ReviewsTent

Review: Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2

I got a Big Agnus Seedhouse 2 SL early in the spring 2004, and have used it on two Boundary Waters trips, a long distance kayaking trip, and car camping. When combined together this amounts to over two months of camping, so this tent has seen a good amount of use in some hard conditions. Here are my impressions:

It’s Lightweight

Although weighing fewer than four pounds and built with silicone nylon, the Seedhouse seems durable enough. During the testing period, the nylon held up without a scratch even without using a ground tarp to protect the floor, but the mesh canopy has developed many runs and a couple holes in the pockets during this time. It seems that with this tent some durability is sacrificed for reduced weight. UPDATE: 2/10/06 – The zipper on the canopy also tore out and had to be repaired in the field when my backpacking partner tripped and fell onto the tent.

That there Zipper Leaks like a Sieve

In order to accomplish some of the weight savings, Big Agnus has chosen
to use a waterproof zipper. By doing this, they were able to skip using
rain flaps to cover the zipper and save the weight of fabric.
Although
this works and the zipper is waterproof, one night during a thunderstorm,
I awoke to the drip, drip, drip of a Chinese water torture coming down
on my head. In the morning, I discovered that the seam joining the zipper
to the rain fly wasn’t factory sealed. I made it through the rest
of the trip and then sealed the seam and haven’t had any problems
since then. This isn’t the only problem with the vestibule door
and rain though. When entering or exiting the tent during rain, the
door allows water to fall into the inside of the tent. I found that
I had to smack the tent to make most the water run down the front of
the tent, so the vibration of opening the zipper wouldn’t cause
water to run into the tent. If I were to redesign this tent, I would
change the vestibule door to a two-zipper design with each zipper running
from the stake to the top of the tent. Then you could use trekking poles,
paddles, etc … to hold up the vestibule door and become an awning.
(This would be similar to the SD Meteor Light.)

Condensation

The specter of condensation was held at bay even during hot humid midwestern
days in August, except no matter where placed, in the morning there
would be a good amount of condensation between the tent floor and the
ground. I haven’t seen this often in any of the tents that I’ve
used before, so it remains a mystery to me. I suspect it has something
to do with the silnylon used.

Shine on You Crazy Diamond

One of my favorite features in the tent is the pocket above the door.
If you put a headlamp in this pocket it points down into the tent and
provides the right amount of light for playing games, reading books,
or just organizing the maps for the next day.

Here a Zipper, There a…

In contrast to the great placement of the above-mentioned pocket, the
zippers leave a lot to be desired. The canopy door uses two zippers
that meet in the lower right corner. This makes several problems, the
first of which is that the person sleeping on the left side of the tent
has to fumble over the person on the right side in order to open the
door. The second is much more annoying: When opening the door to adjust
the venting of the vestibule zipper, you have to open the zipper very
widely, which in the Minnesota Northwoods during bug season lets a ton
of blood suckers into the tent. It is also hard to get the zippers to
come together and close completely, which results in a small hole that
bugs, somehow manage to get into. Had Big Agnus used a door that opened
to the bottom instead of the side and had they used one continuous zipper
with two pulls the tent would have been much more user friendly.

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Wow! It’s Tight in Here

Reviewing the inside of a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2
Inside a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2
The zipper would have been much more annoying, if the
tent was bigger than it is, but there is very little distance between
the person on the left and the zipper on the far right. It was tight
sleeping with two people, so you better be very friendly. Most of the
summer, I used this as a solo tent, but on those few occasions that
I used it with a friend, we both agreed that we wouldn’t have
wanted to be stuck inside during a rain day. That being said, it was
still roomy enough for two to sleep, and it was a great size for one
person. Just don’t expect to spend a lot of time inside sitting
up or moving around.

The Set-Up

This tent uses a unique pole system to set up. The pole is a single
pole with hubs at either end that split into two separate poles. (This
is what Eureka should have done with the classic Boy Scout tent, the
Timberline.) This makes it easy to set-up, and when staked out with
only 5 stakes, it is solid in storms. During several nasty windstorms
in the Boundary Waters, the tent didn’t budge a bit. The set-up
and design impressed me, but by the end of the year, the poles where
starting to bend into a curved shape.

Conclusion

Although, I have said a few negative things about this tent, I feel
that overall, it is a great lightweight tent and by far the best out
of all of the sub four to four and a half pound tents. In order to reach
that weight, they had to compromise on a few design issues: the weight
of the bug mesh, placement of the door on the rain fly, but these are
small issues. The biggest flaw that the tent has is the zipper design
on the canopy. This needs to be fixed.
I recommend this tent for anyone
looking for the best of the lightweight tents on the market.

UPDATE – 2/10/06

After a reader wrote to me thanking me for the review, he mentioned that the waterproof zipper now had a rain flap over it. So, I checked it on Big Agnes’s website, gave Big Agnes a call. They told me to send the tent in for a replacement, and when it came back I had a new fly with the rain flap over the zipper. This fixes all the water problems I had with the zipper — a huge improvement. On the warranty sheet, I failed to mention the ripping out of the door zipper on the canopy and the holes in the bug netting, so they didn’t repair or replace the canopy. Mainly, that was my fault, because, coming from retail, when we sent a defective item in with most companies, they would just send us back a new one. I assumed that this would be the same with this tent. The lesson I learned was to fill out the form with every problem you’ve had with the item. My fault for assuming and not theirs. This rain fly fix – the new flap – puts this tent back on top as the king of sub-four pound tents. It is highly recommended.

Update – 12/1/2009

Still my favorite sub-4-pound, two-person tent.

Date Reviewed: 10/16/2004
Date Updated: 07/08/2005

5 comments

  • […] I have formed the general opinion that the tent is flawed and not worth the $250 that I paid for it. The general stitching and quality problems plus the failure of the trekking pole sleeve and the pole sleeve leave me wondering and waiting for the next failure. The condensation issues and wetness of the tent had me often regretting I just didn’t take a tarp or something else like my Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 SL. […]

  • Thanks for the in depth review. It certainly helps me decide to spend a little more moolah for one pound less than the Eureka Zeus… or the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight …

  • I’m glad it was helpful. Enjoy the tent.

  • I was wondering about the measurements when it’s packed(all together or separately). if you could tell me the longest measurement, I can figure out if it would fit in my bike’s panniers. thanks

    • My tent is packed away for the winter in a deep dark place. The long part are the poles. Big Agnes lists the pole length as 6.5 inches by 16 inches. They fit fine in my bike’s panniers. I have eight or nine year old Vaude Discover Pro Rear Panniers.

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