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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL2 > Test Report by Brett Haydin

BIG AGNES JACK RABBIT SL2 TENT
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - May 22, 2012
Field Report - August 14, 2012
Long Term Report - October 16, 2012


TESTER INFORMATIONAuthor

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 39
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.



Initial Report

tent
Image courtesy of manufacturer

Product Information & Specifications

Year of Manufacture:  2012
Manufacturer's Website:  www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: $289.95
Listed Packed Weight: 4 lb 5 oz (1.96 kg)
Trail Weight: 3 lb 13 oz (1.73 kg) 
Measured Weight: 4 lb 3.5 oz (1.91 kg)
Poles: 1 lb 1.3 oz (0.49 kg)
Tent: 1 lb 3.6 oz (0.56 kg)
Rain Fly: 1 lb 7 oz (0.65 kg)
Stakes: 5 oz (0.14 kg)
Listed Packed Size: 6.5 in x 21 in (16.5 cm x 53 cm)
Actual Packed Size: 6.5 in x 21 in (16.5 cm x 53 cm)
Vestibule Area: 
9 sq ft (0.84 sq m)
Head Height:  40 in (102 cm)
Foot Height: 28 in (71 cm)
Warranty: Big Agnes warranties against manufacturing or material defect with no time limit.  They will replace or repair at their discretion.

Product Description

The Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL2 Tent is a 3-season 2-person tent that is part of Big Agnes' "Superlight" series.  The tent is a freestanding tent, meaning it does not need to be staked down in order to remain standing.  The Jack Rabbit uses 2 sets of aluminum poles in order to achieve its shape.  The first set of poles is a small one made of two segments that lies across the width of the tent, near the highest point.  The other set of poles has a central spine which has two arms that extend from each end; sort of like this: >-<.  This set of poles has two plastic hubs that hold the four branching arm segments in place.  The poles are manufactured by DAC and are made of TH72M aluminum.  

Snow Rabbit
Snowed on while "trying it out"
The tent body is made of lightweight nylon and polyester mesh.  The floor of the tent and the rain fly are treated with silicone, use ripstop nylon and have a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating.  The nylon extends up about halfway up the tent with the mesh making up the remaining material.  There are 9 black plastic clips attached to the tent body by nylon loops that hold the tent to the poles.  The poles also attach to the tent in grommets at the four corners of the tents.  The grommets are placed in a sturdy nylon loop and also have a plastic buckle attached to the nylon loop.  These buckles connect to the rain fly.  The smaller "crossover" pole lies crosswise over the center of the tent and helps to create more room in the tent itself.  The crossover pole is held in place with clear plastic placeholders.  Big Agnes also includes a pole splint for emergency repairs in the field.

The tent has two doors, one on either side, so each occupant can have their own entrance.  The zippers have simple cord pulls and the door is shaped like a capital D.  Inside the tent, there are two triangular mesh pockets just above the nylon at the "head" of the tent.  There are several nylon loops inside the tent that can be used to attach a gear loft, headlamp or other accessories.

The rain fly is a light beige color with orange trim.  The plastic buckles that attach to the tent have a reflective tape on the nylon webbing that I can use to pull the fabric taught.  There are zippered vestibules on both sides that are generously sized with 9 sq ft (0.8 sq m) of usable floor space.  The vestibules are staked out when deployed.  The rain fly also has 3 guy lines; 2 toward the front and 1 in the rear.  One other note is that there is a vent built into the rain fly that is held open with a stay wrapped in nylon webbing and secured in place with hook and loop tabs.  The image to the left shows the vent deployed and yes that is snow... The vestibule is closed on the right while the vestibule is open on the left.  

I would like to acknowledge that Big Agnes graciously provided both a footprint and a gear loft as accessories.  The footprint is the same material and color as the tent floor (olive).  Like the tent, it has grommets that are color coded to the front and back of the tent for easy set up.  The footprint also has plastic buckles that attach to the rain fly.  This is important to note because the footprint is part of the "fast fly setup" that eliminates the tent body (and its bug protection) should I choose to save weight.  The rain fly has nylon webbing baskets sewn into it to hold the crossover pole for this configuration.  If the conditions are favorable for this set up, I will use this feature and report on it.  I would just like to say thank you to Big Agnes for providing these accessories!

Initial Impressions

component Rabbit
Tent components: fly, tent body, poles and stakes
The Jack Rabbit is a very well-constructed tent in my opinion.  Upon a close examination, I found that all the seams are expertly sewn and come taped for extra waterproofing and durability.  The material used is both light and sturdy and I have no concerns about its quality.  The Jack Rabbit comes with aluminum stakes as well which seem sturdy as well.  

Reading the Instructions

The Jack Rabbit comes with instructions that are sewn into the storage sack that is provided.  I found the instructions easy to follow, but the set up was simple enough and intuitive.  There are care instructions included which are helpful for ensuring the tent lasts a long time.  There are also care instructions sewn into the tent interior for good measure.  

Field Report

Field Conditions

Over the past two months (and including the remarks in the Initial Report), I have been on three backpacking trips as well as two car camping trips where I used this tent as well.  My first backpacking trip in Colorado was a 2 night backpack into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Lake Como, which serves as a base camp area for several 14,000+ ft (4,270 m) peaks.  The hike in was 4 mi (6.4 km) with an additional 6 mi (9.7 km) of hiking in the basin to Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point.  We camped along the shore of Lake Como at 11,740 ft (3,578 m) in a grassy area.  The terrain ran from crushed gravel to subalpine forests to tundra and a lot of talus slopes.  We did encounter a bit of class III scrambling (intentionally) as well.  We had relatively great weather, but the second night was cut short by graupel (snow pellets) and subfreezing temperatures.  I did not have the opportunity to test the rain cover under these conditions since I had the pack in the vestibule of my tent.  Rather than risk a dicey summit hike on day three, we considered ourselves fortunate and left early.

My second backpacking trip was a solo hike to Blue Lakes near Ouray, CO. This 9 mi (14.5 km) out-and-back hike to high alpine lakes at 11,720 ft (3,570 m) sports excellent views of Mt Sneffels. The terrain was over a good trail through subalpine forests with temperatures between 40 and 75 F (4 and 24 C). The weather was overcast at times, but the rain missed me.

My final overnight backpacking trip was to the Gunnison National Forest near Crested Butte, Colorado for an overnight with my family. Because of our young son, the hike was short at 1 mi (1.6 km) with little elevation gain. We camped at approximately 9,000 ft (2,700 m) along a creek in typical mountain terrain; rocky and in the shade of pine trees!  Skies were mostly blue with some afternoon rain and temperatures from 50 - 75 F (10 - 24 C).  

Both of my car camping trips were in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado.  I slept at elevations of approximately 9,500 ft (2,900 m) on both occasions and in established camping areas. On one of these, I slept with the fast fly set up, which was interesting since it was a really windy night.  Temperatures were from 50 - 85 F (10 - 29 C) and neither trip had overnight rain.  

Observations

near lake
Setting up the Jack Rabbit near a high mountain lake!
So far I am really enjoying this tent.  I have slept in snow, clear skies as well as some rain.  I have had no problems staying dry in any case!  The night I spent in the snow was cold, but I don't feel as though it was a major issue.  I used a sleeping bag rated to 15 F (-9 C) and the tent did a great job of keeping the warm air in.  I have had no problems with condensation so far, although some ice crystals formed on the coolest of nights.  I do like to dry my tent out in the morning sun before I pack it up for the day and the fabric dries pretty fast.  

Setting up the tent in the field is quite easy as well.  The layout of the pole design makes it easy to figure out which end goes where, but the color coded grommets make sure I don't screw thing up.  All in all, it is easy.  With some other tents, the clips that attach the tent body to the poles are difficult to get into place, but not so with this tent.  

The mesh upper is a great treat under the Colorado skies.  It is rare to have overnight rain in the high alpine environments I have been camping in, so I have kept the fly partially pulled back for star gazing.  What I appreciate is that the guy lines for staking out the fly allow me to pull back the rain fly this way.  Oddly enough I did not get a picture of this during this report phase, but I will be sure to do so when I go camping in another week.

I mentioned that I slept with the "fast fly" set up once over this period.  I have to say, despite it being windy, the configuration worked great!  I was amazed at how well the fly alone blocked most of the wind.  Despite this, there was some dust that snuck in.  Since there were no bugs, I didn't need the protection either, although some creepy crawlies most likely scampered over me while I slept!  I would have thought that the lack of the tent body would negatively affect the sturdiness of the tent, but it did great.  

So far the tent is in great shape. There are no signs of wear and the poles aren't bent in any odd areas.  Thanks to the footprint, I haven't had any abrasions on the tent floor to worry about either.  After all, they are called the "Rocky Mountains" for a reason!

Long Term Report

Field Conditions

Chief Mountain
Near the summit of Chief Mountain

Over the final two months, I have been on an additional two overnight backpacking trips with the Jack Rabbit for a total of 6 nights use in the backcountry.  My first trip was an overnight in the San Isabel National Forest to Lake Ann in Colorado.  I hiked 3 mi (5 km) to the lake and camped out at 11,800 ft (3,600 m).  I experienced brief afternoon and some early evening rain showers, but had a star-filled night with lows at about 50 F (10 C).  The terrain was a mix of subalpine forest, meadows and some tundra.  I brought one of my dogs on this trip as a sleeping companion as well.

My final trip was to Chief Mountain near Idaho Springs, CO.  For this trip I hiked to the top of the mountain and set up camp near two rock outcroppings (pictured to the right) at about 11,650 ft (3,550 m).  My camping spot was exposed, rocky and at times really windy.  However, the views were incredible with glimpses of Denver available.  The weather was incredible, with an overnight low of 45 F (7 C) and no precipitation.  My round trip length of hiking was 5 mi (8 km) along a rocky path, although part of it was an old railroad grade, I believe. 

Observations

Generally speaking, I am quite pleased with the Big Agnes Jack Rabbit tent.  For my trip to Chief Mountain, I set up the tent in fast fly mode just to see how comfortable I could be in some cooler weather.  I am happy to report that I survived the night just fine, despite some gusty winds overnight.  I was actually a little nervous about losing my set up to the wind because the soil is not always great at holding stakes.  The soil is actually mostly crushed rocks, with some grit for good measure, but the tent held up well.  One stake was bent, but I was able to bend it back into shape and anchor the tent well.  While the picture doesn't show it, I did set up the guy lines before I settled in for the night.

On my first trip, I did take my dog along with me as a companion.  He generally sleeps pretty cold, but with warmer temperatures, I felt good about taking him along.  I knew from my earlier trips that the Jack Rabbit is fine for two adult humans, but would a canine, in particular one that "tosses and turns" prove to be too much?  Well not this time.  There is a picture  below showing him resting during one of the sunnier periods before the afternoon rain fell.  There was plenty of room for his dog bed as well as my bag and pad.  On the topic of roominess, this tent is has great headroom in my opinion.  

I had no problems with any leaks during my test.  Even with the vent on the rain fly open, the rain stayed out and I stayed dry.  I did have one concern over the past two months.  I found that the zippers on the fly catch on the rain flap with some frequency.  In particular, there is a spot on the rain flap where there is a hook and loop tab that helps hold it in place, and that is a problem spot when I am opening the fly, more notably from the outside.  

The tent is holding up great.  There are no tears that I could find, and judging by how dry I stayed in the rain the fabric is indeed intact.  The poles are straight still and all the zippers move freely as if I just pulled the tent out of the package.  
Flash
Settling Down with my dog, Flash.

Summary

The Jack Rabbit is a keeper, that's for sure!  Big Agnes has hit the ball out of the park on this one, for sure.  This tent is sure to be my go-to three season tent from now on.  Here is a recap of the highs and lows:

Pros: Looks great, is light weight, easy to set up and has lots of window space for stargazing.  Good ventilation and the fast fly set up is easy.

Cons: Included stakes are not especially strong, zipper on fly catches on the rain flap sometimes.  

This concludes my report.  I would like to thank Big Agnes for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this series.  









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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL2 > Test Report by Brett Haydin



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