Big Sky International Convertible
January 9th, 2008
March 29th, 2008
Long Term Report
Aug 6th, 2008
Big Sky International
Convertible 2P Shelter
Year of Manufacture:
Varies by configuration
Weights are by component
Fly with snow flaps:
24.1 oz (683 g)
0.9 oz (25 g)
Winter Interior: 20.4 oz (578 g)
Summer Interior: 18.4 oz (521
2 Piece HD Al Poles: 17.1 oz (485 g)
HD Al Vestibule Pole: 7.7 oz (218 g)
2 Piece LW Al Poles: 13.1 oz (371 g)
2.0 oz (57 g)
Tent Stake Sack: 0.2oz (5.7 g)
Spectra Guy Lines (qty 4):
1.2oz (34 g)
Aluminum Snow Anchors (qty 2):
2.1 oz (60 g)
Titanium Stakes (qty 6):
1.4 oz (40 g)
Aluminum Y Stakes (qty 4): 1.6
oz (45 g)
Aluminum Head Pegs (qty 2): 0.7
oz (20 g)
Head width = 64 in (162 cm), Foot = 52 in (132 cm), Length = 99 in (215 cm), Height
= 43 in (109 cm)
Winter Interior: Head width = 56 in (142 cm), Foot = 46 in (117 cm), Length = 84 in
(213 cm), Height = 41 in (104 cm)
extend out 30 in (76 cm)
Information & Background
Name: Andy Rad
6 ft (1.83 m)
Weight: 165 lb (75 kg)
Location: Boise, Idaho USA
arad1 at yahoo dot com
I started backpacking 24 years ago, most were short three
day trips, but are now generally four or five days. I'm in the backcountry year
round with early spring trips requiring snowshoes over the passes, summer, late
fall into snow, and winter camping on snowshoes or skis. About half of my trips
are lightweight solo and the other half are with my family and friends. The
majority of my trips are in central Idaho and eastern Oregon.
January 9th, 2008
The Convertible 2P Shelter is a new tent series for Big Sky International, and
as such they chose to partially ship what was available in inventory so that I
could make my New Yearís trip. The remaining components are to be shipped as
they become available. I received the outer shell/fly, X-cord, winter interior,
and 3 piece heavy duty winter poles. When I placed my order they requested a
date in which I was planning my first trip, consequently they delivered it on
time, and with enough components that I will be able to successfully use the
tent. I appreciate a company that is flexible enough to micro manage their
inventory in order to meet customer needs. Missing are the snow anchors, stuff
sack, summer interior, and stake set. Other than the snow anchors and stuff
sack, I have a complete winter setup. The summer interior and stake set will
not be needed until March.
This tent is somewhat different than any of my previous tents, and Iíve probably
had over a dozen. The obvious difference is that the poles are integrated into
the outer shell and the interior then attaches to the outer shell via clips.
For the most part, all my previous double wall tents are setup with the interior
being affixed to the poles and then the fly being stretched over the top.
The instructions are dated 12/15/07 rev.A and are still under refinement, as I
did receive an email with an update. They are rather generic in that there is a
section labeled ďPole Clip optionĒ that has nothing to do with my current
configuration of the tent. It might be that this is specific to the summer
interior, which I have not yet received. The ďPole Sleeves optionĒ makes note
of inserting the first pole into sleeve #1 (lower pole) and then the second pole
into sleeve #2 (upper pole). My pole sleeves were not labeled, but the
manufacturer informed me that the new batch of tents will have the sleeves
labeled. This lower and upper pole sleeve refers to the orientation of the
poles where they cross at the top, because they slide in better when followed as
per the instructions. The pole sleeve labeling would also assist the first time
user in determining which end of the tent to insert the poles as there are only
opening at the foot of the tent with corresponding pole pockets at the head of
the tent. As for the vestibule pole, there is no mention of that pole, nor that
it must be inserted through a reinforced slot in the pole sleeves which just so
happens to be partially hidden from view under the canopy.
The instructions then go on to cover attaching the X-cord, which is a piece of
cord that is tied in a manner that resembles an ďXĒ. The cordís function is to
allow the tent to free stand without the interior, thus emulating the interiorís
dimensional foot print. How to attach the interior is then covered in the
instructions which references color coded clips and attach loops. There is no
mention that red equates to the tentís narrower foot width of 46 in. (116 cm)
and blue to the wider head width of 56 in (142 cm). The interior is snapped
into the fly by clips at the bottom corners, plus an additional 3 clips per
side, and a clip at the peak.
The tent is offered in two colors, Granite Gray and Marigold Yellow, which I
selected. The web site's pictures of the yellow tent do not give it justice, and I
struggled a bit on which color to select. The yellow product pictured on Big
Skyís web site looked cheap and transparent. At first I leaned toward the
Granite Gray as it would absorb heat in the winter, but would be overly hot in
the summer. The yellow allows natural light through which I deemed more
important, because getting tent bound for hours is a common issue during the
winter. The draw back to the yellow is that it stands out in a natural setting,
but as for winter camping that is actually a plus for rescue reasons.
The outer shell/fly has a canopy as per the photo that is not visible on the
manufacturerís web site. I was wondering how they anticipated the fly to
breathe, because with snow flaps the sides would be submersed after a snow storm
and no ventilation possible unless the vestibule was opened. The canopy solves
that issue, and there are adjustments that allow the canopy to open about 4 in
(5 cm) on the sides by use of some pop-outs.
The snow flaps are great and have bungee loops/toggles that allow them to be
rolled up for summer use, but they add an additional 3.5 oz (100 g). I have
snow flaps on two of my current Tepee style tents and they are a must for winter
camping in a single wall. They keep the snow/wind out, and extend the useful
interior area. I canít say as I see much need for them on a double wall tent,
since the interior would accomplish the same. That said, this outer shell along
with the X-cord appears to have the makings of a good single wall shelter, which
I will be testing. I have not used a double wall tent during the winter for
years, as they were generally too heavy. With this winter interior weighing in
at 20.4 oz (580 g) I can eliminate using UL bivy sacks, thus about a wash when
considering the weight of 2 bivy sacks and gaining about 5 F (3 C) in
inside temperature due to double walls. For sleeping solo the single wall would
be weight advantageous, because it would afford plenty of space without hitting
the sides, and be lighter.
Not much to say about the 3 piece heavy duty aluminum poles, other than they are
definitely heavy duty. At 24.8 oz (700 g) they appear to be tough. Unless
heavy snow is expected, the vestibule pole at 7.7 oz (220 g) can probably be
left at home, and I currently see little reason I would ever be using it during
the summer. While on poles, the fly has pole pockets at the head end that
eliminate fumbling around to insert the pole into a grommet, which is a nice
Leaving the X-cord attached definitely aids in setting up the tent, as it forms
the tent into a dome and facilitates clipping the interior in place. I think
the X-cord is too long, because without an interior it is difficult to zip
closed the vestibules. With the interior clipped in place the shell is 99 in
(251 cm) long and with only the X-cord it is 109 in (277 cm). I tied off the
X-cord by an additional 8 in (20 cm) and it helped. Until I actually get an
opportunity to stake the tent in snow, I wonít be able to determine if the
X-cord was too long.
The winter interior has quad top venting as per the left photo, which seems like
overkill in expense, tent compression, and weight. But like everything on this
tent it is top notch in design, attention
to detail, and construction. Considering the interior will frost up and
breathability will be impaired the top venting I suspect will be appreciated.
The other option would have been for Big Sky to just put netting on top, but
then snow could drift in through the shellís canopy (right photo). An
alternative would have been to just leave the top of the doors open a bit and
accomplish the same, but when cooking in the tent the top venting would be
preferred. Especially if a hanging cooking system was used, as there is a loop
on the top. There are also gear loft loops, as well as extra loops mid way up
the seams at the head end of the tent. All four corners have mesh storage
pockets, they are large, and not made with that cheesy mesh that snags when it
comes in contact with hook and loop.
have many overnight trips planned this winter and will be using the interior
when teamed up with a partner and as a single wall when Iím the odd man out and
sleeping solo. I plan on doing some cooking inside when brining my canister
stove versus my liquid fuel stove. Mid April, I will be doing an eight day trip
in southern Utah and will be using the summer interior and 2 poles.
Initial Report Addendum 3/29/08
Summer interior, tent stakes, snow anchors, guy
lines, and stuff sacks just recently arrived these were unavailable at the time
of my Initial Report.
The summer interior's floor material is the same
heavy weight silnlyon as the winter interior. The interiorís mesh top is not
constructed from super fine/light weight netting that snags on everything.
I've experienced this issue with other tents and would rather not have a tent
with it. Also noted
is that the floor's corners come pre-seam sealed, and there are no other seams
of stitching on the floor.
The tent stuff sack is a bit on the heavy side
weighing in at 2.0 oz (57 g), and is constructed of the same heavy material at
the interior floors. It is generous in size and has three compression
straps. No more fumbling around in sub-freezing weather trying to stuff that
frost covered tent into an undersized stuff sack.
Big Sky International also supplied a variety of
tent securing components. The blue aluminum pegs on the left are 6 in (15
cm) in length. The aluminum snow anchors are 5 x 4.5 in (13 x 11 cm). The
aluminum Y stakes are 5.5 in (14 cm) in length. The hooked titanium stakes are
6.5 in (16 cm) in length. The 8 ft (243 cm) guy lines are reflective polyester
over spectra core, and have a plastic tension adjuster.
March 29th, 2008
Locations and conditions:
The ten week field test period provided the opportunity
for using the Big Sky shelter on three winter backcountry trips, and in
Three day, two night snowshoe trip
into central Idaho, snowed 18 in (46 cm), temps were in the low 20s F (-6 C) to
freezing. I used the shell with winter interior and with 3 pole system.
Two day, one night Nordic ski trip
in central Idaho, with mild temperatures around freezing. Camp was
semi-supported near the vehicle. Again, I used the shell with the winter
interior and with 3 pole system.
Two day, one night snowshoe trip
into central Idaho, early morning temperature was 14 F (-10 C), but this time I
used the shell with no interior, and only the 2 pole system.
Two day, one night Nordic ski trip
into central Idaho, with night time temperatures down to 15F (-10 C), and about
8 in (20 cm) of snow through the night. I used the shell with winter interior,
and 3 pole system.
The Convertible 2P Shelter is a new tent series for Big Sky International, and
as such they choose to partially ship what was available in inventory so that I
could make my New Yearís trip. This meant I did not have stuff
sacks, tent stakes, snow anchors, or guy lines.
For years Iíve
used a floorless tepee style tent, thus there were a number of discoveries I
made while using this tent in different configurations and climates. For one,
the poles slide into sleeves, and if they are wet the tent sleeves freeze to the
poles. This wasnít an issue, as the silnylon can easily be worked off the
poles, but it was an inconvenience. The same goes for the poles freezing
together and having to be warmed for a moment in my hands to break the poles
down. When I got home, I sprayed silicone spray on the poles and that helped
alleviate the freezing issues. This would only be an issue if the temperature
is above freezing when setting up, getting the poles wet, and then taking the
tent down in sub-freezing morning temperatures.
I had heavy
snowfall on a couple of trips, with the worst being about 8 in (20 cm) one night.
Out of habit, I hit the tent walls during the night to knock snow off the top
and sides, however it didnít sound like much snow had accumulated. In
retrospect, allowing the snow to pile up would have been a more thorough test of
the pole strength. What I did find reassuring is that the third pole across the
vestibule did not cause snow buildup.
As I mentioned in
my Initial Report, I struggled a bit on deciding which color to order, the
Granite Gray or the Marigold Yellow. Iíve become very fond of the yellow and
the light transparency it offers. The interior is so bright during the day
time, that it is uplifting and has a warm feeling when entering the tent during
the day. Additionally, finding camp after a day of skiing or snowshoeing was
It took me a couple of times to
master setting up the tent. Having pole pockets at the foot end of the tent
eliminated having to walk around the tent and place a pole tip into a grommet,
and is a feature I appreciate. I did discover on my first setup that I needed
to make sure the pole tip was seated in the pole pockets. As I started to
stretch the fly, I noticed the pole was too long. Had I continued to stretch
the fly, I would have probably torn the sleeve next to the pole pocket. The
instructions do indicate to verify the pole is in the receiving pocket, which I
Upon first setting up the tent, the
top 18 in (45 cm) of the vestibule doors were overly snug and I was concerned
that I would damage the zipper or stitching. After about 30 minutes, the
silnylon had stretched and wasnít an issue anymore. I experimented with
shortening the X-Cord and found it made little difference.
I didnít use snow
stakes or snow anchors, but rather six 16 in (41 cm) modified aluminum arrow
shafts that have attached flat washer heads. They make setting up the tent
fast, and because of the snow flaps I wasnít concerned about the tent blowing
away. After shoveling snow on top of the snow flaps and letting them setup, the
tent was solid. In addition to aiding in setting up the tent, the snow flaps
were appreciated when not using an interior, as they kept the drifting snow
out. One note of caution, if using snowshoes, be careful around the snow flaps
as I forgot about them a couple of times and stepped on them. However, this
caused no damage.
The aluminum snow
anchors didnít arrive until a few days ago and Iíll no longer have an
opportunity to test them. I was expecting nylon parachute anchors and Iím
rather intrigued by the aluminum spades. They weigh in at 1 oz (30 g) and look
as though I should be able to set them in place by driving them under the snow
with my boot.
I have several
silnlyon tents, some by top name manufactures and some by small shops. The Big
Sky tent has slightly heavier shell material than most, and the interior floors
are substantially heavier. It is silnlyon, but the coating and material feel as
thick as my older heavy polyurethane coated tent bottoms. Iím rather surprised
how light the tent weighs when considering how heavy the fabric feels. The
floor corners have stitched attach points that lead out to the shell and come
The interior snaps
in and out of the shell easily enough via a number of small fasteners. I
thought about just leaving the interior snapped in place and stuff the tent away
in that manner, but I figured that would make the tent rather bulky to stuff.
Since it fastens in so easy it wasnít worth experimenting with. The doors and
quad vents on the top all have fasteners to tie them out of the way when open.
Now on to
performance test results. The tent is designed with the poles being integrated
into the fly, rather than the interior with the shell stretched over them. This
allows the fly to be used as a single wall shelter without a factory foot
print. In this configuration there is no interior or foot print to provide a
dimensional base. The X-Cord is two cords tied in the middle and clips on the
ends that emulate the dimensions of the interior floor. Once the shell is
staked, the X-Cord can be removed and the floor dug down if more interior space
is desired. Using the X-Cord greatly simplifies setting up the tent, but it is
not required. I used the shell in this configuration on one trip.
This is a
configuration Iím most familiar with, as most of my previous winter camping has
been with floorless tepees. This is where the snow flaps are a must, because it
allows you to dig the interior down a bit and stops the wind from blowing in.
Even if just digging down the vestibules for easier access, the snow flaps help
in blocking the wind. So much so that after my first year of using my tepees, I
sewed snow flaps on them. The vestibules are huge and really make the shell
feel large. Two people do not feel cramped when using the single wall shell
configuration. The shell entries/doors open wide with long zippers. What I did
miss on the shell is lack of mesh side pockets to store gear and loops on the
top, for a gear attic or similar. I e-mailed Big Sky International about the
lack of loops and pockets. They indicated they would be adding features in the
The shell has a
canopy opening on top which allows for great ventilation. I confess that I did
most of my cooking inside the closed vestibules with a canister stove. Yes, a
canister stove during the winter. I just sleep with the canister and stick it
inside my coat every so often to keep it going. I would never use a liquid fuel
stove inside the tent due to flare up. I could watch the steam channel up the
side of the vestibules and out the canopy top.
I used the winter
interior on three trips, and didnít realize just how much warmth an interior
adds. Iíve always read there wasnít much appreciable difference and never gave
it much thought, because Iíve been using single wall tepees for so long. I
found that the temperature in the vestibule, that is the space between shell and
interior, was about 5o F (2.5 C) warmer than the outside and the
interior was about 10o F (5 C) warmer than the outside. Sure an
interior adds weight to the tent. However, it does allow using a slightly
lighter bag, there isnít the opportunity to slide off my sleeping pad onto
snow, and there isnít open snow all around. Iím rather at a crossroad. The
single wall is lighter, but it sure is nice having something between me and
For winter use,
the interior is not overly large for two occupants, due to the extra gear, heavy
sleeping bags, and clothes being worn. This is a common phenomenon of smaller
rectangular tents. The interior has large entry doors which are really nice,
and for the most part can be left open during the winter to allow more elbow
room, and then zipped up when ready for bed. There are four large interior mesh
side pockets, and numerous tie loops on the top. The top has a quad zipper
configuration that allows ventilation, and behind the fabric panels is netting
which I feel was probably overkill for a winter interior. This is yet another
example of attention to detail in this tent design.
The tent is not a
true four-season tent, but with the optional third pole it can handle any winter
conditions I might run into. One night, I received about
8 in. (20 cm) of heavy
snowfall. There was considerable snow built up that forced the shell up against
the interior. This caused the interior to become shorter, but a good slap on
the interior wall knocked the snow back. The snow did not seem to accumulate on
the top or hang up on the optional third pole. The first picture on the left is
from that trip, and the second picture on the right is without an interior or
optional third pole. There is an assortment of poles/configurations that Big
Sky offers. They have Light Weight (LW) aluminum or carbon fiber poles for
three-season use and Heavy Weight (HW) aluminum or carbon fiber for winter use.
An optional Heavy Weight third vestibule pole is offered in both aluminum and
carbon fiber. The optional third/vestibule pole provides structural integrity
under heavy snow fall, as it reduces the stress that would otherwise happen from
the accumulation of snow on the large vestibules.
Long Term Report August 6th, 2008
Locations and conditions:
The conclusion of my test period ends with 10 nights over 2
trips. Six nights were deep in the backcountry, while the other 4 were at trail
heads. Both trips were taken in April, and my subsequent trips have been solo,
thus there was no need for this larger 2-person tent.
The first trip was 4 days, 3 nights into the Idaho side of
the Hells Canyon Wilderness, with steady rain one night, and temps from
freezing to 60 F (16 C), and elevation was 1400 ft (425 m). I used the shell
with winter interior and 2 summer weight poles.
The second trip was 8 days and 7 nights into Utahís Grand
Gulch primitive area as well as 3 days exploring the area around Moab, Utah.
Elevations varied from 4500 ft (1375 m) to 6000 ft (1825 m), with frost several
mornings and temps reaching 75 F (24 C) in the afternoon. There were steady
winds most evenings with gust probably reaching 30 mph (48 kph). The snow flaps
proved to be the envy of the group as they kept the sand from blowing into the
No negative comments about the tent during this spring test
period, and even my wife fell in love with the tent. The pole sleeves are
overkill for summer use, but that is the price one pays for a convertible all
season tent. I thought the snow flaps would be a nuisance on the trips, but as
stated above they turned out to be very valuable in Utah.
The Hellís Canyon trip was near freezing every night with a
high level of moisture as it had rained/snowed the day we started out.
Additionally, we camped along the Snake River, and the last night was continuous
rain. The shell/fly had a generous amount of internal condensation, but the
interior was dry including the floor sides. When it came to packing, we rolled
the shell into itself so as to contain the condensation, and never noticed the
moisture transferring to the interior or exiting the stuff sack. We used the
summer weight 2 pole system, 6 titanium stakes, and no guy-lines. This was the
first time my wife had slept in the tent and she commented a number of times
about how nice the dual entry was, how roomy, and no condensation.
The Utah trip was a complete opposite of the Hellís Canyon
trip, in that it was dry and very windy in the evenings. Consequently,
condensation was minimal inside the shell, even though it was near freezing
several nights. While the other 4 tents in the group were experiencing sand
blowing into their interiors, we didnít experience much. This was due to
dropping the snow flaps and putting sand on them to seal them to the ground.
The windblown sand was so bad that we observed sand blowing in through the upper
shell vent, but once closed we stayed pretty clean inside. The others highly
envied our tent and how we didnít have little sand dunes forming inside on the
I would have never thought snow flaps would be a benefit
outside of winter use. In fact, I thought they would hinder ventilation, even
when rolled up. The Hellís Canyon trip proved that this is not much of an
issue. The one down side is that they do collect rain water, but it seems to
run out of the rolled up flap while shaking the condensation off the shell.
I did get some kidding from others in my group about my
marigold yellow smiley face tent as it did stand out, but inside it sure added
to the bright cozy feeling. This is definitely the color I would pick again for
an all season tent.
I mentioned at the beginning I had no complaints about the
tent, which is true. The single complaint I had during this test period had to
do with the compression sack. The three compression straps are loosely bound
around the sack and constrict stuffing as per the photo. It really wasnít much
of an issue, but rather a nuisance. There needs to be a keeper on the opposite
side to keep the strap from falling diagonally while stuffing.
Throughout the testing, I never experienced any
manufacturing or material issues. The mid-weight silnylon floor is a real
bonus. I have other tents that either have what I consider an overkill heavy
weight floor or a very light floor that must be accompanied by a ground cloth.
This floor weight is such that a ground cloth would be advisable, but not a
requirement. During this test period I used a small piece of Tyvekģ just long
enough to accommodate where we kneeled and sat, thus about Ĺ the length of the
I have a several other 2-person tents, most being double
wall. This tent is by far my lightest double wall and is comparable in size.
For a convertible tent, it is surprisingly light and feature rich. It pretty
much eliminates the need for my other tents, and I suspect they will be handed
down to my children.
I appreciate the opportunity to test Big Skyís tent.
Thinks I like:
Things I would change:
For winter use, a little longer/wider interior.
Vestibule shell loosened up a bit on top for easier zipping
Shell gear loft attach points when used as single wall tent