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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Agnes String Ridge 2 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Big Agnes String Ridge 2 four-season tent
By Raymond Estrella
OWNER REVIEW
March 14, 2009

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

String Ridge 2 in natural habitat


Manufacturer: Big Agnes Inc
Web site: www.bigagnes.com
Product: String Ridge 2
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: US $499.95
Size: 2 person
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 5 lb 11 oz (2.58 kg)
Actual weight: 5 lb 13 oz (2.64 kg)
Interior height listed: 42 in (107 cm)
Length listed: 90 in (229 cm)
Width listed (foot and head): 44 and 57 in (112 & 145 cm)
Stuffed size listed: 8 x 20 in (20 x 51 cm)
Actual stuffed size: 7 x 20 in (18 x 51 cm)
Color: White body, copper fly, grey floor

Parts

Product Description

The Big Agnes String Ridge 2 (hereafter referred to as the String Ridge or the tent) is described by Big Agnes as a "4 season, free standing, lightweight mountaineering tent". It is one of two new double-wall tents in their new Mine Mountain series of winter tents.

Poles up


Like all of my Big Agnes tents the String Ridge uses a hub system with the gold anodized tent poles. Each hub has three prongs and a T-shaped section that faces down when the poles are set up. (More on this later.) The main pole has four 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 on the stake loops. Above is a picture of the poles up.

On this model another single pole, broken into eight sections plus a small curved center piece (called an arch-connect), runs cross-wise at the middle of the tent. This pole pulls the sides up creating much more room inside and it adds extra support too. The total weight of the DAC Featherlite NSL pole system is 1 lb 11.8 oz (335 g) and they can be stored in the provided 0.5 oz (14.2 g) sack.

Once the poles are secured in the grommets the tent body clips to them with DAC Twist and H clips. The H clip is a black round piece that slides onto the T-shaped protrusion on the bottom of the hubs. Here is a shot of it.

H clip and T


The DAC Twist clips are new to me. IMAGE 6The clear hook-shaped clips are twisted and have a small piece like a carabiner gate that pushes the pole into the 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.

As can be seen below the tent has a bath-tub style floor. The floor is made of Cordura rip-stop with a silicone treatment and waterproof polyurethane coating. There are eight stake loops that come off the sides of the floor. But what I really like are the four that are at the corners of the String Ridge. They are big red loops that are wide enough to stick a ski through. Skis make excellent anchors in deep snow and I have wished for all my winter tents to have this feature. (Not many do I am sorry to say.)

The main body of the String Ridge is made of cream colored breathable nylon rip-stop. The seams of it are reinforced to keep the clips from ripping out.

A D-shaped door is positioned at the front of the tent. When facing it from the outside, the left side opens up. There are a couple of loops and toggles to allow the door to be fixed open. The door has a mesh second layer that may be partially or fully exposed to allow vision and ventilation.

Body up


At the front (door) of the tent to each side are the biggest gear storage pockets I have ever seen. As can be seen below, each one is actually three pockets with a 32 in wide by 10.5 in high main pocket (81 x 27 cm) with two angled pockets on the face of the main one. Another small mesh pocket is at the very top of the door.

Triple pockets


Looking to the other end of the String Ridge a large triangular window can be found. It closes with two zippers that allow fine adjustment. Once opened a mesh panel is found that lets me see out or get some air movement for ventilation. Here is a shot of it.

Window vent


The fly (seen in the first picture above) is made of lightweight Cordura with a 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 and middle near the ground. The straps can be tightened to pull the fly taut. The top of the fly is stretched away from the body and supported by a single black DAC aluminum pole. The fly attaches to this pole and the front main poles where they cross with hook and loop pieces near the door. The front lower part of the fly pulls out from the tent and is secured with the use of two stakes creating a vestibule. A door matches the one on the body allowing access to the tent. It too has a tie back for the door. On the fly's vestibule area, to either side of the door, are two triangular vents that can be propped open to allow air flow.

There are numerous guy-out points on the fly to allow extra support for windy conditions. The guy points are all reflective to make finding the tent easier after nocturnal jaunts. Each of the guy points came with cords attached. As my first trip with the String Ridge was in stormy weather I utilized them all for the first set-up.

The tent came with 15 Mega stakes that weigh 0.7 oz (20 g) each. (And 15 are what are needed to use all the anchor points, so no extras need be purchased. Good job, BA.) The stakes are packed in a 0.3 oz (8 g) sack. The ¾ in (2 cm) wide stakes are made of aluminum with an X-shaped cross-section, as can be seen below. A notch cut into the fins hold the stake loops in place. To make these stakes work in the conditions encountered with snowy camp spots the Mega stakes are twice as wide as Big Agnes' regular stakes. They also have a hole in the top and one in the middle that will allow a loop of cord to be tied through it to use the stakes as deadman anchors when buried in the snow.

Mega stake


Finally the whole works can be rolled up and stuffed in the included 1.2 oz (34 g) stuff sack. The assembly instructions are printed on a fold out sheet inside the stuff sack. (It can be seen hanging out in the picture of all the parts at the beginning of this section.) Here is a shot of the String Ridge tent stuffed and ready to go hiking!

Stuffed

Field Conditions

I went on an overnight to San Jacinto State Park chasing storms. (They got stuck on the other side of the mountain though.) I stayed in Round Valley with a side trip to Tamarack. The temperature got down to 20 F (-7 C) and there was a lot of wind. Starting pack weight was around 37 lb (16.8 kg). The picture below is from that trip.

A couple weeks later I succeeded in finding a storm in San Jacinto State Park. This time I stayed in Tamarack at 9120 ft (2775 m) elevation where it dumped on me as I set up my tent, stopping 10 minutes after I got everything inside. It started back up again at 11:00 PM. I was on five to six ft (2 m) of snow when I made camp. The temperature was 17 F (-8 C) and falling at 9:30 PM, the last time I checked. There was a lot of wind in the early morning hours. I hiked 7 mi (11 km) all on snowshoes. I checked the weather record at the Long Valley station after the trip to find that the humidity had been 92%.

I also used it on a solo overnight trip on Vivian Creek Trail to High Creek Camp in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. This 10 mile (16 km) round trip saw temps down to 16 F (-9 C) at 9200 ft (2800 m) elevation. I was on a lot of snow, probably in excess of 7 ft (2 m) base.

I used it on an overnight snow camping trip in Minnesota. I stayed in a clearing near the river bottom by the Red River outside of Moorhead. It got down to 12 F (-11 C) and the humidity averaged 64%.

On packed snow

Observations

I have used the String Ridge four times this winter, all on snow. Three of the trips I had no snow fall but did have some big winds. The tent was not affected by the wind at all. I pretty much always set the guy lines to be ready for anything though. I had the vents open until the wind forced me to close them due to blowing spindrift. I had no condensation on these trips at all. I did have a bit on my sleeping bag from my breath but I never got any on the tent side nearest me or the door fabric.

But one of the trips I used it was during a series of storms. I hiked in to Tamarack over 2-3 ft (1.5 m) of new snow. It started dumping on me as I got into camp so I had to put the tent up in falling snow. I knocked most of the snow off my pack before bringing it in the tent. As it snowed off and on the rest of the time I made hot chocolate and cooked in the vestibule.

It was very cold this trip, 20 F when I made camp, 19 F at 6:30 PM, and down to 17 F at 9:30, the last time I checked (-6, -7, & -8 C). I had the back window open fully, along with the front door, and tried to keep the vestibule door opened when it was not snowing. But the condensation on this trip was some of the worst I have ever seen. When I got home I checked the weather stats from Mountain Station and found that the humidity was a whopping 92%. I was happy that I did not have another person in it with me.

In the early morning the wind really cranked up, blowing the tent clear from what had collected on and around it during the night. The fly had frozen condensation on the inside. The inside of the tent body had a lot of ice crystals coating the fabric. When I got back to my office I shook the ice out as well as I could and spread it out to dry.

Looking back at the one trip with the high humidity makes me wonder if another vent at the rear of the fly might help to create a draw, as right now it really only has venting options at the front of the fly.

In Minnesota I did something that I never have before. I used the body without the fly. (I have done the opposite before though.) I was in a pretty protected location in a low flat area near the Red River. It sheltered me from the mild winds and no snow was in the forecast so I decided to try it. I did keep the door and back window vent closed most of the time to keep spindrift out. The tent had no condensation. I am not sure if it was from the highly breathable fabric or the very dry air of northern Minnesota. Probably a combination of both. The only condensation I saw was a little bit around the edge of my sleeping bag's hood near my mouth.

There is a lot of room in the String Ridge. I use a 2-person tent as a solo shelter for all my trips but I would not mind using this with my wife. It is wider than my Seedhouse SL2 from Big Agnes. For just me the String Ridge is a palace (just call me King Raymond…) I am able to bring everything in with me and still have plenty of space. Here is a picture of the inside at High Creek Camp.

Home sweet home


The center pole, while adding strength also pulls the sides out nearer to vertical giving more sitting room in the tent. Spending hours inside made me appreciate this.

The big pockets are great for storing all the stuff sacks from my bag, coat, mukluks, stove/cookset, pad, etc. along with my headlamp and camera. They are the best pockets I have on any of my tents. I have yet to use the little pocket above the door for anything.

In the fresh stuff


The vestibule is larger than my other BA tents. I like the room afforded by the forward leaning vestibule pole. If it is not snowing I like to roll the door up like seen above. Once inside for the night I unzip the top of the vestibule door to try to get some air movement. When it snows I close the top but will unzip the bottom third of the door instead. This allows some air while keeping the snow out. When the wind picks up I button the whole works up tight.

It sets up very quickly. I am sure that it helps that I have had so many of their tents over the years. I really like the large stake loops at the corners. The mega stakes work well but I only took them on two trips. I prefer my curved snow stakes for the heavy snow I have been in. I would take the stakes if there was any chance of seeing bare ground though.

With only one season of use I can't say that the String Ridge is durable or not at this point. It is very well made and pitches tight. It has shrugged off all weather I have been in this winter. I have seen no problems with it from stuffing (I do not fold my tents) it in the storage sack. Based on what I have seen I expect to be getting many more years of use from it.

Winter wonderland

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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