Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 Tent

SeedhouseSL1I recently used a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 Tent and ground cloth during a 9 week 3,600 mile bicycle ride. The SL in the name means ‘super light’, and the 1 means one person. My tent, with all stuff sacks and ground cloth, weighed in at 43.9 ounces. The tent performed well in both wind and rain, and I didn’t have any issues with moisture build up inside the tent, itself.

To speed up packing I did not use the stuff sack supplied by Big Agnes; rather I used a Sea to Summit ultra light dry sack. It was easier to cram the rain fly, tent body, and ground cloth in the dry sack rather than try to carefully roll the tent up so that it fit inside the supplied sack. Also, it kept the tent dry when riding in the rain, making it easier to erect. I did use the stuff sack supplied for the tent poles and stakes. The tent is so compact everything fit inside one of my rear panniers so I didn’t need to strap it to the rear rack.

After I developed a ‘routine’, the tent could be erected in about 5 minutes. The tent is free standing, except for the vestibule storage area under the front section of the rain fly. In my case, I chose to stake the tent down every time simply as a precaution against unexpected wind. The ground cloth only covers the area under the tent body, not the vestibule storage area. I set items stored in the vestibule area in a trash bag to help keep the bottoms dry.

The 3 individual lengths of segmented tent poles are all attached to a central hub with bungee cords. When pulled out of the stuff sack the individual pole segments somewhat tend to straighten out on their own. This is both good and bad: if you are not careful some of the sections could be easily bent/broken or you could receive an unexpected poke in the face. Big Agnes does include a short repair section if a pole is damaged. The tent body would have been easier to erect if the top ridge had clips to attach it to the pole instead of loops which require the longest pole section to be threaded through each loop individually. This was a pain, particularly when windy or raining, but not a deal breaker.

The ground cloth and tent body have straps on each corner with grommets to restrain the ends of the tent poles and snaps for holding the rain fly in place. Before erecting the poles I would stake the ground cloth/tent body in place which minimized everything moving around due to wind. I found that inserting the two front poles first, then the rear pole, worked the best. Then I pulled the rain fly over the tent body and snapped it in place and staked the vestibule corner in place, followed by the guy lines. The tent can be erected using only the poles and rain fly, but I never tried this out so have no opinion or experience on doing this.

The DAC tent stakes are rather small, but they did work well, even in wet ground. One problem I had was pulling them out of the ground, so, I took parachute cord and made small loops through the holes in each tent stake which allowed me to easily pull the tent stakes out using my finger as a hook.

The tent had sufficient room for my air mattress, sleeping bag, and me, but little else. The vestibule area was not large enough for all of my panniers, and I ended up storing some of my ‘stuff’ outside in plastic storage bags. Also, the tent has a front entrance, rather than a side entrance, as such, I had to either crawl in and then turn around, or else back in. Either way, I tended to get a lot of dirt and debris inside. Also, the vestibule area was directly in front of the tent opening, which meant I had to crawl in over my ‘stuff’, or else move everything out of the way.

Pro: lightweight, easy to assemble and take down, good in wind and rain, no condensation buildup, poles all connected together at a central hub, sufficient area inside the tent body, compact storage, seemed to be a quality product

Con: front entrance, minimal vestibule storage, expensive

The tent was everything that the manufacturer, Big Agnes, said it was. That being said, after using this tent I would prefer to carry something with more room, a larger vestibule, and a larger side entrance, even at the expense of a little more weight. If you are an ‘ultra-lite’ biker then this tent might very well fit your needs.

I was impressed by the quality of the Big Agnes Seedhouse tent, so I plan on looking at the Copper Spur UL2: an ultra lite 2 person tent. This tent, with ground cloth, only weighs 16 ounces more than the Seedhouse SL1. It has a side opening on either side as well as a vestibule on either side. For me, the extra 1 pound in weight will be well worth the added space. This tent does cost more, but I am looking on eBay and other sites to try and find a ‘good deal.’