A discussion with Big Agnes proved positive. Curiously, on inspection, it is ostensibly more gossamer than the groundsheet of the Power Lizard which seems oddly durable for such a lightweight tent. When I first wrote this review, the question of whether to use a footprint was unexplored but now, having used the Fly Creek for well over a year, I can say that I have never needed a footprint. I also know of at least two bloggers who have used other Big Agnes UL tents, manufactured in the same fabrics, without footprints & without difficulties. IIn grassy terrain, suitably inspected, a footprint is otiose. So far as the Seedhouse is concerned, I have used a footprint for it but really it was wasted weight at 155g. The upper part of the inner is constructed from part mesh & part ultra-thin nylon (which feels identical to the diaphonous cocoon of the Power Lizard). This means there is sufficient ventilation. Indeed, as can be seen from the photographs, there is mesh at the foot end as well to provide ventilation. The inner is designed to clip completely to the Y-shaped single DAC featherlite pole (whereupon Big Agnes push their green credentials with environmentally sensitive anodising), unlike the Seedhouse which required some threading along dorsal loops & clipped only at the porch area. This is an improvement as it will make the Fly Creek easier to erect in wind & rain. It’s an inner first tent, but with some care, the fly can easily be placed over the inner to lessen the rain ingress during pitching. There are double zips in the inner and outer permitting ventilation and both zips close one-handed with no catching.



    Another deviation, readily observed, is the removal of a sliver of the inner along the dorsal ridge towards the rear. This means one less clip & less mesh. It's an intuitive design progression, as this space is utterly superfluous in the Seedhouse. The Fly Creek feels undeniably more compact inside, but not negatively so. The crucial affairs - enabling sufficient free movement within the inner, tolerable seated head room & the copious space at the porch end allowing access to gear whilst lying down - all remain more than tolerable.


    There is a small pocket above the door to place smaller objects - glasses, a headtorch, iPhone/mp3 player or similar. It measures around 15cm by 8cm. There are also loops to attach the "gear loft" BA supply. I think a small piece of string and a sock drying line could be constructed. The porch is a bijou little place, and I would never cook in it unless I desperately needed to, but it stored my pack and footwear and that's all I need.


    As far as 1200mm hydrostatic head is concerned - read my review of the Fly Creek's performance in the Black Mountain when flooded here.

    I remain comforted by the ease of pitching Big Agnes tents with this blueprint. Achieving a taut pitch is effortless if all the fly straps which clip onto the inner at the pole grommets (of which there are three) are loose & everything pegged tight first before adjusting them. The inner automatically sits taut with adroit peg placement at the back. The only issue I've ever experienced with the Seedhouse SL1 is getting the porch taut as it is often perfect across the front but not the sides or vice versa - this seems to have disappeared in the Fly Creek UL1. I always use the guys at the side of the fly (enabling rain egress & reducing condensation risk) & at the front if I expect wind. The Seedhouse was a pretty unyielding shelter if the sharp, foot end is pitched into the wind & the shape of the Fly Creek is identical. In fact, in wind up to around 40mph, pitched next to an Akto, the Fly Creek stayed upright. It wavered, I must admit, but it provided a shelter and that's all that was needed. I have replaced the DAC V-stakes, each weighing 11g, with Vargo titanium pegs (each weighing 5g). 11 pegs shaves 66g off the total tent weight dropping it below 1kg (964g for mine, in fact). I've been impressed by Vargo titanium pegs & every tent I own has had them. You could easily do the same for the Seedhouse.




    I was excited by the Fly Creek when I bought it. It's akin to the welcome return of an old friend following a crash diet. I think tents are very much about ambience - like all kit, the most functional tent in the world is worthless if you can't sleep in it & there's much to behove a shelter that simply has that unquantifiable peculiarity which makes it satisfyingly cosy. It is an idiosyncratic quality which I found in the Seedhouse & I look forward to getting re-aquainted in June. There’s little doubt that this is a 3-Season tent, just, but I would not want to find myself in a winter wild camp in it - it’s pretty sturdy and well-pitched into the wind, I think it would be fine in almost all 3-season situations but I’d want something more robust for winter - the Akto just did not cut it, but a Trailstar might. That said, if I found myself with the Fly Creek alone, I would be content to sit out almost anything in it.

    17 comments:

    1. Welcome to Blogland - a great start with these first few posts.
      I too wonder about those very flimsy-feeling groundsheets, although I was initially taken aback at the feel of the LaserComp one at first but it's just fine.
      The traditional distinction between winter and 3-season tents has always bothered me: the only aspect of winter that has a bearing is how it deals with snow. The far more common and important thing is how it stands up to rough windy weather, which in my experience happens much more often in Spring and Autumn.

      ReplyDelete
    2. Thanks GeoffC. I'm just hoping people enjoy reading my journal. Seems to me that the only way to be confident in them is to use them. It's thing that most surprised me about the Power Lizard in fact - it's groundsheet was damned strong given the weight. I'm looking forward to using the Fly Creek and, as summer rolls on, I may even look at a tarp...

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    3. Hi Maz,
      Great review and great blog!
      Very intrigued by the Fly Creek, but there ain't much information around. Your highly detailed review (I like the bit about the 'ambience' feel of a tent!) is really really useful.
      I do have two remaining worries: one is the mesh door, and the other is the relatively high cut of the fly. The two things combined probably make for a rather cool tent, which means you need heavier bag and clothes at night?
      So, here's a question, if I may. Is it possible to pull the fly closer to the ground than in the pictures? There seems to be some webbing that can pulled harder on the pegging points? Or perhaps one can peg them closer to the tent and get the fly to go lower?
      Would be quite interested in any info re this issue!
      Cheers,

      ReplyDelete
    4. Walter, thanks for your comments. I find the Fly Creek to be a good shelter from wind so have never had wind come under the fly as I pitch the back into the wind which pitches very low to the ground. Sadly, wind changes direction! On the two front peg points, there is webbing/strapping to pull the fly down but there will always be slight gaps at the sides of the fly - these are the only gaps. They could be pegged lower with the addition of loops but you'd have to sew those in yourself! Otherwise, the more taut it is, the higher it goes. The mod-point guylines obviate this and there are clipsto attach to the inner but I never use them as they raise the inner bathtub up. Wind ingress could be a problem Walter but it's not something I've experienced. The shape of the fly tends to mitigate against it.

      ReplyDelete
    5. Thanks for providing a great insight into the Flycreek 1. I've just ordered a Flycreek 2 after having a Seedhouse 2 for a couple of years and it gave me great service on the fells of the Lake District. I can't wait to get out and about with it come the springtime. I will probably take a sheet of pertex (I have some in yellow knocking about somewhere) and fashion a groundsheet out of it although I did use my seedhouse without one many times. I believe the Flycreeks floor is even thinner! The Flycreek looks like a great upgrade though!!

      Jim

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    6. Jim: the fly and the groundsheet on the Fly Creek are definitely thinner than the Seedhouse but I really have never felt like it would tear or be damaged - I am careful about pitch selection though. The only thing I would say about Pertex is that it is not waterproof (breathes great though) - you might find that the only weakness of the Fly Creek, its low Hydrostatic Head of 1200mm (see my post on that) is obviated if you have a waterpoof footprint/groundsheet - Silnylon is pretty good for that if used as a groundsheet (however, again, see my Hydrostatic Head post on silnylon) or even cuben fibre. Team IO do good groundsheets which are very light and not expensive. All of that said - I don't use a footprint/groundsheet.

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    7. Maz, now you mention it I think I have some of TeamIO's plastic grounsheet somewhere. I bought it about 2 years ago and never used it. I'll have to see if I can find it. The tent should arrive today so I can have a good look at it later. I must admit I do think these BA tents are very underated in the UK which I don't really understand as they are fantatic roomy products. Much better than some of the main branded lightweight alternatives!

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    8. Jim: I love the Fly Creek dearly. I will be experimenting with tarp and bivy in 2011, but I suspect the Fly Creek will see some hills. Also, I'll be mountaineering in the Alps, but that will be hut-based.

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    9. Thanks a lot for this fine article. I think that the BA Fly Creek (perhaps!) is the best 1 person tent, but i am not sure. North Face, VauDe, Wechsel and Salewa have fine 1 person tents but the FC only weighs 1 kilo instead of 2 kilo.

      If it can handle strong winds, it will be my next tent.

      Very interesting post, thanks a lot!

      ReplyDelete
    10. Hey Maz, this FC2 is awesome, I can pitch it quicker than my Seedhouse SL2. Love the high inner fabric too, should help a lot on windy nights on the fells. I've only pitched in garden to try it so far. Roll on spring so I can get out and about with it. Fantastic piece of kit that I would recommend to anyone!!!

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    11. Anonymous: it handled strong winds in the Fells very well indeed - even though one of the guylines was not pegged out properly by my brother in law, it remained upright with a cross-wind of something like 30mph - perhaps even more.

      Anonymous: glad you like it! I certainly do. Each time I look at something new, I end up going back to it.

      ReplyDelete
    12. Anonymous: it handled strong winds in the Fells very well indeed - even though one of the guylines was not pegged out properly by my brother in law, it remained upright with a cross-wind of something like 30mph - perhaps even more.

      Anonymous: glad you like it! I certainly do. Each time I look at something new, I end up going back to it.

      ReplyDelete
    13. Hi Maz,
      Great review and great blog!
      Very intrigued by the Fly Creek, but there ain't much information around. Your highly detailed review (I like the bit about the 'ambience' feel of a tent!) is really really useful.
      I do have two remaining worries: one is the mesh door, and the other is the relatively high cut of the fly. The two things combined probably make for a rather cool tent, which means you need heavier bag and clothes at night?
      So, here's a question, if I may. Is it possible to pull the fly closer to the ground than in the pictures? There seems to be some webbing that can pulled harder on the pegging points? Or perhaps one can peg them closer to the tent and get the fly to go lower?
      Would be quite interested in any info re this issue!
      Cheers,

      ReplyDelete
    14. Just came across your review, great stuff you posted!! Keep up the detailed reviews, really enjoying flipping through your site.

      ReplyDelete
    15. Thanks Chris - some good stuff coming in the next six months so I hope you continue to enjoy it.

      ReplyDelete
    16. Thanks for the review. I am currently looking for a backpacking tent and as the Flycreek is currently on sale at REI, looking into it. I've read that some people find it a bit, well, snug. Wondering if it would be worth the extra weight to look at the 2-person version...

      ReplyDelete
    17. That completely depends on your own perception of snug. I'm 6ft (180cm) talk and I find it perfect, but I don't need a lot of room and I don't carry much kit. It's not something you can easily sit up in or spread out in, so if you need that, the 2-person would be better. I suspect since this review there are better 2-person tents for the weight now!

      ReplyDelete