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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3
By Raymond Estrella

Backcountry bower bedroom, get out you!


July 25, 2009


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.

The Product

Manufacturer: Big Agnes (BA) Inc
Web site:
Product: Copper Spur UL3
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: US $499.95
Size: 3 person
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 4 lb 12 oz (2.15 kg)
Actual weight: 4 lb 9 oz (2.07 kg)
Interior height listed: 44 in (112 cm)
Length listed: 90 in (229 cm)
Width listed: 70 in (178 cm)
Stuffed size listed: 7 x 22 in (18 x 56 cm) verified accurate
Color: Cool Gray/ Terra Cotta

Quick and Dirty, Nitty Gritty

This roomy light-weight tent has replaced the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3 as my favorite shelter to use with my wife. Its fast set-up and double doors make life in the field much easier to deal with. I do wish the doors were shaped different though. Read on for all the details.

Product Description

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 (hereafter called the Copper Spur or tent) is a lightweight three-season tent aimed at weight conscience backpackers. Here is a picture of the separate components.

New parts. (Used parts now)

Like all of my present and past Big Agnes tents the Copper Spur uses a pole and hub system. The poles now are DAC Featherlite NSL. The main pole is has a center section that goes onto a hub at each end, two poles at each end go onto the hubs too forming a sort-of elongated X. or a stick-man with no head. The ends of the short poles are placed into grommets at the corners of the body. The long section becomes the main support for the tent. Here is a picture of the poles the first time I set it up in the snow at San Jacinto State Park.

Poles in the powder, well packed cement.

Lets do the Twist...ClipOnce the poles are secured in the grommets the tent body clips to them with DAC Twist and H clips. The DAC Twist clips are pretty new to me (I have one other tent that uses them that I bought at the same time). The clear hook-shaped clips are twisted and have a small piece like a carabiner gate that pushes the pole into deepest part of the recess in the hook. The twist makes it easy to snap them onto the pole. But what I really liked was how easy they come off now. By grabbing the clip between my middle and ring fingers I can push down on the pole and disconnect the clip easily with one hand. This is much better than the old style in my opinion. Here is a close-up shot of the new clip.

Once the body is up another crossing pole goes over the top of the tent. This pole attaches with an H-clip. The H-clip is a round slotted gizmo that slides over T-shaped round knobs on the crossing pole, one near each end of it. Once attached this crossing pole pulls the tent body out forming steeper sides which give it more room inside. It also gives support for the fly. Here is a picture with the crossing pole in place.

Just needs a fly now

The body of the Copper Spur is comprised of a bath-tub floor made of ultralight silicone treated nylon rip-stop with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating. The walls are ultra lightweight nylon for the first half up from the floor and then switch to polyester mesh the rest of the way. A wide arching door is on each side of the tent. When fully opened the doors lay on the floor of the tent, or outside on the ground if I am not careful. A couple loops and toggles are provided to gather the door and keep it from flopping around should it be left open. Next to the doors inside are small mesh storage pockets. Gear loft loops inside will also accommodate the optional Wall Gear Loft.

Ah, heres the fly

Go ahead, act stuffyA rain fly made of same material as the floor covers the Copper Spur attaching with quick-connect buckles at the pole/body junctions in the corners. The fly has two vestibules with D-shaped doors and storm flaps over the zippers. The fly and floor have all seams factory taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape. The fly comes with reflective guylines pre-attached. Above is a shot of the fly deployed for the first time.

Ventilation is provided by the mesh walls as is common with BA tents. But the Copper Spur also uses two high vents on the fly, as may be seen in the picture above.

While I used snow stakes in the pictures above the tent comes with 10 Superlight aluminum J stakes that weigh 0.44 oz (12.5 g) each. They can be stored in the included storage sack. (A separate sack for the poles is included too.) The whole works can go inside the 1.1 oz (31.2 g) stuff sack seen here. I also have the optional 9.3 oz (264 g) footprint for use in dirt and on rock.

Field Locations

To break in the Copper Spur Jenn and I celebrated New Years Eve by spending the night in Round Valley in Mount San Jacinto State Park. We snowshoed 6 miles (10 km) and stayed at an elevation of 9100 ft (2775 m) on 5 ft (1.5 m) of snow pack. The temps ran from 40 to 22 F (4 to -6 C). Thankfully there was no wind to speak of.

Next I took it on a backpacking trip with Jenn to San Mateo Wilderness in Cleveland National Forest. (The picture in the bower was from this trip.) We did a 9 mile (14.5 km) first day with an all up-hill 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hike back the next day. It hit 75 F (24 C) for a high but felt hotter in the sun, and got down to a chilly 28 F (-2 C) at night. High elevation was 2000 ft (610 m) with a total of 1300 ft (400 m) of elevation gain and loss. My pack weight starting out was 30 lb (13.6 kg)

Then Jenn and I went to Agua Bonita Spring in the Santa Rosa Mountains. This was a very hot hike that dropped from high desert to low desert. Highs of 75 F and got down to 33 F at night (24 to 1 C). I carried a 32 lb (14.5 kg) pack. We went 21 miles (34 km) with 2950 ft (899 m) of gain and loss. Here is a picture from this location.

Delightful desert dwelling

In June I used it on an over-night backpacking trip with my children, Emma and Ray. We went to Maplewood State Park in Minnesota where we camped at Cow Lake. The trails were still very muddy in places and there was a lot of moisture. The temps ran from 80 F down to 48 F (27 to 9 C) and it only sprinkled a little in the evening.

In July my kids came to California for a couple weeks and we did an over-night backpacking trip to San Jacinto State Park where we stayed at Round Valley. The temperatures were warm, only making it to 54 F at night and 82 F (12 to 28 C) in the daytime.


I bought the Copper Spur specifically to use on a four night backpacking, 2 night camping trip with my wife to Yosemite National Park last fall that was cancelled due to illness. So the first time I set it up was in snow on New Year's Eve. Even without having seen "this" tent I am so familiar with Big Agnes' tents that I set it up by myself (Jenn was taking the pictures above) in about 5 minutes.

Right from the first night Jenn said this is a keeper. She never liked using the front entrance of so many of my other tents and loved having her own side. It really is a very good size and weight for two people. As I usually take a two-person tent as a solo shelter I don't mind taking the Copper Spur 3 at all. Here is a picture showing the room inside with two people. This is my 20 F (-7 C) BA Zirkel SL bag and Jenn's 15 F (-9 C) REI Sub Kilo.

CS for 2, your tent is ready

There is plenty of room for gear and the side walls are steep enough to make it easy to sit inside or get dressed without hitting the walls. The crossing pole really works to create more space.

I really like the addition of the lightweight breathable nylon sides on the bottom half of the body. After eating sand and dirt blowing in my all-mesh tent bodies from Yosemite to Death Valley I can really appreciate some wind block. And I can not see any degradation of the condensation fighting ability of the tent. Maybe this is because of the added high vent, something I have wished for on the Seedhouse series for a long time. We had no condensation at all on the New Year's Eve trip.

Other than that trip I have never used the fly fully on the tent. We slept fly-free to enjoy the stars and the feeling of sleeping in the open without the bugs and critters of cowboy camping. This may be my favorite thing about mesh tent bodies.

Speaking of bodies. How does the Copper Spur do with three bodies as it is made to hold? I have used it with my twin children Emma and Raymond twice. Since they are only 10 years old we all fit OK. We had room for clothes and such but it was a bit tight. I of course have to sleep in the middle so each gets to be by Dad. (And to keep the he's/she's touching me down to a minimum…) Here is a shot one morning while they are still sleeping. I had the fly only half-on in case it started raining.

CS party of 3, your tent is ready

I have been pretty happy with the Copper Spur. It is an excellent balance between weight and space for a tent that has excellent ventilation, adequate room, a fast set-up and is strong enough for me to use for limited four-season use. Because of the shape provided by the double vestibules the fly handles winds better than any three-season Big Agnes tent I have ever owned.

The only thing I am not fond of is the doors. I personally do not like doors that drop on the ground. I would rather carry the miniscule extra weight to have one that is D-shaped at least. Full circle would even be nicer as it would give the most options. Otherwise Big Agnes has a winner with the Copper Spur as far as this backpackin' Daddy is concerned.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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