Fond as I am of my tent from Taiwan, last year I decided to buy a new tent to use on Pacific Crest Trail hikes (I still use my Taiwanese tent for all non-PCT camping). Specifically, I bought a Big Agnes Scout 2. I used it for the first time in the Trinity Alps, and I invited the PCT thru-hiker who was at the campsite to check it out. His comment was “That tent is a palace.” Ever since then, I’ve thought of this tent as being my palace on the Pacific Crest Trail.
What makes this tent a palace? Space. To keep weight down, most hikers carry small tents, which means it can get cramped inside, especially if they are storing all of their gear in the tent. Some hikers just carry bivy shelters, which are basically tents which only have space for a single sleeping bag.
My tent, however, is a two person tent. A REAL two person tent. Officially, my Taiwanese tent is also a ‘two person’ tent, but in reality putting two people in my Taiwanese tent would be very uncomfortable. My palace on the PCT, however, could accommodate two people without having them lie on top of each other. Some hikers assumed that I had a partner simply because they saw how big my tent is. That means that, as a single person, my tent can accommodate me and all of my gear and still have leftover space. Compared to most of the tents used on the Pacific Crest Trail, my tent feels luxurious.
One hiker told me “It’s great to be one person in a two person tent, but I wouldn’t want to carry the weight.” I then told her that my tent, including stakes, only weighs 1 lb. 9 oz. (710 grams). That’s less weight than nearly all one-person tents (including my Taiwanese tent). By contrast, the two most popular tents on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Big Agnes Copper Spur and the Big Agnes Fly Creek, weigh 2 lb 3 oz. and 1 lb. 11 oz. respectively in their 1-PERSON sizes (and many hikers choose the 2-person sizes even if they are alone because the 1-person versions of those tents are too small).
Even though this is a great tent, it gets very mixed reviews on the internet. In my opinion, the big disadvantage of this tent is that it has a steeper-than-typical learning curve for learning how to use it well, and that most of the complaints which people have about this tent could be fixed by changing the pitching. For example, some people complain about the placement of the trekking poles – it is true that in the beginning I sometimes knocked them down in my sleep, but eventually I trained myself not to do that. It does take practice to learn how to pitch it well so that it will be sufficiently taut, but after using this for over a month, I am very good at pitching this tent, even in non-ideal tent sites. Tip one: if the ground is too hard for staking, use rocks. Tip two: if the tent site is too small for full staking, tie the guylines to whatever is blocking the staking (usually a tree or shrub).
One hiker commented that they would not want to use my tent because he did not think it was storm-proof. It’s true that it’s not ideal for going through a harsh storm, but I did use it in Mount Laguna in San Diego county (a very windy place) and it held up, so it’s got enough wind resistance for my purposes. Pitching the tent well goes a long way to making it hold up well in the wind.
Another hiker said that he would not want to use my tent because it requires 12 stakes. I asked what was wrong with 12 stakes. He said it was too much labor to set up. I responded that I consider it to be a labor saving tent because of its relatively low weight (also, it does not use tent poles, and I consider setting up tent poles to be more tedious than staking).
The last common complaint about this tent is the condensation. I, however, rarely had condensation in my tent during this hike, and the few times I did get condensation it’s because I put it in the wrong tent site. Basically, this tent will have condensation unless a) it’s pitched under tree cover or b) it’s very windy.
Wind is unreliable, so I almost always pitched the tent under trees, even if it meant that I had to put it under a steeper slope or have more awkward pitching. Having used this tent for over a month, I can attest that this tent does not get condensation under trees.
Even though it’s such a spacious and low-weight tent, this is an uncommon tent on the Pacific Crest Trail. Most PCT hikers had never seen this tent model before, which meant they could learn to recognize me by my tent (i.e. if they saw my tent in a campsite they knew that I was around even if they did not see me). And even though I think this tent deserves to be more popular on the PCT, I like that I have an uncommon tent. It makes me feel special.
When I was using my Taiwanese tent in Hokkaido, I discovered that one of the cool things about travelling with a tent is that it’s like having your own portable room. Even if you are in a totally unfamiliar place, when you crawl in to go do sleep, it’s the same tent that you have slept in many times before. I felt that effect even more strongly this summer with this tent – though I was in a different place every day, at night, I was able to retreat into my own familiar palace.