There are three main things I look at when shopping for a four-season carry-friendly mountain tent: weight, strength and price. Those three are often at odds with each other, and finding that perfect combination can take time and a lot of research.
The Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 most certainly hits the first two points. Trail packed, the BM2 weighs in at 3120 grams (3170 according to BA), which is very reasonable for a four-pole, four-season tent. Those four poles cross at five different points to create one of the strongest tent structures I’ve used, one that barely rattles even in heavy winds. Price-wise, the Big Agnes is somewhat comparable to all the other brand-name, four-season two-person tents out there; that is to say it is not inexpensive.
Weight-wise, the Big Agnes compares very favourably against the competition, though as I haven’t been able to weigh each and every tent out there (as much as I’d like to!) those are manufacturer-provided figures (BA actual weight in brackets).
(Some readers might notice that I haven’t included the MEC TGV 2 in the comparison table: that tent’s three-pole design, without proper cross-point reinforcements, just isn’t as strong as the other tents. And it is only available in Canada. However, if you’re looking for a relatively lightweight, inexpensive, fairly sturdy two-person tent and can somehow pick one up, as I know most of you don’t live in Canada, the $400 TGV 2 is hard to beat.)
Looking at the cross-table, the newer tent designs (the BA and the MSR) are decidedly lighter than the competition. The older generation of tents all come in at over 4000 grams, which is a lot of weight to carry around, though it is somewhat irrelevant if all you’re doing with it is base camping.
As far as strength is concerned, with a four-pole design that crosses over in five places, the Big Agnes has stood up to high winds that took down other tents without a rattle. The pole design uses ‘hubs’ to suspend part of the body, and the main pole section also has dual three-pole-spreaders for strength and to minimize the number of poles required to achieve the BM2’s strength.
I’ve yet to use all the stake-out points as properly oriented into the wind, the Battle Mountain 2 seems to slice through the breeze.
Even with its light weight, the BM2 has two entrances and two vestibules. The smaller, rear, vestibule is angled to shed both snow and wind, and is just large enough to stash a couple of packs. The larger front vestibule has a clear window — a nice touch for checking on the weather without opening the doors — and the door can be opened in a myriad of ways: one larger front opening, two smaller side openings or a combination thereof.
Both the interior doors are half-mesh, and there are two triangular vents near the front door, with corresponding vents in the fly. As these are placed on the wider end of the tent, where your heads would be, they work great for minimizing moisture condensation in cold conditions.
Furthering the tent’s livability are the numerous side pockets, a larger one down low, and a smaller, triangular one higher up, and a sizeable dual-compartment ceiling loft (with really neat, rolled-over edges, to keep items from falling out).
The muted orange-brown fly and beige tent body make for a softly lit interior that is pleasant to spend a lot of time in, irregardless of what the weather is doing outside.
Durability has proven excellent, with no tears or punctures to the body or fly over the course of our use. I have used an early version that ripped near the main door zipper after an awkwardly snagged foot, however despite many awkward entries, our test sample remains intact.
The tent pegs, on the other hand, appear very burly but have become bent and misshapen from repeated poundings into hard soil and rocky dirt. Their four-sided design holds very well, but I’m not impressed with how bent out of shape they’ve become. They still work, though.
The fly continues to shed snow and rain without issue, though if not fully tightened up, some snow will accumulate on the top. Fit and finish are excellent, however, so ensuring the fly is seated and tightened properly is easy. Overall setup, however, does require some practice and fore-thought as the poles and clips are not the easiest system to figure out.
Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Battle Mountain 2. It’s roomy enough to spend some time in without wanting to immediately ditch your tentmate, light enough that it can actually be carried in a backpack and strong enough for any winter conditions we’ve subjected it to. Highly recommended.
Snowy images by Monte Johnston from Black Sheep Adventure Sports. Check out his site for more great gear reviews!