First Look: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 set up in the BWCA

Almost two years ago, we added a person to our family. As he has grown up, we’ve had to figure out how he is going to fit in with our camping and paddling trips. This year with a toddler in tow, we found that our two person tents didn’t fit anymore (last year, we used my heavy old mountaineering tent which had plenty of extra length to fit a baby). We bought a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 and will review it as we continue to use it. This is the first look after using it on one canoeing trip into the BWCA.

Our goal was to find a lightweight or ultra-lightweight tent that fit the three of us. I’ve always liked Big Agnes tents and have had great luck with my Seedhouse UL2 [Amazon Link], so that was the first place that I looked but I also looked at MSR and other brands. After comparing tents, we settled on the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 [Amazon link].

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 packed up
Packed up it’s a little longer than what we are used to due to the length of the poles.

The Copper Spur UL3 is a three-person, ultralight tent weighing 4 pounds. It offers 44 square foot of internal space, two doors and two vestibules with 9 square foot of space. It has several gear pockets for lots of storage and accepts a gear loft (which wasn’t available when we purchased the tent, but we will be buying — it’ll be great for stashing our kid’s toys out of the way while sleeping but keeping them close at hand for when he wakes up).

The fabric is ultralight silicone treated nylon ripstop with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating. It feels light and paper thin, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up to a toddler. For color, it’s a combo of a gray and orange. On an overcast day, the inside feels cheering due to the color and I like the bright fly color for photos.

Copper Spur UL3 side view in the BWCAFor our first outing with the tent, we did a two-night trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was an easy trip onto Brule Lake, one of the bigger lakes in the BWCA. We found an island campsite and base camped there and took short day trips around the lake. The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 was easy to set up. We had practiced at home once, but probably didn’t need to as setup seemed self-explanatory. If you’ve set up a tent before, it’s a no-brainer. The only odd thing that you might not have encountered before is in the middle of the main pole a Swivel CH hub and H Clip holds the tent to the poles. I’ve seen these widgets before and am not sold on them. The problem with every tent that I’ve used with them is that the pole joint at the intersection doesn’t allow the tip of the pole to be completely inserted. There’s about a 1/8th to 1/4 inch gap between the edges of the female side and the male side after pushing it as hard as I could to get the poles to come together. While probably not an issue, I’d rather have my poles completely connected.

Copper Spur gear storage and media port
Gear storage and a headphone port.

Inside the Copper Spur UL3, there was plenty of room for myself, my better half and our toddler. Three sleeping pads fit snugly together and there was plenty of space at our head and feet (I’m the tallest at 5’10”). The gear storage worked great at holding our personal gear as well as our son’s books and a few of his toys when we needed to get them out of the way.

I felt that the vestibules were just a touch small for our needs — boots and portage packs. We ended up putting the packs under one vestibule, but they pushed against the rain fly. If this is a sacrifice that I’m forced to take for the weight, then so be it.

The Copper Spur UL3 packs up easily and is generally small enough for our portage packs except we noticed that the pole segments were longer than we are used to. While not an issue for canoeing and kayaking, we’ll have to rethink how we pack our panniers for bike tours. For now, we’ll just haul it in the Burly kid carrier.

What we really loved about the tent is how much room it offered for the weight. At 4 pounds, it’s just over 1 pound and 5 ounces per person. For two people it’s 2 pounds per person. That’s the same as my Big Agnes Seedhouse UL2 and the space difference is incredible.

My first impression is that this tent is a winner. Both Ilena and I loved it. It was easy-to-setup, big enough for our needs and it’s lightweight. We’re going to get a lot of use out of this tent.

More Info

Disclaimer: I bought this tent with my own hard-earned cash.

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  • Bryan, can you measure the interior length and width? I’ve found Big Agnes seriously overstates these numbers in their product specs.

    • Next time I have it set up, I will. Three 20-inch pads fit across it just fine with room on each side, so I suspect that the width is close to the claimed 70. It seems like we had plenty of head and foot room as well.

  • I have been very happy with my Copper Spur UL2, used for week-long paddling trips on the North Norwegian coast (summer time, as in night temp of 5-15 Celsius. ) With the optional footprint it survives the rocks and bushes.

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