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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Sky International Convertible 2P > Test Report by Bob Sanders

Big Sky International Summit Shelter

Convertible 2P

Test Series by Bob Sanders


Initial Report: April 1, 2008
Field Report: July 1. 2008
Long Term Report: September 2, 2008

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Name: Bob Sanders
Age: 50
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 210 lb (95 kg)
Chest: 48 in (122 cm)
Waist: 38 in (97 cm)
Email: sherpabob(at)mac(dot)com
City: Longmont, Colorado USA
BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Over the years I have hiked the Wonderland Trail in Washington and section hiked parts of the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail. During a seven week trip I hiked 740 mi (1191 km) of the Pacific Crest Trail. Best vacation I ever took. I hike and backpack year round in the Colorado mountains. I have evolved from a heavyweight to a lightweight backpacker. My summer solo adventures have me carrying a 10 lb (4.5 kg) base weight. Winter trips include a tent and additional clothing, so my base weight climbs to approx. 16 lb (7.2 kg).


INITIAL REPORT
April 1, 2008

  Open
Summit Convertible 2P tent showing winter shell with snow/sod flaps and winter interior.


PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Sky International
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.bigskyinternational.com
MSRP: $680.22 USD for components supplied (Varies with configuration)
Shell Colors available: Granite Gray, Marigold Yellow

Measured Weights of components supplied: (Weights of components not listed individually on site)

Winter Shell with snow flaps: 24.5 oz (694 g)
Winter Interior: 20.5 oz (582 g)
Summer Interior: 17.9 oz (510)
3 Piece HD Aluminum Poles: 25.1 oz (714 g)
Compression Stuff Sack: 2 oz (58 g)
Snow Anchors (2): 2.2 oz (62 g)
Titanium Hook Stakes (6): 1.5 oz (44 g)
Aluminum Tube Stakes (2): 0.7 oz(20 g)
Aluminum Y Stakes (4): 1.6 oz (46 g)
Reflective Spectra Guy Lines (4): 1.3 oz (36 g)
Stake Stuff Sack: 0.2 oz (6 g)
Shell Dimensions:
Head end width - 64  in (162 cm)
Foot end width - 52 in (132 cm)
Length - 99 in (251 cm)
Height at peak - 43 in (109 cm)

Interior Dimensions: 
Head end width - 56 in (142 cm)
Foot end width - 46 in (117 cm)
Length - 84 in (213 cm)
Height at peak - 41 in (104 cm)
Vestibules - 24 in (76 cm) out from edge of interior

Measured Weight of winter setup supplied:
Complete set up includes winter shell, winter interior, 3 HD aluminum poles, compression sack, guy lines, all stakes and anchors: 80.6 oz (2285 g)

Measured Weight of summer setup supplied:
Complete set up includes winter shell, summer interior, 2 HD aluminum poles, compression sack, guy lines, titanium stakes and aluminum Y stakes: 66.4 oz (1884 g)


Manufacturer's description (From Website): "The most versatile light weight full size, full featured freestanding shelter in the world... perfect for the lightweight backpacker for all seasons"

Warranty (From Website): "We use lightweight high strength materials, but a customer should not expect our products to stand up to the same use/abuse as products using materials weighing much more than our products. Big Sky warranty products again manufacturing defects, but does not warranty products against materials failure due to durability issues."


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

There are two big features that are different than any other tent I have owned. One is the way the poles support the tent fly which they call the shell (which I think is a better way to describe this component). The two main poles slide into pole sleeves on the outside of the shell and the third vestibule pole utilizes pole clips. This allows the shell to be set up independently and used as a stand alone shelter. The second feature is the two interchangeable interiors which clip to the underside of the shell. I am still trying to wrap my head around the usefulness of this convertible feature since I can purchase a winter shell, winter interior and a set of 3 heavy duty poles or a summer shell, summer interior and a set of 2 lightweight carbon fiber poles. Purely from a weight standpoint it makes sense to me to configure the tent for the type of weather I might expect to encounter. Winter set up will be warmer and be able to handle snow loads and the summer setup will be lighter and be able to ventilate better.

Setup: The instructions included were dated 12-15-2007 revision A. After reading the instructions I was wondering if these were the right instructions. Listed is a pole clip option. This option is not available for this tent. It also indicates numbers on the pole sleeve openings. There are no numbers on the openings. I decided to put the instructions down and just use my logic to set the tent up. Took me about 15 minutes to set up the first time. The real stumbling block came when I installed the third vestibule pole. I inserted the ends into the grommets and attached the pole clips. It was just sticking up in the air and didn't seem to be offering much support. Got the instructions back out and there was nothing indicating how to install the third pole. But after much searching I found 2 small holes located underneath the ventilation cover on the top of the shell that allow the pole to be threaded through the pole sleeves underneath the other poles. Once installed correctly this third pole offers lots of additional support. My feeling is the instruction sheet needs a complete overhaul and including pictures would be a great help.

Clipping the interior to the underside of the shell was simple and straight forward. Color coded cords help identify the head and foot ends. Leaving the interior connected to the shell brought my set up time down to 3 minutes.

Winter Shell: The shell is available in Granite Gray and Marigold Yellow. I am pleased I chose the yellow to test. During winter camping it will add a pleasant warm glow to the interior. It is made of a lightweight silicone coated
ripstop nylon. Around the bottom edge are snow/sod flaps which are 9.5 in (24 cm) wide. Useful during winter conditions to pile snow on top of to eliminate blowing snow from getting underneath and the weight of the snow helps secure the shell in high winds. The snow flaps do roll up utilizing small bungees and toggles. The flaps do add an additional 3.5 oz (99 g) to the weight of the shell and will have little use during the summer months. At the top of the shell are two large vents. They can be held open with small plastic rods with hook-n-loop on the ends or closed with the same hook-n-loop. There are two doors and two vestibules. The vestibules extend out about 24" (61 cm) from the edge of the interior then angle back to the corners. Plenty of room for cooking or a medium sized pack and boots. The shell tapers from a head end of 64 in (162 cm) to a foot end of 52 in (132 cm) and is 99 in (251 cm) long.

Floor Plan Vestibules Stakes

Winter Interior: The winter interior is made of white lightweight breathable ripstop nylon and the floor is made of dark blue lightweight silicone coated ripstop nylon. The doors are not backed with no-see-um netting which makes sense because this interior is to be used in colder conditions. There are mesh pockets in each of the four corners. At the top of the interior are two large vents matching the vents in the shell. These vents close with zippers and are backed with no-see-um netting. Also at the top are 5 hang loops that would accommodate hanging a clothes line or lantern from the center loop. The two doors are quite large and can be rolled up and secured with a bungee and toggle. The interior tapers from a head end of 56 in (142 cm) to a foot end of 46 in (117 cm) and is 84 in (213 cm) long. This helps save weight and still allows for plenty of interior space. There is also good headroom at 41 in (104 cm) peak height. The corners of the floor are seam sealed. The other floor seams have a bias nylon tape around them.

Vents
Pockets Interior


Summer Interior: The summer interior has the same dimensions and features as the winter interior but is made of no-see-um netting and the same dark blue lightweight Silicone coated ripstop nylon floor.

Workmanship: Everything about this tent indicates it is well made with excellent engineering and craftsmanship. The tent shell pitches taut with few wrinkles. The vestibule door zippers are a little tight and hard to zip at the top but loosen as I get closer to the bottom. Hopefully this will loosen up a bit with time and usage.


_______________________________________________________________

FIELD REPORT
July 1, 2008

The weather has most certainly warmed up. So my desire to do more cold weather backpacking has been dashed. I have managed to sneak out for a quick overnighter in May and a three day trip in June.

Overnighter: On May 17, 2008 the weather was pretty typical for a Colorado spring day. The daytime high was 73° F (23° C) and the evening low was 42° F (6° C). I packed everything up Saturday morning and was on the trail by noon after a short drive.
I picked a new trail to try in the Cache la Poudre area and hiked along the Little South Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. Elevations were between 6200 and 7500 ft (1890 to 2286 m) Very pleasant trip. The tent didn't receive much of a workout but at least I did.

After an 8 mi (14 km) hike I camped for the night and hiked out the next morning. The weather forecast was for a 30% chance of rain that never occurred, though I did experience winds of 25 mph (40 km). The humidity was pretty low at about 20% so condensation was kept at bay. Since the weather was so mild I packed the winter shell and the summer interior. There were some spotty areas of snow but I found a dry spot to set up camp. During the evening I slept with all the vents open and both vestibule doors open. In the morning there was no condensation inside or on the exterior of the tent.

Since on this trip I was going solo I had the tent all to myself. This meant I had to carry everything but the accommodations were luxurious. By the time I set up camp, explored the surrounding area a bit and decided to cook dinner the bugs were beginning to swarm a bit. Probably because I was close to the river. So I decided to see if I could cook dinner and eventually breakfast while remaining (most of the time) inside the tent protecting me from the bugs. First let me explain that I was not cooking inside the tent (never recommended). Nor was I even cooking inside the vestibule. The doors of the tent open quite widely and can be secured with little elastic loops and small plastic rods. I placed my alcohol stove at least 2 ft (0.7 m) away from any part of the tent. It was actually resting outside of where the exterior door would be if it were closed (but it was secured open). I sat in the vestibule area and lit the stove and got everything ready. I always have my water bottle ready in case anything needs to be doused. I then slipped back inside the tent and closed the screen door. I relaxed inside until the water boiled. All I had to do was unzip the door, lean out far enough to reach the pot, take it off the stove and pour the water over my dehydrated food concoction. My main purpose for trying this was to see if it were possible during rainy, drizzly weather or even in light snow. It obviously wouldn't work in a down pour, with the door completely open, but in a light rain or drizzle it would be quite doable.

Three day, two night trip: On June 6th the weather was even warmer.
The daytime high was 80° F (27° C) and the evenings low was 48° F (9° C). And once again there was a small chance of rain that never materialized. So basically it was hot and dry. It was my son's birthday so the two of us split the weight of the tent. I carried the fly and the stakes and he carried the summer interior and the poles. It is not quite half but hey, he is younger and in better shape than me. We decided to leave the vestibule pole at home because the weather was so mild and the extra support of the third pole was unnecessary. Most of my trips are solo so it was a nice change of pace to have someone sharing some of the weight. Plus I wanted to see how roomy the tent really is with 2 people. We are both 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) and the tent is long enough to accommodate both of our long bags. I am a bit of a sprawler when I sleep so I choose a summer weight down quilt. My son was using a down sleeping bag and tended to stay on his side of the tent. Because of my sprawling, elbow room was at a premium. Thank goodness we know and like each other. I didn't brush up against the ends but I did brush up against the mesh sides on numerous occasions. Not a problem because this is a double walled tent. Even if there was condensation (and there wasn't any) I would not have come in contact with the exterior wall. Both of us could sit up inside, and we played some cards for about an hour while the bugs were out starting at around dusk. Although, if I had to spend many hours or days inside of the tent because of bad weather I would begin to feel a bit claustrophobic. The real saving grace are the two doors. There was no climbing over each other at night to answer the call of nature and the two vestibules really helped with the storage and organization of gear. There is plenty of room for our gear and a pair of shoes in each vestibule.

Summary: This test got started a little late in the year. So with that said I have not being able to test this tent under snowy winter conditions, which it was designed for. To be honest, I haven't even experienced any rain. So there are some testing criteria that so far are missing. Short of testing the tent out in the back yard with the sprinkler on full blast (which I might do) I have no way of knowing how waterproof it is. Now that the weather is hot, being able to swap out the full fabric winter interior for the all mesh summer interior has been a blessing. It saves weight and the ventilation is greatly enhanced. So far everything works as expected. All the zippers are smooth but the vestibule zippers are just a little tight at the top of the door. Set up has gotten so much easier after setting the tent up for the first time. New instructions for set up were sent to us by the owner Bob Molen. The instructions are now clearer but if he would add some pictures that would really help.

Things I Like: The pitch is pretty taut so there is no annoying flapping of the tent walls while I sleep. The mesh pockets are good sized and can hold a lot of gear. Enough room for 2 tall adults. Extra room is always appreciated but would also add to the weight, which we don't want. The marigold color of the shell adds a nice warm glow to the interior which makes for a pleasant morning when the sun comes up.

Things I don't like: Nothing so far. Except for the fact that I need to carry a winter shell and heavy duty poles during the summer.


_______________________________________________________________

LONG TERM REPORT
September 2, 2008

Summer Interior
Winter shell configured with summer mesh interior

It was beginning to look like testing this tent in anything other than sunshine and beautiful weather was not going to happen. Not that I'm complaining about pleasant weather. We finally got some intense rain and high winds for an extended period. On the same weekend I decided to head to the backcountry. Not just a little bit, but nearly 4 in (10 cm) in 3 days during a 3-day 2-night backpacking trip to Indian Peaks Wilderness in the Rocky Mountains.

3-Day 2-night Trip: Packed everything the night before and hit the trail bright and early Friday morning, August 15th. This trip I took the Buchanan Pass/Pawnee Pass loop trail 24 mi (39 km). Elevations are between 9,000 and 12,500 ft (2,743 and 3,810 m) The weather starting out was cloudy and cool at 55° F (13° C) but warmed up to about 70° F (21° C) by midday on Friday. From there temperatures just kept heading down. At night it hovered around 35° F (1.6° C) and Saturday and Sunday it never got above about 50° F (10° C) during the day. Did I mention it rained? It started drizzling at about 5:00 pm on Friday and it didn't stop raining until late Sunday night. In between drizzles it poured. Pretty sure the humidity level never got below 70% the whole trip.

I was once again a solo traveler and I had the tent all to myself. Which worked out great for me because I could designate one vestibule as the wet side (for storing wet gear and boots) and the other vestibule I could keep clear for fast entry/exits and for cooking. Camping in wet, rainy weather is always a challenge.

Wet weather setup: One of the aspects of this tent that makes it especially easy to set up in foul weather is the interior stays attached to the inside of the shell. Even while it was raining I simply pulled the tent out of the stuff sack, unrolled it with the floor facing down, staked down 2 corners to keep it from blowing away and begin inserting the tent poles. The shell protects the interior from getting wet while I set it up. The only challenge came from trying to push wet tent poles through wet pole sleeves. The solution was to push the pole in about a foot (0.3 m) and pull the wet sleeve back with my other hand. Easy enough to do it just took longer to set up and while raining it seemed like an eternity. After getting everything staked out and taunt, I crawled inside and everything was dry inside.

Condensation: In this kind of weather condensation is inevitable. At night temperatures bottomed out at
35° F (1.6° C) and it drizzled all night so the humidity was probably between 90 and 100%. The good news is that there is good separation between the inner and outer walls so even if I brush against the mesh walls I stay dry. Any condensation that did accumulate on the inner wall of the shell would just bead up, merge into larger beads and then just run down the wall to the ground. When the winds picked up and the walls would flap a bit a fine mist would rain down on me even through the mesh inner tent. A little annoying but certainly manageable.

Waterproofness: Before the condensation had a chance to built up inside, I checked the underside of the shell for any leakage. There was none and even the top cap or "hat" that covers the top vents was leak proof. The hat is large enough to cover the vents and even in high winds no rain got in. Overall the silicone nylon sheds water beautifully. The snow/mud flaps are just dead weight on a summer tent and even while rolled up they just have a tendency to collect water.

water beading
Water beading up on the top cap or "hat" that covers the vents



Summary: Now that this test is over I have some decisions to make. Will I continue to use this tent in a winter set up (winter shell, winter interior and heavy duty poles) or will I utilize this tent in a lighter weight summer set up? If I choose the summer set up I would most likely purchase the lighter weight summer shell and a set of lightweight carbon fiber poles. Right now I am leaning towards leaving it as a winter/cold weather set up. For summer solo camping I most often utilize a tarp or sometimes a hammock setup so I don't really need a summer tent.

Things I Like: Everything I said in the field report and the fact that this tent is the easiest double wall tent I have ever set up in wet rainy weather.

Things I don't like: For summer use the snow flaps are just dead weight and collect rain. If I only used the tent in the summer I would cut them off saving weight.


I would like to thank Big Sky International and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.


Read more reviews of Big Sky International gear
Read more gear reviews by Bob Sanders

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Big Sky International Convertible 2P > Test Report by Bob Sanders



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