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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Agnes Seedhouse Superlight 2 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2
By Raymond Estrella
OWNER REVIEW
November 17, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
GENDER: M
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 Inc
Web site: www.bigagnes.com
Product: Seedhouse SL2
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: US $319.95
Size: 2 person
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 3 lb 6 oz (1.53 kg)
Actual weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg)
Interior height listed: 38 in (97 cm)
Length listed: 84 in (213 cm)
Width listed (foot and head): 42 and 52 in (107 & 132 cm)
Stuffed size listed: 6.5 x 16 in (16.5 x 41 cm) verified accurate
Color: Sage
Warranty: (quoted from company web site) "100% Guarantee. Our number one priority is to make functional and dependable outdoor products. If you are not satisfied with any Big Agnes product at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to Big Agnes for a replacement or refund."

Quick and Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is a great light-weight tent. While the limited room and the door position make it undesirable for me to use with two people, I love it as a solo shelter. Read on to see why it is my all-time fav.

Product Description

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 (SL standing for Super Light), hereafter called the Seedhouse or tent, is a lightweight three-season tent aimed at weight conscious backpackers. Here is a picture of the separate components.

Parts o' tent me matey


Like my Seedhouse SL3 (see review) it uses a hub system with the poles. The pole has 5 sections of poles that attach to two Y shaped hubs creating an assembly that looks like a stick figure without the head, just the legs, body, and arms. Or kind of like an X with a straight section in the middle. One end is longer than the other. This goes to the front of the tent. Each pole end goes into a grommet at the corners of the tent body. Once they are secured, the body clips to the poles with nylon hooks. The weight of the DAC Featherlite NSL pole system is 13 oz (369 g) and can be stored in the provided 0.5 oz (14.2 g) pole sack. Here is a picture of the poles. They are hooked up to the optional footprint. (More on that later.)

Poles in the park


The tent has a bath-tub style floor. It is made of 30D silicone treated nylon rip-stop with a 1200 mm waterproof polyurethane coating. The walls of the Seedhouse (like all of the tents in this series) are made of lightweight nylon and polyester mesh. The seams of the mesh areas are reinforced to keep the nylon hooks from ripping out. This shot at May Lake in Yosemite shows the bath tub floor well.

Ray at May


A D-shaped door is positioned at the front of the tent. When facing it from the outside, the left side opens up. Stake meThere are a couple of loops of fabric and ties to allow the door to be tied open. Above the door on the inside is a small gear pocket for anything small that needs to be close at hand and out of the way. Maybe a light, Kleenex, or bear bait, I mean snacks …

The fly is made of lightweight silicone treated rip-stop nylon with a 1200 mm waterproof polyurethane coating. All seams of it (and the floor) are factory taped. The fly clips to the tent body by means of straps and buckles at the corners. The straps can be tightened to pull the fly taut. The front of the fly is stretched away from the body and secured with the use of two stakes creating a very small vestibule. A D-shaped door matches the one on the body allowing access to the tent. It too has tie backs for the door.

There are numerous guy-out points on the fly (and netting body) to allow extra support for windy conditions. The tent came with 13 stakes that weigh 0.5 oz (14 g) each. The stakes are packed in a 0.2 oz (5.7 g) sack. They are made of aluminum with an X-shaped cross-section, as can be seen to the side. A small notch cut into the fins holds the stake loops in place.

I have the optional footprint for it. By using the footprint with just the poles and fly in what Big Agnes calls a Fast Fly set-up the weight of the body can be deducted from the total. In this configuration bug protection is non-existent. Here is a picture of the Seedhouse SL2 inside its 1 oz (29 g) stuff sack.

Stuffed

Field Data

At the time of this writing I used the Seedhouse on a tough 2-day 11 mile (18 km) trip to the top of Mt San Jacinto by way of the Marion Mountain Trail. I spent the night in Little Round Valley. This rough hike gains over 4400 ft (1340 m) in 5.5 miles (9 km) in temps that topped 80 F (27 C).

Next was two nights in Yosemite National Park for a very hot and hard 44 miles (71 km) of backpacking, and another 3 miles (5 km) getting back to a road in temps up to 84 F (29 C) with 7790 ft (2374 m) of gain carrying a 36 lb (16.3 kg) pack.

Last was a 79 mile (127 km) 3-1/2 day monster hike from Sonora Pass down through the Emigrant Wilderness to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. This hike saw 15200 (4633 m) of elevation gain with temperatures that ranged from 83 to 43 F (28 to 6 C). My starting pack weight with food and 3 qt/L water was exactly 37 lb (16.8 kg).

Observations

This is my second Seedhouse SL2. My original Seedhouse SL2 was one of the first to come off the boat. I waited a few weeks for it after ordering it direct from Big Agnes (BA). It was also the subject of the very first review I did for BackpackGearTest.org and I hope that now-shoddy-looking review will be replaced by this one.

One of the things that I did not like originally was the fact that the first Seedhouse SL2 weighed much more than it was supposed to. As much as I love BA their misstated weights have always been a sore point for me. I am happy to say that the newer crop of gear weights are much better, including this new tent. (I went on a bit of a shopping spree at the end of summer, watch for a bunch of new reviews.)

I still love this tent. I test and use a lot of different tents (yes, I am the ultimate gear nut) but this is the one I grab when I do not have other commitments. I can set it up in a few minutes, even in the dark. And the two-person size is perfect for me, a kinda tall guy, to use solo. I like to bring my pack inside with me. When hiking I usually get up well before dawn and pack everything up in the tent. Once done I jump out and break the tent down, stick it in the pack and head up the trail. It can also be used for two people, but it is very tight if it is two adults. I do not like it for two myself, but my twins Emma and Raymond have used it together (with Dad close by) with absolutely no problem. Of course they are 52 in (132 cm) tall…

The vestibule is also quite small if one wants to store gear in it. I have found that if I can not bring my gear inside with me (due to another body occupying the space) I am better off covering it and leaving it outside. Two medium-to-large packs may just fit in the vestibule, but I would never be able to enter or exit past them. Two pairs of boots fits in the vestibule quite well, one to either side of the door. I have boiled water inside of the vestibule with no problem. I need to keep the stove close to the bath-tub floor edge though to eliminate the worry of having hot vapors or fumes melt the slanted face of the vestibule.

I bought the new Seedhouse SL2 to make my super-solo-tent. This tent is already much lighter than my old model. But I paired it with custom carbon fiber poles and 12 titanium stakes to make an even lighter combo. With this set-up the entire package comes in at 2 lb 15 oz (1.33 kg).

I really like leaving the fly off and being able to look at the stars at night. It is almost as nice as the sleep-on-the-ground days of my youth without the bugs and creepy-crawlies. I used it this way on every night but one this year. I do always keep the fly ready for a fast deployment though. Here is a shot of it just inside of the northern section of Yosemite. Dave (the pessimist) has his fly on all the time. Maybe that is why he does not get surprised by freak storms as much as I do…

Two tents in Emigrant


I have learned to use the extra guy-out points as they add a lot of strength to the tent. This is why I carry 12 stakes. With the way the center ridge pole runs it leaves the tent susceptible to winds that come in from the sides. It is best to always set the Seedhouse with the foot placed into the wind but sometimes the wind will shift on me. When it hits the flat side it can cave the side in if the wind is heavy enough. I spent one very windy late fall night (with my original tent) holding the side up with my knees as the wind was so strong that it kept pulling my stakes out of the rocky ground I was set up on. Then the entire side would collapse and hit me as I was sleeping. To its credit the Seedhouse SL2 weathered the storm with no broken or bent poles.

This version of the Seedhouse has seen only one very windy evening in Yosemite that forced me to put the fly on and place the guy-outs. It threatened rain that never materialized, and the tent shrugged off the wind with aplomb. Here is a picture with the fly on for the first time before I unrolled the guy-outs. (As mentioned earlier Dave has his ready for a blizzard at all times. He he.)

My fly is up


And by the way, Big Agnes, must you ship the tent with the lines rolled up and tied with a knot that a slow guy like me can not get loose without teeth and an extra 10 minutes? I told Jenn that my rock climbing knot-learnin' that I have been doing still does not prepare me for BA's weird loop-around knot on the guy-outs. She laughed and said that when she and a friend used hers for the first time in a canyon with wind blowing and rain threatening the same thing happened. Every one turned into a big knot. I felt a lot better as both of them are knot-knowledged long-time climbers.

One thing that should be noted is the fact that when the wind blows, a lot of dirt can blow though the mesh. In the picture above Dave had suggested that I put the fly on an hour earlier. Looking at my barometer I said that I really did not think it was going to rain. But then the force of the wind started picking up dirt and blowing it into my tent. That (and the looming clouds) made me grab my virgin rain fly. But by the time I finally put it on I had a lot of dirt inside the tent.

I always use the optional footprint to keep dirt and pine pitch from getting on the floor and to keep sharp objects from poking holes in it. The footprint may be used with the fly alone to make a very light weight option by leaving the body at home. The bug protection is non-existent in this configuration but I have found that it works great once the weather gets cold enough to kill off the biting buggies. I have used it in this fashion on snow as this picture shows near Mount San Jacinto. (Hey look. It is a BA Mystic sleeping bag behind me…)

Fast-fly in snow, after the bugs go


While the current tent has not seen any precipitation my others have seen a lot of it. They have never leaked one bit and I hope that this one will prove as watertight. Should I find out otherwise I shall update this review immediately. Both Seedhouses have been very durable. The old one was sold and it looked like new in spite of seeing more use than any tent I have ever owned. This model is proving to be a chip off the ol' block.

And when it comes to ventilation, what can I say about a tent that is 95% polyester mesh? It is awesome.

The only condensation I have been bothered by on this one is what formed on the fly during the night in Yosemite (I was about 60 ft [19 m] from a river) and the condensation fell off as I removed the fly in the morning. As all my gear was already packed and out it did not affect me much. I wiped the floor with my wash cloth before I stuffed it in the storage sack. But with the others I have had heavy condensation build up that was then knocked free to fall down inside from wind or falling pine cones and twigs. The drops will hit the mesh and push through, falling on me as tiny droplets, much like a fine mist.

I carry the body, fly and footprint in the provided stuff sack. This goes sideways in my pack. The poles I carry separate in their storage sack which I slide inside the pack against my back to the side of the back panel.

I write on a group where I am known as the Seedhouse Guy. I like this tent that much. I will always be trying or testing new tents, but until I find one better than my beloved Seedhouse SL2 it will stay at the front of my tent quiver for solo 3+ season backpacking.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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